Read this inspiring article about Jennifer that was published in The Essex News Daily
Writer uses profits from her literary success to help others By: Sean Quinn – Staff Writer
WEST ORANGE — West Orange resident Jennifer Walkup achieved a lifelong dream of being a published author when her young-adult novel, “Second Verse,” was released last year. Now for most writers, seeing their work in print would be enough of an accomplishment, and Walkup said her experience was indeed “pretty incredible.” But she strived for more than personal satisfaction — she wanted to use her newfound success to help others.
That is why Walkup, whose son was diagnosed with epilepsy when he was nearly 5, is donating a portion of her book sales for the month of November to the Epilepsy Foundation. Though she does not have the relevant profit numbers yet, she said just being able to raise awareness for the neurological condition has been gratifying.
“Epilepsy is one of the most common, yet one of the most misunderstood neurological conditions,” Walkup told the West Orange Chronicle in a Nov. 29 email. “Any small part I can do in aiding in that research is time and money well spent. I hope someday there is a cure so that no individuals or families have to endure the often painful reality that is life with epilepsy.”
According to the Epilepsy Foundation, 65 million people around the world are afflicted with epilepsy, while an estimated 2.2 million people in the U.S. are currently living with it. That makes it the fourth most common neurological problem, after migraine, stroke and Alzheimer’s disease, per the foundation.Those affected suffer from seizures, which the foundation defines as brain conditions causing the “disruption of the electrical communication between neurons.” Epilepsy is commonly treated first by medications, followed by dietary therapies, brain surgeries and other means if symptoms persist.
Walkup said her son had been having seizures for years prior to his diagnosis, though she did not realize what they actually were at the time. She said her boy also underwent prolonged hospitalizations before the right combination of medications to help him was finally found. Fortunately for them, Walkup said he has been seizure-free for the past three years, though he does continue to struggle with the side effects of the medications and epilepsy.
Now, Walkup just hopes to benefit other people facing the same issues her family has dealt with.
“I am very excited to be able to share this issue with the world through my outreach and my books,” Walkup said. “I am simply thrilled with the awareness of epilepsy that has hopefully been raised.”
What is also thrilling for Walkup is the fact that her writing career is really taking off. “Second Verse” recently won the gold medal for teen mystery at the 2013 Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards. The romantic thriller, which tells the story of a group of teenagers who receive a clue to solving a centuries-old murder after conducting a seance in an old barn, is the culmination of at least 25 years of writing experience, during which time she has written a few other unpublished novels for young adults.
The reason she prefers writing for teen readers, Walkup said, relates to her subject material.
“There is something about writing for that age group that has always very much resonated with the stories I have to tell, as well as my authorial voice,” Walkup said. “Plus, both teens and adults read young adult books, so in some ways it is the best of both worlds as far as readership goes.”
Walkup’s next novel, “This American Life,” which will be released on Oct. 1, continues her trend of writing for young adults. She said the story is about a teenage radio host who must balance life with her alcoholic mother with caring for her young brother who — in a connection to Walkup’s actual life — is epileptic. Though it is more grounded in reality than “Second Verse,” she said her second outing as an author has the potential to please its fans.
“It is intense and heartbreaking in a different way than my first novel, but I do hope the ultimate takeaway for readers is one of hope,” Walkup said.
As for aspiring West Orange writers like she once was, Walkup urged them to never give up on their dreams. If they want to become published authors, she said, the key is to always remain persistent.
“Read and write, and then read and write some more,” Walkup said. “Keep doing both, as much as you can. Get critique partners, learn the craft. Keep learning and submitting your stories and novels, even with adversity, even with the rejection. Publishing is not always a simple path, but if you want to be published, you have to just keep moving forward.”