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Author Showcase

Fall 2005 Featured Author Janet Mary Sinke

RT: First, congratulations on your recent awards. Your first book, I Wanna Go to Grandma’s House (2003) won both the 2005 Benjamin Franklin Award and a 2005 Mom’s Choice Award; and Grandpa’s Fishin’ Friend (2005) won a Bronze Award in the Picture Book Category a a parent-approved book in the 2005 Mom’s Choice Awards.

Although you came to be a published author after becoming a grandmother, were you always a writer?

Janet Mary: I won my first writing award when I was in fourth grade. A radio station had advertised a contest for Mother’s Day. Entrants were told to write an essay about their mother to have their work judged for a FABULOUS prize. My essay won. It was very exciting. As for my fabulous prize. Well, it was dinner for two at this horrible restaurant. My Mom and Dad and I went together (they paid for my meal). We NEVER went out to dinner, so this was a very big deal. I had a special place on the farm, an apple tree, where the branches came out just right to form the perfect seat. I would sit there and read and write. It was my one private place while growing up, my little get-a-way. I remember reading Alice in Wonderland and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer up in that tree. As I grew older, I wrote for the high school paper and continued to put thoughts down on paper through college and into my married life. But, I always tucked it away. I was, I guess, a silent writer until 2½ years ago.

RT: In describing how the stories have come to be, you have explained that your own grandmothers were an inspiration for the subjects you’ve selected. Have the stories influenced the dynamics in your family? Have your children (or grandchildren) shared some of their favorite memories or offered ideas for any of the books yet to come?

Janet Mary: The stories have greatly influenced my entire family. I don’t look at the published books as mine, but OURS. This series has become a family adventure. I am supported by my five children, their spouses and my husband. They have played a vital role in all aspects of the business. My husband and two daughters, in particular, have spent many hours making this company work. It’s been fun and the experience has brought us even closer. I've written 17 stories. Memories recalled from my children growing up and my own childhood memories are the basis from which my stories have been told. My next book, Grandma's Treasure Chest (October 2005), is a sentimental story about a young granddaughter who learns the meaning of TRUE treasures. My eight grandchildren are now my ultimate inspiration and although pretty small (the oldest one just turned four), they greatly influence my work. An extra added blessing to our family has been the special relationship developed with my illustrator Craig Pennington. He and his wife, Natalie, and their two boys have become like family to all of us. Craig has done an amazing job. His talent continues to unfold and develop. Craig and Natalie are a major part of this adventure, too.

RT: It’s clear from your Website and articles you’ve written that you view the Parkinson’s Disease diagnosis as a new window in your world. It also looks like you keep a MOST busy schedule, having spoken in any number of venues, from literacy conferences to schools. Is there a particular event that is one of your favorites?

Janet Mary: My Parkinson’s, I can truthfully say, is one of my greatest blessings, for it has led me down a road I would have never otherwise traveled. Last year I spoke before more than 10,000 kids in the school setting alone. I loved it. As part of my overall presentation, I review not only the book production process but I stress the importance of making memories today. I tell the kids to turnoff the TV, the computer and the PlayStation. Sit and listen; learn where you came from. Take time to sit with your grandparents for you will not have them forever. Learn their stories so you may one day share them with your own children. The message has been received with great enthusiasm. I then give homework; the kids have to write a letter to their grandparents--NO E-MAIL!--and if they don’t have a grandparent then someone close to them. They are instructed to put their expressed thanks, their love and a special memory in the letter. I especially love presenting at schools on Grandparent's Day, where the grandparents actually come to the schools, sit with their grandchildren, and enjoy the presentation and reading of one of my stories. It’s wonderful to see the love and pride these grandparents have for their grandchildren and vice-versa.

RT: For many years you were a hospice nurse, often spending long hours sitting with patients and their families. Do you think that some of the stories that these individuals shared are reflected in your work?

Janet Mary: The message contained within each story is rooted in the hospice experience: Take time to make memories today, for in the end it is all we really have. It is what I try to instill in those I meet. In fact, I have stepped out of my box and am ready to publish something completely different. I have a new book that has been seven years in the making. I thought long and hard about the special message contained within it, and it is now ready for publication. I am proud of this book and hope it will touch many lives in a positive way. Ten Lessons Learned. . .Gifts From Those Remembered as a book for the soul. It will hopefully be out by Christmas.

RT: Do you foresee a story that could help children understand the changes in a grandparent-child relationship as time begins to limit what they can share?

Janet Mary: I have written several stories that deal with changes in life related to the grandparent. They are meant to educate and to teach the importance of maintaining a meaningful relationship with grandparents even when they get old and gray and limited in what they do. As a grandma with Parkinson’s I have written a story titled, My Grandma Shakes, So What! (I LOVE the title!) It is a story of how a grandma with Parkinson’s relates to her grandchild. I have also done a story related to Alzheimer’s and one on the death of a grandparent. I think each one has a very special meaning. The stories are all done in rhyme and would have an appeal of the young and old alike.

RT: It seems that your journey as a published author has now expanded to become an enterprise that you can share with your children. How are they enjoying/handling your celebrity?

Janet Mary: I really don’t feel like a celebrity and consider myself a pretty regular person, but yes, it has been fun meeting new people and sharing some of their experiences. It is a “feel-good” experience to have corresponded with so many warm-hearted grandmas, grandpas, and grandkids of all ages from across the country. I love people and look forward to what the future has in store. We shall see where the Spirit leads.

RT: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Janet Mary: Four and a half years ago, diagnosed with a number of health challenges, one of which included Parkinson’s, I felt a sense of loss not just in body but in mind a spirit as well. Yet, as that door closed another opened, and I was put on a new path, one that has held great meaning for me. I have learned that all things have purpose and that sometimes, the greatest blessings in life come wrapped in the most unusual way. For me, my blessing, my gift from the Spirit, my Parkinson’s has led me to this place in my life, an exciting place where good people, angels, I call them, walk with me. Walk with the angels in your life; be open to the mystery and wonder of those you meet for the angels that come your way can take you to new and different heights where the view is spectacular and where discovery and surprise make for an exciting adventure. Enjoy your journey! God Bless.

Website: http://www.mygrandmaandme.com


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