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How Tapping Into Creativity Boosts Happiness

This post was created in partnership with Jean Mellano, author of Slipped Away.

Jean Mellano wrote Slipped Away after the love of her life, Steve Tarpinian, took his own life. Together for 33 years, Jean’s memoir reads less like a book about suicide and more like a private love letter.

The most remarkable part of the book, at least to me, is that she includes remembrances from other people who also adored Steve — his colleagues, students, and members of his beloved triathlon community. And then she published it. Without an agent. Without a book deal. A self-published endeavor that keeps Steve’s memory alive.

Harnessing creativity (of all kinds, not just with writing) is an uplifting and empowering path to finding resilience after loss. I explore 85 inspiring opportunities for remembering and celebrating loved ones in Passed and Present: Keeping Memories of Loved Ones Alive. Self-publishing is just one outstanding idea. So is making a film. Read on for more strategies. Perhaps you’ll be inspired to pursue your own passion project in celebration of your loved one.

Nancy Borowick is a professional photographer. She’s also the author of The Family Imprint, a beautiful book she funded through Kickstarter. In 200 deeply intimate pages, Nancy reveals the story of her parents’ simultaneous treatments for stage-four cancer. The book is both a raw look at the ravaging effects of the disease and a tribute to her mother and father’s spirited relationship. It’s also about Nancy’s enduring love for her parents who died less than one year apart.

Nancy couldn’t find a publisher willing to take a chance on her project. “This sparked a fire in me and I decided that partner or no partner, I was going to make this book,” she told me enthusiastically. “I just had to start thinking creatively.” She raised $65,313 on the online crowd-funding platform – enough to get the project off the ground. Nancy then leveraged the funds to hire a publisher (Hatje Cantz) to handle distribution. The book has since been featured on NPR’s All Things Considered and CBS Sunday Morning.

Molly Gandour used Indiegogo to fund a documentary about the death of her sister. The film is called Peanut Gallery and it’s a heartening exploration of sibling relationships, grief, and love. (Molly’s mother self-published Heart Work in memory of her daughter via Amazon’s CreateSpace.) The movie is available through iTunes.

One final and timely note:

Jean is also using Slipped Away to give back to the community in Steve’s memory. Through the end of this month, all net proceeds from the sale of the book will be donated to Project9line, a non-profit supporting veterans suffering from PTSD.


  1. Peg Conway says

    Thanks for these inspiring, empowering examples. I came across your book recently and the phrase “keeping her memory alive” keeps resonating. My mom died decades ago when I was a child, and a lot was lost in the aftermath that I am endeavoring to reclaim.

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