Sunday, August 11, 2019

Monica Burch on Her Children's Book, Candma Goes to Heaven, a Story about Grief and Loss

In this interview, Monica Burch talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by, about her book, Candma Goes to Heaven.

“It’s okay to be upset.” ~Monica Burch

In the three years since Monica has last been on AuthorStory, she has continued working with children on robotics and STEM. She is also presently a self-professed “empty nester,” as one of her two sons is presently taking up engineering and the other has graduated and is presently working. 

Candma Goes to Heaven began when the grandmother - the mother of her husband - her older son, then two, passed away. Monica began the book at that time, one which essentially describes the approach she used to explain to her son about his grandmother’s death, but it was only after some two decades and several revisions that she finally published it. Along the way, she also dealt with some children whose loved ones had passed away, and it was in those times when she figured she needed to publish the book, as it would help out those who had experienced such a loss.

Finding an illustrator proved to be challenging. Monica contacted four different illustrators before finally settling on Emily Zeiroth, remarking that she wanted her characters to be African-American to reflect her heritage, and that she also had particular ideas of how particular people to appear. Getting the character of Candma was particularly important to Monica, and it wasn’t until she worked with Emily, whom she contacted through Upwork, that an illustrator finally produced what Monica had in mind. Monica notes that all of her correspondence and meetings with all of the illustrators she contacted were online, and it was after Emily produced the illustration that would appear on the book’s cover page that Monica hired her.

Monica did research for the book, to make sure she did justice to the subject, and the additional experiences she had over the decades also made her tweak the book to make it more reflective of what she had learned. What surprised her was that parents had a hard time talking to kids about death, dying and what had happened, with the children not even attending the funeral of a loved one.

It’s important for Monica to let her children know how she and her husband feel about the loss of a loved one, as doing so tells the child that it’s okay to be upset by the loss, as the death of a loved one is part of life. Letting children know and understand all that was something that Monica felt strongly about, and given the resistance some parents have about the subject, Monica remarks that Candma Goes to Heaven is a book talks about to parents first, before the parents introduce it to their children. That said, she doesn’t want to interfere with how parents introduce the subject of death to their children, citing her own background where “passed away” is used as a euphemism for someone dying, as well as pointing out that such a euphemism would confuse children.

Monica believes that it is better for a child to be told what happens so that he or she can deal with it, as every last person is eventually going to die and that a child’s loved one is eventually going to die while the child is still alive. She remarks that she had read some children’s books where the deaths involved weren’t family or where the family involved wasn’t human, and that she wanted her book to be as realistic as possible.

For parents, Monica opines that they should find a place where everyone is comfortable, and then talk about something good about the person first off. Once that is done, the child can then be told what happened, and then let the child know how the parent feels about the situation, to let the child know that it’s okay to be upset. To a child, Monica would say that it’s okay to be upset, and that the person who passed away loved them and that it’s okay to always remember that. “It’s something that you have to talk about, and you want to still remember the person,” she muses, adding that children will have memories and feelings about that person who passed, memories and feelings which need to be acknowledged. She also remarks that she and her family mention things about people who have already passed on as a way of helping to deal with the loss, giving the example of how she speaks about her father and how her boys likewise speak about him.

In addition to working on some technical books, Monica is also working on a story where Candma and Alex, the main protagonist of Candma Goes to Heaven, go to church, as well as two more sequels of Speedy’s Strength

Purchase from Amazon: 
Candma Goes to Heaven by Monica Burch 

Speedy’s Strength interview on YouTube

Speedy's Strength interview recap

Inside ROBOTIX interview on YouTube 

Inside ROBOTIX interview recap

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