Guest Post on The Gift of Writing

Photo Credit: The Gift of Writing

Photo Credit: The Gift of Writing

I first came across Claire DeBoer’s beautiful site, The Gift of Writing, about the art and emotional relevance of journaling, when she did a guest post on one of the writing blogs I follow. Her last sentence felt almost like a dare:

“You are the only person who can tell your story, and it is only by writing, sharing and releasing it that you can begin to rewrite your future.”

Despite the fact that I mainly write fiction (except for here, of course!) I felt an itch to meet that dare, and the seed of an essay began to take form. I somehow managed to write the first draft during spring break while Little Guy napped. It’s the story of my mother’s death, which I will revisit over and over again, in many forms, for the rest of my life. This is the latest one:

As She Lay Dying: How Journaling Connected Me to My Mother

Please take a look, if you have a moment. I know it’s not the Gluten Free Rainbow Birthday Cake recipe I promised, but that post is coming soon!

GF rainbow cake slice, princesses not included.

GF rainbow cake slice, princesses not included.

One last thing, I’d like to spread the writing love around and offer a link to my dear friend Anastasia Higginbotham, who is a hugely talented writer and illustrator (not to mention a kick ass self-defense instructor, but that is another story entirely).

She is publishing a series of gorgeously illustrated nonfiction books for children about “ordinary terrible things” that can happen, such as divorce, death, and illness. Her first book, “Divorce is the Worst” will be coming out in 2015 by Feminist Press. Check out her website for a preview. I couldn’t take my eyes off her many beautiful images.

Children’s Book Review and My First Giveaway!

In my past life (I’m talking pre kids, not reincarnation) when I worked in the book publishing industry, one of my favorite things to do was write book reviews. There was one job where that was a major part of my day. I also got to have lunches and coffee dates with publicists and come back to the office with dozens of FREE books.

free books

To a book lover this is like winning the lottery every day. Why I quit that particular (in retrospect, rather awesome) job to work at evil MTV Networks I will NEVER know. I didn’t even watch or like MTV at that point. Yet, I jumped ship because that’s what people did in the early 2000s when jobs were like bags of Skittles and you could rip open another pack and try a new flavor pretty much whenever you wanted…

[Full disclosure, had I not quit that job to work at evil MTV I wouldn’t have met my husband and therefore not had Bunky, Little Guy, or this blog, so THANK YOU evil MTV for making my life completely miserable for nine months yet inadvertently helping me find my soulmate + kiddos.]

That all leads me to this point: a few weeks ago when I received an email from a publicist asking if I’d consider reviewing a children’s book about celiac disease, I was like, oh yes!

Full disclosure: I received two free copies of this book with the understanding that I would write a review and give one away, but all opinions expressed here are my own. 

Gluten-Free Me: Beckmin Goes to Schoolby Christy E. Bukowski

glutenfreemeGluten-Free Me follows five-year-old Beckmin as he embarks on his first day of kindergarten. I really like how the author shows just how many gluten related situations a child may deal with in a single day – and this is not including after school care or play dates. From an offering of gluten cereal as the only breakfast option, to being unable to share his sandwich at lunch, to a birthday party, Beckmin handles each moment with grace, humor and lightheartedness.

Gluten-Free Me is powerful because it teaches the reader (along with Beckmin’s classmates and teachers) about celiac and the challenges that arise. Bykowski speaks from experience since her son, also named Beckmin, was diagnosed with celiac at 18 months.

I read this book to Bunky and she liked it a lot, especially since the main character is five years old and in kindergarten, like her. But she did ask me why Beckmin thinks having celiac is “special” – something he says several times in the book. I honestly didn’t know how to answer this. For me, “special” is a tricky word since it carries both positive and negative connotations. Does Bunky feel special when she can’t accept her friend’s offer of goldfish crackers, or has to bring her own pizza to a party?

When you have celiac, the reality is you’re different, your food is different.

You can’t share, and if a kid touches your gluten free cookie with gluten fingers, you can’t eat it. But maybe the point Bykowski is trying to make is that the difference is special to our children. It’s part of what makes them who they are.

My special girl.

My special girl.

I think this book would be great for newly diagnosed young children and their families since it offers a simple explanation of celiac as well as touching upon (albeit positively, sorry to be such a cynic!) social exclusion. I also think it would be a wonderful teaching tool for teachers and students.

Speaking of which, I sent this book to school with Bunky today because several times she hasn’t been able to finish her lunch because her food has been touched by another child. Some kids are scared of the dark, but my kid is scared of crumbs.

Bunky chose to sit apart at a birthday party because she was afraid of gluten crumbs.

Remember this? Bunky chose to sit apart at a crowded party because she was afraid of crumbs.

When I told her teacher about the book, she was very receptive about reading it to the class. (And of course I ran it by B first.) I just hope that when she does, Bunky – who has a tendency to feel embarrassed when people talk about celiac in front of her – feels special rather than simply different.

And now for the best part – the giveaway! I have a free copy of Gluten-Free Me for one lucky reader, or, one lucky reader’s favorite celiac family.

*In fact, I will mail the book to the winner – OR – to whoever the winner would like to receive the copy. I will also totally consider mailing it outside the United States, as long as the postage isn’t more than a zillion dollars.

All you have to do to be eligible to win is write a comment below. So easy! I will pick one winner at random (finger’s crossed, pinky swear, etc) two weeks from today, December 27th. If you feel like it, tell me who you have in mind to receive the book and why. I’m just curious, it has no basis on winning. I could get all fancy pants on you and do Rafflecopter or whatever it’s called, but let’s face facts, I’m not that fancy.

If you don’t win, or don’t want to take any chances, consider purchasing this book for a celiac family that you love. It is the season, after all. You can order a copy here.