W riting can be solitary work. There you are, clacking away at the keys in the wee hours of morning or in the dead of night, the world outside falling away as you experience the world of your characters. It can be lonely sometimes. With Song of the Sea, I got lucky; two dear friends made their own footprints in the sand, if you will — encouraging, applauding, critiquing, asking pointing questions, and pushing Naomi and the rest along.

Now that I’ve reached the end of Naomi’s journey, they went back and asked me some questions:

What were your aims with Song of the Sea?

I wanted to explore the world through the mind and heart of someone “different,” and I thought I could make this “educational fun” — throw in a bunch of science facts to see if I could broaden minds while I was at it. Why not make Naomi a science geek? (This was partly based on a sister of mine who is a something of a science aficionado). So you ended up reading about the root system of a pine tree, that the lights from the stars are four years old, and I had a good time researching obscure science facts. About a third of the way in, though, I let that go. What I really wanted to do was teach teens a couple of things about themselves. How resilient you are. How difference is good. How the kid with ADHD can teach you a thing or two about life. (Thank you, Kayla.) About the power of dreams — young dreams, ambitious dreams. (Thank you, Leeba.) How you can get up, go on, forgive, and move on, even when you’ve been hurt. How that bookish kid with the long science report might be worth getting to know, and she might have a rich inner world that you’d never expect. (Thank you, Naomi, of course.)

Which was your favorite character to write and why?

Mrs. Marcus. Hands down. Flowery skirt, “M” necklace, cool experiments.

Her character came from the teacher I always wished I could be. But really, there is a bit of Mrs. Marcus inside every teacher. That woman out front, her sheitel straggly, or nice and flippy, that woman with the heels or the orthopedic shoes, with the perfect makeup or the wan face — that woman cares more than you’ll ever know. She cares to help and guide and make a difference in your life, and she wants you to shine.

I know I’ve been lucky enough to have a couple of “Mrs. Marcus” look-alikes along my own school journey. Chances are, in your ten-year-plus trek through school, you’ve found one, too. This zany, intuitive science teacher is an ode to them all! 

(Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 703)