Michelle Linn-Gust’s path to becoming a writer began in first grade when she realized she wanted to write books while attending Naper School in Naperville, Illinois. Growing up, she honed her writing skills with pen pals in Luxembourg, Sweden, and Australia. In eighth grade she began journaling daily,leaving her with stacks of notebooks filled with details that documented the important mundane details of a teen girl’s life in the 1980s (including who she talked to on the phone each day).
She attended Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, majoring in magazine journalism. When she was a junior covering the Ball State basketball team in the NCCA Tournament for The Ball State Daily News, her younger sister Denise died by suicide just two weeks before her eighteenth birthday.
Denise’s death led Michelle to rethink the direction of her life when she was just twenty-one. She completed her Bachelors Degree at Ball State in 1994 and went on to earn a Masters Degree in health education from the University of New Mexico in 1996.
Throughout the remainder of the 1990s, she worked on two manuscripts. The first one, Beyond the Finish Line, a still unpublished novel about a fictional high school girls cross country team, and a manuscript for sibling survivors of suicide, which would become her first book, Do They Have Bad Days in Heaven? Surviving the Suicide Loss of a Sibling. When the opportunity beckoned to turn Bad Days in Heaven into a published book, Michelle’s path turned to helping people heal from suicide loss.
In 2008 she completed her doctorate in family studies, writing her dissertation about how people use a dog to cope with loss. Her book Ginger’s Gift: Hope and Healing through Dog Companionship, published in 2007, was a personal story related to her dissertation research.
Several suicide loss books would follow: Rocky Roads: The Journeys of Families through Suicide Grief, A Winding Road: A Handbook for those Supporting the Suicide Bereaved (co-authored with John Peters), and an edited book, Seeking Hope: Stories of the Suicide Bereaved, with Julie Cerel. In June 2011, her first fiction was released, The Australian Pen Pal followed by her second fiction novel, Sisters: The Karma Twist, published in September 2011.
While Michelle is the current past president of the American Association of Suicidology, her work continues to transition into the larger field of helping people live meaningful and authentic lives. Her newest book, that follows her transition, Conversations with the Water: A Memoir of Cultivating Hope, was published on December 12, 2012, also Michelle’s birthday.