A Chat with Rachel McGrath

Rachel McGrath

Interviewing Rachel McGrath (http://rachelmcgrath.net/) has truly been a pleasure. Deeply introspective, Rachel isn’t afraid to share the most difficult moments of her life with her readers. Not only does she write for herself, but she writes in order to connect with others who share her experiences. Then there are her children’s books, which are delightful romps that will enchant children of various ages. A talented storyteller with a formidable heart, I’m pleased to welcome Rachel and introduce her to our global village of readers!

Interviewed by Debbie A. McClure

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Q: In Finding The Rainbow ( http://www.amazon.ca/Finding-Rainbow-Rachel-McGrath/dp/1784650447/ref=sr_1_2?tag=geolinkerca-20&ie=UTF8), you talk about the heartache and trials of dealing with infertility and miscarriage. What feedback from readers have you received that has resonated the most with you?

A: The best feedback has been around the core message within Finding the Rainbow; the prevalence of hope.  I have had feedback from people who have had similar challenges, and those who have never had to face such struggles, and it has been wonderful to hear that it is a story that many felt they could connect with and understand, regardless of their own experiences.  That is truly what I had hoped. I did not want this to be a story of misery and pain, but to give a message of courage and strength; of always looking to the future to a new day, a new rainbow.

Q: What is the message you most want to convey to readers of Finding The Rainbow?

A: Many women have had to deal with miscarriage or infertility, and it is a really lonely place when you are going through that pain. I wanted to convey that it should not be a lonely place, and that there are so many people who can help, love and support you through the pain. Above it all, whilst it is an all-consuming journey, there is a path we all must follow, and that path is never clear. Some of us will reach our destination, others will need to find a different route, but we choose the path that defines our happy ending, regardless of whether it was the ending we had first hoped for.

Q: Rachel, you’ve also written several children’s books, including Mud On Your Face (http://www.amazon.ca/Mud-your-Face-Rachel-McGrath-ebook/dp/B015JPAIZ2/ref=sr_1_1?tag=geolinkerca-20&ie=UTF8), which is very different from the non-fiction genre of some of your other works. Which do you find more difficult to write and why?

A: Great question! I actually wrote Mud on your Face a few years ago, and I’ve always enjoyed writing fantasy and fiction. That is where my true storytelling nature comes into play. However, Finding the Rainbow, my memoir, was the book that made me a writer! I truly enjoyed writing it, but it was tough letting it go, opening it up to the public and exposing myself. I guess the fiction and fantasy stories are easier, as you can hide yourself behind them, rather than throwing yourself out for all to read.  I don’t regret either, but I’m certainly more comfortable with fiction.

Q: There are many challenges to indie (independent), or self-publishing. What has been the most difficult thing to learn and implement in your own journey to becoming a published writer?

A: Kindle!  Uploading onto Kindle and especially children’s books with illustrations. This in itself took longer than actually writing the book! It was completely frustrating for a very long time, and I could have paid someone to do it, but the stubborn side of me wanted to learn the process myself, and I wanted to get it right.

Q: You aren’t afraid to go deep inside yourself and share your struggles and sorrows with readers. What have you learned about yourself since beginning this journey of writing?

A: Getting my book published has given me confidence in my writing, and it has also provided some amazing new connections through a community of writers that I never knew had existed. I have always dreamed of being published, and whilst the topic of my first book is not one I would wish on anyone, it has given me a different path. I guess what I am saying, is that out of one challenge, I have found a way of channelling the pain and frustration into something that hopefully connects with people. I had to be honest, open and completely transparent in my book, Finding the Rainbow, and through that, and it has re-inspired my passion to write.

Q: What has been the most surprising thing you’ve learned about the business of writing since you began?

A: I’ve learned that the writing industry and the talent across the independent author network is incredibly vast. It has truly amazed me. On top of that, in the world of writing itself, the connections I have made and the pure generosity and friendship I have found in so many authors I have met through different social media groups, yet have never met has amazed me.

Q: Who has been your greatest mentor, either in life or in writing, and why?

A: I have many mentors in my life, but I would like to say that it is my parents who have always stood behind my dreams, no matter what. They have never stopped believing in my abilities and ambitions, and even when it meant leaving the country and living on the other side of the world, they have always supported me.

Q: What advice would you give to new writers who are considering self-publishing their work?

A: Self-publishing is easy, but getting your product right is really difficult. There is editing, cover design, formatting, pricing and then marketing!  My advice is do your research and spend the time getting the formatting and editing right, because reviews are everything and readers can be tough critics (as they ought to be). Cover design is so very important; it needs to be catchy, relevant and professional. I’m no expert but I love to read, and when something is not formatted, has bad editing or an unappealing cover, it really throws me off, despite everything else. Whilst it is frustrating and sometimes if you don’t have the expertise, costly, it is worth it in the long run to make the investment in your pride and joy.

Q: What mistakes have you made along the way that you’d like to help other writers avoid?

A: My biggest piece of advice is don’t get impatient. As a writer you get so excited about your work, and getting it out there, and with the mediums available for self publishing it is so easy to publish something on Amazon.  My biggest mistake was with my first children’s storybook – Wonderful World of Willow (http://www.amazon.com/Wonderful-World-Willow-Coco-Book-ebook/dp/B016J6WVH8/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1449850911&sr=8-2&keywords=rachel+mcgrath).  I had not yet navigated the Kindle format for children’s books, and unfortunately when it did release, the layout was terrible!  I had to quickly take it offline, and then I must have spent at least a few weeks struggling with the technology and technical specification before it was ready again. Whilst I was lucky and not many had purchased it in those few hours it was live, it is still embarrassing.  I have learned through this to just stop, slow down, and make sure that it is perfect to your own standards, before giving it to your audience.  A week or two wait will save you so much embarrassment in the long run!

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about what you do in addition to writing?

A: I still work full time in a busy Human Resources role with a global company. I have always wanted to write, but I’m a realist, too. Writing is not a ‘money making’ business, it is a passion and an art, and whilst I would love to just focus on writing, I never want to depend on it, feel like I have to do it. I want to always love it!

Q: Was there anything you’ve done career-wise that prepared you for taking on the massive learning curve and realities of writing?

A: I think life has lent me much of the learning I needed. I always wanted to write from my early teens, but had I finished a project back then, I know it would not have been the same work that I produce today. I now have life experiences, I have travelled, been hurt, I have hurt, and I have learned so much along the way.  Everything I put into my writing is me and my emotions, and whilst it is not all a memoir, it is how I view the world today.

The other piece to writing is knowing yourself, and being confident to share who you are. Again, it is the fact that I am entirely comfortable with who I am today, which I know was not the case in my twenties.  Readers want to know the writer behind the book, and I feel that today, I am able to provide that transparency.

Q: What are your thoughts on the future of e-books or print?

A: To be honest, I have only just converted to Kindle. I still love the paperback, and I love the fact that you can have a bookcase filled with your favourite books, on display for all to see. Having said that, having a Kindle is so much better if you are travelling and for the general convenience of having your book on hand at any times you need it.  This question is a tough one for me, as I still buy a paperback when I really love the book.  I guess it is a symbol or trophy of having read something that truly touched my heart!

Q: In Unfinished Chapters ( http://www.amazon.com/Unfinished-Chapters-Christina-Hamlett/dp/1517317975/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1449851381&sr=8-5&keywords=rachel+mcgrath_) you wrote about an event that happened wherein you reflect upon a friendship that ended poorly. What did you learn from that experience, and why did you want to share it with readers?

A: This friendship was a very important one for me. I was quite shy as a child, and my holidays were always quiet, as I didn’t often have a large social network when I was very young. But my friend who came every holiday was something I looked forward to, and our friendship was genuine, despite our differences. Whilst perhaps I knew our differences may one day push us apart, when it did happen, I felt it was more my own insecurities than the friendship itself. That stuck with me. I learned from it with future friendships, but I could never change that one experience. Writing about it was perhaps my way of closing that chapter, something that has felt unfinished for a very long time.

Q: What’s next for you, Rachel?

A: I have just finished and published a book of short stories – Dark & Twisty ( http://www.amazon.com/Dark-Twisty-Anthology-Rachel-McGrath-ebook/dp/B017ZIA5UE/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1449851381&sr=8-3&keywords=rachel+mcgrath), of which all profits are being donated to Worldwide Cancer Research (http://www.worldwidecancerresearch.org).  This was a project from the heart, and I wanted to dedicate something to  my father and my aunty who are both fighting cancer.

Other than that, I hope to have a children’s novel finished in early 2016, another story aimed at the seven to eleven year old age group.

I truly enjoy writing and I have so many stories inside me, so I will continue to work on new stories and hopefully they will reach the audience I am hoping for.

Thank you again for this great opportunity!

You can find out more about Rachel and connect with her here:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RJG27

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rachelmcgrathauthor/?ref=hl

Website: www.rachelmcgrath.net

Blog: www.findingtherainbow.net (the site linked to my memoir)

GooglePlus: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+RachelMcGrathAuthor/posts

 

 

 

 

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Smile At Your Challenges

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There’s no shortage of people – and perhaps you’re one of them – who believe that if they only had a flawless face, the perfect body, the right car, the dream job, a full bank account, and a blissfully stress-free lifestyle that Happiness would be theirs for the taking and they could bask forever in the love, acceptance and admiration of others. Accordingly, they try every diet on the market, subject themselves to plastic surgery, engage in daily reinvention exercises, and race around to speed-dating venues in order to find the perfect soul mate who will validate their existence. Sadly, these obsessions reflect our national obsession with “Instant Now” – be it the quest for short cuts, quick fixes, or thinner thighs in 20 minutes. As a colleague of mine is wont to observe, if there was a magic pill that would give people everything they thought they needed to have to be perfect, the inventor of said pill would be an overnight gazillionaire. Since no such pill currently exists, the best investment you can make in your future “newness” is a copy of Danielle Pashko’s debut book, Smile At Your Challenges. Pashko – a former New York model and expert on yoga, massage, holistic nutrition and healing modalities – embraces a reader-friendly approach to improving oneself by accepting that happiness is truly an inside job.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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Q: It’s often said that appearances can be deceiving. Have people ever looked at you and remarked, “What kind of challenges could you possibly have? If you’re pretty, life will always be blissfully easy.”

A: I get that all the time. People think I’ve lived a charmed life based on my appearance and judge me in 15 seconds.

Q: As an adolescent and a teen, what was the defining incident that most strongly honed the survival instincts you would need as an adult?

A: Losing my mother and not having a father to protect me made me realize I was alone in this world. I knew if I made poor decisions I’d probably be on the street.

Q: What attracted you to the field of health and wellness and how did you first break in?

A: My mother’s early illness was my first introduction to health and wellness. Her best friend Beverly turned her on to meditation, visualization, holistic remedies and esoteric concepts. I was meditating by age 12 and followed a holistic lifestyle from a very young age before it became trendy.

Q: In a perfect world, a person who eats their vegetables, exercises regularly, practices yoga, drinks green juice and goes gluten-free would never have a day of sickness in their lives, much less a catastrophic illness. As someone so conscientious about maintaining good health, what was your reaction when you were diagnosed with thyroid cancer?

A: Strangely, I was not surprised. I was always scared of cancer due to the fear that was instilled after my mother’s early death. I was convinced that I’d experience some form of cancer by the time I turned 31, the age she was diagnosed. And guess what?…I got sick at 31. Did I will it? It’s a lesson to consider that our thoughts have energy.

Q: What role does spirituality play in your ability to deal with life’s pot holes, speed bumps, detours, and occasional careening off of unexpected cliffs?

A: Spirituality is the only way to stay sane. Although, it’s not a pretend philosophy for me. I believe our souls all have a lesson and chose the incarnation and body that we exist in. If we can view things as divinely orchestrated and not as a punishment, we can always figure out why we had to experience the pain. It just may not happen while we are experiencing it. Believing that YOU are in control instead of a higher power unfortunately leads to suffering. Nothing is random…

Q: Is there an age-related correlation between attitude and expectations and is it different for women vs. men?

A: For women, 40 seems to be like a very scary number. I think men hit it closer to 50. Although there seems to be more pressure on women than men to be married, beautiful, and have children than the pressures that men face.

Q: When expectations aren’t being met, there’s a general tendency to be grumpy about it and walk around with a glower and a frown. Encouraging people to smile at their challenges – as your new book title recommends – sounds like it’s much easier said than actually done.

A: I like to use my mother as that example. She was dying of cancer, but always wore a beautiful wig, full face of makeup, and dressed to the nines on a very limited budget. She never wanted anyone to feel bad for her. I took the lead from her.

Q: How much does our mental state affect our physical health?

A: Attitude is everything. Anxiety, nerves, depression, etc. will slowly kill us. I think those emotions are even more dangerous than sugar and processed foods – which I completely advise against.

Q: As many parents these days can attest, the “heroes” that their offspring zealously worship and want to emulate insofar as fashion and behavior are more likely to be celebrities whose popularity is a manufactured image. What’s your message about the danger of losing your uniqueness – at any age – when you try to imitate rather than create?

A: When you are not natural, authentic or yourself, it reads as fake. People can see right through that. We attract our soul mates, friendships, and even business relationships by being ourselves. Being like everyone else is so boring – why would you even want that? I love being different, it’s one of my best qualities.

Q: Does this carry over to dating relationships as well?

A: Yes, you can pretend to be someone else to get the guy or girl of your dreams. Then when the real you comes out – guess what? Now you are married to someone you are totally incompatible with. There’s nothing worse!

Q: If your next walk on a beach turned up a brass lamp from the Arabian Nights, what would be the most important wish you’d want its resident genie to grant you?

A: It sounds funny, but that I would always be healthy and not have to work so hard on it. I am grateful every day when I feel good. I can just imagine where I’d be if I didn’t take care of myself.

Q: So tell us what inspired you to put your life lessons into a self-help book and pursue publishing?

A: Honestly, I’ve never met anyone with a life anything like mine. (I’m not sure if that’s good or bad) Friends would always joke and say I need to write a book or movie script. As a professional counseling people on health and wellness, the unique chapters of our life can’t be ignored. Most people don’t just wake up being sick and I question how I came to my own health struggles. We need to realize where our physical problems stem from. The mind, body, and spirit are interconnected. To be truly healthy, we need to work on all of it.

Q: Who’s your target reader for this book?

A: The book appeals to women age 20-50, although I’ve received some very interesting feedback from men and have applied some of these tools to their lives.

Q: Did you work from a preliminary outline or just let the ideas flow as you went along?

A: I tried to work from an outline but have to say so much was just intuitive.

Q: What was the hardest chapter for you to write?

A: The hardest chapter to write was probably “Age, Attitude and Expectations.” Most of the chapters were based on personal experience. I kind of embrace my age so it’s not something that I have struggled with.

Q: And the easiest?

A: The easiest chapter to write was “You Don’t Have To Wear Your Pain”. It’s a little strange because it reads as the most emotional, but it’s where my journey started.

Q: What would you say are the three major takeaway lessons from Smile At Your Challenges?

A: We are stronger than we think. Shit happens but you can’t let it cripple you. You’re not a victim.

Q: Like many new authors, you opted to go the self-publishing route. What was the journey like for you?

A: You have to be really on top of promoting yourself and social media. Although, for me I like that I’m spreading the word organically without a marketing team. It’s exciting to hear nice reviews that I didn’t pay for!

Q: You also have your first book-signing coming up. Brava! Tell us the details.

A: Yes, I’m doing an event the end of May to talk about the book and why I wrote it. I don’t think even many of my friends know these details of my life or philosophy. It’s really exciting to share.

Q: So what’s next on your plate?

A: I’m going to roll with this book for a few more months and see what opportunities come from it.

Q: Where can readers learn more about you?

A:They can visit my website pashkowellness.com

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: Don’t be a stranger. I’d love to hear feedback from readers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Alternative Medicine Cabinet

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Whether it’s your job, money worries, relationships or problems with health and nutrition, a recent study by the American Psychological Association cites that stress is not only on the rise but also currently costs U.S. employers $300 billion annually in stress-related claims and missed work. Nor is it just professional lives that are suffering; the common symptoms of fatigue, anger, depression, tension and nervousness wreak havoc on the homefront as well, potentially leading to substance abuse, chronic illness, reckless behaviors, and withdrawal from family and loved ones. So what can we do to reverse the damage all this angst is causing us and learn to approach life with a healthier body and a more positive mindset? Author Kathy Gruver, PhD shares insights as she talks about The Alternative Medicine Cabinet.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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Q: For starters, how did someone who started out as an actress in Pittsburgh end up as a health writer and practitioner in California?

A: Even though my childhood dream was to pursue a life as a performer, the healing aspect was always a parallel path. I started doing massage when I was about five. I would massage my dad’s neck on long car trips. Students in high school would always sit in front of me and ask me to rub their shoulders, as I was so good at it. I apprenticed with a healer in college, very accidentally I might add, who taught me that I was not only good at massage and healing but encouraged me to pursue it as a career. When I arrived in Hollywood I studied further, thinking massage would be a great way to make money while I was pursuing my acting career. And it stuck and eventually overrode my desire as a performer.

When I finally left Los Angeles in 2000 I had a choice to make as to what I would pursue for the rest of my life. In Santa Barbara, I had taken a very high-paying production job. When it fell through after about seven weeks, I realized that healing was the path I wanted to take and proceeded full time. I studied more massage in Santa Barbara and started my own practice. I then pursued further degrees with my Masters and PhD following suit. I started writing books, speaking locally and then nationally, more and more radio and TV interviews, my first book was turned into a TV series and I find myself here and now with a career I never dreamt of. And who knows what the future holds.

Q: What did the acting profession teach you about stress, anxiety, jittery nerves and how to manage them every time you performed in front of an audience?

A: I never really got stage fright; I was always very comfortable in front of people on stage. It was off stage that made me nervous, walking in to classrooms late, that sort of thing. What made me most nervous was singing. I had a very, very horrible experience with an audition when I was in ninth grade and it took me years to get over it. It was a long time before I would open my mouth and sing in front of people. When I had my first big solo in a show, (I was Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors) I was a nervous wreck. But somehow I just managed to get through it. I had tons of support from the cast and knew I wouldn’t have gotten the role if I couldn’t do it. I wish I would’ve known some of the techniques I know now it would’ve made life a lot easier.

Q: To take an even earlier step back, much of your childhood and teen years were spent as an only child whose mother battled cancer for nine years. How did that affect your formative years, and ultimately inspire your future work in healthcare?

A: It was hard; there are a lot of things I was doing that my mother could not be a part of. Because she had trouble sitting, many of my shows and dance recitals were missed by her. So there was a lot of longing to have her attention and acknowledgment that I just never was going to get. Being that I had no thought at that point of doing anything with my life concerning medicine I never really considered it. I did wish for and investigate other options for her healing. She was trapped in the cycle of chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. To no avail. In fact, I found out many years later that it was those treatments that led to her death. The cancer never would’ve spread and killed her. It certainly made me grow up a lot faster and be responsible for things in my life that a normal kids that age wouldn’t have. It also taught me compassion and patience for someone who was sick. I didn’t always show that with my mother unfortunately, but now I have certainly adopted that for my clients. My father was also an incredible caregiver and very patient with my mother. That taught me a lot as well.

Q: There’s no question that technology has increased our capacity to get things done, invited us to “chat” with individuals across the breadth of the planet, and enabled us to look up virtually anything we’d ever want to know without even leaving home. On the flip side, it has also escalated our impatience, made us more insular and heightened our levels of stress. Why is that? And what should we be doing to counteract the short- and long-term damage?

A: The technology thing is pretty ironic. We now have the ability to talk to people around the world but can’t say good morning to our neighbors. I find it incredibly frustrating that we have these abilities to communicate but can’t go back to the common niceties of saying “please” and “thank you”. And I think because we have constant access to computers, cameras and phones that we no longer have an opportunity for silence. Whereas before, waiting in line for something would’ve caused us to stand silently by ourselves or talk to our neighbor. We are now immediately looking down into the world of technology. We think we’re saving time but are we just driving ourselves crazy? And being that we have constant access to work or business, I think that is heightening our stress level. Because people can respond in a blink of an eye, we expect them to. So for those people that don’t, others get impatient and irritated with them. We wonder why on a Saturday night at 11 p.m. they haven’t responded to the email yet; I mean clearly it’s in their hands they should’ve responded. And I don’t know if there’s any way to counteract this. I think this is just our society now and until we see a shift in our mindfulness practices and our ability to say no and set boundaries, we are going to be stuck dealing with these issues.

Q: In your opinion, who’s better at dealing with stressful situations – men or women?

A: Oh, it goes both ways. I think women take stress more personally, but they’re also more open to the techniques that may help them deal with stress. Men can often get their stress out with things like sporting and competition, but are less apt to want to sit down and learn meditation and visualization. At this point I think it’s really an individual thing and it’s up to the individual to find techniques that are going to help them deal with their stress in whatever way works for them.

Q: Stress throughout the day often makes it a challenge to fall asleep – and stay asleep. What are your best tips for putting tension on a time-out so your batteries can recharge by morning?

A: Poor sleep is one of the large indications of stress. Doing things like a brain dump where you write all of your stressful things down ahead of time and promise to do it in the morning is one way we can assure ourselves a good sleep. Making sure the sleep environment is optimal including a dark, quiet room and little distraction is also important. Sometimes we wake up and our brain goes crazy with repetitive thoughts of problems from the past and worries about the future. I like using affirmations for this and thinking something like “I fall asleep quickly and easily, I wake up feeling refreshed.” It normally programs our bodies for good sleep but it shuts out other thoughts that are interfering as well.

Q: Let’s talk about some of the correlations between diet and stress. For instance, our grandparents and great grandparents – especially those that worked on farms – tended to eat a lot of foods that would make today’s nutritionists shudder and condemn as “unhealthy.” Yet, oddly, many of these individuals lived well into their 90’s without being debilitated by high levels of stress. Thoughts?

A: I think the key is going back to real food. If it comes in a colorful cartoon character filled box it is not good food. In most cases it’s not even food. It’s a food-like product. Organic is definitely best and avoiding package processed foods, GMO’s, high fructose corn syrup and artificial components are going to be the most important things in keeping nutritional stress out of our systems. One of the few things we can control is what we’re putting in our mouths.

And since you refer specifically to farmers, I’m assuming you were talking about things like milk, meat, cream, butter etc. Frankly I would rather see someone eating those things in the natural form rather than the packaged stuff we have today (except the milk; don’t think we should be drinking milk). Also those people were incredibly active and not stuck behind a desk.

Q: Tell us about your path to publication and the debut of The Alternative Medicine Cabinet.

A: I was speaking to someone about how I wanted to do some public speaking. And they said, “So I assume you have a book?” I realized that if I want to be taken seriously in my industry, be recognized as a national expert, I had to have a publication. I assembled a lot of the articles I had written and projects for school and there was created The Alternative Medicine Cabinet. I had heard horror stories about traditional publishers taking 16 to 20 months for publication and changing everything to the point where the book didn’t even seem like your own. I just decided to self-publish with a company that my husband and I had found, Infinity Publishing. I’m very proud of the book and it was turned into a TV series and has won two literary awards. It’s a perfect primer for people who are interested in learning about natural health and a great reminder for those already have a background in it.

Q: Congratulations on the television series! How did that come about?

A: That was kind of my plan all along. I had done a guest spot on Lifetime Television’s The Balancing Act, and one of my friends said, “Hey you were so great on TV, you should have your own TV series. You should call it The Alternative Medicine Cabinet.” I wrote back and said that’s the plan, that’s what I’m headed towards. I decided to find some of my old production contacts and met with them in Los Angeles. I pitched my show idea to them and about 30 seconds in the woman in the group stopped me and asked me multiple questions and explained to me why the TV show would not work. I was definitely discouraged and I think it was the slowest drive I’ve ever taken back from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara. I just didn’t think I had it in me to do all the legwork she suggested to even get a meeting with a producer or a sponsor, etc. However, a few weeks later an old murder mystery friend said he wanted to pitch my show to a network. We did, they loved it, and the rest is history. It has still been a very long process and the show is not yet on the air. Hopefully any month now. One of the reasons the show got picked up was because of my background as an actress I could convey the information in a fun, down-to-earth, informational way and that doesn’t sound stilted or too formal.

Q: You’ve written two other books as well. What are their titles, and was the publication process the same as the one you had for The Alternative Medicine Cabinet?

A: The other two books are both on stress; Body-Mind Therapies for the Bodyworker was the first one, which I wrote specifically for other people in the health industry. I wanted to teach them what I learned through my massage practice about the connection between the body and mind. A lot of it was based on my dissertation for my PhD. Then I decided to do a version for the general public. Conquer Your Stress with Mind-Body Techniques was released last year and just won a finalist place for the USA best book awards and was voted one of the top 50 reads for 2013. Very proud of the book. And have found that I have educated thousands of people about stress, how to control the stress response and the power of their own minds. And yes, I also used Infinity Publishing to self-publish these books as well.

Q: What have you learned about being an author that you didn’t know before you started?

A: It was actually easier than I thought. The thought of sitting down to write a book is really intimidating and somewhat terrifying. What I found to be the biggest challenge is the marketing component of it. I remember the questionnaire in ninth-grade where we were asked if we wanted to read a book, write a book, or sell a book. And I remember pondering that and thinking I want to do all three. I’ve learned I don’t actually want to do all three. I don’t want to have to sell the book. However, to me, the point of writing the book is to get in people’s hands and I will spend the rest of my life marketing and promoting my books and myself as an expert.

Q: How did you become an expert in so many different areas?

A: A few different reasons. One of which is I’m an incredibly curious person. And I love medical knowledge. This has led me to take an enormous amount of continuing education that isn’t even required for my field. Currently I’m in a hypnosis for pain management course. I’ve done dozens of courses through Harvard, some in person, some online. I just eat up the information and I retain it and am able to parrot back to my clients in a way that they understand. I also feel I am providing them with the service by helping them decipher what Western medicine is telling them. It also is in the interest of helping my clients. The more I know, the more I can help them. I just want to keep learning and learning.

Q: There’s clearly no shortage of health and wellness books on today’s market. What would you say differentiates your own titles in this field?

A: I think it’s the down-to-earth way I write the books. I try not to use crazy-big words; I incorporate humor, a light and a very casual way including asides and smart aleck comments. I put a lot of personal experiences or client stories in, which everyone really loves. People say that reading my books sounds as if I’m reading to them. I love that because I actually do dictate a lot of my work. I want it to be accessible to the general public and not a stilted book that is over their heads. I want to be able to reach the masses and give them the power that they can make changes in our lives. My books do that.

Q: It’s often said that teachers learn as much from their students as the latter learn from them. What have you learned from the clients that you have consulted individually or through workshops?

A: Wow, that question could fill an entire book on its own! One of the most important things I learned from a client was about the mind-body connection. I tell the story in my books, but the gist of it is she was experiencing hand pain and the massage and traditional treatments were only helping so much. When we discovered there was a holding onto of emotion, the pain went away and she was able to become 100 percent healed. I truly believe had she not discovered that emotional connection, she never would’ve had full and complete healing. Because of my clients I’ve investigated different illnesses, diseases or prescriptions, which have helped me and my own family or other clients’ lives. I’ve learned patience. I learned tolerance. There are clients that can be very difficult and I’ve had to work around my own stuff to deal with them. And all have come out very positive. Frankly, one of the most fascinating things I’ve learned about are several different religious beliefs. I have clients of all walks of life and it’s fascinating for me to hear about different belief systems and their life stories and experiences.

Q. What role does meditation play in creating a more harmonious life and mindset for oneself?

A: It’s so easy to go through our lives mindlessly. We see that on the freeway when we suddenly “come to” and realize we don’t know if we’ve passed our exit or haven’t gotten to our exit or showed up to work on a Sunday. Staying in the present moment is one of the keys to better health. Meditation can help with that. I am not a good meditator. I talk fast, I walk fast, I want to be moving at all times and it’s hard for me to shut off my brain. To tell me to sit on a pillow and relax my body and quiet my mind is very difficult for me. I do mini meditations, which I’ve taught to thousands of people over the world. That consists of simply concentrating on your breath and on the inhale thinking “I am” and on the exhale thinking “at peace”. This is been one of the most useful things to me, and when I find I’m getting sucked into a stress response I do this. Sometimes I need a reminder but I’ve been doing it enough that I can pretty much direct myself to do it when I need it. It is one of the best tools I’ve ever learned to help with stress and creating a harmonious life and mindset.

Q: If your philosophy of life were printed on a t-shirt, what would it say?

A: Go for it. It was my motto in high school and it stands true today. I see so many people envying another person’s life or saying, “I want to do that”. People say that to me with the trapeze or the way I live my life. And to me you have to just go for it. You can’t live vicariously through another, you have to take the opportunities that you can and live life to its fullest. So it’s pretty simple. Go for it.

Q: What do you hope to give others through the combined elements of your therapeutic massage practice, your books, and your upcoming TV show?

A:  I want people to reclaim control of their lives. I want them to know they have other choices and I want them to know that they have the ability to make changes in their lives. That can be really difficult and scary but we all have that ability and we have to take advantage of the right that we have to choose different things and to really regain control of our lives. I’m really big on options. And many people don’t think they have options. We don’t always have the greatest options, but they’re always there. We have to make the best choices we can. This is why I put so many different modalities into my stress books. It’s a buffet of options and if one doesn’t work for you, you simply choose another or another five.

Q: With a full-time practice – coupled with speaking engagements and writing – what do you do for fun if/when you have time?

A: Oh I definitely make time for fun. My husband is a wine, food and travel writer so he and I do many events involving fabulous food and great wine. Myself, I’m still obsessed with dance from when I was about five years old. So I do hip-hop dance classes three or four times a week. And my new passion and my new obsession is flying trapeze! I drive down to Santa Monica pier and I take a two-hour flying trapeze class and then I spend the evening at the Magic Castle, which is another passion of mine. I’m a total magic nerd and the Magic Castle is one of my favorite places anywhere. So, I still have fun. I wish I had more time for reading. But it just doesn’t fit into my life right now. And we have two adorable little boy cats, which I love playing with and laughing at.

Q: What would readers be the most surprised to learn about you?

A: Everyone assumes certain things about me because I’m in natural health and alternative medicine. I am not vegan or vegetarian. In fact I’m not a huge fan of that as a 100 percent lifestyle choice. I do not do yoga nor do I traditionally meditate. That tends to surprise people. I don’t particularly like the slow New Age music that I play in my office; I prefer music like hiphop, NIN, Godsmack and Korn. That catches people off guard. The trapeze is definitely a surprise to people as is the hip-hop dancing because they assume I’ll be doing yoga. I love NFL football. I am a huge crazy loud screaming Pittsburgh Steelers fan. People don’t expect that from a healer. And I have a mouth like a trucker…especially when I’m watching football.

Q: What’s next on your plate?

A: Right now I am finishing off a lot of projects that are blooming from the planting I did last year. I’m doing a lot of expert information for radio, TV and articles. I just had a piece on CNN’s website. People are now seeking me out which is fabulous. I am still promoting the three books I’ve already written. I just started an iTunes channel to have some guided visualizations and meditations to help people. And I am going to be writing another book. I’ve started an outline but am really letting that lay there until I have the strong urge to do it. I feel like I’m just working through and enjoying things that I put into place last year. But another book is coming, don’t worry!

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: I just want to encourage people to make changes and to go for what they want. I’m not a fan of a bucket list. It makes it out that the things we really want to do have to wait until we’re 80 with a terminal illness. I think we should have a daily bucket list and if there are things in your life that you want to do that you can feasibly do, do it now. There is no time to wait. And no time to waste. We have so little of it and it’s so precious, so take it now. And do your best to get the stress out of your life. It does no good at all. Unless you truly are being chased by a bear.

Q: Where can readers buy your books?

A: The best place is my website which is http://www.thealternativemedicinecabinet.com. You can also find them on Amazon and all the online outlets. But honestly each individual author’s website is the best place from a financial perspective for them. And it’s easier to track for us.

 

 

 

 

 

A Conversation with Hollye Dexter

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I was introduced to Hollye Dexter through her work on Dancing at the Shame Prom (my review: http://blogcritics.org/book-review-dancing-at-the-shame1/). I gathered the courage to start sharing my writings, and pursuing my own kind of healing, from that collection, and as a fellow editor I could appreciate how much Hollye and her co-editor, Amy Ferris, put into bringing us Dancing at the Shame Prom.

When I met with her (via email), I was not surprised to discover that she has a huge heart, and a passion for empowering others and standing up for those who can’t always stand up for themselves. Some people have a way of expressing experiences so that others feel they are not alone, and they can get a new perspective, a chance to catch their breath, on something that previously felt suffocating and inescapable. It is an honor to converse with her, and to introduce her to others who may not yet know about her and her work.

Interviewer: Joanna Celeste

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Q: In your upcoming memoir, Like Wind to Wildfire, you share with us your journey through the darkness of self-doubt, anger, grief and loss at acute levels, to discovering the gift within your tragedy. What would you consider was/is most surprising aspect of your journey?

A: The fire was only the beginning of loss for us. For several years following, in an unbelievable series of disasters, our lives continued to be stripped from us layer by layer. I think what surprised me most was that I could find moments of true happiness while my life was falling apart. That I could play with my kids, laugh, sing, take long walks and even have a wonderful Christmas when we were financially destitute and alone.

Q: That’s a lovely example of the true strength of the human spirit. You mentioned in an interview with Huffington Post Live (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/30/value-of-suffering_n_4018582.html?mental-health) that you felt you had been trapped in your own grief—how were you able to gain the distance you needed to see the cycle and break free of it?

A: For a long time I couldn’t get over the injustice of what had happened to us. The constant thoughts in my head were: I was a good person, I didn’t deserve this, why is God punishing me? This is unfair. It turned around when I accepted the fact that, yes, it was unfair, and yes, it did happen. So now what? I broke free of it by getting to that place of acceptance, then physically forcing myself to do positive things, even when I didn’t want to, even when I didn’t believe it would help. I went to the library and checked out yoga videos and books on healing the spirit. I wrote a lot, which helps me to process. I literally pushed through it.

Q: Wow, and we’re glad that you did so you could share your story with us now. I loved how you talked about the art of discovering how to be happy when you had nothing. How has this philosophy shaped the way your life?

A: Being in such a broken down place while having two young kids forced me to be resourceful. The utilities are cut off? Let’s camp in the yard and roast marshmallows. No food in the refrigerator? I made pancakes and said, “Hey kids, it’s  ‘crazy-mixed-up-backwards-day.’” My kids loved that. I did those things because I had to – for them. But now I know that it’s possible, and it is the way I live. Even when we are in the thick of hellish problems, we will get outside and take a hike, go to the beach, sit outside and look at the stars. We watch comedies a lot when we’re stressed. Worry and fear are our worst enemies, and do nothing to alleviate a problem. It’s our choice to be happy, regardless of our circumstances. And now that we’ve already survived fire, bankruptcy and homelessness, we don’t sweat the smaller stuff. We know we’ll get through it.

Q: That’s a particularly fitting perspective to adopt during these tumultuous times. What is your process for writing memoir, particularly when you have to face things that are sometimes hard to re-experience or reveal?

A: My first memoir, Only Good Things, is the memoir of my childhood. It took me over eight years to write. It’s pretty explosive in terms of family skeletons and I will most likely never publish it, but publishing was never my objective with that one. Claiming my life, and embracing all of my truth, was the point. It was just something I needed to do. I was in a weekly writing group for several years while writing that book. Every week I’d read a chapter, and receive feedback from my peers It was invaluable. I learned so much from the other writers in the group as well. I am a big fan of writing groups.

With both memoirs, I sort of likened the writing process to vomiting.  You just get it all out, and it’s ugly, and it doesn’t feel great, but after, you feel lighter and freer. While writing Wind to Wildfire, my son was only in school for a few hours a day, so I sat my butt in the chair and wrote like my life depended on it. I did not answer the phone or the door. I didn’t wash a dish. If the cat puked I left it there until my writing time was up. I cried a lot. I had many, many revelations about myself and my patterns. And then my hours were up and I pulled myself back together as best I could and put on my mommy hat. It was intense, I’ll say that much. And I loved every minute of it.

As far as the revealing, author Debbie Ford said that keeping secrets is like trying to hold ten beach balls under water all your life. It’s exhausting. Letting it go was a hell of a lot easier than keeping those beach balls submerged, and freed up so much positive energy.

Q: That’s so true. On your blog, you share your passions for various activist programs, and the amazing things you have done to fight for the rights of others to be treated as they should (http://hollyedexter.blogspot.com/p/my-activism.html). What was the first moment that you knew, without a doubt, that you had to take a stand?

A: Oh lord. Well, I organized a strike against my sixth grade teacher for being unfair. Then I got kicked out of Girl Scouts for bucking the rules. So I guess I’ve got the personality for it —  I never could abide a bully.

But then again, life has tapped me for activism. I didn’t seek it out. Regarding my work in gun reform; my brother was shot at seven years old, my best friend was shot eight years ago, my husband’s best friend, a police officer, was shot and killed this year. And then there was Newtown. How could I not take a stand on gun violence? Animal rights- I was sued and had to stand up in court to protect my dog. LGBT Equality- I have two gay brothers.

Q: That’s awesome, because even with so many having reasons why they should take a stand, few are in the position where they feel they can. October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. What are some of the things you are doing to raise awareness of this issue?

A: Years ago I worked with Nicole Brown Simpson’s sisters on a domestic violence campaign. My own mother was a victim, and I witnessed it, so the issue is important to me. Now in my position with Moms Demand Action, we are focusing our efforts in October in raising awareness of the extreme danger guns present in domestic violence situations. Nine women are shot and killed every week by their partners. We are working on legislators locally and federally. I recently met with Congressman Buck McKeon (a man who bought his wife a gun for Mother’s Day) asking for his vote on background checks. Background checks aren’t the end-all solution, but they will save a lot of lives.

Q: Thank you. You are also speaking at the Women’s Leadership Legacy Conference in November, as the co-editor of your powerful anthology Dancing at the Shame Prom. Why is it important to speak at that conference, about the subject of shame?

A: I think that women carry so much shame, and it makes us turn inward on ourselves, and outward against each other. Much of it is self-imposed, but so much is imposed by society; body image shame, aging shame, mommy-shame. It’s rampant, and we need to eradicate it. The first step in destroying any kind of toxin is to expose it to light. That’s why I air all my dirty laundry in my writing and in workshops. I hope to set an example, encouraging other women to embrace their imperfection, and accept themselves exactly as they are. The first step is getting rid of the shame—it’s much easier to let it out than to hold it down.

Q: Amen to that! On your website, you offer consulting and editing to fellow writers, and workshops on “Righting Your Life by Writing Your Life” and “Rediscovering Your Muse”. What do you wish to give your clients/attendees?

A: Freedom. Confidence. Joy. Self-acceptance.

Q: Thank you for sharing the songs you wrote on your website/blog, for your previous memoir Only Good Things. You have four albums out, and as the President of the Music Heals Foundation, how have you seen music heal, not only in your own life but in those you have helped to find their own expression in melody?     

A: For almost a decade I taught music and art to teens in foster care and on probation. I ran a ten-week course. They came in angry, shut down and hurting, but within weeks of working on painting, songwriting, recording, I watched them blossom and become lighter. They smiled more. They built trust and friendships. They became more hopeful. It was the most rewarding work I have ever done.

Q: I hope you continue to have more of those kinds of workshops in the future. It’s lovely that you can sing with your husband and kids. Along with your family (and creativity), what are some of the things that have strengthened you and made everything else worth it? 

A: Faith. Hope. Nature. Beauty. Music. And my God I never would have survived without books— they are my lifeline.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to share?

A: I would like to thank you, Joanna, for your kindness and continued support for both this book and Dancing at the Shame Prom. And I wish you the very best and brightest future with your writing.

 

Learn more about Hollye’s work at http://hollyedexter.blogspot.com/, on Twitter @hollyedexter, and on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/DancingAtTheShameProm.

How to Look Good Naked: Exposing Yourself to the Real You

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“We look into mirrors,” wrote Pearl Bailey, “but we only see the effects of our times on us – not our effects on others.”

When you study your own reflection, how well do you really know that person who’s looking back at you? Is she someone whose value is forever being held up for scrutiny and comparison to others? Are there dreams she plays close to her chest, as reluctant to divulge as she is to pursue? Is she someone you’d like to get to know better but haven’t a clue as to where you should start?

Authors Courtney Frey and Jen Kelchner just may have the answer to starting your own journey of discovery in their new release, How to Look Good Naked: Exposing Yourself to the Real You.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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Q: Let’s start with your respective backgrounds and what drives your passion.

Jen: I worked with a Fortune 100 organization for a number of years in Administrative Management which is where I began my coaching career. Over the last three years, I have focused on my life coaching, writing and speaking in order to develop solid tools to help others on their personal journeys. I live in the Nashville, Tennessee area and have two almost grown sons.

Courtney: I hold a B.S in Psychology and Human Services and have spoken across the country for women’s conferences in all avenues of women’s issues.  I have a background in social work, sales, writing, and management and am the published author of several non-fiction women’s books. I live in Iowa with my amazing three teenagers, my significant other, and my three energized dogs.

Q: I’m always curious how independent thinkers connect with kindred spirits and decide to collaborate. What’s the story behind how the two of you met?

Jen:  Ours is a crazy story to be sure! Courtney commented on a blog post of a friend of mine and they began to communicate. Then he introduced me to Courtney and it was love at first sight. I read her book and immediately knew we had been divinely placed in each other’s paths. Our stories, although different, had led to the same emotions and wounds to be overcome. I think it took us all of two days to realize we were truly kindred and that our purpose and passions were in alignment.  It would be a fatal error to ignore something so powerful. So, we decided to launch this movement.  All of this took place in the span of about six weeks from meeting to our decision to create change together.

Q: The two of you have also recently founded your own company, www.igniteyourtruth.com. What inspired this decision and how did you go about structuring its development and subsequent launch?

Jen:  We met in April, formed the idea around the first of June, and we went live on July 1st of this year. Three years ago I made the decision to leave my corporate career for the sake of my relationship with my sons (which led me on my personal journey as it turns out). I realized about a year into that journey that my focus was no longer business but people. My sole purpose in life became to affect change in others and places around me.  With each passing month, my focus became more and more laser-like to be bold with my passion and form an outreach. My problem was I really needed a counterpart to walk this out with me.  I mean it is a tough journey to do solo! As Courtney and I developed our friendship in those few weeks, we saw how our energy, passions and visions matched so perfectly. In truth, we created a general outline for the short term and long term visions and just winged it from there.  I designed our website and put our technical arena in place for podcast and off we went. Thankfully, we are both very resourceful gals and we operate from ingenuity and hard work to get whatever we need done.

Q: What strengths do you each bring to the table?

Jen: I have days I regret that I have technical skills as I see my task list grow and grow. My personal gifts really lie in being able to see a big picture when someone else is talking. It is like I see images or phrases forming in the air and can quickly snag those and connect dots. It really helps cut to the chase fast if I’m coaching an individual or helping a company identify their issues.

Courtney:  Thank God for Jen who can organize and deal with the technical side of things, because it’s like Chinese to me!  Because she can magnificently handle the details, I am able to utilize my strengths and networks to really get out there and engage our marketing plan and focus on writing.

Q: What is Ignite Your Truth and who is the target audience for your particular message?

Jen:  It is a movement to bring people into knowing who they are, know their value, having authentic relationships, helping them to change their thinking and embrace their visions. We are loved, valued and accepted.

Q: “Not So Lady Talk” – the name of your new series – seems inconsistent at first glance with the genre of Christian/Spiritual. Was the choice of this phrase just a catchy marketing hook or is there a deeper connection in play to a faith-based platform?

Jen:  That is a great question! At our core, we talk about authenticity. Authenticity and transparency has been missing from the church for generations. Our generation craves authenticity. We are tired, bored and hungry for something real. There is a serious gap that needs to be addressed for women in the church culture, especially for women in their 30’s and 40’s. We are highly intelligent, multi-task and get things done. So, when we show up to a women’s function, we don’t want to swap recipes and chit-chat. We have apps for that. We want high-energy, deep, real conversation. We want to know that we can remove our masks and be unfiltered without judgment so we can address our needs. It might be inappropriate and not-so lady-like at times; but it is real and healing. We are out to redefine what women’s outreach looks like – especially for this generation.

Q: Tell us about How To Look Good Naked, your first book in this series.

Courtney:  This book is really an exposing of our true selves and the journeys we have taken to getting to the truth of who we are.  It’s not always pretty, and it’s very humbling.  However, we wanted to be transparent in that journey so that other women would see and believe that they are not alone, they have grand purpose, and are unique and empowered. We address issues from identity to shame to self-acceptance all while being very vulnerable.

Q: Did the two of you start with a formal outline of what you wanted to cover in the book or were you brainstorming as you went along?

Jen:  We started with a general outline for each chapter. Individually we went about our writing then pieced it together for proper flow. Any time we write, we wait until we feel a specific nudge for a topic. Our guideline helped us to stay on point but we really work as we feel directed individually and weirdly it always ties together.

Q: Were you working in the same room this whole time or communicating via phone/email? What were the advantages/disadvantages of this collaborative approach?

Jen: We live over 700 miles apart and have seen each other one time. We wear out Facebook instant messaging all day long! However, when we write we both unplug and then come back together to review. Somehow it all works together perfectly.

Q: How did the two of you resolve creative differences such as what to put on the cover, how to organize the content, what to add/delete, etc.?

Jen: Thankfully we balance each other very well. Courtney defers to my graphic design talents and she will tell me if she doesn’t like it. Since I’m the “organizer” of the two of us she lets me manage the content, edit and such.

Q: What’s the best part of working with a partner?

Courtney: We definitely balance one another out.  Not every day is an easy day and having a partner who is able to be strong when you are weak, who can pull you up and inspire you, is definitely a key to our success.

Jen: I agree that our being in this together is what is making this work so well. Our personal stories include a lot of being the odd ball in our lives, never really being accepted as we grew up. And, let’s face it that entrepreneurs and game changers are generally odd balls. We push the boundaries of what is acceptable in societal norms – especially as women and mothers.

Q: You share several personal experiences in your book and state that everyone has a story and that story matters. Please elaborate on this.

Jen:  A lot of times we want to run from our stories because we carry guilt or shame with them. We need to encourage each other to embrace our stories and that we are the authors of the chapters yet to be written. Our past gives us a rich history to draw from that can encourage others and provide us with new tools and skills. Our stories serve others and build communities of change. There is freedom in owning your story…it cripples fear and returns the power to you.

Q: What inspired each of you to break through your own layers of roles, labels and inhibitions over the course of dispensing advice to your prospective readers?

Courtney:  I desired first and foremost to be authentic.  If I was going to talk to women about exposing their true selves, I had to be willing to really go there as well.  I didn’t want to just talk the talk; I wanted to walk with them hand in hand through the journey.  I believe that the best support comes from those who have gone through the valleys and come victoriously out the other end. And, if I wasn’t willing to do that with my readers then the message was false.

Jen:  Definitely. In my own journey, the only thing I have found to keep fear at bay is to be authentic and put it out there.  I am empowered when I put my life out there. Fear dissipates. The need for others acceptance becomes invalid. It’s freeing.

Q:  Would you categorize this book more as self-help or inspirational?

Jen:  Honestly, I can’t stand labels and so have a difficult time knowing how someone else wants to categorize it.  It’s a real, honest look at life and humanity. It is inspirational as it offers hope that you can really overcome anything.  It is also self-help because it provides tools and direction. Then again, you could stick it in the spiritual bucket as parts of our stories bring our foundation of faith into the mix.  At the end of the day, it is a book about real people who had messy lives and crawled their way out of life’s pit to embrace wellness.

Q: There’s no shortage of books on today’s market about journeys of self-discovery, introspection and empowerment. What do you feel makes your content unique in this regard?

Jen:  I think for one, we don’t play around. If you ever have a conversation with Courtney or me, you will quickly learn that we get to the heart of the matter fast. We don’t want to waste one more second of someone not knowing just how valuable and loved they are. We are very transparent and bring our very personal stories into the mix so people can engage and relate quickly. We have walked out all of the things we talk about. It is not text book or theory; it is a survival guide built around actual events.

Q: Given that the material is faith-based, will the book resonate with women whose religious beliefs are different from your own?

Jen:  Absolutely as we share universal truths not religion. While Courtney and I have a few moments where we put it all out there from our perspective; we do take care to use words that remain open to universal truths.  At the end of the day, truth is truth.  And the light of love, forgiveness and acceptance will break through any darkness in life.  The tools we provide others to walk through their journeys with are practical, proven exercises or affirmations.

Q: What governed your decision to self-publish?

Jen:  The content was timely and needed to be out there to the masses not just our known group of people. It was so heavy on our hearts and we didn’t feel like we had time to spare.

Q: What do you know about the publishing world now that you didn’t know when you started?

Jen: Honestly, we still don’t know nearly as much as know we need to.  Our goal remains to connect to women, not necessarily focus on the business aspect of selling mass books.  I suppose the one thing we do, and it’s where our hearts are, is network and connect to others whose visions are in alignment with ours.

Q: What would readers be the most surprised to learn about you?

Jen:  I am a serious Doctor Who fan.

Courtney: I am a sushi loving classic literature addict!

Q: What’s next on your plate?

Courtney:  Our next book in the series is a 15 Day Relationship detox book. We have also had men ask us about a guy’s version of our series so we are exploring that option. And, we are very excited about our speaking and first retreat in 2014.

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

Jen and Courtney: Thank you for the opportunity to discuss our business and our latest series; we truly appreciate your time and your passion!

 

The Invisible Storm

Juanima

I am honored to share my interview with Juanima Hiatt, a bighearted, beautiful, empowering woman who courageously shares her experiences with PTSD and her journey to rebuilding her life from the inside out in The Invisible Storm. She writes an uplifting blog and offers a complimentary coaching session to help others create their unique path to healing, balance, joy and freedom. (She welcomes all emails, anytime: Juanima@healingmindscoaching.com.)

Juanima’s coaching practice, Healing Minds Coaching, LLC, utilizes intelligent questions to empower people to discover their own solutions. As Juanima says, “I have a special place in my heart to help people who suffer from anxiety and PTSD get back on the road as the driver of their life, not the passenger… PTSD robs the sufferer of the life they lived before the trauma. There is no going back, but it is very possible to create a life that is even better than what they had before.”

She leads the first PTSD support group in Hillsboro, Oregon, which is growing fast. Juanima has also teamed up with Susan Ulbright (a gifted LCSW specializing in trauma and PTSD) to develop a 10-week workshop on PTSD and recovery, and another weekend workshop for trauma survivors to rediscover the meaning in their lives. The workshops will be announced sometime in the late summer/early autumn.

The second edition of The Invisible Storm will be released in June, with a list of trigger warnings and new information about recovering from PTSD.

Interviewer: Joanna Celeste

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Your book, The Invisible Storm, acts as both champion and confidante for those who have experienced PTSD or sexual abuse. When and how did you choose to share your story?

I knew, even while I was in the pit of despair with PTSD, that I would someday write my story. That day didn’t come until May 2010, however, when I was healed enough to look back at my journey objectively, and from a healthy perspective. My desire in sharing my story is twofold.  PTSD is a horrific experience that people don’t understand unless they’ve experienced it themselves. The only way I could help people really understand PTSD was to bring them deep into my world as I suffered through it. From the emails I get from readers, I know it worked.  There are also many myths and misunderstandings about this disorder, and I wanted to give some truths. I also wanted to bring hope and encouragement to other PTSD sufferers. I wanted to show that if one is willing to do the work, he/she CAN recover.

I like how you made it clear recovery can come in many forms. How did you manage to weave everything together to create such a quilt of your life?

I eventually realized that while my daughter’s birth triggered the onset of PTSD, the true source was the sexual abuse I endured as a child. As difficult as it was to write about the trauma, I knew I had to. However, I also wanted to tell the truth about how difficult it was for me to face the trauma, as I imagine it is for anyone with PTSD. As far as the “sources” I used to write it, I couldn’t have written about my therapy sessions without the notes my friend, Traci, took, because I dissociated so badly in every session. The journal entries helped me relive the depth of pain I experienced, though I admit, at times, I didn’t need any help. Parts of the writing were excruciating. I also asked every family member to read the manuscript before I published it. Some of my family members are not painted in the best light at times, and because I love and care deeply for them, I wanted their blessing to write the hard stuff. I know it could have backfired, but everyone was incredibly gracious in letting the story stand. My therapist explained that their part in the story is critical, because every family will relate in some way to certain “unhelpful” behaviors and misunderstandings. I also asked them to read it so they would finally understand what PTSD was like for me. I got great feedback and validation, and I feel very blessed to have such an amazing, supportive family.

That support structure makes a tremendous difference. How did you research the list of resources at the end of your book?

I found every resource listed to be beneficial to me throughout my healing and recovery. When I was first diagnosed with PTSD, I researched endlessly online to find out everything I could about the disorder, and what I was up against. It helped me—and my family—as I progressively shared what I learned.

Thank you for sharing them with us. The passages you chose at the outset and the end of your book are lovely, and could apply to anyone regardless of their creed. While you depict your relationship with God beautifully, please share with us your connection.

Wow… that’s a great question. I’m thinking about writing another book solely about my journey with God, because it’s been a roller coaster. The interesting part is that God is like the track. He never changes. He stays the same, always. He is strong and secure and holds us up. I was like the car, however, always moving, wildly changing directions, with lots of screaming involved.

There were times in my life, especially during the worst years of abuse, and the worst parts of PTSD, when I felt completely abandoned by God. I cried out to Him but I couldn’t hear Him answer. I felt so incredibly alone. I can even say that when I was sixteen, I hated Him, I was so full of anger at His lack of caring. Or…that’s what it seemed. What I know now is that God is the same whether we believe it or not. He is always with us, whether we feel Him or not. What we think of God manifests from our beliefs about Him. Believing He is there even when we don’t feel Him or hear from Him is called faith. Now, I understand Him. I know He never left me—not once. I know He grieved when others were harming me. I also know that I have lost so much in my life, and have had so much stolen from me, but I am witnessing today the fulfillment of His promise to restore what was lost. It’s really incredible. I love Him with all my heart, and I know He really does have a good plan for each of our lives.

Wow, thank you. What advice would you give to fellow memoirists?

There is so much power in telling your story, whatever it is. Maybe your goal is publication, or maybe it’s just to get your story on paper for your children and/or family. But what’s important is to not put it off. Don’t delay. Your story becomes a timeless legacy for your loved ones, and if you publish it, it just might become a powerful memento or treasure to a stranger you may never meet. One of the most moving statements I’ve received from a reader was, “Thank you for writing this book. I feel understood for the first time in my life.” I mean…wow. That is a priceless gift I will carry with me forever—to know my story impacted someone like that.

Congratulations for making everything work so you could deliver your story into their hands. What was it like to self-publish The Invisible Storm?

I couldn’t have done it without the incredible people in my life. My sister-in-law, Rebecca Reinke-Merrion of Reinke Creative, designed my book cover. She happens to be an amazing graphic designer, and this was her first book project. I also got lucky and found a colleague looking to trade her editing talents for a book review of her recently published book, and she helped me improve the manuscript immensely. My family—especially my dad and stepmom—read the manuscript multiple times to help me perfect the details (and it’s not an easy read, so my gratitude runs ocean deep for the time they dedicated to it, while putting their emotions aside). I actually enjoyed the process of self-publishing. I decided to go that route because I didn’t want to wait two years to see my book on a shelf. I have too many other projects I want to get busy on!

Yes! What has been your marketing plan?

I use social networking a lot, including Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads. I have found the Goodreads giveaways bring great exposure to my book! I try to blog uplifting and encouraging posts on a regular basis at my author website and I guest blog whenever possible to discuss PTSD and my memoir. I’m very grateful for every opportunity! I also rely greatly on word-of-mouth. I  do book signings, speaking engagements, and interviews, which are also great marketing tools.

What do you hope to achieve with your book and your message, in empowering those who are affected by childhood sexual abuse (not just the children, but all those that these abuses impact)?

First, that healing is possible, but second, that healing is a choice. The terrible risk of living one’s adult life in denial of the past is a later onset of PTSD. We can’t foresee traumatic events occurring in our lives. My triggering event was the traumatic birth of my second daughter in 2003, and then I had no choice but to face my past abuse. I honestly thought I was over it, but I was so wrong. Abuse affects our lives in countless ways, damaging the core of who we are and how we see ourselves, as well as our perceptions of the world around us. Our behaviors stem from our beliefs, and when our beliefs about ourselves and others are tainted, relationships suffer. My goal is to encourage healing not only within the individual who suffered child abuse, but the relationships with their loved ones as well. Everyone in the survivor’s life is impacted by it.

Yes, the “darkness” spills out in sneaky ways; I’m grateful you capture all sides of the issue. From my experiences with PTSD, let me thank you on behalf of our spiritual kin—perhaps all PTSD is its own kind of “soul murder”, and you shine a light on how to recover ourselves to a semblance of a whole. What do you recommend as people seek that balance between who they were before, and who they became after, the PTSD?

“Soul murder” is pretty accurate. I remember saying during the worst years of PTSD, “I just want to be who I was before. I hate who I am now. I feel like a monster! I want my old life back!” What’s amazing to me is how I now read that over and over—verbatim—from other PTSD sufferers.

First, coming to terms with PTSD—for me—was a process much like grieving: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I went through every stage. I eventually had to accept PTSD, but I also had to accept I would never “get back” the life I had before, or the person I was before. But we are never completely destroyed in this journey.

In the early days of PTSD, I felt like I’d fully lost who I was before, but my little brother made me see that wasn’t true.  PTSD shatters the heart, mind, and even the soul, and yet the core of our being remains—it just becomes overshadowed by the pain and torment of the disorder. But as you recover, and do the work of healing, the shattered pieces start coming back together; only this time, they’re stronger. YOU are stronger. But you have to do the work, and you have to choose every day to do something that moves you towards the person you want to be.

This is what I mean when I say I help people write their new life story. It can seem, while you’re suffering, that life will never get better. It took me a while to grab hold of those reigns and take control again. In these recent years, I started building my life back up again. I kept my vision alive of who I want to be, and stayed determined to never let fear or this disorder keep me from having a fulfilled life. I’m not saying I’m completely free, but my life is so much better, and I’m so much more powerful than I ever was before. My family can attest that all the hard work has paid off. I’m a changed woman, and I’m whole, and I want to remind people that whether we have PTSD or not, we are the author of our own life story. And if you do have PTSD, don’t write yourself that ticket to eternal submission. There is hope for us ALL to recover and have a fulfilled life.

Awesome! On a different note, how is your novel going?

It was put on hold, unfortunately, while I went to school to become a life coach. Now that I’m certified, and my practice is open, I’m working on bringing my passion of writing back. I just can’t stay away from this keyboard for too long! I have a political thriller in development, but I’m also developing a YA novel series. I’m excited about this project, because I have a huge heart for teenagers. Each novel deals with a tough issue such as eating disorders, divorce, domestic violence, abuse, running away, self-harm, etc. I’m close to this because every issue is based on my own life experience. I understand, and more than anything, I want teens to know they’re not alone in their struggles, and there is hope.

Those will be great books, I’m sure. Is there anything else you would like to say?

Thank you so much for this opportunity to share my heart, my experiences with PTSD, and my message of hope. Somebody once said, “You were given this life because you are strong enough to live it.” My life with PTSD didn’t start to improve until I embraced the journey ahead (no matter how long it took), dug my feet in, and gave healing 100%. We are all stronger than we think. PTSD instills a lie that it’s bigger than we are, and our only choice is to succumb to its power. But like I said, that’s a lie. There are answers out there that will take each of us forward. There are tools and resources that will help us in our healing. There are people who care and want to see you recover. I’m one of them. I’m always open and willing to share my experiences with others, whether it’s about healing from childhood sexual abuse, or my journey with PTSD.  You’re not alone in your fight. Don’t ever lose hope for a better, stronger you, and an abundant life. And never, ever give up.

New Beliefs, New Brain: Free Yourself from Stress and Fear

new_beliefs cover

Lisa Wimberger, a consummate professional who has dedicated her life to helping others discover a new way of living, delivers her debut self-help memoir/course in rewiring one’s mind to weed out the true stories from those illusions of our mind that hold us back.

I had the opportunity to sit with her to discuss her book (New Beliefs, New Brain: Free Yourself from Stress and Fear), her teaching philosophy and her views on the spectrum of healing.

Interviewer: Joanna Celeste

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Q: In your Acknowledgements page of New Beliefs, New Brain: How To Free Yourself from Stress, you thank the reader as being your inspiration for this work. When and how did you discover you had to write this book? 

A: I value my gut feelings often. I had been meditating in the bath one night reflecting on how I could help in the world. I got a clear answer that I was supposed to write. About a week later a stranger who heard my story at an event I was speaking at told me afterwards that he got a clear message I should write a book. Then about a few weeks later after a cover story came out in a Denver publication about my work with officers, my publisher called me and asked if I had a book. So I began writing!

Q: That came together quite beautifully. How did you assemble the balance between sharing your personal, traumatic experiences and creating an environment where people could engage in their own lives through your exercises?

A: I modeled the book after the way I teach. I know from experience that if the material doesn’t engage someone on their own personal level it will mean nothing. And because my traumatic journey is the foundation for why I do what I do, it’s critical for me to remain authentic and share my “why”.

Q: That sense of authenticity shines in your work. I appreciated reading the real-life stories of Sam, Joseph and Kathy. Are there any notable stories you’d like to share of people who have read your book and have perhaps reached out to you with their results? 

A: I am fortunate to have many stories from clients and from readers. I was just contacted recently by an officer in Wisconsin who was so moved by the techniques, he bought copies of the book for all his family and friends. I have people tell me that since using the meditations they are finally liking—and even loving—their lives.

Q: Congratulations! How did you reach out to other professionals for their reviews before publication (and how did you approach Dr. Perlmutter to write the foreward)?

A: I was very inspired by Dr. Perlmutter’s approach to health and well-being. He’s written several amazing books. I went to Kripalu Yoga and Meditation Center some years back to do a workshop with him and Dr. Alberto Villoldo. After meeting Dr. Perlmutter in person, and his wife, I knew his work and his voice had so much integrity that I couldn’t imagine a better person to sanction my story. I asked him, and after reviewing the manuscript he agreed. I also sent requests to the other professionals whose work was important to me. I feel very blessed to have their accolades.

Q: The subject of self-help is far-ranging but your unique approach simultaneously encompasses the perspective of science, meditation and memoir. What has been your most successful marketing campaign to make your book accessible to those who would benefit most from its content?

A: My most successful marketing campaign I believe is yet to come! 

Q: Sounds exciting! Please share with us.

A: My future plans are to grow the institute as a funnel for all of my work. To lecture more, and to find a PR person!

I position my work for the everyman. I personally feel that the self-help enthusiast may already have great resources. However, the everyman may not know where to start. So I’ve been realistic in my descriptions of the book. I think its availability in the mass marketplace is the first step. I do a lot of blogging and speaking about it in venues that extend beyond the typical audience.

Q: This being your first book, what was the publishing process like with Divine Arts Media? 

A: They were fantastic and made it so easy to work with them. I was on my own much during the writing, although the publisher always answered questions right away. It seemed effortless. I hired my own editor to make sure my finished manuscript was as polished as I could make it.  Once I turned it in, there were some review cycles but nothing much changed.

Q: What a perfect balance between being a self-guided / published author and having the structure and support of a traditional publisher. What was your post-publication process like with Divine Arts Media?

A: They mapped out placement of the book and got it into the national and international distribution market. Beyond that I am my own PR agent. They offer me suggestions but the execution is up to me. The transition [from publication to marketing] isn’t always easy. I am not expert in marketing, nor do I have the time to do another full-time job. So with me as a one-woman show I’m sure the book sales are not what they could be if I had a PR agent, a team, or a larger platform to support all of what I do. I’m working on putting those things in place so that I can spend more time helping people and teaching and less time marketing and selling.

Q: Thank you for that insight. What advice would you give new writers?

A: My advice to new writers is to write. Pipe-dreams aren’t anything until you put it all into practice. There’s no perfect time to start. Just write.

Q: Great advice. As a teacher, consultant, healer, how would you define “education”?

A: I believe education is that which informs, inspires and then hopefully creates. If any of those pieces are missing then the deliverable is only a fraction as powerful.

Q: Beautifully expressed, thank you. How has your academic background (a Masters in Education from University of Stoneybrook, New York, certification as an MBTI, training on psychic awareness at ICI, etc.) and your time in the field (with the Ishaya monks and in counseling others) shaped your perspective on educating others?

A: I feel like I have been fortunate to have had a balance of very formal education mixed with many alternative modalities. This breadth lent itself to my understanding that you can’t just learn in one way. It’s not just about academic information and it’s not just about in-the-moment experience. Our brains want both. So I try to design my work to honor both.

Q: Yes, that balance of left-right brain was evident in your book. How do your companies (The Neurosculpting® Institute, Ripple Effect, LLC and The Trance Personnel Consulting Group) help you free others from stress and fear? 

A: Those business platforms allow me to have a space in which to do my trainings, a structure in which to go out into the world to teach at agencies and organizations, and offer me an online presence so begin to speak with a global audience.

Q: That’s awesome. You really seem to have a pulse on crossing boundaries to promote your message. How does your experience as an international tribal percussionist weave your sense of healing?

A: Percussion is an avenue for intense and euphoric healing. It is when I can get out of my mind and let my body create a message that others can interact with. I use words a lot, so it’s beautiful for me when I can stop talking and continue communicating that way. Percussion and dance are the ultimate experience of being present. It’s meditation in motion.

Q: I also have a deep affinity of music; that ultimate poetry of life. With everything going on, how do you manage to juggle these myriad endeavors?  

A: I actually don’t always know! I often have to meditate when I feel overwhelmed and go back to integrity. The only question I need to ask is “Is this in alignment with my mission on this planet?” When the answer is yes, I know I will find a balance. If I hesitate at all, then I know that’s the thing I have to walk away from. I’m learning that more and more each day.

Q: Life certainly feels like a work in progress. If you could only impart one piece of advice to someone seeking guidance, what would you say? 

A: Deep healing is far more accessible then we might think, but it takes work.  If you’re ready to work, then you’re ready to heal.

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To find out more about Lisa, you may visit her on www.linkedin.com/pub/lisa-wimberger/1/136/633 or check out her website at http://neurosculptinginstitute.com.