Oprah and Me for Twenty Years – WFMAD Day 17

In 1992 I was a stay-at-home mom with a 5- and a 7-year-old. I worked part-time as a freelance journalist, writing for magazines and the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper. And I watched a LOT of the The Oprah Winfrey Show. It had been a lifeline to sanity from the days when I had a newborn and a toddler who resisted toilet training. It gave me a sense of community. It reminded me to read. It nudged me along my spiritual path. I adored it.

My life as an author began on September 7, 1992. (I’ll post more about that red-letter day in a few weeks. Probably on September 7.) That was the day I put my youngest daughter on the bus to first grade. That was the day I committed myself to becoming an author.

I kept writing for the newspaper, but I began to tell people that I was trying to become a children’s author. Most people would look at me with the kind light of pity in their eyes and say, “But don’t you want to write a real book?”

(In their pointy heads, real = for grown-ups.)

I made every mistake a wanna be writer could make. I sent out first drafts. I wrote what I thought would be published instead of what was in my heart. I collected hundreds of well-deserved rejection letters, until finally, FINALLY, I got The First Phone Call from an editor saying that Henry Holt want to publish a picture book of mine. That book, Ndito Runs, came out in 1996.

Most people looked at me with the kind light of pity in their eyes and said, “That’s nice, but when are you going to write a real book?”

My mother-in-law, Anastasia, never did. She said, “I bet you’re going to be on the Oprah Show. She likes all kinds of books!”

In 1999, Speak was published and named as a National Book Award Finalist. That was also the year that Oprah Winfrey was awarded the National Book Foundation’s 50th Anniversary Gold Medal in recognition of her efforts to promote reading. I saw Oprah across the room at the cocktail party for the authors before the dinner. I was too chicken to do anything more than steal glances and admire her shoes. (She looked amazing.)

I knew that I’d never have a book featured on Oprah’s show, though I will admit I’d fantasize about it. I kept writing and writing and eventually I was getting more contracts than rejection letters. Anastasia’s faith in both Oprah and me never wavered, not even when I divorced her son. (One of the most peaceful divorces in the world, btw. That’s also a post for another day.)

Well, Anastasia, the day you told me would come is here.

Chains was chosen for Oprah’s 2012 Kids’ Reading List!!!


(Excuse me for a moment while I get up and dance wildly around the house again!!!)

There are many other wonderful books on the list, too, so be sure to check out all of them.  Haven’t read Chains, yet? Then read this new review.

I lift my mug of tea and salute Anastasia and Oprah for two decades of encouragement and support! Thank you!

This extremely glamourous photo is of me and Anastasia the morning of my daughter Meredith’s wedding a few months ago.

Today’s Quote

“The biggest adventure you can ever take is to live the life of your dreams.”

                                                                                                                                          Oprah Winfrey

Today’s Prompt: Write down this date: August 17, 2032. How old will you be? Next, jot down five of your writing dreams. Pick the most outrageous of those five dreams and write a paragraph or two – from the perspective of August 17, 2032 – and describe how that dream came to life. Then list the three things you can do TODAY to bring yourself one step closer to that dream.

If you haven’t talked to your mother-in-law recently, give her a call or send up a prayer to her today.

 Scribble… scribble… scribble…

24 Replies to “Oprah and Me for Twenty Years – WFMAD Day 17”

  1. Congrats!! That is wonderful!!!! What a lovely story. I too was a stay at home mom around that time and I felt the same way about Oprah. When I was at home with my daughter there were times when I felt like my brain was turning to mush. But every day at 4:00 I would tune in to Oprah and I could feel the brain cells repairing. 🙂 For that one hour there was no Barney, no dirty diapers, no formula thow up stains on my pajamas that I had not changed out of… just Oprah and me too. And kudos to your mother in-law everyone needs that voice cheering them on!

  2. Congratulations!!! See, your hard work and persistence has paid off. And just think, Oprah missed out by not seeking YOU out at that cocktail party. 🙂

  3. Congratulations!!! You are such an inspiration. I am nowhere near achieving the successes you’ve achieved, but I sure do dream about them, and I’m plugging away as faithfully as I can, trying to make them happen. Your posts always remind me to keep my chin up high and to never lose heart. Thank you for sharing your journey with us.

  4. That is fantastic! I’m glad Oprah is still championing reading.

    Oprah led me to get published. In 1993, Oprah asked “Why did God put you on Earth?” I answered “To be a mother.” I was single, but nine months later, I brought my adopted daughter, Anna, home from Russia. Five years later, I lost my job, which gave me the time to write and illustrate a book for children adopted by single mothers. Albert Whitman published “The Best Single Mom in the World: How I Was Adopted” in 2001. So, thanks, Oprah!

  5. Congratulations, Laurie! And, well deserved recognition. Chains is an amazing book for young readers… or old reader like myself that just don’t read real books. 😉

  6. This post was remarkable. And congratulations, that is an amazing achievement.
    I am going through an emotional, life, spiritual, finanical, physical, career life crisis myself now. Bigtime.
    I wish I had a friend like you to sit down and chat with and figure things out 🙂
    Seriously, I am so crossed between desire and reality and fear.

    I love that Oprah quote and I think that is what frightens me. I feel like I’m moving away from the “life of my dreams”, or that I’m stuck. And regret, the regret for the time lost and stuff, it can be overwhelming sometimes.

    I love how you worked bit by bit each day and accomplished what you have. I need to figure out how to do that and reclaim my frazzled mind somehow ! 🙂

    (sorry, this is off topic. Your posts just tend to make me think and my emotional confusion has been flying high for a long while now).

  7. Congratulations! I’m so happy “Chains” made the reading list. It is truly an amazing book.

  8. I don’t even know you, but your news brought tears to my eyes. Congratulations a thousand times over, both for your accomplishment and your perseverance!

  9. Congratulations, Laurie–you deserve it! Thanks for the inspiration and for reminding us all to think about our goals and make a commitment to do something TODAY to work toward them.

  10. WOW! So very wow! And totally deserved — CHAINS and FORGE are amazing, wonderful books. Congratulations, Laurie, and I’m so happy for all the kids who might not have seen these great books otherwise!!

    And thanks again for the kick in the pants. That you can be a fantastic author and a totally rockin’ cheerleader delights me endlessly. 🙂

  11. O

    Mazel tov!
    I only hope that ALL of your dreams come true, dear Laurie.
    But this was a good one. {}


  12. That is TOO COOL. You are even more my hero now.

    And when I sent my son to his first day of kindergarten today, and my daughter off to 3rd grade, and dragged my rear to work, I started to think about writing again.

    Thank you.

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