Another Author of the Month at MyShelf.Com
Author of the Month
Sandra McLeod Humphrey [December 2003]
Chosen by Lynda Lukow, MyShelf.Com
Sandra McLeod Humphrey is a gifted author who took her experiences from her career in mental health and compiled them into inspirational, educational works aimed at adolescents. She does not lecture; she asks questions intended to guide younger generations in the development of their own moral code. Her message bears shouting from the rooftops.
spent more than 30 years as a clinical psychologist. Has that experience
led to the subjects of your books?
Lynda: You've spent more than 30 years as a clinical psychologist. Has that experience led to the subjects of your books?
Sandra: I would have to say that it had an enormous impact. As a clinical psychologist, I worked with many young people who had no goals or aspirations, no sense of who they were, and who were already "burned out"--not from drugs but from life itself. So many of my young patients also did not know how to deal with psychological pain. Not only were they not in touch with their feelings, they were AFRAID of their feelings. They denied their feelings, they numbed their feelings with alcohol, they tried to escape from their feelings with drugs, and some even purposely mutilated their own bodies by cutting or burning themselves because they could deal more comfortably with the physical pain than with the psychological pain and the physical pain gave them a temporary respite from their psychological pain. I hoped that through my writing, I could reach children early enough to give them the coping skills they would need not just to survive but to thrive in the ever-changing world around them. I might also add that I think psychologists and writers have a lot in common: we both use words to encourage and influence people in positive and meaningful ways.
Lynda: I love your style. You don't preach; you encourage children to think about values. How much adult guidance would you recommend accompany your "What Would You Do?" series? Do you believe a child could learn on his/her own?
Sandra: All my stories are purposely open-ended with no "right" or "wrong" answers in most cases. Learning is a "process" and I write my stories to get our young people thinking and talking about moral choices. Just as we build strong physical muscle through "reps" and "sets," we can also help our children build strong moral muscle by helping them "rehearse" what they would do in different situations before they are actually confronted by those situations in real life. This is the purpose of the thought questions at the end of each story--to get the reader thinking and then talking about difficult moral choices. I think a child could learn on his own, but I think it makes for much more powerful learning when he or she can compare and share their ideas with others. I see the adult as a "catalyst" rather than as a "law-giver" and when I visit classrooms, it is the dialoguing after the story where most of the learning really takes place. What never ceases to amaze me is how candid and "up-front" the students are and how willing they are to share even very difficult experiences. I have also been impressed over and over again by the maturity of our young people and how well they manage to reach sound and ethical resolutions to the problems under discussion.
Lynda: You also write for children's magazines. Would you care to name a few?
Sandra: I am a frequent contributor to MY FRIEND--the Catholic Magazine for Kids. I have also judged two story-writing contests for them, which were a lot of fun, and both times I was very impressed by the sensitivity and maturity of these young writers. I have also written stories for POCKETS; Hopscotch, the Magazine for Girls; Listen Magazine; Touch Magazine (now renamed Shine Brightly); and Highlights for Children.
Lynda: Can you tell us a little about your next release?
Sandra: I actually have two works pending publication. My newest book is called DARE TO DREAM! and it includes twenty-five brief biographical sketches about people who had really tough childhoods (in many cases, these young people were considered "losers" by the rest of society) and overcame great obstacles to not only achieve incredible success but also gave back to society. The book has received some really wonderful pre-publication endorsements. Dr. Benjamin Carson, the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins wrote that "DARE TO DREAM! is the kind of book for young people that I 'dare to dream' about." He then goes on to say how much a book like this is needed and how he hopes that it will be a staple in middle schools throughout the country. The book has also received wonderful pre-publication endorsements from Philip Bigler, the 1998 National Teacher of the Year; Dr. Donald Draayer, the 1990 National Superintendent of the Year; Gene Bedley, PTA National Educator of the Year; and Dr. Terry Hitchcock, Executive Director of the Heroes & Dreams Foundation (which supplies character education materials to schools K-8 throughout the United States and Canada).
ME, MYSELF AND I is a middle grade devotional to help kids through the difficult journey of adolescence. I've included material which relates to common stressors in a young person's life such as peer pressure, academic stressors, identity problems, coping with unrealistic expectations, defining what "being cool" really means, etc. It has received the following pre-publication endorsement from Michael Sherer, Editor of Metro Lutheran newspaper: "Sandra Humphrey's stories are full of wisdom and common sense. She has a real gift for connecting with young people through the characters she brings to life in ME, MYSELF AND I. If you're a young person wondering why your world seems so confusing, so unfair or so just-plain-goofy, this is the book for you. And if you're an adult who knows a young person in the middle grades, consider giving ME, MYSELF AND I as a gift. It might just change a young life for the better."
Lynda: Which work do you hold closest to your heart?
Sandra: That is a great question! I attended a conference last weekend where we talked about the people who were the "milestone people" in our lives and also about our "Dream of Dreams." I think my "Dream of Dreams" would be to receive a truckload of mail from young readers who tell me how my books have made a difference in their lives. I am really hoping that my book DARE TO DREAM! will be a book that will make just such a difference! I think my objective for every book and every story I write is to somehow help my young readers to feel stronger and more confident so that they can say I CAN when other children fail to even try.
Lynda: Thank you for sharing your message with us. I wish you well.
Reviewed by Lynda
Thirteen-year-old Leslie is facing a year of uncertainty. A new school, different church, teenage angst and family discord leave her with a lot of questions and few places to turn for answers.
Keepin' It Real: A Young Teen Talks With God is a diary of letters she writes to God in her quest for faith and acceptance. Does God exist? Does He really answer prayers? If He's real, why does He allow bad things to happen? Readers are welcomed into Leslie's life as she comes to realize the value of a positive attitude and the power of prayer.
Sandra McLeod Humphrey is a shepherdess who is capable of gently leading the stray back to the fold. I highly recommend Keepin' It Real to anyone facing change and/or doubts. Ms. Humphrey's straightforward style is entertaining and informative, but not at all "preachy". This easy-to-read novel packs a lot of insight into less than one hundred pages--assured to keep most teens' interest or squeeze into any adult's hectic life. I can't wait to share her work with my children.
If You Had to Choose, What Would You Do?
Reviewed by Lynda
Sandra McLeod Humphrey's More If You Had to Choose, What Would You Do? presents twenty-six real-life ethical situations faced by adolescents. Each short story deals with different issues such as honesty, courage, teamwork, acceptance, friendship and peer pressure in a thought-provoking and oftentimes humorous style.
Though a lone person could enjoy this work, I'd recommend sharing More If You Had to Choose. Those who seek to open or maintain communication with young people will find it an invaluable "no experience necessary" tool. Ms. Humphrey has graciously included questions after each scenario to guide discussions on the various topics. This book provides an excellent opportunity to teach morals and perhaps learn in the process.
2003's Honorary List