Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Author Spotlight: Shannon Wiersbitzky, What Flowers Remember - a Child's Story About Alzheimer's

Shannon Wiersbitzky is another author in the #AlzAuthors collaboration I'm involved with this month. Shannon's novel explores the impact of Alzheimer's on a young girl. Children are often forgotten in the drama of Alzheimer's, their observations and points of view neglected. What Flowers Remember can help open a discussion with young people about what's happening with Grandma or Grandpa. Welcome to Adventures in Publishing Shannon! 

Please tell us about your book.

In What Flowers Remember, due to a shared love of flowers and gardening, Delia and her elderly neighbor Old Red Clancy dream up a seed- and flower-selling business. The two make quite a pair. He has the know-how and she has the get-up-and-go. But something is happening to Old Red. And the doctors say he can’t be cured. He’s forgetting places and names and getting cranky for no reason. As his condition worsens, Delia takes it upon herself to save as many memories as she can. Her mission is to gather Old Red’s stories so that no one will forget, and she corrals everybody in town to help. What Flowers Remember is a story of love and loss, of a young girl coming to understand that even when people die, they live on in our minds, our hearts, and our stories.

What inspired you to write this story?
I spent my childhood summers with my grandparents in a small town in West Virginia, not totally unlike the fictional town of Tucker’s Ferry. As a result, my grandparents became like second parents. When I was in my twenties, my grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I hoped and prayed that he wouldn’t forget me. But of course, the disease doesn’t work that way, and I was forgotten along with everyone else he loved. The moment I realized he no longer knew who I was is something I will never forget. It broke my heart. And it was that nugget which inspired this story.

Could you share with readers how you conducted your research or share a few interesting tidbits you learned while researching?
I did research on Alzheimer’s as I wrote the novel. The Alzheimer’s Association has a wealth of information. While I knew what my grandfather experienced, I didn’t know if that was typical or if there were other signs and symptoms which might be worth including to make it more accurate. Most people only think of Alzheimer’s as losing memories, but it can often cause changes in mood, and even result in a loss of smell. I included both of those in the book.

Alzheimer’s isn’t typically a disease associated with children. Why include this as a topic in a middle-grade novel?  
I never set out to write a book “about Alzheimer’s.” I wanted to write a story that spoke to my own truth, about how it feels to be forgotten by someone you love. Within the context of fiction, I imagined what a young girl might do, and what an entire town might do, if they felt they could, in some way, prevent memories from being forgotten.

The reality is that according to the Alzheimer’s Association, one in three seniors will suffer from some type of dementia. One in three. That is an astounding number. It also means that there are many children who will be impacted by the disease. The current estimate is that 250,000 children ages 8-18 provide help to someone with Alzheimer’s or another dementia. Whether it is grandparents or parents, or someone else they know and love. I hope the story will help kids and adults discuss the topic and help them, even in some small way, heal.

2015 New Books for Missouri Students
2015 Notable Children’s Books in the Language Arts
Lamplighter Award nominee, 6th-8th, 2015-2016
Bank Street 2015 Best Children’s Books of the Year, ages 12-14
Top Shelf honoree 2014, VOYA Magazine

About the Author

Shannon Wiersbitzky is an author of children’s fiction, a marketing executive for one of the world’s largest investment firms, a mother of two boys, and a believer that every person can make a positive difference in the world. 

Connect with Shannon on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads!

Purchase What Flowers Remember

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