Interview with author Sally Ramsey
Born in New Jersey, Sally Ramsey lived in Manhattan in her teen years and resided in Ohio, Iowa, Minnesota, and Southern California before settling in her present home in Northeast Ohio. As the mother of two grown sons with autism, Sally spent many years as a disabilities activist and advocate. She ran both a support group and a disabilities ministry as well as re-founding her local chapter and serving as president of her state chapter and as national president of the Autism Society of America. Writing has been her special love and a potent refuge, from the moment she was able to hold a pencil. She has published poetry, non-fiction articles, and a special needs cookbook. We have conducted an interview with Sally.
Why did you write your story about a detective that sings instead of talking?
I have two sons with autism. I noticed that for them, and other kids with communication difficulties, it was easier to understand something that was sung than something that was spoken. With a little research, I realized that music and spoken speech are handled differently in the brain. I decided that singing would be one way my hero, Cary, would cope with his challenges.
Who/what inspires you the most in your writing?
First of all, my experience with my, and other parents' challenged kids. I am also inspired by everyday events. I take a cue from politics, from what is going on at church, and from what is happening in the world. I pay attention to how people interact with their families and how their experiences differ from my own.
How did you discover you could maintain your sanity with writing?
When my children were young, life was very difficult. We had almost no help from family and little from friends. I was feeling overwhelmed and isolated. Writing gave me a safe place to be and yet a way to reach out. I could retreat there whenever I needed a refuge.
How did it comfort you?
Writing is an antidote to powerlessness. I am a control freak, but much of what has happened in my life has been out of my control. In writing, I can create a world I would like to live in. I can create language, culture, religion, and even music. I can punish villains and allow heroes to triumph.
What are your key messages in your books/writing?
One of my key messages is that people who are different have value. You don't have to straddle the norms to have a place in society. I also write that having scruples and wanting to do the right thing, even when it seems there is no obvious profit in it, can work out for the best.
What is so unique about your first GFCF cookbook?
When I wrote my first GFCF cookbook there was almost nothing gluten free in the stores. I was pretty much on my own developing what later became wildly popular. Adding in casein free was an additional complication. I also tested my recipes on people with and without autism. At the time, I was just concerned with putting out recipes that would actually work and taste good. There are many more gluten free ingredients and products readily available now. That has enabled me to design basic mixes that simplify things for busy caregivers. One thing that has not changed is the shortage of casein free ingredients. Due to the vagaries of the law, foods listed as dairy free may still contain casein. That means that in my new cookbook, I'm still compensating for what is not readily available in the market.
What are the two novels born out of your experience in the autism world?
As I am now finishing up a third, there are three. The first is Singing the Solution, about the Detective Cary Ellis, who has an easier time singing than talking. Cary also has many of the social deficits that are seen in autism, as well as sensory processing difficulties. He also has some of the savant-type skills associated with high functioning autism, and puts them to work solving crimes. Singing the Solution is serialized on Channillo.com.
Dark Awakening, published by Snow Leopard is available on Amazon and on the Snow Leopard site. It is about an autistic vampire. Some of his symptoms, especially sensory problems, are eased when he is turned, but he still maintains his social awkwardness and his stubborn adherence to what he feels is right. Despite that, he makes a place for himself in the world and is able to aid others as well. The book also illustrates that even persons with autism are capable of loving, and loving deeply. The sequel further explores those themes. I've heard from many readers who are anxiously awaiting its arrival.
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