A Word From Peter Pan’s Wendy

9 Feb
© Peter Pan and Wendy Stained Glass by VanillaKeyblade

© Peter Pan and Wendy Stained Glass by VanillaKeyblade

Occasionally a friend comes to me with a grief story so powerful I ask them if I may share it here with you. Wendy is one such friend, and her story offers a wonderful example of a new kind of memorial… one of celebration and ongoing conversation.

When my mom’s Cousin John fell ill, we kind of knew what was coming. But it all happened so quickly that it was still quite difficult for the family to handle.

Over the past few years, I’d grown close with John, and I’ve been close with his brother Peter for 25 years. You might say he’s the Peter Pan to my Wendy.  Continue reading

Memory and Place

4 Feb

Memories Fairmont Raffles EmpressDid you know the brain “geotags” memories based on location?

When you encounter a familiar place, according to a recent study, “It opens up these memory boxes and triggers a flood of old memories in vivid Technicolor, like they happened yesterday.”

In other words, memory and place are intricately linked, on a biological level.  Continue reading

8 Books to Inspire Creativity

19 Jan

Presents Creative Art BooksPart of being creative is absorbing the best of the world around you and discovering how you’ll radiate it back out.

Here are some of the best books that have inspired me and my kids in such a way. I hope they’ll fill you to overflowing with imaginative possibilities.

BONUS IDEA: Sure, it’s nice to give gifts at the holidays, but why not surprise your favorite creative-minded friend or family member with one of these? Then, when they become the next Virginia Woolf or Jackson Pullock, maybe they’ll set aside a special autographed work for you. :)

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My Gift to You

22 Dec

This is one of my family’s favorite Christmas presents, and this year Von got to enjoy it with us, too.

I know some of you out there who’ll enjoy it as much as we do. So, may I present my gift to you…

Sue’s voice, grandbabies, and spirit, all in one hilariously adorable little video… complete with, well, nose picking.

Happy holidays, friends.

Continue reading

5 Holiday Traditions in Memory of a Loved One

15 Dec

Sue Shirley Cooking Kitchen HolidayThe holidays are an emotional time, full of joy, thankfulness, wonder … and, yes, often the resurgence of grief.

It’s okay to feel sorrow amid all the merriment. As a matter of fact, you can take the fuel of that emotion and use it to propel you toward something constructive for you and your kids: a  positive way to remember the person that you’re missing.

Included below are a few of my family’s favorite traditions in honor of Sue and Shirley. You certainly don’t have to do all of them, but maybe one will resonate and become a treasured annual remembrance for you and family.

5 Holiday Traditions in Memory of a Loved One

1. Day of Honor

Every December we take our daughter to a holiday play because that’s what Grandma Suzy used to do with each of her grandchildren. By continuing this tradition, we fill a missing piece for all of us, while offering a happy way for our daughter to learn about her grandma as a person (what she did, how she lived, and what she valued).

Sue Szaba Holiday Tradition Nutcracker

Is there something your relative did every holiday? What about an activity they enjoyed or a place they always liked to go? You can try anything from a full day outing to a weekend trip to a simple movie night with his or her favorite film and foods.

2. Memory Gifts

Save a few items cherished by the deceased and give them to your child at milestone holidays or birthdays.

Similarly, you could gift something especially reminiscent of your loved one: a meaningful book, a CD of favorite music, a candy he or she couldn’t pass up, or tickets to a special activity or place.Sue Szaba London Book Christmas Present


This is a fantastic way to help kids build a relationship with their lost loved one by passing on meaningful memories, heirlooms, traditions, and stories.

3. Treasure Box

Grief counselors stress the importance of keeping physical reminders of the deceased for kids to revisit. Fill a pretty box with pictures and things he or she cherished, wrote, or made. Include a favorite present, add a treasured ornament, or even write down a story about a special holiday you shared together.

Set aside time each year (whether at the holidays or another meaningful occasion) to open the box and look through it together. If you’ve included a special ornament, take this opportunity to hang it on the tree. Or make a picture puzzle, and put it together when you open the box.


Christmas Shirley

4. Holiday Photo Album

Fill half a photo album with pictures of holidays enjoyed with the loved one. Then add pictures of similar new memories made with your child, year to year, focusing on traditions passed on from then to now.

Did you make a paper advent chain with your mom when you were little? Did you go ice skating with your brother? Did you always decorate cookies with your grandma? Did you spend hours stringing popcorn kernels with your favorite uncle?

Have fun doing those things anew and take pictures to add to your book.


The continuity and stories behind those experiences will help your family feel more connected to those memories and people past.

5. Memory Book

We have a Twas the Night Before Christmas book recorded with Sue’s voice. Each Decemeber, we bring it out and enjoy it at many a bedtime. You could do the same with a scrapbook, photo album, or even a favorite cookbook lovingly scribbled and ear marked with your loved one’s go-to holiday recipes.

Have more ideas? Please share them in the comments below.

Angela Szaba Christmas

Building a Beta Reader Dream Team

8 Dec

Stock Photo of Children Discovering ReadingIn this week’s installment of book progress: building a beta reader dream team.

What is a beta reader? A person who reads a book before publication and offers feedback. Although beta readers can be professional editors or writers, they don’t need to be. More importantly…


I see youPick someone who is: 

1. Interested in your project, whether as a friend, spouse, cause supporter, beneficiary, mentor, teacher, etc.

2. Brutally honest. You don’t need “yes men” who will pat you on the back and withhold valid critique. You need people you can trust to rip your manuscript to shreds, if need be. If they don’t do the ripping, I can guarantee you that less supportive readers will.  Continue reading

“Free Seattle,” New Travel Partnership, + Category Pages

26 Nov

Szaba Book PileNine months ago, I teased that I’d be revamping my site to better focus on my human and book babies. Nothing much has happened on that front. Until now.

I guess I was just feeling idle with only taking care of two kids, the holidays, three family trips, two books, a new blog partnership, and a potential new illustrator.

Or maybe once you start doing, even if it’s wrong, it creates a self-motivating snowball effect.

Whatever the case, I have two big announcements to share: 

Continue reading


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