Hurt Go Happy

It's Me, Me, Me.

Dolphin Show at Miami Seaquarium
As a writer, I get asked all the time what I'm working on. Some writers are reticent to answer. They think it robs the creative energy, or that someone is going to steal their idea. I never worry about either of those things. My creative energy is always in flux, tidal in fact. If it's really low, I find myself totally engrossed in thoughts of the next book, the one on the stove top in the back of my brain. As for anyone stealing the idea--POO. Ideas are a dime or less a dozen. If the idea-thief sat down and started writing today, what that person would produce would be nothing like your story. You can't steal a writer's voice or his/her perspective on a story. Besides, I have a contract and a hundred and fifty page head-start. :-))

When I was in Orlando a couple weeks ago for the Sunshine State Young Readers award, I happily answered that I was working on a story about an autistic child and a dolphin. One hears a lot of apcray (remember your pig latin?) about Dolphin Assisted Therapy (DAT) and the wonders it works for children with disabilities. I can't say that it doesn't help, but it is not a path to a cure for anything. I do believe in therapy with horses (as you might already know.) The difference is dolphins are not meant to be imprisoned in chlorinated, saltwater tanks. They are not meant to be corralled and fed dead fish so that a child with autism can clutch a dorsal fin and go for a ride around their pen. They are one of the most intelligent creatures on the planet, and in most cases, far more humane than we are.

All that aside, when I talk about a new book, people want to help. You never know who is going to know someone, or something, that will turn out to be just what you needed. One of the leads I got was about a program in Marco Island, Florida. I sent an email to Capt. Chris Desmond at Dolphin Project and WOW! They have been doing Coastal bottlenose dolphin surveys for years, and have a program that takes the public out to help--especially children. Kind of a mini-Earthwatch. Capt. Chris was immediately on board (excuse the pun) with my project, and has already been a huge help.

Here's my cool award: beautiful glass.bookends that came in a box with a pair of white gloves. My acceptance speech is below.

And then there's this letter from 14 year old, Lauren, of Medford, NJ,. Letters like this are very close to reward enough.

Hello Miss Ginny Rorby,

My name is Lauren, sign name L touched to the right corner of the lips (my deaf friend made the observation that I smiled a lot the first time we signed together). I'm not e-mailing with any book club, or with the intent to arrange a phone-meeting, rather, I just wanted to share a few thoughts with you. I've just finished reading your book "Hurt Go Happy" for the fifth time, and I enjoyed it just as much as the first few times I read it. I wanted to let you know how much I admire your work, and your dedication. Not only that, but your book really kick-started my drive to learn American Sign Language. Being a young teenager, I sway from hobbies a lot. But I always come back to ASL. I don't know a lot, but I'm working on it. I've decided that I want to enter a career field that involves, in some way, sign language and the deaf. I'm looking into teaching in a school for the deaf, or maybe even becoming an interpreter. Now I don't mean to ramble on, I just wanted to share with you the impact that you've made on the way I view many things, and on where I plan to go in my future. Your book has truly touched me, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing with the world this wonderful piece. Thank you.



 SSYRA Acceptance speech

No one could be more surprised or happy to be here than I am.  
I was adopted and grew up in a home with an alcoholic father and a mother trying to control his drinking. I have an amblyopic eye, so between my eyesight and a chaotic home life, I did poorly in school, graduating from Winter Park High School with a C- average and I never got higher than a D in English. 
            However, I hated feeling like a dolt, so I enrolled at the University of Miami when I was 33. I took PSY 101 & detective fiction.  Animals were my single passion so the next semester I took a biology class. When I was 38, I wrote and editorial about an abandoned dog. After it was published, I enrolled in a creative writing class.  
My first short story was about my husband sinking his airboat and having to walk out of the Everglades. I rewrote it for every subsequent class because I couldn’t think of anything else to write. I didn’t really believe I could write, must less that I wanted to. 
I graduated from college with I was 41, with straight As, and finished graduate school when I was 47. My first novel sold when I was 50; at 60, my second book—Hurt Go Happy was published. I’ll be 70 when my 5th is published in the summer of 2015.
I hope I’m an inspiration to young and old alike. To poor students and those with cruddy home lives. I hope I’m an example of the value of an education no matter how long it takes you.  And I hope I’m an encouragement to adults that it’s never too late to start again. I think those of us who create rich lives for ourselves have honed an optimistic spirit & a refusal to listen to the naysayers—especially our own. 
I was asked once how long it took me to write Hurt Go Happy? When I said 18 years, the little girl said, “Oh, that’s too bad, I was hoping to read your next book.” I’m afraid to tell kids that I noodled Lost in the River of Grass for 31 years.
I can’t tell you how honored I am to have IT win this award in my home state—in my home town.  


Why Write?

There are days when I sit at the computer, hour after hour, and wonder why? Why sit here day in, day out reordering sentences and paragraphs, putting commas in, taking commas out of what I wrote just moments before, or a month ago, or, in the case of Girl Under Glass, the book I'm rewriting now, five years ago? It has already been rejected 6 times.

That was also the case with Hurt Go Happy. I spent years researching and writing that book, only to have it come back rejected over and over again. Then my agent quit me, and finally, after 15 years, I gave up. For the next three years, I continued to attend my writing group, but never turned anything in. I'm not sure what changed my mind about giving up. Maybe it's the idea that quitting ends whatever chance you had to make your dream come true, or your hard work pay off. 

Most of you know the rest of the story. What you might not know is the working title of Hurt Go Happy, American Sign Language for the pain has ended, was Without Voices.  I believed when I started researching and writing that book that it would give voice to the voiceless--abused children and abused animals. Big dream.

In the years since HGH was published, I've received a handful of letters that made those 18 years worthwhile. This is one of them. Oh boy, is this one of them!

Dear Ginny Rorby,

My name is Rosa Rodriguez. I am the Deaf Literacy Coordinator for the Pinellas Public Library Cooperative in Florida. I am working with the middle school teacher at Morgan Fitzgerald Middle School in Largo, Florida, who has a reading class of five 8th graders who are Deaf. 

These five students have never enjoyed reading.  National research done at Gallaudet University in Washington D.C. says that the average deaf high school student graduates at a third grade reading level.  It has been our passion to drastically change this sad statistic.  For these students, reading has been an arduous task that was always a requirement.  In an effort to show them the beautiful world of reading, the teacher decided to do a read aloud, Hurt Go Happy.

Hurt Go Happy opened a whole new world for the students.  For the first time, they truly learned the beauty and magic behind a book. They laughed imagining Sukari signing and cried when Dr. Charlie died.  They longed to yell at mom when she was oppressive to Joey and clapped when Joey fought back.  As a class they learned about social issues such as animal testing and the effects of abuse. They also went on a journey of emotions together- the steady wave of pain and joy.   

The teacher says: "Because of your book, their lives have been and will be radically changed. They would always ask if we could read one more chapter or stay past the bell just a few more minutes. They truly understand the feeling I-just-can’t-put-it-down.  To me, I saw a miracle happen in my classroom.  For maybe the first time in their lives, they fell in love with a book."

For their graduation of 8th grade on June 8th, we are requesting a letter to the students that we can read aloud at their graduation ceremony.   The Deaf Literacy Center at our public library will be purchasing your book as a gift to the students and we would love to include your letter with the book.

With sincere thanks,

Alissa Matiya
Deaf Educator
Morgan Fitzgerald Middle School

Rosa Rodriguez, MS

Deaf Literacy Coordinator
Pinellas Public Library Cooperative, Inc.

Hurt Go Happy Commercial   by Alissa Matiya's deaf students

How are my daughters? Part 2

Zipi "Longstocking"
Age 13

I don't have children, except my fictional daughters, whom I have launched into the world with the hope they will amount to something, impact other people's children in a positive way. A few weeks ago I wrote about how much it means to me to hear from kids who have read one of my books, and connected to one of my girls. I told you then that I get the occasional letter home in the form of a royalty check, but I don't really know how they are faring out there in the world with millions of other fictional characters. Are they making the kind of difference I'd hoped they would make?

I got this letter a couple days ago. Zipi told me it was a school assignment to write to an author. I'm so pleased she chose me, and I'm very proud of my daughter, Joey. 

P.S. With kids like Zipi in the world, we shouldn't be too worried about our planet.

Dear Ginny Rorby,
      The first thing I would like you to know is that I despise nonfiction and am not a fan of realistic fiction either. However, because of a recommendation from a friend, I read Hurt Go Happy when I was in the fifth grade. I fell in love with it. It was the first realistic fiction book I enjoyed and loved (followed by only a couple others).
The second thing I would like you to know is that I am a proud vegetarian; I have been one all my life. I love animals and at one time, I had thirteen pets! Hurt Go Happy showed me the horrible truth behind animal research testing labs. There is a saying, “cruelty free,” which means that a cosmetic or other product is not tested on animals. My cosmetics and toiletries are all cruelty free, which is something that Hurt Go Happy made me realize I needed to do. I am trying to get my parents and even my friends to live cruelty free lifestyles also. (not the best resource, I know) says that meaningful is, “full of significance, meaning, purpose, or value”. Hurt Go Happy is full of all of those things. While the main topic of the book seems to be about how thirteen-year-old Joey deals with her deafness, I felt that for me personally, the book was more about the significance of animals on people’s lives and how much animals can understand. When Sukari signs to Joey near the end of the book, “Hurt go. Happy,” (this is translated into “the pain has ended”), it shows that Sukari is able to sense Joey’s feelings and know when she is upset. I believe this provides a wonderful insight because my pets always seem to know when I am upset too, which is one of the reasons I believe animals to be amazing. They may not have the same sized brain that we humans have but they are unique in their own way – they can tell our feelings. Another reason that Hurt Go Happy is meaningful to me is that it explores two topics that are not usually written about for young readers: deafness and animal testing.
Hurt Go Happy inspired me to possess products that do not test on animals, before I fully knew what animal testing and cruelty free even meant. The relationship between Sukari, Joey, and (Mr.) Charlie has helped me discover the meaning of true friendship. Friends can be any gender, age, or species. Hurt Go Happy also inspired me to learn how to be able to sign “Hurt go. Happy”.
Extend the index fingers of both hands, pointing them towards each other. Then, spin them in an outwards circle. (Hurt.) Next, bring your index fingers close to your body, pointing upwards. Then, in a sweeping motion, bring them up and out, pointing with both fingers at something in front of you. (Go.) Finally, place one or both of your hands in front of you. Use flat hands, palms facing your body. Circle your hands forward, down, back, up, forward, down, back, up. Move your hands at the same time and in the same direction. On the upward swing, the hands are very close to your chest or touch your chest. On the downward swing, your hands are further away from your chest.
This is how to sign “Hurt go. Happy” in American Sign Language. This means
“the pain has ended”.
Zipi "Longstocking"


There is a bill in congress, sponsored by
Roscoe Bartlett, (R) Maryland, to stop unnecassary testing on primates. Bartlett, who was the inventor of respiratory devices tested on primates in the early days of the space age, is now against their use for research, especially drug research. The link to the NYTimes article is below.

Project Nim, a new release from Sundance Films, documents the 27 year life of Nim Chimpsky, a chimpanzee who was raised as if human. I based Hurt Go Happy on Lucy Temerlin, another experiment is raising a chimpanzee like a human child, and Nim Chimpsky. Sukari is their fictional counterpart. Here is the chance to end the suffering of the nearly 1300 chimpanzees still in research facilities.

The bill is H.R. 1513. Please support it by contacting your House Representative.

The link for the documentary, Project Nim, is

The link to the NYTimes article about Bartlett's House bill is