I’ve featured Carrie Lara’s picture books before, including Marvelous Maravilloso and The Heart of Mi Familia. Carrie’s newest book, OUT OF THE FIRES: A JOURNAL OF RESILIENCE AND RECOVERY AFTER DISASTER, is very much needed. It not only helps with healing after trauma, but also in cultivating resilience.
After a fire destroys his home and neighborhood, a young boy must learn what it means to be resilient and to recover.
Let me tell you about that one day everything was there, and then there was nothing.
This inspiring journal will help victims of a natural disaster as they follow a boy who is healing after a devastating fire in his neighborhood. A journal filled with drawings, news clippings, and coping strategies, this book is chock full of information on cultivating resilience after a natural disaster. Things may never be “normal” again, but he discovers that he is resilient and strong—even when hard things happen. Includes end matter on the topic of building resilience.
In our last interview, you said, “The only constant in life is the fact that change is inevitable.” What methods have you found helpful for dealing with change?
I don’t know if it is a specific method per se, but being flexible, being able to adapt, and pivot in times of challenge or change has been the most helpful. I think practicing acceptance of the fact that change happens and plans that we make will look different as we go helps us to keep moving forward and coming to the outcome that we were aiming for. You know the old saying of shooting for the moon and landing amongst the stars, right? It might not have been the ultimate of what you thought it would be, but in actuality it is pretty good and may be even better than what you thought you would have.
I definitely know what you mean! Your new book, OUT OF THE FIRES, offers a way to find resilience after a disaster. How did you know this was a book you needed to write?
After the 2017 Tubbs fire in Sonoma County, when I was working with many people in the community who had either lost their homes or were affected in the multiple ways that the fires affected all of us in the community, it was clear that there was a need for more support in thisarea. Many of my friends and my own family were experiencing the after-effects of dealing with what devastated our communities all over the county. The director of my publishing company at the time had actually said to me, this is in 2018, a children’s book addressing the wildfires would be something they would find useful and support. So I thought about it, and then one weekend sat down to write something. Ifound it extremely cathartic and healing to write it all out actually. Putting myself in the mind space of my own children, and the children of the community, I wrote from that perspective. I wrote about the evacuation, how it was sudden and crazy feeling – everything was normal, and then whirlwind and it was not. I wrote about the unknowns, the waiting and anticipating and the multiple feelings of grief and loss that a person goes through. And then I also wrote to the feelings of happiness and pride, and finding the resilience and strength in the personal self, and through the community. There is a sense of togetherness that comes out of a disaster like this, and I wanted to also capture that as well. From that first very rough draft the story was born, and altogether getting it from that first draft to version after version, adding illustrations and the end note resources it took four years. But, even thought it seemed at some points that it was maybe not going to happen, or was taking too long, after that first draft and the feeling I got while writing it, I knew it needed to happen. And I am so happy and proud that it is finally here!
And I have no doubts it has helped a lot of people! OUT OF THE FIRES is also written in a journal format. How did you know this was what this story required?
It wasn’t originally in this format. It was actually about 2 maybe 3 years in that it changed into the scrapbook journal format. The manuscript was too long for a picture book, but not enough for a full chapter book. It was also written from the perspective of a 10-year-old, so aiming for that age group was kind of the goal. Graphic novels are all the rage for that age (at least what I observe through my daughter and her friends) and this book didn’t exactly work for a graphic novel either. It was hard to find what format that we wanted to present it in. My editor sent me two books that she had published through Magination Press: “Get Ready for Jetty” which was about a little girl who struggles with ADHD in school and was in the format of a diary of sorts, but had lots of doodles, pictures, and visually dynamic; and “The Year My Mother was Bald” which was about a child whose mother struggled with cancer and was much more the journal format, lots of words and occasionally an illustration. I loved them both, and from that inspiration came up with an in-between format. More words than the scribble book but also less words than the journal, this book is like a scrapbook journal. The protagonist pastes in newspaper articles, items he finds relative to the story, he doodles and he illustrates his journey when he can’t write the words to the experience, and of course he also writes. I’m hoping that the dynamic format is appealing and captures the audience to really feel intrigued by the presentation, but also captured by his story.
Excellent! What books did you wish you had as a child and why?
That is an interesting question. I was an avid reader as a child and I had so many series and authors to name as favorites. I would have loved to see more books normalize the experiences of children in the area of social-emotional development. My other picture books capture the experience of the Bicultural child, and I am a huge supporter of the need for more books that represent diversity and cultural experiences, both as mirrors and windows for children to build empathy, compassion and understanding. I think this is true for other areas as well. Of course we all know books like “Are you there God, it’s me Margaret,” that tell a story to normalize natural growth – in this case puberty, right? That type of book does well because many people can relate to it, but it is telling a story vs a manual or handbook. I wish there had been more like this, telling stories to teach/normalize things with regards to social-emotional growth, and from different perspectives of culture. Tall order right? And this is also me looking back as an adult, and as a child therapist too.