Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Write What You Know

S.T. Underdahl, author of young adult books, followed the maxim "Write what you know," and has two books published by Flux.

The Other Sister has a North Dakota connection, just as Underdahl does. Sixteen-year-old Josey learns that she has an older sister that her parents had put up for adoption years before they were married. Underdahl herself is an adoptee, so can accurately portray the upset family dynamics that accompany such a discovery. Josey, her brothers, and their parents are a caring family who communicate, unlike so many YA books where the parents are either absent or completely dysfunctional. Underdahl reveals Josey's feelings and maturation through Josey's thoughts, interactions with her school friends, talks with her mother, and finally, talks with her "other sister." An interesting, realistic novel, the ending holds a surprise for readers.

Remember This springs from Underdahl's experience as a clinical neuropsychologist who works with dementia patients. In this novel, Lucy learns about the joys and burdens of friendship and family. Lucy and her best friend have a falling out. Then something even worse happens. Lucy's grandmother, for whom she is named, is diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Lucy's family brings Nana Lucy to live with them, but as Nana Lucy becomes less lucid, they grapple with possible solutions. Lucy grows from a child into a young adult during the course of the novel, while Nana moves in the opposite direction. Underdahl includes a couple pages of facts about Alzheimer's at the end of the book.

Underdahl continues her neuropsychology practice and her writing. I am eager to see what else she knows from her own life to create compelling fiction for her readers.

S.T. Underdahl will be a featured speaker at the SCBWI-Dakotas Conference in Sioux Falls, SD, April 4. Come and hear her talk about her creative process and how she intertwines her real life into her fiction.


  1. Thanks for the great plug, Jane; believe it or not, I spent the first six weeks of my life named Jane too. I'm really looking forward to the SCBWI conference; it should be great! See you there!

  2. How I wish I could join you, Jane! Thanks for the heads up about these great books. Enjoy your upcoming conference!

  3. Interesting, especially after our chat! I'm looking forward to it. Should we dress up for the day? Like it's homecoming for writers??? just kidding, Janey