Interview with HHS’s Mrs. Leah Moore, Author of Loving You Big

Recently, Harrison High School’s own Mrs. Leah Moore, a freshman English teacher, has published her first book titled Loving You Big. The Husky Herald had the opportunity to interview her about her book.

HH: Could you tell us a little bit about what the book is about?

Moore: So, my story – it’s a memoir- about my daughter’s diagnosis with Cri du Chat Syndrome which is the deletion of the fifth chromosome and the journey that I went through as her mother to make sense of what it meant to raise a child who was very different from what I expected. Along the journey I had twins who had some serious medical needs and through the process of the book, you kind of see me growing as an advocate and understanding my own biases and how to create a more empathetic and inclusive society.

HH: So, did you always want to write a book on this?

Moore: Oh, that’s a great question. So, no. I had always wanted to write but I never had anything that I felt was of any substance. I wrote a lot of terrible love letters, I wrote a lot of cheesy fiction, and I wrote over dramatic poems. I actually wrote the first vignette- I decided to write Loving You Big as a series of vignettes- and the first vignette I wrote as a model for my 9th grade students about eight years ago. They were struggling with their personal narrative assignments, so I wrote one as an example and after I wrote it, I realized I had a lot more to say. I wrote the book first as a blog and then I realized there was an audience and I just kept on writing.

HH: Was there a specific moment when you realized you could make this into something you could publish?

Moore: I think, yeah. I went to the grocery store with my three kids without a stroller for the first time and it was really stressful, it was pure chaos and when I came home I pushed the kids onto my husband and said “I just have to write!” I remember it was fourteen minutes and I wrote my most popular piece and the one that everyone always comments on and it just poured out and I came back and I said “I wrote another piece and I think I’m gonna write a book.” So, that was really the moment when I decided to write a book.

HH: Could you talk a little bit about that piece and what that was about?

Moore: Sure! Yeah, so Jordan- that’s my daughter- Jordan would have been five, she’s currently ten. She was doing this thing called a PEC System which is a Picture Exchange Communication System. So, when you don’t have words, you can give a picture of what you want to a person. She was practicing how to use that system to buy groceries as a life skill, so we were practicing getting just a few items, strawberries, popsicles, chocolate chip muffins. My boys were just learning to walk so we went to the grocery store, all holding hands and the second we got in they all just escaped from me. The boys grabbed all the berries and threw them all over the floor, at one point I lost Jordan. She was completely missing but she was wearing this rainbow wig so I was shouting “Has anyone seen a little girl in a wig?” and I was throwing kids in the cart and it was just pure chaos and we ended up leaving with only four items, none of which could be used for dinner, like it was such a disaster. Then when we got to the parking lot, I was buckling in the last child, and a man yelled to me like “Hey lady!” And I said “Oh, my gosh, I’m so sorry,” and he said “You’re a great mother.” I said “Oh, thank you so much.” and thought ‘Oh, I’m not as much of a mess as I thought.’ It really made me realize that what we put out into the world is chaos and there’s a lot going on with my kids, but it can all be dealt with with kindness and a sense of humor.

HH: Could that idea be a contributing factor in why you wrote the book?

Moore: Yes. When you are raising a child with a disability, most of the resources are how-to books, really practical books, a lot of them are rooted in religion or they’re just very serious and very dry and I, as an English teacher, wanted to read a book that felt reflective. Toni Morrison said “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it,” so I listened to that and that’s why I wrote it.

HH: Could you talk a little bit about the publication process?

Moore: Yes! It’s very hard. So, I spent a year or two looking to get an agent and then you have to pitch books to different publishers and there’s cover art and marketing and every step of the way you have to remember what inspired you to write the book in the first place because it’s very easy to get lost in the paperwork of it all. With every no that you get, you start to doubt yourself. I remember saying to my husband “I don’t think anyone is going to read it,” and he said, “I’m going to read it.” You don’t necessarily have to publish for the biggest market, but just to find people who will authenticate your voice and validate what you’re trying to say.

HH: Have you heard from anyone who thought the book was particularly helpful?

Moore: I’ve had really nice interaction in the hallways, I’ve gotten emails from former students, I’ve reached out to different special needs organizations connecting to our school. A lot of people who can help put into words what I’ve been thinking or I’ve been feeling. The amount of people who know or love someone who is not neurotypical is staggering and there’s a lot of unnamed ideas around it and the community has been so supportive to me to say that they appreciate hearing my story because it’s really helping them with theirs.

HH: Is there anything that you’d like to say to anyone who’d like to start writing?

Moore: I think the most important thing is to create a system where you empty the ideas that pop into your head for when you want to write them. There are so many things that happen in the life of a student, or anyone really and if there’s the notes on your phone or a little notebook that you keep to jot down the idea or thought and then you have time to go back to those thoughts when you can really flesh them out, you can use some of the things you’ve learned from freshman writing to do so, I think that’d help people to get into the routine. Also never throw anything away because you’re never sure when it might be helpful, and to be kind to yourself because it’s supposed to be fun.