My mom was my champion. She believed in me long before I believed in myself. For a chubby, near-sighted, shy kid, her faith became my heartbeat. My mom gave me the precious gems of wisdom every child should possess: find your passion, follow your gut, never away give your power, persevere through hard times, pick yourself up when the world kicks you down. Plus, she was my best friend. I could tell her my secrets and know they would be safe.
Three years ago, when my mom died, my spirit turned gray. I tried telling myself all the things we say when a loved one dies: she wouldn’t want me to wallow, take comfort in the memories, grieve at my own pace. Still, I had trouble tapping into my creative core. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to write, but I couldn’t figure out what to say. I was a jumble of emotions. Which ones should I pick? And how should I express them? Was there a right way? A way that would help me heal? One day, while looking at a picture of Mom and me I kept on my desk, I thought, ‘I feel like you took a piece of me when you left.’ And the answer came back, ‘Maybe so, but I also left a piece of myself behind.’
Me. I was, of course, that piece.
I knew I needed to write. Anything. Everything. Just write. So I did. I let my feelings of anger, sadness, frustration, and loss pour out onto the page, even if the things that came out made no sense, especially if they made no sense. I wrote short poems or jotted down memories of us; sometimes, the best I could do was scribble a sentence or two about how I was feeling that day. It took time but ever-so-slowly, the color came back into my soul. I am a firm believer that writing is cathartic. If you are willing to be honest and write about the messiness, it can save you.
Some of my work during that difficult time later became the seeds for a middle grade novel. I found myself writing a story about a 12-year-old girl named Kestrel (my mom loved birds) whose family travels to Canada after the death of her grandfather to help her grandmother save the family business. For many children, like Kestrel, the loss of a grandparent will be the first time they come face to face with death. Kestrel wants to be there for Grandma Lark (another bird) but isn’t sure how. Is there a right way? A way to help her grandmother heal? Or will she only make things worse? (Sound familiar?) The two begin a journey to find the answers together and, in the process, forge a powerful and lasting bond. MY TOP SECRET DARES AND DONT’S will be released next month from Aladdin MIX.
A few years before my mother passed, she told me she had her first inkling I would be a professional writer when I was seven years old. This surprised me, because we’d had many conversations about my career over the years. “You never said anything to me about it,” I said. “No,” she said. “It was your path to choose, your path to walk.” True enough. She had always supported me, but never steered me. She’d taught me to make my own choices then stepped back and let me do just that – another one of her gems.
Each day, as I sit down to write, I think how blessed I was to have a champion like her. We all need them in our lives. If I can be that for even one young writer than I will have fulfilled my artistic purpose. I think Mom would agree.
* * * GIVEAWAY * * *
The giveaway of an Advanced Reviewer Copy (ARC) of MY TOP SECRET DARES & DON’Ts is now over! Congrats to our winner: LYNN A.
Trudi Trueit is an award-winning author of more than 100 fiction and nonfiction books for children. She enjoys giving online presentations and leading writing workshops for elementary through middle school students. Click HERE to find out how you can bring her into your classroom via Skype or Google Hangouts. To read more about Trudi and her books, visit her website at www.truditrueit.com.