But why death?
Laura Pritchett wants to face down her greatest and lifelong nemesis—Death—and playfully explore all the uncertainty that precedes this certain act.
Why? She wants to die well.
To that end, she put together a book of all the wisdoms she gleaned from her research—including chats with Buddhist monks, Catholic nuns, hospice workers, politicians, dying people, living people, Death with Dignity advocates and dissenters, and yes, her own neurologist and therapist when a spooky diagnosis had her thinking the end was very near. This book is a how-to guide, ready to have on hand when you’re at someone’s bedside, or, as the case may be, someone’s staring down at you. The general gist is how to familiarize yourself with death so that you can die with your chin up, heart brave, and have all your shit together—or help others do the same. But don’t worry, it’s not all about death—it’s also about how to “use death as your advisor” so that you can live well in the time you have left.
After all, death is perhaps the greatest mystery we face, and the actual act of dying is the last physical act of our lives. Pritchett’s theory is that we can strive to do it well, like a graceful well-rehearsed piano solo or free-throw—or we can do it herky-jerky like the klutzes that we delightful humans can sometimes be. If anything deserves our full attention, some preparation, or some renewed clarity in a confused culture, Death might be it.
Making Friends with Death adds to the discussions now underway at the increasingly popular Death Cafes; the renewed interest in the contemplative dying movement; the pushes for changes in health care policies and end of life care, and adds to the conversations already going on via bestselling authors including Katy Butler, Atul Gawande, Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, and others.
Indeed, death is the zeitgeist of our times—for good reason. Death, darn it, just happens. 250,000 of us die per day. 108 billion people have walked the planet, and then died. That’s a lotta dying. There are plenty of guidebooks out there on less pressing topics—how to put on makeup! Juggling! How to have lively sex with long-term partners!—but where are the good ones on how to die well? Laura Pritchett couldn’t find one when she needed it, so she sat down to write one herself—believing that indeed, necessity is the mother of all invention.
In Making Friends with Death, she admits that she’s unlikely to ever make a BFF-type of bond, but she absolutely succeeded in kind of befriending this one inevitability—and that has proved to be enough.
Laura Pritchett is the author of nine books. She began her writing journey with the short story collection Hell’s Bottom, Colorado, which won the PEN USA Award for Fiction and the Milkweed National Fiction Prize. This was followed by the novels Sky Bridge, Stars Go Blue, Red Lightning, and The Blue Hour, which garnered other awards as well. She’s the editor of three anthologies: Pulse of the River, Home Land, and Going Green: True Tales from Gleaners, Scavengers, and Dumpster Divers. She also has two nonfiction books: Great Colorado Bear Stories and Making Friends with Death: A Guide to Your Impending Last Breath.
Her work has appeared in The New York Times, O Magazine, Salon, High Country News, The Millions, High Desert Journal, The Normal School, Bloom, Publisher’s Weekly, The Sun, Orion, The Pinch, Tin House Online, The Cincinnati Review, BrainChild, Writer's Digest, OnEarth, and many others.
She lives in Colorado, near the ranch where she was raised. She holds a PhD from Purdue University and teaches around the country. She is also known for her environmental stewardship, particularly in regard to land preservation and river health. You can find out more at her website www.laurapritchett.com
How one book led to another:
Laura Pritchett’s recent novel, Stars Go Blue (Counterpoint Press), was based on her father’s experience with Alzheimer’s and addresses the themes of death with dignity and caregiving. It received starred reviews from Booklist and Library Journal, the latter calling it “a brilliant novel, filled with heartache and humor” and has been optioned for movie rights. It was recently named winner of the High Plains Book Award.
Release of this novel spawned media attention regarding the end-of-life themes, and Pritchett published several related articles, including “I’ll Do It My Way” in O Magazine (which was part of a package that won a 2015 ASME award), “On Killing My Father,” in Publisher’s Weekly, “A Writer Never Averts Her Eyes,” in Writer’s Digest, “The Last Memory” in Tin House, and others.
Writing Stars Go Blue and other related projects sent her down the path that eventually resulted in Making Friends with Death. Pritchett has been oddly obsessed with dying well since earliest memory. On top of that, in her 30s, she found herself in chronic pain and was diagnosed with a neurological disorder called Trigeminal Neuralgia, also called “The Suicide Disease,” which is indeed something she was gearing up for should a solution not be found (plot spoiler: she did in fact find a solution). Meanwhile, since her father was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s (the one type which can be tested for), Pritchett knew she’d get the test so that she could choose a different end than her father’s slow decline.
Authors often have core themes, and Pritchett mostly comes down to sex and death. She's never written about taxes, and never intends to.
You can reach Laura at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Or on Facebook at facebook.com/LauraPritchettAuthor
For publicity information, and to arrange readings for fiction, please contact: Counterpoint Press, 2560 9th St, Suite 318, Berkeley, CA 94710 (510) 704-0230 email@example.com.
For publicity regarding Making Friends with Death, please contact: Viva Editions, 101 Hudson Street, Jersey City, NJ, 07302 • (201) 431-5455 • www.cleispress.com. For large orders, contact Red Wheel/Weiser, (800)423-7087, firstname.lastname@example.org.
For publicity regarding Going Green: True Tales from Gleaners, Scavengers, and Dumpster Divers, contact the University of Oklahoma Press: www.oupress.com or 405-325-2000.
Speaking and teaching engagements are handled directly by the author. Contact her at: email@example.com.