Former WWU Dean Sandy Zaugg Writes Good Reads

Her Books Connect With Children, Adults Alike

By: Loree Chase-Waite

Sandy Zaugg's travels have been the inspiration for many of her 14 books.

If you stayed in one of the girls’ dorms between 1983 and 1988, perhaps you chanced to meet a certain intrepid pug dog named Gabby that liked to hitch rides in the Foreman Hall elevator.

That curious little canine, adored by many a student, belonged to the daughter of then Associate Dean of Women Sandy Zaugg ‘61.

The pug’s thirst for adventure, though mainly relegated to the dorm, was a fitting match for Zaugg. Her own love of travel, she says, ranks right up there with reading, writing, and chocolate on her list of favorite things.

After her departure from deaning, Zaugg set off to explore distant places and meet new faces. In China and Hong Kong, Zaugg used her teaching degree from WWU to teach English as a Second Language. Her travels also took her to Europe, including cities like Brugge, Belgium, where she floated the canals in boats and strolled among lace makers, windmills, and old churches built in 600 A.D.

Back home in the United States, Zaugg tried her hand at writing, focusing on devotionals for several years. Then, a year before her 60th birthday, she mustered up the courage to begin a book, weaving facts about her travels with tales of adventure and mystery.

Within a year, Zaugg’s first book, titled Rockslide Rescue, was published by Pacific Press. Thus began Zaugg’s prolific writing career. Today, 14 books later, Zaugg is still writing strong, using stories as a way to connect with both kids and adults.

 “I like to introduce kids to the countries I love,” she says. “Most of my stories for kids have a lot of autobiography in them. I also try to propose mysteries that children can solve with just a little help from grown-ups.”

Among Zaugg’s books:

*Escape (2007)—the true story of a 13-year-old boy, Dieter Hain, who fled his home with his mother in World War II and lived to tell about how God provided protection and safety.

*Lotus Blossom Returns (2005)—the remarkable life of a young missionary to China, Florence Nagal Longway Howlett, who faced hurdles like war, bedbugs, emergency plane landings, heartbreak, floods, and other seemingly “impossible” challenges with God’s help.

*Secret Of The Desert Lights (2009)—a mystery set in the desert that helps teach kids the difference between principles and rules.

*Secret Of The Yellow Van (2008)—a story about 10-year-old Jennifer who lost her daddy to cancer and learns that loss is not her fault and that God helps her adjust to a situation that she has no control over.

*Secret of The Old Red Barn (2010)—a story about 12-year-old Zachariah who lives on a farm with his parents in 1860 and learns—through something strange going on in the barn—about the Bible and the history of the Seventh-day Adventist church.

*Murdock Mysteries (2009 and later)—curious mysteries in international spots of interest, like an old mansion in England and ancient ruins in Rome.

 “As a kid, I got my morals and standards from books,” Zaugg says. “I hope the books I write will help today’s kids in their struggle to make sense of our world.”

A heartfelt journey

Anyone who knows Zaugg personally understands that her personal life story has not been just about sightseeing and sunshine. Like many of us, she has faced overwhelming loss, pain, and grief. So in an effort to help other people who are grieving—and friends of folks who have experienced loss—Zaugg wrote the book Surviving Grief (Pacific Press, 2010).

An excerpt from the publisher’s Web site explains: “Author Sandy Zaugg knows something about hardships and trials. When her children were 8 and 13, she lost her husband to colon cancer.  Nine years later, her son died as a result of an automobile accident.  This book is the honest rendition of one woman’s struggle through devastating grief and her ultimate realization that reaching out to others is often the best healer. No two experiences are the same.  Adults grieve differently than children.  Women grieve differently than men. Death resulting from a long, drawn-out illness differs from sudden unexpected loss. Loss by suicide isn’t the same as loss through an act of violence. Zaugg doesn’t pretend to have the answers for everyone.  What she does offer are some very candid, practical suggestions (no matter what your loss or circumstance) for facing the future – moment by moment, day by day, year by year.”

Indeed, grief is an ongoing process that often comes in waves, Zaugg says.

“One never really sets aside grief, in my opinion,” Zaugg says. “Cycles of grief come back with more and more time between the cycles. But it does come back. I’ve been a widow for 32 years now, so I seldom remember my husband with pain; mostly I remember the good times we had and the funny things he did.”

Staying connected

Currently, Zaugg resides in Gresham, Ore., where she’s finishing several books, including a children’s story about when the Battle Creek Sanitarium burned in 1902, and two Christian fiction works, one set in Rome and the other in Shanghai.

Admittedly more of an afternoon person than a morning person, Zaugg says she does her best work after 2:00 p.m.

“I seem to write best with the computer in my lap in my padded chair at home,” Zaugg says. “No food, no music. But if I get stuck, I go to Shari’s [restaurant] with a pad of paper and a pen, order a sandwich, and start writing. I try to write four to five pages at a sitting.”

In keeping with her love of getting out and meeting people, Zaugg volunteers weekly at Adventist Medical Center and visits schools as a guest author and speaker.

“I visit kids where they are because I want to keep in touch and help promote reading and writing creatively,” Zaugg says. “One of the things I teach kids is to use words that help people see what’s in their heads. For example, instead of saying “My dog went home,” how about saying “My dog limped, waddled, raced, staggered, or ran home’?

“Fielding questions is the most interesting part for me,” Zaugg says. “The kids ask great questions, like how long it takes me to write a book, and how a book is actually made.

 “But my favorite question was from a second grader who asked, ‘When did you become famous?’ I answered, ‘I’m not famous.’ And his teacher said, ‘You are to us!’”

To contact Zaugg or learn more about her books, click on the link below.

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