In middle school, my schoolmate gave a presentation about how we all have something that makes us different. She went around the room, asking each of us to say what our different characteristic was. She pointed to my friend sitting at the front of the class, leaving me second to answer. My friend and I had the same thought: There’s no way I’m answering this honestly. We wanted to blend in, and were desperate to be as “normal” as possible, hiding our differences. Needless to say, the activity flopped pretty quickly. Now I look back and wish we all answered the question with more candor. Maybe doing so would’ve helped us embrace our differences instead of masking them. After all, it’s our differences that make us unique and interesting.
WOMEN IN NUMBERS: 150,000
Many children feel outside the perceived norm because they have a medical condition, something that’s hard to explain as a kid to another kid. Take epilepsy, for example, the fourth most common neurological condition in the world, the key characteristic of which is recurrent, unprovoked seizures. According to the Epilepsy Foundation, each year, 150,000 people are diagnosed with epilepsy, with the disorder affecting 48 of every 100,000 people. The incidence of epilepsy is often even higher in young children, making the already anxiety-ridden experience of growing up an even more challenging one.
WOMAN TO WATCH: McCall Hoyle, Young-adult Novelist
When you’re an adolescent, feeling like an outsider is par for the course. When you’re a kid with epilepsy, it can be even harder to connect and open up with others. That’s why literature can play an important role in helping kids and teens see a reflection of themselves in a poignant story while also providing perspective, giving young readers a glimpse into what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes.
That’s precisely the intent of today’s perceptive Woman to Watch, McCall Hoyle, who crafts young-adult novels focused on stories of friends, first love and girls overcoming challenges. Her new novel, The Thing with Feathers, is a touching and powerful read about a teenager named Emilie Day, who has epilepsy. After receiving her diagnosis, Emilie embraces the solitary life of homeschooling as a kid, but eventually enrolls in public high school and becomes desperate to keep her epilepsy a secret. Emilie faces a host of fears, from first love to real friendship to accepting herself.
McCall has the whole young-adult thing down. She’s a middle-school language-arts teacher, and no doubt witnesses the highs and lows of student life every school day, which certainly gives her firsthand insight into the complicated lives of young people.
When it comes to her successful writing career (After all, she’s won several awards, including the Romance Writers of America Golden Heart Award.), McCall gives some insight into what every working writer needs, as it can be an isolating business. She says writing resources are crucial and so is business council. Learning about agents and editors and taxes is a whole other job in and of itself. Finally, she says, writers need support, just like her character Emilie. By connecting with other writerly women, the creative juices get flowing and imagination emerges.
Thanks, McCall, for shining a light on a widespread medical condition with an honest and heartwarming approach that’s sure to inspire and captivate readers, no matter their age!
QUITE THE QUOTE
With McCall Hoyle’s fantastic novel and her persevering protagonist in mind, let’s conclude with a quote from epilepsy-awareness advocate Tiffany Kairos. She said:
“Never underestimate the spirit of a person living with epilepsy.”
This is Melinda Garvey signing off until next time. Remember, ladies, empowered women empower other women. Share On the Dot so more women can have a voice. Thanks for getting ready with us.