Interview with Mary L. Schmidt
Interview with Mary L. Schmidt
Today I am talking with the award-winning author, Mary L. Schmidt also known as S. Jackson. Thank you for talking to me today.
“October 13, 1991
My Dearest Eli,
Yet again, tonight, I went to bed crying for you, Eli. Heart wrenching sobs escaped from me and in between them I relived your short life with such clarity. I knew you were very special, Eli, from the day you were born.
And now, with the first anniversary of your death upon us, I realize fully just how special you really were and still are. You affected so many people in your short life.
Even now, I have moments when it is hard to believe that you are really gone. Or are you? You’re in my heart now and forever. Will it ever get easier, Eli?
Sometimes, I am very happy for you.
Those times are when I know you are pain free and happy. Heaven must be such a wonderful place. Then, there are times when my heart aches and aches for you, Honey. Those are the times when I relive moments of your childhood before the doctor diagnosed you with cancer, and also moments after being diagnosed.
I remember vividly the day you were brought home from the hospital after your birth. Your brother, Noah, only one-year-old, took to you instantly. Throughout your short life, the two of you were inseparable.
Best playmates you two were. But you were the most daring, Eli. You had such a zest for life. I remember the day you and Noah were on your 3-wheelers, and racing around in and out of the garage. Noah came running into the house to tell me you had a snake cornered in the garage. Upon investigation, there you were, laughing with delight, and riding your 3-wheeler in circles, closer and closer, to a coiled king size bull snake.
Sometimes, when I wake in the morning Eli, I start to think about what I’m going to make my “boys” for breakfast. And then I remember. And sometimes in the evening, when Noah is taking his bath, I remember how it always was two boys in the bathtub and not one.
My precious Eli, oh, how I miss you. I miss your sweet smile, shining blue eyes and pale blond hair.
You had to grow up so fast, Eli. It was such a shock to learn that you had cancer, one month before your fifth birthday. In a flash, I would have traded places with you. You went from being a happy little boy into a world of doctors and nurses, needles and IVs, catheters and spinal taps.
I was selfish, Eli. I loved you too much to let you die. And so you suffered. You went through head and neck, and open chest surgeries. How my heart ached for you, Eli, when, four hours after surgery on your lungs, I helped a nurse stand you up in bed. How you hated ICU.
Because I loved you too much to let you go, you suffered such horrible radiation burns on your sweet head and neck. The chemotherapy made you so very sick. Even under sedation, you were sick. But you knew the “good guys” were out to get the “bad guys”. At four years old, you knew you would die without treatment.
It hurt me so bad that you were unable to eat for seven and a half months. Your only nutrition was IV. You always ate so well before. You had always relished the sheer taste of food. It was unfair of me to bring food into your room in the hopes that you would eat something. Sometimes you tried.
I remember when you woke during the night once and asked for watermelon. I drove through half of Denver to get it for you. You only ate a couple of bites, but it was worth it.
I remember the long days and nights in the hospital those seven and a half months. I was able to take you home only four different weekends. I remember the isolation in times of high fever and the ice blankets, lots of oxygen and machines everywhere.
How I cried Eli, on the morning that we woke up and found all your hair lying in your bed and not on your head. You were too proud to wear a hat.
I also remember good times, like when the group came from the Denver baseball team and you received an autographed photo of George and a Royals’ baseball.
Or I would be wheeling you around, outside the medical center, and you would point out cars and ask me if they were “race cars.” How we would talk about the race car we would have someday and how much it would be worth. Having lived two hundred and thirty miles away, you were awestruck by the freeways in and out of Denver. You thought they looked like race tracks.
And how about the time I was able to take you to the Denver Zoo? You did not mind that I had to push you, a boy at five years of age, in a stroller, up and down the hills. You were so weak. You did not care; you only wanted to see the animals.
And on good days, I also remember how you would hide under a gurney in the hall and wait for a person to pass by, only to give them a good dose of water from your squirt gun. It did not matter to you whether or not you knew the person you squirted. Sometimes, you would sneak around the nurses’ station and into the medication room, fully loaded with water, and let loose. No doctor, nurse, or visitor was safe from you.
Or how about the times an IV would complete and I would unhook you. You headed straight for your three-wheeler and down the hall you zipped. Everyone stayed out of your way and laughed. Such sport you had.
Other times, when you had to stay in bed, you made me chase down a VCR so you could watch Superman or Ghostbusters. You never tired of those two movies. You knew them by heart and delighted in telling anyone who would listen what would happen next.
I remember the times when you would have to undergo yet another series of X-rays, CT scans, or MRI and I would stay by your side throughout them, telling you stories and keeping you from moving.
I’m sorry, Eli, that I was not able to make you well. I think that you went through all that you did, those seven and a half months, simply because of how much I loved you and did not want to let you go.
I remember the times that I would feel down and you would come up to me. You would put your arms around me and say, “I’m sorry, Mom.”
I remember when we were together, waiting in the OR before your lung surgery. You were feeling well and you looked at me and said, “I want to go to Heaven, Mom.” I was speechless. And then I told you that sometimes we don’t get what we want and that you might have to come back to me.
And yet, I remember so well how after your last chemo, you picked up yet another “bug” and ended up on a respirator; just how much you fought for life as we knew it, those last fifteen days.
Most of all, Eli, I remember how I cradled you in my arms, and whispered into your ear that soon you would not have any more pain and it would be okay, as your heart stopped for the third and last time, and you died in my arms.
Thank you, Eli, for going through what you did because I loved you and did not want to let you go.
I’ll always love you.
What is the most unethical practice in the publishing industry?
There are some shady small presses that will accept your book (and your money), and then suggest hiring different persons (in their company) to polish your book. Books need polish, yes, but I’m speaking of those small presses who you already paid three or four thousand dollars, if not more, to get your baby, your first book out and into the market. Not having edits done, newbie with first book, you say no and bam! Your book is out and on every page, and in every paragraph it seems that something is amiss. This happened to me. I lost a lot of money and I lost credibility as an author right from the start – that is no way for a first time author to hit the ground running with subpar work. I fired that company. I’ve certainly learned much more since then, and I read and write, I edit, and I do all those things that are necessary for my books, I do have an editor, and beta readers. At this time that same book, “When Angels Fly”, has won numerous awards and is a best seller.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
I adore writing and love to create storylines that children can easily fall in love with, and having a series of books as well as single books, I feel quite energized! The expression on a child’s face when doing a book reading says it all.
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
Some give up on their dream, they give up way too early, and they get easily frustrated and upset at the editing process, and the entire process. It’s best if a new writer can hook up with a mentor during this crucial process of their fist book.
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
A pseudonym was used for my memoir to prevent libel, and I have just kept it that way as it is much easier when all of one’s books have the same author name.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I like to be more original, even if the subject matter is the same. For instance, my book, “The Big Cheese Festival”, is about bullies. Mine is unique in that I used mice for my illustrations, and I used a mouse with a short tail as the one being bullied. This book has won many awards as well.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Don’t use a shady small press to publish your book, your baby, and they charge you over two thousand dollars to simply publish, no editing, and you made your own book cover. That was a rotten bad deal back in 2015. I’ve come a long way since then, and I’m seasoned in this indie writing world.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
I hired the best editor that I could afford, and what a huge difference that made. I actually had a total of three editors who edited the way they knew how such a line editor, etc. Don’t think you can edit on your own because you truly cannot.
What does literary success look like to you?
Having multi-award winning books looks like success to me. Having a bronze medal hung around my neck at an international awards show was magical.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
I read them. I had a hard time dealing with one that read as “sob story”. That person just didn’t understand the book’s entire concept and why it was written.
What was your hardest scene to write?
The last chapter when my son passed away was by far the hardest thing to ever write about, yet one of the best as well. It’s difficult to explain, yet it helps many people in so many different ways.
Pen or type writer or computer?
Computer – I hated the old style manual typewriter, electric ones were better but then ‘hello computer’! Writing by hand wasn’t on the table for me as I have shaky hands.
What tactics do you have when writing?
I write an outline for each children’s picture book, and I write those notes by hand and add to them. My first book (memoir) has three beginnings and rightly so. I should send you a copy.
What is the biggest surprise that you experienced after becoming a writer?
My biggest surprise was winning my first award. I was in shock for a long time.
Where can we find you online?
Amazon Author Page:
When Angels Fly:
When Angels Fly Book Trailer:
The Big Cheese Festival:
Suzy Has a Secret:
Shadow and Friends Celebrate Ellsworth, KS, 150th Birthday:
What genre do you consider your books? Have you considered writing in another genre?
I’ve written in non-fiction memoir, children’s adventure, dysfunctional family life, and cooking as well as one book regarding each of the USAs National Parks.