“Words, once they are printed, have a life of their own.”
Wonderful isn’t it, when you come across a story about writing that really pulls your heartstrings? For me, these stories remind me about why I write and why I love writers. Here’s one:
John Green was a student chaplain at a children’s hospital who wanted to write a novel about teens with cancer, but struggled to find a way to tell a story that wasn’t too bitter and upsetting. Then he met Esther Earl at a Harry Potter convention. She was funny and fun-loving, quirky and winsome. She also had thyroid cancer.
Meeting Esther and getting to know her helped John realize that kids with a serious illness can be “just as funny and as normal and as afraid as any other kid.” Esther died in 2010 and two years later, John dedicated his novel, The Fault in Our Stars to her. His book quickly became a bestselling YA novel and is going to be made into a movie. While Esther and Hazel, John’s fictitious heroine, aren’t one and the same, Esther was clearly an inspiration to him.
This story could end here, but it doesn’t, because Esther loved to write and started writing stories at age six. “She would have loved to be an author,” her mother said. Soon she will be. Her father Wayne planned to self-publish some of her letters, journal entries, and short stories as a tribute to her. He showed them to John, who shared them with his editor at Dutton and now Esther is going to have a book of her own. Dutton is going to publish Esther’s writings along with family photographs in a book called, This Star Won’t Go Out: The Life and Words of Esther Grace Earl. John Green is writing the foreword.
Esther’s parents, who both teach college, loved John’s book. But nothing compare to seeing a book cover with their daughter’s name on it. As Wayne observes, “It’s our way of holding on to her and sharing all the love she had.”
What a beautiful tribute — and what an inspiring story! Esther may have lost her battle with cancer, but her spirit and sense of hope will live on in her words and perhaps even inspire other kids confronting cancer to use writing as a way to hold on to themselves and honor their feelings while still living fully.
I think it’s wonderful that Dutton decided to bring Esther’s words to life through print and to share her story. And it’s also wonderful that John Green, inspired by Esther, gave her a gift in return. Write on.