A Note from Michelle: I primarily write fiction and blog about writing tips for novelists, but many writers yearn to write nonfiction books too. Today I have a nonfiction author, Gloria Doty, as my guest. I asked her a few questions in hopes that her answers might inspire you on how to write your nonfiction book, or for readers to see a glimpse into Gloria’s book, because I’m confident her words will entertain, inspire, and educate people from all different perspectives.
Whether you’re writing or reading a memoir or a how-to book, I hope Gloria’s journey will help and inspire you. These are the questions I asked her:
How did you decide to organize your book?
It took me a while to decide. This is a non-fiction book, so I couldn’t add or remove characters at my whim. Should I organize chronologically, sequence of events or by life experiences?
What order did you put it in?
I started chronologically, with her birth. I continued until she started school. From there it was categorized by events in her life.
Was the order a difficult choice?
Yes. I wanted to write about each occurrence but the book would have been the size of War and Peace, so I had to ‘lump’ some things together.
What was the most difficult part of writing this book?
Reliving so many of the things Kalisha has endured and struggled with. It brought many feelings to the surface again and I had to deal with them again.
Did you take non-fiction writing classes to perfect your craft or did you always have a gift with words?
I believe God blessed me with a gift for words, language and writing. I started in 3rd grade but was side-tracked for many years. I have taken a few writing courses and when I enrolled in college at age 55, I was required to write constantly for assignments. It rekindled my love for putting words on paper. (My next book is about the 17 occupations I had while God was preparing me to write full-time.) (This sounds funny, Gloria.)
How did you make it interesting for readers?
I have been told by many readers that reading this book is like having a conversation with me over a cup of coffee. My ‘voice’ comes through in the things I write. I didn’t have to ‘make’ it interesting; Kalisha’s life has been very interesting. The humor, the heartbreak, the struggles, the education; all of it is a learning experience, for her, me and the readers.
How did you find your publisher?
I checked out a lot of different publishers. I was told by a publisher at a Write To Publish conference that I needed to incorporate other peoples’ stories. I tried, valiantly. I asked in person, online, social media, teachers, and parents. I guaranteed anonymity. I received ONE response.
That solidified two things for me: A. No matter how far we have advanced in our society, we still don’t want to admit there is something different about our child.
B. This was supposed to be Kalisha’s story and through her story, others will see themselves.
I checked Create Space and others. Ultimately, I chose Author House. They made me a good deal, I loved the cover they put together and they were easy to work with and they POD so I can order 2 or 2000 books. I should add this: Since I used them, I have read a zillion terrible things about them, so I would say, ‘Beware, but in my case, ignorance is bliss and it worked out for me’.
Who does this book appeal to?
This book appeals to anyone who has any kind of connection to a person with special needs; not just autism. There are few people who do not know an individual with special needs; either in church, school, neighbor, work or relative. Reading this book will give you a ‘boatload’ of insight into their lives.
What passion inspired you to tell this particular story?
Kalisha said and did so many funny things we started referring to them as Kalisha Stories. I was encouraged to compile them into a book. She also suffered at the hands of very evil people and I wanted to help other parents possibly avoid those incidents. The other motivator was Kalisha, herself. She told me “I don’t care what you write about me. I just want people to know what it’s like to be me.”
What idea or “message” do you want to get across to readers?
There is hope and happiness ahead if you are new to the special needs world. It is not all doom and gloom. There are struggles, sometimes daily, but there are good times, too. Hang in there.
What particular scene in your story inspires you the most?
There are many. Kalisha is a prayer warrior; a fun, compassionate, persevering, caring and humorous individual. She makes me a better person.
Which scene was the most fun to write?
The most fun scenes are the ones I laugh out loud while writing. The time she was involved with someone who was shoplifting and the times she misunderstood what I was saying or her funny misunderstandings of words…telling me I needed vanilla ex-lax for a recipe instead of vanilla extract. At the same time, the most heart-wrenching scenes are when she was taken advantage of, when she was held captive and raped and tortured for 3 days. Writing those chapters brought back all the feelings of hatred for the individuals who were never held accountable due to a loophole in the law. Kalisha prayed for them, I prayed they would rot in hell. (I’ve come over to the forgiveness side finally).
It was also difficult to write about my dying and leaving her alone.
What would your main character die for?
I don’t know if she would die for it, but when asked what she would want the most, her answer has always been, “I want to be able to drive.”
Who will be uplifted by this story and why?
I believe any parent, especially. Teachers, medical professionals, relatives, even people who know no one who has a disability will benefit from Kalisha’s story.
I know you didn’t ask this, but I will add it: This book does not recommend any particular diets, therapies or political agendas. Parents can find an overload of information about those things from books and online. I wanted to share things parents are never told; not by doctors, professionals, support groups or other sources. This is a glimpse into our everyday lives. The good, the bad and the ugly. I am totally transparent in telling the things I did right and the things I did wrong. I hold nothing back.
Born in rural Northeast Indiana, Gloria has always loved to write. There have been a few detours along the way, however. She was married for nearly 40 years, had 5 children and 13 careers. Although Gloria has written magazine articles, anthologies, devotionals and fiction, she felt the need to help other parents of special needs children by chronicling her and her daughter’s 30-year journey with autism, Asperger’s and intellectual disabilities.
“I would love to pass this out to some of my parents and to new parents who are just starting on their journey with children of disabilities. Because no matter who we are, we all get down about ourselves in our roles as people, parents, mothers, fathers, friends, etc. and need to know that we are “not the only ones” living this life. There are tons of books out there explaining the medical where-tos and what-nots, but not too many with the comic/funny side of everyday living with someone with disabilities. I know I would prefer after knowing all the medical terms to read a book like this to know what my “real everyday life” was going to be possibly facing.”
–Jaime Buekers Schacher, Special Needs Paraprofessional at Homestead High School, Fort Wayne, IN
If you’ve written a nonfiction book, how did you develop your outline of chapters?