Amanda Smith is my sister. She’s 4 years older than me and she is the inspiration for the character of Amanda Cotter in Amanda the Teen Activist. Here are 5 things you should know about Amanda.
- She has beautiful red, curly hair and freckles.
- As a little girl, she was a cheeky little tyke.
- She loves books. So much so that she gets super excited every time she sees one.
- She’s an action chick. Her favourite bits of films are when someone gets punched in the guts or jumps off a cliff.
- She’s a daddy’s girl. Not to say she didn’t love Mum – she adored her. But she definitely has a soft spot for Dad.
I wrote Amanda the Teen Activist for my sister. If she enjoys it then I say it has been a huge success. The thing is, Amanda won’t be able to read it herself.
Amanda can’t read anymore. She can’t speak or walk or eat by herself. I live in Australia and she lives in England and that sucks because we can’t talk on the phone.
When Amanda was 6 years old she came down with chicken pox. Nearly all of us go through it. It’s a pain at the time, but most of us come out the other side unscathed. Amanda wasn’t so lucky.
Back in the mid-eighties, it was common to give kids aspirin if they were sick. There was no warning on the bottle yet. So Amanda was given an aspirin to help with the discomfort of chicken pox. She had an allergic reaction to the pill and her brain swelled up. She had to have part of her skull removed to allow for the swelling. She had a 50/50 chance of survival.
She survived, but she suffered further complications and was left profoundly physically and mentally disabled.
Amanda never got to experience her teen years in the way other teenagers would. She was very much confined inside her own head. Inside a body that would not work.
I wanted to imagine a version of Amanda as a healthy 13-year-old. What would she have got up to? I have heard all about her rebellious streak as a child and was excited about exploring that in the book. Amanda has always loved animals. She would smile and interact with our animal family members. She doesn’t have much control over her hands yet she would still try to stroke gently.
As a child, I was the well behaved one and I ended up as an animal activist determined to speak up for animals. I’m guessing Amanda would have been much more of a powerhouse than me and I hope my imagined portrayal of her does her justice.
My biggest hope for the book is that Amanda will shriek with laughter as she does when she sees her favourite books. I hope that she will smile at the funny voices when someone reads it to her and I hope that she will enjoy the stories of the animals that have gone through hard times, just like she has.
Life is a weird thing, isn’t it?
I guess all we can do is to be as kind as possible for however long we have.