Dolly Sickles was part of the dot com layoffs back in 2002. The mom of one young son at the time, Sickles and her husband both had been able to telecommute from their Apex home, giving them the opportunity to work full-time jobs while being home with their child.
The new reality was a big change for the family, but Sickles took advantage of it. As she looked for work, she took the summer off to spend with her son, who was heading into kindergarten. They spent days at the pool, on play dates or at story times.
Sickles tried her hand at writing a book for children. The sizable library of children's books that the family collected inspired her. She wrote a story about a 12-year-old girl who discovers hula hooping.
"I wrote a story and, by the end of the summer, I'd gotten a job and it got shelved," Sickles tells me. "Life took precedent."
Fast forward many years and a few jobs later (including a stint with WRAL.com), Sickles' husband suggested she dust off that story. Sickles, who had recently left her job at a nonprofit working with AIDS patients, had already started writing romance novels. Her fifth came out online this month.
The romance stories were a welcome relief from the harrowing statistics that she dealt with at her day job.
"I felt like it lightened my head," she said of the books, which usually end on a hopeful note.
Sickles wasn't sure what shape her work for children was in, but she gave it a look at her husband's suggestion. She spent time making changes to her original manuscript. She landed a publisher, Peak City Publishing, in Apex. And her neighbor, Monica Wyrick, who has illustrated two books for noted children's author Audrey Penn, agreed to do the illustrations.
"Peggy Noodle, Hula Hoop Queen," was published early this year. The early reader is best for grade schoolers. It's about a 12-year-old girl whose friends think she should play basketball because she's tall, though she insists she can't. She eventually finds her own hobby - hula hooping.
My seven-year-old declared it a good read.
"I liked the detail and the pictures," she said. "Peggy is a good character because she has a lesson for kids to learn. The lesson is that you can do whatever you want even if somebody else is doing something different."
Peggy Noodle is written under Dolly Dozier, which is her maiden name. Sickles is "Becky Moore" when writing romance novels. More books of both kinds are in the works, she said.
"They both have a good message," she said. ""They are both genres that let my hope shine through and my hope in humanity."
I met up with Sickles at NOFO at the Pig in Raleigh's Five Points. She'll have a hula hooping event at NOFO from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, to promote Peggy Noodle. The free, drop-in event includes a book reading, music, a hula hooping demonstration and more. There will be hoops available for kids and parents to have some fun and even a hula hoop contest.
Watch my video interview to learn more from Sickles. Go to her website for more information about her book.
Go Ask Mom features local moms every Monday.