'GG and Mamela:' A conversation with author and grandma friend Belinda Brock

Many Grandma's Briefs readers are likely familiar with Belinda Brock, fellow grandmother and blogger at Grandbooking. What many may not know is that Belinda recently wrote a children's book called GG and Mamela, which publishes April 15 and can be pre-ordered now through Amazon.com (that's not an affiliate link).

GG and Mamela by Belinda BrockAs the subject matter of Belinda's picture book will resonate with Grandma's Briefs readers, I requested an email interview with her about GG and Mamela, and she graciously agreed.

What is GG and Mamela about?
GG and Mamela celebrates the loving relationship between Lily (Mamela) and her great-grandmother (GG), as her life starts to slow and wind down in hospice.

What inspired you to write the story?

This story is deeply rooted within my own experience. Several years ago, my wonderful mother became ill and I shepherded her through hospice care. Although this was an emotional and intense time, my family and I were genuinely moved by the support provided by hospice. During my mother’s two stays in the residential hospice unit, we greatly appreciated the family-friendly environment and how it differed from that of a conventional hospital.

I wrote GG and Mamela to reflect this experience and offer a gentle and open-ended way to start a conversation with children about death and dying, as well as introduce the concept of hospice care. Moreover, I believe this book illustrates how strength and comfort can be found through love, family and tradition.

Considering the heavy subject, was it difficult to find the right balance in writing on it for children?
I felt that as long as I started with an age-appropriate story populated with characters that children can relate to, I could write about anything.

How much input did you have from family members on the story?

I did ask my husband and adult children to read my manuscript. I value their opinion and made some minor adjustments based on their comments. Actually, reading it aloud to myself was also very helpful.

Where did the chicken soup recipe that's central to the story come from?
Like GG, my mother was a good cook with a generous spirit. GG’s chicken soup recipe is definitely similar to my mom’s, although their "secret" ingredient is different.

The "Note for Parents and Caregivers" at the end of the book is written by clinical psychologist Dr. Laura Brock. Is she a relative?
I am proud to say that Dr. Laura Brock is my daughter. Naturally, I was thrilled when Laura agreed to contribute the afterword for my book.

GG and Mamela page 13

GG and Mamela is illustrated by the award-winning Avi Katz. How did you two come to collaborate on the book and what did that process look like?
Of course, the Internet has changed everything. First of all, I was able to study illustrators’ portfolios online. I was immediately attracted to Avi’s sensibility and hoped that he would be able to partner with me on this project. We worked closely together; in fact, he incorporated some of my archival family photos and objects into the illustrations. However, we never met face to face; all our communication was conducted on the Internet—Avi lives in Israel!

Is this your first writing venture? What was your writing process and how long did it take you to complete the book?
I’ve always had an affinity for writing—I‘m an editor, writing coach and former teacher. A few years ago, I wrote and published a book filled with recipes, stories and photos that I gave only to relatives and close friends.

I found it beneficial to take a break of anywhere from a few days to a few weeks and then revisit the manuscript with fresh eyes. It’s funny—many times, I thought I had completed the story, but then I found it needed more revision. In particular, I worked on shortening it. Economy of words, actions and characters is valued in today’s picture books. If something is not there to advance the plot, it usually goes. The whole process took about 2 1/2 years.

GG and Mamela by Belinda Brock, page 11

What was the biggest challenge in writing and publishing GG and Mamela?
The illustrations are a vital part of the storytelling process. Really understanding how the text and the art fit together on the page was more difficult than I anticipated.

Another big challenge would be promotion and marketing. While not all promotional tasks are unpleasant (case in point, being interviewed by you, Lisa), they are time-consuming. I think that writers prefer to…well, write.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of the process so far?

I derived a gratifying sense of accomplishment from conceiving and realizing an ambitious project.

In light of the GG and Mamela subject matter, what are three top tips for discussing such with a child after reading the story together?
When talking to children about a death or impending death, tell them what they need to know in a way appropriate to their age and maturity level. Don't hide things or lie, so you don’t damage the trust they have in you. There’s a delicate balance to maintain. You can share that you are sad, but don't overwhelm them with your own emotions. Finally, reassure the child that you (or the caregiving adult) will be there to take care of them. That might be more than three!

Is there anything else you would like to add regarding helping children deal with the loss of a loved one?
Remember that children mourn differently than adults. They often express their feelings and emotions through their behavior and play. Lily was able to do so through her drawing.

Author Belinda BrockCongratulations to Belinda on her lovely hardcover picture book, GG and Mamela. Best wishes for huge success!

(All graphics in this post courtesy Belinda Brock)



Today's question:

What most helped you through the loss of a beloved grandparent?