Ten years ago, I got the dreaded “something horrible has happened to your child” call. The day care center that watched my baby girl, Helena, phoned to say she’d been burned by an iron. The accident caused her to lose three fingers, left her with massive scars running up her arm and necessitated 18 skin-graft surgeries.

As Helena recovered, I struggled to pay the mounting bills. One day, I saw a $2,500 grand prize essay contest and decided to enter. Writing distracted me from the difficulties, and eventually, my 10-page essay turned into a 600-page story. Then, I landed a book deal and started writing full-time. Through writing books [such as the Vampire Huntress and Soul Food series, and crime novels such as Betrayal of the Trust], I discovered a newfound freedom and way of self-expression. As I watched Helena struggle through physical therapy and heal, I learned that you must use every skill and gift the creator gives you. That’s what Helena did, and so did I.