Today I have Courtney Sheinmel in for a visit. Here is the back of her new book and an interview.
Emerson Price cannot remember a time when life was ordinary. She wasfour-years-old when she and her mom were diagnosed as HIV-positive –infected with the virus that causes AIDS, and eight when her parentsdivorced. Now she is thirteen and her mother is dead. Emmy moves in withher father and stepmother, but she feels completely alone. Even thougheveryone has always accepted her, no one – not her father, or stepmother,or even her best friend – understands what it’s like to have to takemedicine every single day, to be so afraid of getting sick, and to missher mom more than she ever thought she would.
When Emmy’s dad and stepmother send her to Camp Positive, a camp forHIV-positive girls, Emmy is certain she is going to hate it. But soon sherealizes that she is not so alone after all – and that sometimes lettingother people in can make all the difference in the world.
The author is donating a portion of her proceeds from this book to theElizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.
1. How did you get the idea for your latest book, Positively?
When I was thirteen, I began volunteering for an amazing organization called The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (www.pedaids.org). Over the years, I have spent a lot of time imagining what it must be like to grow up HIV-positive, and that was the impetus for POSITIVELY: it is about a thirteen-year-old girl named Emerson (“Emmy” for short) who is infected with the virus that causes AIDS, and who loses her mother to the disease.
2. Was it hard writing a book on HIV for young readers?
This was the most difficult book to write (at least among the books I’ve written so far). Emmy has to deal with two major things that I (thankfully) have no first-hand knowledge of: being HIV-positive and the loss of her mother. I felt a great sense of responsibility to be accurate and truthful, and sometimes I felt like a complete fraud who didn’t have any right to tell the story. I made myself cry a lot. I also wanted to do right by Emmy – even though she is made up, I didn’t want her life to be all tragic. I had countless discussions with people from the Foundation, and with friends who have lived with HIV. I hope I produced something that makes them proud.
3. What do you hope people get from this book?
I hope they can empathize with Emmy and see themselves in her.
4. Do you have any friends who are authors? Did they support you on this journey?
I have a number of author friends, and they’ve been incredibly supportive. My non-author friends have been wonderful, too. I have a team of people willing to read chapters, talk me through the hard parts, and give me cupcakes when I need an extra boost.
5. Was it hard to just sit down and write?
It depends on what part of the book I was writing. The first part is always a pleasure. The middle is very tough. By the end, I’m so anxious to see how it will turn out that I love to be writing.
6. What music did you listen to well you wrote, if any?
There’s a line in a Sheryl Crow song that I had in my head as I was writing POSITIVELY: “What is yours you’ll never lose, and what’s ahead may shine.” I listened to a lot of Sheryl as I was writing. Her voice just reminds me of Emmy.
7. What author inspires you?
When I was in eighth grade, Anna Quindlen came to speak at my school, and she made me want to be a writer. There was just a moment during her speech when it clicked for me, and I will always be grateful to her for that.