Local author Lisa Graff will sign copies of her latest book, “Up in the Sky So Blue,” from 1 to 3 p.m., Saturday, July 24, at Browseabout Books in Rehoboth Beach.
“Readers ask me where I got the idea to write my novel, ‘Up in the Sky So Blue.’ When I was a child, I loved to swing and wondered if I only pumped hard enough, could I disappear into another world?” said Graff, who writes the column Our Senior Yearbook for the Cape Gazette.
“I knew I wanted to enjoy the process, unlike the first book. My first novel, ‘Find Me Alone,’ published in 2017, was painful and based in part on my own family’s experience,” she said.
The second novel begins, “Marissa was nestled into what appeared to be an enormous head of lettuce. The plant felt like something her grandma called lamb’s ear, soft and velvety to the touch. She had been swinging in her own backyard. Where was her swing set?” Graff then asked herself, why does the girl go there? She decided that the answer was to escape a difficult situation at home. What if Marissa’s grandmother was getting too senile to care for her?
“A few years ago, I helped an elderly aunt transition into hospice,” Graff said. “Her husband had dementia. The experience of helping both of them was so painful to watch. Memory loss can be devastating and out of a person’s control. If adults have trouble coping, what must it be like for a child?”
Graff created the character of Dottie after her husband’s Aunt Dot, who hiked the Grand Canyon in her 80s. She wanted to portray a strong and loving grandmother whose health had deteriorated but who was deserving of respect.
“Every story has a theme, and as a teacher, I always asked my students, ‘What is the main idea or ideas?’”
Graff believes there are three major themes. “We all need help at times, and it’s difficult to ask for help. Oberon is the wise man who says to Marissa, ‘There’s always someone willing to help others.’”
A second theme is that each family is unique. Tommy and his mother are a happy family, and Tommy isn’t bothered that he doesn’t know his father.
A third theme is that death and grief are a part of life. Children and adults should be able to talk about it.
Graff said she needed to escape and go to the world of Aurora, just like Marissa did. “Reading is the best way to escape, the least harmful and the most rewarding,” she said.