I first learned about Ginny Rorby in 2009 when I was unpacking new books at our school library. Flipping through the back of Hurt Go Happy I read a note from the publisher that the author was interested in corresponding with students about her books.
With the support of our principal, I arranged to have a class of 5th graders call Ms. Rorby and talk with her about her books. She was ready for our call and answered each pre-approved question with patience and enjoyment. As a children’s book author, I was impressed with the author’s willingness to take time from her writing schedule to talk with students.
Ms. Rorby and I have kept in touch and I’ve ordered her subsequent books which you can read about below. They are popular at the middle school library where I work and I encourage other children’s librarians to purchase them.
Ginny Rorby has always been fascinated by animals. “We didn’t have TV when I was growing up,” she said. “I looked for animals outside our Florida home to take home. Mom allowed me to keep anything I found.”
That included dead things, which Rorby promptly put into bottles of alcohol. She considered going to college to be a paleontologist and study dinosaur bones. Instead, due to poor grades in college (she had to take a remedial English class), she took two years of college and became a flight attendant.
Regretting her decision not to finish college, Rorby enrolled in Biology classes while flying. “Biology was the only thing I did well,” she said. One day, Rorby, incensed about the plight of an abandoned dog she had found, wrote an editorial piece for a local newspaper. The editor was so pleased with her essay that he contacted her, asking for more.
That call changed Rorby’s life. After graduating from college, she signed up for a Master’s of Fine Arts degree at Florida International University near Miami.
As part of the curriculum, Rorby began writing her first children’s book. The plot’s premise was based on a 1979 movie she had seen called The Electric Horseman starring Robert Redford. “The hero in the movie steals a horse that was being mistreated and released it into the wild,” she said. “I recalled a situation with captive dolphins in a tourist trap near Miami and it angered me enough to write a book about it.”
The book, Dolphin Sky, is the story of a girl who befriended dolphins, then let them go. It was Rorby’s thesis project for her MFA. Rorby worked on the book for 12 years. Before it was published by G.P. Putnam in 1994, it endured 14 rejections.
Rorby’s next book, Hurt Go Happy, again came from an animal story she had read in the newspaper (“I’m not an idea person,” she admitted. “I recycle stories from something I’ve heard or read.”). The article profiled a woman who taught sign language to a chimp. In Rorby’s book she created a deaf girl who was not permitted to use sign language to communicate. The girl subsequently met a chimp, taught it sign language, and rescued it from a research facility. Hurt Go Happy is the winner of the American Library Association’s Schneider Family Book Award.
The plot for The Outside of a Horse was prompted by TV stories Rorby had viewed. “I saw an interesting documentary on TV about horses that pull the caissons at Arlington National Cemetery for funerals,” said Rorby. “Other times they help with physical therapy for returning Iraq wounded vets.”
In her book The Outside of a Horse Rorby describes a young girl who volunteers at a local stable. She wants to help her dad, a soldier with a missing leg and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) just returned to the US from Iraq, by convincing him to take riding lessons.
Rorby’s newest novel, Lost in the River of Grass, takes place in the Florida Everglades. All of her books are available as eBooks on Sony, Google, Nook, and Kindle.
Rorby, who lives in northern California, has assisted other writers by serving as the director of a writing conference in Mendocino, California.
When asked for writing advice, Rorby says this: “I believe to do anything well a person needs to put 10,000 hours of practice into it. Writing is like any art form. You can’t expect to do it well the first time. You have to practice. A writer needs to write a lot and often. I didn’t know I would be a writer, but I read a lot. I kept a journal in which I wrote daily. Today, reading and writing for me are like inhaling and exhaling. I have to do both.”
Feedback from readers of Rorby’s books has been positive. “Kids who have read my books have been helped,” said Rorby. “One girl wrote that her father had been in the war in Iraq and her grandfather was a Vietnam vet. The family had dealt with PTSD. She told me how much the book helped them deal with issues. That’s what I was trying to do.”
Ginny Rorby enjoys hearing from readers. To contact her and learn more about her books go to http://ginnyrorby.com
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