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What's Heaven? tells the story of Kate, a young girl struggling to understand the loss of her great-grandmother. Kate is filled with questions that many young children ask when faced with death at such a young age. Why do people die? How do they get to heaven? What is heaven like? The questions that Kate asks are real, taken from Shriver's experience helping her family cope with their loss. And Kate's mother provides warm and reassuring answers to these questions that help Kate understand that death and grieving are a natural part of life.
Combining her skills as a journalist with her experience raising four children, Shriver has written a book that parents of all faiths can share with their children.
After her great-grandmother's death, a young girl learns about heaven by asking her mother all kinds of questions.
Maria Shriver: I am thrilled to be here with people who are book readers, and I am very excited to talk about my new book.
Maria Shriver: Thank you so much for thanking me. This is a book I was passionate about and felt I needed to write because of exactly what you said: Kids are scared about a lot of different aspects of death. What I discovered was that kids were concerned about what happens from someone else's perspective after they die; they were afraid of the idea of putting someone in a box and then in the ground. As the child in my story asks, What happens if great-grandma can't breath or wants to get out? I tried to answer, in the best way possible, these and other questions. The most important thing I have learned is that if you just talk to kids about the subject, the mere fact that they can talk about it makes them less frightened.
Maria Shriver: Thanks for asking it. A good question. I don't know if I have a No. 1 thing, but what I hope this book does is to give kids and families the ability to talk to each other about a difficult subject. I hope it gives peace to kids in need, and I hope that it touches people and makes them as comfortable as anybody can be about the subject. I also hope that it shows people that even after someone dies -- a family member, a loved one, a friend -- you can keep someone alive, so to speak, by sharing memories of them, talking about them, and letting them live on for other generations.
Maria Shriver: I think that the news business has changed dramatically since I first came into it. As you mentioned, it is on 24 hours on more channels than I can think of. On the downside, I think it fragments the audience so that it is harder to reach people with whatever it is you are trying to talk about. On the other hand, like this chat, technology has made it so that people have hundreds of programs at their disposal and can now interact with people on the news like we are doing right now. Furthermore, the advances made in the business have opened many more opportunities for women, compared to when I began. I have lots of different opinions about the state of my profession today, but they would be too long for any chat. I am glad you watch "Dateline." I will be doing "The Today Show" at the end of the month and I hope you will tune in for that too. Thanks a lot.
Maria Shriver: I started writing it right after my grandmother died, within days. It took me quite a long time to get it just right in terms of how specific I wanted to be; in other words, I wrote one version that was really specific, another that perhaps wasn't specific enough, and then I massaged them and came up with this version. In terms of the illustrations, I picked Sandra Speidel from more than 20 artists I looked at. I went through hundreds of different books looking at hundreds of different ways of depicting what I had written. I chose Sandra because I thought her art would be pleasing to the eye and comforting, and I loved the way she interpreted the work. I am so proud of her illustrations because I think they make the entire book really come to life. I don't think this book would be as successful as it is right now if not for her incredible painting.
Maria Shriver: I have signed some bookplates here tonight, and now that the book is a bestseller, I am thinking of doing a signing. Do you have a suggestion where?
Maria Shriver: This is my first book. I did have an idea for another book which I have just completed, called TEN THINGS I WISH I KNEW WHEN I GRADUATED FROM COLLEGE (it came from a Holy Cross commencement address I gave last May -- out next spring), but now that I have seen the response to this book I am thinking of doing another. What I have found [is that] I would like to do something that I am passionate about, and that I have some experience with. I think what made this book a success is that it is on a subject that in a way brings us all together, is something we all share. So unless I can find a subject that I think would be like that, I don't know if I would do another. Do you have any suggestions?
Maria Shriver: I didn't really draw on an experience from my own childhood; what I was determined to do was to give my kids a different experience than I had. I wanted to talk with them about this subject and that is why I wrote this book. When I was little, I experienced the shock of losing a member of my family, but I never felt like I was able to talk about it. That is why I felt so strongly about this book.
Maria Shriver: Thank you so much. And I am looking forward to hearing back what you think about the book. I had great fun on Oprah.
Maria Shriver: Thank you. You may be too young, but I did that already. I was the host of the CBS morning show in 1985-1986. And while I loved it, my life now is in California and those shows are all based in New York. But I am going to do "The Today Show" the last week of March, so we can wake up together that week. Thank you very much.
Maria Shriver: The death of my grandmother was the major motivation, coupled with my children's questions about her death. Ironically, I learned from them through their questions and answers, and they were so helpful to me that I wanted to put them in a book.
Maria Shriver: Absolutely! The wonderful thing I have learned in the last week and half is how many thousands of adults have bought it for themselves and other adults, something I never even thought about. In fact, I have been so moved by the stories that so many adults have shared with me since this book came out; they told me that it has taken them to places in their mind where they haven't been in years. It has allowed them to touch base with other members of their family and talk about things they haven't resolved. When you write a book, I discovered, you never know how people are going to accept it. I wrote this book for kids, but I am thrilled that it is touching adults as well.
Maria Shriver: I think, from what I understand, that the book had a huge initial spurt and has since died down. I think that was to be expected. I think what this says about our country and my profession, what it says about politics, men, women, etc. -- it says so much. I don't think you could type as fast as what I could say about it. Suffice to say, for me watching it, I felt an overall sadness.
Maria Shriver: I hope I am roasting marshmallows with my kids and my husband and thanking God for all my blessings -- at home.
Maria Shriver: Yes, I spoke on those topics last year at Holy Cross College, and I got such an overwhelming response, like yours, that I turned it into a book which will be coming out next spring. Thank you for all your kind comments. It will called TEN THINGS I WISH I KNEW WHEN I GRADUATED FROM COLLEGE.
Maria Shriver: Nine, seven, five, and one. They keep me hopping.
Maria Shriver: The baby's favorite is GOODNIGHT MOON, which was all of my kids' favorite. My favorite is WILL LOVE YOU FOREVER; every time I read it, I cry. My girls are into chapter books, and my son likes Dr. Seuss.
Maria Shriver: Start at the bottom; apply to your local station and be willing to do anything and everything. Be willing to work seven days a week, 24 hours a day, and learn how to write well.
Maria Shriver: The toughest part in writing the book was how long it took. I am used to the immediacy of TV, so this was tough. My role models are my parents.
Maria Shriver: Thank you. The toughest part is juggling. I work only part-time, but I still find it difficult to feel really good at both things. On the days I feel like I am doing great at parenting, I feel bad about my work, and vice versa, but I am content with having downsized my career in order to focus on my kids. But there is no doubt in my mind that trying to do both leaves you frazzled. [laughs]
Maria Shriver: I don't feel that I am ready to write an autobiography and doubt whether I will ever feel ready. I would like to do more children's books. This experience has been so wonderful. I am thrilled at the reaction to the book and thrilled that it has become a bestseller already, and most importantly, I am thrilled by how it is touching people. I can look at it as one of the best things I have ever done.
Maria Shriver: I was thrilled that he bought the golf clubs, and I was thrilled that a lot of the money went to the Kennedy library to further my uncle's legacy. As far as my politics, I leave that under wraps because I am a journalist and I cover both parties, but I think it is pretty easy to guess where I stand.
Maria Shriver: Not at all.
Maria Shriver: I really enjoyed our chat. I hope we can do it again soon, and I hope everyone will go out and buy this book, and buy it for their friends and for any kids they know. And I hope they will enjoy it.