Writing while grieving.

Tuesday, August 29th 2017 • Mom, Writing

My life was dramatically changed on June 24, 2016. I was on my honeymoon in Kauai with my husband. We’d spent the first part of the week traveling around the island in awe of the beauty around us. On that June morning, I woke up unaware that the day would radically alter my life. Yet from the beginning, something in our day seemed off. I had tried to call my mom the night before but had gotten her answering machine. I called again that morning, and again, and again. I found out that my mom had died the night before of a heart attack, and my life lurched to a stop.

My mom was my hero and best friend and inspiration. I called her almost every day and would often drive from Los Angeles to San Diego just to see her. There was (and is) an absence in my life that I cannot begin to put into words, and I will spend the rest of my life missing her. She was my champion, and so much of who I am is because of her. With her gone, I felt lost.

Writing has always felt natural, more natural than anything else. I feel most alive when I’m writing. Following my mom’s death, however, I felt hollow. I sat at a computer screen or carried a notebook, but the only words that came were the ones about my mom and our memories and how much I missed her. Meanwhile, I had been in the middle of writing a new book with a self-imposed deadline. I’d always been able to write quickly, but now, I couldn’t produce. The sense that I’d lost both my mom and my purpose in life settled in, and fear consumed me.

How do we write when grief and loss weigh over us? It’s a question I asked again and again, but no one seemed to have any answer other than to tell me to take my time. That wasn’t good enough for me. I pushed myself to write more, but it still took longer than it ever had. I felt lost.

I had to learn how to write again. Before, I gave myself extreme word limits to meet. Now, I gave myself more freedom. I released myself from ridiculous, self-imposed deadlines. I forgave myself.

And here, for those of you struggling in this space, I give my learned wisdom for writing while grieving to you.

(Continue Reading…)

Feeling lost? I’m here for you.

Thursday, November 10th 2016 • Other

I am a writer, but I am also teacher. I wrote this letter for my students, and I write it for anyone else feeling lost at this moment. I hope it gives some comfort, but I know that comfort is not enough.

screenshot-2016-11-09-19-27-09

Feeling unsafe? Need to call someone?

National Suicide Hotline: Call 1-800-273-8255 or go here.

Trevor Project: If you are an LGBTQ+ youth feeling afraid, lost, suicidal, or otherwise in need of help, call 1-866-488-7386 or go here.

National Sexual Assault Hotline: If you need support, call 800-656-HOPE (4673) or go here.

Want to safeguard essential rights? Here are recommendations for organizations that need your support.

ACLU
Planned Parenthood
The Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights
The Movement for Black Lives
Sierra Club
Anti-Defamation League
GLSEN

Goodbye, Mom.

Friday, July 8th 2016 • Mom

It’s been two weeks since my mom passed away suddenly, and I’ve struggled with how to address this loss on here. I wrote this speech for my mom’s funeral, and it says what I can say at the moment. Nothing can ever capture just how much she means to me, but this will have to do for now.

Mom and Me Easter

A few weeks ago, my mom was able to set up her brand new VCR and DVD combo player. I feel it’s important here to emphasize that it was a brand new VCR player that she went out and purchased. We all made fun of her for this and were shocked to hear that such a thing existed, but Mom was determined to watch her old VHS tapes. Once she set it up, with Corey’s help, she would watch tape after tape of the family, often howling with laughter. I know this because she would give me recaps over the phone. I was planning to watch them with her when I returned from my honeymoon, but unfortunately, I had to watch them without her.

Watching them, though, I see the unmistakable evidence of a truly incredible human being. My mom filmed everything. She filmed day-to-day errands, ball games, birthday parties, trips to Disneyland, holidays—and she narrated it. She’d say, “Here we are in Waikiki. This is our hotel room, and here’s the rain.” Just in case you couldn’t tell that it was raining. I’d make fun of her for it, except, most recently, I was filming the rain outside my Hawaii hotel room and did the same thing. My husband came out to me and said, “That is the most Cindy Bane thing you’ve ever done.”

I’m glad that, even without knowing it, I do those things like my mom did. It tells me that she’s still here, driving me forward. I only had 27 years with my mom, but they were full years. She was always thinking of me, always concerned about those closest to her. She’d pick up a top she thought that I’d like at Target. She’d buy specific cookies for “her” crows—the ones that visited her patio daily. She’d send birthday cards to anyone she’d ever met. She was the most generous, loving person in the world who always put her own needs at the very end of her To-Do List.

Ah, her To-Do Lists. My mom would swarm the dollar section at Target to buy cheery pads of paper that she would fill with things to check off in her perfect penmanship. She was making one the night she died: Groceries, phone store, Sprouts: plums, and conference call 10 AM. I’ve been working over the past week to check those off for her. I know she’d hate to leave any loose ends. So far, I just need to get the plums.

My mom was my hero. She had zero filter and didn’t care what anyone else thought of her. She’d sing out of key, dance like a fool, and keep to her various routines no matter what anyone thought of her. She’d often end conversations with me because she was “babysitting her cats outside,” and apparently the feline need was greater than my own. She had specific ways she needed to travel, certain roads she swore were faster that she’d insist on taking. I’m glad that, in my twenties, I stopped fighting her on these. I just went that way because it made my mom happy. She deserved her own road.

Mom and Me Bubbles

She deserved to go her own way and she often went down that road traveling 80-90 miles per hour, without a seatbelt, with absolutely zero fear of death. She was cavalier and would tell me often that “everyone dies, Veronica” and that “something is going to kill me, so why not live a little in the meantime?” I guess she did as she always did: lived by her own code, her own rules, smiling and laughing every step of the way.

My mom took care of me. Before she drove us to the airport, she picked us up trail mix and dried apricots—snacks for the long plane ride to Hawaii. I didn’t get to eat much of it on the plane ride, but when I received the news of her passing, I was devastated and couldn’t leave the hotel room. I didn’t want to go out, couldn’t move, and yet, she’d already seen to that. I ate trail mix and apricots, taken care of once again by my mom.

We celebrated my birthday together before I left, the last time I’ll ever get to hear her sing me a happy birthday. I’ve got it on video—recorded by her somewhat shaky hand, punctuated by her asking if the iPhone is actually working. I can hear her laughing through the whole thing. I have the birthday card she gave me, the one I skipped through to get to her signature, the one she asked me, “Did you actually read it?” I’ve reread it at least 50 times since she passed. It tells me to go out and live a life with courage and grace based on what she’s taught me. I know she read those words when she chose the card, and I know that’s what I plan to do from now on. Live with courage and grace, just as my mom always did.

I love you, Mommy. I’ll still call you every day, though you’ll be a little quieter than you were before. Thank you for everything. You will always be my best friend.

How To Survive and Stand Out at a Book Event: 5 Essential Strategies

Monday, April 11th 2016 • Advice, Books, Events

Yesterday, I was signing at the LA Times Festival of Books at the SCBWI booth. It was my second year participating and one of many, many book events that I have participated in. I was surrounded on either side by several different authors, each of whom had come prepared with a variety of decorations, swag, and book displays. One played music related to her book while another brought battery-operated lights and an astronaut helmet. Another showed up with five books and looked around at the various displays and told me that she thought she’d thought of everything but felt woefully unprepared. She asked me what had proved successful for my signings in the past, and it made me think. What were the questions that I had before my first signing, and what had worked for me?

For example, how many books do you bring? How do you get people to buy your book? How do you sell books without turning people off? How do you promote signings? How can you make the most of your book signing?

Luckily, the advice I have for book signings boils down to five essential strategies.

Please note that most of these strategies are geared to a signing at an event, panel, etc. where you are competing for attention. For your own personal signing, these will still be helpful, but realize you won’t necessarily have to seek the spotlight in the same way.

1. Bring something for people to admire, to take home, and to keep them thinking about your book.
These three things are all you need to pull a passerby’s attention to you AND they’ll fit on a small table if you’re sharing with other authors. For the “something for people to admire,” think about that astronaut’s helmet that the author next to me had. Her book was about a young child in space, and it drew kids to her picture book immediately. Once they were in front of her, she could talk about the book and hook them on the content. For me, I love the cover art of Mara and Miyuki, so my “something to admire” was simply my books propped up on small display easels. (Continue Reading…)

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