Did you love Kristin Hannah‘s novel Firefly Lane? Or maybe you adored one of her other 12 books. If so, you’re in luck today. Her newest called Fly Away hits stores. The bestselling author brings back the characters you know and love in this book that centers around Tully–and how she deals with loss, commitments and love.
Kristin answered some questions about writing and motherhood. Her own friendships inspire her to write about them with skill and purpose. Read more from this prolific and beloved author below:
KK: What’s one thing you want fans to know on why they should read Fly Away?
KH: I hope readers enjoy the journey of this book and are reminded about how important it is to be there for the people we love.
KK: Did you have fun revisiting the characters from Firefly Lane?
KH: I don’t know that fun is the right word. I felt a real burden with this novel to not let my readers down. Firefly Lane was such a special novel to so many people. I wanted to write a story that lived up to their expectations and still surprised them.
KK: You write about your hometown Seattle/Bainbridge often, do you find that a majority of your inspiration comes from there?
KH: Absolutely. I love the Pacific Northwest and want to share that passion with my readers.
KK: You’re known for writing about your mother/daughter and girlfriend relationships. Can you share one of your favorite girlfriend memories?
KH: I have so many fabulous memories of great times with my girlfriends. Probably the best of them begin with two of us sitting on a beach, just talking. And laughing. We always laugh.
KK: You have a son. Can you tell me more about him and your relationship?
KH: Motherhood is the most important facet of my life. I really just love being a mom…even when it’s hard, and we all know how tough it can be. Now I’m in the empty nest phase of motherhood and learning how to be mom from a distance. I love watching my son come into his own.
KK: What inspires you to write so many great books?
KH: I am endlessly fascinated with the moments and issues that shape our lives, and I love writing. I am so fortunate to have the ability to do this every day.
Author Carrie Cariello is a mom of five, including one 8-year-old boy with autism. So others will understand autism more clearly, she recounts her wondrous and challenging journey in her new memoir What Color is Monday? How Autism Changed One Family for the Better. Thank you, Carrie, for the eye-opening guest post below:
“What color do you see for Monday?” my son Jack asked as I heaved a chicken into the oven.
“What?” I said distractedly, turning from the oven to slice some potatoes at the counter. It was late afternoon one day last fall, and I was preparing dinner and managing the demands of homework and tired toddlers. (One was in a tiara.)
“What color is Monday?” he asked again, his robotic voice rising ever so slightly in irritation.
“I don’t see Monday as a color. Do you?” I asked, finally tuning in to what he was talking about.
“Yes. All days are colors.”
All days are colors. On a seemingly ordinary day, Jack once again granted me the privilege to take a tiny peek inside his fascinating mind. Without preamble, he rattled off which color he associates with each day. And then, just as suddenly as the conversation began, he snapped his mind closed and moved on to something else entirely. I tried to probe further; why was Saturday red? Was the entire day red, or just the morning? “I told you. No more,” he answered in a clipped tone.
Later that winter, Riddle Brook Publishing asked me to write a book based on our life with an autistic child. I happily agreed, and throughout the spring and early summer I wrote, putting together words and sentences, essays and chapters, to describe our days with five children and autism. Some days the words came easily, other days I struggled to make sense of my world with Jack and transport him onto the page. Whenever I approached something that seemed like writer’s block, I reminded myself that my subject—my inspiration—was right in front of me at the dinner table every night. All I needed to do was watch and listen and learn from my son.
And then, like the pieces of a puzzle, the elements of the book came together. It describes our journey to Jack’s diagnosis, and all the funny and frustrating and sad times since the day we first heard the words your son has autism nearly seven years ago. It describes how a boy with a literal mind made peace with religion and accepted his first communion, and how our family of seven took our first vacation. It describes his obsessions with things like dates and cars, his fascination with shampoo and license plates.
Every couple of chapters, I included a letter to each of my children on their birthday, describing their likes and dislikes, their temperament, their appetite. Describing the way they’ve made room for autism and embraced their unusual brother.
Recently someone asked me, “Who is this book for?” And after considering the question for moment, I answered that originally it was for me, a way for me to creatively untangle the web of emotions and bewilderment and frustration autism often left me with at the end of a long day. But, as the project progressed, I realized it wasn’t just for me; it was for Jack and our family. And by the final round of edits, I decided it was for an even larger audience then that—it was for anyone and everyone who has ever been touched by autism.
I decided it was a way to put a face to the name of autism; the sweet face of a little blue-eyed boy who loves music and marshmallows. As I read through the book one final time, making last-minute changes and edits, I realized the book puts a voice to the message I’ve been saying every single day since Jack was diagnosed: that beneath the rigidity and anxiety and stimming there is a charming, intelligent, witty child peeking out.
It’s about how Jack brings out the best in my, my husband, and my children every single day.
Throughout the summer I struggled to title the book, tossing around ideas like Life with Autism and Loving Autism. For a while I decided to use the word snowflake in the name, because that’s often the image that comes to my mind when I think of Jack and autism; a beautiful, fragile snowflake that is always changing, always in motion. But one afternoon in late August I was driving the kids to the town pool, and Jack said, “Look, the sky is so blue.” And as I peered up through the windshield at the rich blue summer sky, I thought again of our conversation the previous fall, when he talked about the colors of the week.
For a short time I thought about calling the book Thursday is Purple, but then Jack off-handedly remarked Thursday is sometimes green. (Come on, Jack-a-boo. I’m trying to write a book about you here. For real.)
And so, it became What Color is Monday? How autism changed one family for the better.
‘The Shape of The Eye’ by George Estreich Tells One Dad and Daughter’s Journey Through Down Syndrome
Check out The Shape of the Eye by George Estreich that hits shelves in paperback today. This memoir centers on a stay-at-home father and his Down syndrome daughter, Laura, as they learn what it means to be ‘different’ in our society. George recently answered a few questions for me about his beautiful book:
KK: Tell me a little bit about the book.
GE: The Shape of the Eye is a book about raising a daughter with Down syndrome—my daughter Laura, now 11 years old, and the girl pictured on the cover. I’ve been a full-time stay-at-home dad since before Laura was born (my older daughter, Ellie, is in high school), so the book reflects on parenting in general, and being a dad in particular. It’s as much my story as my family’s. Being a parent connects to everything—you can’t be a parent without reflecting, and reflecting on, your own parents—and Down syndrome has its own strange history too, suggested by the old diagnostic name: “Mongolian idiocy.” (The doctor who discovered the condition thought that his patients had “degenerated,” taking on the appearance of a different race.) Those histories are connected, for me, by a strange coincidence: my mom is from Japan, which meant that when Laura was first born (she wasn’t diagnosed in utero), her appearance made the doctors wonder. Were they looking at a child who had Down syndrome, or a child who was one-quarter Japanese? Were they looking at disability, or ethnicity, or somehow both? I wanted Laura to be real to the reader, not as a “special needs kid,” or as someone extra cute and appealing, but as an individual. But that meant debunking some of the misconceptions that attach to her syndrome, as well as setting her firmly in the context of her family.
KK: Why did you decide to write it?
It didn’t feel like a decision. It was something I had to do, though I resisted it at first. I’d always been a poet, but I stopped writing poetry after Laura was born; writing prose filled a need for continuity. I wouldn’t have put it this way then, but shifting forms was a way of preserving a link to the way things were before, while acknowledging the magnitude of the change. It was a way of saying that what I’d learned still counted—which turned out to be true not only as a writer, but as a parent.
The book took about nine years to write, so naturally my reasons for writing hanged as the project developed. In the beginning, I was mainly writing a narrative of shock and adjustment. In time, I got interested in more public concerns: who belongs in our society, the way we imagine disability (or fail to imagine it), and the impact of technology on the family. We can predict more and more about prospective children, so the way we describe those children matters deeply.
I’m excited about this new edition of the book, because I’ve written an Afterword that follows up on some of these questions. It also brings Laura’s story up to date: much of the book takes place when Laura was very young, and so readers are surprised to find out that she’s in middle school already.
What if you knew you only had a few years to live? That’s what happened to working mom Susan Spencer-Wendel when she was diagnosed with ALS (commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) at age 45. In her bestselling memoir, Until I Say Goodbye, she quickly sets off on special trips with her kids, husband, sister and best friend and vows to live joyously. Susan and her publisher, HarperCollins, have teamed up with Princess Cruises to offer Susan’s readers (that means you!) a 5-day Caribbean cruise called the “Experience of a Lifetime.” Princess Cruises is sending one lucky winner and her guest on a 5-day Caribbean cruise! Enter the sweepstakes before April 30, 2012 to win.
Susan’s book, Until I Say Goodbye, shows what one determined woman does to make the best of life under terminal circumstances. She goes to the Yukon to see the Northern Lights with her lifelong best girlfriend. She’s an adopted child, so Susan ventures to California and Greece to uncover her biological parents’ pasts and try to recover the family Bible. Friends help her organize thousands of family photos so her two boys and teenage girl will receive a special scrapbook. She builds a tiki hut in the backyard by her pool where she rests, socializes and writes this book with her only working finger–her right thumb–on her iPhone. Her husband, John, shows big, devoted love as he cares for her while working full time and rounding up their children ages 9, 11 and 15, plus the dog.
This book is not about dying. It’s a beautiful tribute to living with purpose. Susan proves to be a strong, determined, wise and witty woman. Her journey will make you want to do something special with your family and friends right now. Until I Say Goodbye will make you laugh and cry (just a little).
John Wendel, Susan’s husband, answered some questions for me about his family’s journey. Currently, he lovingly takes care of Susan.
KK: Do you have a mantra that has helped you cope in this difficult time that might provide inspiration to other parents in your shoes?
JW: My mantra is, “Be happy.” I figure if she (Susan) can be happy, I can be happy. Very early on Susan decided to “live with joy.” It may sound simple, a bit hokey even, but it gets us through. Being happy isn’t like flipping a light switch. It’s hard. An interviewer once asked Susan, “How do you live with joy?” Her answer: You try.
KK: What was the most surprising thing you learned about your family during this ordeal?
JW: I think what surprised me most is the resilience that our children have shown. Susan and I didn’t rush to tell the kids of her diagnosis. Why drop the bomb on them? The progress of her disease was so slow and nearly imperceptible that they didn’t seem to notice that Susan went from healthy and fit to unable to move and barely able to speak. When they did ask if Mommy is going to die, I answered simply and honestly. I think they already knew the answer, but were just confirming. Their responses have been very matter of fact and accepting — like their mother’s. In fact my 11-year-old son Aubrey recently told me that one of his teachers had spoken to the class about our situation on a day that he was absent from school. Aubrey was upset and told me that he knows what’s happening to mommy and doesn’t need any special treatment from the other kids at school.
KK: What was Susan’s favorite memory from the cruise she took with her sister?
JW: Susan said that the best part of the cruise was the opportunity for her and Stephanie to just talk without any interruptions or distractions. Even though we lived on the same street as Stephanie, it seemed that kids, work, and crazy schedules kept them from having any time alone to just talk.
KK: How do you communicate what is happening to your children? Do you have any advice to offer others in a similar position to you?
JW: Before we communicated anything to the children, Susan and I talked with each other about what would be best. We also sought the advice of counselors. We knew we wanted to be honest with them. The counselors advised us that the children would ask when they were ready. Many friends and relatives seemed concerned that we hadn’t sat the kids down and had “the talk” with them. Our philosophy was that they were going to have their worlds turned upside down regardless. Why not let them go along blissfully unaware as long as we could. As it turned out we never really had to have “the talk”. They asked. I answered, and that was that. They asked two follow up questions: How much longer will she live, and is it contagious?
My advice to anyone in a similar situation would be to seek advice from a counselor, have a plan, and be honest.
Categories: Best Sellers, Memoirs, Mom Must Read, Must Read, Parenting Advice, Popular Books, Q&A With Authors | Tags: ALS, Caribbean cruise, experience of a lifetime, Getaway Contest, John Wendel, Lou Gehrig's Disease, Lou Gerhig's Disease, Princess Cruise, Susan Spencer-Wendel, Until I Say Goodbye
Yesterday was an emotional day watching the graphic footage of The Boston Marathon explosion. Our hearts go out to the victims. So many of us cried while watching our TV sets last night.
If you need something to lighten your mood today, there’s a new comic book out for cat lovers and lovers of cat lovers. The adorable feline cartoon character Simon now has a kitten. Check out the book Simon’s Cat in Kitten Chaos by Simon Tofield and get a look at the funny video below.