The Writer Mama Back-to-School Giveaway 2009, Day Seven

LastWillcoverWelcome to day seven of the annual Writer Mama Back-to-School Giveaway. Today’s giveaway is The Last Will of Moira Leahy by Therese Walsh.

About the Book

This haunting debut novel explores the intense bond of sisterhood as a grieving twin searches for her own identity in the ruins of her sister’s past.


Moira Leahy struggled growing up in her prodigious twin’s shadow; Maeve was always more talented, more daring, more fun. In the autumn of the girls’ sixteenth year, a secret love tempted Moira, allowing her to have her own taste of adventure, but it also damaged the intimate, intuitive relationship she’d always shared with her sister. Though Moira’s adolescent struggles came to a tragic end nearly a decade ago, her brief flirtation with independence will haunt her sister for years to come.


When Maeve Leahy lost her twin, she left home and buried her fun-loving spirit to become a workaholic professor of languages at a small college in upstate New York. She lives a solitary life now, controlling what she can and ignoring the rest—the recurring nightmares, hallucinations about a child with red hair, the unquiet sounds in her mind, her reflection in the mirror. It doesn’t help that her mother avoids her, her best friend questions her sanity, and her not-quite boyfriend has left the country. But at least her life is ordered. Exactly how she wants it.


Until one night at an auction when Maeve wins a keris, a Javanese dagger that reminds her of her lost youth, and happier days playing pirates with Moira in their father’s boat. Days later, a book on weaponry is nailed to her office door, followed by anonymous notes, including one that invites her to Rome to learn more about the blade and its legendary properties. Opening her heart and mind to possibility, Maeve accepts the invitation, and with it, a window into her past. Ultimately she will revisit the tragic November night that shaped her and Moira’s destinies, and learn that nothing can be taken at face value—as one sister emerges whole and the other’s score is finally settled.

The Last Will of Moira Leahy is a mesmerizing and romantic consideration of the bonds of family, the impossibility of forgetting, and the value of forgiveness.

Therese WalshAbout the Author

Therese Walsh‘s debut novel, The Last Will of Moira Leahy, will be published on October 13th, 2009 by Shaye Areheart books (Random House). She is the co-founder of Writer Unboxed, a blog for writers about the craft and business of genre fiction. Before turning to fiction, she was a researcher and writer for Prevention magazine, and then a freelance writer. She’s had hundreds of articles on nutrition and fitness published in consumer magazines and online. She has a master’s degree in psychology, and loves music, art, crab legs, Whose Line is it Anyway?, dark chocolate, photography, unique movies and novels, people watching, strong Irish tea, and spending time with her husband, two kids and their bouncy Jack Russell. She’s currently working on her second novel—another story about self-discovery, acceptance and magical journeys—at her home in upstate New York.

If you are new to the giveaway, please read “Da Rules.”

Today’s question is…

Family, forgetting, forgiveness…or all of the above: which of these themes would you choose to write about, why, and in what form? Have fun with this one. Anything goes as I’m sure you are all as inspired as I am by Therese’s incredible imagination!

Before you go! WE HAVE A CAUSE TO RAISE MONEY FOR THIS YEAR! Please read the story about the Applin family here and consider  making a small contribution at some point during the giveaway. We’re aiming for $100/day collectively. Please help us help the Applin family adopt two beautiful children from Russia. 🙂


42 Responses to “The Writer Mama Back-to-School Giveaway 2009, Day Seven”

  1. 1 Renee Roberson September 7, 2009 at 6:01 am

    Family, forgetting and forgiveness are all themes I love to read about and would love to write about one day. I’ve written about family already in essay form. My current novel idea that I’m outlining includes forgetting and forgiveness. These are universal themes that can be brought to life by the written word in so many forms, and two of my favorite authors, Jodi Picoult and Pat Conroy always pique my interest by using them in their work. The book sounds great!

  2. 2 Joyce Lansky September 7, 2009 at 7:23 am

    Family, forgetting, forgiveness–These topics combined could lead to a frightening and powerful story; but as for me, my writing is as deep as a mud puddle. I go for the comedy routine and would combine all three for the fun of it: Cassie’s sister forgot her birthday. That wouldn’t be bad if she weren’t her TWIN. Join Cassie and Ding Dong as they get lost in a haunted town. Will Cassie forgive her sister for accidentally using the map as a Kleenex? That’s snot good. Join these screwballs in their crazy adventures.

    So would I enjoy what sounds like a deep story like “The Last Will of Moira Leahy?” I just might. 🙂

  3. 3 Jaymie September 7, 2009 at 7:26 am

    I would choose to write about family. In fact, I usually do write about family – blogs about books our family has enjoyed, crafts I want to make for my nieces, funny things my son has said. I would love to write books for children and I think family is a great setting for that. Relationships with the people you live with can be a challenge, but they can also be a sanctuary from the “world.” Add extended family to the mix, and there are plenty of stories to explore.

  4. 4 Meryl K Evans September 7, 2009 at 7:59 am

    I can’t tell you how many things I’d like to forget ever happened or entered my mind. The scary movie that I can’t shake. The decision I wish I could change. I think the forgetting of these things have a more powerful impact on me than forgiveness does.

    I’ve been lucky I haven’t situation involving difficult forgiveness. Family may or may not play into the story. I think a mix of family and something unrelated to family would have a bigger twist since family is a common theme that I don’t think I could bring in something unique.

    That’s one reason why I do nonfiction!

  5. 5 Beth Cato September 7, 2009 at 9:01 am

    I touch on these themes in my work-in-progress, though the most prevalent is forgiveness. My heroine has a powerful healing touch – and loses it – and must forgive herself for the lives she cannot save.

    Also, Therese’s book sounds fascinating. Her biography put a big grin on my face, too. Anyone who loves Whose Line Is It Anyway? is my sort of person!

  6. 6 Rene Eyerly September 7, 2009 at 9:09 am

    I think about all three of these topics – family, forgiveness, forgetting – often and am drawn to read books about them. I would love to write about them someday. So far I have only journaled thoughts and ideas on the topics and experiences from my life. Maybe I will get brave enough in the near future to write some essays from my collection of musings. As for fiction, I admire anyone who writes it, but its not a path I’ve tried to take yet.

  7. 7 Heather Myton September 7, 2009 at 9:10 am

    I would write about family. Families are as unique as a finger. A finger is a finger until you start looking closely and seeing all the uniqueness. I come from a family of story tellers and there are books on some of our unique ancestors. I would like to contribute to that library of history by writing the stories of our family.

    I think I would start my book talking about my grandmother, who was funny, strong, and independent. As she slipped into the forgetfulness of Alzheimer’s she kept those traits and taught me you can still be an amazing person even when you don’t know where you put your purse.

  8. 8 Therese Walsh September 7, 2009 at 9:20 am

    Thanks so much for inviting me to participate in your back-to-school giveaway, Christina! I know there are many moms out there–myself included–who are beyond anxious to see that yellow bus again so that they can have some couch time with a good book.

    Renee, I hope to be reading YOUR novel one day.

    Joyce, I love your sense of humor; and I’d read that book, too!

    Jaymie, yes, your interests seem in line with children’s books but adults love those reads, too. I have some children’s book manuscripts I may get back to some day.

    Meryl, interesting points about how powerful forgetting–or trying to forget–can be. I think our minds are like vaults with secret chambers, and we can’t ever fully control when those chambers will be breached.

    Beth, wasn’t Ryan and Colin’s stint with Richard Simmons the funniest thing ever? Love me my Whose Line!

  9. 9 Therese Walsh September 7, 2009 at 9:22 am

    Rene, writing an essay sounds like a great place to start.

    I think I would start my book talking about my grandmother, who was funny, strong, and independent. As she slipped into the forgetfulness of Alzheimer’s she kept those traits and taught me you can still be an amazing person even when you don’t know where you put your purse.

    Oooh, yes, Heather: write this.

  10. 10 Lorraine Wilde September 7, 2009 at 9:49 am

    I love this topic. I’m currently writing my memoir, “Egg Mama: An Egg Donor and her Extraordinary Family”. So definitely family!I think there are a lot of benefits to writing about family. I get to recap in my own head what happened and I learn more about myself and my family members when I go through the writing process and discuss the memory or event with them. Many times, my mom brain has forgotten some of the most interesting aspects of an event.

    I also like the idea that it’s a written history, however skewed :). Something I’ll be able to share with my family in the future, maybe my grandchildren that don’t yet exist, even if I am not successful with publication.

    Writing also seems to be a huge creative outlet for me. I can work obsessively for 7 hours straight if I ever have the luxury of that much uninterupted time, and then still be excited to keep going. No other activity gives me this same kind of boundless energy.

    Please check out my blog as I write about my family, and work toward publishing my memoir. Go Writer Mamas!

    Lorraine Wilde

  11. 11 Lisa S. September 7, 2009 at 9:50 am

    I would chose to write about forgiveness because I believe it is so important to do and I know I’ve had to work very hard at learning this one. And am still in the process of working at this every day. There are so many facets to this topic that I would like to explore, so many things that go wrong or go right because of forgiveness or a lack of forgiveness.

    Family is also an amazing topic to explore. I haven’t touched on this subject but I hope to someday. I love to read about different families. It makes me feel as though mine isn’t so unique!

  12. 12 Holly Rutchik September 7, 2009 at 10:28 am

    I Would (ok, am) write about the role forgiveness plays in a family. There is a wonderful and dramatic line everyone must draw in their lives between what they will share and or give up for their family and what they won’t. Sometimes making this choice is more dramatic than others, but we have all done it. I write essays, so I am always looking for that little bud in the story that will bloom for my readers when reflecting about their own lives.

  13. 13 Janel September 7, 2009 at 10:31 am

    As soon as I saw the three topics I thought of my own family. At this point I can’t see myself ever writing a memoir, but the subjects of forgetting because of memory loss and forgiving others has been a major part of my life lately. Of course, the beauty of creativity is that I can use my own experiences to create a realistic fictional world. There are some stories in my family that are just too good to leave as just memories. They are just begging to be tweaked and recreated into fiction. Hopefully the realistic touches will help get them published!

  14. 14 Catherine M-Y September 7, 2009 at 10:54 am

    These topics family, forgetting and forgiveness are very complicated and close to my heart. My family is the source of my greatest triumphs and disappointments. I have an excellent memory so I cannot forget, not matter how hard I try. That leaves forgiveness. I could write about forgiveness but it’s a hard pill for me to swallow. My grudges keep me warm at night and drive me to be successful. Using the forgiveness, forgetting and family can give me fertile ground for expressing myself.

  15. 15 Cara Holman September 7, 2009 at 11:03 am

    Family, fame, fortune, friends and fate… That’s what I’d like to write about. Although personal essays and creative non-fiction were my first love, this summer, I took the leap into fiction when I entered the Super-Short Summer Serial Challenge (S4C), a flash fiction serialized writing contest sponsored by Declaration Editing. I started with a situation suggested by real life, namely, my being diagnosed with breast cancer three years ago and subsequently joining a writing group, and took it from there.

    I have to admit that it felt funny at first to have my alter ego making different choices than I did, but I soon got into the spirit of things and discovered how tremendously empowering (and fun!) it can be to have the ability to script other lives at your whim. Don’t like cancer? Vanquish it with the skillful treatment of a empathic and kind oncologist. Want to shave a few years off your age? No problem! Although I suspect I will always continue to write quite a bit of non-fiction, it’s been enjoyable and enlightening to add fiction to my arsenal of writing skills.

  16. 16 Jessica Varin September 7, 2009 at 11:35 am

    Although it’s often cliche, plot lines involving amnesia have a certain kind of appeal. I love exploring the sub-conscious. The things we might remember, the things we’ve invented to fill in gaps in our memories, the things we’re afraid to remember … all of these things appeal to me. Diana Abu-Jaber’s latest novel, Origin, is a great example of this.

  17. 17 Kristen R Murphy September 7, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    I would have to induct all three themes (family, forgetting, and forgiveness) in my writing. Right now I’m at a place where I want to write personal essays or even a memoir. The only type of fiction I wrote was in a high school writing class, so fiction would be a big step. I have gone through a lot with my family, and especially the one I married into. Not only would writing about family issues feed my writing soul, the process would help in forgiveness.

  18. 18 Cheryl M September 7, 2009 at 12:42 pm

    I don’t write fiction, although I do love to read it. If pressed, I think I would choose the forgiveness theme to write about. It is such a rich theme and it would be interesting to explore how people’s feelings about forgiveness change over time. I know mine have. When I was younger I felt it was more of a weakness to forgive people and now I think of it more as a challenging task that can benefit both parties.

  19. 19 Susan Heim September 7, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    I would write about forgiveness because it’s something with which everyone struggles. I tend to be the kind of person who holds a grudge, so exploring this theme would be of great benefit to me! I’m inspired by those who are able to forgive someone who has wronged them, no matter how grievously. The theme of forgiveness really gets to the core of exploring who we are and how we want to live. It can change one’s life.

  20. 20 Carolyn September 7, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    Family and forgiveness. I found my birth mother about 15 years ago. Reacquaintance with that side of the family inspired several stories and poetry. About mothers and daughter and family life – some of which was rather desperate.
    One poem is in part here. Too long to show all. (Dots show areas of missing lines) . Make the best of what you have.


    I hear your sweet tales of family life
    and think of ours with all its strife.
    Does everyone else have a rosy past?
    Or is it seen through a cloud or behind a mask?

    Well, I’m sorry if my stories are sad.
    If good guys don’t win or some outcomes are bad.
    But that’s the truth, so what should I do
    with our broken lives, the pieces askew?


    Or I can gather the bits of glass
    and make a mosaic of our pasts.
    … I go through several colors and relate a value and end with ….
    With these pieces both broken and torn
    we come together and cause to form
    a stained glass window so that all might find
    beauty in even the least of light.

  21. 21 kellyjeveleth September 7, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    “Without forgiveness, pebbles on the journey of life cut the skin like jagged rocks.” These words came to me after attending a family reunion. I proceeded to write a blog post because I was so amazed at my own observations of people who are family members. I didn’t know the younger family members but the effects of the lack of forgiveness carried through time and generations. I then felt a great to need to again write about forgiveness and titled it “With forgiveness, fruits of the spirit grow.” I have needed a lot of healing in my life. The best way I’ve found to work through tough life issues is to write and to forgive.

  22. 22 Mar Junge, c3PR September 7, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    Forgetting is a great topic. I just came from a wonderful long weekend at a beach house where our core group of six couples has gathered every Labor Day for more than a decade. We all met about 30 years ago when we were in our 20s. One after another we got married, bought houses, had babies, chased after toddlers and struggled with teens. Now about half of our “babies” are in college and the other half will be there soon. Our gatherings are much quieter now, without the dozen or so rug rats under foot. So we spend hours sharing stories and help each other remember the particulars, since we all suffer from CSR syndrome (can’t remember sh*t). But the one thing we never forget is how important we are to each other. We’ve been through the worst of times (which we conveniently forget were so bad) and enjoyed the best of times (which we love to relive at our gatherings). One by one, we launch our kids on their own journeys. When they leave, we hold each other through the tears. Then party like we did B.C. (before kids). And every Labor Day, we welcome a few of them back to the beach house so we can entertain them and their new college friends with stories of our past, lest they forget their roots.

  23. 23 Carrie Ure September 7, 2009 at 2:13 pm

    I wouldn’t mind taking a crack at forgiveness. Although I have devoted countless private journal pages to the subject over the years, I’m finding that forgiveness is easy to write about and hard to practice. How surprising would it be to open a women’s magazine in line at the grocery store and find “Seven easy ways to forgive yourself and others” tucked in with the tips and how-to’s!

    If I accomplish my long term goal to write essays on spiritual and Buddhist topics for national publications, the likelihood is high that I will deal with this topic. In the mean time, I’ll keep journaling, working my craft, and practicing letting go of real and imagined slights that come my way.

  24. 24 Diane J. September 7, 2009 at 2:16 pm

    Hmmm, I would say family. There is so much that can be touched on within that one subject. However, I like to laugh, so if I were to write about family it would have to be fun.

    Now, the main conundrum would be fiction or non-fiction? I love both choices and could go completely wacky with fiction, but I’ve never written any fiction so that scares me. Non-fiction with fun and helpful tips would be great and I think I could do something with it.

  25. 25 Sarah Joyce Bryant September 7, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    Well, I would have to say that I would choose to write about family, forgetting, and forgiveness as themes, since that is what I am writing about right now. I am currently working on a collection of personal essays that cover my childhood in a religious cult with abusive parents, the affects growing up in that environment had on my adult life, and my journey towards remembering so that I could forgive. I believe these themes are universal and can help to build a bridge of commonality between readers and the story they are reading. There are not too many people that do not have issues within their family – things they would like to forget and things they must forgive in order to move forward.

    The Last Will of Moira Leahy sounds fantastic and I LOVE the cover!

  26. 26 Brandy September 7, 2009 at 4:49 pm

    I would probably write about forgetting, but not from an “amnesia” perspective, but more from an “overcoming” perspective. Forgetting things we learned that don’t better us as humans, or forgetting the things that we have done that don’t ultimately benefit who we want to become. Letting go of the past, so that characters can move forward. I find the strength to forget almost as compelling as the strength to forgive, and maybe, to some extent, the forgetting and forgiving have to go hand in hand for some.

  27. 27 Beth Vogt September 7, 2009 at 5:09 pm

    I’m a writing mama, so I already write about family.
    I pick a word to focus on each year–instead of a list of resolutions that I’ll lose and forget by February 1st. And my 2009 word is “Forgiveness.” So, maybe I’ll have something profound to write about that topic in 2010.
    I’ve actually prayed that God would help me forget the name of someone who wronged me and my family … and I have. Maybe I should write about that.
    Wow … this blog post certainly set my mind to pondering … And reading everyone else’s comments got me thinking too. Great topic!!

  28. 28 Maribeth September 7, 2009 at 5:18 pm

    I choose all three. Family can be more than a parent, sibling, aunt etc. Family can be a dog, a friend or co-workers. When you build a family in story form, you invite the reader to come explore a world that they may or may not be familiar with. Sometimes I like reading about a family that is my polar opposite. I would never trade my family for the world but still find it interesting to read about other family dynamics.
    Through the written word you can help someone see a situation in a way they didn’t choose to do so beforehand. The saying goes-you can forgive but not forget-but if you choose forgiveness sometimes you discover that forgetting happens.

  29. 29 Cathy C. Hall September 7, 2009 at 5:34 pm

    Back in the day when I actually had time to visit blogs, I always read Writer Unboxed and I can remember when Therese Walsh talked/ obsessed about her manuscript 🙂 And now it’s been published and I can’t wait to read it!

    So, on to business…I’d probably write about forgiveness. Whatever I write, adult or children’s fiction, that theme seems to crop up in some way or another. I’m probably trying to work out some deep, dark sin in my past. But maybe I should write about forgetting…because for the life of me, I can’t remember what I might have done!

  30. 30 Beth Meleski September 7, 2009 at 6:19 pm

    My initial response was family, of course, family. I’m a mom. My most interesting topic (as far as I’m concerned) are my kids. And although they are only a small fraction of the people in my family, I think I could write about them exclusively for the rest of my life. I might be the only one who was entertained by my writing, but I could do it. But when I started to think about it, I realized that I could never write about family without also writing about forgetting and forgiving. Because almost every great story is, at its heart, about one or the other. Family is the character, forgetting and/or forgiving are the actions. And though I have, to this point, tended toward the essay/memoir form, somehow, these three words make it easy to envision fiction as a possibility.

  31. 31 Sara J .Henry September 7, 2009 at 6:44 pm

    Family – in a memoir, probably in a year or two (already started).

    Forgiveness – it’s in my next novel, which involves layers of friendship, what friendship means to different people, and how people use each other (fall 2011, Shaye Areheart Books).

    And both, in a way, in my current novel, LEARNING TO SWIM, (fall 2010, Shaye Areheart).

  32. 32 writerinspired September 7, 2009 at 7:12 pm

    Great question and such fun reading all the comments. In fiction, my genre tends to be on the tragic side, and usually involves some sort of forgetting and forgiving. Though the novel I’m trying to finish touches significantly on family, but a family outside the norm of brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers. More along the lines of finding family in our friends and allowing that love in. The winning prize sounds like a fantastic novel!

  33. 33 Laura September 7, 2009 at 7:22 pm

    I love the theme of family, but not necessarily the conventional sort. Family can be more than just those of your blood. There are many in my life that I call family, to whom I am not actually related. A best friend who is the twin of my heart. Gramma Lois, an elderly lady at church. My son’s long-time girlfriend, who I consider as my ‘other’ daughter.

    I would love to explore the theme of family, one gathered by bonds of time and struggle. Where there is family, there must be forgiveness and selective forgetfulness. No family can survive and grow without both elements. I have written personal essays about these themes, and am working on a book about the bonds of family, and the lengths one teen will go for them.

  34. 34 Brianne A September 7, 2009 at 7:41 pm

    I would definitely write about my family, and I actually do keep a blog about raising my son. I would love to write a book about them, also. The time that I spend with my family is the time that I cherish most. When I’m writing about them, time just flies by, and I really enjoy reading it back at a much later time. It brings back vivid memories.

  35. 35 karen k September 7, 2009 at 8:42 pm

    Writing about family in all it’s forms can be such a goldmine. What do people who aren’t blessed with dysfunctional families write about? Forgiveness and forgetting, I think, are intertwined and sometimes tackling one is the only way to accomplish the other. I’ve been avoiding the short stories I need to write about my family. I guess I’d better get started before I forget!

  36. 36 Sarah @ Baby Steps September 7, 2009 at 10:18 pm

    Family, forgiveness, and forgetting are all important things that touch everyone’s life in some way. I have written about all three of them in numerous forms including journaling, poetry, blogging, articles, essays, and a screenplay. I would have to say that what I love to write about the most is family, and my favorite forms are journaling (because it’s an amazing way to preserve beautiful memories and precious moments) and writing a screenplay because it’s so fun and amazing to create and explore a different world with awesome characters in it.

  37. 37 writethejourney September 7, 2009 at 10:34 pm

    I’m tempted to say forgiveness because it sounds redeeming but the one that grabs me right now is the theme of forgetting. Forgetting, after all, can be positive or negative; tragic or blissful or heartbreaking. Alzheimer’s, bad break-ups, war stories…all of these come to mind immediately as possible starting points for a story.

  38. 38 chloe September 7, 2009 at 10:54 pm

    Family forgetting forgiveness already being written about in a memoir I started early spring. Two different ideas came to mind though. One would be writing about my mother as a mirror to the book she wrote about her mental illness, so her life through my eyes. An other idea would be a fiction story about a very forgetful dog, could be fun (the second idea that is.)

  39. 39 Shannon September 7, 2009 at 11:40 pm

    I would write about family. Although all three seemed to be intertwined. There are always childhood hurts that haunt you, That you are trying to forget. Always some distant (or close) relative to forgive.

    Very interesting plot for a book. I look forward to reading it. Thanks for the giveaway!

  40. 40 Therese Walsh September 8, 2009 at 7:49 am

    Congratulations, Carrie! Spirituality is a big player of Last Will. I hope you’ll let me know if you enjoyed the read, once you’ve finished it.

    Thanks again for featuring my debut novel, Christina! You’re the best.

  1. 1 Day Seven: And the winner is… « The Writer Mama Riffs Trackback on September 8, 2009 at 5:00 am
  2. 2 The 2009 Giveaway List: The Writer Mama Back-To-School Giveaway Starts Tuesday, September 1st! « The Writer Mama Riffs Trackback on September 13, 2009 at 8:17 am
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