THE GOODBYE PROJECT: Letting Go is Good, Yo! Episode 7–The Penguin Book

About The Goodbye Project:

There are so many of us who can’t part with objects because of the sentimental attachment we have to them. You know—the graduation tassels, the barfed-on stuffed animal with the missing eye, the coat your late father bought for you because you begged. So what do you do when it’s time to let go of these beloved items because it’s absolutely necessary?

I’d read someplace that one of the best ways to let go of an object is to know that you have a photo. Sure, you can photograph it before you get rid of it. The Goodbye Project takes the idea a step further: go back and find photos of yourself actually with, using, or wearing that object, and blurb a bit about the memories it invokes.

Why? Everything has a story.

And because of that, the object deserves more than just a hasty trip to the Goodwill or the trash without a second thought.


I did this all the time--stick cute captions on pictures of penguins. This was a birthday card I made for my Dad in 2002--yes, he really DID have Macbeth memorized...

I’ve always had a fascination with penguins and wanted to work with them. In 2002, I applied to work as a volunteer at Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration (once called Mystic Marinelife Aquarium) in Mystic, CT.

I was accepted and given a choice: yes, the penguin department had an opening, but there wouldn’t be much room for missing a shift—penguins bond tightly with their caregivers—and as I lived two hours and fifteen minutes away, it was a little bit of a risk. So I went with the volunteer coordinator’s suggestion: Fishes & Invertebrates (sharks, crabs, jellies, etc).

I’m sure I would have loved working with the penguins. But I was very happy working in the F&I department (talk about people who walk to the beat of their own drummers! I had a ball). In addition, volunteers also got to attend the daily multi-departmental meeting, so I was privy to what was happening aquarium-wide—including in the penguin department.

I don’t remember what was going on with the penguins one day, but I came out of the meeting with a complete story idea. Over the next week, I went out and bought several books on penguins and did some research to see if I could get my story to work.

This is one of the books; the others I either gave away years ago (and ONE that I just couldn’t part with I kept—I figured having one tangible memory of that time in my life wasn’t a big deal). And if you’d like to read the finished story—called “Colonies,” which was originally published in 2005 in a limited-run anthology that’s no longer available—you can enjoy it here:


Want to know more about penguins up close? Mystic Aquarium & IFE in Connecticut offers a Penguin Encounter at certain times of year. You can read more about that here:

…or enjoy marinebeauties12’s up-close encounter with them in 2009 here on YouTube:

For more information about volunteering at the Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration, visit here:

March 29, 2002: the day I became a Mystic Aquarium & IFE volunteer. I'm holding up my uniform shirt (long gone, because when you work in F&I stuff gets destroyed fast).

The last of my penguin books with which I'm parting. Information from this book helped me understand penguins a little better so I could write a halfway decent short story.

"Colonies" is about Emperor Penguins (sort of, anyway). This Post-It was stuck in the inside front cover of the book, so I'm assuming these are the pages that had information I needed.

Not much highlighting in this book--at all. I probably copied the pages I needed and threw them in the story's file.


Here I am with Nathan in the back-up area for the Mammals exhibit at MA&IFE in March, 2004. We were helping the beluga whales get prepared for that summer's public Whale Encounter sessions. Notice our red/purple hands? YEAH...THAT water was COLD!

About kristipetersenschoonover

A ghost story writer who still sleeps with the lights on, Kristi Petersen Schoonover’s fiction has appeared in many magazines and anthologies; her traditionally published books include a short story collection, THE SHADOWS BEHIND. She was the recipient of three Norman Mailer Writers Colony Residencies and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College. She serves as co-host of the DARK DISCUSSIONS podcast, as founding editor of the dark literary journal 34 ORCHARD, and is a member of the New England Horror Writers. Follow her adventures at

Posted on June 15, 2011, in The Goodbye Project and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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