Tuesday, April 1, 2014

In Which I Sit Down to Write About Interdisciplinary Studies and End Up Writing About Grief by Tracy Holczer

The Secret Hum of a Daisy is on the verge of making its way into the world on May 1. It’s a story about a girl who has just lost her mother and has to navigate the treacherous waters of grief while trying to get to know a grandmother she’s never met (and doesn’t want to meet, thank you very much) in a small town where everyone already knows everyone else. To complicate matters, Grace starts to think her mama is sending her signs, sending her on one last treasure hunt – a hunt that she hopes will bring answers to long-held questions, as well as maybe, possibly, Mama herself.

Sounds heavy, right? Since it’s a middle grade novel, I’ve had some concerns about it not being a read-aloud. After all, I thought I had written this story for That Kid. You know the one. She is quiet. Maybe he stares out the window more than he should. She likes Monet because she thinks the colors are melancholy. I was one of those kids and always felt more comfortable on the fringes of things, so I wrote that sensibility into my main character. But would the story translate to all those other kids in the class? The ones who have heaps of friends and don’t even know, or care, what the word “melancholy” means?
A couple of weeks ago, I heard from a teacher who read a galley aloud to her 6th grade class. I was nervous. Were they bored by all the emotional stuff? Did it make them overly sad? When I went in to talk to the kids, I was pleasantly surprised. They were not quiet, or sad. No one even mentioned the word “grief.” They wanted to know more about how I came up with the main characters and whether or not I was going to write a sequel. Some of them had drawn art from the story and folded origami. Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes is mentioned in the novel and this teacher had them read that story as well. She had them fold origami. All wonderful ways to deepen the meaning and talk about symbolism and metaphor.

I came away from this experience realizing something I hadn’t before. Stories about grief meet kids where they are. Some really hear the emotional journey and get something out of it, while others are happy to follow along with the plot and nothing else. Is Mama really leaving the treasure hunt? Where is all that origami coming from? Will Grace and Grandma find their way to each other?
Not every child has experienced grief and loss, but we all know it’s coming. And I hope, hope, hope my story will not only reach those kids who have suffered, but will reach the ones who haven’t. That even if they don’t remember they read a story where a girl suffered a terrible loss and found a way through it, they will know, for some reason they can’t quite pinpoint, that they will too.

There is always a way through. For everyone.
Coming soon:

10 comments:

  1. But it seems like every book I read lately has at least one person die. I'd like to see a few middle grade parents SURVIVE. For those of us who have recently experienced grief, it's just exhausting. I'd rather read something humorous where everyone lives.

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  2. This is a lovely story, and I agree with your conclusion: while it is wonderful for a child to see his or her own life reflected in a story, a story can also open up the world for a child and, in your case, help to guide them along the way. I'm glad the teacher shared the experience with you so you got to see it first hand.

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  3. Thanks Megan and Annie :)

    Mrs. Yingling - I'm so very sorry for your loss. I've found that books about grief and loss were the very last things I wanted to read when I was suffering through those emotions, just for the reasons you stated. I'm hopeful this book will find it's way to kids who may be down the line from their grief and will be able to see the hope and love in the story.

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  4. Tracy, this is a beautiful and thought provoking post. Whether we write stories that help heal through serious themes or light-hearted laughter, our goal is the same: to touch every reader at some point on some level. I've been looking forward to reading this for a long time! Congrats on the upcoming release!

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  5. I love your heartfelt post Tracy. Can't wait to read the Secret hum...

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  6. Thanks for sharing this moving and thought-provoking post, Tracy.

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  7. Beautiful, Tracy. I'm so glad your book was so well received. Can't wait to read it myself!

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  8. Yes yes and yes on what you say here:

    "Stories about grief meet kids where they are."

    I am really looking forward to reading your book.

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  9. Louise, Varsha, Darlene, Holly and Deb - thanks for the kind words :)

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