Gracie Belle Books
My five-year-old daughter Grace died suddenly from a virulent form of strep in 2002. In the aftermath of her death, I was desperate for books that would articulate this enormous grief I felt and somehow help me navigate it. Friends and family gave me books--dozens of them--but I soon realized that most books on grief are written by professionals who are full of advice but have not actually experienced deep grief, or by regular folks who have experienced loss but are not good writers. Other than A Grief Observed by CS Lewis and one book of collected letters about grief by famous people who had lost children, nothing spoke to real grief. Eventually, I wrote Comfort: A Journey Through Grief, the book I wished I'd had hen Grace died. Since then, students at writers conferences and MFA programs who are writing about grief have sought me out as a teacher. Their stories and their writing are strong--a sister murdered, a son's suicide, a parent's hard choices concerning their dying child. All of the stories have touched me deeply enough that I've continued to work with the writers on them and, when the manuscript is polished and ready I've even helped the writers find agents.
However in the more than a decade that I've been reading and working with grief memoirs, not one has found a home--even the agented ones. The rejections are always the same: No one wants to read something so sad. There isn't a big enough audience. There's enough grief books out there already.
Unfortunately, there is an ever growing audience for grief books as every day new people lose loved ones. And those people--like me--are seeking well written, honest, hopeful stories to help them through. Last year I was asked to be an outside reader for Catharine Murray's memoir about the death of her son for her MFA thesis. I had met Catharine several years earlier at The Stonecoast Writers Conference. At that time, she had one knock out essay about grief that eventually led to her seeking an MFA. I read the memoir and of course signed off on it, but mostly I was blown away by its elegance and beauty. But immediately following that sweep of emotions, another followed: frustration. I knew that this beautiful memoir would never be read because publishers didn't yet understand how vital our grief stories are, how important it is to share them. That very day I emailed Johnny Temple and explained everything I've written here. I just knew that if I was going to change the perception about grief books, Johnny and Akashic were the ones who could help me. Lucky for me, they understood the importance of publishing books like Catharine Murray's, books that will reach a grateful audience.