Creating Art 
To Benefit Others

100% of The Proceeds Benefit The Organization

Shanna Mahin JPEG .jpg

For Shanna


In Memory


Shanna Mahin

Every donation (whether $5 or $500) received In Memory of Shanna Mahin to Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services will receive a digital copy of this portrait from the organizer and artist Elle de Marié. 

Please read on to learn how to donate to receive your portrait, as well as the behind the scenes process from sketch to completion, and the story behind the portrait.



(Please read prior to donation.)

-> Click the “Donate” button below.

-> Under “Type of Tribute” select “In Memory of” from the drop down list. 

-> Check the box “I would like to dedicate this donation” —and then…

-> Under “Tribute Name” type “Shanna Mahin”

-> Under “Send Notification to” leave ALL fields blank except enter the email address: shanna [at] elledemarie [dot] com

Complete the rest of the donation form as required by Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services.


Didi Hirsch will notify me of your donation made in Shanna’s memory. Once I receive their notification, I will email you a Google Drive link to download Shanna’s portrait, my artist’s copyright statement giving you permission to use the portrait for personal use, and the best printing options. You will also receive my heart-felt gratitude for supporting this fundraiser to help others in need of mental health support and care in Shanna’s name. (My email will go the email address you provided Didi Hirsch at the time of your donation.)

Please note:

The “In Memory of” donation notifications from Didi Hirsch to me (unfortunately) are not automated, but instead handled by hardworking humans during business hours. The Director of Donations has assured me this will run smoothly and is personally overseeing our fundraiser.

If you have not received my email with your portrait link within 72 hours of your donation, (and it is not hiding in your spam folder), please contact me immediately, so I may correct the error.

(If you would like to receive your portrait immediately after donating, please contact me directly.)


The digital portrait was created at 300 dpi to produce a high-quality print ready for an 8x10 or 11x14 frame. The portrait can also be kept as a screensaver on your phone, iPad, or computer. Wherever you may chose to place Shanna’s portrait, I want to imagine she would be so touched that she was close to you. “Right on!” 


The Story Behind The Portrait: Shanna Was My Friend

I was gutted by the news of Shanna’s passing, along with so many who filled my social media feeds with stories and photos of our tough-as-nails, tender-hearted friend. My thoughts stayed on Samantha Dunn, our mutual friend and mentor who had nurtured our early drafts when Shanna and I were newbies toying with the idea that we could be writers. I wanted to comfort Sam, offer her something, but words failed me. I turned to my art to not only process my grief and settle the frenetic energy running through my hands, but also thought, if the portrait didn’t suck, I could offer it to Sam, a gift born through grief.

During every step of creating this painting, Shanna was in my ear, repeating, “Just make me look good.”

As she began to jump off the page, I realized that what I was creating was bigger than just Sam and me. It was in those quiet moments, sketching and painting and sobbing, staring into Shanna’s eyes and talking to her, that the idea of this fundraiser came to mind as did my memories of her. 

We met through our PEN America Emerging Voices Fellowships (hers in 2008 and mine in 2013). She was the first person to congratulate me and we celebrated achieving this accomplishment in spite our 9th grade education. We bonded over our troubled childhoods—both of us raised by single mothers with mental illness. Both of us surviving too many adult experiences when we were just kids. 

We discovered we lived in San Diego, just half a mile from each other (which is unheard of in the vast expansion of Southern California). Yet we would forgo carpooling to an LA reading or an event, because we each had a psychological need to be able to slip out of the venue in a heartbeat. We commiserated over how exhausting it was for us to be in public, even though we loved being in the company of writers. We made plans, canceled them often, and never took it personally. We battled our anxiety, depression, and demons—and wrote our hearts out anyway.

We had stories to tell. 

When I was accepted into Bread Loaf Writers Conference to study with Cheryl Strayed, Shanna emailed Cheryl to put in a good word. I didn’t know she had done that until the first day of the conference. “Oh, you’re Elle,” Cheryl said, after I introduced myself. “Shanna told me about you.” It was such a Shanna thing to do—forever championing writers and cross-pollinating the literary community she loved. 

I’ve lost count of the number of times Shanna was the common denominator in finding a new friend, reading a heart-wrenching essay, or discovering a debut author, all from her insistence. 

If you had “The Shanna Mahin Seal of Approval,” you were golden. When she loved you, she REALLY loved you. When she didn’t, well what can I say, she had the best bullshit detector of anyone I knew.

She was a force. An energy filled with contradictions. A beautiful, beautiful soul. And her talent! Whoa! How can I even come close to describing it? If you were one of the lucky ones to hear her read, you know how her words took root in your heart. Oh how I wish her tender heart could have absorbed all the love we wanted to shower upon her. 

This inability to feel worthy of and receive love is a trauma response rooted in unimaginable childhood trauma. I speak from experience, as I do here knowing firsthand the unbearable pain that can devour us in our darkest hour. I wish I could have eased her distress in that moment as I know many others who loved her wish they could have as well.

Since I couldn’t do that, I can do this.

Shanna, I hope this portrait and this fundraiser in your honor meets your seal of approval. You deserve no less, because you, my friend, were always golden.​

With love forever, 


If you or someone you know is in crisis, help is available here 24/7:


My painting of Shanna was created with love and inspired by an original photograph by Betsy McCue Gibson and is used with their permission and blessing for this fundraiser. When I first approached Betsy with this kernel of an idea to honor Shanna, it came as no surprise to learn that Shanna was Betsy’s friend too.  ​​​​







Thank you for your support.

Shanna Fundraiser
Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services

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