Guest post: A Writer’s Heart by Sandra Humphrey

Tonight’s guest blog post, on the topic of writing as therapy, is brought to you by middle-grade and YA author Sandra Humphrey. You can read Sandra’s previous guest post, about characters, here.

A Writer’s Heart

When you hear a writer say, “I can’t not write,” it’s more than a truism–it’s the truth!

When my friend Tess is angry, she scrubs the kitchen floor or shops the mall till she drops. What do I do? I write.

When my friend Jeanette is depressed, she raids the fridge and binges big-time. What do I do? I write.

Writing is more than a way of life for us–it IS our life.  We write when we’re high on the mountaintops, and we write when we’re making our tortuous way through the valleys.

When my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, what did I do?  I wrote a book for her–I Want to LIVE until I Die!. It was a book about life and about hope. In my heart of hearts, I knew she’d never read it, but it was something I had do–because I’m a writer.

When I developed breast cancer, my immediate reaction was not to find out more about cancer treatments (that came much later) but rather a need to journal. So the first thing I did was to go out and buy a notebook.

As it turned out, I did not have to journal alone. Our granddaughter who was ten at the time, journaled right along with me, and we ended up writing a children’s book together: A Family Affair.

The book is written from her viewpoint and in her words, and it is filled with humor because we want the children who read our book to laugh a little. Maybe even a lot.

As a clinical psychologist for over thirty-one years, the patients who probably touched me the most (and most painfully) were those who cut and burned themselves in order to “feel better.”

They’d never learned how to deal with psychological pain and felt more comfortable dealing with physical pain. For them, the physical pain was a temporary respite from their psychological pain.

After I retired, the memories of those young patients’ suffering were still painfully and permanently etched in my heart, so I wrote Making Bad Stuff Good! in an effort to help children learn some coping skills and hopefully how to deal with psychological pain early on before they ended up needing the services of a psychotherapist.

My young adult novel Letters from Camp is brimming over with characters reminiscent of my young patients. There’s Jennifer the anorexic, Rachel the cutter, Andrea the budding hypochondriac, and Kim with all her self-image problems.

These characters became so real to me and so much a part of my life that I would find the camp director, Mrs. A, at my breakfast table shoveling sugar into her tea or rummaging through my fridge, looking for avocados for her guacamole dip.

And I even ran into Cynthia Winston, the villain of the piece, right in my own bathroom–usurping the bathroom mirror while she  applied her eye make-up. It seemed for a while that I saw Cynthia whenever I passed any mirror. She was always there, preening and giving me her little Mona Lisa half-smile.

I wrote my middle-grade chapter book Rules of the Game when I began receiving weekly letters from a young girl in Chicago, whose school I had visited. As she told me how the other girls in her class taunted and tormented her, I knew I had to write about her pain.

The dedication page reads:

To Annie and young people everywhere who every day meet their challenges with personal integrity and courage.

Annie wrote back from Chicago telling me it “was the best book ever,” and that she keeps it under her pillow. Who could ask for a better review than that!

Then there was the confirmation class I led for so many years. The questions they asked during our group discussions were good questions, and those same questions ended up in my book Keepin’ It Real: A Young Teen Talks With God.

I wrote Dare to Dream!: 25  Extraordinary Lives and They Stood Alone!: 25 Men and Women Who Made a Difference to encourage kids to not only have a dream but to also have the necessary perseverance to attain their dream.

To me strong character is more important than ever as society’s values change and role models are transient and questionable at best. That’s why I wrote the three books in my What Would You Do? series–to get kids thinking and talking about moral choices long before they actually encounter these difficult moral situations in real life.

Hot Issues, Cool Choices: Facing Bullies, Peer Pressure, Popularity, and Put-Downs is a collection of 26 stories depicting various forms of bullying with thought questions following each story and all the stories are based on true experiences students shared with me during my school visits. The book is dedicated to a 12-year-old boy who took his own life as a result of being bullied and these were all stories that needed to be told!

Some of my books may never find actual publishing homes, but as long as they find a home in someone’s heart, what more can I ask?

After all, isn’t that why we write? To touch someone and give them something they need at the time–hope or encouragement or maybe just a good laugh.

We are all in our own way encouragers. And what could be more noble a mission than that!


Hear, hear. Thank you, Sandy!

Sandra McLeod Humphrey is a retired clinical psychologist, a character education consultant, and an award-winning author of eight middle-grade and young adult books.  She’s also the recipient of the National Character Education Center’s Award for Exemplary Leadership in Ethics Education (2000) and the 2005 Helen Keating Ott Award for Outstanding Contribution to Children’s Literature.

You can learn more about her books by visiting her website at Connect with Sandy at:

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If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please”.

The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with travel writer Thirza Vallois – the four hundred and seventy-eighth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

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Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are fortnightly episodes, usually released on Sundays, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

50 thoughts on “Guest post: A Writer’s Heart by Sandra Humphrey

  1. linneann says:

    Sandra’s advocacy of children is so admirable and inspiring. I loved “They Stood Alone” and didn’t put it down until I was finished and I follow her blog religiously. Children need people like Sandra; the rest of us adults would do well to follow her example of caring for them. Great post.


  2. Cherrye Vasquez says:

    I loved reading about your journey and how your characters came alive through your work and past experiences.
    I also love how each step of the way became the birth of one of your books.
    I am happy to have read this post. Through this reading, I learned something else about you as an author.
    Too, you give children hope through their writing in sort of a healing medicinal way.
    Your work is phenomenal!


  3. Jill Richardson says:

    I love the idea behind Family Affair! That could not help but be such a good thing for kids who have mothers/grandmothers going through cancer. I will give it to the next woman I know going through this!


  4. Linda Hales says:

    Sandra – you richly deserve the accolades you receive for the wonderful work that you do. Your books have strong purpose and it is obvious that you write from your heart on behalf of those you have deep affinity for.


  5. Sandy Nachlinger says:

    What a terrific post! I thoroughly enjoyed learning where the inspiration for your books came from and how you translated that inspiration (and concern) into those volumes. I’m certain that countless children and adults have benefited from your drive to write. Keep up the good work.


  6. Micki Peluso says:

    Sandra, I enjoyed you post immensely, but that comes as no surprise since you are a writer/author of great talent and heart. It was my pleasure to review two of your books which were a joy to read and review and I’m sure I will be reviewing more. You are, through your words, a special advocate for the children who get ‘left behind’ or abused in this world and you certainly have gained a special place in heaven one day just for that. As long as you keep writing, children and young adults will have a better chance at enjoying their youth.


  7. Darlene says:

    Thanks for sharing more about you Sandra. It is always great to hear where story ideas come from and they often come from personal situations. I love that you wrote a book with your granddaughter. How special for both of you. I am honoured to know you.


  8. Mary Firmin says:

    What a fabulous combination. Morgen and Sandy, Two women I truly admire. This is a wonderful interview and I compliment you both. Sandy, I will tweet the link. All the best, Mary


  9. Rosemary Adkins says:

    Hi Sandy and Morgen!
    I have been moved greater than I thought possibe with this interview. I have the highest respect for Sandy’s writing and have enjoyed one of her books but had no idea to where her inspiration was drawn. It was not that long ago I shared with her a book about abuse I was writing and she came back with tender support. Thank you for this heaven sent message and share of an incredible woman. Writing is all I ever want to do and do it 14 hours daily as so many others do. Now with this inspiring interview, I know I will finish the most difficult challenge of my life.
    Thank You.


      • extraordinaryireland says:

        Thank you Sandy. I try to treat everyone as I hope to be treated. Life’s a battleground and taking each day the very best way I can is all I can do. Sometimes not nearly enough.

        I am far behind to support all the new people in the group but I will.

        My new book is critical for me to finish but time is hard to find.

        Morgen has a way with interviews that give me a lift when I read them. Thanks for sharing yourself. Someday, I hope to be honored by talking with her myself.

        I greatly admire your writing and who YOU are. Rosemary


    • morgenbailey says:

      You’re so welcome, Sandra. I’m delighted that so many friends (old and new) have joined the party… and I say this a lot but this blog wouldn’t be what it is without all my guests. 🙂


    • extraordinaryireland says:

      Hi Morgen, While I am not as accomplished as many others-this is my first book and writing is all I want to do these days, I would like to ask again for an opportunity to be interviewed with you. I wrote several months ago but obviously you have been very busy and not had time to respond. Are there certain requirements? Every day all I want to do is write-I live to write now that I found the courage to do so. My next book which is a few months from completion, is totally different-not an easy book to write. I love following you incredible talent and some day be as entertaining. Many Blessings, Rosemary “Mamie” Adkins Extraordinary Dreams of an Ireland Traveler


      • morgenbailey says:

        Hi Rosemary.

        Thank you for your kind comment.

        I do have you on my list and noted that I sent you the information pack on 9th June but will send it again now – things do get lost on the way.

        Good luck with your next book. I don’t write much non-fiction (usually just about writing) but find with any writing if I just write my brain (the characters in fiction) just takes over so I’m sure you’ll be fine.



      • extraordinaryireland says:

        HI Morgen, I never received it but several of us have decided that cyber ghost exist here in anything important! LOL. Thank you for resending it. I will get the pack studied and answer whatever you want to know. Rosemary


  10. Sherrill S. Cannon says:

    I have enjoyed learning more about Sandy, and have enjoyed exploring her website and discovering her passion for caring for children with problems, and writing books to help with their character development. As an author of children’s picture books, I have some of that same drive – but more about preventative measures, trying to teach the very young about consideration for others and good manners – to think of others and to try to live the Golden Rule. I would hope that my readers would go on to enjoy her books, as they mature. Thank you for what you do for the tweens especially.


  11. morgenbailey says:

    Thank you, Rosemary. Computers are wonderful things… when they behave. No hurry to reply to the email. I have over 800 questionnaires still out in the ether so I won’t be chasing you. 🙂


      • morgenbailey says:

        Let’s hope chasing you to buy your books. 🙂

        I’m off to an open day at my local police station tomorrow then car booting on Sunday (I have a new lodger moving in on Monday so may pick up something useful). Then next weekend I’m speaking at a new lit fest in my home town so lots to look forward to.


  12. morgenbailey says:

    It is with deep sadness that I add to this thread that Sandy and her husband passed away recently. She was a great contributor (of two guest blog items) and it would have been an honour to have had more involvement from her. My heart goes out to all those who knew her personally, just by looking at the number of comments received here, I can tell she was a popular and talented lady.


  13. linniescorner says:

    A day doesn’t go by that I don’t think about Sandy and Brian and their untimely yet unforgettable manner in which they left us. Those two gave new meaning to ‘together forever’ and may they continue to inspire with their good works for a long time to come.


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