Interview with Linda P. Adams

Following is a review of Some Secrets Hurt by Linda P. Adams, followed by an interview I did with her earlier this year. I hope you enjoy it.

I first came across this tender, exceptionally well-presented children’s picture book last year while thumbing through the tables at Time Out for Women. When author Linda Kay Garner replied to my call for interviews this year, I snapped up the opportunity immediately as something important to address.

I highly recommend this book as one which belongs in every home, to be gone over with sensitivity and concern from parent to child as it is read and discussed together.

With the sad and perilous statistic that one in every three to four children in our day is affected in some way — from mild exposure to severe cases — by child sexual abuse, it is a topic parents today simply cannot fail to address.

We cannot afford to just look the other way, hide our heads in the sand, pretend it doesn’t exist, or couldn’t happen to our own child. Every child needs and deserves our diligent protection: which does not include ignorance.

Presenting my interview with childrens’ author Linda Garner.

Linda Adams: How did the idea to write this come to you?

Garner: The idea came when I watched a talk show on sexual abuse. Two girls who had been abused were interviewed. They were from different communities. One was young, maybe six. The other was a teenager. Both girls had been sexually abused by a gymnastics coach. Each coach had worked hard at becoming close to the family of the girl, and created for himself a position of trust within the family circle. The girls were abused repeatedly over a period of time. The damage was extensive.

I was angry and I wanted to make a difference. I felt it was time for adults to stand up for kids and stop pretending that it doesn’t happen here. I knew that many adults never talk about sexual abuse with the children they care for. It’s a dangerous game to play. It’s like leaving a loaded handgun in the dresser without teaching kids about the use and care of guns, or the danger of playing with them.

The dialogue on the talk show was particularly meaningful for me, because I had experienced sexual abuse as a child.

No one ever talked to me about sexual touching. No one ever told me that it was not okay and that if anyone ever suggested it, I should tell. Children without that kind of teaching are at a greater risk for being sexually abused. Not understanding what is and is not appropriate does not give them a foundation for taking care of themselves.

I wrote Some Secrets Hurt to give parents tools for preventing sexual abuse. I wrote Some Secrets Hurt to give children a voice.

Linda Adams: Is this your first book?

Garner: This is my first published book. I have written several others. Most are still looking for a home. I write mostly picture books, but have dabbled in some other genres. I have two picture books that will be coming out in the next year or two. Deseret Book will be publishing my religious picture book called The Holy Ghost Box and I am working with Covenant Books on a picture book currently called A Jar of Love. The title is likely to change.

Linda Adams: Was it difficult to find a publisher for this project?

Garner: I sweat a little over this. I didn’t know how to select a publisher for a book on sexual abuse. I considered self-publishing. I knew that the subject matter was one that most publishers would be reluctant to address. I didn’t want my message watered down or changed. I knew it was done right, but would a publisher agree?

Shadow Mountain was the first publisher I submitted to, and I was so blessed to connect with them, because they believed in the book. They were hesitant, but willing to take a chance on an unknown author who had broken all the rules.

Linda Adams: Did you work with an illustrator? Was it someone you already knew or had worked with before, or knew of their work?

Garner: A picture book author usually never meets his/her illustrator. Publishers like to choose the illustrators. I knew this, yet I felt inspired to do things differently. I met Brandilyn Speth soon after I wrote Some Secrets Hurt. When I found out that she was an artist, I felt an instant connection. Though I hadn’t seen her artwork, I was drawn to her and invited her to illustrate my book. I never doubted that she was the right one to breathe life into Maggie.

Linda Adams: How did you feel about the results of the illustrations?

Garner: Choosing your own illustrator can be the kiss of death for your manuscript, but it proved to be the right thing to do. My editor was captivated by the illustrations. There is consistency between the text and the pictures. The pictures are done in watercolor pencil. They are charming, and have a clean, uncluttered appearance. Each page captures the emotion that I wanted for the book. Brandilyn’s work is everything I hoped for, and the folks at Shadow Mountain were supportive. We made a good team.

Linda Adams: I agree. They are appropriate to the text, tasteful, careful, and visually moving.
What has the response been to the book?

Garner: People have been complimentary. I have received some warm heartfelt letters from people who feel that the book is making a difference, who wish that the book had been written earlier, who feel that Some Secrets Hurt should be in every home. Some have asked me to get this message into the schools. Some have asked that it be translated into other languages. Others have asked me to write one for boys or one for teenagers.

Linda Adams: How have you felt about the response?

Garner: The response has been validating, but still not enough people know about this book. Getting the word out is challenging. Advertising dollars are hard to come by, so I depend a lot on word of mouth.

Linda Adams: Have you tried working with schools?

Garner: I have a wonderful presentation for schools, but most school administrators are reluctant to open this kind of discussion. They love me to come talk about writing, bullying, self-esteem, but they really get anxious when I say I want to talk about sexual abuse. I have had some great experiences presenting in high schools. It’s much harder to get into an elementary school.

Linda Adams: But isn’t this a children’s book?

Garner: I feel that Some Secrets Hurt is for everyone. When I am asked “What age is it written for?” my response is, “What age is it not written for?” It’s simple enough for a young child to understand, yet meaningful enough for a teenager to connect with, informative enough to educate parents, and powerful enough to reach out to a wounded adult.

Linda Adams: What can parents do to keep their kids safe?

1. Be a safe person for your child to talk to. Let them know that they can talk to you about anything.
2. Talk to your child about sexual touching. Make certain they understand what is appropriate and what is not. Teenagers need this kind of dialogue as much as young children. Your teenagers may be picking up incorrect information. Don’t assume that they know what sexual abuse is if you haven’t taught them.
3. Children cannot stop sexual abuse on their own. They need help. You cannot help if you do not know that something has happened. Teach your children to tell you about anything that doesn’t feel right. Teach them to tell you if anyone tries to touch them inappropriately.
3. Know the warning signs of sexual abuse. Check out anything that doesn’t feel right. A change in relationships, eating habits, or sleeping habits can be a sign that something is wrong. Withdrawal from friends and family can be a sign. Unexplained sadness, anger, and fears are things to notice. In teenagers, there may be additional signs such as fear of dating, a desire never to marry, or in some cases, promiscuity, drug abuse, or self-destructive behavior.
4. It’s smart to know where your children are and who they are with. It just makes sense to know what’s going on in their lives. It doesn’t mean you don’t trust them. It means you care.
5. If you discover abuse, remain calm and be supportive of your child. Thank your child for trusting you with this information. Notify the local authorities. Consult your family doctor. Consider counseling. Take steps to protect and validate your child. The only thing worse than finding out that your child has been sexually abused is not finding out.

Linda Adams: What message or insight do you have to share with our audience today in closing?

Garner: Sexual abuse happens everywhere. It happens in the best of families, and in the nicest neighborhoods. It happens in every culture and in every religion. It happens in rich families and poor families, educated and uneducated. There’s no way to guarantee that it won’t happen to your child, but you can give your child tools, and you can give your child a voice. You can start by talking about it.


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February 18th, 2015

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