Never Forget Eleanor

In Which We Discuss Writing the Unexpected and Keeping Memories Alive

Yowza, where did the time go? One minute it’s the end of March, then thirty seconds later—or was it actually thirty million years—we’re halfway through May. Corona Time, am I right?

A lot has happened in the past couple months. JAY’S GAY AGENDA and the first MERMICORN ISLAND were sent off to copy-edits, I’ve sent the second MI off for editorial feedback, and the third is going to be started this week. Chapter book series move fast! I also had a new picture book deal announced.

This book was not something I ever thought I would write. When someone says, describe your work, I say, “It’s flamboyant! It’s slightly dark! It’s full of gay love and real world magic, but then sometimes actual magic like when I’m writing about mermaid-unicorn hybrids. By the way, have I mentioned to you how mer-sessed I am with mer-culture?” I need to work on my elevator pitch. All that is to say that writing about the passing of a loved one and incurable diseases was never something that I thought I’d write. Honestly, I didn’t feel equipped to talk about it, to give the subjects the care and tenderness they deserved.

So how did this book come about? The story came to me after finding out I carry the genetic variants for Alzheimer’s. This doesn’t mean that I will develop Alzheimer’s for certain, but I did discover that 50% of people with my genetic markers will see the disease develop in their 80s. Knowing that the odds were 50-50, I didn’t feel a looming sense of dread, but more a sense of ease knowing that if I do get the disease, I can make the most out of the memories I’m making now since I had such a big heads up. I started a journal to keep track of major milestones and silly small moments. I also did a lot of reading on Alzheimer’s and dementia, and it was through this research and hearing about experiences shared by my mother-in-law when her husband had the disease, I realized that the family of someone who loses their memory is hit the hardest. That’s when NEVER FORGET ELEANOR came to me. It features a storyteller who loses her way with words, and her grandson who keeps her memory alive after she’s gone. I wrote it as a way to work through how I’d want my loved ones to remember me if the disease eventually did develop. I wrote it as a way to hopefully let people know that just because their parent or grandparent or sibling or friend is losing their memory, that doesn’t make the moments they shared together any less real or valid or cherished.

It was extremely cathartic to write, but for me, all of this is still speculation, a weird coin toss that could go either way. What is most important right now are the families who are currently affected by Alzheimer’s or dementia. I hope this book starts conversations for them, and shows at least one way you can honor the memories of those who’ve left us. I’m so incredibly touched that Loren Long signed on to illustrate.

The absolute best thing about this book so far is how people have started to share with me their favorite moments and sayings and quirks from family they lost to Alzheimer’s or dementia, even though the book isn’t out yet and they’ve only seen the deal announcement. It’s been a shining beacon of love in such a rocky time. These stories are so special to me, and know if you’ve ever got a story of your own loved ones you want to share, I’m always here to listen. It’s an honor to continue their legacies together.

Here’s to those who’ve left us, but are not forgotten.

Jubilantly,

Jason June

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