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Emily Reeves on Writing About Her Brother, Killed in Action

3 min read

Emily Reeves, director of Digital Innovation and Insight Planning at Stone Ward, took a step out of her comfort zone to write “Stay Safe,” a memoir reflecting on the loss of her brother and his life.

Reeves, a 2015 Arkansas Business 40 Under 40 honoree, published the book in August after her brother, a Navy SEAL, was killed on active duty in 2011. She wrote based on her memories as well as a series of letters she wrote him and kept the month after his death.

During an interview this week, Reeves told Arkansas Business that she has received positive feedback about the book and hopes that it helps others who are grieving.

Since her brother’s death, Reeves has become involved with Carry the Load, an organization dedicated to bringing back the meaning of Memorial Day.

Q. Why did you decide to write a book?

A. The month after my brother died was just a very strange experience and I would write my brother letters everyday because he and I talked all the time when he was on deployment, and things were happening that I wanted to talk to him about. I wanted to compile them to share with family and friends specifically but then I was like, it’s kind of interesting and it helps me with my grieving process and it’s kind of cathartic to put that out there. It was very, very scary because it is a very personal account of what happened, but it’s been a great hurdle for me to get over in my grieving process to be able to put it out there and know that some piece of my brother’s memory is being honored and will go on because other people can read it.

Q. What was the most challenging aspect of writing?

A. In this particular case, it was the emotion that was involved. I really struggled to reread the words I had written in 2011 and to try to make them readable for other people and still keep them true and honest. I would read them and I would get so upset and I would think, “Do I really want anybody to know that about me?,” or “Is that something I really want to share?” And kind of overcoming that fear of sharing something very personal and still knowing it hits me pretty hard. I’ve tried to read chapters of the book aloud and I still get choked up at some parts.

Q. What is the biggest thing you learned from writing “Stay Safe”?

A. I learned a lot about myself. I learned that I’m a risk taker and I didn’t think that I really was. I thought I would always kind of maintain the safe route and to put something like that out there is a risk. I’m risking judgment from other people. I think it’s a risk I’m really glad I took.

Q. What other professional aspirations do you have? Another book?

A. I think that I want to continue to grow in my career whatever that career path is. I love what I do in advertising — we tell stories in interesting ways and so that’s really not that far off track for me to write in my own time and tell my own story, so I can see how those two things would merge and I could continue to do both and they would happily compliment each other. 

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