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October 28, 2019

Sydney Porter: Dog Girl, Reed’s first book for children, centers on a young girl having trouble reconnecting with her veteran father who’s been diagnosed with PTSD. Reed did extensive research to accurately portray someone suffering from the disorder but also used her own negative experiences in writing the book.

What drew you to write for children?

I like to read stories that have a clear right and wrong, a battle between good and evil—with good winning—and stories that move characters through tough learning experiences. Those sorts of stories resonate with me, and I find them in middle grade books. Kids are looking for role models for how to function in the world, and I hope my books give them something to grab on to. My characters aren’t all goody two-shoes; they have problems and don’t always make the right decisions, but they learn from their mistakes. That is a powerful tool to have as we grow.

What research did you do to accurately portray PTSD in veterans?

A lot! I learned that while we mostly think of PTSD as originating in war, the condition can affect victims of sexual abuse, harassment, natural disasters, or bullying, as well as people who witness murder or experience hostile environments at home and work. I researched credible sites on the internet and spoke to VA doctors who have dealt with PTSD patients. I integrated information from military.com, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, the National Center for PTSD, and helpguide.org, which has information on mental, emotional, and social health. Lastly, I reflected on my own experiences with bullies and a nasty work environment and incorporated those feelings of anguish and hopelessness. Writing is therapy. I used my own pain to make a character more relatable.

Who is your ideal reader and why?

My ideal reader is an 11-year-old girl named Kendra. I met her when I was reading early chapters of Sydney Porter: Dog Girl to her class. She’s bright and bubbly and loves dogs, and she encouraged me to keep going so she could read the book and find out how it ends. I think of her when I write.

What encouragement would you give a reluctant reader?

I would recommend that they find a book on a subject they love and pick a format that makes it easy to read. In today’s environment of instant everything, kids might have trouble seeing how taking the time to read a book would be interesting. There are many books available now that integrate graphics and text in a way that will ease reluctant readers into a lifelong passion for reading. In my next book, I’m using illustrations in a way that is new to me to further that cause.

Do you have anything new on the horizon?

Yes! I’m glad you asked. My next book is STEM-related, about a girl who wants to be a movie director in space but doesn’t seem to make the connection between being an astronaut and knowing science. She’s forced to embrace science to compete in a science fair and win a chance to go to Space Camp. This book also includes information about how to approach a science fair project and teaches the four forces of flight—drag, thrust, lift, and gravity. The title is The Science of Defying Gravity, and it is due out next spring.

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