Wednesday, November 28, 2007

From earthworms to Starbucks, Josh Swiller speaks to Gallaudet University

Just a quick note: Yes, Josh Swiller is a real life person, not a Deaf Character. I know that. With the picture below as proof, I didn't think he was a figment. But he is quite a character so this book is being included on this blog.
Josh Swiller made a fan out of me yesterday during his presentation “Deafness, Africa, and the Peace Corps”. After all, how can you not love a man who admits that he used to sleep through English class (but loved reading), ate fried earthworms in Africa (and said they tasted like popcorn), admitted that three pairs of underwear was all that was really needed during a two-year stay in the Peace Corps (frankly, he seemed more concerned about how many hearing aid batteries he would be bringing) and is full of sarcastic little comments and strange factoids (for instance, the former Zambian President Kaunda is an avid ballroom dancer and was a member of the audience for an episode on Dancing with the Stars)!

I’m not sure where to begin because I’m not sure he knew where to start. He sort of began by explaining the title of his book, The Unheard. He revealed that there are three significant meanings to the title but unfortunately he only told us one meaning after losing his train of thought. In his defense, his train (pun intended) arrived late and he showed up to the presentation just in the nick of time; there were some technology glitches that needed to be solved before his presentation could begin; and how could he begin his lecture without being promptly provided with a cup of coffee?!? Who can blame an un-caffeinated man for being a little distracted?

The “unheard”, he explained, refers to the cues that he, as a deaf person, missed. Not just “not hearing” but the missed conversations, the things that he as a deaf person just couldn’t catch or somehow missed. Josh (he seems casual enough for me to call him by his first name) explained that he never felt connected so he went to Yale in hopes of finding what he was missing. He didn’t find the illusive “it” at Yale. He said, “The more accomplished the professor, the worse their manners”. In a side note, I’d like to mention that I was the one who finally poured his coffee when no one else bothered to assist him. Following his logic, I must not be that accomplished. Nevertheless, he explained that he had professors who consistently would lecture with their backs to students while writing on chalk boards. This was not the best learning environment for an individual attempting to lipread.

After graduating from Yale, he went to Gallaudet hoping that once again and perhaps by being surrounded with other deaf people he would feel connected. Even after learning American Sign Language, he didn’t feel like he belonged. He explains, "To the hearing people, I was deaf; to the deaf people, I was hearing."

Josh said that he wanted to find a place so intense that deafness and belonging would be irrelevant... so he joined the Peace Corps. Because he communicates best in a one-on-one environment, the exact nature of the Peace Corps interview, his “deafness” never even came up. He was accepted, trained and then as part of a group of eight volunteers headed to Zambia. Josh shared that he was initially concerned about learning the language. After all, he was the only deaf guy, right. Yet, within the group of volunteers, Josh became the second-best language learner. And while some of the other volunteers just couldn’t make a connection with the villagers, Josh almost instantly made these connections. He believes that his “deafness was a benefit” because by being deaf he had learned to focus on people (for lipreading purposes); he had learned how to become an assertive communicator; and, because being deaf and having a younger brother and a cousin who are deaf, he “knew how to have a connection without words”.

While in Zambia, Josh learned how to run quickly (after all, he accidentally stepped on a black mamba, the second largest, venomous snake in the world); he learned how the villagers believed in witchcraft (when asked if he believed, he laughed and said “No” while simultaneously knocking on the wood table); and, he learned how to appreciate what is truly important in his life. During the rainy season, he said that approximately three people would die daily from diseases. Even Josh, who didn’t like to take his preventative pills, got Malaria and was told that for hours during his hallucinations he sang the dreidel song that he had learned in his childhood.

“Africans embraced each day with complete joy even though they got a raw deal”. This helped him put his own “raw deal” in perspective. He explained, “Having a sense of humor when things are at their worst is really important.” He joined the Peace Corps because they “get you outside of yourself”. When a student in the audience seemed hesitant about joining the Peace Corps because of all the differences, Josh said, “In Africa, you lose everything you know. It’s out the window!... that is a gift.” Now after the experience, he steps back during his day-to-day occurrences and asks himself, “How important is this?”

Another student who mentioned her concern about joining the Peace Corps was that when the volunteers came home they usually couldn’t find jobs. Josh smiled and said that three weeks after returning home he became a Zen Monk for a few years. When an audience member asked him to compare his feelings of his deafness before his Africa experience and about how he feels about his deafness now, he sipped his coffee and replied, “It’s an irrelevant word”. In Zen practice, he learned that what keeps us back is how we define ourselves. At the end of the day, we should drop the labels and ask, “Was I kind? Did I love well? Did I keep my heart open? Deafness is not that important… it’s how we’re open”.

The presentation was well-attended. Afterwards, I was able to chat with him for a few moments and secure a future interview with him. He signed with individuals in one-on-one situations but had explained when he began the presentation that for lectures he prefers to speak.

He was charming, witty, and because this blog is for a younger (and younger at heart) audience, I had to leave out the racy side comments (which only made me adore him more) because they just weren’t “PG”.

For more information about Josh Swiller or to buy his book, visit his website:

Monday, November 26, 2007

Joshua Swiller: Deafness, Africa, and the Peace Corps

Joshua Swiller, former Peace Corps volunteer and author of The Unheard: a memoir of Deafness and Africa will give a presentation tomorrow at Gallaudet University (12:20–1:20 p.m. in JSAC G-Area).

Swiller has openly shared his struggles with his identity as a deaf person, being raised with the oral method and having no connection with other deaf people except his brother and cousin. In his book, he describes that after graduating from Yale, he felt lost. He went to Gallaudet University hoping to find answers and learned sign language. He explains, "To the hearing people, I was deaf; to the deaf people, I was hearing." Continuing his search for himself, he joined the Peace Corps and worked in Africa.
I have already rescheduled meetings and appointments so that I am able to attend. I'll blog after the presentation.

I just added this YouTube video for those of you interested in Josh Swiller.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thank you

Thanks a Lot! (1995) by Lucille R. Kraiman
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Paperback: 86 pages
Publisher: Butte Publications

Although this book is over a decade old, its message is perfect for today. Main character, Jordan, is used to attending a school where he uses sign language. Now that he has moved to a new school where he will need to use speech, will he fit in? And, will he be included in the Thanksgiving play?

I want to thank you for visiting my blog. It has certainly been a wonderful year--bigger and better than I even expected. I have met so many wonderful readers and authors along the way. I am truly grateful.

For those of you new to this blog, here is a recap of some of the exciting features. First, check out the 100+ and Counting List which includes adolescent literature books with Deaf Characters that is now up to 165 books! I continually update this list but don't move the post from the February 17, 2007 date. You can find the list by scrolling down on the right to the section entitled Blog Archives. Here is the link as a quick reference. 165 (and counting) Adolescent Literature Books with Deaf Characters

Also, I am incredibly honored and lucky to have had so many great interviews this year. If you've missed them, here is a quick guide.

§ Tami Lee Santimyer--actress (November 14, 2007)
§ Eleanor Robins (November 14, 2007)
§ Janice Greene (November 3, 2007)
§ Anne Colledge (October 27,2007)
§ Megan McDonald (October 20, 2007)
§ J.G. Martinson (October 13, 2007)
§ Clint Kelly (October 6, 2007)
§ Jacqueline Woodson (September 29, 2007)
§ Sarah Miller (September 22,2007)
§ David Mack (September 15, 2007)
§ Jamie Berke (August 25, 2007)
§ Delia Ray (August 23, 2007)
§ Jodi Cutler Del Dottore (posted August 13, 2007)
§ Penny Warner (posted July 27, 2007)
§ T.C. Boyle (posted July 23, 2007)
§ Jean Ferris (posted June 30, 2007)
§ Ginny Rorby (posted June 23, 2007)
§ Jean Andrews (posted June 20, 2007)
§ Doug Cooney (posted June 18, 2007)
§ Lois Hodge (posted May 5, 2007)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Interview with Actress Tami Lee Santimyer, Star of Nobody's Perfect

Nobody's Perfect the musical, performed from Oct 19 - Nov 3, 2007 at the Kennedy Center, was based on the book by Marlee Matlin and Doug Cooney. I posted my experience as an audience member but since have had the opportunity to interview the star of the show, Tami Lee Santimyer. In honor of Megan and the play, this post has gone PURPLE and this blog has changed templates! (Don't worry, we won't remain pink and purple forever). Read my interview below.
SPW: First, you did a phenomenal job. I understand that you have your Bachelor's degree in English and a Master's degree in Linguistics. I'm curious how you became interested or got involved with acting.

TLS: I have danced and acted my whole life. I wanted to pursue acting as a profession but everyone told me to find something more practical because opportunities for Deaf actors are scarce. So I decided to study English Literature at California State University, Northridge. I admit the entire four years I was in college, I longed to get back into theatre, but with what, work and school I was consumed with, there was very little time to do theatrical work. Finally, at Gallaudet University, where I was enrolled for Linguistics, there was an audition flyer for Zoot Suit. I auditioned for it and landed the part of notable Alice Bloomsfield. It was during this time when I realized I had to pursue theatre regardless. Following grad school in 2005, I could not find any theatre work. I think, in part, because I was out of the theatre loop for so long and had not had any professional training. I figured the only way I could get acting opportunities was to do other kinds of work. So I worked as a translation coach and sign prompter (feed lines to actors during rehearsals). These jobs helped me build network and find more acting opportunities.

SPW: How does it feel to be the "STAR" of the show? At the same time, can you explain how it feels to become a 10-year-old for the play?

TLS: It is an honor to play Megan, a character developed by Marlee Matlin. I feel fortunate to play a character that exhibits strong qualities. Usually, deaf characters in television or plays are portrayed in a different light, but Megan is a strong-willed girl. I think that is why people responded to the show very well.
When I was told that the character was 9 years old going on 10, my initial thought was...what a challenge! But I was excited to take on the challenge. Playing someone very young brought back fond memories of my childhood. I thought traveling down the memory lane was bittersweet.

SPW: Did you have the opportunity to meet or work with Marlee Matlin or Doug Cooney?

TLS: Doug Cooney worked with us from the very start. He is a very talented writer. We worked in a setting that was freestyle, meaning everything was subject to change. For example, if some of the lines did not click, Doug would omit them or create new ones, or switch them around. We were lucky to experience the developments early on because we not only developed our character, but watched the story/play flourish on its own. Now it is a full-fledged play with plenty of laughs and touching moments, thanks to Doug's brillance.

Marlee Matlin did not work with us during rehearsals. However, she was in contact often about our progress. If Director Coy Middlebrook or Doug Cooney had questions about the story, they would contact her directly. For the most part, though, Marlee instilled in the faith that we would stay true to her story. It was on Opening Night of October 19 when she saw the show for the first time. She said, "I am blown away by the performance!" She was extremely pleased with it. That made us proud.

SPW: Do you have a favorite part or song in the play? (I'm particularly partial to "Hamster Panic" myself)

TLS: Actually, I have two favorites: the song "Fine with Nine" and the scene "Hamster Panic". "Fine with Nine" is a great song of defiance. When Alexis rejects the invitation to her 10th birthday party, Megan feels troubled. In the song, Megan talks about canceling the party and staying 9 her whole life, and that she would be perfectly fine with it. But underlying it all, she suspects the rejection has to do with the fact that she is Deaf. "Hamster Panic" is a fun scene where Megan, her three best friends, and Alexis go on a hunt for Zippity the hamster. The best part about this scene is the rap and the dance. Many children who have seen the show say they loved watching Megan dance. *laughs*

SPW: Will you describe your relationship or experience with the other actors. While they learned their scripts in ASL for the show, have any of the actors studied sign language outside of this performance?

TLS: I was lucky to work with a fine cast. Everyone was readily adept to learning new things, especially sign language. I was impressed with their willingness to learn. I think that made the entire experience a positive one.

SPW: Were there any obstacles or challenges that you had to overcome?

TLS: The biggest challenge I had was following the music. Most of the songs were intricate, meaning the sound notes were inconsistent. The actors who sang the songs were a combination of soprano and alto. So sometimes I could not hear the words. To resolve this, I had to identify all the major sound cues and time the length between them, and then figure out where to put in the signs. The sign translation was not a literal one.

SPW: Anything you would like to add?

TLS: The good news is that the Kennedy Center has decided that this show will go on tour in 2009-2010.
That is good news! I will keep checking the Kennedy Center news and once I know more, I will let you know more!

Interview with Eleanor Robins, author of Just Be Yourself

Just Be Yourself
by Eleanor Robins
Saddleback Publishing
ISBN-10: 1562547720

Saddleback Educational Publishing, Inc., established in 1985, is a distributor of educational books that offers High Interest curriculum materials for grades K-12, adult, and ESL students.

The students of Carter High return for their senior year. These books continue the stories from Carter High Chronicles and introduce new characters. Topics are involving and pertinent to young adult readers: romance, sports, friendship, exams, work, and family. In just 48-pages, even your least motivated readers can easily finish these novels!

In his senior year, main character Rick is attending a new school, Carter High. He really wants the other students to like him and thinks that he has a better shot making friends if he leaves his hearing aid at home. After all, he believes no one would want to be friends with a kid who wears hearing aids.

Once school has started, he makes a good friend Ed and even gets a chance to talk to the cute girl, Gail. Everything seems to be going perfectly until he begins ignoring Ed and Gail and then refuses to share his paper with the class when Mrs. Vance asks him. Is Rick just mean or has he not heard what his friends and teachers are saying? You'll have to read the book to find out.
I recently had the opportunity to interview the author of Just Be Yourself. Read my interview with Eleanor Robins below.
SPW: How did you decide to include a hard of hearing character who uses hearing aids in your story Just Be Yourself?

ER: I decided to include the character because I had taught students who used hearing aids and because I have friends who are hard of hearing.

SPW: What kind of research did you do in order to make the characters Rick, Ed, and Gail appear like real teenagers?
ER: I didn't do any special research, but when writing the book, I did think about the concerns, problems, and misunderstandings that some teenagers I know have had.

SPW: How did you become an adolescent literature author?

ER: When I was teaching, I had difficulty finding fiction books on this reading level for my students. I saw a need at that time so that’s why I began writing books for this age group.

SPW: What do you hope young readers will gain from Just Be Yourself and its characters?

ER: I hope they will realize that not wearing their hearing aids or glasses when they are needed could cause them to have problems and that those problems might have been prevented if they had worn their hearing aids or glasses.

SPW: What advice would you give to young people who are reading your books for the first time?

ER: Work hard in school and read a lot for fun. (I wish I had worked harder in school.)
For more information about Just Be Yourself and other Saddleback books, visit the publisher's website:

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Books published in November

Unspeakable: The Story of Junius Wilson
by Susan Burch & Hannah Joyner
Hardcover: 312 pages
Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press (November 5, 2007)
ISBN-10: 0807831557

Junius Wilson (1908-2001) spent 76 years at a state mental hospital in Goldsboro, North Carolina, including 6 in the criminal ward. He had never been declared insane by a medical professional or found guilty of any criminal charge. But he was deaf and black in the Jim Crow South. Unspeakable is the story of his life. In addition to offering a bottom-up history of life in a segregated mental institution, Burch and Joyner's biography also enriches the traditional interpretation of Jim Crow by highlighting the complicated intersections of race and disability as well as of community and language.

Leading Ladies by Marlee Matlin & Doug Cooney
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing (November 6, 2007)
ISBN-10: 0689869878
(first mentioned July 5, 2007)

Hoggee by Anna Myers
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Walker Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition (November 13, 2007)
ISBN-10: 0802796834

Howard Gardner is starving to death. All spring and summer, Howard and his older, more charming brother Jack worked as hoggees, driving the mules that pulled boats along the Erie Canal. In a misguided attempt to outshine his brother, Howard chooses to stay behind in Birchport for the winter to save his traveling money and send it home to his family. After his winter job falls through, Howard fears that he might not survive the winter. As desperate as Howard is, he is haunted by the sadness he sees in the eyes of Sarah (the Deaf character), the granddaughter of the man who keeps the mules. Even though she’s older than her two sisters, she never speaks, and she seems completely disconnected from the world.

The Spanish National Deaf School: Portraits from the Nineteenth Century by Susan Plann
Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Gallaudet University Press; First edition edition (November 15, 2007)
ISBN-10: 1563683555

In nineteenth-century Spain, the education of deaf students took shape through various contradictory philosophies and practices. Susan Plann depicts this ambivalence by profiling a select group of teachers and students in her detailed history The Spanish National Deaf School: Portraits from the Nineteenth Century.Plann’s subjects reveal the political, financial, and identity issues that dominated the operation of the National School for Deaf-Mutes and the Blind in Madrid from 1805 to1899. Roberto Francisco Prádez y Gautier, the first deaf teacher in Spain, taught art from 1805–36; he also was the last deaf teacher for the next 50 years. Juan Manuel Ballesteros, the hearing director from 1835 to1868, enacted an “ableist” policy that barred deaf professors. At the same time, another hearing teacher, Francisco Fernández Villabrille, wrote the first Spanish Sign Language dictionary. In the 1870s, two deaf students, Manuel Tinoco and Patricio García, resisted the physical abuse they received and set the stage for the growth of a Deaf identity that opposed the deprecating medical model of deafness. Marcelina Ruiz Ricote y Fernández a hearing female teacher who taught from 1869 to 1897, combated the school’s sexist polices. The Spanish National Deaf School concludes with Martín de Martín y Ruiz, the most famous deaf-blind student from the Madrid school. Through these portraits, Plann has brought life to the major issues that defined education in nineteenth-century Spain, themes that have influenced the status of deaf Spaniards today.

Nobody's Perfect by Marlee Matlin & Doug Cooney
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Paperback Reprint Pub. Date: November 2007
ISBN-13: 9781416949763
(first mentioned on April 29, 2007. See Review)

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Did you miss it???

Nobody's Perfect the musical, performed from Oct 19 - Nov 3, 2007 at the Kennedy Center, was based on the book by Marlee Matlin and Doug Cooney.

Fourth grade is not easy and after spending a year planning her "positively purple" birthday party, Megan finds herself at odds with new student Alexis. To Megan, Alexis has it all: beauty, brains, and athletics--she's practically perfect in every way. Though Megan tries to be nice to her, Alexis is anything but friendly, making Megan wonder, "Does she not like me because I'm deaf?" When they're forced to collaborate on a science project, Megan discovers Alexis's secret.

My friend Beth and I went on October 20th and really had a great time. She referred to it as "sickeningly sweet" but we both left signing and singing "positively perfect purple party".

The magic began before we even entered the theater. First, there was a stack of Leading Ladies books, the upcoming book by Matlin and Cooney- see my review-- on the table for purchase. Then, audience members received our own party invitations or Cue sheets (see picture top left) for the performance which were creatively chocked full of information about the play.

The play opens with Megan (played by Deaf actress Tami Lee Santimyer) sprinkling glitter on her birthday invitations. The set was definitely purple!
The play included American Sign Language, Spoken English and written English in two CART (Communication Access Realtime Translation) systems. One was creatively placed under the table near most of the action and one was above the stage to the right. Unfortunately, some of the actors often moved in front of the CART system under the table blocking the script-- so while creative, it wasn't always effective (probably the reason for the second CART above the stage). CART was a necessity because most of the actors probably learned Sign Language for this performance in a way that was like choreography. They just moved their hands where they were told so at times it wasn't perfectly clear. And I'm not complaining just pointing out what I saw. It actually hurt my head because the actors would voice a sentence in English while simultaneously signing in conceptually accurate American Sign Language grammar-- not SimCom but actual ASL. Ouch, two languages at once. Again, they could do this because they weren't learning a language but learning the motion and movements. Don't get me wrong, I'm impressed! There is much more information on the website that explains how the actors learned sign language but I didn't know this until after the play.

There were some great teachable moments for the hearing children (okay, and adults too) in the audience who aren't aware of the differences between the hearing and Deaf World. The teacher, Mr. Morgan (Kip Pierson) stomped on the floor with his foot to gain the students' attention and then began to sign the science project lesson. While based on the book, the performance was only an hour and parts of the book had to be cut and altered. While I'm usually "boooo" about changing a book, the integrity of the story wasn't changed at all. The changes were subtle including: Megan's teacher signing instead of her having an interpreter; and, the way the hamster project was conducted at Alexis' house versus Megan's-- Matt was allergic in both the book and the play but there were slight variations, etc. I did tear up when Justin, Alexis' younger brother with autism, signs instead of speaks his first word (okay, so I'm a sap!). And, I couldn't have loved the Hamster Panic rap "Oh, no! Where is Zippity?" any more. I was hysterical along with other young and adult audience members.
The play is based on an American adolescent book where we require happy endings! That being said, will Megan find purple balloons in time for her positively perfect purple party (with purple pizza and all)? Will Alexis come to the party? And, will Alexis and Megan become friends? If you missed the play, there is still time to review the website (below) or read the book:)

For more information about the play, visit the fantastic website: Here, you will find interviews with the authors and the actors in both English and ASL, view parts of the play, and learn how the directors designed the set, etc.
"A NEARLY PERFECT MUSICAL!Youthful gusto and a generous heart. Outstanding production values and top-notch cast. An infectious score... three-and-a-half stars!"- The Washington Times

"PRE-ADOLESCENT ANGST, WITH HARMONY...Nobody's Perfect delights with comic numbers and an excellent young cast. The songs are not only catchy but also infectiously performed. Bright 'n' lively!"- The Washington Post

Sunday, November 04, 2007

author Ginny Rorby's message regarding Washoe

This morning Ginny Rorby, author of Hurt Go Happy, sent out a message to her fans, "Dear sweet Washoe died, but she was one of the few lucky chimps whose life was full of love instead of pain". Washoe, the chimpanzee who grew up learning American Sign Language from the scientists who adopted her, dies at age 42 on October 30th after a short illness. (Click here for the NY Times article)

On her website, Ginny Rorby explains part of her inspiration for the book Hurt Go Happy came from a newspaper:
"In it was an article about Jane Goodall, who has dedicated her life to studying and protecting wild chimpanzees. On the same page was another story by the same feature writer, Bob Tutt. It was about Lucy, a chimpanzee raised as if she were a human child—a story that has haunted me ever since. Lucy is the real life Sukari. What happens to Sukari happened to Lucy. So, although this is a work of fiction, little of it is untrue.

All the chimpanzees that you see as cute babies in commercials, or in movies, or in circus acts end up grown and unwanted. If they were raised as Lucy was, loved and cared for, eating her meals at the same table as her “owners,” then the tragedy of being unwanted is compounded, more so because Lucy used sign language. She could communicate her feelings, her love, and her pain. The kindest thing we can do for chimpanzees is to protect them in the wild, stop using them in senseless commercials and stupid movies and stop locking them in small cages to use like hairy test tubes.

Our DNA is 98.4 percent identical to that of chimpanzees. You can help by supporting the people who are working to protect our closest relatives."

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Deaf Character Author and Real Life Mom creates blog 'An American Mom in Tuscany: a Cochlear Implant Story'

In August, I interviewed Jodi Cutler Del Dottore, author of RALLY CAPS (2007) a book based on her family's life and her son Jordan who is deaf and wears a cochlear implant. Since then, Jodi has been busy compiling information and resources for other parents like her. Last month, she started a blog An American Mom in Tuscany: a Cochlear Implant Story: Jordan's journey in deafness with a cochlear implant - Tuscan-American Style. She has over a dozen posts already that include personal information about her family and inspirational stories about other families who share similar experiences. With all that blogging and being a mom, my only concern is when will she find time to write another book!?! It's always about the books for me;)

Interview with Janice Greene, author of Read My Lips

Read My Lips (2005) by Janice Greene
INTEREST LEVEL 6 to 12, Adult, ESL
ISBN-10: 1562547429
pages 32

Saddleback Educational Publishing, Inc., established in 1985, is a distributor of educational books that offers High Interest curriculum materials for grades K-12, adult, ESL and at-risk students. Janice Greene's book Read My Lips includes main Deaf character Lupe Herrera who has been sent to this particular police department as part of a job efficiency task force. The male detectives and officers are less than thrilled. They are rude, disrespectful and unfriendly. Lupe encounters sexism while working on assignment with the police department. She's almost ready to give up when she realizes that the cops could use her talents as a lip-reader to solve a crime. After demonstrating her talents to read lips, she is able to earn their respect and possibly find a little romance.

Recently I had the opportunity to interview author Janice Greene about her book Read My Lips. Read the interview below.
SPW: How did you decide to include a deaf character ? Have you met/ worked with any deaf individuals before?

JG: I've never spent much time with a deaf person, but my son is hard of hearing, and wears hearing aids.

SPW: Will you describe how you develop story ideas? What was your inspiration for Lupe?

JG: My inspiration for Lupe and "Read My Lips" was a 2001 film "Sur Mes Levres" ( In "Sur Mes Levres" the main character is a young woman who's able to read lips. She can understand what people say about her at a distance, and she can spy on them. I was very intrigued with that, and built the story around her capabilities.

SPW: How did you become an adolescent literature author?

JG: I'd been interested in writing and in 1982, a friend gave me the name of a helpful editor. I've been writing freelance ever since. I like writing for adolescents because they are so vulnerable, so wise and crazy and so alive.

SPW: What advice would you give to young people who are reading your books for the first time?

JG: No advice to anyone reading my stories. Just hope they like them.
For more information about the book or to purchase Read My Lips, visit: