When Angels Fly is a gripping retelling of one woman’s personal and painful experience with life. What was the inspiration that made you want to write down the experiences from your life?
I became sick and I felt the need to take my journals and digitize them. I knew I would write a book eventually back in 1990. That year was a rough one for me and my family personally and I’ve kept journals most of my life. I had many stories to tell but I wasn’t quite ready mentally or emotionally in going headlong into a 300 plus page book. When 2013 rolled around, I knew then that I was going to put words and stories from my journals into digital format.
You do a wonderful job of capturing your emotions in every retelling. What was the hardest thing for you to write about?
The hardest and most difficult part initially was actually going into and reading my journals from 1989 – 1990 as my first book is a memoir. I knew my book had to be written and I knew the many messages in my book needed to be published, so that hopefully I could help others through difficult times in their lives or the lives of others they knew. The timing was right as I had left nursing in December 2012. My first book was extremely difficult since the stories were real. Some days I could write one sentence and then I was done for the day. Other days I could write more.
On really tough days I wanted to just stop and sometimes I did for a week or so. Yet I knew in my mind that I needed to finish my book and get it out to the public. I knew all along what the beginning, middle and end would be and I wondered about publishing my book as well. Now that my book is published, I feel a deep sense of peace within myself.
You touch on topics like abuse, suicide and domestic violence. What do you hope readers take away from your story?
My book reaches a wide group from teenage on up to geriatrics and many facets of humanity itself. I know that my book will help others in dealing with such a wide variety of life’s issues, and that no one needs to feel alone in their own situation. My aim isn’t to convey only sadness and family dysfunction but to convey to others who have been in my situation (or similar) that strength and courage can be attained, and that there are options available. Women and men, too, can get out of abusive situations and the cycle of violence can stop. Losing two boys to Heaven changed my life forever. I want to encourage others who have suffered the King of Loss that anger at God is normal, and that faith in God will come back to them. I want those parents to know they are not alone. If a parent loses a child to a horrid illness, I want those parents not to feel misguided gilt. I want to encourage parents on how to be an advocate for their child and how to reach out for help when the pain overcomes them.
This book is a carefully crafted retelling of some of the most private moments of your past. But what about your future? What do you look forward to and how has your outlook on life changed?
I have made peace with the wrongs in my past. This doesn’t mean that those things never happened, the hurt is still there, but one must forgive others in order to move on in their life on this beautiful blue sphere called Earth. With my health so poor, I just take things day by day, and I try to spend as much quality time with immediate family as I can.
We often find ourselves daydreaming about what our futures will be like. This may be especially true if one lives in an environment most would consider less than desirable. Some are lucky to find their futures much like their childhood dreams. Others find the paths to their dreams strewn with hurdles.
Growing up, Sarah dodged her mother’s blows. She often hid in her room crying about her life. Still, she believes in her future and the happiness it can bring. In their book When Angels Fly, authors S. Stevens and A. Raymond tell Sarah’s story–their stories. The authors use their journals to describe Sarah’s experiences of family dysfunction, strength, courage, faith, abuse, grief, and so much more. You’ll read how, like many, she attempts to escape from her mother’s abuse through marriage. And like many, she learns it is not a viable alternative. Then Sarah experiences a parent’s ultimate tragedy twice, the deaths of her sons, Joshua and Eli.
When Angels Fly is about much more than the telling of a family’s tragedy. It is also the story of finding faith after it has wavered. Most of all, it’s a story of love lost and found.
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It’s Okay, I’m Watching follows LaTrell Wiggins, a caring young girl who loses her mother to cancer and is left to raise her family. What was the inspiration to write this heartfelt novel of love and strength?
It’s Okay, I’m Watching is the second book I’ve published, but the first of the Dear Grief Series. I lost my mother to cancer when I was nineteen. I was a sophomore in college. I was on the cusp of adulthood. Yet, I felt like a small child lost at a mall. Instead of verbally communicating, I wrote my thought and feelings in a journal. Years later during my stint as a classroom teacher in urban city schools, I encountered students who struggled with emotional and social issues. After delving a little deeper into those situations, I found that they all shared one thing in common, grief. They either lost their loved one to death or through absence. Having gone through a life changing experience of losing my mother I could relate to the different characteristics displayed by these students. This prompted me to turn my journal into my first children’s book entitled, “Mama, Did You Mean To Leave So Soon?” It’s Okay, I’m Watching is the sequel. It goes into more detail with describing the family dynamics and the perspective of parenting as a single father.
It’s Okay, I’m Watching opens the door to conversation with those experiencing all forms of grief. What is one thing that you hope readers take away from your novel?
Wow! I wish there was only one take away. In fact, there are three. I want readers to know you don’t have to grieve alone, you can express your emotions without doing harm to yourself and others, and the importance of communicating feelings to trusted adults.
One of my favorite characters is Shajuan Martinez, LaTrell’s friend. Sassy and confident; she tolerates very little. What were the driving themes behind your characters as you were creating them?
I wanted to take realistic situations and based them off of real-life friends. There’s a lot of single parent homes and kids who have one or both parent’s enlisted in the service. I wanted this book to educate the reader on what Grief is. Grief doesn’t only relate to death. It’s simply a big reaction to a loss.
It’s Okay, I’m Watching is the first book in the Dear Grief series. In which direction does book 2 go in and when will that be available?
Book 2 will highlight LaTrell in her seventh grade year. She wants to test the waters a little bit with her self-image. She is trying to figure out how to fit in and be comfortable within her own skin. The readers will also get a chance to see the different issues Daryl and Luis (LaTrell’s brother & father) experience and how they are coping since the loss of Paulina. Communication will still be the highlight and the one thing that keeps the family bond intact. Book 2 will be released in September 2017.
Growing up in Scott Park, Florida, ten-year-old LaTrell Wiggins lives a normal life. She has it all—two loving parents Luis and Paulina, her humorous younger brother Daryl, and ride-or-die childhood friends, Chandler and Shajuan. But this all changes when cancer takes LaTrell’s mother. The Wiggins are left to pick up the pieces and figure things out emotionally. If this isn’t enough, puberty introduces itself to LaTrell, causing her to reluctantly accept that her body is changing. During this adjustment period the Wiggins quickly learn that communicating is key. Can Luis handle the pressure of raising LaTrell and Daryl alone? Will LaTrell be expected to fulfill her mother’s shoes? It’s Okay, I’m Watching is a story of love, loss, and expected discovery of the strengths in each of us and our loved ones, whether they are with us or not.
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It’s Okay, I’m Watching, written by Chenee Gilbert, is a novel based around LaTrell Wiggins- a caring young girl who lives with her younger brother Daryl and her parents, Luis and Paulini. Tragedy strikes the family as Paulini’s life is taken by cancer. Grief-stricken, the family begins to process death in their own ways and learns that grief can appear in all shapes and forms. Meanwhile, LaTrell is beginning middle school which comes with the inevitable stage of life- puberty. During this confusing time, Luis, Daryl and LaTrell must come to terms with life without Paulini and the changing dynamics of their family environment.
It’s Okay, I’m Watching opens the door to conversation with those experiencing all forms of grief. LaTrell Wiggins, the main character, loses her mother to cancer whilst entering a vulnerable stage of her life- middle school and puberty. An easily relatable character, LaTrell’s journey shows how families can show strength in the face of terrible adversity.
It’s Okay I’m Watching discusses how our lives are enriched in traditions and questions the reader’s thoughts on what traditions they would pass on to others. It reminds the reader that time waits for no-one and unfortunately, circumstances are out of our control. Personally, it reminded me of the importance of holidays and the unique nuances that make my family my own and what traditions would be present in a memorial for my loved ones.
If you are looking for a companion after experiencing loss, look no further. It’s Okay, I’m Watching will help begin the healing processes and start the pathway to acceptance. This is done through discussion questions at the end of each chapter which helps the reader to reflect on their own circumstances. It explores how grief is a reaction and a release of an array of emotions. Tragedy can strike anywhere at any time and you will be able to empathize with the characters and their journey.
One of my favorite characters is Shajuan Martinez, LaTrell’s friend. Sassy and confident; she tolerates very little. LaTrell discusses with her friends her grief counselling sessions and they begin to identify whether it is something they could benefit from. LaTrell’s other friend, Chandler, begins to acknowledge his own grief that he had been trying to mask. Her two friends shine a humorous side to LaTrell’s darkest days.
Teenagers experience loss and grief through death, break-ups and even loss of pets. Exposure to novels such as this will help them begin to understand the grieving process in an already confusing time of their life. It allowed me to normalize my own grieving processes and the impact these times had during my youth.
What I loved most about this novel is that it opens up the idea that grief isn’t restricted to those experiencing death and instead can be felt by those who are feeling alone, sad or missing someone. I would recommend this to anyone who is looking to understand their own journey in regards to grief and loss.
Pages: 110 | ASIN: B01MXKCY8R
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