|Dolphin Show at Miami Seaquarium|
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.