Vegas author Lauren Molasky Fierst fights through her ‘invisible disease’ to publish a book of poems and drawings

Lauren Molasky Fierst
Illustration: Lauren Molasky / Courtesy

Lauren Molasky Fierst has always been creative. She designed a fashion line and created her own fashion blog. She’d write little poems for her family and make art with her dad. But recently, the Las Vegas-born-and-raised mother of two took an entirely new step. She published her first illustrated book of poems, titled The Sky Cracked Open. It’s a whimsical, fun and uplifting collection, reminiscent of Shel Silverstein. And she did it while battling cystic fibrosis, a genetic condition that makes breathing very difficult. Fierst, who is waiting on a double lung transplant, took time to chat with Las Vegas Weekly.

What was the inspiration behind The Sky Cracked Open?It is completely inspired by my son and daughter. … I just started taking notes of all of the funny things that they would say every day. And I would go back and create poems about all of them. …

My disease, cystic fibrosis, is nicknamed 65 roses. So as I was writing all these poems, I decided I wanted to create 65 poems, and have it really tie in with the disease that I fight. So there are 65 poems, and there are 65 roses dawn on the front cover.

What was the writing process like?I actually wrote the poems pretty quickly. I would say that all 65 of them were done in about six months. Then I went back and started all of the illustrations for them. Then the process of figuring out how I was going to publish it—finding a printer, a publisher and a graphic designer to create my vision and put it all together—that really took some time. I also was hospitalized a number of times throughout this process. So it’d get put on hold, or I would try to work on it through the hospitalization, which was very challenging. But I really am so happy with how it turned out. It was such a true labor of love.

To whom do you think this book will appeal?I hope that the book appeals to kids and their parents, and really, people of all ages. I do feel like there is a poem for everyone, no matter what age you are.

Tell us more about the illustrations in the book.I actually was not going to do the illustrations for the book at first, because I don’t consider myself an artist at all. …Then I just started drawing what I thought should go with each of the poems, and I wanted it to be very youthful. …They’re just fun little drawings, and they don’t need to be perfect because nothing in life is perfect. That’s just how I live my life: Even though there’s struggle and very hard obstacles, there’s still a lot of good in my life. That’s really what I focus on the most.

What is it like to live with cystic fibrosis?Cystic fibrosis is often referred to as an invisible disease. And it was for me for many years. You’re struggling to breathe, but on the outside you can look so normal. … But then it becomes not invisible when you require oxygen 24/7, which is where I’m at now.

When you’re able, are you working on anything new?I actually am slowly starting my second book. I have a few poems. I have the title, and I have the idea of where I want it to go. It’s not coming to me as quickly as the first one did, but I’ll give it time.

THE SKY CRACKED OPEN By Lauren Molasky Fierst. $25, theskycrackedopen.com.

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