Listening to music is her muse, Gretchen Leary began expressing herself through poetry. When Josh Groban responded positively on twitter to her “Ivory at Night” inspired by Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, she’s been writing creatively ever since. She’s just completed and published a new children’s book illustrated by Dani Bowman—both very talented young women on the autism spectrum. I caught up with Gretchen to find out more about this creative collaboration…
You just released a new children’s book, “Really, Really Like Me…tell us about it.
It’s unique in that it’s actually not a plot driven book but a group of scenarios that allow the children to interact with the characters to better understand some behaviors that people on the Autism Spectrum may or may not have. (For example…Wearing sunglasses (Can you cover your eyes?), Loud noises (Can you cover your ears too?)
What inspired you to write it?
I believe that in order for the future of our society to learn compassion, we’ve got to start early on. I want to be a part of making that happen. When I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at twenty-three, my entire view of the world changed. I stopped blaming myself for my social faux pas and started working on learning new coping skills and trying to help other’s stories and voices (verbal or non-verbal) be heard.
Is this your first children’s book?
Yes, and I am working on my second children’s book right now actually. It’s also Autism related but a bedtime story that is plot driven.
Who’s your illustrator and why was she perfect for capturing the spirit of your book?
Dani Bowman was the right illustrator for this book because of her animation style and use of bright colors.
Who is the ideal reader and how do you see the book being used?
I think preschool age is the right audience and I am hoping to see this in libraries in schools. When I began the Really, Really Like Me Project, by donating copies around the word (Spain, Greece, UK, China, Trinidad, Bermuda and all over the USA, it was with the hope that it would be like planting seeds of hope for the Autism community.
What’s the message you want your readers to take away after reading the book?
I am hoping children who are not on the Autism Spectrum will realize that even though we are all different, we are also the same in many ways and the things that make us different as make us special.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about yourself or the book?
After this book came together and I did my first public speaking engagement in April 2014, I decided I had found my calling. I want to travel and share the book (soon to be books) and my story in the hopes that by doing so it will open up a dialog for other’s to share their own and to possibly encourage some compassion and understanding with those who do not know what Autism is like. I can only speak for myself but I truly want to be a part of making it easier for other’s to do the same.
Really, Really Like Me Children’s Book