“Who isn’t drawn to a swing set, even as an adult?” said Lisa Graff.
“Up in the Sky So Blue” is the second novel published by Graff, who writes a regular column called Our Senior Yearbook for the Cape Gazette. The book is available now at Browseabout Books in Rehoboth Beach and at Biblion in Lewes.
“Both bookstores have asked me for more! I hope young readers and adults will enjoy reading this as much as I did writing it,” she said.
Graff said she signed up to take a novel class with Rehoboth Beach Writers’ Guild teacher and founder Maribeth Fischer last January. Eight writers each had to complete eight chapters in eight weeks.
“When the COVID virus hit in March, I knew I had to keep writing. No excuses. And since this book is part fantasy, I escaped to a fun-filled world just like my main character, 9-year-old Marissa.”
When the book opens, Marissa finds herself in the fantastical land of Aurora where she meets a strange firefly named Oberon.
“He stood four feet tall and had a human face, even though it was pale yellow...he had a fuzzy body of sorts, two parts twisted together to make one whole. Its legs were green, and its feet were tiny works of silver.”
Readers learn that Marissa travels between two worlds. In the real world she is worried about her grandma’s failing health, and Oberon instructs her to find help. That help comes from 10-year-old Tommy and his mother Joyce.
“I didn’t plan to write a book about an aging grandmother, but I watched the news and saw people dying in nursing homes. When I was a teenager, my grandmother was in a nursing home, and she had Alzheimer’s. For a time she lived with us, and I used to come home from school and play cards with her like Tommy does in the novel,” Graff said.
Graff began writing when she was 14 and has since filled more than 20 hardbound journals and notebooks. Her first publication in her high school literary magazine, titled Aurora, was a poem titled “Find Me Alone.”
”Find Me Alone” is also the title of her first novel, published in April 2017. This novel is about a young girl’s struggle with her father’s alcoholism. Graff said while it is a work of fiction, the characters were drawn from her own experience. She hoped that school systems might use it in the classroom.
“Life is bittersweet. My first real break as a writer was an article published in Woman’s World Magazine, and it was about my father’s death from alcoholism. They sent a professional photographer to the house. When people read the article, they would tell me that they too had a family member who was struggling with the disease.”
Graff said writers tend to write about what they have experienced. She recalls how she touched a nerve with the headline: “Parents Who Fail the Schools, No Teacher Compensate for Neglect Many Kids Suffer at Home” when it was published in the Washington Post in 1991.
“It was about why I left teaching. I couldn’t return to the classroom because I had lost the energy, the ambition and the will to make a difference. That one article was picked up by the LA Times Associated Press and reached readers across the country,” she said.
Graff was asked to run for school board, appeared on local television and won the American Association of University Women’s Mass Communication Award that same year. She did resume teaching in 1997 and says she had a rewarding career before retiring from Maryland’s Montgomery County Public Schools in 2010.
Graff plans to launch her author page in December: www.lisajgraff.com. Readers can follow her work, purchase her books, and learn about upcoming events such as an interview on Radio Rehoboth 99.1 FM with Jeff Balk set for 8:30 a.m., Jan. 4, 2021.
For now, she enjoys swinging with her granddaughters and writing her column for the Cape Gazette.