Amber is a local author and mother who wrote the children’s book “If Grandma Were Here” after she lost her mother unexpectedly and her paternal grandmother a few years later.
How long have you lived in the Capital District?
I was born in Albany, NY and have moved around a bit since then. I spent a number of years in the NYC area as well as Sacramento, CA—which I miss so much. My husband and I started long distance relationship while I was living in Sacramento. We actually met in 8th grade and over the years, kept in touch via social media. At first, I tried convincing him to come out west but eventually we decided it was best for us to move back east. I have family here too, so it’s been nice being closer to them.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m the mother of three children; Jayden (13), Gisele (11), and Savannah (3), so needless to say I have a house full of moods. My husband and I are also the caregivers of his father, Robert, who has dementia. Luckily, I come from a family of nurses and caregivers, so helping others has been instilled in me, which really helps in this multi-generational family!
Currently, I’m working on my Bachelor’s degree in Human Services but took a break because I was publishing a book—not yet knowing we would be in a pandemic. This turned out to be good timing, since my kids have been home for the past year and my father-in-law’s day program was permanently shut down due to COVID. It’s been a trying time for all and I’m very thankful we’re all healthy and I’m able to be home with them.
A hobby I’ve always loved is photography—specifically nature photography. My father, John is a nature photographer, so I was inspired by him to pick up a camera. My favorite place to take photos is in Lake Tahoe, California but I believe you can take great photos no matter what camera you have or where you are.
What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
I’m not sure how surprising this may be, but I have driven across country twice! Once when I moved from New Jersey to Sacramento, and then from Sacramento back to the Capital District. During the first move my dad came with me, and we had two birds (a lovebird and a cockatiel) along with us. On the second drive, it was my husband, my dog, Echo, and me. Driving across country with these lively pets certainly made things entertaining, and I also managed to get some good pictures.
Amber’s family at Empire State Plaza.
Amber and her mother at Empire State Plaza (Amber was a newborn).
What is your favorite place to take your kids in the Capital District?
Since I was a child, I’ve always loved going to The Empire State Plaza in Albany. I went to a little pre-school down the road, and we’d have field trips to the museum and then get to play at the park. It was a place I frequently visited with my mom. Now, with a family of my own, I love going there even more. The kids enjoy exploring the whole the area, whether they’re running up and down the stairs or trying to climb the wooden structures. And of course, we love visiting the New York State Museum. It takes me back to childhood memories that I’m happy to share with my own children now.
What made you decide to write a book?
I actually didn’t create If Grandma Were Here as a conscious decision. After losing my mother in 2013 and my grandmother in 2016— both from sudden, tragic causes—it left my family and I with a lot of grief, and I just started writing. Afterwards I thought the idea behind what I wrote might appeal to others grieving for someone, too, so I sent it to a few close friends and family, who all loved it. Then in December 2019, when my husband and I were discussing our New Year’s resolutions, I told him I wanted to publish If Grandma Were Here. His response was “let’s do it,” and that’s how it all started.
What is the book about?
If Grandma Were Here, is a book of memories inspired by the things I did with my grandmothers during my own childhood as well the times my mom and grandmother spent my two oldest children when they actually were “still here.”
In it I describe going to fun places such as the museum, visiting the beach, learning how to make grandma’s time-honored chicken soup, etc.; all things most families can relate to. I wanted to describe the special, loving bond children have with their grandmothers and help families who are grieving. Because by reliving these precious memories they can start healthy conversations about grief and share honest, cleansing emotions as part of the healing process.
While writing it I never realized how timely this book would become during the pandemic, when so many people have been separated from and lost loved ones to COVID. I’m really hoping my book will help many families, since grief is a topic that’s typically hard to talk about. But with a book that emphasizes focusing on the happy memories we have of a loved one who’s passed away, I think it provides a way in which we can keep their spirit alive even as we miss their physical presence.
Did you illustrate the book too?
No, I found my illustrator, Jessica Corbett, through the FriesenPress, the company I used to publish my book. They showed me three portfolios and Jessica’s work caught my attention immediately.
Since I knew the characters were going to be based on my three children, paternal grandmother, and mother, I really wanted to have a good working relationship with the artist. And though Jessica lives in British Columbia and we collaborated mostly online, she really captured my ideas. Her portraits of my family and nature-based, vibrant illustrations really brought my story to life, and I couldn’t be happier with the result.
Do you have any advice to someone who’s interested in writing a book for the first time?
My primary advice would be to stop overthinking it and just do it! When I started the process, I didn’t know any authors and now—Deborah Guarino, the best-selling author of “Is Your Mama A Lama” is helping me edit my second book, “If Grandpa Were Here” and many other projects. She’s helped me tremendously and I’m thankful she came into my life! Which happened because I put myself out there and reached out to her. You never know where you’ll go if you don’t try. I’ve met some wonderful and supportive friends through networking in social media.
As far as the technical aspect of publishing your manuscript once it’s written, whether you choose to self-publish, as I did, or go the traditional route of finding an agent and publisher, you can research every avenue on the Internet. Even better, for moral support and creative collaboration, you might consider joining an author group on social media or start one of your own. And it’s always important to do your due-diligence to makes sure any publishing venue you work with is legitimate.
Of course, the first thing every aspiring writer should do is start reading. Read everything you can in the genre you’d like to write—whether it’s a children’s book, science fiction, mystery, how-to book or non-fiction—you should be aware of what is currently popular among readers as far as the ideas and subjects that most interest them…and you!
What libraries can your book be found at?
Bornt Branch-Schenectady County Public Library – Schenectady, NY
Burnt Hills-Town of Ballston Public Library – Burnt Hills, NY
Mont Pleasant Branch-Schenectady County Public Library – Schenectady, NY
Niskayuna Branch-Schenectady County Public Library – Niskayuna, NY
Saratoga Springs Public Library – Saratoga Springs, NY
Schenectady County Public Library-Central – Schenectady, NY
Where can someone buy your book?
Eileen’s Basic Foods – Glenville, NY
Mirabai of Woodstock – Woodstock, NY
The Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza – Albany, NY
The Speckled Hen – Scotia, NY
The Open Door Bookstore – Schenectady, NY
Stephanie’s Beauty Supply – Clifton Park, NY
Amazon – Click here
Barnes and Noble – Click here
Target – Click here
Walmart – Click here
Sarah Ferguson, The Duchess of York, read “If Grandma Were Here” on her YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/sarahferguson
Amber will be doing a book signing at The Open Door Bookstore on June 26, 2021 from 1-2:30pm.
Email: [email protected]