It’s my pleasure to introduce my friend and critique partner, author Lisa Lawmaster Hess who is celebrating the release of her first novel, Casting the First Stone, published by Lighthouse Publishing.
“At 16, MARITA MERCER was a good Christian girl anxious to rebel against her conservative upbringing. An unexpected pregnancy gave her her wish. It also forced her to grow up, take charge of her life, and raise her daughter, Charli. Now, twelve years later, the man who wanted nothing to do with Charli when she was born has decided he wants to take Marita’s daughter away from her.”
Lisa is a graduate of Bucknell University who worked as an elementary school counselor for 27 years before deciding to plan her work life around her family life. Now, she works as a writer and community education instructor as well as an adjunct professor of psychology at York College of Pennsylvania. In addition to her first novel, she has written two books inspired by her interactions with her students, Acting Assertively and Diverse Divorce, along with numerous blogs and articles. (See below.)
CLARICE: What does one week in the life of Lisa Lawmaster Hess, wife-mother-reader-writer-teacher-speaker, look like?
LISA: Well, that depends. If the college is in session, I divide my time during the week between class planning/teaching and writing. I blog at The Porch Swing Chronicles twice weekly and at WITF every other week. Right now, with the book coming out, I’m spending as much time on promotional and celebratory stuff as I am on writing. Sadly (for my family, not for me), cooking and cleaning are always the last thing on my list, with the exception of laundry. I do like clean clothes. Of course, everything changes once summer is here.
CLARICE: I see you’re working on a book about organization. How do your organization methods help in developing and writing your books?
LISA: If you saw my office you’d discredit me as a person who could write a book about organization! But that’s exactly what made me do it. I’m organized, but not in the traditional way. After doing a lot of research on right-brained organizing, I began to teach my students about non-traditional methods of organizing. I became so fascinated by all of it that I decided to turn it into a book.
LISA: Diverse Divorce was actually the bridge between fiction and non-fiction. I was taking my second class through the Institute of Children’s Literature and started writing short stories for children of divorce. Those fictional stories became the skeleton of Diverse Divorce.
CLARICE: Casting the First Stone explores a custody dispute between maternal and paternal families of 12-year-old Charli. Is there a clear protagonist and antagonist? Did your initial feelings about them change during your writing process?
LISA: Casting the First Stone is written in alternating points-of-view between Charli’s mother (Marita) and her stepmother (Angel), but I don’t see either woman as an antagonist. In fact, when I began writing the novel, I didn’t really have an antagonist, unless you count Charli’s father, who’s actually a minor character. If I’ve done what I set out to do, readers will find redeeming qualities in both women.
CLARICE: Both sets of Charli’s grandparents have played an influential role in her parent’s lives before she was born up until now. What role do you think our parents should play in our decisions once we reach adulthood?
LISA: I think it depends on how far into adulthood we are and how capable we are of taking care of ourselves. That said, I think effective parenting requires a gradual relinquishing of responsibility from parent to child over time so that by the time the child has become an adult, he or she is not only capable of making his or her own decisions, but is prepared to do so and to accept the consequences.
CLARICE: What role should 12-year-old Charli have in deciding which parent to live with?
LISA: My husband and I have always told our daughter that sometimes she gets an opinion, and sometimes she gets a vote. When it comes to 12-year-olds making custody decisions, I think their opinions should be listened to with respect, but I’m not sure they should get a vote. That’s too big a responsibility for a child who loves both of his or her parents.
CLARICE: What is the message you hope your readers will take-away after reading Casting the First Stone?
LISA: This is so cliché, but one of the main themes is that you can’t judge a book by its cover. Related to that, another key theme is that there’s more than one way to be a good parent. Good parents come in all shapes, sizes, philosophies, ages, religious denominations. When I worked as a school counselor, I saw so many parenting styles, but the one thing all good parents had in common was that they loved their kids, wanted to act in their best interests, and wanted them to grow up to be good people. There are all sorts of ways to accomplish that; one size does not fit all.
Acting Assertively is a seven session, counselor-created resource that teaches students the difference between assertive behavior and aggressive behavior. Each chapter includes a section for kids and a step-by-step discussion guide for adults. Chapters deal with topics such as handling anger and coming up with a problem-solving plan, and can be adapted for small group, classroom or individual use. This book can be used as part of a bullying prevention program.
Diverse Divorce, a collection of 18 stories for children whose parents are divorced. Activities and/or discussion questions are provided for each story. Stories are most appropriate for children in grades two through six.