"Thank you so much for this wonderful honor and for giving me the opportunity to express my thanks for selecting Rain Reign as the winner of the Cartwheel Book Award for Best Ending. Rain Reign began with a character – Rose, a young girl who’s fascinated with homonyms (as I am). But in the beginning I was thinking of a quirky girl with unusual interests, not necessarily a girl on the autism spectrum. Next I imagined Rose as a rule-follower, and at the point she began to present herself to me as possibly autistic. Her father took shape next, a poor father indeed, but an especially unsympathetic parent for Rose, who needs an emotional compass in her life. At last Rose’s uncle came into focus – exactly the kind of adult Rose does need, and to whom she can relate.
However, I still didn’t have a clear idea of Rose’s story until Hurricane Irene hit upstate New York, where I live. As I walked up and down my road in the days following the storm, looking at washed-out driveways and stone walls, at trees that had fallen on houses, and learned of all the people who had lost their homes, and of all the pets who had become separated from their owners, a story for Rose finally began to take shape. I began to think about a dog lost during the storm. If she became separated from her owners, how might they be reunited? How might Rose, with her particular personality and gifts, orchestrate a search? Once I had worked out the details, I turned my attention to Rose’s voice. How would she tell her story? Creating characters and finding their voices is my favorite part of the writing process, and Rose’s voice, which I had thought might be challenging, came to me more easily than I had expected. Her straightforward and literal manner of thought helped to define the chapters and the story trajectory. For all of these reasons I felt very protective of Rose. I gave her a parent who didn’t understand her, and then I took away Rain, her emotional anchor.
I am especially pleased to have won the Best Ending Award, because when I handed in the rough draft of Rain Reign, my editor’s first comment was that she felt Rain’s original owners should let Rose keep her. I wanted Rain to be Rose’s dog too, especially since I felt so protective of Rose, but I didn’t feel this was a realistic ending. I talked to my editor and explained why I felt that the book needed to end the way it did. I’m glad we reached an agreement! I hope readers find Rose’s story uplifting; that they realize Rose has a long road ahead of her, but see that she now has a positive support system, including her first friend, and that she knows she did the right thing for Rain. Again, many thanks for the Cartwheel Book Award, and for hearing and understanding Rose Howard."