Jody Lamb is the author of Easter Ann Peters’ Operation Cool, a novel for tweens. Her experience in a family with alcoholics has made her a passionate advocate for children with alcoholic loved ones, a fan of life and a lady on a mission to change the world. By day, Jody is a corporate public relations manager. She earned a journalism degree from Michigan State University. Jody lives in metro Detroit in the beautiful Michigan mitten.
As a young girl, I thought my loved ones’ excessive, destructive drinking was a problem unique to our family. No one spoke of it, for it was a secret that once told, would surely shame us.
Finally, at 22, when my loved ones hit rock bottom in their struggles, I read everything I could find about alcoholism and its effects on families. When I discovered estimates that 10 to 25 percent of American kids live with at least one parent who abuses alcohol, I cried.
How can it remain such a family secret in the 21st century? I looked for contemporary, relatable books for children on the subject, particularly for tweens. I found few. No wonder the cycle continues, I thought. That bothered me.
I found so many posts by tweens and teens on forums about loved ones’ drinking. They were desperate for answers and facts about addiction. What I read kept me up at night.
At age 26, with a pasted-on smile, I crashed into the waiting arms of depression. It was a bona-fide, serious quarter-life crisis. I longed for a sense of purpose and satisfaction in my robotic days.
One weekend, I read my childhood diaries. I cried recalling the grand plans and dreams little-kid me had for grownup me. The only thing I could think to do to make myself feel better was to write for fun, like I did as a girl. I enrolled in a creative writing course at my local community college.
Out quickly came a short story about a 12-year-old girl’s plan to make seventh grade awesome that’s derailed as she copes with and helps her depressed, alcoholic mother in a tiny lakeside town.
I realized I was meant to write for kids with alcoholic loved ones. On the weekends and at night, I wrote like crazy and was a sponge to everything that would help me create a better story. Before long, I had a whole novel manuscript. It is the story I would have been moved by as a child. Writing it was cathartic for me. My relationship with my alcoholic loved ones dramatically improved.
The novel was rejected 30 times by agents and editors. Then I met the founder of a small publishing company. She believed in the story and in me. Easter Ann Peters’ Operation Cool was released on November 6, 2012.
It’s the story of 12-year-old Easter Ann Peters who has a plan—Operation Cool—to make her seventh grade year awesome and erase years of being known only as a quiet, straight-A student who can’t think of a comeback to her bully. When the confident new girl, Wreni, becomes her long-needed best friend, Easter lets her personality shine. The coolest guy in school takes a sudden interest. But as tough times at school fade away, so does a happy life at home. Easter’s mother is drinking a lot, and Easter works double overtime to keep their secret in the tiny lakeside town. Operation Cool derails, fast, and Easter must discover a solution.
Here’s an excerpt from Easter Ann Peters’ Operation Cool:
At two thirty three a.m., my bedroom door creaks and opens halfway, sending a thick band of hallway light into my room.
I’m out of half-sleep land right away; I rub eyes so I can see in the light.
“Mom?” I whisper, even though I already know it’s her.
She takes a few steps forward, and from the way she moves—steady and gentle—I know she’s not drunk anymore.
Yoplait’s snoring stops and beside me, she flops her body over to confirm that it’s Mom and not some intruder like Drama Chihuahua or someone else not welcome here.
“Mmm hmm,” Mom says. It sounds like her. Nice Mom. The Mom I love.
I move my legs a bit so that there’s enough space for her to sit on my bed.
Mom runs her fingers over the spot and sits.
“What’s wrong, Mom?”
After about ten seconds, she says, “Nothing, sweetheart.” Though she tries to make it convincing, the words feel empty and untrue. “Just making sure you’re warm enough. Temps went down tonight.”
She pulls my comforter up over my shoulders.
“I’m fine,” I say as upbeat as I can. “But I haven’t been able to sleep real well lately.”
“Sometimes,” she says, looking away from me now. “It’s difficult to tell your body what to do. Sometimes you lose control.”
I have no idea what that means, so I don’t say anything.
“I’ll sit here until you fall asleep,” she says.
It’s just like when I was little.
So I turn on my side and face Yoplait, who’s already back to sleep. I can tell because her tail is wagging—just a little. That means she’s dreaming of yogurt cups and running Chihuahuas out of town.
Mom leans forward and draws on my back, just like she always did.
Hearts. Trees. Butterflies. Flowers. Ice cream. Everything happy drawn gently on my t-shirt.
And I sleep.”
Right now, my first young adult novel is in progress. I’m also currently writing non-fiction books for kids related to coping when loved ones are addicted to alcohol or other drugs. I hope to find a way to provide these books to young people for free.
If a kid ever says to me, “Hey, thanks for this,” well, those four words alone will be infinitely more meaningful to me than fifty years of success in the business world.
For readers with alcoholics in their lives, I hope my books remind them that they are not alone and inspire hope. For readers who do not have alcoholics in their lives, I hope they’ll gain a more solid understanding of what alcoholism is, how it affects others and sensitivity to what their classmates, teammates and neighbors may be coping with at home.
Keep in touch with Jody through Facebook, Twitter, and her blog. Have a tween in your life or are you a tween at heart? Pick up a copy of Easter Ann Peters’ Operation Cool at Amazon or BN.com or in the Kindle store.