Tuesday, August 26, 2008



Shari: Jessica, you call yourself the differently-abled writer. Will you tell my readers what makes you different?

Jessica: I’m a legally blind ventilator dependent quadriplegic. I’m different because I started writing full time and cherish every moment I can do it. It’s precisely because of my condition; I’m doing what I love.

Shari: How long have you been writing and what was your motivation?

Jessica: When I was in junior high I tried to write a book, but grew bored with it. In high school I wrote poems about my tragic teen life. LOL I began writing as a vocation in 2006. Due to my physical condition, there is little I can do. When I write I’m just me, the wheelchair and ventilator disappear into the background.

Shari: Jessica, I know you have several stories in Chicken Soup Books. Do you write mostly inspirational stories intended for adults?

Jessica: I started writing Christian and inspirational stories for adults. I’m a big kid at heart. My goal is to write for children. I finished my first picture book and am shopping publishers, and I have 20,000+ words of my memoir for young adults about my stroke and rehabilitation. Its title is 101 Ways to Torture a Quadriplegic: A Journey of Laughter Through Tears.

Shari: How do you write? It must be very difficult and time consuming.

Jessica: Everything is written with my computer. I have limited use of my left arm and hand. I peck with one finger. My eyesight and hand coordination are the pits. I have a magnifier that makes text larger. I try to catch my errors (there is usually at least 2 out of every 3 words). After I do that I copy what I’ve written into my text reader and listen to what I’ve written and edit further. Any writer could benefit from using a text reader. You can get free 30 day trials off the internet.

Shari: I see you do speaking engagements. How can you do that on a ventilator?

Jessica: I have an artificial trache with a balloon that is normally inflated and keeps secretions from going into my lungs. If it’s inflated no air passes over my vocal chords and I can’t speak. (Teenagers should come with one.) The balloon is deflated and my ventilator is adjusted to supply more air. The difficult part of speaking out loud is I have to remember to trigger the ventilator for each breath. I have to consciously take a breath or I’ll pass out. I don’t breathe automatically like you do. It took a lot of practice and it’s tiring, but I love doing speaking engagements.

Shari: You do school visits. What age group do you work with? What is their reaction to you as a writer?

Jessica: I’ve only experienced speaking with adult students in school studying medicine. They are amazed. They understand the technical and physical difficulty I overcome to speak.
I look forward to visiting public schools, but have only given my testimony to a Sunday school class and spoke to a Girl Scout troop.
About a year ago a group of 5 girls from a Sunday school class came and played games with me. At first they seemed a little apprehensive. In no time we were all just people determined to win a game.

Shari: What is a typical writing day like for you? Do you write everyday?

Jessica: From 7:00 am until noon, I’m going through physical therapy, respiratory therapy, getting my bath, getting dressed, washing my hair, put in my wheelchair, etc... At noon, I jump on my computer. Until then in my mind I’m already planning what I’ll do when I get my computer. I stay on my computer until midnight or later.

Shari: Where do you do your writing? What is your writing space like?

Jessica: I have the coolest desk type table. It rises up and down electronically. The screen tilts forward and back electronically, too. I can sit in my wheelchair at it or (when I’m being lazy like now) it can slide over my bed. Attached to the right side of my computer screen is a multicolored caterpillar. I call him Herb. He loves to have his picture taken and is all over my website. (Shari: I've seen Herb. He is a cutey.)
I also have a listing of my writing goals clipped to the side of my desk as a glaring reminder to get to work.

Shari: Do you belong to any critique groups? Have you taken any writing courses?

Jessica: I’m a member of the MuseItUpClub and have a critique group through it called GradingPens. It’s a private group of six other people that write for children. I’ve learned a great deal from them.
I’ve also completed 15 online writing courses. I’m currently enrolled in the Institute for Children’s Literature. I’m on the 8th lesson. There are 10 lessons total.

Shari: What are your writing ambitions and dreams?

Jessica: I want to get my books published, am determined to get into Cricket Magazine and
want to inspire kids and adults and to bring people to Christ. I want people to understand even though disabled people may look different, they are really no different from other people. They laugh, cry, dream, hope and love. They just have to do things in a different way.

Shari: If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?

Jessica: When I was a kid, I wanted to be Big Bird. My feathers and beak never came in, but I got the height and big feet. Seriously, I don’t really know, because I’m limited with what I can do physically. I might become a teacher and teach at children’s hospitals kids that are too sick to go to school.

Shari: What would my readers be surprised to learn about you?

Jessica: I’m not really paralyzed and ventilator dependent. I’m just very very lazy.

Shari: Tell us about your website and blog.

Jessica: I’m redoing my website. The goal of my site is twofold. I want to create a destination on the web with wholesome fun for kids. The part of the site dedicated to writers is set up to give them information to help them succeed.
The blog is evolving. I try to supply information to help writers in their craft. I’ve recently begun a series of author interviews. In those interviews, I’m trying to get insight into their publishing books and magazines. I’m trying to get a finger on the pulse of writing. Other author interviews I’ve seen don’t seem to take that tack.
Shari: What advice would you offer new writers?

Jessica: Learn the market you submit to. Read several issues.

http://www.jessicakennedy71.blogspot.com/ recent interview with Kathryn Lay children's author of 1500+ articles
http://www.jessica-kennedy.com/ being redesigned


unwriter said...

Now you have shown how to overcome what life can throw at you! Speaking to children is probably the best thing you can be doing because it does show that being less than able is not a stopping point. Great job!!

Amber said...

What a wonderful interivew, Shari! Jessica's got a wonderful sense of humor and it really came across in your interview with her.

Jessica Kennedy said...

Thanks Shari for the interview. I enjoyed it. Your questions were insightful & allowed my personality to come through.

Unwriter I have 13 nieces and nephews that grew up around me. My family is very close. They just see me as their nutty Aunt Squeaky. It's taught them about perseverence and that disabled people are like everyone else. That's the theme of my picture book & school visits. I hope it succeeds.

Amber - Glad you enjoyed the interview. I think laughter is the key to overcoming adversity. It beats the heck out of crying.

Jessica Kennedy
The Differently-Abled Writer

Connie Arnold said...

Many thanks to you for the great interview, Shari, and to Jessica for such inspiration! How important for all, young and old alike, to see beyond a person's disability (or being "differently-abled") to who they are.

Carma's Window said...

What a wonderful interview Shari. Jessica is an inspiration to everyone. I wish her much success.


Rachel Writes 4 Kids said...

Shari and Jessica,
Thank you so much for sharing. Jessica, you are truly an inspiration. I am impressed.

Donna J. Shepherd said...

You cracked me up with that title for your book about the stoke and rehab! You're an inspiration, Jessica. Thanks, Shari, for posting the interview. - Donna