When Death Happens in Your Writing Group

 You’re never really prepared for death, are you?  But when it strikes someone who isn’t elderly or sick, it’s particularly difficult. 

Last week a friend and member of our writing group emailed us for suggestions on titles for her current book.  She needed them by the weekend for her agent.  Emails flew back and forth, so on Friday afternoon when I logged on, I wasn’t surprised to see another email from her. 

But this time it was from her husband stating she passed away that very day from a routine hospital procedure – an endoscopy.  He couldn’t find her phone numbers, and he was in a hurry . . .

You know those emails you get from what LOOKS like it’s your friend’s email telling you she’s in London and stranded and please send her money immediately? 

My first reaction is someone hacked their way into her account and this guy was pretending to be her husband.  Who had a vendetta against them?  This just could not be. 

I called David’s cell.

But it was all too true.  

Once people were called, we realized we needed to create a scrapbook of thoughts, pictures, illustrations and memories for her.  People sent me amazing poems, anecdotes, thoughts, feelings and art.  (Thank you all!) 

And then I realized after I put it together, it was as much for US as it was for her.  It expressed Marisa’s joy and love of life, words, books, animals and the color pink!  It showed her strength and her determination.  She never let the pain of her rheumatoid arthritis stop her.  If she couldn’t make it work one way, she figured out another. 

Born in Puerto Rico, Marisa Montes moved at the age of four to Missouri, and then to France when she was seven, because her father was in the army.  She had the thrill of living in Toul, France, which she loved, for a few years before moving to the Monterey Peninsula in California when she was in the sixth grade.  

 Diagnosed at age 16 with the painful RA, she didn’t let that stop her. She was a member of her high school’s drill team, a cheer leader, AND a competitive roller skater! 

She went on to become a family and immigration lawyer for a few years before turning to writing law materials. After ten years of writing for the legal world, she found her home in children’s books, where she published many award-winning books for children, including the wonderful picture book, Los Gatos Black on Halloween which won the Pura Belpre Award and the Tomas Rivera Award.   

Interviewed by Patricia Newman, Marisa said, “I was happier writing every day in pain than at all my other jobs.  Physically, I was in agony, but emotionally and mentally I was in Shangri-La!” 

Thank you, Marisa for showing the rest of us how determination, passion and creativity shined through you. 

May all of you feel the joy in writing that she did.  To learn more about Marisa, visit her website at www.MarisaMontes.com

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