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Interview: Shirley Vernick

July 3rd, 2013 (02:00 pm)
accomplished

Current Mood: accomplished
Current Song: C.S. Lewis Song by Brooke Fraser

When asked to describe her new book, Remember Dippy, in 30 words or less, author Shirley Vernick says:

"Johnny has known his autistic cousin his whole life. But not really. It takes a summer’s worth of face time to really know each other’s genius, monster, hero, bro."

...and then I say more things, and she says more things, and the interview develops.

What inspired the title character of Remember Dippy?

The character Remember Dippy is a teenager with autism who spends the summer with his non-autistic cousin Johnny. Throughout my life, I’ve had the honor of knowing several people with developmental and cognitive differences, including autism. I’ve witnessed their strengths, their challenges, their distinctive personalities, and their process of developing relationships and otherwise navigating their worlds. I wanted to celebrate these friends through story. Remember Dippy is the happy result.

What was your favorite book when you were Johnny's age?

Don’t laugh, promise? It was Little Women, a book which has never fallen off my favorites list. The story is all about family and the quest to grow up, but not too fast. I love it!

Were you close to your cousins when you were growing up?

Big sigh. No. My cousins didn’t live anywhere nearby, and it just didn’t happen. Weddings and bar mitzvahs, yes. Hanging out in each other’s houses, not so much. My siblings and I are making a concerted effort to give our children a closer experience cousin-wise, and it’s wonderful to see it actually happening.

In this day and age, a lot of communication happens electronically: email, text messages, Twitter, Facebook, and so on. When you touch base with your relatives, would you rather email, call, tweet...?

Call! It’s the only long-distance way that offers real-time communication and tone-of-voice cues. Plus, with email I never know when it’s okay to end the thread. Do I have to give the other person the last word, or will they be offended if I don’t respond to the last thing they said? Sheesh!

Are you still working with StoryBee?

Yes! Storybee.org, my labor of storytelling love, is a website where children and teens can listen to free online audio recordings of stories being told by professional storytellers. We’re adding stories all the time and welcome submissions. Check it out!

What's next for you?

I’m working on two YA novels and a middle grade book right now, plus trying to keep two ravenous dogs fed and the endless stream of laundry clean. It’s a full life.

Check out my previous interview with Shirley Vernick.