The Divining Wand

Discovering authors beyond their pages…

Presenting Debutante Kim Stagliano and
All I Can Handle: I’m No Mother Teresa

November 01, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books

Debutante Kim Stagliano has the honor of being the first Class Member of the 2011 Debutante Ball to waltz across the ballroom floor and into bookstores with her memoir, All I Can Handle: I’m No Mother Teresa: A Life Raising Three Daughters with Autism, officially launching today. And ironically the author may be the most reluctant Deb, never imagining her life as it is or that — in a September 1, 2010 post, Wenesday’s with Deb Kim — she would write:

“My book is a “’Kimoir’” (memoir makes me feel O-L-D) and sure to make you laugh, even if you have to grab a tissue once or twice while you read. I started writing in 2003 when my husband Mark was out of work. It was cheaper than therapy and healthier than overdoing the cocktail hour, if you know what I mean. Mark and I live in Fairfield County, Connecticut and have three beautiful daughters – who have an autism diagnosis. Mia is 15, Gianna is 14 and Bella is 9. Our lives are anything but typical, never boring (how I long for boredom!) and often upside down and inside out.”

How did her life story evolve? Here’s a synopsis:

How one woman raises three autistic daughters, loses one at Disneyworld, stays married, Has sex, bakes gluten-free, goes broke, and keeps her sense of humor.

“Dr. Spock? Check. Penelope Ann Leach (Remember her?)? Check. What to Expect When You’re Expecting? Check. I had a seven-hundred–dollar Bellini crib for God’s sake!” So begins Kim Stagliano’s electrifying, hilarious tale of her family’s journey raising three daughters with autism. With her funny, startling, and illuminating first book, Stagliano joins the ranks of bestselling memoirists like David Sedaris and Augusten Burroughs. With her willingness to lay everything on the table—family, friends, and enemies to basement floods to birth days to (possible) heroin addictions—she eviscerates and celebrates the absurd.

Whether she’s going commando to rescue a daughter from a potentially embarrassing situation or accidentally stealing electric fans, she and her family are seemingly always on the edge of a Stagtastrophe. From her love of Howard Stern to her increasing activism in the autism community and exhaustive search for treatments that will help her daughters, she explores her life with vigor and humor. Always outspoken, often touching, and sometimes heart breaking, Kim Stagliano is a powerful new voice in comedic writing—her “Kimoir” (as she calls it) will be a must-read for everyone within the autism community. More than that, it’s the debut of a new voice that will entertain everyone who reads it.

Unlike other books on autism, Kim promises hers is different because “it’s very funny.” And it is, despite these two sobering statistics: In 2010 there will be 1 in 110 children diagnosed with some form of autism, and couples with an autistic child(ren) have an 80% divorce rate. Yes, it’s a bit overwhelming and yet it makes for the best of reality reading. In fact think of the “Kimoir” as better than anything reality TV has to offer since the Stagliano’s experiences are unscripted, unedited, and Kim is not Mother Teresa. As she explains:

“The first and biggest difference between my book and many of the others out there is that it’s very funny. My style and voice lend themselves to writing humor, even when the topic isn’t all that funny. Also, mine combines our family life outside of autism – meaning our financial trials, including when my husband lost his job twice in one year. That was fun….”

Now here’s an example of a “fun” Stagastrophe from an Excerpt of All I Can Handle.

And be sure to read the heartfelt Reviews.

There is no cure for autism — which has been under the field of psychiatry since it was first seen and defined by Leo Kanner in the 1930s. However Kim, in her role of Mom/advocate/activist, believes parents should explore every option for their child, even when it’s difficult (like radically changing their diet.) While all this author wants is the best for those with autism, there are those who condemn her efforts towards hope. Still the “Kimoir” is not meant to be controversial, rather it was written for readers to understand autism and thus be more accepting of those who have it. In fact the author’s message can be applied to everyone with differences and challenges, particularly in these days of “bullying.” Simply put, Kim’s hope is that the book will promote the following:

“Just follow the Golden Rule. Do unto others…. If you see a behavior that’s funky, like gorgeous Mia sucking her thumb, which she does sometimes, take a second to wonder if Mia might have “’something’” (you don’t have to know it’s autism) instead of staring and making a face in her or my direction. It’s OK to be startled or even aghast at a meltdown or inappropriate behavior, just pause for a moment before reacting. If you’re horrified, I’m horrified times a million and I really appreciate when people are kind. So do my girls, even if they cannot tell you so. They are people – do not refer to them autistic or autistics – any more than I would call someone with cancer, cancerous. Autism is not who they are – it’s what they have.”

Respect is what Kim wants for her girls and the 1 in 110 other children and adults diagnosed with varying degrees of autism. No financial contributions, no sympathy or praise for being a “good Mom.” Instead she faces reality head on and deals with whatever arises with humor, faith, and the knowledge that her daily life will be filled with the unexpected.

Enlightening and entertaining, All I Can Handle: I’m No Mother Teresa: A Life Raising Three Daughters with Autism is a “must read” and even a “feel good” read as Kim and her husband care for their three stunning daughters — yes, there are 24 color pictures — with love and commitment for the long haul.

And, when you do read, consider Kim’s simple wish from a September 15, 2010 post, I’ve Never Given Up Imaginary Friends:

“You’re never alone if you can read.

That’s why every year, when I sit at my children’s IEP meetings (those are planning meetings for special ed, my three girls have autism) I say, “’I just want my girls to read.’” I know that if they can develop some level of reading skill, even if it’s “’just’” a 4th grade level, they will never be alone and will always have friends too.”

Book Giveaway: This week Skyhorse Publishing has generously provided The Divining Wand with two Hardcover copies of Kim Stagliano’s All I Can Handle: I’m No Mother Teresa to be given away in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, November 3, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.

Guest Kim Stagliano on
Favorite Books: All Treat No Trick

October 26, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[Kim Stagliano (All I Can Handle: I’m No Mother Teresa: A Life Raising Three Daughters with Autism) — wife, mother, writer/columnist/blogger/, autism activist, and memoirist — leads a 24/7 life. How does she manage to cope with it all? In today’s guest post, Kim shares her favorite, tried-and-true form of relaxation.]

Favorite Books: All Treat No Trick

Thank you for inviting me to share some thoughts on Divining Wand as we countdown to one of my favorite holidays, Halloween.

As the 31st approaches I’m proud to announce that my 300 piece bag of chocolate candy from Costco is as intact as a virgin on her wedding day, safely “hidden” in my coat closet. (Thinking. Maybe just one piece? No! You’ve made it this far, Kim, don’t DO IT!) OK, the moment has passed. Sure we all love candy. But I might be the only one of us who grew up with a drawer in her kitchen called, “The Candy Drawer.” And my Dad was an orthodontist! We still call it that when we go home to my parents’ house in Massachusetts. And there’s usually a Hershey bar or two in it. For a while anyway. The untouched Costco bag is a big deal. Halloween is one of those holidays for children that adults can enjoy just as much and on the same level – candy, costumes, parties. 

My life can be chaotic. A lot of things haven’t gone quite as I’d planned. My husband and I have three beautiful girls with autism. They are almost 16, 14 and 10 years old, and I love them more than all the Kit Kats in the world. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say that our lives get really stressful because of the autism.

One of my coping mechanisms is reading. Thinking about Halloween got me thinking about my favorite books from childhood, and how I still love them and turn to them from time to time for the comfortable feeling of going back in time. My wise parents enrolled me in the Weekly Reader book club in the mid 1970s and saved the books for me.

Those old childhood books have a special way of soothing me when I’m as frazzled as a handful of Twizzlers. Before writing this, I pulled a few of them off the shelf and noticed a bit of a Halloween theme in my old friends. Gus and the Baby Ghost and Lazy Tommy Pumpkinhead were favorites. Opening those covers releases a slightly damp smell of well read pages and transports me back to my childhood bedroom with the pastel wallpaper (think Brady Bunch) and the Snoopy bedspread I loved so much. 

And I relax.

The day after Halloween is All Saint’s Day. It also happens to be my launch date for my book All I Can Handle I’m No Mother Teresa. I didn’t plan that twist of calendar continuity – Mother Teresa, All Saint’s day and “me.” The book is a “Kimoir” and I’m both excited and nervous for how readers will receive it. That’s why you’ll find me on the first with my nose in one of my favorite books, surrounded by empty candy wrappers, hoping the launch is a treat and not a trick.

Note: There’s no need to wait until November 1st, All I Can Handle: I’m No Mother Teresa: A Life Raising Three Daughters with Autism is available now!

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Beth Hoffman’s Saving CeeCee Honeycutt in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Beth Hoffman and Saving CeeCee Honeycutt. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, October 27, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.

The Revealing of Kim Stagliano

October 20, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

Kim Stagliano is the first Class Member of the 2011 Debutante Ball to debut with her memoir, All I Can Handle: I’m No Mother Teresa: A Life Raising Three Daughters with Autism. Although the official launch day is November 1st, Amazon is selling and shipping the book now.

Here’s a one sentence description….and just a bit more:

How one woman raises three daughters with autism, loses one at Disney World, stays married, has sex, bakes gluten-free, goes broke, and keeps her sense of humor.

“Dr. Spock? Check. Penelope Ann Leach (remember her?)? Check. What to Expect When You’re Expecting? Check. I had a seven hundred dollar Bellini crib for God’s sake! I was perfect. And so was Mia when she was born . . .”

And this praise:

“Incredibly funny. . . A bird’s–eye view into what it’s really like
to love and raise kids with autism.” —Jenny McCarthy, world-renowned autism activist, mother, and bestselling author, in her Foreword

The Divining Wand has scheduled a presentation/review of All I Can Handle for Monday, November 1, 2010. In the meantime, let’s meet the author who offers a more personal touch to her bio:

Hi, I’m Kim Stagliano, wife, Mom, writer, tired. My husband and I have three gorgeous girls – who have autism. Kind of impossible, considering autism affects boys 4:1 over girls. Mark and I have learned that impossible is often inescapable though. My book is humorous look at a life that has been anything but ordinary or easy – and yet is full of laughter, joy and love.
I promise, you won’t need a Prozac to read it.

I’m Managing Editor of, the nation’s first daily web newspaper about the autism epidemic. I write for The Huffington Post, The Debutante Ball, The Dallas Morning News Moms Blog and am on the editorial staff of the Autism File Magazine. I speak at national autism conferences, and have appeared on Good Morning America (with the kids!), ABC News, Fox News, in The Chicago Tribune, The National Catholic Register, and on blogs around the world.

I’m available for both in-person and Skype bookclub appearances and would love to learn about YOUR story.

Mark and I live in CT with Mia, Gianna and Bella.

Impressive, yet the truth is that’s what Kim does. For who she is, it’s time to discover her revealing self:

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words
A: Raucous, amorous, unusual, blessed, tumultuous, surprising, content, introspective

Q: What is your motto or maxim?
A: I know God will only give me what I can handle. I just wish he didn’t trust me so much. (Credit Mother Teresa.)

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?

I’ve experienced perfect happiness in something as simple as watching one of my girls achieve a simple task, like when Gianna learned to tie her shoes at age 11. If I had a wand of my own, it would be hearing a doctor say, “The girls no longer have autism,” and knowing they would live out their lives independently, especially after their Dad and I are gone.

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: See above: Mark and I will leave the girls behind in this cruel world when we die.

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A: On top of The Eiffel Tower looking at Paris after dark.

Q: With whom in history do you most identify?
A: Madam Defarge. No, wait, that’s literature. I’d have to say Harriet Beecher Stow, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Her biography describes her as, “an absent-minded and moody young lady” (check) and by writing Uncle Tom’s Cabin she took great risk. Plus my roommate in boarding school was her great-great-great niece.

Q: Which living person do you most admire?
A: My little brother Richard for the honorable, kind hearted, generous man he became despite my torturing him throughout his childhood.

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases?
The clean ones? In my writing I use, “headed” far too often. Everyone heads here and there. A quick find-replace search appalled me. In speaking I say, “right” a lot as a way to affirm I’m listening to someone. I’m pretty sure it’s as annoying as “you know,” to other people’s ears.

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?

A: Real or magical? I’d like to become an astute medical intuitive and Reiko master so I could help discern what is going on inside my children, especially my youngest daughter, who is preverbal. I guess that’s both real and magical!

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: I’ve helped a lot of parents in the autism community. I think that kind of service to others is always a person’s greatest achievement.

Q: What’s your greatest flaw?
A: My temper. What! You don’t BELIEVE ME??????

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: My sense of humor.

Q: What do you regret most?
A: I regret leaving Doylestown, Pennsylvania in 1999 to move back to Cleveland, Ohio just as Mia and Gianna were getting their diagnosis. We’d have been able to do more for them in Pennsylvania, and I was closer to my family in New England.

Q: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A: I’d be the head of Health and Human Services to get real autism research and programs in place.

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: My blue Cookie Monster sized eyes. I look like The Runaway Bride in most photos.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional hero?

A: Joseph Morelli from Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum mysteries. (By favorite you mean the biggest hunk, yes?)

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?

A: Hannibal Lecter. Lord, I love him. His snark, his wit, his ability to reach down into a character’s soul and pluck the sorest string.

Q: If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A: Boomer Esiason. I had a huge crush on him in the late 1980s and met him once at a tradeshow (that puddle on the floor was me.) He has done so much for his son Gunnar and Cystic Fibrosis, and I enjoy him on WFAN radio. I’d say, “Der, blah-blu, er, er, er.” The crush continues.

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?

A: The noises people make when they eat. I want to run screaming out of the room. Funny thing is, my kids have difficulty eating and make a boatload of noise. It’s like penance.

Q: What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A: Baking.

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A:Cake decorator at Carlo’s Bakery in Hoboken, home of The Cake Boss.

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?

A: Tenacity, curiosity, loyalty

Q: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A: Greek yogurt with hot fudge.

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
A: In no particular order: Beautiful Child by Fleetwood Mac, Two Kinds of Love, by Stevie Nicks, Love Cats (our wedding song) by The Cure, Promised Land by Bruce Springsteen, That’s Amore by Dean Martin.

Q: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?

A: A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
Night by Elie Weisel
The Golden Apples of the Sun by Ray Bradbury
One for the Money by Janet Evanovich
Mr. Pudgins by Ruth Christoffer Carlson

Incredibly kind, passionate, and possessing a wit one can only wish for, Kim Stagliano is an author you need to keep up with by following her on Twitter and becoming a friend on Facebook.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Melissa Senate’s The Love Goddess’ Cooking School in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Melissa Senate and The Love Goddess’ Cooking School. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is tonight at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in tomorrow’s post. If you enter, please return tomorrow to see if you’re a winner.