I did it! I finally finished my book!
In April 1996, as I was heaped in a ball, crying inconsolably over Mark’s death, my Mother dug into the earth and planted a sunflower garden that would become the most beautiful lesson I had ever learned. It also became the inspiration for the book I wrote, illustrated and recently published.
A beautiful sunflower garden took over a corner of our backyard that summer. There was one flower in particular that grew so big that I had to climb a step ladder to touch the top. I don’t know about you, but I have always been awestruck by those humongous sunflowers that are taller than me. I feel flutters of magic and I just want to sit in their shade and look up!
At that time, in the midst of my grief over my first love, I was unrealistically searching for Mark in anything, and yep, you guessed it, I fancied the thought that a bit of his soul was in that towering yellow beauty. I just loved that garden, and I mostly loved my Mark Flower.
Eventually all the flowers dried up and died. We pulled Mark Flower from the earth and laid him off to the side.
The rest of 1996 flew by. When summer came around again, I found myself thinking about the Mark Flower and wondering about the old garden. You’ll never guess what happened next! I walked out to the backyard and discovered a whole new patch of sunflowers already in full bloom! What a wonderful surprise! “I have to write a children’s book about this with the moral being that we are never completely gone, even when we die!”
That idea marinated in my heart for 10 years. I knew eventually I would write it …
Skip ahead one decade to a New York City subway train. There I was, frantically writing my book. My pen couldn’t scribble fast enough. I was impulsively moved to put that story to ink after I had a HUGE awakening in therapy. I had finally come to terms with the deeply disturbing complexities of Mark’s death that I had squelched for so long. Everything was surfacing for me, including the long awaited story of the Sunflower. Suddenly my heart began to lift, and it kept shedding all that weight for the next six years as I illustrated and fine-tuned the book that would become an epic for me.
Many hurdles slowed me down along the way. I had no idea how to draw or how on earth I was going to magically become an artist. For months I begged my brother, Troy, to partner with me since he has a background in graphic design. Finally he suggested, “Why don’t you just illustrate it the way you make all your greeting cards with your magazine cut outs!” Ah yes! My mixed media, collage, tear-outs, thing-a-ma-boppers… OK! I can do that. Great idea Troy!
So I set off on a very long journey looking thru every magazine and catalogue I could, searching for the most interesting prints and patterns in all the colors I needed. Along the way, I came up with more and more ideas of how to make my book look really cool. I used all those hours in audition lines to rip and cut my way thru colorful pieces of glossy paper and sort everything into zip lock baggies.
Next hurdle: illustrating the faces of my characters. I had no idea how to draw! So I asked my brother Allan and my friend Deni, hoping one of them would save me. No such luck! Allan said “Whenever you’re on the subway or needing to just veg out, grab a pencil and just start drawing. Doodle! Give it a try! You can teach yourself how to draw.” That was great advice, because after months of waiting around for someone else to do my job, I finally picked up a pencil (very reluctantly) and started drawing my way to new discoveries. I’m not proclaiming that I am a gifted drawer, but I’m proud of what I’ve done and I’m happy to say that I found my own style that works for me! I think my book came out to be pretty darn cute!
I had laser focus for long stretches of time. Some weekends were flat out dedicated to staying inside and illustrating. I honed in for weeks racing home from work, eating dinner in my car, skipping the gym, and planting my butt in the chair to do more cutting and pasting. Long hiatus’ were also part of the equation. Sometimes I was distracted doing community theatre. Other times I took long breaks because I straight up needed a time-out from little pieces of paper fluttering around my apartment and Gluesticky fingertips.
For about a year, I had my artwork strung up on my walls, hanging off of hemp string by paperclips I “borrowed” from work.
Petal by tiny petal I cut and pasted my way to 27 pages of illustrations!
What a lovely journey. Healing from a painful part of my life, saying my long goodbye to Mark, expressing myself in a new form of art I had never tapped into before, all the while processing my day to day life, moving from New York back to Cali, entrances and exits of various romantic relationships, births, deaths, weddings and etc. The recent passing of my Father gave me the urgent inspiration to finalize this cathartic work of joy.
This book is not only about Mark. It’s about ME and the colorful patterns and layers of 16 years of highs, lows, dedication, prayer, discovery, and reflection. During this process, I grew up and became the woman I have always wanted to be. “What David Taught Me” embodies everything that I am.
If someone asked, "Who is Theresa?" I would hand them my book and say, “Well, here’s a start!”