At some point you have probably prepared a tribute: a birthday or a wedding toast, a speech at someone’s retirement, or perhaps a eulogy. Such an exercise not only honors the subject but can be a blessing to the one who crafts it, as it requires introspection, sifting through memories, and thoughtful assessment of the past.
One afternoon in late 2019, our canine companion of almost fourteen years went to sleep and never woke up. The loss was unexpected, a shock that sent me to a cardiologist, where I discovered it is indeed possible to a literally suffer a broken heart.
My husband, Keith, and I and our pup, Carson, were a well-traveled trio. “The Great Carsoni” had accompanied us on journeys all around the United States and Europe. While we were still grieving, the pandemic descended on the world, and our trips came to an immediate halt. I was scheduled to speak in the States, as I did twice each year, at an International Living conference about overseas retirement. I had come out of my own retirement to join the working force again, signing a contract with them as their Portugal Correspondent. On those junkets I always visited my daughters and grandchildren in California, regardless of where I was speaking. Not in 2020. Conferences went virtual.
With the multitude of changes in my work situation and after much deliberation, I resigned from my position. Working at IL, I had a calendar full of due dates for articles, videos, Facebook posts, fillers, and more. I had managed to write some poetry and flash fiction, and a few short stories, but my personal writing life was neglected. Suddenly free from a demanding schedule, it was time to reassess.
After I retired from a longtime job in 2011, I wrote three books, all for different reasons. My first was published that year, a spiritual memoir titled Rabbit Trail: How a Former Playboy Bunny Found Her Way. In that book I shared my story of how I came out of false religions and New Age practices and became a Christian. The following year brought Slippery Slopes, born of a fast, fun, romp with National Novel Writing Month. (If you haven’t ever taken the NaNoWriMo challenge, I highly recommend it. I broke—at least for a while—the pesky habit of editing every word I type as it appears on my screen.) A Movable Marriage, its title inspired by A Moveable Feast, was my second memoir, published in 2016.
I wasn’t ready to tackle another full-length book, but at the close of 2020, after the anniversary of Carson’s passing, I wrote an essay about him. A few months later the Florida Writers Association was open for submissions for their Royal Palm Literary Award Competition. I entered “Joy in the Mourning” in the short nonfiction category.
We all know the feeling once a project has been completed. What next? The answer to that question came easily, growing naturally out of what I had just written.
My husband and I are avid photographers and put our cameras and phones to good use while exploring much of the world. Typical dog lovers, we featured Carson in many photos. In my essay I had portrayed him as the savvy traveler he was and regretted not being able to accompany “Joy” with pictures, as I had my memoirs.
And that’s how the concept of a pictorial calendar was born.
Unfortunately, an online search for information about designing and self-publishing a wall calendar was disappointing. Units would have to be priced at about $25 apiece, a cost I considered prohibitive for successful marketing.
I had used CreateSpace for my first books, and its new incarnation, Kindle Direct Publishing, for my third. But investigating the possibilities there, I learned that I could not create a calendar through their services. Undaunted, I moved on to a datebook/calendar, filling it with all the features I would want in a such a book. “The Great Carsoni Maltese 18-month (January 2022 through June 2023) Planner Calendar” included a personal message from me to the reader as well as my essay, which had gone on to become a finalist in the RPLA competition. I wrote playful captions for the eighteen monthly photos featuring Carson in locations from Roswell, New Mexico to Ljubljana, Slovenia. I researched quotes applicable to each month, from famous folks like Shakespeare and Steinbeck to British horticulturist Gertrude Jekyll. Her quote graces the February 2023 page: “There is always in February some one day, at least, when one smells the yet distant, but surely coming summer.” I have always loved Moleskins, so I made a hardcover format available.
I never dreamed when I sat down to record special memories of a very special little guy that my work would morph into what it has. It’s been a journey of learning and love, of surprise and sadness, and of accomplishment. I encourage you to look closely at your work, to “think outside of the page” and reinvent your creations. The possibilities are endless.
Five-time Royal Palm Literary Award recipient Tricia Pimental has lived overseas since 2012. Born in Brooklyn, Tricia is a former actress and Toastmaster. In addition to short stories, poetry, and flash fiction, she has written three award-winning books: A Movable Marriage, Slippery Slopes, and Rabbit Trail: How a Former Playboy Bunny Found Her Way.
Other writing credits include two travel books for International Living, when serving as their Portugal Correspondent: The Old-World Charms of Portugal and Escape to Portugal, and a 14-part video series entitled Portugal 101.
Tricia and her husband traded sunny Portugal for snowy Sweden a year ago.