LeeAndra Chergey is a mother first, then wife, and now she can add author. Writing has been her dream since she was in the second grade. “After procrastinating on a report on the bumblebee, I quickly wrote up a paragraph and turned it in. The next day the teacher held up my paper and said to the whole class I had received an A+! It was at that moment I thought, ‘wow, that was easy, I want to be a writer’.”
She always knew she had a book in her. It was just finding the inspiration to get it out. After graduating, working in the corporate world then having children, she began to take writing classes of all kinds. In searching for the right genre she accidentally found memoir as the fit for her first book.
Tell us about your book.
Make a Wish For Me is my family’s story about a devastating diagnosis. Autism currently affects 1 in 68 children. When my son was diagnosed ten years ago it was 1 in 166. The story I told was not every detail of our journey, but the parts that I thought shaped all of us, our entire family. I told it honestly and tried not to sugar coat even the darkest thoughts I had.
What inspired you to write it?
I decided it was finally time to follow my dream and took a “write a book in a month challenge.” All the pre-writing exercises lead me down a road to tell my mother’s story. But when I officially sat down at the computer, the first chapter of Make A Wish For Me came out. There was no one more surprised than me when the words spilled out on the page about my son. I decided to forge on and see what happened. After I finished the first chapter I handed it to my husband with no explanation, but desperately wanting validation. He read it and looked up at me with tears in his eyes and said, “You have to write this.”
Who’s your illustrator and why was she perfect for capturing the spirit of your book?
To me, choosing a cover is like deciding on a tattoo: it’s going to be with you the rest of your life…so I didn’t take it lightly. When my publisher didn’t think the candid photo I sent in of my son would work, I wasn’t thrilled but followed her instinct. The designer (Leah Lococo) worked up some options and the publisher forward me multiple images. But, I just couldn’t bear to see a face on the cover if it wasn’t my son’s. When she sent over the boy on the swing I knew she was on to something. The image has so many positive things going on; I could almost feel the upward trajectory on that swing and got lost in the tranquil, cloud-filled sky. It all said to me this was our cover. Added to the fact, my son loves to swing and the image looked so much like him–down to the flip-flops–I could imagine it was him. Lastly, the overall the symbol of my son on the swing of life and breaking though all the barriers he had encountered and believe he always will. I feel the cover says so much about our story. (Note: I am extremely lucky enough to work with a publisher who let me have a say in the cover.)
Who is the ideal reader and how do you see the book being used?
At first I would say anyone who has autism in their life: parents, siblings, teachers, occupational therapists, behavioral therapists. Then I would reach out farther to any one who has any special needs in their life. The message in my book can reach even farther to teach anyone that hope can win any battle as long as you believe.
[Tweet “”Hope can win any battle as long as you believe” @leeandracherg #memoir”]
What’s the message you want your readers to take away after reading the book?
Always believe in your child and never give up on them. Love and faith can conquer anything.
Do you have a proud moment, inspirational story, or moving fan feedback you’d like to share?
I received a card from my husband’s aunt a few weeks after the book came out. When I opened it, I realized it was a ‘thank you’ card. I racked my brain wondering what I had done to receive a thank you from her. In her lovely handwriting she eloquently thanked me for telling our family’s story and opening up our lives to help others. I had received plenty of “congratulations” which is what you would expect, but that was my first official ‘thank you’. It was a deeply touching gesture.
If our readers leave with only one message after reading this interview, what would you like it to be?
Life delivers some bad news sometimes. It would be easy to lie down and give up, but accepting and moving on is what we have to do-especially for our children. Find people in your life who will help you get through the bad times if you can’t manage on your own. And lastly, never give up hope.