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April 2, 2009

IWWG Members Finish Book for Dying Friend

We're members of the International Women's Writing Guild, so we wanted to pass along this press release that came in from them while we were in Boston.  We're not exactly stereotypical Guild members in a lot of ways (as anyone who read about our adventures at last year's summer conference could probably tell), but stories like this one perfectly illustrate why it's such an awesome community to be a part of. 

Six Writer-Friends Complete Book for a Dying Author/Friend

When Elizabeth Aleshire was hospitalized after suffering a heart attack last summer, she fully expected to recover and complete her book, 101 Ways You Can Help: How to Offer Comfort and Support to Those Who Are Grieving. But that was not to be. A second heart attack dimmed the prospect of recovery, and Ms. Aleshire expired at the age of 59 with a third of her book unwritten.

While still in the hospital, Ms. Aleshire received daily visits from six writer-friends, all of whom had met over the years at the International Women's Writing Guild's annual “Remember the Magic” summer conference at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York, where Ms. Aleshire had taught in each of the past 25 years.

When it became clear that Ms. Aleshire would not recover, the six writer-friends offered to complete her manuscript posthumously. Permission was granted by both the author and her publisher, Sourcebooks, and the team went into “emergency mode” to write the unwritten chapters in time to meet the book's publication deadline.

The book, 101 Ways You Can Help: How to Offer Comfort and Support to Those Who Are Grieving, will be in bookstores by the end of April.

On Sunday, April 19, the six friends and co-authors—Kathy Barach, Marsha Browne, Zita Christian, Judy Huge, Paula Scardemalia and Anne Walradt—will tell the story of completing their friend and teacher's book as part of the International Women's Writing Guild's 57th Big Apple Conference's “Meet the Authors” Open House at the Scandinavia House, 58 Park Avenue (near 38th Street) in New York City.

The “Meet the Authors” Open House will be followed in the afternoon by a “Meet the Agents” Open House where writers have the opportunity to briefly discuss their work with literary agents.

“Many writers have found their agents at this event,” says Hannelore Hahn, the IWWG’s Executive Director who founded the nonprofit organization in 1976. “Actually, some 4,000 books have been published by IWWG members since we started more than 30 years ago.

“But publication has never been our only goal,” she adds. “That is why we always begin our twice-yearly Big Apple Conference weekends with a memoir-writing workshop. Writing from personal experience is immensely important for both the writer as a writer and the writer as a person.”

This year’s Big Apple Conference begins on Saturday, April 18, with Lisa Dale Norton's all-day writing workshop, “The Compassionate Memoir: Using the Process of Memoir to Change the World.”

For further information, please contact Hannelore Hahn at the IWWG’s New York City office by telephone (212-737-7536) or email (dirhahn@aol.com).


ceirdwenfc said...

I'm so glad that you posted this. I was supposed to attend the workshop last summer with Liz Aleshire, but she was absent. Paula was the substitute. I knew she was ill, but didn't know that she had passed away.

What a lovely thing that they did for her.

Zita said...

Dear Evil Sluts –

A thousand thank-yous and then some for helping to spread the word about Liz Aleshire’s book, 101 Ways You Can Help: How to Offer Comfort and Support to Those Who Are Grieving. In her career as a journalist, Liz wrote hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles. She was also the author of several books: Private Lives of Ministers’ Wives for New Horizon Press; Bugs: Stingers, Suckers, Sweeties, Swingers for the First Book Series from Franklin Watts, now a part of Scholastic Books; and the self-published Willybudkin: A Fireside Tale for Parent and Child. For years, she was the fiction editor at NEWN, New England Writers’ Network. Her last book, 101 Ways, was to be a tribute to her only child, Nathan, who died at 16 of bone cancer. That was in August of 1995. Liz wanted to let others know what they could do to really help someone going through such a tragedy, but it took her until 2007 to get the courage to write through the pain and sell the proposal to Sourcebooks.

Shortly before Mother’s Day in 2008, she told me that all these years she thought she had escaped the anger phase of grief. Not so. Writing this book brought it all back. It didn’t surprise me that the first heart attack was on Mother’s Day weekend. That one, and the second that came a few days later, were both mild. We talked about how she might still be able to the IWWG’s “Remember the Magic” conference at Skidmore. We could rent her a golf cart. We could carry her class materials. We could make her morning run to McDonalds. Of course, none of that happened. But if Liz had been at the conference last year, if she had been one of those directors standing in the front of the room to introduce herself and her class, you’d have felt the aura of one generous woman who treasured her identity as a teacher. And though she never called herself a coach, that’s what she was.

I read your blog about your first experience at the conference last year and how much you enjoyed Carol Chaput’s image journaling class. Carol has her own website now www.carolchaput.com She’s coming to my home this weekend to help me get things ready for the memorial ritual for Liz.

If Hannelore follows the same schedule as she did last year, the memorial ritual will be on Saturday night. Liz’s sister Nancy plans to be there. Nancy told me she could never understand how a writers’ conference could be so important to Liz. She has a better understanding now. It’s more than a conference; it’s a gathering of phenomenal women, some in their teens, some in their nineties. You’ve been there. You know.

I’m happy to hear you’re coming back—with your own pillows. I look forward to meeting you next month.

Thanks again for your support.


Zita Christian, one of the six who finished Liz’s book

Destiny is a wide road.