Onederland: Poems About A Childhood with Type 1 Diabetes
By Eliza Skoler and Kelly Close
Jamie Kurtzig, a high school student living with type 1 diabetes, just published a book of 100 poems that she has written over the last ten years
Onederland: My Childhood with Type 1 Diabetes is a book of 100 poems recently published by a 15-year-old diabetes advocate, Jamie Kurtzig. The book takes readers through Jamie’s childhood, touching on themes of growing up, navigating challenges, and finding hope. We attended the book launch yesterday and were so impressed by Jamie’s discussions about diabetes. We asked her if she could give one piece of advice to families that reflected the sentiments of her own family, and she answered eloquently with a single word “Hope.” She continued, “Never lose hope.”
Jamie was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was one year old and has been writing poems since the age of five. Her book is now available from Book Passage, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon. We sat down with Jamie to learn about her poems and her vision for this book.
Jamie: I’ve always liked writing poetry; I wrote my first poem when I was five, and it’s actually included in the book. Writing poetry helps me express myself and make sense of things and think about things, so it’s been a really fun process. I’m excited that Onederland is now published.
What did you learn about yourself during this process?
Jamie: Diabetes has really influenced who I am, and it has also given me a passion for finding a cure, something I want to do for the rest of my life. I realized this while writing my book.
What do you most want people to know about Onederland?
Jamie: All of the proceeds are going to diabetes non-profits – including The diaTribe Foundation – to help find a cure, one of my main goals. I would love to experience just one day where I do not need to check my finger or bolus for a meal or have glucose tabs for low blood sugar. I’m so lucky to live in the Bay Area and have access to tools to help me manage diabetes; we need to find a cure not only for people like me, but for people everywhere.
How did you go from the poems you’ve written over the last ten years to this incredible, finished book?
Jamie: I had these poems but didn’t know what to do to get them on paper, so I talked with Book Passage, an awesome local bookstore. They introduced me to great mentors, who helped me create a story arc — my story — so that the book evolves along with my life. I start with an intro of me (“Where I’m From”), and then move into some of the challenges in my life and how I’m dealing with them and working with them, and then into more hope. I also wanted to include an index so people could see how old I was when I wrote each poem.
What was the hardest part of publishing a book?
Jamie: Getting all the details right! I had to order three proofs before I caught all the mistakes.
Who are your favorite poets?
Jamie: Mary Oliver – I have a giant quote of hers on my wall. And also Emily Dickinson.
How did your family respond to your choice to publish a book of poetry?
Jamie: My mom has been so supportive of me. In everything I do she always supports me and helps me get things done – which is awesome because sometimes it’s hard for me to get from ideas into… a book!
We asked Sara Kurtzig, Jamie’s mom, to tell us a bit more.
How do you feel about Jamie’s book of poems?
Sara: So, so proud. She’s so graceful to me, and I so appreciate her way and her spirit, and I think it comes through in her book. I had never read her book until she asked me to read her proof. I read the whole thing on the airplane and I was in tears. She had to do a lot of work to make this happen. She had to figure it out. She picked the paper, she picked the font, she picked the title. It’s a lot of thinking. I feel that she did not cut corners and took the time to do all of it. And I am so proud. She did this all in her own way. And she is donating every penny to various diabetes non-profits. We can get a lot of places with that power.
Jamie was a Junior Summer Associate in 2019, working with college students and recent college grads at The diaTribe Foundation and Close Concerns. She is also now a writer for diaTribe – read about her experience with Loop and her advocacy work at the 2019 JDRF Children’s Congress.