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Make Sisters Day Every Day

By Marcia Stewart

National Sisters Day always makes me think about my younger sister Nickie — and always will. Her death in 2018 was not only a heartbreak but a shock, coming just eight short weeks after a diagnosis of terminal cancer.

But working with Teri Rizvi and the Bombeck workshop over the past few years to create Nickie’s Prize for Humor Writing and the book, Sisters! Bonded by Love and Laughter, allowed me to both honor Nickie’s memory and deal with my grief. It became an important part of my transition into retirement from a long-time job writing and editing legal and business books.

The phrase “sisterhood is powerful” took on special meaning as we brainstormed and planned Nickie’s Prize, read funny and heartwarming sister stories from hundreds of entrants, cheered for the 21 Nickie’s Prize winners, and ultimately gathered their stories and others from dozens more writers into a unique book that has touched many hearts (and funny bones). The project brought me into contact with a fascinating variety of writers, humorists and others, including those who judged Nickie’s Prize or helped with the book in some way — from proofreading to production to publicity. Working with talented book designer/illustrator Drue Wagner was great — Nickie would have liked her, I’m sure. I am really looking forward to meeting many of these new “sisters” in person at the next workshop this October. (There’s still time, if you haven’t registered yet!)

Because I had an editorial/publishing background, and Nickie was interested in humor writing, developing Nickie’s Prize and the Sisters! book was a natural way to honor my sister. Since its publication, others who’ve faced the sad situation of a sister’s death have been inspired to think of their own ways to honor them, or asked me for suggestions. There’s no one answer, of course.

If you find yourself dealing with a similar grief, you might want to consider your sister’s interests and passions, as well as your skill set, time and budget. You can support (with money, volunteer time or fundraising efforts) your sister’s favorite cause, such as a local animal shelter, breast cancer support group, food bank or conservation nonprofit. If your sister was a pickle ball fanatic or avid runner, you might purchase pickle ball paddles or running shoes for women who can’t afford to buy their own. You can establish a scholarship in your sister’s name, as did the family of DC Stanfa, humorist and long-time workshop attendee, in order to help writers with financial need attend the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop. Maybe organize an annual Zumba day in honor of a sister who loved this type of Latin-inspired dance. There are many low-cost ways to honor a sister’s memory, too, such as taking over the care of her garden.

My other sister Linda and I feel more than ever the importance of making time for each other — in person if at all possible; otherwise with regular texts, emails, phone calls and even handwritten letters (remember those?). Before Nickie’s death, the three of us arranged sister getaways at least once a year (despite the challenges of living in three different parts of the country and having job and family commitments).

Since then, Linda and I have managed to get together several times, despite the pandemic and our geographic distance. Most recently, Linda happily left the blistering heat of her Texas home to visit me in the cool and foggy Bay Area, where we spent the week playing rummy (a favorite card game of all three sisters), taste-testing all the “light” ice creams and recounting stories only sisters find funny: about bad boyfriends, bad hair styles and colors (let’s just say that the Beatles haircut was not for everyone; nor was a platinum blonde dye job); the fake IDs we had used to buy Boone’s Farm Apple Wine; and the major secrets we kept from our parents. And of course, we spent lots of time talking about how much we loved and missed Nickie and all the fun, compassion and joy she brought to our lives.

Make every day Sisters Day. You won’t regret it.

(If you haven’t yet bought Sisters!, it makes the perfect gift for Sisters Day on Aug. 7. And you’re benefiting the workshop since all book proceeds go to the workshop’s endowment fund, which is used to keep the program affordable for writers! It's available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Bookshop.)

— Marcia Stewart

Marcia Stewart is a Bay Area writer and editor who co-founded Nickie’s Prize for Humor Writing and co-edited Sisters! Bonded by Love and Laughter, published by the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop in October 2021.

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