Twenty-Nine Sneezes by Judythe A. Guarnera

Having an opportunity to guest on Marilyn Meredith’s blog is ultra-exciting. Given my one published novel, Twenty-Nine Sneezes, I’m in awe of the many mysteries she’s written.

Since I never wanted to write fiction, it’s not too surprising I haven’t devoted myself to that endeavor. I love to write but am happiest when I complete writing projects and send them off for possible publications in anthologies, newspapers, writing columns, and/or magazines.

I used to envy my husband, Steve, when he was still teaching/coaching a classroom of kids. Although he put in long hours, fretted over how to motivate his students, and came home exhausted to begin planning for the next day, there was always an end in sight. The school year completed, students moved on. Come fall, he could start over with fresh, young faces. (A point of clarity, here: he devoted many hours during the summer prepping for the next year. But the prepping didn’t involve students.)

When I worked as a non-profit program manager, as soon as one grant was written, the next appeared on my desk. The same was true of reports, or the multiple ongoing responsibilities I faced. Projects might seem to be finished, but frequently they just folded into new projects, which required ongoing attention. No end of the year for me.

No surprise, then, when I retired and began to write seriously, I looked forward to writing memoir pieces, essays, and short stories, most of which could be completed in a reasonably short period of time. And then on to something new. I find that type of writing rewarding and satisfying.
Unlike the drawerful of unfinished novels many writers have, I have files and folders of short pieces in various stages of development and stacks of ideas for others.

You might be wondering what pushed me to step out of my comfort zone and write a novel. For me the answer is simple. My daughter and her husband adopted four nieces and nephews who had suffered abuse from their birth mother. As I watched these children, ages 8 to 16, struggle to make sense of a life without abuse, to try to catch up, to believe they were worthy of love, I knew I had to write about them.

Although I had background training, which, along with research, could have supported a non-fiction book on abuse, I decided a fiction book might be more effective—easier to read, less factual and pedantic. Although Twenty-Nine Sneezes is not the story of my adoptive grandchildren’s struggles specifically, it mirrors what they and other abused children have suffered.

Approaching the story as fiction also made it easier for me to step back from the personal pain I felt as adoptive grandmother to these kids. Emily, the abused child shares protagonist status with her grandmother, Marissa. I tell people Marissa is not me, but the skillful Grandmother I wish I could have been.

A key mission of the book is to raise the awareness of the general population that when the door closes on abuse, it is just the beginning of the journey for the victim and the family of the victim. Both need ongoing support and understanding.

If you have a book club and would like me to discuss Twenty-Nine Sneezes: A Journey of Healing, please contact me at:

The book is available in paperback and kindle at It can also be purchased at Volumes of Pleasure Book Shoppe in Los Osos, Coalesce in Morro Bay, or the Book Nook in Santa Maria.

At the age of 78, Judythe declares herself “too old to die young, which she considers a benefit to her writing.


I've read this and recommend it. Much different than most book I read.
lida sideris said…
What a wonderfully written post, Judy! I agree - it's easier to step back from pain when one writes fiction. And raising awareness of abuse is of vital importance. It sounds like you did this very well. I look forward to reading your book, Judy. Thank you, ladies.
Judythe Guarneera said…
Thanks for the plug. Lida, I'm glad you enjoyed the column. Hope you enjoy the book, too.

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