Wednesday, April 16, 2014

I'm Shelf-ish: Interview with Meryl Ain, co-author of 'The Living Memories Project'

Meryl Ain wrote her first poem in the third grade and has been writing ever since. She is a blogger for Huffington Post and often writes about families, parenting, children, and education. After she lost both her father and mother within a year-and-a-half, she decided to research how others keep alive the memories of their loved ones. She enlisted her husband, Stewart, and her brother, Arthur Fischman, to join her in researching and writing The Living Memories Project, Meryl earned a BA from Queens College, a MA from Columbia University Teachers College, and an Ed.D. from Hofstra University. She began her career in education as a social studies teacher before she became an administrator. She and her husband Stewart live on Long Island and have three sons, three daughters-in-law and three grandchildren.

Their latest book she co-authored with Steward Ain and Arthur M. Fischman is the nonfiction, The Living Memories Project: Legacies That Last.

Visit their website at

Thank you for this interview!  I’d like to know more about you as a person first.  What do you do when you’re not writing?

Right now I am devoting myself full time to the book, to writing and speaking about it. I am a retired educator. I love spending time with my family. My husband and I have three married sons, and three grandchildren.

When did you start writing?

I have been writing since the third grade. I started with poems. Although my primary career has been as an educator (teacher and then school administrator), I have always written about families, education, and parenting. My pieces have been published in various publications, including Huffington Post. I also write poetry when I really want to work through feelings; it is very cathartic for me.

As a published author, what would you say was the most pivotal point of your writing life?

The highlight was when I became determined, no matter what, to make The Living Memories Project a reality. I had certainly attempted other book proposals before, but they went nowhere because I was not persistent enough. With this project, -- because it was inspired by my mother -- I refused to be deterred by negativity, rejection, or doubts. Once I was committed to it, and I enlisted my husband and my brother to join me in this endeavor, I knew the book would become a reality.

If you could go anywhere in the world to start writing your next book, where would that be and why?

After this brutal winter in New York, it would have to be someplace warm and sunny.

If you had 4 hours of extra time today, what would you do?

Spend time with my family.

Where would you like to set a story that you haven’t done yet?

I write non-fiction so it’s not up to me.

Back to your present book (The Living Memories Project), how did you publish it?

Our book was published by a small independent press, Little Miami Publishing Company in Ohio. The publisher empathized with our loss and understood our project since her mother was dying while she read our manuscript. She decided immediately to publish it.

In writing your book, did you travel anywhere for research?


Why was writing The Living Memories Project so important to you?

My mother would have turned 93 this year. When she died after a brief illness in November 2006, although I knew she had lived a long life, I was bereft.  There is never enough time with a loved one.

My mom was my best friend, a reliable loving, comforting, and wise presence in my life.  I spoke to my mother several times a day. When there was a lull at work, she was the one I called. When something wonderful happened, I called her. When something challenging happened, I called her. When I needed advice, she was the one I trusted. I could always count on her to be a calm and intelligent sounding board.

I was in a funk, going through the motions but not really enjoying it.  I was told it would get better after a year and that I needed closure. I began speaking with my friends about how to achieve it and came to the conclusion that there is no closure with those we love deeply. They are in our lives and in our hearts forever, although they are not physically present. Some keep alive their memories through small acts, such as looking at photos and making recipes.  Others do big things to carry on the legacies and values of their loved ones, such as establishing foundations. 

I needed to find a way to incorporate my mother into my everyday life, although she was no longer physically present. The book was a healing and cathartic process. I believe it is a fitting tribute to my mom, especially because my brother and my husband are coauthors. I am comforted to know that I have kept her memory alive by engaging in this project. My hope is that The Living Memories Project will provide comfort and inspiration to others.

Where do you get your best ideas and why do you think that is?

I get my best ideas in the middle of the night when it’s totally quiet. I guess that is because I am normally mult-tasking and this is my most quiet and productive time. Sometimes, I will turn the light on, and make a list of some of these ideas.

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