Author and Advocate for Autism Awareness

I was in an MFA program for poetry in Colorado. I was the only student from New Jersey. Everyone else was from Colorado and that region. The students there would share with me very hurtful, very negative impressions of what they thought New Jersey was like. One person said to me, ‘Is everyone from New Jersey “white trash?” Because that’s all I see on TV.’ This was when the show ‘The Jersey Shore’ was on. And that was a stab to the heart. And I said, ‘Of course that’s not true.’ And I would get questions like, ‘Is all of New Jersey ugly? Is the water dirty? Is it all like Newark and Trenton?’ And I would have to explain to them that New Jersey is actually really beautiful. I was very upset about it, so when I got back to New Jersey, I decided I was going to do my part to help people see how beautiful New Jersey actually is. So I decided to celebrate New Jersey through children’s books. I do that by writing stories of children and families growing up on farms inspired by the farms I grew up around in New Jersey.

“Five out my six books are in rhyme and meter, which I love doing because I am a poet. I also wrote a series of books based on the four seasons. I drew from my own experiences going to to local farms near Flemington with my family, and going pumpkin picking, on hay rides, and in corn mazes. These are cherished childhood memories and writing these books are my way to celebrate the beauty that is New Jersey.

“In my latest book, ‘The Boy Who Said Nonsense,’ the main character, Tate, is autistic. The words he uses do not seem to make sense to other people around him, but in fact, they make perfect sense to him. But it was a struggle to keep the character with autism with my publishers. They wanted him to be more ‘typical, like other kids,’ and to have him ‘act and communicate in a more traditional way.’

“But I felt very strongly about keeping the character the way he is, because my nephew, Christopher, is autistic. I am very shy, but I felt strongly about the character, and I told them, ‘He is not going to act and communicate the way you want him to. You have to take him on his own terms.’ So they let me do it, and I wrote a foreword explaining why I wrote the book the way I did. I felt incredibly protective of this character, because he represents not just my nephew, but many other children in this world that may seem different’, but are perfectly normal in their own right.”

POTJS Note: You can use following link to find many of her great titles, all of which are inspired by the beauty that is New Jersey: http://www.feliciachernesky.com/

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