A little Q& A with the author and series creator Monica Vest Wheeler
Q: Who are you?
A: I’m Monica Vest Wheeler, proud to be born
in the Hoosier state of Indiana, now a resident of Peoria, Illinois, since July 1979, when I married my high school sweetheart, Roger,
and we started our life together. We have one son, Gordo, who is married and lives nearby.
Q: So, what do you do?
A: I’ve been writing ever since I could hold a pencil. I always knew I wanted to grow up and write books. I would spend countless hours creating stories and sharing them with my friends. I still have a lot of those tales in old spiral notebooks!
When I was in high school, I joined the school newspaper, loved it and decided to study journalism in college. My parents were very supportive as I worked to earn my bachelor’s degree at the University of Evansville in three years so that Roger and I could get married after five years of dating!
I worked on weekly newspapers in the Peoria area from 1980 until January 1992 when I was fired and decided to start my own writing business. It was the best thing that ever happened because I then realized just how burned out I had been in the newspaper world and how much time it was taking from me and my family. I was much, much happier being my own boss!
After that, I focused on writing, researching and creating regional history books. I still love history, yet I was drawn to the emotions of health issues. I co-authored a book on coping with cancer, and then wrote “Alzheimer’s, Dementia and Memory Loss: Straight Talk for Families and Caregivers.”
After my work on the Alzheimer’s book, I knew that brain-related topics were my calling. For the past decade, I have been compelled to help individuals and families cope with the everyday and emotional challenges of brain-related injuries, illnesses and diseases because the need is so great. I then wrote: "Coping with Stroke: 50 Answers to Everyday Caregiver Challenges" and am building upon that series.
Q: Why brain-related topics?
A: It isn’t easy to cope with the effects of serious health issues like Alzheimer’s, stroke, traumatic brain injury, acquired brain injury, brain cancer and brain tumors, depression, and many more. I have interviewed and interacted with thousands of individuals on these topics in so many settings and learned so much. I’ve also experienced first-hand just how difficult some of these challenges can be. More on that later …
Sometimes injury or disease changes how a person behaves or acts around others, their ability to speak or move or function physically. Some people lose the ability to understand or express language. Yet others may lose the ability to move parts of their body, to walk or get around like “normal” people. As I write and create in a very informal and conversational style, I work hard to offer common sense approaches to dealing with the emotions these challenges stir.
As I’ve fallen in love with so many individuals and families affected by brain-related injuries, illnesses and diseases, I have been reminded time and again that basic human needs never change: the desire to be heard and understood, the need to be touched and appreciated, and the life force of loving and to be loved.
Q: Who draws Eddie and Ella?
A: So glad you asked! I found illustrator Agus Prajoga after searching extensively for an artist to help me fulfill my wish to help kids understand how their brain works in the most basic of terms. I wanted to teach them the warning signs of brain issues such as stroke, which is the first in the series, and why we need to be more compassionate and understanding about changes in the brain. And my list of topics grows daily!
Agus and I clicked immediately as he grasped my mission, and it’s like he can see exactly what I’m envisioning. We also brainstorm (pun intended), and he has created some of the most wonderful illustrations featuring “our kids,” Eddie and Ella. The names Eddie and Ella came to me in a dream, and I fell in love with them immediately!
Wait until you see what is coming up! You’ll love how we Explain My Brain™!"