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Friday, May 6, 2022

On Memorial! (Mary Strand)

May is “memorial” month at YA Outside the Lines ... whatever that means to each of us who blog here.

I’m going in a different direction from the sort of thing I expected to write, but it’s on my mind right now. A lot.

I’m currently hard at work on copyedits to the third and final book in my Pendulum women’s fiction trilogy, which releases on June 8. (After it’s done, I can go back to my usual life of writing YA novels! Yeah!)

Book 3, Seemingly Perfect, is about Vic (mostly), Tess, Midge, and Andrea, who 20 years ago had been in a group of five girls who hung out together in high school. The fifth one, Carrie, died during the fall of their freshman year of college while joyriding on her first adventure in her brand-new truck.


 

The characters in my books are composites, their lives and actions and dialogue shaped from snippets of my own life and that of almost everyone I know or have ever read or heard about. (So, basically, they’re both everyone and no one you know.) The heroines definitely aren’t “really” me, despite what readers sometimes like to imagine, although a heroine named Becca in my upcoming-some-day YA series about a high school for psychics comes close. For better or worse!

Carrie in Seemingly Perfect is the exception to my composite rule. She’s the fictional version of my high-school friend, Nancee Eberhardt, who died in the same way that Carrie did in my novel. It’s been (mumble-mumble) years since high school, but I still think about Nancee, who was my first close friend to die. Revising this novel has brought it ALL back, as if that horrible tragedy had happened yesterday. Tears galore.


 

(I, too, was part of a group of five girls who hung out together in high school, but the four surviving women in my novel are my usual composite suspects, not representative of the other four of us in real life. By the way, our high school’s name was Memorial, and our school song was “On Memorial!” How perfect for this topic!)

Memorial Day is meant to commemorate those who’ve died in service to our country. But I don’t limit it that way. To me, it’s about those I’ve lost, period. Like Nancee. Like several other friends and so many family members who’ve died. But now, in our third year of a pandemic that sometimes feels like it’ll never end, I think of it as something more. Most of us have lost at least a few friends in the pandemic, and not always due to death. No one close to me has died from COVID, but people you thought you knew have turned into people you no longer recognize. Maybe dealing with the insanity of this pandemic simply either changed them or revealed their true inner selves, voluntarily or otherwise. (For fellow writers: The Hero’s Journey in real life!)

Right now I’m thinking about and missing those I’ve lost, whether to death or other circumstances. And I’m especially thinking about you, Nancee. Miss you still.

Mary Strand is the author of Pride, Prejudice, and Push-Up Bras and three other novels in the Bennet Sisters YA series. You can find out more about her at marystrand.com.

6 comments:

  1. Mary, as soon as I read about Carrie, I knew you were talking about Nancee. Although I didn't know her personally, we always smiled and said hi when we passed in the hallways at Memorial. My brother Mark was a buddy of her brother. I remember being so shocked when she died! There's quite a few gone from our class now. I hope good memories of our time at Memorial HS. help you whenever grief sneaks up on you. Happy thoughts my friend! <3

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    1. I don't often let grief sneak up on me, so this has been quite a surprise! Thanks! Happy thoughts back at you!

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  2. I so connect with this--people turning into those you no longer recognize. It can really rattle you.

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    1. I was just talking with a friend about it. The pandemic seems to have been a big factor ... or maybe, in fairness to the people who've changed so much, a wakeup call telling them that they can do different things now.

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  3. The important ones remain with you, popping up every so often to refresh your feelings about them.

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    1. So true! And sometimes true of the unimportant ones, unfortunately! :-)

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