The story behind Baby Dust

Fourteen years ago, a book saved my life. I had just lost my baby, inexplicably, when a sonogram five months into my pregnancy showed a motionless baby  floating in his amniotic sea. No one could give us a reason. They told us just to have faith, to hope, and to try again.

I didn’t have that faith. I didn’t have any hope. My life had become consumed by fear.

The book was Empty Cradle, Broken Heart by Deborah Davis. My then-husband and I read it together and worked through everything she told us about allowing ourselves to grieve.

In the years that followed, as I developed my own web site to help other women in the same predicament as me, I sold hundreds to thousands of copies of Deborah’s book. It was one of the few I could whole heartedly recommend. And I still do.

But publishing changed during those years. Books I read and suggested to grieving mothers became rarer. The midlist shrank, and with it, niche books like ones about miscarriage and stillbirth disappeared. I found I had little to tell these women to buy.

In 2007, I could see a big hole in the market but wasn’t sure what to do about it. I had been a journalistic writer all my life, but anything longer than ten pages was a stretch for me. Still, I knew there were women who needed stories that would help them, and the anthologies of anecdotes, while wonderful, all dealt with the acute stage of grief—the actual miscarriage and its immediate aftermath. My site was almost ten years old and no one was helping the women over the long haul, most especially those who never had children at all.

And so, I started a little blog (it is still up!) where I asked women for their stories. As I put together the characters in Baby Dust, I took those real accounts of pain and despair, and success and joy, and shaped what I hoped would be something that would not just tell the story of loss, but of surviving it.

Many times along the way, I didn’t think the book would go anywhere. The agents I submitted to believed in the book, and complimented the story and the writing and the message. But it was too small a market. A publisher wouldn’t want it. It wouldn’t sell well enough. All I heard was, no, no, no, no.

So I did the only thing I knew to do. I started my own publishing company. And since then, Baby Dust, and another title I put together, a memorial book for babies for whom traditional “Baby’s First Year” books would never work, have been the basis of my new life.

Since I published Baby Dust in 2011, I’ve had the amazing pleasure of corresponding with Deborah Davis about her book and mine. When I see on Amazon our two books “frequently bought together,” I am overwhelmed by gratitude that she was there to lead me through my dark days, and that with her help, I could move forward to help women through theirs.


Learn about Stella & Dane, two characters from Baby Dust who got a book of their own, to be released July 15, 2012!

Dust Bunnies appear in the wild — kindergarten wild!

This morning I was walking Elizabeth to the bus when a little girl chased me down to say, “I colored my bunny!”

was about to nod politely in the way you do when children say random things, when she unzipped her backpack to show me my own character, Mel, delightfully rainbow’d and eyelash’d. Obviously this child had attended my author visit the day before for Dust Bunnies: Secret Agents.

Before Elizabeth could spill the beans that Mel was a tough bunny and would be unhappy in all that crayon mascara, I had her pull out her phone and snap a shot of the girl’s colorful depiction of my bunny. What a great start to the day!

I’ve been lucky to read Dust Bunnies: Secret Agents to four kindergarten classes over three days. We had tons of fun talking about where dust bunnies hide, and what happens when our toys go missing and who might have taken them. We also talked about how old myths used to explain why the sun rose and set, and how stories like Dust Bunnies are like new myths to explain things like where our socks go!

We had tons of fun, and I still have many more classrooms to go, plus the official Dust Bunnies launch will be open to the public at the super cool baby store in Round Rock called Baby Earth on Thursday, May 10 just after school at 3:30 p.m.

I feel very lucky and blessed this week!

Recording an audio book on a good hair day

The room buzzed with awesome people. Judy Maggio, an anchor for a local TV station, dropped her bag on a chair and said, “I have to move my car! Just wanted you to know I was here.”

Author Pamela Ellen Ferguson (Sunshine Picklelime) had just finished recording a session. “Louis Sachar is going to be here later! You’re in good company!”

I wondered if I could skip picking up my children from school to meet Sachar (HolesWayside School) as he would arrive the same time as the dismissal bell. No, my kids would kill me if they found out. We’d watched the movie of Holes together and later read the book at bedtime.

Mainly I worried I would have a coughing fit in the middle of recording Baby Dust, or more likely, burst into tears. At least I didn’t have to worry about how I looked. We would be hidden in little booths the whole time even though I was having a rare good hair day.

I was introduced to volunteers of Learning Ally, a local branch of a national organization that records books for use by people with dyslexia or visual impairments. They are currently in the middle of their Record-a-Thon, where local celebrities, authors, politicians, and others record one-hour sessions to raise awareness and help them fund the coming year.

“What is your book about?” one asked. “Is it a lovely little children’s book like Pam’s?”

I couldn’t bear to tell her that mine was about death.

I should have practiced saying the hard stuff then, though, as when Project Director Carter York led me to a booth to teach me how the recording would go, he said, “The first thing we’ll record is the dedication.”

Whew, boy. My little babies, all dead. Suddenly I wasn’t sure I could read a single page.

But Carter made the transition to reading the book super easy. I made mistakes, and laughing about them made reading the difficult material more bearable.

Afterward, I met some of the members of Learning Ally who actually use the services, listening to books that range from essential textbooks to beach reading. I wondered who might choose to listen to Baby Dust, and what circumstances they might be in. While my novel has been chosen as required reading for a college social work program in another state, I know it’s tough material.

I’ll be a regular at Learning Ally, which, I’m sure, is what they hope for from their Record-a-Thon.  I am thrilled at the opportunity to read my book aloud.

Before I left, staff took a million pictures. Me, in headphones. Holding my book. With volunteers. With another author. Someone whispered, “I should have done my hair!”

Yep, I was glad for the good hair day. And waterproof mascara.

Baby Dust is OUT in the world!

I feel so blessed that every day since the release of the book, I’ve gotten emails or Facebook comments or Tweets about how the novel has helped them. Here are some of the highlights of what people have done and said publicly about Baby Dust.

Review from Dead Baby Club:

“This book is different than anything I have ever read before about the loss of a baby… Grief isn’t painted as a pretty picture in this book, but as something that is real and that affects far more women than people realize or care to acknowledge.”

Review from Caring for Carleigh:

“This book is a MUST READ. Once I started reading the book I wanted to keep reading it until I finished. I became involved in each of the characters and hoped for them like I do for any of my baby loss friends.”

From Goodreads member Valerie:

“I repeatedly found myself relating to each of the women in the novel Baby Dust.  At times I felt like the author had read my mind and penned my thoughts and emotions.”

Valerie also took the time to pull her favorite quotes from the novel–SO AMAZING:

It’s been a great launch so far.

Don’t miss: The Baby Dust Official Book Launch on Oct. 15 (Pregnancy Loss Remembrance Day) here in Texas!

Learn more about Baby Dust, including where to get a copy!

Baby Casey would have been 13 today!

My first baby Casey would have been thirteen years old today, and we’re celebrating his would-have-been birthday with give aways of some great books on loss.

Since we can’t give Casey the things he would have liked, instead we’re giving things to YOU!

Head on over to the site of Baby Dust, my novel on pregnancy loss that will be released Oct. 1, and comment on any of the titles that you might find helpful. We’ll give away the books on October 1 to kick off Pregnancy Loss Remembrance Month.

We’re also taking this special day to celebrate the completion of the Baby Dust Book Trailer. Women from Ireland, London, Australia, Mexico, and the US talk about their babies, and the women of Illuminate, a photography class for grieving mothers, took the images that are used.

Writers who influence me

I’ll end 2009 with a list of writers who make my world a better place.

Cynthia Lord. Her book Rules is probably the most re-bought and gifted book of my life. It’s about the sister of a boy with autism, and the voice is so great, the story is so wonderful, and the lessons so keen, that I can’t help but pass it to friends and family touched by autism, including my own niece and nephew.

Sonya Sones. I read What My Mother Doesn’t Know several years ago and now I anxiously await each new title. Sones’ stories are told in verse, and are so funny, so emotional, and so true. You don’t have to be a teenager to be affected by her characters.

Margaret Atwood. Atwood had me at The Handmaid’s Tale decades ago. I own almost all of her books. I got The Year of the Flood for Christmas and can’t wait to tackle it. When I forget how lovely language can be, how intricate a sentence, how delicate a description, I read Atwood.

Annie Dillard. I knew about The Writing Life but had never picked it up until this year. The first chapters resonated with me so much that I immediately began rewriting drafts of some of my novels, searching for words that were better than the ones I had chosen, hoping to elevate each paragraph beyond an idea to be communicated and into prose poetry. I’m reading A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek now, and enjoy so much how she obviously labors over every choice of a word.

Betsy Byars. I read Summer of the Swans as a girl and I still pick it up again and again as an adult to remind myself that just because a story is written for younger readers, doesn’t mean it can’t be languorous and full of meaning. I don’t have to make the book hurtle along if I don’t want to, but the story can move by its tension, not its breakneck pace.

I look forward to the authors and books 2010 will bring!

The fourth grade critique group

I should have asked them sooner.

The fourth-grade class hustled to pack up their bags and sit on the floor around my chair, more motivated than they had been all day.

I hadn’t served as a substitute in ages (although last time had been memorable), but their teacher had taught my daughter, and personally asked for my help. I tucked the pink hair away as best I could and at the last minute tossed my middle grade manuscript Jinnie Wishmaker into my bag.

The students had worked quickly and quietly in order to get a chance to hear a story no one had ever read. I told them I needed help editing my book, because something was wrong with it, and I couldn’t figure out what it was. This happens, I explained, when you edit your own work.

I didn’t really know what to expect when I began reading aloud. The class had been antsy all day. But the idea that they were doing something “for real,” not just as an assignment, really motivated them to finish their work and pile onto the carpet to listen.

I reminded them what was important to the beginning of a novel: a character that interests you enough to read a whole book about. And a story that doesn’t just sit there, but moves forward, and makes you worry about what will happen next.

So they settled in, twenty nine-year-olds curled around backpacks and lunchboxes, more riveted than I ever expected. The opening scene unfurled, a girl and her younger bother plotting to run away rather than to be taken to live with their snobby rich aunt and uncle, characters taken from a page of Roald Dahl, where the grown ups are hyperbolic and the kids represent the voice of reason.

At the end of first chapter, I asked them what they thought.

“Is Jinnie going to be mean the whole time?” a boy asked. “She seems mean.”

“Yeah,” a girl said. “She’s angry.”

I couldn’t believe it. Why hadn’t I seen it? The Jinnie I knew was sensitive and fairly shy, but in this first impression, with just her little brother to tug around, they were right. She was mischaracterized in the opening scene.

The story had been through four critique group grillings, read by five or six other writers, and even several agents had nurtured it though some revisions, and yet still, I hadn’t seen it until now. No one had been able to just say it.

We lined up by the door, my head buzzing. I knew I could fix it. And I couldn’t wait.

One of the boys tapped my arm. “Ms. Roy? Will you be back tomorrow?”

I had no idea. “Not unless your teacher still needs me. Hopefully she’s better.”

“If you come back tomorrow, will you read some more? I want to know what happens.”

Are you kidding? “You can count on it.”