with Karen J. Foli
Karen J. Foli has been writing for the past nine years. She holds a Ph.D.
in communications research and a masters degree in nursing science. Aside
from her memoir, Like
Sound Through Water: A Mother's Journey Through Auditory Processing Disorder
(Pocket 2002), she has interests in mystery/suspense fiction, and the
healthcare issues faced by parents of struggling children.
Her other publications include short stories in the Mary Higgins Clark
Mystery Magazine, Futures Magazine (fiction), and an article
in the The Journal of Healthcare Quality. She is also a contributing
author to Nursing Theorists and Their Work. The author enjoys living
in a rural area of Indiana with her husband, John, and their three children.
QUESTION: Tell us a bit about
how you started to write?
Although I have a background in healthcare and teaching, when my older
son was born, my husband and I decided that I would stay at home for a
while. During this time, I did something I'd always wanted to do: write
Looking back, I can see how totally naïve I was about the whole process
and how much I underestimated what it took to be a good writer. Yet to
become a better writer, you have to write. I persevered and took classes,
went to writers' conferences, and had the "workshop" experience,
where others vigorously critique your work.
Mystery and suspense fiction had always entertained me -- from childhood
through adulthood. So my first book-length work was in that genre. The
rejections came swiftly at first, then the letters from agents started
to ask to see some of my work.
Still, getting fiction published in today's market is really tough. After
writing three suspense novels, I began to write short stories, as much
for the release from longer works as to satisfy my need to keep my work
circulating. I also started to realize how much I'd learned by writing
the novels and that the first two probably shouldn't be published. I'm
currently working on revisions to the third.
QUESTION: So how did you end up writing a memoir?
Rather serendipitously. My short story, "A Danger to Others,"
won the 1996 Mary Higgins Clark Mystery/Suspense Short Story Contest.
This was a very inspiring event, especially since I'd been writing for
five years. I was in the middle of trying to figure out what was causing
my son's delays, and it was tough time for me and for the family.
When I won the contest, I felt that maybe this was what I was supposed
to be doing. Then I realized that my son's story beat out anything I could
have imagined. I also felt that other parents and children could be helped
if I wrote what Ben had been through. People should not only know more
about auditory processing disorder (APD), but they should also understand
how parents and children look at life when early struggles are present.
QUESTION: How did you find a publisher for
Like Sound Through Water?
I began to query agents. Several expressed an interest, but some saw my
story only from a mother's point of view. They didn't see the bigger picture
of what my story contained. Several agents told me I "could write,"
but that they couldn't see an audience for the book.
sent my work to an agent, Jodie Rhodes, President of the Jodie Rhodes
Literary Agency. She understood what I was trying to say. And more than
that. She helped me fine-tune my proposal and get it to the right editors'
desks. Jodie's faith in this book helped capture the attention of several
This triggered an online auction, an extremely exciting experience. My
editor, Tracy Behar at Pocket Books-who is wonderful-also understood what
I was trying to make the public aware of. She wanted an expert in APD
brought in as well and that's why my book is currently being promoted
with Teri Bellis's When the Brain Can't Hear. This book is helpful to
parents in understanding APD testing, diagnosis, and treatment.
What does your book offer the reader?
The majority of the book is Ben's story, however, the final chapter,
"Hindsight and Help," is a general overview of APD and includes
interviews with parents. While I'm not an expert in APD, I am an expert
when it comes to understanding what parents and kids go through in the
system. I understand what it's like to see you child struggle, to feel
different, to feel frustration when the correct diagnosis is elusive.
My book offers a view of what it's like to be a parent in these situations
as well as general information on APD.
QUESTION: Who might benefit from reading your book?
I've had parents of autistic, mentally ill, learning disabled, and
even a parent who tragically lost a child tell me that there was a part
of the story that they could relate to. The story touched a common thread
with them. Maybe it was the feeling of being different or feeling excluded
from other parents because their child was delayed, disabled, or sick.
Maybe it was the feeling of being inadequate as a parent, emotions they
were hesitant to express because of guilt or societal pressure, but feelings
that I included in this book.
The feedback from the teachers and principals who have read the book has
been very positive. My son had one special second grade teacher that made
a critical difference in his life and mine. She knew Ben was behind and
that he needed to catch up. But first, she recognized how scared he was
and told him it was okay to fail. That compassion made all the difference.
When I started writing the book, I knew I was going to have to honest
and authentic. It's that authenticity that reaches out to the reader.
Dr. Edward Hallowell's foreword does an excellent
job of summing up what my book is all about. I am very grateful to him
for his eloquent and kind words.
QUESTION: What are you working on now?
Several projects. One focuses on adoption, another area of personal
interest. The other project is a parent guide to understanding the roles
of different health providers. I'm gathering material, researching the
topics, and shaping the proposals. It's a lot of work, but really important
so that an editor sees a book as viable and credible. I also continue
to work on mystery short stories and am revising my suspense novel.
I am proud of how eclectic my work is. I'm also an editorial associate
for Future's Magazine (fiction) and enjoy helping writers revise their
What advice would you give to beginning writers?
Understand that it is a process that takes time. The ability to write
well is somewhat inborn, but a lot of it is learned. The myth of thinking
that you'll write the next best seller won't sustain you for very long.
And in fact, when you really start to understand writing, that myth won't
mean a thing.
QUESTION: What advice would you give to
parents who have children who are delayed or struggling?
While I was earning my Ph.D., I had two part-time graduate assistantships,
and was also a consultant in long-term care facilities. This was before
marriage and kids. Looking back, that was a piece of cake compared to
being a parent -- of any child.
Parenting is tough. It involves sacrifices on a daily basis. The choices
are also hard, and there's no immediate feedback. You kind of feel your
way out of love and caring and pray you're doing the right things. There
are moments that I'll remember for the rest of my life when I was truly
petrified -- when Ben's delays were at their highest point, the feeling
that I wasn'tpaying enough attention to my second son, and when we decided
to adopt our daughter and faced all the unknowns of that situation, for
But having said that, I can think of nothing more wonderful than having
your child hug you or say that he/she loves you. I am so proud of my three
kids today, and I know I couldn't have done it without my husband's help
On a more practical note, I think parents are an undervalued resource
in today's health care structure. They aren't given enough credit for
the information they have about their children. They are also confronted
at times with overwhelming information that triggers grieving and unfortunately,
denial. It's really helpful when professionals are sensitive to that.
I hope my book is read, not only by parents, but also by educators, childhood
specialists and other health care providers. And that by reading it, there
is more compassion, more openness to the discussions, and more knowledge
about APD. That's been my hope all along.