CSUMB alumna sends her children’s book about surviving wildfire to Maui

Carrie Lara

Carrie Lara, PsyD, is a licensed clinical psychologist

August 25, 2023

By Walter Ryce

Carrie Lara graduated from CSUMB in 2004 with a degree in social behavioral sciences and became a licensed clinical psychologist a decade ago, working in trauma, attachment and special education. She is also an award-winning children’s book author. 

She’s shipping copies of her recent book, “Out of the Fires: A Journal about Resilience and Recovery After Disaster,” to Lahaina, Maui, for survivors of the fire — especially the children. 

The book reads like a journal, filled with drawings, news clippings and coping strategies, and follows the story of a boy who is healing after a devastating fire destroys his home and neighborhood. 

“From there he has to work through his emotional experiences, the loss and grief, the anger and sadness, the scared and lost feelings,” Lara said. “But as he finds his voice through writing and drawing, he finds his coping skills, and builds his strength and resilience.” 

She wrote the book in the wake of devastating local wildfires including the Kincade fire in 2019 and Glass fire in 2020, as well as fires in Australia, Paradise, Los Angeles County, Kern County, Canada and elsewhere.

In 2017, the Tubbs fire raged through Sonoma County, where Lara and her family live. They had to evacuate as it wiped out neighborhoods and communities, propelled by fast winds. 

“In my work in the child psychiatry department at the hospital at that time I had many clients struggling with the aftermath,” she said. “The experience of the fire was [shared] by all. And I had many friends who had lost their homes as well.”

The 2019 Kincade fire prompted Lara and her family to evacuate to different locations three times. In 2020, Lara’s parents evacuated to her house to escape a fire that threatened their home.  

She said that all her books carry a social and emotional component, and include a psycho-educational piece with resources for parents, caregivers and teachers. That’s owing to the mission of her publisher, Magination Press, which is to address areas of mental health and social justice.

That philosophy aligned with what Lara learned, and how she learned, at CSUMB. 

“There was significant emphasis on the vision statement and the outcome-based curriculum,” she said. “I very much like my work to represent my integrity, creativity, and dedication. I believe that by trying to do this, I am serving my clients, my readers, and my community with the best that I can.”

“Out of the Fires” was published in July. There has been a lot of interest in the book given the current events, including multiple interviews revolving around how to best support children and families going through a traumatic wildfire experience. 

“A psychologist and children’s author colleague of mine has a connection with a teacher in Lahaina whose school burnt down and knows many children in the shelters in the area,” Lara said. 

She and that colleague are working on getting a box of “Out of the Fires” delivered to that teacher for the kids. 

The book is available through Magination Press, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other book outlets. 

Some of Lara’s other children’s book titles include “Marvelous Maravilloso” and “The Heart of Mi Familia.” She currently serves as the clinical director and head of Behavioral Services at Community Support Network in Santa Rosa.