I’d Like to Share a Book

One of the writing projects I’ve been involved with over the past year and a half was helping to finish a children’s book, begun by my sister, Sarah Linquist, who died in June 2010 of ovarian cancer.

Sarah was primarily a painter—a muralist and also a scenic artist who created scenery for major productions at the St. Louis Municipal Opera.  Her chemotherapy soon robbed her of fine motor skills in her hands, so necessary for a painter.  Instead of giving up, she began to cut up bits of paper, little by little creating a diorama of a paper jungle–five feet long and three feet wide—in her studio.  Meanwhile, she was thinking through the plot of a Christmas story, featuring a little wooden doll named Dolly who would wander through this and other lands Sarah planned to create.  Soon she was gathering materials for Metal Land, Wood Land, Desolation Land, and others.  The book began to take shape.  It was called Onward is Best: A Christmas Journey. 

Sarah died with her landscapes completed but her manuscript unfinished.  She left behind a son and a daughter, both college-aged, a loving husband, and three grieving sisters.  Together we decided to finish Sarah’s book.  The three sisters—writers all—began work on revising the existing narrative and giving it all the life we knew Sarah would have wanted.  Her husband, children, and good friends worked with a photographer to capture Sarah’s settings for Dolly’s many adventures.  I am proud to say that my daughter, Carrie, was brought in as graphic artist to assemble all the pieces.

And now the book is done.  If you would like to read about it, go to http://onwardisbest.com/.

I hope you will.

21 responses to “I’d Like to Share a Book

  1. First of all let me say how sorry I am for your loss of Sarah. From what I read she was blessed with many talents and blessed with a talented family. The sets for the book that she designed are fantastic, I can’t imagine how many hours she put into them. I am anxious to purchase a book ( I just have to figure out my Paypal password) and see how the story related to the the sets as Dolly discovers her new path. Thanks for sharing a part of Sarah with us.

  2. Thanks so much, Walk! The sets are impossible to describe. The more you look, the more you see, and then you realize someone constructed them one small piece at a time. If you buy the book, I think you’ll find that you’ve bought a classic. We worked on it without regard to economics, so it’s a far lusher book that you can find these days. I’d get one now. The first limited printing will be a numbered edition, so you’ll have a real treasure. It’s big book too! Thanks again. It means a lot to me. –Ann

  3. Ann I am also sorry for your loss, but you have managed to honor Sarah in such a meaningful way. I will get the book right away, it will be a Christmas gift to myself. You have made such a positive change in my life, I can only imagine what a powerful experience it was for all of you to join efforts and complete this work. Happy Thanksgiving, my friend.

    • You’re right. It was incredibly meaningful–something to do just when we felt we were stuck with such a cruel reality. Much of the proceeds are going to a cancer organization in St. Louis, so that’s another positive feeling I get from it. I’m very happy you’ll have one. I know you’ll enjoy it. Great story and great visuals. Thanks Peanut!

  4. Oh, Ann, I’m so sorry for the loss of your beautiful sister. I’ve spent the past half hour looking at her paintings and reading her words. I’m in awe of her talent. Her memories of the Marshall Field windows at Christmas time brought back my own memories of pressing my face to the glass to dream of becoming a part of those beautiful fantasies. I ordered a book which I will keep for my little granddaughter when she gets a bit older. Thanks to you and your sisters and your daughter for bringing this personal tribute to life and sharing it with us.

    • I remember those windows well too. They were so amazing to a little kid who couldn’t wait for Christmas to come. Our mom was a big Christmas nut, and she passed that gene on to all her kids. We’re so excited that Sarah’s book was completed in time for the holidays. I believe they will begin shipping next week some time. We went all out and had it published with a hard, cloth cover and gilt edged pages. I haven’t seen one yet, but will be getting mine soon too. A present for ourselves! I hope you find that it’s a Christmas tradition for you and your granddaughter. Thanks so much for the note.

  5. Sorry for your loss, Ann. The book looks gorgeousl and I agree that it will become a classic.

    • My brother-in-law emailed me to announce that he had filled an order from someone named Gullible in Moose Jaw, Alaska. He was mightily impressed, and I was very pleased to imagine Sarah’s book in your lap.

  6. Dear Ann, I wanted to give you the following story as a Thank You gift for Thanksgiving. I hope you enjoy it.

    It was sleeting the morning of December 23, 2008, which would not have been a problem if I were nestled all snug in my bed, but, I was on my way to South Bend Regional Airport to board a flight destined for Tennessee. My traveling companion was my 81-year-old mother, Josie. We had been invited to spend Christmas with her older sister in Nashville.
    Josie loved to fly; she had done a lot of flying for her career. I do not take well to flying. I tolerate the middle part of a flight if there is no turbulence and we are not turning, but the takeoff and landing parts tend to work havoc with my central nervous system.
    In preparation for our journey, I had downloaded the “Official Packing Instructions” provided curtsey of the TSA. There were four single spaced pages of do’s and don’ts. It was thoroughly intimidating. Fluids and gels must be bagged separately, no toothpaste, no drinking water, no nail clippers, no machine guns or grenades. I did make sure that I had an ample supply of Dramamine just in case my nerves went into overdrive.
    It was a fact that I was not looking forward to the flight, but I could not deny my mother the joy of this trip. In the prior two years, my father and brother had died. Josie had serious health problems also, including being virtually blind, having heart failure and being confined to a wheelchair. I was her main caregiver until it became necessary for me to move her into a nursing home.
    As the car pulled up to the airport entrance, I felt the need to instruct Josie, once again, in the proper etiquette for going through Security. My mother was gregarious with a rapier wit and a wide streak of mischief down the middle of her brain.
    “Josie, these TSA inspectors mean business, they are humorless. Do no, and I mean, Do Not get chatty or witty with them. Simply answer their questions and follow their directions. I am not going to be sent to a Turkish Prison because you decide to get cute!”
    Josie nodded obediently and said, “Perhaps you should take a couple of those Drama Pills before we go in, you seem a little tense. Everything is going to be just fine.”
    I took two pills and we made it through Security without incident. As we entered the holding area, it was announcement that our flight was delayed due to foul weather. Three hours into our five-hour delay, Josie had made friends with everyone. She played the room like a seasoned showman, while I was popping Dramamine as if they were Pez candies.
    Finally, we boarded the plane, Josie was wheeled on first and I followed, barely able to walk due to the Drama Pills. The plane taxied onto the runway and we sat there, waiting for our turn to takeoff. After about ten minutes, the pilot came over the PA system and said,
    “Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain. I am sorry for the delay, but we are having trouble reaching the tower by radio or phone.”
    I was ready to bolt; I sure did not want to fly with a pilot who had honked off the tower people so much that they would not answer the phone. My calm, little mother assured me that this was normal and “everything would be alright.”
    Once again, the pilot came over the PA, “Ladies and gentlemen, we still are unable to raise anyone in the tower, so we will be going back to the terminal, I am sorry for the inconvenience.”
    We did return to the terminal and one of the Stewardess Boys exited the plane. I begged him to take me with him, to no avail. The young man returned carrying a piece of paper and took it to the pilot. Again, the pilot made an announcement.
    “Ladies and gentlemen, we will be taking off right after we re-fuel. We consumed too much fuel waiting on the tarmac, sorry for the incon….” The announcement was interrupted by the sound of laughter. Perhaps it was from nerves or just that the situation was so bizarre, whatever it was, all of us were convulsing with belly laughs.
    “Isn’t this fun!” my sweet little mother said as she took my hand.
    Josie held my hand all the way to Nashville. After all the years of taking care of her and my father, finally things were back the way they were meant to be. My Mommy was holding my hand taking care of me, and I was her little girl. That was our last Christmas together. Josie died the following September, but I will have the priceless gift of that Trip for the rest of my days.

  7. I read this and then went off for a good cry. I’m back now, ready to say thanks, Peanut. Your mom was truly inspiring. So often we see that wheel chair as the end, but she seemed to have thought of it as a good way to get around even more. May we all have her spirit.

    Have a lovely holiday. –Ann

  8. Ann! I got my copy of the book this afternoon and it’s beautiful! I have book number 130. 😉 I’ve never had a numbered book before. It’s a treasure and I will enjoy reading it this evening after I’m done with my baking chores for tomorrow’s feast.
    – Barbara

  9. Dear Ann, I am the proud owner of Book #163 ! It is enchanting and magical. Your sister was indeed a remarkable artist and writer who was blessed with equally talented family and friends. I will cherish this treasure and intent to read it to the children at Church during December. Thank you and your sisters for finishing this classic. Happy Thanksgiving my friend.

  10. Dear Ann

    I just received my copy of Onward is Best and it is beautiful. I am number 470! I had planned to give it to my granddaughter but now I’m thinking of keeping it for myself. (I’ll share when she stays with me over Christmas holiday) You and your sisters have done a wonderful thing to honor Sarah’s memory.

    I’ve been thinking over my life lately–good stuff, regrets, questions, that sort of thing. And I thought of the people that has made a positive difference (major difference) in my life. And they are few. You are one of them. You have helped change my life like no one else. Thank you.


    • I’ve taught so many people, Kathy, but I have never forgotten you. You always had a vivid way of expressing yourself that meant so much to me and all your classmates. I’m so very glad you bought a book. I have my own, and I leaf through it often, remembering and grieving, again. But it is a solid, good, achievement. Now you have one too. I hope you will keep it always. Perhaps it will inspire you to put more of yourself into words. I hope you do. –Ann

  11. Ann– I want you to know that I HAVE started writing again–diligently. Yay! I’m working/revising a short story and still playing around with a half written lower than first draft of a novel. Some days I only get in about 30 minutes but that’s okay. For now.

    I will be thinking of you and your family on December 18, Sarah’s birthday. That is my mother’s birthday also. She passed away in 2002 but those special days (birthdays, Mother’s day, etc.) are difficult even now. I just wanted you to know I will be thinking of you.

    Thank you for your kind words about my writing. It means so much to me.

  12. Ann ~

    This is LJ. You may not recall but I was in your BWW a month or so ago. What a wonderful workshop!

    My heartfelt regrets to you for your loss of Sarah. I understand the painful grief you are experiencing. I lost my only brother two days before my 40th birthday. He was 41. I am not a devoutly religious person, but I do consider myself to be a spiritual person. The only way I was able to come to terms with his unexpected death and move beyond the grief was to believe that God had a higher purpose for him in the proverbial “better place.” I also lost a dear friend and a mother to cancer.

    I’m actually writing to tell you that I have Sarah’s Book Number 131. It is gorgeous! What a lovely tribute to Sarah. You and your sisters have probably exceeded her dreams with your finished product. This is probably a silly thing to share, but I wanted to tell you that I sat in bed last night reading Chapter One of “Onward Is Best” to my life partner. He’s 66 and I’m 63. (Imagine what our grown children would think!) This morning he said, “I can’t wait for you to read Chapter Two tonight.” 🙂

    So far, I’ve not been blessed with a grandchild. But, hopefully, someday it will happen. When it does Sarah’s book will be his or her book.

    Take care, Ann. Grieve however you need to. It’s the only way to get through it. And, remember Onward is best!


    • LJ,
      I do remember you! It’s so great to hear from you. I was touched by your message and forwarded it to my sisters, since we are all thinking about Sarah so much at the holidays. It was her favorite time of year. I loved the mental picture of your and your partner sitting in bed with Sarah’s book. His reaction was so encouraging to hear. I hope you are one day able to share it with your grandchildren too.

      Onward/Keep going! —Ann

  13. PS

    It’s nice to know you received my message, Ann. I wasn’t sure if you looked at past links. Thank you for taking the time to respond.

    I forgot to mention in my previous message how much I enjoy reading the posts on your blog. You have done a nice job with the WordPress site. Your prompts provoke some very entertaining pieces from your followers.

    Regards and Happy Holidays to you and yours!


    PSS I also forgot to mention that your daughter did an outstanding job with the graphic design of “Onward is Best.” What a multi-talented family you have!

  14. Ann,
    I have received book 406 and 407. You, your family, friends and especially your sister have created a wonderful piece of artwork. It’s incredible what love can inspire. I am keeping a copy for myself and giving one to my mother in law who is a cancer survivor. I know she’ll love it. I’m so sorry for the loss of your sister. She and your whole family are an amazing group and I feel fortunate to have been touched by all of you. I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas.

  15. Hi there sis…just actually read all these lovely, heartfelt comments for the first time, a nice pick me up as I am once again spreading Sarah’s vision around for the 2012 holiday season…may it light up thousands of hearts and smiling faces…Bob

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