Award-winning poet’s debut collection explores mortality through pairings of verse and visual art

DURHAM, NC – Stephen C. Pollock’s debut collection nods to the literary traditions of years past while simultaneously speaking to the present moment. Multilayered and musical, the poems in Pollock’s “Exits” (Windtree Press, June 29, 2023) have drawn comparisons to the work of Eavan Boland and Seamus Heaney. With bold imagery, attention to form, and a consistent throughline rooted in the theme of mortality, his collection responds to contemporary anxieties surrounding death and the universal search for meaning in life’s transience.

From “Steve’s Balloons,” which was awarded the 2nd Place Prize for the 2020 Thomas H. McDill Award:

I saw then that balloons are not at all round

but are shaped like tears,

that a dream is not so much

that scrap of rubber on the ground

as the breath that once filled it.


Stephen C. Pollock | June 29, 2023 | Windtree Press | Poetry

Paperback | ISBN: 978-1-957638-68-3 | $12.95

Ebook | ISBN: 978-1-957638-67-6 | $3.95

Praise for “Exits” and Stephen C. Pollock…

“Full of wit, insight, and provocative imagery, Exits is a masterful collection by award-winning poet Stephen C. Pollock. Some are sonnets as artful as any by Shakespeare or Ben Jonson.”

      —IndieReader, 5.0 stars ★★★★★

“A unique and diverse group of harmonious poems…producing the multilayered depth that distinguishes lasting poetry.”

 —BookLife Reviews, EDITOR’S PICK

“Dedicated to the beauty and frailty of life, the poetry collection Exits exemplifies the musicality of language.”

       —Camille-Yvette Welsch, Foreword Clarion Reviews

 “Pollock’s poetry is brilliant. The exploration of form is thoroughly enjoyable and inspiring. Many of Pollock’s pieces are reminiscent of Irish poets like Eavan Boland and Seamus Heaney.”

           —Kristiana Reed, Editor-in-Chief, Free Verse Revolution

A look inside…

About the Author…

Stephen C. Pollock is a recipient of the Rolfe Humphries Poetry Prize and a former associate professor at Duke University.  His poems have appeared in a wide variety of literary journals, including “Blue Unicorn,” “The Road Not Taken,” “Live Canon Anthology,” “Pinesong,” “Coffin Bell,” and “Buddhist Poetry Review.” “Exits” is his first book. To learn more, visit




  In an interview, Stephen C. Pollock can discuss:

  • How he reconnected with his love for poetry after a 26-year hiatus
  • His writing process, and how he uses formal elements in his work
  • Why he paired the poems in this collection with visual art, and how the artworks represented were chosen
  • Why the theme of mortality is woven through his collection, and what he’d like readers to take away from his work

An Interview with

Stephen C. Pollock

How did you get started writing poetry?

I began writing rhymed poems on shirt cardboard at age nine.  “Yertle the Turtle” by Dr. Seuss was a strong influence.  In my sophomore year of high school, my English teacher had his students maintain a poetry notebook for half the year.  My notebook was a repository for selected poems by favorite authors (e.g. Sylvia Plath); personal reactions to those poems; photos and illustrations cut from magazines and pasted onto the pages; and my own abysmal attempts to write verse.  My interest in poetry intensified in college where, as a biology major on the pre-medical track, I took four rigorous poetry courses.  During the last of these, in an act of love masquerading as mania, I stopped attending classes, isolated myself from friends, ate and slept reluctantly, and spent five straight weeks writing a metaphysical poem on the theme of subjective vs. objective reality.  

What made you pick up the pen again after a 26-year hiatus?

My career in academic medicine was all-consuming.  The ten years of post-graduate training and the seventeen years spent as a full-time faculty member at Duke University completely filled my days, nights and weekends.  To the extent that creativity was called upon, it was creative problem-solving with respect to patient diagnoses and clinical research.  And the papers I wrote and published in the medical literature were strictly factual, analytical and logical.

The instinct to write poetry was completely suppressed throughout this period, but it was not extinguished.  As I cut back on my responsibilities during my last year at Duke, that instinct began to slowly reassert itself.

What motivates you to write a poem?

The impulse for me to write can originate from a variety of sources:  from a dream; from a vague thought or idea that percolates to the surface from somewhere in the subconscious; from an observation, usually of some natural phenomenon; or from a particularly compelling or disturbing personal experience.

What’s your writing process?

Sporadic and intense.

I have always been undisciplined with respect to writing poems, as evidenced by the fact that I have no set writing schedule.  In contrast to many other poets, I lack the ability to sit down daily at my desk and call forth ideas and/or personal experiences to serve as the basis for new poems.  Nor have I ever relied on writing prompts.  Instead, I wait for lightning to strike (or, mixing metaphors, for the Muse to whisper in my ear).  The unpredictability of this approach means that I never know when, or even if, the next poem will materialize.

Once I begin writing, however, I become intensely focused.  I often begin as I did in childhood, with pencil and paper.  After sketching out a preliminary concept or drafting a few auspicious words or phrases or stanzas, I transition to composing in Word on a laptop.

The key for me is to occupy a mental space where words, sounds, rhythms, and metaphorical possibilities freely and continuously enter the mind, while at the same time applying critical filters to eliminate the 99.9% of options that lack usefulness or merit.  Those filters are internal and idiosyncratic.  They don’t relate to prevailing trends in poetry or to contemporary poets, though some, no doubt, are subtly influenced by selected works of historical poets.

When fully engaged and maximally productive, I typically write four new lines of poetry per day (derived from perhaps a dozen pages of notes and drafts).

In many of your poems, form seems to play a role.  Can you discuss the prevalence of formal elements in your poetry?

Form is as old as poetry itself.  It excites the human psyche.  Even young children respond to rhyme and repetitive rhythms with joy and the impulse to move in concert with the tempo.

The received form that most commonly appears in my work is the sonnet, probably because of its musicality and because it often surprises the reader with a change in perspective or an unexpected twist at the end.  While some of my sonnets obey traditional conventions, others employ more challenging rhyme schemes and/or syllabics (a prescribed number of syllables per line).  This raises the stakes, but it also increases the potential for enjoyment if the diction retains its natural inflections and fluidity, the syntax resists distortion, and the formal elements seem to materialize as if by coincidence (what Frost famously described as “riding easy in harness”).

In most of my longer poems, formal elements coexist with free verse.  The role of meter and rhyme in these “hybrid” works varies, but includes irony (when blended with darker content), humor, and maximizing the impact of a closing line.

For me, form is paradoxically liberating.  Word choices and ideas that never would have bubbled up into consciousness are often evoked by the very constraints that define the form.  Indeed, I find free verse much more difficult to write than formal verse, mainly because it mandates that I create the desired semantics, tone, rhythms, and sonic effects organically and without a safety net.

Why are the poems in this collection paired with visual art?  How did you select the artwork that would be represented?

The decision to include visual art was an intuitive one.  I sensed that many of the poems would resonate in interesting ways with visual images and that this would enhance the reader’s experience.

While a few of the images were selected solely for illustrative purposes (e.g. the image of a goldfinch and coneflower accompanying “Seeds”), most were chosen because they offered alternative slants on the content of the poems.  Though the poem “(eclipse)” drips with erotic innuendo, it’s paired with the image of a 1908 patent for an orrery, a mechanical device that replicates the motion of the earth around the sun and the moon around the earth.  The sonnet “Nasal Biopsy” is ostensibly about a surgical procedure, but a cathedral door was chosen to accompany the poem because the speaker perceives gothic architecture in the structure of the nose and because the poem is ultimately concerned with questions of faith.

Before writing the poems that appear in “Exits,” did you plan to write a book on the theme of mortality?

No.  My initial goal was to curate what I considered to be my best poems from 2003 to 2022 and incorporate that work into a book entitled “Line Drawings.”  However, during that process, I noticed that a significant number of the poems were related to one or more aspects of mortality ― disease and decline, death and remembrance.  This realization led me to compile a more concise, themed collection of poems, and “Exits” was born.

While writing a poem, do you have an intended audience in mind?  Does this influence the content, tone or technical aspects of your work?

The intended audience is always me, or to be more precise, the facsimile of me that constantly looks over my shoulder and critiques every word I write.  The word ecstasy comes to mind.  It captures the elation I feel when a line finally comes together, but it derives from the Greek ek-stasis ― to stand outside of oneself.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with writing for a defined audience, or respecting the conventions of a particular genre, or exploring themes and issues that currently are in the public eye.  My approach happens to be different.  What matters most to me are the words on the page, how they sound in air, and whether or not the poem achieves what it set out to achieve.

What do you hope readers will take away from your work?

Enjoyment of the book.

An enhanced interest in form.

Deepened immersion in the concepts of mortality, renewal, and the cycles of life.

Perhaps once in a blue moon, a sense of awe and wonder.

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Retired biochemist pens interstellar, spiritual short stories

“A high-quality anthology with a Christian outlook that embraces science”Kirkus

Brookeville, MD—Nancy Joie Wilkie, a multi-talented artist by nature, is set to release her second collection of celestial stories that combine science fiction and faith. “Faraway and Forever—More Stories” (She Writes Press, July 18, 2023) is a collection of novelettes that will propel readers through space and time with introspective themes that reckon with the physical and spiritual world around us. Through concise and unique prose Wilkie introduces readers to complex characters that push the boundaries of science and faith to meet at a compelling intersection. 

“Faraway and Forever—More Stories” is a compilation of interstellar fictional tales that takes the reader from the not-too-distant future to a time when travel between worlds is a common occurrence. Each stop along mankind’s journey outward to the stars is accompanied by a deeper look inward—from examining how extraterrestrial beings might use our own biology against us, to whether a human consciousness can survive in a virtual environment, to how wishes are really granted. Original and thought provoking, these stories  will stimulate the intellect and engage the imagination. 

“Hatred and anger and a need for revenge have followed us as we’ve spread out into the stars. Perhaps such negative emotions are not things we can leave behind as we move on. Why did God create us this way?”“Half the Sky,” “Faraway and Forever—More Stories”

NANCY JOIE WILKIE worked for over thirty years in both 

the biotechnology industry and as part of the federal government’s biodefense effort. She served as a project manager, providing oversight for the development of many 

new products. Now retired, she composes original music, 

plays a variety of instruments, and has recorded many of her original compositions. She also created a series of greeting cards that display her artwork and photographs. “Faraway and Forever—More Stories” is her second collection of stories. “Seven Sides of Self” was published by She Writes Press in November 2019. She will be releasing a third collection of short stories, “The River Keeper and Other Tales,” in early 2024. She is also working on a science fiction novel and a children’s story. She resides in Brookeville, MD. Her cards, prints, and more information about her books can be found on her website

“Faraway and Forever—More Stories”

Nancy Joie Wilkie | July 18, 2023 | She Writes Press | Short Stories, Science Fiction

Print | 978-1-64742-454-1 | $17.95

Advanced Praise for

“Faraway and Forever—More Stories”

“The five works here offer readers remarkable flights of imagination, occasional surprises, and an overarching sense of wonder. A high-quality anthology with a Christian outlook that embraces science.”


“I especially admire that the use of science (and fictive science) is in service of, never overpowering, the human dynamic, the human question, the human center to each story … all of them are compelling.” 

—TOM O. PHILLIPS, MA, PhD, Associate Dean of the College, 

Wake Forest University, and Founder of Words Awake!

“Wilkie has produced an amazingly imaginative and compelling set of stories that not only take the reader to new worlds, but convey fundamental life lessons we would all do well to ingest. For a non-science fiction reader, they were a revelation. I highly recommend them to anyone interested in an entertaining and enlightening read.”

—MARY LLEWELLYN McNEIL, author of “Century’s Witness”

In an interview, Nancy Joie Wilkie can discuss:

  • Why she decided to weave the themes of faith and science into this collection 
  • How her career in biotechnology and biodefense influenced her writing 
  • How overarching themes in the collection are interwoven through each short story 
  • The inspiration behind crafting short stories grappling with the core of humanity
  • How her writing relates to current events even though the stories are set in an interstellar landscape 

An Interview with

Nancy Joie Wilkie

What would you say to people who believe Christianity and science are at odds with one another? Why did you decide to weave faith and science into this collection of short stories? 

I would say that while I do believe there is a divine intelligence running the show we call the Universe, I do not believe that to be at odds with science.  Science is simply our attempt to understand what the Good Lord has created.

As for why I decided to weave faith and science into these stories, it really wasn’t much of a decision or anything requiring a great deal of thought.  I am a scientist … albeit a retired scientist … and always interested in how things really work behind the curtain.  And I am a deeply spiritual person.  I think there must be a connection between science and religion somewhere.

Can you talk about your writing process and how you add “Easter eggs” into the stories that give readers insight into your motivations behind your writing? 

I do love Easter eggs!  And there are quite a few in these novelettes.  Friends who know me well immediately recognize them.  One dear friend recently told me he wished he didn’t know me so well such that when he was reading the stories his mind could stay in the story and not on me!  It is me just having fun!

As for the writing process … whenever the Muses drop something into my head, I feel obliged to write it down!  It is really that simple.

What was the most difficult short story for you to write in this collection, and what was the inspiration behind it? 

One of the stories was written 25 years ago while the rest were written within the last two or three years.  None of them were particularly difficult to write.  But I can tell you the story that was the most fun to write … The Wishbringer!  The trouble the main character has in finding a significant other is a reflection of own journey of ups and downs in that department.  This story does seem to be everyone’s favorite!

In one of your short stories, “The Goldfire Project” you explore what you call “spiritual dynamics”. Can you talk more about that idea and why it was the inspiration for that piece?

Being a distant relative of William Thomson—better known as Lord Kelvin, a major contributor to the Third Law of Thermodynamics—and having been a scientist myself, I have always been interested in the Three Laws of Thermodynamics.  After I lost my father to cancer 17 years ago, I started to rethink how I viewed the soul and the afterlife—trying to make some sense of my father’s passing—and then started thinking about our “before life.”  It was then that I thought developing the Three Laws of Spiritual Dynamics would be an interesting analog and might be used in some of my stories.  How do souls come and go from our physical bodies?  A future story titled “The Natural Order of Things” (to be included in a fourth collection of stories titled “By The Light Of The Sun”) will explore these ideas and how they came about in greater depth.

What do you hope that readers will take away from this collection? 

  • The more mankind looks outward, the more he looks inward.
  • Is there really such a place as heaven?  And if we are given an alternate path at the end of our corporeal life, would we take it?
  • Relationships between parents and children are complicated.
  • Do we really understand how the Universe operates and what if we are given a chance to look behind the curtain?
  • What was the message that Jesus Christ delivered during his time on Earth?  And how would we respond to Him if He were to appear again?

What’s next for you in your author career? Are you working on anything new? 

Oh, yes!  I am always working on something new!  Those darned Muses never seem to leave me alone!

I have a third collection of tales that will be released by Austin Macauley Publishers LLC in early 2024—titled “The River Keeper and Other Tales.”  One of the tales is about Aurora, a young girl who discovers a ring with magical powers and uses those powers to help a young knight battle an evil dragon.  It isn’t until after the battle she learns that use of those powers came at a cost.  The title of the story, not surprisingly, is “Aurora’s Ring.”

And for the record (pun intended), inspiration for the story came from a song of the same name, written by me after an idyllic day on the beach.  After hearing the tune, my musical collaborator, Stephen Bloodsworth, suggested we compose and record a concept album telling Aurora’s full story!  And so we did!  “Dragon’s Door—A Tale of Ring and Sword” was released on Christmas Day 2022.  You can hear songs from it on Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music, Pandora, and our HearNow Web Page (  It is also available on Amazon … complete with a really nice booklet! 

Looking forward, I have completed a fourth work of fiction titled “Who Moved My Planet? —A Story For Those Needing To Understand Something About Needs (A Novella).  I have several beta readers reviewing it now and hope to send it to a publisher in early fall of 2023.

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New book on coming out and becoming your true self at midlife

“…an honest account of the profound “awakening” that stems from an appetite for life and yet also comes at a cost. ” –Richard C. Morais, author of The Hundred-Foot Journey

WAYNE, New Jersey – In a raw, honest memoir Melissa Giberson lays bare her story of a middle-aged suburban wife who uprooted everything to embrace her true identity as a gay woman. “Late Bloomer: Finding My Authentic Self at Midlife” (She Writes Press, Aug 8, 2023) is a stunning display of grief, rebirth, motherhood, and dedication to stepping into one’s true power. 

Melissa Giberson longs for something she can’t quite put her finger on until, one night at the Y, she finds herself mesmerized by the sight of a naked woman and levels with herself for the first time: Am I gay? This revelation sends Melissa on a head-spinning journey of self-discovery, one that challenges everything she thinks she knows about herself, forces her to decide exactly how much she’s willing to risk for authenticity, and shakes the foundations of the family she’s fiercely determined to shield from the kinds of wounds she sustained during her own childhood. Torn between her desire to be true to herself and her desire to protect her children, she is consumed by fear and conflicting emotions.

As Melissa wades through the difficult dissolution of her marriage and struggles with how to come out to her kids, she is met with overwhelming support from the Jewish LGBTQ+ community. “Late Bloomer” is a triumphant exploration of a mother navigating grief and fear to ultimately accept herself with the support and love of her ‘found family’ in her LGBTQ community. 

“Late Bloomer: Finding My Authentic Self at Midlife”

Melissa Giberson | August 8th, 2023 | She Writes Press | Memoir 

Print | ISBN: 9781647425197 | $17.95 | Ebook | ASIN: B0BQBP3VQ8 | $8.99

Melissa Giberson: Melissa is a native New Yorker who identifies as a late bloomer, a highly sensitive introvert, and proud mama bear to two children. An occupational therapist and writer, she has published articles in Kveller, Dorothy Parker’s Ashes, and Highly Sensitive Refuge. She received an Honorable Mention in the Memoirs/Personal Essays category of the 91st Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition and her essay, “Art is the Antidote,” appears in the anthology, Art in The Time of Unbearable Crisis (June, 2022). Melissa’s debut book, “Late Bloomer: Finding My Authentic Self at Midlife” (She Writes Press) comes out August, 2023. Melissa is living her authentic life with her partner and their two cats; together, they split their time between New Jersey and Provincetown, Massachusetts. Find out more at her website.

Follow Melissa Giberson on social media: 

Facebook: @MelissaGiberson Twitter: @LateBloomer823 

Instagram: @Melissagiberson031 Linkedin: Melissa Giberson

In an interview, Melissa Giberson can discuss:

  • How “Late Bloomer” is a memoir that pays-it-forward to folks who are questioning their sexuality 
  • The LGBTQ+ community and the integral part they played in supporting Melissa in her coming out process 
  • How Melissa’s intersectional identities of being a Jewish, gay, mother are key themes in her journey to self-acceptance and discovery 
  • Why themes of grief and resilience play an important role in her story and what she hopes readers will take away from reading “Late Bloomer.”

Advanced Praise for 

“Late Bloomer: Finding My Authentic Self at Midlife”

Late Bloomer is an absolutely glorious memoir about a woman coming out, coming into her true self. A woman sharing the most intimate details. The ending of a marriage, the discovering of her own heartbeat, her own desires, the bumpy, scary, frightening, magnificent journey of self-discovery. Giberson writes that coming out is a gut-wrenching process and that she carefully chose each person with whom to share her truth. With this memoir, she’s done just that—sharing her truth, sharing the pain and sorrow and joy. And the fear. Sharing intimate details that become chapters filled with so much raw beauty. At the end of this glorious book, Giberson declares, ‘Above all, I’ve found me.’ And we, as readers, are awfully glad she shared herself with us. A remarkable journey,  indeed.” 

–Amy Ferris, author of Mighty Gorgeous and Marrying George Clooney

“Melissa Giberson’s memoir is a gripping account of a suburban mom’s journey from a world of shuttling kids to pools and temple to the self-discovery she’s trembling with lust after the beautiful women on Provincetown’s beaches. There is a kind of madness that befalls a person brave enough to make that journey  – a human roiling through self-loathing, euphoria, depression, joy, guilt, fury, fear, erotic discovery – until they finally make it safely to where they need to be. This is an honest account of the profound “awakening” that stems from an appetite for life and yet also comes at a cost. The writing is just right. It’s straight – from the heart.”

–Richard C. Morais, author of The Hundred-Foot Journey 

“In Late Bloomer, Melissa Giberson establishes her voice as a brave truth teller. By sharing her most life-altering experiences with unfiltered authenticity, she delivers an emotional tale of identity, sexuality, motherhood, and forgiveness.”

–Julie Cantrell, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Perennials

An Interview with

Melissa Giberson

What was your main motivation for writing “Late Bloomer,” and what do you hope that readers will take away from reading it? 

My motivation for writing Late Bloomer was born of the many times someone told me that my story was helpful to them. Early in my journey, women who were on the other side of their own journey showed up to help me and I want to do that for others as well. Writing a book enables me to reach more people. I hope readers come away from reading my book with the knowledge that they’re not alone – whether they’re just starting their journey or on the other side and hearing a story that resonates and validates their experience. I want people to know that there is an “other” side.

Your children were a primary concern for you when you decided to come out. What was it like to come out to your kids? How has your relationship with them changed and strengthened? 

I was terrified of hurting my children, that they would hate me for changing their story. Telling them was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It’s a challenging situation but I knew that not pursuing an authentic life would have hurt them because kids are intuitive. I had, and continue to have, wonderful adventures with my kids and because of everything we’ve been through, I work harder to make sure I always show up for them. I’m so proud of my kids and it’s my hope that I make them proud as well.

What was it like diving back into dating and dating women for the first time in your 40’s? 

I didn’t do much dating before my ex and I became a couple (we were very young), so it didn’t feel like returning to dating in my forties, it felt like engaging in something entirely foreign to me. It was awkward and I didn’t like it but I also knew that I wanted to ultimately have the experience of being in a relationship with a woman. I learned by asking questions of a friend who was in a same-sex marriage and observing couples I met in the community.

How did the stigma of being a “late bloomer” in the queer community impact you? What was the rationale for titling the book after this stigma? 

It was stunning the first time a woman said I was taboo, that women would run from me. I wasn’t prepared for the various types of discrimination that can exist within the LGBTQ community—that it was no different than any other ethnic, socioeconomic, or religious group in which members of the community may be deemed “less than” based on any number of variables. I have come to embrace being a late bloomer and want to celebrate that people come into their own aptitude, and self-awareness, at various times and in variable ways.

How did your Jewish identity impact your coming out? In what ways did that community support you? 

My earliest supporters were Jewish and there was a sense of comfort in that, a common ground as I was struggling with planning for my daughter’s bat mitzvah, a major milestone for her at the beginning of my crisis. At a time when my world was undergoing such drastic change, having this one familiar thread was helpful. I was invited to attend services and events within the Jewish community and found solace in some of the teachings found in Judaism.

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Based on a true story, WWII-era novel follows a German immigrant’s search for the American Dream

CHICAGO, IL–Inspired by the life of Christine Gallagher Kearney’s maternal grandmother, “What We Leave Behind” (She Writes Press, July 25, 2023) is an engrossing WWII-era narrative of love, loss, and one woman’s search for identity after being separated from her homeland and husband. 

About the book: In 1947, war bride Ursula arrives in Minneapolis torn between guilt over leaving loved ones behind and her desire to start a new life, and a family. But the American dream proves elusive—she is struck with polio, and then shocked by the sudden death of her GI husband. 

Without a spouse or the child she so desperately wanted, Ursula must rely on her shrewd survival skills from wartime Berlin, and she takes in a boarder to help make ends meet. She soon falls in love with the Argentinean medical technician living in her spare bedroom, but his devotion to communism troubles her—and when she finds herself pregnant with his child, she is faced with a dilemma: how to reconcile her dream of motherhood with an America that is so different from what she imagined.

Based on a true story, this WWII novel considers the lengths to which we’ll go to improve our lives, and the ways we cope with unexpected setbacks. With timely meditations on war, immigration, disability and women’s issues, “What We Leave Behind” is sure to be a conversation-starter and book club favorite. 

“What We Leave Behind”

Christine Gallagher Kearney | July 25, 2023 | She Writes Press | Historical Fiction

Paperback | ISBN: 978-1-64742-493-0 | $17.95

Ebook | 978-1-64742-494-7 | $9.95

Praise for Christine Gallagher Kearney and “What We Leave Behind”

“Christine Gallagher Kearney adeptly crafts the story of a German war bride, whose dreams of comfort and ease in mid-century America pan out quite differently than imagined, but who, battling polio, loneliness, and an unexpected pregnancy, grows into her own life’s stern heroine.”

Annette Gendler, author of “Jumping Over Shadows” and “How to Write Compelling Stories from Family History”

“‘What We Leave Behind’ is a stirring narrative of love, determination, loss, and renewed resolve. Gallagher Kearney’s understanding of the difficulties and challenges of disability coupled with the angst of separation from family illuminate every page. As a polio survivor, I nodded often at her portrayals of the nuances of disability and how it affects one’s familial, social and romantic life. Thanks to Gallagher Kearney’s deft prose, her grandmother Ursula will not be left behind.”

Francine Falk-Allen, author of “Not a Poster Child: Living Well with a Disability”

“‘What We Leave Behind’ is a heartfelt portrait of a woman whose story—despite the 1940’s setting—feels vital to our contemporary lives. Ursula’s fear, grief, and joy are lovingly rendered by Gallagher Kearney, whose close connection to the source material brings history to life. The novel’s themes are universal: the big swings we take when we dream of something more, the unexpected and profound loss that life contains, and the resiliency that drives us forward.”

Krista Diamond, contributing freelance writer to The New York Times and HuffPost

About the Author

Christine Gallagher Kearney is a Midwest Review “Great Midwest Writing Contest” finalist, and a semi-finalist for Chestnut Review’s “Stubborn Artists Contest.” In 2022, she was accepted to StoryStudio Chicago’s StoryBoard fiction workshop led by Ingrid Rojas Contreras. She has published in Wild Roof Journal, Driftless Magazine, ForbesWoman, Fortune, and Cara Magazine and is a former food columnist for the Irish American News. Christine graduated with her bachelor’s degrees in International Relations and Spanish from Mount Holyoke College, later earning her master’s degree in Organizational and Multicultural Communication through DePaul University. She has a career in the corporate world and writes in her off hours. What We Leave Behind is her debut novel (She Writes Press; July 2023). Christine grew up in Minnesota, but now lives in Chicago with her husband and dachshund. To learn more about her work, visit:

In an interview, Christine Gallagher Kearney can discuss:

  • How the true story of her maternal grandmother’s strength and sacrifices as a war bride influenced this novel
  • How she approached the research process for a novel set in the 1940s and 1950s
  • Why she almost-gave up writing this book multiple times, and more importantly, how she found the courage to keep going
  • How the novel’s exploration of women’s issues remains relevant today
  • Why it’s important to learn from history, and what she hopes readers will take away from the novel

An Interview with

Christine Gallagher Kearney

1. “What We Leave Behind” was inspired in part by the life of your maternal grandmother. What did you find most compelling about her life story, and how is that emphasized in the novel?

What I find most compelling about Urusla’s story is that she kept going. She faced countless challenges, but she did not let those challenges stop her. I also love how much she cared about her family, and how much she relied on her own creative pursuits (knitting) as an outlet. She was resilient and persistent!

2. What kind of research did you do in order to accurately portray what life was like for a war bride from Germany in the 1940s and 1950s?

I relied heavily on first-hand accounts from other war brides, newspaper articles and secondary materials.

For research on living with polio, I interviewed polio survivors, and read memoirs of polio survivors. And for my research on the polio hospital in Minneapolis, I relied on the archives at the University of Minnesota, and the Minnesota History Museum. 

Finally, Ursula had written her own account of her experiences, so I referenced her journals as well. 

3. You mentioned that you almost gave up writing this book multiple times. Where did you find the perseverance to continue on this path, and what advice would you give to other writers who are considering abandoning their projects?

As a child, I wrote a chapter book. I remember drafting the manuscript in a spiral notebook, then later I folded blank pages, bent a piece of cardboard in half to create a cover, then glued the pages inside to create my own book where I transposed the story from the manuscript. Whenever I wanted to quit because I had lost faith in myself, I remembered this Christine from childhood, and her dream of writing and publishing a book. I didn’t want to give up on her, or myself.

My advice for other writers is: find someone who will hold you accountable, and remind you why you started your writing project. My husband played this role for me. I told him: “I’m going to come to you and ask if I can quit, and you’re going to tell me ‘no’,  you cannot quit.” He didn’t give up on me, even when I wanted to give up.

4. Although set in the years after WWII, “What We Leave Behind” maintains a sense of timeliness. What’s one theme readers should be on the lookout for?

A big theme in this book is Urusla chasing what she thinks is the American Dream, and part of that dream is becoming a mother. She realizes parts of that dream–some level of stability, opportunity to work, making friends and building a family–but it looks different compared to what she imagined. 

5. What do you hope readers will take away from the novel?

I hope readers will learn more about what being a war bride was like after WWII, that they will learn about polio and possibly recognize some of the same fears we experienced during the pandemic. More than anything, I hope they will come to understand the complexities of living with a disability, and what it means to have family, community, social and medical support. And, what it means when support systems are not accessible and/or available, and the consequences of that lack of support.

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Adoptive mother shares first-hand experiences of under-supported foster and adoptive parents

PHOENIX, Arizona – Adoptive and foster parents assume there will be adequate resources to support their growing families – but too often, the system doesn’t follow through. In “Shattered” (AuthorHouse, May 16, 2023), Jenell M. Jones tells the raw truth behind America’s foster and adoption system, sharing the day-to-day realities and challenges of raising children with mental and physical limitations, and tells parents (and would-be parents) what they most need to hear: It won’t be what you expect, and you are not alone.

With the trajectory of today’s society, we can all agree that parenting is difficult. Choosing to foster and adopt proves to not be an easy feat. Parents are in constant competition with societal influences and sometimes feel it’s an uphill battle. These same parents are often told they will be supported in the rearing of their children and that adequate resources would be made available. But what happens when you discover the system that promised to help you, would betray you? What happens when you decide to enter into another realm of difficulty – fostering and adopting children who come with mental and physical baggage? 

Meet Jenell M. Jones, an adoptive mother who is still trying to find the answers to these questions. In these pages, you will see through a mother’s eyes as she shares her deepest pain for her daughter, “Mercy.” In the end, justice is necessary and peace is questionable.


Jenell M. Jones | May 16, 2023 | AuthorHouse | Memoir 

Paperback | ISBN 9798823000314 | $19.99 

Hardcover | ISBN 9798823000338 | $28.99

About the Author

Jenell M. Jones is an early education entrepreneur, currently operating multiple early learning centers, which specialize in providing high quality learning experiences to children who experience trauma in low-income areas. Her education background includes earning a bachelor’s degree in business management and a master’s in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis on autism spectrum disorders from Arizona State University. A native of Phoenix, Jones has provided her expertise to families for the last decade and currently hosts private discussions with other foster and adoptive parents on current issues affecting the nontraditional home. Through her life experiences, passion is the source by which she governs herself to make a difference. The goal is not to be perfect but to assist others in rising through difficulties. Jones’ blueprint of success can be summed up in a few statements: Be tenacious, be kind, be loving, but most of all…be forgiving. Find out more about her at

Follow Jenell Jones on Facebook

In an interview, Jenell M. Jones can discuss:

  • An honest take on the adoption and foster care system — and how to navigate the system without necessary support
  • The lack of accountability for those who victimize children, and how to advocate for the often-overlooked and voiceless victims in the foster and adoption care system. 
  • Her experience as a biological, adoptive and foster mother, and how these experiences shaped her ideas of motherhood
  • Her work in her hometown community in Phoenix, Arizona, hosting private discussions with other foster and adoptive parents on the current issues affecting nontraditional homes
  • The lack of mental health support for children in the foster care adoption system 
  • How her educational background influenced her desire to become an adoptive parent
  • How to integrate adoptive children into your existing family structure
  • The frequency of sibling separations in the foster and adoption system

An Interview with

Jenell M. Jones

Before we dive into everything, can you introduce us to your family?

I feel I am a normal mom with extraordinary children, who I have been blessed to raise. I am a mother of seven children, ages 33, 28, 25, 22, 20, 17 and 16. I have three girls and four boys. I live in Laveen, Arizona, with my four toy poodles. I have three children living at home (26, 22, and 17 years old). Mercy, 16, is currently living in a group home near our house. As a mom, I often battle with my mistakes, all the millions of things I have done wrong and all the things I could do better. I am a very imperfect person that struggles daily to be a good mom. One of my most pressing issues is to maintain my relationship with my daughter, Mercy, and do what’s right and not beat myself up for issues. I also have an autistic child and must monitor the safety issues that may be present. However, with all that, my children have always been the most important thing to me in the world. I feel children need to be protected and advocated for. I feel children need to be loved and nurtured and grow up in a safe and loving environment that allows developmentally appropriate choices. As a parent, I have always tried to provide my children with opportunities and to foster an environment that allows, supports, and encourages them to become self-sufficient and well-rounded adults. I tried to create a family structure that allowed this to happen. Each member of my family is unique and different, but that is what allows my family to be great.

When and why did you first get involved in the foster and adoption system? 

“What’s one more?” These are my husband’s famous words that have always gotten us into trouble. I would find a child in need, or we would come across a child who needed a temporary home, and this was always his response.

I became a foster parent because I love children, and so does my spouse. When my adopted 17-year-old son needed a home at birth, I took him home. I saw him, fell in love with him and called my husband. The same happened with Mercy when she was 8 years old. I never planned on adopting, but I am the kind of person who will help any child in need. Mercy needed a home; typically, older children do not get adopted, especially by a two-parent home. I felt, we are an African American two-parent family; we can offer this child a home. I felt we could do our part to help children in need. I just wanted to make a difference in Mercy’s life.

When did you first realize that you wouldn’t have the expected support from the adoption and foster care system, and how did you continue to navigate this without that support?

I realized I wouldn’t get the support I needed when I started calling the therapist who had stated she would be there to assist, but she didn’t return my calls. That’s when I knew I wouldn’t have the support of all the people who promised. I really got the impression very quickly that the social workers and caseworkers I met didn’t have my child’s best interest at heart. They tuned out as soon as they found a parent to take care of Mercy. They didn’t even understand basic child development. I understand I may have more experience in some areas than most, but we have laws that govern childcare centers and schools. The child protective services don’t have to abide by the strict regulations, and children are not being cared for properly. They are the ones monitoring, but who monitors them? The foster and adoption care system frequently withholds information to foster and adoptive care parents; lacking that information can be detrimental. Unfortunately, my child has suffered as I learned this information the hard way. They caused Mercy physical harm with mistakes and neglect. Some of it has been so harmful that if any parent made these mistakes, they would attempt to remove the child from parental care. However, they treat the children like pieces of paper in a file drawer, not like the individuals they are.

Can you tell us about Mercy’s background before she became a part of your family? Can you explain some of the physical and emotional challenges she faces, and how others can support children like her?

Mercy entered the foster/adoption system at age 3. By the time she came to us, she was 8, and she had been in 21 placements. In addition, she had behavioral challenges and abandonment issues, but a lot of her problems were hidden from us. We found things out by accident, even about the 21 placements. I was told they suspected sexual abuse, but I have now confirmed that they knew about her sexual abuse. They just chose to hide it. In their words, “If we told you about her past, how bad it really was, you wouldn’t adopt her.” This is the problem—we should have been told. When you buy a house, you are told about floods, fires, and even murders in the disclosure process.  However, you can adopt or foster a child, without receiving disclosures, which is detrimental to any family if there’s a history of abuse. All children need opportunities to experience a wonderful family, and families need to be supported and protected. Measures must exist to protect children and families. Mercy had experienced extreme trauma—behavioral, emotional, physical and sexual abuse—that was not disclosed to us. The lack of disclosure caused harm to her. Vital therapy time was lost, mistakes were made in treatment, opportunities lost. This is a deceptive practice.

Mercy has a twin brother, Michael, who she was separated from during adoption. Does she have a relationship with him or any of her other siblings? What are your thoughts on separating siblings in the foster care system? How does this impact them long-term? 

Separating siblings is a horrible practice! Separating twins is even more horrendous! When a child has been taken away from their parents, for whatever reason, they have lost their entire family structure. So then to tear her barbarically away from the only consistent thing in her life, her twin brother, the person she shared her mother womb with, is just outrageous, insensitive, and a ridiculous process! I want to know who thought this was okay; was this one person or a team of people? Were there any psychologists on this team? Why is the state trying to destroy this child? Why would anybody in their right mind think that this was acceptable? This was in no way developmentally or social-emotionally appropriate. Did a judge okay this? This is outrageous. Why did everyone fail these children? How many more children have been treated like this?

Mercy does not have much contact with her twin brother. He has exhibited a lot of sexualized behaviors because of his past, so the therapist thinks it’s best that we keep them apart. Of course, this therapist is paid by the state, and maybe because the damage is done, maybe because it reminds them of the inhumane separation, maybe because they hope if we ignore it, it’ll go away, maybe because they don’t want to be reminded that they failed these children! I would be okay with monitored contact because there is a side of her that greatly misses her twin. It’s obvious; when they are together, they finish each other’s sentences. My daughter cries for her twin often. I know that part of their brokenness has been caused because of their separation and how awful it was. I do let her have contact with her two older siblings. It is a challenge because their behaviors can be a bit extreme, and they’ve all faced so much abuse, but there’s a side of her that misses them, and she worries about them. I feel like either way it’s tough.

The process of separating siblings and twins needs to be revisited in all foster/adoption care systems. The emotional impact on these children needs to be researched and studied, and laws of protection need to be formed.

Children under the age of 18 often have no avenues to advocate for themselves, making them more susceptible to abuse. How does the system victimize children, and how can we create more accountability for those victimizing children?

I think children are more at risk of being victimized because stories of abuse are not told. There are so many mistakes made by the agencies that are supposed to protect them, and they get away with it. This is a part of the problem.

How did your experiences as a biological, adoptive and foster mother shape your ideas of motherhood? Did anything change significantly? 

A few things shaped by ideas of motherhood – being a child raised by a single mom and experienced abuse, watching things happen to children that shouldn’t, and my experiences as a child advocate through the realms of preschool. I have a different perspective, and I understand what abuse and trauma does to children. If intervention doesn’t happen and therapy isn’t given, children don’t have a chance, and there will be a cycle, potentially in which they can abuse others as well, and nobody looks at these things. As an adoptive and a biological mother, my goal is to protect my children at all costs, get them the best care and advocate for them. I feel that I treat my children all the same way. It doesn’t matter if they’re biological or adopted; they’re my children. There hasn’t been a significant change in the way I parent, except my awareness was heightened throughout this journey with Mercy.

How does your faith play into your role as an adoptive parent? 

Without God, I wouldn’t have made it this far. Forgiveness, love, kindness and prayer are all things I can find in my faith. I pray all the time for Mercy. It’s hard because Mercy is better off with me. I keep her safe, I protect her, and I take great care of her. She receives the best therapy with me because I will pay for private sessions, and I will drive and fly anywhere to get her the care she needs. I will research what she needs and then get her the care she needs. However, I don’t have anyone to protect me from her. Mercy only has me to protect her from them; they don’t look out for her best interest, and they have proven this over and over again. I know she is better with me, but I have to protect the entire household, and families deserve more options. This is why I am always praying because it grieves my spirit. It’s only God that allows me to keep going.

Can you tell us more about your work in Phoenix, Arizona — your hometown — and how you help other parents in nontraditional homes? 

Both of my preschools have early Head Start grants, which focus on a 0 to 2 early intervention, working with low income children, who are exposed to trauma. These programs give high quality childcare to children who would not otherwise have it. We’re able to identify children that may have special needs at an early age and help them be more well-rounded with additional education opportunities.

What advice do you have to other nontraditional families looking to add family members, whether by fostering or adopting? 

Ask a lot of questions and make them tell you the child’s history. Get support, and get everything in writing. Trust and verify. We need adoptive parents, but we need a better system.

What do you want readers to take away from your book? Do you have any calls to action? 

We need to change the system for these children and families. We need to be concerned for every child in this system. We need justice and advocacy.

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Friends in the Industry: Books Forward April 2023 Newsletter

Check out the latest newsletter featuring our award-winning authors and industry news. This issue features upcoming book releases, recent media coverage and much more!

Read the April 2023 newsletter here!

Whale who refuses to poop shown importance of its job

Young teen activists make US debut in playfully educational children’s book

San Francisco, CA – This World Ocean Day, journey through the ocean with Baby Whale in this fundamental children’s book about a young whale who is too shy to poop and its importance to the ecosystem in Daniel and Benjamin Kim’s spirited story and US debut, The Whale Who Refused to Poo (Common Planet, June 8, 2023).

Having started before the age of ten, two brothers, Daniel and Benjamin wrote six children’s books all ranging in different endangered animals. After much success in Korean and their book, A Letter from Sumatra, adapted for the screen, the young teen activists share their delightful stories to the US audience. The Whale Who Refused to Poo is the first book to be released and all proceeds benefit the protection of endangered animals.

Baby Whale feels shy about pooping in the ocean. Surrounded by other fish and plankton, he never learned why he had to poop in front of everyone. He journeys to the bottom of the ocean for some privacy and meets a scholarly octopus who explains to him how important it is to poop; that it helps share important nutrients to the fish and plankton around him. With this new knowledge, Baby Whale is ready to go back to the surface and poop again. 

With deeper themes and lessons of the interconnection between all creatures featuring beautifully drawn images, The Whale Who Refused to Poo is the perfect book to help children understand the importance of protecting animals in their ecosystem and teaching them that some things are necessary for survival.  

“The Whale Who Refused to Poo”

Daniel and Benjamin Kim 

June 8, 2023 | Children’s book

Paperback | 978-1-960920-00-3 | $14.99

Ebook | 978-1-960920-01-0 | $9.99

DANIEL KIM: Daniel attends a middle school in the Bay Area. His love of dinosaurs and disappointment at their extinction sparked his interest in endangered animals on the brink of extinction. He believes that creating a world that is good for animals also means a better world for humans. In his free time, Daniel enjoys reading, playing tennis, and listening to music. You can find him blogging on his site,

In an interview, Daniel can discuss:

  • The successful launch of his books in Korea and his release to the US audience
  • His continued love for animals and how it shaped his desire for animal activism and what it means to be a child activist
  • The colorful appeal of his stories and how he shares knowledge through playful narrative and the impact he is making with his books
  • The worldwide importance of his stories and how children of any culture can understand its message
  • The research behind The Whale Who Refused to Poo and the impact whales have on their ecosystem
  • His aspirations for helping animals in the future
  • How he and his brother collaborated to write six books, short films and continue to create more

Take a look inside The Whale Who Refused to Poo

An Interview with

Daniel Kim

1. Where did your love for the environment come from? What sparked your interest in writing books?

As a child, I was fascinated by dinosaurs and could easily identify hundreds of different species. However, my love for these prehistoric creatures was tempered by the realization that they had gone extinct. Years later, during a visit to the San Diego Zoo, I learned that we were observing one of the last three surviving Northern White Rhinos, a species on the brink of extinction due to human negligence. This experience opened my eyes to the harsh reality that many animals face today and inspired me to spread awareness about conservation efforts. I firmly believe that a world where animals thrive is a better world for all of us.

2. Baby whale struggles pooping in front of his friends, but learns that it’s important for the ecosystem. How did you research the importance of whale poop to the ecosystem?

As an avid conservation enthusiast, I frequently indulge in reading books and articles about animals. During one of my recent explorations, I stumbled upon an article about the remarkable nutrition pump that whales create in the ocean, which serves as a catalyst for the surrounding ecosystem. This discovery left me captivated and sparked a thought within me. It reminded me of how children are often intrigued by the topic of poop. I am convinced that this unique story has the potential to serve as an excellent educational resource, and inspire a new generation of conservationists.

3. Do you want to be an environmentalist when you get older? What else do you want to study? What does being an activist mean to you?

Although I am currently uncertain about the specific field of study I would like to pursue, I possess a deep-rooted passion for contributing to the cause of animal conservation and helping to make our world a better place. While activism is a crucial way to make a difference, I also firmly believe that breakthrough technologies developed by scientists and medical professionals have the potential to make a significant contribution to animal conservation. Moreover, policymakers and media companies have a pivotal role to play in this effort.

Despite my current uncertainty concerning how and where I will contribute, I remain resolute in my unwavering commitment to supporting environmental improvement for the betterment of both our present and future generations. I wholeheartedly subscribe to the notion that we have merely borrowed this nature from our future generation and that we have no right to destroy it.

4. I heard these books are in other languages! What made you decide to translate the books into Korean and Chinese?

The purpose of our books is to inspire and empower children to take action in saving the planet and its inhabitants, ultimately safeguarding our own future. We also leverage various media formats, such as animated movies, to amplify our message and reach a wider audience. Our goal is to spread awareness and foster a global movement, where everyone plays a crucial role in creating a sustainable future for generations to come. Join us in making a lasting impact and be part of the change we wish to see in the world.

5. I heard that you’re already working on another book! What’s your next book going to be about?

I am currently engaged in the development of a narrative that centers around an animal on the precipice of extinction. Although I am not at liberty to disclose specific details regarding the animal or the storyline, I can reveal that this is a project of great personal significance to me.

6. What do you hope your books will inspire? What do you want kids to take away from your books? 

My ultimate objective with my books is to foster empathy and understanding towards these imperiled creatures. By sharing their story and drawing attention to their plight, my hope is to instill a greater appreciation for the value of all life, and to inspire people to take action to safeguard these vulnerable species.

I believe that storytelling has the power to effect meaningful change and to forge deep connections between people and important causes. Through my writing, I aspire to make a meaningful contribution towards raising awareness about the urgent need to protect our planet’s most precious and threatened species.

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Book censorship meets its match in new middle grade novel

Hailed as “Speak” for a new generation, a sixth grader heals from trauma in latest addition to acclaimed author’s “Brave Girls Collection”

NEW HAVEN, CTIn a starred review of Kimberly Behre Kenna’s debut novel, “Artemis Sparke and the Sound Seekers Brigade” (Regal House/Fitzroy), Foreword praised Kenna’s ability to write “a courageous, passionate, and observant heroine who is vivified by her emotional complexity.” The second book in her Brave Girls Collection, “Jett Jamison and the Secret Storm” (Black Rose Writing) is no exception. Following a pre-teen who is battling her town’s book censorship along with a secret personal trauma, the story celebrates speaking up while honoring the messy, difficult journey to finding one’s voice.

About the book: Sixth-grader Jett Jamison can’t catch a break. Her home in small town Wisteria is noisy as a zoo, and her mind buzzes with bits of a traumatic memory she’d rather forget. She’s filled a shoebox with one hundred thirty-three to-do lists, her roadmaps to peace, but they only lead to dead ends. Sister Gia, master gardener and cat-whisperer extraordinaire, suggests a book by an anonymous author, but it’s disappeared from all local libraries, and nobody wants to talk about it. Enraged at the injustice, Jett continues to dig for answers and is drawn into a censorship battle with a high-profile radio host. Her peaceful protest backfires big time, and the town goes berserk. Now, for peace to be within reach, Jett must either face up to her past or remain forever bound by silence much more suffocating than the din in Wisteria.

“Jett Jamison and the Secret Storm”

Kimberly Behre Kenna | August 3, 2023 | Black Rose Writing | Children’s, Middle Grade

Paperback | ISBN: 978-1-68513-243-9 | $19.95

Praise for “Jett Jamison and the Secret Storm” and Kimberly Behre Kenna…

“Readers will love the memorable and realistic cast of characters in this tale of a sixth-grader’s journey to discover the mystery of a suppressed library book. Along the way, she will discover answers to the difficult storm brewing inside herself, as well as find her voice to advocate for both. Jett is a brave, compelling character, and this novel is an engaging and inspiring take on a sensitive topic. An important read!” 

Sonja K. Solter, award-winning author of When You Know What I Know

“Jett Jamison has a secret—a deeply painful one. She also has determination, a strong sense of justice, and a wide open heart that will have young readers glued to her side and rooting for her as she works to stop a censorship campaign against a book she knows she needs to read in order to heal. With bravery, beautiful writing, and just the right amount of restraint, Kimberly Behre Kenna has opened the door for a crucial and overdue conversation about sexual abuse and survival for middle grade readers. More than twenty years ago, teenagers were given the gift of Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak. Now, finally, pre-teens have this stunning and necessary book.” 

– Ona Gritz, author of August or Forever

“Kenna has done that rare and wonderful magic trick of immersing the reader into the psyche of a tender tween soul in crisis without any dissembling or subterfuge. The story breathes with subtle and deft nuances of insight and feelingThe reader of any age enters into Jett’s world of pitfalls and trauma from the first page, though they quickly learn that Jett is no frozen victim: she’s a fighter, a detective, and when it counts the most, a trailblazer. The town of Wisteria can be found in Anywhere, America… This unassuming but also unabashed book will do wonders for the heart and spirit of young people grappling with silence where an open conversation could change their lives forever.”

–JR Potter, award-winning teen mystery author of Thomas Creeper and the Gloomsbury Secret

“Sixth-grader Jett Jamison relies on carefully curated lists and schedules to protect her from the stress of a chaotic family life and the jumbled fragments of a disturbing memory. But an unexpected friendship and a mysterious book challenge Jett’s beliefs about the value of predictability and order and embolden her to face those who have silenced her and others. Kimberly Behre Kenna tackles a difficult subject with the perfect balance of honesty and hope in her portrayal of a courageous and relatable heroine whose observations about herself and the world sparkle.” 

–Linda B. Davis, MSW, author of Food Fight

About the author…

KIMBERLY BEHRE KENNA: After years as an adolescent and family counselor, and then as a fifth grade teacher of ecology and language arts, Kimberly returned to school for her MA in creative writing from Wilkes University. Her middle-grade novel, “Artemis Sparke and the Sound Seekers Brigade” (Regal House/Fitzroy) was a finalist and received Honorable Mention in the 2019 Tassy Walden New Voices in Children’s Literature Competition. “Jett Jamison and the Secret Storm” (Black Rose) is the second book in her Brave Girls Collection. A third in the collection, as yet unpublished, won second place in The Institute of Children’s Literature 2022 MG Mystery Contest. Her poems and stories have been published in American Writers Review, Mused, Plumtree Tavern, and Rubbertop Review. Her full-length play, “Ana’s Hummingbird,” was given a staged reading at The Dramatists Guild in NYC. She’s a member of SCBWI and PEN America, and now devotes herself to writing full time. Connect with her at

Follow Kimberly Behre Kenna on social media:

Twitter: @KimberlyBKenna | Instagram: @KimberlyBKenna 

Facebook: @KimberlyBehreKenna

In an interview, Kimberly Behre Kenna can discuss:

  • The importance of public libraries as safe spaces, and why she’s donating a portion of the proceeds from book sales to her local library
  • The recent increase in book bannings across the U.S. and how “Jett Jamison” addresses this issue
  • How and why she wrote about sexual assault for a pre-teen audience, and why it’s crucial that safe, open communication exists for that age group
  • The similarities and differences between the two heroines in her “Brave Girls Collection” and what characteristics make a “brave girl”

An Interview with

Kimberly Behre Kenna

1. What inspired you to write “Jett Jamison and the Secret Storm”? Were you influenced by the recent increase in book bannings in the United States?

I started writing this book before the recent increase in book bannings, around the time of #MeToo, when so many women bravely came forward to tell their stories. One day as I sat writing in my hometown library, the very place my mother escaped to in order to get away from her noisy siblings many years ago, I wondered how my own childhood would’ve been different if I’d had a sanctuary like this library with books to help me deal with my trauma. Jett’s character grew from these real life situations, and her story evolved into exploring what would happen if the important healing books that now exist disappeared. So, my story’s universal themes of book censorship and silenced voices are also very personal.

2. Part of the proceeds from book sales will benefit your hometown public library. What role does the library play in “Jett Jamison and the Secret Storm”?

The fictional Wisteria Library is largely inspired by the one in my hometown, the historic

James Blackstone Library. Over the past few years, I’ve spent many, many hours at the

Blackstone Library, where most of this book was written. The building itself is magical,

and the staff and librarians provide patrons of all ages with a safe, non-judgmental space

where they can explore, ask questions, and have fun. Wisteria Library offers Jett the

same, until the troubling events she witnesses there illustrate the unreasonable pressure

that libraries and librarians are facing today. This place that was sacred to Jett becomes

yet another victim of injustice, and she decides to right the wrong.

3. Sexual assault and the resulting trauma is a topic rarely explored in middle grade fiction. Why did you want to write about this for a pre-teen audience, and how did you approach doing so?

Like Jett and many children, I’m a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. These children live in a void of secrecy. If there had been books exploring the issue, or open discussions about it back in the day, perhaps I wouldn’t have kept the secret for decades. I wrote this book so that traumatized kids would feel less alone and hopefully reach out to an adult for help. The silence needs to be broken early on so healing can begin. There’s a fine balance that must be struck when writing about such topics for middle grade. The story must be age appropriate (no graphic depiction on the page) and softened with humor and hope without diminishing the serious truths of the topic. Fiction provides a safe place for young readers to explore difficult things.

4. What are the similarities and differences between the two heroines in your Brave Girls Collection: Artemis Sparke and Jett Jamison? 

Both girls have lost their voices due to victimization, and their resulting lack of confidence prevents them from getting what they want. Both girls have male friends and wise adults willing to help them reclaim their voices and reach their goals, but overwhelming emotions get in the way of their achieving those things. They both find solace in nature, and the outdoor plants and animals help them restore their spirit, but the way each of their stories unfolds is what makes the two girls unique.

5. What do you hope readers will take away from “Jett Jamison and the Secret Storm”? 

I hope readers come away with a better idea of how common trauma is and how it affects people, and I hope they’ll feel more comfortable discussing it. This is a book that must be discussed, or we land right back at the spot where we started—a child alone with a heavy subject that they don’t know what to do with. Regardless of whether the reader has been abused or not, I hope they now see that we cannot make assumptions about people based on their behavior when we have no idea of their backstory. We need to remain open and receptive to others so that they feel comfortable enough to say what they need to say.

6. What’s next for you? Do you have another Brave Girls book in the works?

Yes! Book three is complete, but still needs a tweak or two. Meanwhile, I’m happy to say that my immediate future is full of visits with kids, teachers, and librarians, and many, many unread books that I’ve not paid enough attention to during this busy year of publishing!

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Award-winning journalist releasing candid new memoir on mothering a transgender daughter

NEW YORK, New York – In her upcoming memoir, award-winning journalist Kate Brookes shares the story of her daughter’s transition and the harsh realities facing transgender kids and their families.

“Transister” (She Writes Press, Aug. 8, 2023) is the story of a family in transition. Not a prescriptive narrative but an affirming one. A raw, honest, sometimes humorous account of Brookes’ journey as her young child grapples with gender identity and becomes her authentic self.

Brookes has longed to become a mother for as long as she can remember. And for almost as long, she has harbored a fierce determination to parent her children differently — better — than her own mentally ill mom parented her. To create the “normal” family she’s always wished for. And when she gives birth to twins after two years of fertility struggles, she is, admittedly, hugely relieved that she’s found herself with two boys. There will be no need for her, a decidedly un-girly girl, to braid hair, buy Barbie dolls, or pick out party dresses for her kids. Boys. Easy. Right?

By the time her twins are 8, Brookes has had two realizations: 1) her obstetrician’s “it’s another boy” announcement was flat-out wrong, and 2) there is no such thing as a “normal” family — and that’s a beautiful thing.

“Transister: Raising My Twins in a Gender Bender World”

Kate Brookes | Aug. 8, 2023 | She Writes Press | Memoir 

Paperback | 9781647425210 | $17.95 

Ebook | 9781647425227 | $8.99 

About the Author

Sarah Merians Photography

Kate Brookes is the author of “Transister” (She Writes Press, Aug. 8, 2023). She is an award-winning TV reporter/anchor-turned-producer/filmmaker who has interviewed everyone from Beyonce to the late Barbara Walters, field produced for The Discovery Channel, written for, and emceed galas, live events, and webcasts for nonprofits and Fortune 500 companies. An activist since her teenage years, Kate has devoted countless hours to the causes she supports, including mental health, housing justice, and anti-gun legislation. But it wasn’t until realizing she’d completely botched the birth announcement for her twins that she became active in LGBTQ causes. Kate lives with her husband and rock star children in New York City. Find out more about her at

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In an interview, Kate Brookes can discuss:

  • Navigating her daughter’s transition as a family while facing misunderstandings and prejudice
  • Her personal journey to acceptance and learning how to mother a transitioning daughter
  • The harsh – and often life and death – realities of parenting a trans child
  • How insights from parenting a transgender child can help all parents supporting non-conforming children 
  • How to discuss gender identity with children, even at an early age  
  • The importance of supporting and normalizing trans experiences 
  • Supporting your child’s coming out process

An Interview with

Kate Brookes

Before we dive into everything else, can you introduce us to you and your family?

I’m the proud mom to twin 14-year-olds, Gabriella (Gabby) and Jacob, both of whom are absolute rock stars, one of whom is transgender. My husband, Mike, and I are raising them in New York City and doing our best to embrace both of our kiddos and meet them where they are. We spent the first 8 years of parenthood operating under the notion we’d birthed twin boys (umm, that’s certainly what the OBGYN told us when he pulled said kids out of me), and the last 6 years, first adjusting to… and then celebrating the reality that one of our sons is actually our daughter. 

Your memoir is candid, raw, forthcoming – but also, at times, funny. Why was it important to you to incorporate humor into “Transister?”

Honestly, sometimes it’s easier to laugh than it is to cry. And believe me, I cried a lot while watching my daughter grapple with her gender identity. But, sometimes stuff really is funny, and why not acknowledge the humor? I mean, when’s the last time your 3-year-old son walked down the street pointing to women’s shoes and saying, “Heels, flats, heels, flats!” Or your 9-year-old daughter asked if her dress makes her penis look big? Besides, humor can be an effective way to connect with people and to address/tackle “taboo subjects” in a non-threatening way. For all of these reasons and more, it was important for me to include some levity in “Transister.”

When did your daughter first realize she was trans? Did you realize it or did she tell you?

My daughter realized she was trans at 8 years-old. “Gideon” and I were walking along Broadway, holding hands, when we stopped at a red light and he looked up at me and said, “Mama, I think I’m a transister.” To which I replied, “Do you mean transgender?” “Yes, when I was in your tummy,” Gideon explained, “it was a mistake. I was supposed to come out a girl.” The reality? I knew “he” was likely a “she” for years and had even begun attending support groups for parents of gender non-conforming and trans kids. But my husband and I did our best to let things unfold naturally and allow our kiddo to realize who she was at her own pace.

Did you realize immediately it was her identity and not “just a phase?”

I had no doubts this was her identity and never once thought otherwise. Granted, years before she socially transitioned I hoped the tutus, Barbie dolls, and YouTube makeup tutorials were “just a phase.” And part of me wished our kiddo was “just gay,” not because we’d love our son any more than we’d love our daughter, but because statistically when it comes to healthcare, employment, and suicidal tendencies, it’s easier to be gay than it is transgender. Ultimately, the fact that my daughter was insistent, consistent and persistent about her gender identity further confirmed for me that she was indeed a girl, and a beautiful one at that.

Did any part of you resist this realization? How do you navigate that?

We 100% embraced her realization and declaration. Keep in mind, we’ve always viewed ourselves as accepting, uber liberals from the Upper West Side of Manhattan. And yet, when I look back, I’m somewhat embarrassed (maybe even ashamed?) to acknowledge there were definitely times I squashed my kiddo’s inclinations. Case in point? At around 4 or 5 years old, she wanted a Disney princess comforter. My response? “Oh, wow, the pink and purple background won’t match your blue walls. Bummer. Let’s see if we can find something else that goes.” Or the time my kiddo wanted a Cinderella birthday cake, and my husband, Mike, and I chose an alternative. At the time, we told ourselves we were doing what was best for both of our twins so they wouldn’t face ridicule. But in retrospect, I think I was the one who feared ridicule.

What advice would you give other parents of children who identify as trans? What questions should they ask? What support can they offer? 

Accept your child. Love your child. Support your child. Even if you don’t understand your child. Studies show…and common sense reinforces the notion that children whose gender identities are affirmed have much better outcomes socially, emotionally and academically than kids whose parents don’t accept them. Think about it – all most people want is to feel loved, safe and protected. Trans kids are no different.  

At what point did you begin to change pronouns and publicly identify your child as your daughter?

About 6 months before our daughter came out publicly, she asked “us” to use female pronouns and call her by girls names, but only at home and only when it was just the four of us. Of course, Mike and I unintentionally botched the pronouns early on; it was admittedly difficult to shift to she/her after saying he/him for 8 years. And the new name? It probably would have been easier if there was just one. Our daughter went through 12 names (Jennifer, Liv, Phoebe, etc.) before landing on one that stuck. While not uncommon, I know of a parent who wrote her kid’s revolving names on a calendar to keep track, it was often difficult to remember her current name and address her accordingly. It wasn’t until Gabriella started 3rd grade at a new school that, with her permission, we began publicly identifying her as a girl.

How has Gabriella’s twin brother, Jacob, handled the transition? Did you experience any grief over the “loss” of your son?

Initially I not only grieved the loss of my son, but also the loss of the “normal” family I was trying to create, the one I pined for ever since I was a child. Over time, though, my husband and I realized we didn’t lose anything. Rather, we gained a happier child, one who’d now live as her authentic self, and we celebrated the arrival of our daughter. And that normal family? I’ve learned there’s no such thing, of course, and I’m actually good with that! As for Jacob, initially he focussed solely on the loss…his loss…of his twin brother. He was just 8 years old – who could blame him? It was a lot for anyone to comprehend, let alone a kid in single digits. Jacob was part confused, part angry, and part embarrassed. I’m happy to report that in the years since Gabriella’s transition, Jacob has developed an incredibly close relationship with his sister. Different from the one he had with his brother, and perhaps even more special.

How did your friends and family react to Gabriella’s transition?

My friends and family were overwhelmingly supportive of Gabriella’s transition. Some of them had seen the signs (her growing dress collection, use of makeup, etc.) over the years and weren’t surprised when we shared the news; others had no idea Gabby had been grappling with her gender identity and still seemed to take the change in stride. That said, not everyone “approved” of our daughter’s transition or how we were parenting our child. And we did lose a few friends, including several who were so close we considered them family. Disappointing, on the one hand. But my husband and I truly believe if you don’t support our family, then good riddance… we have no place for you in our lives.

How did your daughter’s friends react? Did she come out to everyone at once?

Most of Gabby’s friends were not only super supportive when she came out, but also not surprised. (Okay, there was that one friend from day camp who did a double-take when she bumped into Gabby on the street and realized G was sporting long hair and a dress. But once she realized it was the same kid she swam and played with the previous summer, the friend immediately hugged my daughter and asked for a playdate.) Mike and I sent a letter to friends, family, and parents of Jacob and Gabby’s friends, a letter explaining her social transition, new name and new pronouns, which helped facilitate her “coming out.” It also gave parents a “heads up” and the opportunity to discuss the change with their kids before they encountered our daughter for the first time.

You live in New York City, where gender-affirming care is more accessible. What advice do you have for parents of trans kids in areas where access to gender non-conformity is less accepted?

First, I have to acknowledge the privilege my daughter and our entire family have because we live in a place where gender-affirming healthcare is more accessible and gender non-conformity is readily accepted. But let’s be clear, geography shouldn’t be a privilege or a barrier. Trans people should be able to access the resources and support they need regardless of location. That said, I’d recommend parents seek out both emotional and medical support for their kiddos, whether it’s virtual or in-person, as early as possible. Organizations like The Trevor Project and PFLAG are accessible to anyone online and can be incredibly helpful in locating and connecting families with local resources. Support groups, therapists, gender-affirming healthcare – all of these can and do play a critical role in the life of a trans child and their family. No one should feel alone in this journey.

Anti-trans sentiment is unfortunately ubiquitous, even in the more liberal areas of the country. How do you navigate and manage the fear associated with this?

Wine and Xanax are key. Kidding. Sort of. Let’s be real; anti-trans sentiment is rampant in our country, and as the mom of a trans daughter, it’s incredibly stressful…and scary…to turn on the TV and hear some horrible anti-trans rant from a politician…or to overhear a random person on the street spewing anti-trans hate. I find solace knowing that my daughter has friends and family who love and support her…and a mom and dad who will do anything to protect her. 

What message do you have for politicians who support anti-trans legislation?

First, it’s “interesting” that so many politicians who support anti-trans legislation identify as pro-life. I would opine that if they were truly pro-life..and wanted to ensure all of their constituents remained alive, they’d support gender affirming healthcare. But, I’m not sure logic works when dealing with angry and scared people – and I do believe that anger and fear are driving most, if not all, of the anti-trans legislation. Regardless, my message is two-fold: First, I’d remind politicians that transgender people are, first and foremost, people…people like you and me who are just trying to live happy, healthy lives. And politicians are elected to represent all of their constituents, not just the rich people, or the white people, or the cisgender people. Second, I’d attempt to play to their emotions and ask how they might react if their child or grandchild came out as transgender. Would they support them or legislate against them? And finally, (I guess my message is three-fold), I’d make sure said politicians know that I and my posse of equal rights supporting, left leaning, liberal minded, and open-hearted mama (and papa) bears won’t go down without a fight!

Your book ends with Gabriella and Jacob entering the fourth grade. Tell us about them today. How are they doing?

Gabriella and Jacob are now 14-years-old and total rock stars. Period! Both will be entering high school in the fall, both are taller than me (yup, I’m now the runt of the family) and both are smart, funny, empathetic and beautiful and handsome, respectively. Gabriella’s superpower is making friends – her social calendar makes my head spin!!! And Jacob is killing it on the basketball court – his three-pointers rival that of athletes twice his age. When I became a mom, I remember telling my best friend that all I wanted was for my twins to be happy, healthy and kind. Suffice it to say, they’re well on their way.

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