Message From The Author

Wendelin Van Draanen

Genre: Contemporary Young Adult, Young Adult

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Author's Message

People often ask me what inspires me to write about a particular topic, and this has certainly been the case with my new book, The Running Dream. Why would I choose to write about an athlete who loses her leg in a bus accident? It sounds so…depressing.

It’s a good question. Especially since I believe that happiness is underrated and that optimism is key in navigating life.

But I also have a penchant for championing the underdog, and Jessica Carlisle—the main character in The Running Dream—is definitely an underdog.

Plus, I think all of us can use an occasional reminder that the way we get through hard times is by believing that there are better times ahead; that we’ve got to fight against despair and keep moving forward step by step no matter how futile or difficult it may seem.

The idea for The Running Dream scared me a little at first because I didn’t have any real knowledge base regarding amputation, rehabilitation, or prosthetic limbs and knew it would require a tremendous amount of research to write the story with authenticity. So I really did try to shelve it in my mind but Jessica wouldn’t stay put. I kept thinking about her and what it would be like to become disabled overnight; how it would feel to no longer be able to do what you love most.

When I finally gave in and committed to writing The Running Dream, a whole world of inspiring people opened up to me. The amputees I’ve gotten to know over the course of this project are full of life and love and gratitude for what they do have. And they tell some wild, funny stories, too! One woman I interviewed who’d lost her leg as a child told me that when she was in high school a guy who didn’t know she was an amputee was flirting with her and gave her a playful little kick to the side of her leg. Well, this playful little kick happened to hit the release button of her leg, and as she stepped forward the leg stayed behind. “You should have seen his face!” she told me. “He totally freaked out!”

No kidding! But the fact that she could laugh about it and move forward was really a turning point in my approach to Jessica’s situation. The story didn’t have to be all devastation and despair. At the core it could be about taking life back. It could be uplifting.

So that’s the angle I chose, and I think it’s a big part of why I was able to write the story.

In the end, getting through Jessica’s ordeal was worth it because I got to see her triumph.

In the end, Jessica inspired me.

- Wendelin Van Draanen

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