The Girl I Used to Be has won The Oregon Spirit Book Award from the Oregon College of Teachers of English. That book is very special to me, because the character of Nora is 100% my mom. Writing her in the book was a way of keeping her alive.
I got my first OCTE award October 4, 2013. I had temporarily moved home to take care of my mom on hospice - and was also writing The Girl I Used To Be. I told my mom I was going to cancel going. It was the end of September and the hospice nurse insisted she weeks maybe months, to go. Mom told me not to cancel. She felt God was telling her that she would die before then - and she did, on October 1. I came for the award and just cried when I got it.
Then I was back in 2014 for another award. The writer Brian Doyle asked about her right before he got up to speak. He and my mom used to write each other - she was a fan of his writing. He got the wrong idea that she had just died, and before I could correct he he got called up to talk. The first thing he did was ask for a moment of silence, announcing that my mom had just died. I’m sure everyone who had been there the year before was very confused.
Brian himself died just a few months ago from a brain tumor. We had shared another weird moment. A year ago, we spoke at a joint library event. They used the photos below to advertise it. Even _I_ thought the woman next to Brian was me - but it was another writer named Constance, whom I have never met.
Circles within circles.
THE GIRL I USED TO BE has gone back for a third printing in paperback - less than two months after it came out. I love this book so much. One reason is that it has a character that's pretty much 100% my mom in it. Writing her into the book was a way to keep her alive.