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Writing Characters Who are Nonverbal or Intellectually Disabled
Episode 2119th April 2023 • Author Express • Shawna Rodrigues, Kathleen Basi, Kristi Leonard
00:00:00 00:13:57

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With a background in romance, Gina Andrew has published a series of Halloween romantic comedy novellas, two romantic suspense novels, and the novelette Girl Meets Grammarian, which was included in World Weaver Press’s collection Covalent Bonds and nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She has also had short romances published in Woman’s World magazine and is a freelance writer for the reader sites BookBub and Scribd.

In 2018, Gina pivoted to writing more women’s fiction, and that fall became represented by Laura Crockett at Triada US. Last year, she had the idea of getting together with a group of women’s fiction authors to write a short story collection, and A Million Ways: Stories of Motherhood was born.

The collection includes short women’s fiction stories from 13 authors centered around the theme of motherhood and spanning the past century. The title is drawn from a quote by Jill Churchill, which reads, “There’s no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one.” Gina is excited to share this collection and particularly discuss her story, “Everything Left Unsaid,” which draws from both her love of cooking and her experience as the mom to two boys with nonverbal autism and intellectual disability.

You can learn more about Gina on her website,, or find her on Facebook at


Support your local bookstore & this podcast by getting your copy of A Million Ways: Stories of Motherhood at

A little about today's host-

Author and musical composer Kathleen Basi is mother to three boys and one chromosomally-gifted daughter. Her debut novel, A SONG FOR THE ROAD, follows a musician on an unconventional road trip. Bestselling author Kerry Anne King writes, “In a novel filled with music, heartbreak, and surprising laughter, Basi takes us on a journey that encompasses both unimaginable loss and the powerful resilience of the human heart.”

Meaty, earnest, occasionally humorous, and ultimately uplifting, Kathleen’s fiction highlights the best within ourselves and each other. She writes monthly reflections on life, writing and beauty on her newsletter. Subscribe at

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Learn more about our hosts, the guests we've had, and their books -


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Kathleen Basi 0:00

Welcome to Author Express. Thanks for checking us out. This is the podcast where you give us 15 minutes of your time and we give you a chance to hear the voice behind the pages and get to know some of your favorite writers in a new light. I'm one of your hosts Kathleen Basi. I'm an award winning musical composer, a feature writer, essayist, and of course storyteller. Let me tell you a little bit about today's guest.

Kathleen Basi 0:27

Gina Andrew has written quirky stories involving poets, ghosts, grammar nerds, horror geeks, and graffiti artists. But what they all have in common is they're filled with complex women, humor and heart. A Texas transplant, she lives outside Houston with her husband and two sons, both of whom are on the autism spectrum. Gina is also a freelance writer for BookBub and Scribd. In her spare time, she enjoys all things related to books along with yoga, crafts, monster movies, and genealogy. She's probably drinking tea as you read this. Welcome, Gina. How are you doing today?

Gina Andrew 1:02

Good. How you doing?

Kathleen Basi 1:03

I am doing fine. Thank you. Tell me the most interesting thing about where you're from.

Gina Andrew 1:08

Right now, I'm in Houston, Texas. I am not from here originally, as you said in my bio. I'm originally from the Pacific Northwest. And then I was on the East Coast for about 20 years. But we've been in Houston for about five and a half years at this point. And I would say sort of the most surprising thing when we moved here and I didn't know much about Texas and Houston is what a great diversity of restaurants we have. We have kind of every kind of cuisine imaginable. Thai, Korean, South African and that we have every combination like, we have a new place of Korean hotdogs or corndogs that my friends have been telling me about. We have a sushi burrito place.

Kathleen Basi 1:51

I've heard of sushi burrito but tell me about Korean corndog. What are Korean hotdog? What is Korean hotdog?

Gina Andrew 1:58

Yeah. I haven't tried corndogs yet. My friend just had them the other day and they were raving about them. They're like, filled with either meat or cheese or both. And then they have sort of toppings covered around the like, I guess corn part of the dog, but they were raving about it. So, I'm gonna have to get myself some Korean corndog soon for sure. But

Kathleen Basi 2:19

I know. This is making me hungry. Just thinking about it.

Gina Andrew 2:22

I know. Yeah, I wasn't into the sushi burritos. I've had sushi burritos one time. And I like sushi. And I like burritos. But I don't know if I like sushi burrito.

Kathleen Basi 2:33

I haven't had those.

Gina Andrew 2:34


Kathleen Basi 2:34

but I have heard of them.

Gina Andrew 2:35

Yeah, it's like one of those one time thing.

Kathleen Basi 2:38

So, tell me what's the best piece of advice anyone has ever given to you.

Gina Andrew 2:42

I think the best piece of advice, it's not from any one person in particular. But something I've heard from a few different sources is the idea of utilizing small spans of time to get stuff done. And this is something I've used both in my writing and then just doing stuff around the house. I'm a mom and a freelance writer and a fiction writer. And so, when you have a really busy life, you have to get stuff done in small little chunks here and there. And I think Gretchen Rubin, I don't know if you know her, but she does a Happiness Project. She has a couple of nonfiction books out. Anyway, she talks about how people often overestimate how much they can get done in large spans of time, like, a day. And how they underestimate how much they can get done in these little bits of time. So, it's like, you might not be able to write five chapters of a book in a day. But you might be able to take an hour and get a really good start on one chapter. So, I tried to use that. I tried to keep that in mind, both with writing and just like, unloading the dishwasher.

Kathleen Basi 3:47

That is good advice. And I think it's very true. They say that you ask a busy person if you need something done quickly, because busy person knows how to get things done in the most time efficient manner. Sounds like, you're all over there.

Gina Andrew 4:01

Yeah, I mean, you know, sometimes I do better than others. But yeah, I try to like, keep it in mind. Like, I think my most productive day last week was the day where it had two medical appointments in the morning and like, you know, on paper it looked like, a day where I was gonna get nothing done. But I was like, I got up in the morning and get the kids on the bus. I have an hour before I have to go to my mammogram. So, I was like, what can I get done in an hour so, I did something, you know,

Kathleen Basi 4:26


Gina Andrew 4:27

And then I had like, between the mammogram and a dentist appointment, I got some other stuff done. So, it actually was like, better than a day where I had nothing scheduled. I was like, I have all day to do these two or three things and I do half of them. So,

Kathleen Basi 4:45

well, and with doctor's appointments, I imagine some of it depends on how long you have to sit in the waiting room.

Gina Andrew 4:49


Kathleen Basi 4:50

Cause for me that can be very productive time because if you just don't connect to the Wi Fi, then you can really concentrate on something.

Gina Andrew 4:56

Yeah, that's true. Yeah, unfortunately, I have connected to the Wi Fi but yeah, I go through my cell or something during that time, but yeah, it's right. Good waiting time.

Kathleen Basi 5:06

I would imagine that having a special needs parenting also intensifies the need to be efficient with time.

Gina Andrew 5:13

Yeah, I mean, there's definitely always a lot more. I mean, in my experience, both my kids are special needs. So, it's kind of all I'm used to, in a certain respect, but there definitely is a lot more sort of communications and emails and seems to be, you know, around, they're having to communicate with their teachers, probably a lot more than I would maybe otherwise.

Kathleen Basi 5:32


Gina Andrew 5:33

And just little, you know, trainings and all that stuff. So,

Kathleen Basi 5:37

yeah, very true. So, let's switch gears and talk about your book a little bit. Tell us what book you are talking about today to start with.

Gina Andrew 5:45

I am actually talking about a collection of short stories I'm doing with 12 other authors. It's called, A Million Ways: Stories of Motherhood. And what it is, is there's 13 of us doing short stories, and like, a diverse range of short stories, some of them are contemporary, some of them historicals, that during the war, the Great Depression, we've got stories of young moms, two adult women attending their strange mother's funeral, but they're all united around this idea of motherhood. So, my story in that collection is called, Everything Left Unsaid. And it's about a woman who is mourning her own mother who died several months ago. And she's been given by her father this box of old recipes from her mother. And she's sort of rifling through these and eventually decides to make a cake recipe and, and she's kind of musing about how her and her mother never really were on the same page, they always sort of, were speaking different languages. So, the story is a lot about communication. And she herself is a special needs mother, like myself. She has a daughter who is on the autism spectrum and doesn't speak. So, the story is, it's about this woman grieving her mother, but also ties into her relationship with her daughter. And this idea of people communicating in different ways. People expressing love in different ways. And there's also just a lot of stuff about cooking like, recipes and baking and

Kathleen Basi 7:18

you are hitting all of my happy spots here.

Gina Andrew 7:22

I just realized I'm talking about food a lot in this episode, but I kind of

Kathleen Basi 7:28

hey, you know, food is a great thing. I married an Italian. So, it's all about the food.

Gina Andrew 7:33

Yeah, you probably have a lot to talk about with food.

Kathleen Basi 7:37

Yes, we do. I love that though. I love the, the idea that you've got this commonality of not being able to communicate with her own mother and not being able to communicate with her daughter for a very different reason. And how and I, I assume that the baking probably has a lot to do with that too. I just love it all.

Gina Andrew 7:56

Yeah, her mother was a person who was often in the kitchen. And that was kind of where she felt most at home. It uh, you know, I don't want to sort of spoil the ending in case anybody reads it. But

Kathleen Basi 8:07

oh, which we hope they will.

Gina Andrew 8:09

Yeah, which we hope they will. But I think she kind of sort of realizes that that was, you know, kind of her mother's way of expressing affection and love, you know?

Kathleen Basi 8:20

So, what do you hope that readers take away from this book as a whole and from your story within it?

Gina Andrew 8:26

I think for the collection, as a whole, I just hope people kind of take away sort of the multifacetedness, or I'm probably saying that wrong. But like, the sense of motherhood, not just being one thing, there's different ways to be a mother. There's different experiences and means different things. And I think our stories really show that because there's just kind of everything under the sun in it from, you know, happy to sad and different ages and wildly different experiences. So, from the collection as a whole, I just hope readers both are entertained and enjoy the collection and also reflects on, you know, their own relationships with their mothers or their own children or just motherhood in society. In terms of my own story, everything left unsaid. I think the thing I wanted to do the most is, I definitely wanted to tell the story about this woman grieving her mother and thinking and connecting with her mother through that way. But I deliberately wanted her to be a special needs mother like I am. Because I don't think we're seeing enough characters with special needs in books, not as much as I'd like. We're seeing a lot more characters on the autism spectrum in the past several years, which is wonderful, and I'm really in support of that. But for me, we're not seeing a lot of characters like my kids that don't speak or very limited verbally, that maybe have diagnosis of intellectual disability that are either fully independent or won't be fully independent. Like, we're not really seeing those type of characters yet. So, I also wrote a book in the past that maybe hopefully one day, you know, knock on wood will see the light of day with another who has a son with, that's 12. And he also is limited verbally on the spectrum and intellectually disabled and has some behaviors, like my kids have behaviors. So, I would love to see more characters just in general one books that, that have some of the stuff going on. Because, you know, I think that's what I want people to take away is people like my kids exist, families like my own exist. And these kids and adults, they've got their own quirks and their passions, and they're worthy of love. They, you know, they might kind of look different, they might behave differently, they might speak in different ways than you're used to. But they're here, you know. So, I think that's what I would, a lot of people to get from my story in particular, in my writing, and in general, I'm trying to kind of push myself to do that more to have more characters that you might not see in books.

Kathleen Basi:

Yeah, yeah. I love that. I mean, as a special needs parent myself, I'm 100%, everything you just said.

Gina Andrew:


Kathleen Basi:

so I love that. Well, tell me very briefly, as we get close to the end of our time together, what part of writing brings you the most joy?

Gina Andrew:

I think I like the part of writing that brings me the most joy. I think I like that, when you're in the middle of drafting. And, you know, so much of writing is out of our control. It's like, you know, whether you get an agent or a publishing deal, or even if you're self publishing, like, if anybody reads it, if you know, like, if they're gonna like it, but I love that part when we, in the middle of a story where I can pause and I just like, listen to music, and sometimes just kind of pace around the room. And I, I really connect with the scenes like, you know, I think a lot of writers that, I don't know if you do this, but you know, like, find a song or type of music for the stories they're writing, and they, well I'm sure you're a musician, right? So, you probably are gonna connect to this, but just kind of like, kind of letting the music wash over me and really getting into that zone. I have a writing blogger. I really like, Cam Willands. I hope I'm saying her name, right.

Gina Andrew:

Yeah, I know that blog.

Gina Andrew:

Yeah, yeah, it's a great blog. And she calls it dreams zoning, where you're just kind of like, listening to music and just kind of letting scenes and ideas like, wash over you. I think that's my favorite part. Because that's, that's the part that feels like the most euphoric to me, and it's all within my control. You know, the book is still mine.

Kathleen Basi:

Very true. Okay, so, tell us where's the best place for folks to find you?

Gina Andrew:

Probably my website.

Kathleen Basi:

Very good. Okay, so let's close out today by telling me what book or story that you have read inspires you the most?

Gina Andrew:

Oh, gosh, I might kind of cheat here. I, by seg is a type of writing. I've been trying to read a poem a day this year and ask some advice from Ray Bradbury. So, that is kind of inspiring me to kind of be more poetic in my own writing by trying to read kind of absorb different kinds of poetry and, and the imagery and

Kathleen Basi:

what a great idea. What a great idea. Thank you for sharing that with us. And thank you for being with us today.

Gina Andrew:

Thank you for having me on.

Kathleen Basi:

Thanks for joining us today. We hope you'll take a second to give us some stars or a review on your favorite podcasting platform. We'll be back next Wednesday, and in the meantime, follow us on Instagram, at Author Express podcast to see who's coming up next. Don't forget, keep it express, but keep it interesting.