NEWS-_ML_NicholsMom becomes author, parent-helper

The summer before her first child was to enter kindergarten, ML Nichols searched the town for literature on what to expect and what to do with a child entering school. To her chagrin, she found none.

 

Instead, the mother of two decided to learn as much about the school by getting involved with the school council at Chandler Elementary and eventually becoming president of the parent-teacher association. For the past 12 years, Nichols has been involved with school-related activities and eventually created the Parent Connection, a non-profit organization that provides programs for child development and education. Through the program, Nichols has worked with nearly 50 different child experts, parenting experts and child psychologists.

“I learned so much through working with the Parent Connection about child development and education,” Nichols said. “Over the years, I became a point-person for a lot of parents around town.”

One day, as she was walking down Powder Point Avenue with a friend, she was stopped by four people who all had parenting or child education questions.

“It was sort of my ‘aha’ moment because I realized how much people valued my opinion and my help,” she said. “A couple of weeks later, my dad asked if I had ever thought about writing a book. It then hit me: what if I wrote that book I never found all those years ago?”

Nichols then set out to learn everything she could about writing a non-fiction book. After identifying about 25 agents she would like to work with and eventually whittling it down to the right one, Nichols began working seriously on her proposal. She then decided upon an editor and was given six months to write the entire first draft.

“Usually writers have 12 months to write a book like this,” she said. “But they wanted it out in time for the start of school this year so we fast-tracked it.”

Throughout the production process, the book had a string of connections with the name “Sandy.” Her first draft was due on the Friday when Hurricane Sandy hit and so was delayed a few days. In the midst of writing the book, Nichols’ mother, Sandy, died and when the second draft was due, the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings took place.

I froze for a few days after Sandy Hook,” Nichols said. “It took me a while to get back into the swing of things.”

Nichols’ family has also had a significant impact on the book. When she was looking for an agent, she had narrowed it down to two and could not come up with a decision. Her youngest daughter asked why she was stressed out.

“She said ‘isn’t an agent just supposed to sell the book?’” Nichols said. “She then asked me ‘Who is going to sell it better?’ And it hit me.”

When she was working through one of her several ed- its, she thought about giving up the project. Her husband then came to the rescue, reminding her of the years of work she had already put into the project and inspiring her to persevere. It was her oldest daughter who came up with the name, “The Parent Backpack.”

Looking forward, Nichols said she may write another book, but she is mostly focused on book talks now. When asked about her inspiration for continuing with the book, she quoted a plaque given to her by a friend.

“ ‘What would you attempt to do if you knew you couldn’t fail?’” she said. “I believed that I was going to write this book one day and, after climbing a lot of hills, I made it.”