Joanna Rowland grew up in Sacramento, California where she still lives today with her husband and three children. She teaches Kindergarten by day and writes picture books at night. In the summer, you’ll find her by the pool coaching synchronized swimming or cozying up with a book.
1. Tell us about your friend Scott and why he inspired you to write Stay Through The Storm.
I met Scott Crosbie when he moved to my school in 6th grade. He was always such a bright light. He had a smile you could stare at for days, and he was always so kind. I have some very special memories of growing up with him. He was my first kiss and my first movie date with a group of people, and we got to do some projects together in high school
I found out when we were in our 30s that he died by suicide. I was shocked. I didn’t know that this kind-hearted soul that studied birds and did yoga struggled. I wish I had kept in touch more in our adult years.
I thought about him and his family a lot while I was working on my grief book, The Memory Box. Just a few months after the book came out, I was driving around thinking about Scott and how I wish that he had stayed. And that’s when it hit me. I was going to write a book called Stay Through The Storm. It’s in memory of Scott, and I hope that anyone who is struggling can connect with it.
2. What is Stay Through The Storm about?
Stay Through The Storm is about the power of friendship to carry us through difficult times.
When dark clouds gather in the distance, two friends come together to comfort each other through the storm. They shield each other through the rain, make a fort inside and play games between claps of thunder. Through it all, they come back to a consistent plea: Stay. Stay through the storm.
A story to bring hope in times of trouble, Stay Through The Storm is a moving reminder that we’re never alone even when things seem darkest.
3. Salt Water is for those who’ve lost someone dear to them. How does Stay Through The Storm offer comfort to someone who’s grieving?
I think one of the hardest experiences we will have to go through during our lifetime is having someone we love pass away. One thing I hope Stay Through The Storm communicates is that you don’t have to go through the most difficult time in your life alone.
4. Salt Water is also a resource for friends and family members who want to support a grieving loved one. Oftentimes, the message friends and family members are given is that they need to find the perfect words or perfect actions to supporting a griever, whereas all that may be needed is for them to sit with their loved ones and witness their pain. How did you come to realize that what matters most is having a friend by your side, even if you’re just sitting in silence?
When I was writing the book, I was thinking about someone who died by suicide. It made me wonder how I could put into words and express to someone struggling that they are not alone, that this will pass, even when it feels as if the storm will never end. Friendship is so important even in the simple act of just showing up. We can’t necessarily make the storm go away, but we can be there.
5. What’s the message you hope children will get from Stay Through The Storm? What’s the message you hope adults will get from the book?
Because it’s a picture book, I had to think of something scary a child could relate to. Most kids have experiences with real storms, and many of them have fears about them. Children will see a real storm in the book and some ways friends can support one another during an actual storm. I hope children see the importance of being a friend during the scary times as well as the good times. I hope the book can encourage them to talk about things they are scared of, how friends have helped them during their hard times and how they can help a friend. And I hope they understand that storms do pass.
For adults, this can be read as a metaphor, and I hope they will find their own meaning in it. One of my favorite things about reading a book is discovering how I connect with it and what it makes me wonder, feel or think about. In this story, one could ask what storms (literally and figuratively) have they endured? What is something difficult they’ve experienced and are experiencing that they feel will never end? Can they think of a friend who is going through a hard time?
We will all have storms both big and small throughout our lives. But having a friend to ride out the storm with, to know you’re not alone, that this storm will pass, is important. Toward the end of the story, the two friends make a promise to be there for the next storm. That was important for me to include where they prepare in a way for the next storm because storms will come from time to time.
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