The "Seeds" of Stories
By Shannon Wiersbitzky
I’ve thought a lot about memories over the past two years. The idea of what we remember, how we try to help ourselves remember, and whether or not memories can exist in other forms. You see my new middle-grade novel, What Flowers Remember, involves Alzheimer’s.
The disease isn’t one typically associated with children. More than once I’ve gotten the question, Why Alzheimer’s in a children’s book? It may not be a disease that children “get”, but with one in three seniors dying with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, it is absolutely a disease that impacts both children and grand children.
I was one of those grand children.
Growing up I spent a lot of time with my grandparents. My parents both worked, and my grandparents loved having me, so when school let out in the summer, off I went. I lived with them for three months of the year. My grandparents became both second parents and great friends.
In What Flowers Remember, the main character, Delia, also has a deep connection to someone older. For her, it is a neighbor, a man named Old Red. The two of them share a love of flowers and gardening. When Old Red begins to experience the signs and symptoms of dementia, Delia does everything in her power to save his memories. And she pulls in the entire town to help.
Like my character Delia hopes that Old Red won’t forget her, I too hoped my own grandfather wouldn’t lose me. That somehow, I might be special enough that the disease wouldn’t find me. I was wrong.
When I visit classrooms and talk about storytelling, I discuss the “seeds” of stories. And how the best seeds often come from moments of great joy, or sadness, fear or confusion. The moment I realized my grandfather had forgotten me was the seed that started this novel.
I never set out to write a children’s book about Alzheimer’s. Instead, I tried to find a way to plant that seed. A way to share the truth of my own experience in the context of a fictional town with fictional characters who are busy creating new memories of their own while someone they love is losing his.
How would you set out to try and save someone else's memories? And what would you be willing to sacrifice to do so? Maybe your answers are the same as Delia’s.
Shannon is giving away a paperback copy of her middle grade novel What Flowers Remember to one lucky commenter. The giveaway is US only and will run until Monday May 26th. I'll announce the winner that week. If your e-mail is not on your google profile, please post it with your entry.
"Most folks probably think gardens only get tended when they're blooming. But most folks would be wrong. According to the almanac, a proper gardener does something every single month. Old Red Clancy was definitely a proper gardener. That's whyI enrolled myself in the Clancy School of Gardening. If I was going to learn about flowers, I wanted to learn from the best."Find Shannon at her website, Facebook, and Goodreads.
Delia and Old Red Clancy make quite a pair. He has the know-how and she has the get-up-and-go. When they dream up a seed- and flower-selling business, well, look out, Tucker's Ferry, because here they come. But something is happening to Old Red. And the doctors say he can't be cured. He's forgetting places and names and getting cranky for no reason. As his condition worsens, Delia takes it upon herself to save as many memories as she can. Her mission is to gather Old Red's stories so that no one will forget, and she corrals everybody in town to help her.
WHAT FLOWERS REMEMBER is the story of love and loss, of a young girl coming to understand that even when people die, they live on in our minds, our hearts, and our stories.