Monday, August 1, 2016

Author Interview: Debbie Simpson

Today I have Debbie Simpson with me for an Author Interview! Debbie is a wife, a mom, a grandma, an early childhood educator, and a huge advocate for celiac awareness. For her, writing is an outlet for expanding on her biggest passions: family, children, and  celiac education. Debbie’s drive for celiac awareness comes from the discovery of greatly improved health once gluten free nearly sixteen years ago, after living her first forty years with undiagnosed celiac disease.  

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve always enjoyed writing in school, but as far as actually authoring a book, the first “craving” hit in my mid-thirties, when an idea for a parenting book came to mind. Ideas would strike and I’d just have to put them on paper (or actually, into my computer). The more I wrote, the more the ideas would flow. While that book isn’t currently published, and is still sitting on a back burner somewhere, the books that are published were more about a need to offer a message than to write a book.

You said you needed to offer a message. Please explain.

My children’s book came to mind when I found myself no longer having time to be involved in a celiac support group I co-founded. After discovering the fact that I lived most of my first forty years with undiagnosed celiac, and then discovering how much my health then improved just by going 100% gluten free, I became immediately involved in celiac support and education. But, after a few years of intense involvement with the support group, life got too busy and complicated, and something had to give. The time wasn’t there for the support group, but the need to provide support continued. The result was a children’s book for adults. My vision is that grandparents and teachers of gluten free kids will read Adam’s Gluten Free Surprise: Helping Others Understand Gluten Free (or the identical girls’ version, Hailey’s Gluten Free Surprise) and will understand how strict this diet is.

As for my non-fiction book, The Syrup Maze: An Inspirational Journey Through Recovery from a Traumatic Brain Injury, I just had to write for my own sanity. Writing was my outlet through those days after my son’s accident, and it helped me months later when I found myself still reliving those most intense moments and hours. I had opened a CaringBridge® website while my son was still in ICU, in order to update family and friends. Months later, as I continued to struggle with my own emotions, I found a lot of healing through writing. It was amazingly therapeutic for me. But I also discovered that what I created was something that could offer others in similar circumstances, hope. Life has its joys, but it also offers us tests. Hanging on for that ride and seeing that blessings can occur out of the darkest of days is something I hope our story can offer others.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned about yourself in creating your books?

That I have the power to make a positive difference in someone else’s life (a power each and every one of us possesses.)

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?

I fantasize about having that perfect “writing schedule,” sitting on the deck behind a cottage on a lake, typing on my laptop between gazes at the water, while sipping coffee from one of my favorite mugs. I’d go for a walk or a swim, fix a hearty breakfast and then type some more while I finished that pot of coffee. But the reality is that writing has to wait for those moments I can steal away from life, between my day job and my family.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

As long as I’m at my laptop, I can write (and write and write). Give me pen and paper, and the ideas get stifled.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?

I wish I could say that I read a lot. While I do enjoy getting involved in a good book, I have become a TV junky lately, finding shows to binge watch. It’s a phase I hope to grow out of eventually. My biggest joy, however, is my family, spending time with my husband, my kids, and my grandkids.

What do you think makes a good story?

If I’m pulled in and want to keep turning pages, it’s a good story. I’m a visual person, so a story really needs to give me enough detail to be able to truly visualize characters and settings. It also needs to have an ending that doesn’t wrench my heart. If I need a tissue it has to be for happy tears, please. 

The Syrup Maze: An Inspirational Journey Through Recovery from a Traumatic Brain Injury: 

Miracles happen every day--and this is one of them. The Syrup Maze is an inspiring account of the minutes, the hours, and the days that followed the moment when the author was confronted with the fact that her son was severely injured in a car accident.

 She found comfort in writing, sharing updates about Michael with family and friends through a personalized website. It is through these posts that she is able to share the journey through her son's inspirational recovery from a traumatic brain injury. Life can change in an instant, but with change comes choice: choice in how we think, choice in how we pray, choice in how we talk, choice in how we act. And at a time when it was all she could do to put one foot in front of the other, she discovered that, next to God, family was their strongest force. As “Team Michael” they leaned on each other, cried together and yes, even found reasons to laugh together. ‘The Syrup Maze: An Inspirational Journey Through Recovery from a Traumatic Brain injury,’ originally titled, ‘The Syrup Maze: A Mother’s Nightmare and the Strength of a Family United,’ is revised to include updates about (and written by) the author’s son, as well as his passenger/friend, who also sustained a traumatic brain injury.

 They are both remarkable examples of amazing recoveries. Debbie Simpson, author of 'Adam’s Gluten Free Surprise: Helping Others Understand Gluten Free,' also highlights the need for increased education in hospitals and medical facilities in regards to special diets. As someone with celiac disease, requiring a strict gluten free diet, Debbie found the task of feeding herself safely while living at the hospital with her son to be a much less daunting task than overseeing Michael’s gluten free diet. Having to step in more than once when non-gluten free food was offered to her son was inexcusable. Patients who require a gluten free diet—or any special diet—deserve to have their needs met and respected, and they deserve to be fed balanced, nutritious meals while in the care of medical professionals. But, as she discovered, this is not always the case.

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