Why writing a book about concussions can be hazardous to your health…

WAKE UP MISSING, my Fall 2013 MG novel with Walker/Bloomsbury is just about put to bed. I spent much of the holiday break reviewing copy edits, and I have to admit, as excited as I am for this book to be out in the world, I was a little sad to let it go because it’s been so much fun, so interesting to work on.  The cover design team has done a spectacular job, and I can’t wait to show you what they’ve created.  But for now, I’ll share a little about the book.

Meet Quentin, a middle school football star from Chicago…

Sarah, an Upstate New York girls’ hockey team stand-out…

Ben, a horse lover from the Pacific Northwest…

And Cat, an artistic bird watcher from California.

The four have nothing in common except for the head injuries that land them in an elite brain-science center in the Florida Everglades. It’s known as the best in the world, but as days pass, the kids begin to suspect that they are subjects in an experiment that goes far beyond treating concussions….and threatens their very identities. They’ll have to overcome their injuries – and their differences –  to escape, or risk losing themselves forever.

 Researching this book meant lots of reading and multiple trips to the Florida Everglades to soak up the setting and details, so I’d have a better sense for what it might be like to attempt an escape through that unforgiving landscape.


My daughter and I went kayaking with alligators — twice — once in the early morning hours and once in the dark of night, when their eyes glowed red in our head lamps.

I went hiking in the Fakahatchee Strand with snakes like this one…


…and made it through all those experiences with nary a scratch.

But sometimes, while you’re working on a book, the heaps of laundry really pile up in your bedroom. And so sometimes, when you finish copy edits, you resolve to clean that room as soon as the manuscript is back in the mail. And if you’re not careful, you might bend over really fast to pick up a stray sock from your floor and forget all about that very solid oak bedpost that’s been living in that corner of your room for your entire married life. And it might connect with your head and cause you to see stars and sit down for a little while thinking, “Wow, that hurt!”  And two days later, when you develop a sudden and intense headache on that side of your head, you’ll probably need to go to the hospital for a CT Scan to make sure your brain isn’t bleeding. And you’ll learn that you are just fine, but you do have your first-ever concussion.

On a positive note…I got to see pictures of my brain, which is pretty cool.


My friend Irene thinks this should be the author photo for WAKE UP MISSING.

My post-concussion headache has abated now, but for a few days, it allowed me to empathize with my poor novel characters in a way I’d never planned.  I’m calling it accidental research. And also…validation. For years growing up, I told my mom that I was sure cleaning my room was somehow hazardous to my health.  Now I know, I was right all along.

18 Replies on “Why writing a book about concussions can be hazardous to your health…

  1. I think I will steer clear of writing a book with alligators, snakes, or laundry! Way too dangerous!
    Glad you okay now. Really cool brain picture! It would look nice framed over your desk 🙂

    1. The doctor was all confused when I asked to see the pictures. He said, “But I just told you there’s no bleeding or anything….there’s nothing to see.” And I said, “But you have pictures of my BRAIN! I can’t usually see inside my head like that. Please?” And so he sighed and pulled them up on his fancy computer.

  2. I\’m with Irene–you totally need to put your brainscan on the book jacket! The story sounds great. I can\’t wait to read it.

    Glad you are recovered. I always knew laundry was dangerous.

  3. Just goes to show that cleaning house is dangerous business. And I like the possible author photo a lot!

  4. Glad to know you\’re okay! Also happy to know that I\’m not the only one who has piles of laundry in my bedroom. Looking forward to reading Wake Up Missing.

  5. Same story, different outcome. For me it was bending down to wrap the vacuum cleaner cord and connecting my head with the corner of a bookshelf that has been there for forever. I got blood and a no-fun in-your-hair scab, but not a concussion. Still, here’s one more bit of evidence that cleaning, too, is dangerous and should be avoided at all costs.