Posts Tagged ‘writing about death’

When Death Happens in Your Writing Group

August 28, 2011

 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


December 13, 2010

On Friday, a friend took me to lunch and out shopping in Berkeley for a belated birthday outing.  It all felt so scrumptious . . . sneaking off during the week to play.  Abandoning our work, our chores and our to-do-lists, we got a chance to talk about the minutiae of our daily lives, our art, our dogs, and solve the problems of the world.  Well, maybe not quite all of that, but it did seem like anything was possible on that glorious day of freedom. 

Our lunch at Bette’s Diner, a crowded little enclave filled with scents of corned beef,  pancakes and good coffee,  was eclipsed by their bakery next door.  I brought home a piece of the best lemon cake my husband and I have ever eaten and a brownie to swoon over.   What a lovely way to celebrate my birthday. 

Some people my age don’t care for birthdays, as they see it a sign of getting older and getting farther away from youth.  Perhaps closer to death?  I enjoy this little ritual, maybe because I love rituals.  And maybe because I love cake!

Much later that evening, I logged on to my e-mail to discover a note from my friend. When she entered her house after taking me home, she found her eight-year-old beloved furry dog, Yogi, nearly comatose.  Later at the vet’s, the diagnosis was grim.  A cancerous tumor pressed on his spleen.  Yogi in shock, was unable to make eye contact with her.   He was completely out of it. 

“I couldn’t even say goodbye,” she said.   “It happened so fast.”

Yes, Yogi passed away that night. 

So we will enjoy the rituals of our life.  And we will honor the passing of one life to the next with loving rituals as well.

Writing Prompts:

1.  Write a tribute to someone you have lost.

2.  Write about how you value a person now in  your life and give it to them.

3.  Create a piece of art work to help your grief over any loss you may have.

4.  Journal your feelings if you have lost someone close to you.  The holidays can be a difficult time and this may help.