Swimming with Maya

THE BOOK: Swimming with Maya: A Mother’s Story.

PUBLISHED IN: 2013 (originally published in hardback in 2004 by Capital Books)

THE AUTHOR: Eleanor Vincent.

THE EDITOR: Mike O’Mary, publisher at Dream of Things, Chicago, IL

THE PUBLISHER: Dream of Things

SUMMARY: Swimming with Maya demonstrates the remarkable process of healing after the traumatic death of a loved one. Eleanor Vincent raised her two daughters, Maya and Meghan, virtually as a single-parent. Maya, the eldest, was a high-spirited and gifted young woman. As a teenager, Maya was energetic and independent – and often butted heads with her mother. But Eleanor and Maya were always close and connected, like best friends or sisters, but always also mother and daughter. Then at age 19, Maya mounts a horse bareback as a dare and, in a crushing cantilever fall, is left in a coma from which she will never recover. Eleanor’s life is turned upside down as she struggles to make the painful decision about Maya’s fate. Ultimately Eleanor chooses to donate Maya’s organs. Years later, in one of the most poignant moments you will ever read about, Eleanor has the opportunity to hear her daughter’s heart beat in the chest of the heart recipient. Along the way, Eleanor re-examines her relationship with her daughter, as well as the experiences that shaped Eleanor as a woman and as a mother to Maya. An inspirational/motivational true story recommended for anyone who has experienced tragedy, who is grappling with traumatic experiences of the past, or who wants to better understand the strength and healing power of the human spirit.

THE BACK STORY: Swimming with Maya took ten years to write. After my daughter died, I knew I had been handed my writing assignment for the rest of my life. I did the only thing I knew to do. I set down one hard word after another to tell the story of our life as mother and daughter.

Early in my career I had been a newspaper reporter, trained to take detailed notes. And I had always been a devoted journal keeper. At the time Maya died in 1992, I was in graduate school working on a master’s degree in creative writing.

I put away the novel I had begun a few months before Maya’s accident. Instead, drawing on my journals, photographs, and vivid memories, I wrote the true story of Maya, and my struggles as a single parent. I also began to research transplantation, trying to understand the outcome of my decision to give my daughter’s organs away to save the lives of strangers.

Ultimately, an article I published in the San Jose Mercury News about our personal experience of organ donation wound up in the hands of a man who knew Maya’s heart recipient. He realized the person I described in my article as “a Chilean businessman” could only be his friend Fernando. After Fernando read my article, and learned the details of his anonymous donor’s life, he was determined to meet.

Through my writing I not only began to heal my grief, I also brought into my life a man who had every reason to want to know everything he could about Maya. Fernando felt my daughter as a mysterious presence in his body. He was intensely curious about her. As I poured out our story to him, I simultaneously experienced it in a new way. I began to record my insights.

Those early writings about Maya – and then about Fernando – ultimately became the heart of my book. Since it was reissued by Dream of Things in e-book and paperback in 2013, Swimming with Maya has twice appeared on The New York Times e-book bestseller list.

WHY THIS TITLE?: When I wrote the final scene in the book, a vivid dream I had had about Maya swimming in a pool, I read it to a friend. She was moved and said, “Well, there’s your title: Swimming with Maya.” I instantly knew she was right. Water is a theme throughout the book and there are many scenes of Maya swimming or diving. Ultimately, though, I’m using the term “swimming” in a more metaphysical sense. Maya swims in my memory and in my life. Our dead are always with us. The more we can incorporate them into our lives, the more we will heal our grief, and be able to move on with life in the here and now. In addition, Maya’s physical organs make it possible for others to live and to see, and so she is also “swimming” in them in a very literal way.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? For its humanity and its inspiration. Readers often say it has brought more joy into their lives, although it is a challenging and heartbreaking read in the early chapters. Many people say it has changed the way they relate to their children. It is really a love story and a story of healing and redemption. Few people have written about organ transplantation from the perspective of the donor family – mostly we hear inspiring stories about organ recipients. I wanted to get inside that experience of making the decision to donate and its ultimate effect on our family’s grief and share it with the reader. Anyone who likes a page turner will like this book. I try to leave the reader wondering, “Will this mother survive, or not, and how will the story end?”

REVIEW COMMENTS: 209 reader reviews on Amazon, plus these professional review comments:

“Vincent’s poignant decision to donate Maya’s organs will resonate with even hard-boiled readers.” Booklist “Powerful prose with a meaningful and memorable message.” Lee Gutkind, Founder, Creative Nonfiction Magazine “Anyone interested in memoirs in general and mother/daughter relationships in particular will find this a moving saga.” Midwest Book Review “Heartbreaking and heart healing, this compelling story of surviving the death of a child will stay with you long after you’ve closed the book.” Ellen Bass, author of The Courage to Heal and The Human Line AUTHOR PROFILE: My junior high school Civics teacher summed me up this way: “The most disunorganized person I know.”

AUTHOR PROFILE: With a touch of creative wildness and a soupcon of OCD, I write and live with ordered passion. I’m currently at work on a novel about living in a cohousing community – a lifestyle choice (and long-held dream) that turned into a disaster with hilarious and poignant results for the main character. In addition to memoir and fiction, I also write personal essays and poetry, and have been published in several anthologies and literary journals, most notably by Creative Nonfiction Press, an offshoot of the well-known journal. I blog at http://www.eleanorvincent.com

AUTHOR COMMENTS: People often ask if writing Swimming with Maya healed my grief. Honestly, I have to say that working with other grieving parents to share our recovery, going to weekly therapy sessions, journaling, walking, attempting to be a good parent to my surviving daughter, having long talks with family and friends – these are the things that healed me. I did my grief work. And in between I wrote like a banshee. I worked hard to make my memoir a compelling story, rewriting and restructuring the material to ensure the narrative arc of each chapter and the entire book would give the reader a moving experience. That’s why it took 10 years to write. As one of my teachers famously said, “Writing is rewriting.” I’ve found that to be true. Writing is like building. You lay the foundation (the first draft) and then add the studs and walls (early revisions) and then do the finish carpentry (the final polishing). It can take years to get it right.

SAMPLE CHAPTER: My Amazon page: http://www.amazon.com/Eleanor-Vincent/e/B001K7QXAI/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

LOCAL OUTLETS: Can be ordered from any independent or chain bookstore WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or directly from the Dream of Things website at http://www.dreamofthings.com

PRICE: $14.00 paperback, $2.99 e-book CONTACT THE AUTHOR: Visit my website and follow my blogs at http://www.eleanorvincent.com “Like” my Facebook author page to receive updates https://www.facebook.com/eleanorvincentauthor Buy the book and post a review http://www.amazon.com/Swimming-Maya-Mothers-Eleanor-Vincent/dp/0988439042/ref=la_B001K7QXAI_1_1_twi_pap_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1453237122&sr=1-1 Visit my publisher Dream of Things to order Swimming with Maya directly http://www.dreamofthings.com Follow me on Twitter https://twitter.com/eleanor_vincent

Or on Pinterest https://www.pinterest.com/epvinceiam/

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Recently retired after 35 years with the News & Advance newspaper in Lynchburg, VA, now re-inventing myself as a novelist/nonfiction writer and writing coach in Lake George, NY.

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