|Born||1978 (age 38â€“39)
San Francisco, United States
I love Toni Morrison and Jeanette Winterson. ‘The Passion’ is my favourite book.
We are more and more into technology. Everything is texting, and everything is instant. Flowers are completely impractical as a method of communication when you could just send a text.
There aren’t always, especially in low-income communities, the arts and the dance and the drama and the things that can really show a kid, ‘Look, even if I’m three years behind in math, there’s something I’m good at that can help me be successful in life.’
The names of common flowers change from decade to decade, so I spent a lot of time with old outdated dictionaries, with awful flower names like ‘mouse-eared chickweed.’
The Victorian language of flowers began with the publication of ‘Le Language des Fleurs,’ written by Charlotte de Latour and printed in Paris in 1819. To create the book – which was a list of flowers and their meanings – de Latour gathered references to flower symbolism throughout poetry, ancient mythology, and even medicine.
I did a minor in creative writing in college, but I didn’t start writing until I stayed at home with my own children.
There’s still something so pure and heartfelt and emotional and genuine about a bouquet of flowers that, even with all the advances of technology and the millions of ways we have to communicate with each other, flowers are still relevant in my opinion.
I was a screenwriting and studio art major in college, so even though I don’t have any training as a floral designer, I have a very particular visual aesthetic.
At Camellia Network, we believe if we can create a way of identifying every young person aging out of foster care, defining what they need, and giving a community of supporters a simple and clear way to fulfill those needs, we can produce radically improved outcomes for youth.
Writing has always been an interest of mine, and ‘The Language of Flowers’ combined my experience with foster care with something I’ve always wanted to do.
I’ve always loved the language of flowers. I discovered Kate Greenaway’s ‘Language of Flowers’ in a used bookstore when I was 16 and couldn’t believe it was such a well-kept secret. How could something so beautiful and romantic be virtually unknown?
My husband and I have been involved with foster youth since our early 20s. Right out of college and not yet married, we spent weekends mentoring a family of young girls.
I’m missing work. We didn’t have enough money for preschool. I had a panic attack. I couldn’t do it. I became one of those horrible foster parents who give the kids back.
I wanted to write with emotional honesty and tell a story people could connect with. And I wanted people to know how the foster system in America fails children; and how, at 18, they fall through the cracks. Then we can all work together and give support.
I’ve worked with homeless kids, kids in foster care, and I’ve never met a kid who couldn’t be reached.
I have spent a lot of time with foster children over the years – kids for whom I have not necessarily acted as a foster parent.
I founded Camellia Network with my dear friend Isis Dallis Keigwin. The mission of our organization is to create a national network that connects every youth aging out of foster care to the critical resources, opportunities, and support they need to thrive in adulthood.
Our standards for motherhood are so high that many of us harbor intense, secret guilt for every harsh word we speak to our children, every negative thought that enters our minds.
My husband was working as principal of an urban transformation high school – the kind of public charter school determined to do whatever it takes to give its mostly minority, low-income student body the education they need and deserve to be successful in life.
We all make mistakes, and we all need second chances. For youth in foster care, these mistakes are often purposeful – if not consciously so; a way to test the strength of a bond and establish trust in a new parent.
It is stories – both real and fictional – that can captivate hearts, change minds and, in the most powerful examples, spur action.
We can become anyone we want to become. It takes focusing on the aspect of ourselves we want to change and reflecting on the beliefs that cause us to act in ways that are counter to the change we seek.
As a college student, I worked as a mentor, and that got me involved in working with young people long before I became a foster parent.
Everyone needs something they’re good at. You want your kids to be passionate and figure out something they’re good at.
The most violent and troubling stories become part of our national consciousness about foster care.
You have to really prove yourself to young people, and if your answer is clear and consistent and loving – even if it’s angry and disappointed – what’s important is that you’re being real and honest and not going anywhere.
My last book, ‘The Language of Flowers,’ I wrote completely on naptime, when my little kids were asleep.
There’s a certain freedom in writing when you don’t know if you’ll ever have an audience.
The problem is foster youth don’t really have this network that other kids have.
We were pressured to accept kids we were not qualified to handle. And we do that to people all the time, which is why we don’t have enough foster parents.
We have been trained to broadcast our successes and hide our failures. But the truth is this: our failures humanise us, and they connect us to one another.
I’m very interested in getting inside the heads of people society discards, people on the fringe, especially immigrant kids. We dismiss them without getting into details of who they are.
My husband and I vowed that after we married and settled down, we would become foster parents – a vow we kept and one that has enriched our lives greatly.
I think that the hardest thing about working with young people in foster care who’ve been through this kind of neglect and abuse is really to convince them that they are worthy of being loved. And I think because often they don’t feel worthy of it, that’s why they push people away.
Though politics is by nature divisive, surely we all can agree that foster children need stability, safety, education, opportunity – and love.
I am not only the person who wrote and sold a novel while raising a houseful of biological and foster children; I am also the person who wrote a horrific young adult novel that never sold and gave up on a foster child I couldn’t handle – an experience that still haunts me.
I don’t think there is anything magical about the language of flowers in real life or in my book.