Children experiencing divorce can feel a sense of loss as they adapt to new living arrangements and family dynamics. Amy Ludwig VanDerwater wrote That Missing Feeling about this experience, and shared insights about creating the book in this interview with Magination Press.

Magination Press: What inspired you to write That Missing Feeling?

Amy Ludwig VanDerwater: A few things. Many years ago, I taught a writing workshop in which a child said, “When I’m with my mom, I miss my dad. When I’m with my dad, I miss my mom. My brother and sister feel the same way.” Then, when I was 40, my own parents divorced. Lastly, I visited a school a few years ago and talked about how we can write about what we miss in our notebooks. One little girl stayed to talk with me about missing her house since her parents were newly divorced. I gave her a pretty notebook that I had in the trunk of my car, and months later when I visited again, she told me she still had it.

MP: Why do children need books about divorce?

ALV: Children need books about everything…experiences they have had or may someday have, experiences their friends have, experiences they hear about. Books open our hearts and our heads and help us learn different ways to be. Divorce, while sometimes necessary, is a brokenness, and we humans need to make sense of things that are broken.

MP: Why did you decide to have Mia’s grandpa give her a journal?

ALV: I have kept a journal for many years, and this has gotten me through some happy and some tough spots. It seemed right that Mia’s grandpa would figure out a helpful thing to do when he saw her suffering. Grandparents often just know.

MP: People are feeling a lot of loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic. How do you think That Missing Feeling and journaling could be especially helpful right now?

ALV: There are so many ways to handle missing feelings, and writing is one of them. Today I am missing my son, who will come home and eat dinner outside in 30 degree weather with us as we cannot safely have him in our home. I miss hugging my mother and seeing friends. All of us are experiencing different forms of missing, from in-person school to our normal jobs to what used to be simply routine. Journaling can help us get through rough patches, whether it is drawing or writing words or making collages. Feelings want to come out, and a notebook or a journal is a place where we can bring feelings out into the open. This does not mean we need to share our pages; sometimes writing or drawing wants to stay private.

MP: When did you start to keep a journal or notebook?

ALV: My first diary was a pink and white gingham book with a wee gold lock and key. The lines were small, and as I was only six, my mother wrote what I dictated. (“We fed the mouse at school.”) As years went on, I wrote in fits and starts (often about boys), majoring in English and studying to be a teacher. My real journaling began in my mid-twenties, and I just burned 107 notebooks last Halloween under a full moon. I am not sure why I did this; it just felt right.

MP: What was it like to see your illustrator Morena Forza’s interpretation of your words?

ALV: I was full of joy! Morena’s illustrations bring Mia, her parents, and her grandpa to life in a way that I – not a visual artist – could never have imagined. Her use of line and color and movement, in and outside of the journals, is simply beautiful. Mia’s family feels real to me now, and their love for Mia and for keeping their family healthy during a sad time is evident in Morena’s artwork. She introduced me to the people I hoped to meet on paper.

MP: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

ALV: Make things. I love to knit hand warmers and hats, to bake bread and cookies. To fiddle out in the garden, fold paper into neat shapes, and come up with new projects. Writing is a form of making, and I am happiest doing things with my hands.

Amy and Mini Monster

MP: Is there a fun fact about you that readers might not know that you’d like to share?

ALV: I have the most adorable, lovable cat in the world. His name is Mini Monster, and he is fluffy and blind.

MP: What was your favorite children’s book when you were growing up?

ALV: Oh, so many! Like most American children of the 1970’s and beyond, I was wild about Shel Silverstein’s A Light In the Attic and I loved A Child’s Book of Poems by Gyo Fujikawa. I often fell asleep afraid for Nancy Drew’s next move, and I chewed through all of the books that my mom surprised me with from our public library.

Hear That Missing Feeling read aloud here.

 

 

by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater

This Article's Author

Amy Ludwig VanDerwater has taught writing for over twenty years, and her children’s books have received accolades from the Junior Library Guild, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and the National Council of Teachers of English. Amy blogs for students and teachers at The Poem Farm and Sharing Our Notebooks. She lives in Holland, New York. Visit her online and The Poet Farm, and on Twitter and Instagram.

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