Losing your loved ones isn't easy. The only things that are left are the memories. Our guest today is Meryl Ain, co-author of The Living Memories Project: Legacies That Last. Meryl wrote her first poem in the third grade and has been writing ever since. She is a blogger for Huffington Post and often writes about families, parenting, children, and education. After she lost both her father and mother within a year-and-a-half, she decided to research how others keep alive the memories of their loved ones. She enlisted her husband, Stewart, and her brother, Arthur Fischman, to join her in researching and writing The Living Memories Project, http://thelivingmemoriesproject.com/. Meryl earned a BA from Queens College, a MA from Columbia University Teachers College, and an Ed.D. from Hofstra University. She began her career in education as a social studies teacher before she became an administrator. She and her husband Stewart live on Long Island and have three sons, three daughters-in-law and three grandchildren.
Thank you for this interview, Meryl Ain Can you tell us a little about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?
I have been writing since the third grade. Although my primary career has been as an educator (teacher and then school administrator), I have always written about families, education, and parenting. My pieces have been published in various publications, including Huffington Post. This is my first book. I wrote it with my husband, Stewart Ain, and my brother, Arthur Fischman. They are both writers.
Can you tell us briefly what your book is about?
I began thinking about the book following the death of my mother after a brief illness. My mother was my best friend and I was bereft when I lost her. She had always told me when I was sad or bored to “get a project.” The book was my project to try and find inspiration from the examples of others who had transformed their grief into meaningful action and memorials. The Living Memories Project describes through interviews, anecdotes, essays, poems and photographs, the many ways that 32 individuals – celebrities and others – keep alive the memories of loved ones. Some are huge projects and some are small ones. For example, Nick Clooney tells how he keeps his sisters’ (singers Rosemary and Betty) memory alive through a museum, foundation and special events. In addition, he talks about how he carries on his grandfather’s values of social responsibility through his work on behalf of Darfur with his son, actor George Clooney. Another example is of Liz and Steve Alderman, who established the Peter C. Alderman Foundation to honor the memory of their 25-year-old son, who was killed on 9/11 at the World Trade Center. The foundation trains doctors and establishes mental health clinics on four continents to treat victims of PTSD. A simpler tribute is the story of a woman who makes her mother’s special recipes on holidays.
Why did you choose your particular genre?
Since we conducted interviews, we decided that the most effective way of conveying the stories was to have people tell their stories in their own voices.
What was your greatest challenge writing this book?
The greatest challenge was finding people who were willing to share their stories of how they kept the memory of their loved ones alive. We approached many people, and we are truly grateful to those who so generously shared their stories with us. They inspired and comforted us and we hope they will do the same for our readers.
Are you published by a traditional house, small press or are you self-published?
Our book was published by a small independent press, Little Miami Publishing Company in Ohio.
Was it the right choice for you?
Yes, it was. The publisher chose us. She empathized with our loss and understood our project since her mother was dying while she read our manuscript. She decided immediately to publish it.
How are you promoting your book thus far?
We are promoting it through social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, and our website. We are getting the word out through a blog tour as well as through traditional media. We have also scheduled a number of speaking and book signing events.
How is that going for you?
It’s really too early for measurable results. But we have garnered a lot of enthusiasm from people all over the country who tell us this is exactly the book they have wanted, and that they plan to give it to friends who have experienced loss. It is an uplifting, optimistic book, not a sad one. Its message is hopeful and comforting: “Our loved ones do not die if we remember them.”
Do you have another job besides writing?
Right now I am devoting myself full time to the book, to writing and speaking about it. I am a retired educator.
If you could give one book promotion tip to new authors, what would that be?
Online promotion is equally important to your promotion strategy as traditional media.
What’s next for you?
We have asked people to share their stories with us on our website. We are hoping to publish a sequel with the new stories.
Thank you for this interview, Meryl. Can you tell us where we can find you on the web?