One for the Murphys was published in 2012. It feels like both a lifetime ago and just yesterday.
As I worked on Shouting at the Rain over the last few years, Carley Connors and Toni Byers have never been far from my heart. Murphys was written with complete and open emotional honesty because, quite frankly, I never thought it would be published.
Murphys has a difficult and sad flashback of physical abuse that shows the reader why Carley was placed in foster care. But the rest of the book is about hope, and trust, and learning to love. And it’s about learning to be loved – which is hardest of all. It’s about resilience and grit. It’s about a middle school child learning to claim the life that she wants.
One for the Murphys could’ve been a dark and sad book. I worked very hard to ensure that it wouldn’t be. Not to say there isn’t a place in the world for dark, gritty books. There definitely is. Because sometimes kids who live with darkness are comforted by knowing that they are not alone.
But we authors often write the book we needed as children and I was not a kid like that. I would’ve liked to have known. Known for sure. That if I stood tall enough and worked hard enough and kept my sights on the long term that there would be light.
After One for the Murphys went under contract I was asked why I wrote it. At first I had no answer but, after a little reflection, I replied, “That book is a wish. I wish someone had taken me aside at thirteen and told me everything would be OK.”
I think that readers who read my work – or who have met me in person – know that while I am far from perfect, I am a champion for children. And so, I thought it important to tell the more difficult side of my story for them. But I wanted to do it with my chin tipped toward the light. And I wanted to do it in such a way that it wasn’t just merely telling a story but hopefully taking the hands of young readers who are struggling with their perceptions of themselves and the world and their emotions and help point them in the right direction. Toward the life they want.
I want kids to know that life hands us all a myriad of experiences. It hands us joy and sorrow. Success and defeat. As my readers live their lives I want them to embrace joy. And when life hands them difficulty, I’d like them to know that they can handle it. That although life knocks us down sometimes, we can choose to stand up. Keep our shoulders strong.
I want them to know that I think of them every day. I know that many of them are struggling in different ways and looking for a compass. I know many of them feel like they’ve been dealt a lousy hand. I’m so sorry about that. I really am. But, I hope they are digging into their bravery to strive to make connections with people who value them for who they really are. For its these human connections that heal us.
I’d also like them to remember that a lousy hand played with courage and compassion can lead to incredible gifts. And that happy lives are not found. They are made.