Here's a bit about Taprina: In her blog, reimaginingthislife.com, Oklahoma native Taprina Milburn shares stories of family, hope, and faith with readers who are redirecting their lives after big changes, just as she is. Mom of two grown and flown children, she is the author of two books, Scientists Use Rats, I Use My Family (2003) and We’re Not Being Raised Right: And Other Ego-Building Things My Kids Say (2011). She received her bachelor’s degree in journalism and has written for newspapers and magazines throughout the years.
Today, she serves as a communications consultant for nonprofits and is working on a master’s degree in family and child studies. She loves to travel to visit her kids and their spouses, and admittedly spends an inordinate amount of time with her six-year-old female golden retriever, Scout, who the kids say is the golden child of the family. They may be right. (Scout has her own Instagram account, @thisgoldenchild).
WOW: Congratulations, Taprina, for being a runner-up in our Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest with your essay, "Gifts." It's about reframing loss after your husband's death, and we first want to say how brave it is for you to write about this subject and share your experience in your essay. The format you chose for this, organizing with four "frames" was very powerful. What made you write your story in this way?
Taprina: The short answer is that placing the gifts in frames helped me to be disciplined in my writing. I could say to myself, “Today, you are only writing within this frame.” It helped to organize my mind because grief can be unpredictable and can have your mind roaming all over the place. The long answer is that I also visualized an actual picture frame. If a picture or memento is important to me, I put it in a frame, hang it on my wall or put it on my fireplace mantel. I don’t want to forget the life I had with my husband; and I also don’t want to forget what I’ve learned and how I’ve grown during this time, even if it is painful. So, symbolically, these gifts/lessons are in a frame in my mind because they are important touchstones.
WOW: I love that the frames served two purposes. Sometimes when a subject is painful or overwhelming, tackling it in small chunks, or frames as you did, is a manageable way to accomplish a goal. Thank you for sharing that tip with us. Do you find writing essays about this time in your life part of your healing journey? Why or why not?
Taprina: Writing essays about this time in my life has not been easy but it has been helpful. My husband has been gone for three years. The first year after he died, I was in shock, felt numb and as if I was walking around in a fog. When I started to write about the experience of my husband’s death and suicide, whether journaling or writing essays, I noticed that I started to feel connected to my heart and emotions again and to think with more clarity. Yes, there is sadness, but putting pen to paper also has helped gratitude to bubble up. And gratitude is a master healer. I’ve always believed that writing helps me to better understand my life, my connection to God, and to others. It is a tool I’m definitely going to continue to use on my grief journey.
WOW: We hear that from so many of our writers. This is also why journaling or morning pages are so helpful to writers. We are also honored you entered our contest with all your great writing and publication success in your bio. Tell us about your books!
Taprina: When my children were small, I wrote a syndicated weekly column called For Sanity’s Sake (which I've always said, tongue-in-cheek, is the reason why I write, for my sanity). The column started out in my hometown paper and was picked up by King Features Syndicate and printed in papers in the United States and Canada. I wrote about the very normal, day-in-day out life of being a wife and mother—sometimes funny, sometimes poignant, but always heartfelt. My favorite feedback from readers was when they said that they could relate as a parent. The two books, Scientists Use Rats, I Use My Family and We’re Not Being Raised Right: And Other Ego Building Things My Kids Say were compilations of the columns I had written over the years. I’m proud of these books because they capture the stories of raising a family with my husband.
WOW: That is amazing. What great success and how exciting that your columns were syndicated and became books! And of course, we must ask about your Golden Retriever and his Instagram account! Do you use this as part of your marketing for your writing or is it a part of your hobbies?
Taprina: Scout, my female golden retriever, just turned six. She is named Scout after the little sister in the book, To Kill A Mockingbird. My kids joke that my husband and I got Scout as an empty-nest-coping-mechanism. They are probably right. She and I didn’t start off on the right foot, though. As a puppy, she ate reading glasses, food from the counter, and library books (this is the abbreviated list). Everyone would tell me to be patient because by three years old, I’d have a really good dog. I wasn’t sure she’d make it to three years. The month my husband died, however, Scout turned three, and by that time she had become a very good companion. I’m not sure what life would be like without her. My kids now call her my golden child, which is why I started Scout an Instagram account @thisgoldenchild. It’s just for fun but, yes, Scout is a very important part of my life and definitely shows up in my writing.
WOW: Look, puppies are no joke! I have one from the Humane Society, a "lab mix" who has to have some hound in her. She keeps me on my toes, and I keep saying to myself, "This will get better." So I can totally understand about Scout! Your story of her getting better at 3 gives me hope. To close, can you tell us about your blog and what's next for you on your writing journey?
Taprina: My blog is called Reimagining. A few months after my husband died, a good friend took me to lunch and told me that one day joy would return but that I would have to use my imagination to reimagine a new life. I respected that advice from her because she was also widowed. The blog is where I go to share stories about rebuilding and reimagining a new life. My hope is that as I put my stories out there about grief, widowhood, empty nest, etc, that someone in a similar situation as I am in may stumble upon it, and it might help them, too. I believe we have to help each other as we learn and grow. As far as my writing journey goes, I am working on a third book of essays (working title: What Now Scout? Reimagining Life with My Golden Child); and one day, I’d love to write a fiction novel. I’d also like to teach a writing class on the importance of writing through grief.
WOW: Taprina, we wish you the best success with your book and your novel. Thank you for providing such personal answers to our questions. We know readers will be able to learn from you and your experiences. You definitely top the list of brave and wonderful women writers.