Hey, everybody, and welcome to my home and to my office. I am Ali Standish, I am the author of The Ethan I Was Before, Bad Bella, and August Isle. And soon to be How to Disappear Completely.. I’m gonna tell you guys a little bit about my new book, How to Disappear Completely. And give you an idea for an exercise, a writing exercise, that you might be able to use to help keep you connected to a friend or two during this kind of difficult and isolating time.. How to Disappear Completely is about a girl named Emma. And Emma is, at the beginning of the story, dealing with the fact that her grandmother has just passed away. And it’s not just her grandmother, because Gram was was more than that to Emma, Gram was really Emma’s best friend. And after Gram dies, Emma starts noticing white spots appearing on her skin. And before long she realizes that she has vitiligo. Which is an autoimmune condition that takes away the pigment from patches or spots on her skin and leaves them really pale.
And vitiligo is a really common condition. It’s not dangerous, it’s not contagious. There are actors and ballerinas and even supermodels that have vitiligo. But depending on who you are, how confident you are, where you live, what kind of community you have, how accepting they are, it can be hard to stand out. And when you have vitiligo, your skin takes on two tones and you do stand out. And.
Emma is struggling to figure out what this is gonna mean for her, that her skin is changing in this way. At the same time that she’s dealing with missing her Gram, who’s the person that she would have turned to for advice about how to find her way through this. And. all of a sudden in a matter of weeks her life has become really unrecognizable and really difficult in some ways that she never could have imagined. And if that sounds familiar, that’s because that’s how a lot of us are feeling right now too, right? A few weeks ago it was life and business as normal, and now things have changed in some ways that are making day-to-day life really difficult and stressful and worrisome for a lot of us.. after Gram dies, Emma goes into the forest to this special place that she and Gram shared together called the Spinney. And in the Spinney there’s a tree, that you can see here on the cover, and there’s a hollow in this tree where they keep a journal. And you can see Emma here on the cover writing in this journal. And in this journal they take turns writing fairy tales together..
Emma will write one chapter, and then Gram will write the next chapter. And they’ll keep going that way until they have a complete fairy tale. And after Gram’s death, Emma comes back to the Spinney and she decides that she wants to start one last story. Because even though there’s no one there to help her write it, writing is a way for her to process what’s happening to her. But also to escape her anxieties and her fear about the future and her grief about Gram. And I’ve often found that writing can do the same thing for me, that it helps me to escape wherever I am in my head. Whatever I’m worried about or afraid of or stressed out about. I can hop into a story that I’m writing and all of a sudden I’m somebody else. And I’m in a different time or a different place or maybe even a different world.
And maybe you’ll find that writing can help you to do that, too. And that is especially coming in handy at a time like this where you’re not actually able to leave the house except maybe to go for a walk or a jog. Writing can at least help you to escape in your imagination.. that you get a break from what’s on the news, from worrying about what’s gonna happen. You get a break from your annoying little brother who won’t leave you alone that you’re stuck in the house with all day, or your chores that you’re having to do. And writing collaboratively, the way that Gram and Emma do, where they write the story together, is a really great exercise right now. Because it can help you to stay connected to somebody that maybe you’re not able to see face to face, a friend or a family member or even a teacher or a group of friends. It also is just a really cool way to write in general. Because. often we get this idea for a story that we’re really into and we think it’s really cool, but we’re not sure how to actually turn it into a full story. And when we have someone that we’re writing with, a writing partner, that can become easier.
Because every time we hit a bump in the road, we hit that writer’s block, we can pass it off to them. And they can have it for a little while and put their ideas into it and bring it back to you. And all of a sudden the story has taken this really cool new direction that you might never have thought of on your own. And. collaborative writing can be really fun that way and take a lot of the pressure off solo writing.. I’m gonna read you the first chapter that Emma writes when she goes into the woods after Gram dies.
And if you have your own idea to start a story that you want to share with a friend, that’s awesome. If you want to take the first chapter of Emma’s story and use it as your own. And then write where you think the story should go from there, that’s awesome, too. And I can be your writing collaboration buddy and I’ll hand you the story from here.. this is Emma going into the forest to write the story. She has gotten the journal out of the tree and she’s looking down at these empty pages in the journal that she wishes she could have been filling with Gram. The empty sheets sting my eyes and claw at my throat. Gram and I should have filled this whole book together. And the idea that the pages will stay blank forever now is unbearable. There’s still a pencil nestled in the journal and I find myself picking it up. It feels good in the crook of my thumb, like it belongs there.
I’m not ready to go back home, but I don’t wanna be here in the Spinney alone either. I wanna be somewhere else entirely. I wanna climb into the journal and into the world that Gram and I created and never, ever leave.. I begin to write. Once upon a time, there was a small cottage that sat halfway between a village and a great wood, as if it could not decide to which it belonged. And inside the cottage lived a girl named Ivy and her grandmother whom she called Gram. Ivy had lived with her grandmother ever since she was a baby, and her grandmother had lived in Poppy Cottage since any living soul could remember.
Ivy loved her grandmother more than anything in the world, and she loved the cottage second best. There was not always enough firewood to stay warm nor food to stay full. But even on nights when they were hungry and cold Ivy and Gran were always in good cheer. They huddled close together and Gran whispered stories of olden times, before magic had been stamped out and magical creatures driven to extinction. The more Gran spoke, the warmer Ivy’s cheeks felt, the more her belly seemed to fill even if she only had a crust of bread for supper. Each day Ivy and her grandmother walked into the great forest where Gran collected herbs and leaves. That she made into remedies to heal the villagers of their aches and pains. As they went, Gran taught Ivy the names of all the plants and trees that grew there. Until she knew each like it was her own. Some days they walked. deep that Ivy forgot there was anything beyond the forest borders. And she emerged from its shadows puzzled to find Poppy Cottage standing just where she had left it that morning. The villagers whispered dark things about the forest, but it held no fear for Ivy.
And yet she sometimes saw things there that she could not understand. One instant her grandmother’s skirts would brush against a dead cottonwood tree and the next its branches were covered in tender green leaves. Towers of dappled foxglove blooms blossomed wherever she walked.
And if Ivy and Gran happened to shut their eyes in a bed of ferns, when they awoke a red fox would often be curled up next to Gran, its pointed face resting in her lap. Sometimes Ivy awoke in the night to see her Gran treating the forest animals by the dim light of the cottage’s fire. She dressed their wounds and gave them remedies just as she did for the villagers in the daylight. If Ivy didn’t know magic to be gone from the world, she might wonder if Gran had a drop or two running in her veins.
Perhaps it was that magic that strung the days all along together, like holly berries on a winter garland, into one long, ripe, ruby afternoon. Ivy felt certain that it would go on forever and ever, and she and Gran would be together always.. that’s the first chapter of Emma’s story. Like I said, you’re welcome to borrow it and use it as a first chapter for your own story.
In the book, Emma doesn’t expect that anybody’s gonna write back to her because Gram is gone. And the next time she goes into the Spinney and picks up the journal, it’s to find that actually someone has picked up her story where she’s left off. And part of the mystery of this book is Emma trying to figure out who is writing to her, who knows about the secret place and the secret journal.. if that sounds interesting to you, this book is available for preorder right now and it’s gonna be out on April 28th. Now is a great time to be ordering from your local independent bookstores, this book or any book. I’m gonna leave you all with one quote because I think it’s important right now. We know that we need to be washing our hands, we know that we need to be keeping social distancing in place. But it’s also really important that we take care of ourselves and our mental health.
And part of the way that we can do that is by using our imagination as a way to escape the daily news and to escape the confines of our houses. And. I wanna leave you with a quote that Gram gives to Emma about what imagination is and what it can mean. Imagination is one of the greatest gifts we have. If we build it up strong enough, it can be anything we need it to be.
A home, a friend, a whole entire world.. that’s it from me, you guys, thank you. much for joining me. I hope that you do go on to write your own stories, whether by yourself or collaboratively. You can always send them to me, you can find me online at alistandish.com. There’s a contact box where you can get in touch with me and share with me all of your wonderful stories.. stay well, stay healthy, keep reading, and keep writing.