2K18 Member Spotlight: Cindy Baldwin
BOOK TITLE: Where the Watermelons Grow
PUBLISHER: HarperCollins Children's
RELEASE DATE: July 3, 2018
About WHERE THE WATERMELONS GROW
Fans of The Thing About Jellyfish and A Snicker of Magic will be swept away by Cindy Baldwin’s debut middle grade about a girl coming to terms with her mother’s mental illness.
When twelve-year-old Della Kelly finds her mother furiously digging black seeds from a watermelon in the middle of the night and talking to people who aren't there, Della worries that it’s happening again—that the sickness that put her mama in the hospital four years ago is back. That her mama is going to be hospitalized for months like she was last time.
With her daddy struggling to save the farm and her mama in denial about what’s happening, it’s up to Della to heal her mama for good. And she knows just how she’ll do it: with a jar of the Bee Lady’s magic honey, which has mended the wounds and woes of Maryville, North Carolina, for generations.
But when the Bee Lady says that the solution might have less to do with fixing Mama’s brain and more to do with healing her own heart, Della must learn that love means accepting her mama just as she is
Cindy Baldwin is a fiction writer, essayist, and poet. She grew up in North Carolina and still misses the sweet watermelons and warm accents on a daily basis. As a middle schooler, she kept a book under her bathroom sink to read over and over while fixing her hair or brushing her teeth, and she dreams of writing the kind of books readers can’t bear to be without. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and daughter, surrounded by tall trees and wild blackberries.
WHAT INSPIRED YOUR BOOK?
I have a serious genetic illness, and became disabled as a teenager. I wanted to write a book that dealt with the effects of illness on a family that did NOT end with the illness being cured, and in which the main character comes to accept that her life can still be wonderful, even if it doesn't look like anybody else's.
BEST ADVICE FOR ASPIRING WRITERS?
Remember why you love to write! Pursuing publication can be grueling, and it's important to understand and cultivate the aspects of writing that bring you joy. In the dark moments, these are what will keep you going.
WHAT DOES FEARLESS MEAN TO YOU?
For me, fearless means being brave enough to embrace my limitations. As a chronically ill, disabled person, I am often very limited in what I can do, and there are times I really rage against this! But in my truly brave, wise days, I am able to accept the things I cannot do and find joy in my life, just as it is.
WHAT WERE YOU LIKE AS A TEEN?
I'm about thirteen in these photos—in the book one, I'm reading to my triplet siblings (yes! really! triplets!). Like lots of bookworms, I was an awkward, slightly snobby young teenager, who felt a lot more comfortable navigating book worlds than the real world and whom adults tended to describe as "mature." Really, a lot of this was a cover for the fact that as a preteen and young teen, I was dealing with some pretty intense stuff, and had a hard time connecting to other teens because I figured they couldn't understand what my life was like! I spent a lot of time doing breathing treatments, taking handfuls of medications, and was usually hospitalized at least once a winter for my cystic fibrosis. I loved classical music (I was a serious violinist), reading, and spending lots of time exploring the nature trails through the woods all around my house!
CAN YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT YOUR CF AND YOUR BREATHING TREATMENTS, AND HOW THIS IMPACTED YOUR WRITING?
I was born with cystic fibrosis (CF), a genetic disease that affects the lungs, pancreas, and other organs. CF is a big part of how I started writing—I have to do a few hours of breathing treatments each day, and as a preteen, I often entertained myself by writing stories during this time. These days, my main writing time still happens during treatments. CF had a big influence on Where the Watermelons Grow, as well, since much of my own anxieties and experiences as a disabled parent affected Della's story in Watermelons.
WHAT ARE YOU AFRAID OF?
HOW DO YOU APPROACH FEAR IN THE WRITING PROCESS?
I focus on getting words down—any words, no matter how good. I remind myself constantly that everything can be fixed and all weaknesses can be strengthened; I naturally tend to have a bit of a fixed mindset when it comes to writing, and frequently fear I'll never be able to fix the problems in my books. For me, being brave in writing is a combination of butt-in-chair time and reminding myself that I don't have to be perfect, I just have to continually improve.