I’m not certain in which book, blog, or podcast it was that I first learned about the Five a Day plan.
Find five very ordinary things in your life that right this very minute you are grateful for. Then say them, either out loud, or in your head. Maybe a good cup of coffee, as an example, pipes that didn’t freeze in the winter cold, etc.
It’s a sneaky way to train your brain to find the good in the midst of good times and in the other times.
It’s important for so many reasons. In seasons of darkness, our brains may trick us into thinking things won’t get better. But they can.
I read recently that in the US, our life expectancy is declining for the third year in a row due to opioid deaths, suicide, obesity, and liver disease. People from all ages and backgrounds are finding themselves engulfed in situations that seem insurmountable, not realizing there are others who’ve walked in their shoes, waiting to help.
I’ve made some incremental strides on building habits that have lessened my own seasonal depression considerably, decreasing sugar, exercising regularly, forcing myself to be with people at least a few times a week when I’d rather be holed up alone.
But sometimes I mess up big. I made a whole week of healthy lunches and ate nearly all of them before I got them in containers earlier this week. I got off my sleep cycle and overslept for work yesterday, missing an appointment with my new employee.
But I keep trying. 😊
Today’s in the moment Five a Day are-
Two plump and cuddly cats.
My draft novel is with a new proof (beta) reader.
Connecting with you.
What’re you grateful for today?
This winter, podcasts of every kind have helped me stay inspired. There’s a podcast for everything. From mental health to aging gracefully, caregiving, to dealing with trauma, you don’t have to leave your home to get encouragement from others. (You do need internet, though!) Just Google Podcast for ___ and insert your subject.
Suicide Hotline 1-800-273-8255.
I’ll be relaunching my website soon to coincide with new projects.
Have a great week, and thanks for the comments and private emails that let me know you’re with me.
More than the eve of a new year, today marks the end of an entire decade.
To get in sync, I’ve enjoyed three of Marie Forleo’s bite-sized podcasts on this Decade in Review .
In part one, she suggests reviewing the last ten years to find what you’re most proud of, acknowledging the obstacles overcome and lessons learned along the way in order to select lessons you wish to remember as you come in to the next decade.
In part two, it’s about clearing space by releasing old resentments, beliefs, or even goals that aren’t serving you.
And the third part is deciding which experience you want to create going forward, be it about work, finances, family, or community and giving.
Ten years ago, I was thinking about starting this blog. It was what hopeful writers were encouraged to do.
It was terrifying and seemed equal parts pointless and narcissistic, I thought then. What would people think?
One of my daughters had a boyfriend who was dying, an excruciatingly sad process we were intimately involved with and which did little to help her depression and anxiety. And my youngest was struggling to push past her dyslexia and stay in college. I thought being a single-mom would get easier after the girls were grown. I was mistaken.
At some point, I realized I was waiting unnecessarily to pursue my dreams. I’d allowed myself to drown in my kids troubles. I was waiting for permission to re-start my life.
Then, in 2011/2012, I stopped waiting. I decided to start with travel.
After booking a trip to Laos and Vietnam, nothing was ever the same. Surviving that transformational trip nudged me to blog regularly. Which nudged me to write more often. Which eventually led to publishing a story in an anthology. Which then led to launching my memoir.
All these things meant I did need to clear some space. I stopped saying yes to invitations out of habit. Shaved back volunteering. And (I just realized this recently), spent more than half of the decade without a date. That, and cutting cable television, has opened up more time for creating new work.
I still get overly enmeshed in my adult children’s lives, even though they’re both fine. I say yes to things I have to then get myself out of still. But I’m working on it.
Not everyone wants to write or travel, but we all have hopes and dreams. What are yours?
And what space in your life are you able and/or willing to clear out to make them come true?
My dentist, Dr. McBratney, was helping me envision my happily ever after, just days after my children had been kidnapped and taken out of country after I’d arrived for my scheduled check-up. I had just wept a puddle of tears and mascara onto his white jacket.
He had his own relationship with my girls, proudly letting my oldest know she was “an anthropological mutant” when she was a pre-schooler since she was born with too few tooth buds, and warning my youngest at 18 months that he would refer her out if she didn’t stop tantrumming. He coached the girls to charge the tooth fairy more when he heard how little they got for their pulled baby teeth, resulting in me getting a handwritten bill slipped under my pillow from my little one, billing for arrearages. So by the time the girls were abducted, he’d grown to love them, and vice-versa.
It was 1994, and the future looked bleak. Less than half the kids of internationally abducted children were recovered back then.
But Dr. McBratney was nudging me to believe that things would get better. That maybe this story would resolve and become a movie. And he was teasing, letting me know he needed to be a central cast member.
I made a mental note then to include him in the book I planned to write. And we agreed that actor Donald Sutherland made the most sense.
By then, our families were friends. I’d watched him become a father. We’d swapped triumphs and tribulations as parents. Enjoyed a friendship that grew for three decades. My oldest daughter was his cat-sitter once or twice. We made a commercial at his request for his dental office.
When you publish memoir, you’ve granted your characters a sort of immortality. And if they were good to you, or you remembered them fondly, it’s a beautiful thing.
It was a year ago when a movie company in Canada contacted me through my website to ask about optioning my story for television adaptation. The wrangling back and forth took longer than I’d expected, and I was told not to announce it too publicly until we received certain confirmation by mail.
I was at my monthly Writer’s Guild meeting a few weeks ago when I got the call. Doc had an emergency illness at work and passed away shortly afterward. Life is fragile like that.
I checked the mail on the way home that incredibly sad night. And there it was. The confirmation that indeed, Cineflix optioned movie rights.
If he were here today, I’d tell him my vote would be Kiefer Sutherland. Not Donald.
1. What motivated you to write a memoir about your difficult first marriage NotExactly Love?
It wasn’t something I had ever thought of doing, actually, but about 10 years ago, I started taking memoir and creative nonfiction classes, mainly to work on pieces about funny experiences in my life. But one week, I needed to get a piece started for the next class, so I checked out a list of prompts in a textbook. One jumped right off the page at me: “If only…” it said. I quickly scribbled down the story of my wedding day in 1970, in my family home, when a stumble on the stairs leading to the ceremony, caused my heel to break off. Panic set in, so I hurried back up to my childhood room, certain that my stumble was some kind of sign that I shouldn’t go ahead with it. I froze in place, as the memory of my husband-to-be punching me angrily for the first time, just two days ago, loomed before me. But, too afraid to tell anyone, I chose to go back down to the ceremony an/d marry him
2. It’s difficult to publish nonfiction about traumatic events when some of the characters in your book are still living. Were you ever scared? How did you overcome this?
As I began to shape the stories of that marriage into a book, I definitely was concerned about my ex and his family finding out. I would remind myself that we live very far apart now and had no children together, that he doesn’t know my married name, and my book was never going to be the kind that got coverage in the Sunday New York Times “Books” section! Yet, I still took a workshop at a bookstore on the legal aspects of memoir writing to learn more. The attorney said it was important to change people’s names and identifying locations. She also stressed it was important to have a disclaimer in the front of the book stating that you’d done that and also mentioning your sincere effort to tell the truth to the best of your ability. She also left with the comforting thought that if a law suit is brought against you, it shines a strong light on the behavior of the complainant that’s brought out in the book. That usually works as a disincentive!
3. Your memoir was a #1 seller on Amazon for months on end in its category, and won numerous awards. Tell us what that was like, when you learned you’d reached the top of your heap as an indie author.
Well, until now, no one ever said that! Thanks for your assessment. It’s been an exciting development to see how successful indie and self-published books can be. I had been told that the average book sells about a thousand copies, so my early goal was to beat that, and I have, many times over, by far, the majority of them being e-books. I know most of us authors would love to help and support bookstores, but Amazon is the giant that gets our books in front of potential customers’ eyes, so I owe them a big thank-you. But I would say that a big part of being an author today, is learning how to get your book in front of potential readers’ eyes. I took up the challenge of promoting my book enthusiastically and regularly, so a lot of its success comes from what was daily efforts, way too numerous to name.
4. What has been the most surprising thing about publishing your memoir?
I’ve been enormously surprised by the amount of involvement I’ve had with the book in the years after its publication. I had written two very specialized career books twenty-five years ago, and once I turned over the manuscripts, the only feedback I got was a periodic, small check from the publisher. It’s been such a different story since the publication of Not Exactly Love.
First and foremost, no matter who publishes the book, its promotion rests mainly on you and your online involvement. An author could literally spend hours each day promoting a book. The more satisfying involvement, though, is how online reader reviews, be they on Amazon, GoodReads or BookBub, allow me to hear what reactions readers had to my story. Many readers talk about having had similar experiences of domestic violence. Others say they never understood how difficult it was to leave such a marriage. Many talk about sharing the book with daughters or friends. What a wonderful feeling to hear that your story moved readers.
I was so in need of a break before I set off for what we Alaskans call the Lower 48 some weeks back.
Getting closer to retirement from a job I have loved and occasionally loathed, I’ve been searching for what comes next and where to live it.
I’ve hoped for a place with defined seasons that was closer to my extended family, closer to airports for big travel, and less expensive on a smaller budget.
I also wanted to escape from a job and a land too often punctuated by traumas like suicide and drug overdoses. Surely, in a world filled with both joys and sufferings, I’d stumbled upon a path that kept me overly steeped in the latter. Or at least, this is what I’d been telling myself.
And then, not too long before my scheduled trip to see family, we too were struck by the very things I’d wanted to flee. Three deaths as well as other unplanned emergencies that simply could not be helped changed the landscape of the journey.
After a few days of pure anxiety, picturing myself in strange towns, driving rental cars on the interstate, I got out from underneath the bed and began rebuilding plans, and challenging my own assumptions about my future as well. I’ve made a point to see family every other year that I’d not even met until I was an adult, and developed some close relationships that anchor me. So having less time with people I adore is still a gift.
It’s the quality, not the quantity, and this trip was a perfect reminder. I felt rich. Mini-visits and gatherings, hayrides and haunted houses closer to Halloween, and lots of time with my younger sister, nieces and nephews.
Thanks to the improvements with GPS systems, driving the interstate was completely doable. After the briefest jaunt in to Indiana, I got to see parts of Kentucky I’d long been meaning to, enjoyed my aunt and family in Rhode Island( another place I’d not been) and drove the length of North Carolina to visit my old professor and one of my editors.
It was on the way to North Carolina that I sat next to a thirty-something year old man who had the window seat. A few minutes in flight, we were swapping cat pictures and talking about his new relationship and successful business venture.
“I’m the only person in my immediate family whose not been in a psych ward or jail,” he said proudly. He attributed his success to an aunt that helped raise him after his father’s final incarceration. When I asked where she was now, his smile faded. He told me she died of suicide a year before. Then he shut down completely.
I haven’t any idea where I’ll be after I retire in October of 2020, but I know I don’t have to have it all sorted. I plan to have my own mobile business related to writing and speaking and teaching, so I can show up better for me and for my family. Maybe that’s all I need to know.
Just before we said goodbye, he said, “Life is a beautiful thing, so long as you keep showing up.” And somehow, the pressure I’d heaved on myself for figuring out the future, lifted.
I haven’t any idea where I’ll be after I retire in October of 2020, but I know I don’t have to have it all sorted. I plan to have my own mobile business related to writing and speaking and teaching, so I can show up better for me and for my family. Maybe that’s all I need to know.
In the world of independent publishing, Meredith Noble is defying the odds with her book, How to Write a Grant:Become aGrant Writing Unicorn. Quickly becoming a #1 release on Amazon in its category and garnering a multitude of reviews, here she shares some of the challenges in her journey to success as well as valuable takeaways.
If you bought my book between September 30th and October 16th, you are the lucky owner of a limited edition, never-to-be-published again version! Why are early adopters so lucky you ask?
Now see if you can’t guess my failure by having a look at the back cover.
Can you spot why? Nobody else seemed to notice either. Zoom in a little. The issue is that in redesigning the cover, we accidentally dropped the last sentence of the book description.
I did not cry right away. I was realistic about figuring out how to fix the problem.
After figuring out how to correct the issue for Amazon and IngramSpark – the two outlets I use for self-publishing, I went home and cried. Big ugly tears. I cursed myself for making such an embarrassing mistake.
My book is about grant writing and I emphasize always having an independent review of your work.
I had failed at my own advice!
In between tears, I thought, “Is this supposed to be one of those moments where failure is a lesson I am thankful for later on?”
Wrapped in a blanket, I opened Medium and queried the term “failure.” I found nuggets of comfort. Surely nobody would write a post that said, “No you ARE a failure! Nothing to be gained here!”
A stand out quote from Charlie Munger, Warren Buffet’s business partner, said:
“There’s no way that you can live an adequate life without many mistakes. In fact, one trick in life is to get so you can handle mistakes.”
The positive talk on failure certainly helped.
What helped the most, however, was a dose of perspective. I was in the midst of reading the book, Pieces of Me – Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters by Lizbeth Meredith.
Wow. Now let’s have a conversation about personal resiliency. About mental and physical toughness so beyond what most of us will ever know. It was a deeply moving story and a good reminder that my book cover problems were quite insignificant.
While insignificant in the big scheme of things, failure is a hard emotion to shake when you feel like you let others down.
135 people volunteered to be on my book launch team. They contributed 57 reviews on Amazon within two weeks and shared the book broadly among their social and professional networks.
All provided encouragement. All had great ideas. It became OUR book and OUR launch. I would not have reached #1 Bestseller for Nonprofit Fundraising & Grants if not for this supportive group.
Around the time I discovered the back cover error, I was losing steam and did not know what more I should do to promote the book. I was working late into the evenings and weekends.
The trouble with a book launch is that there is not really an end to it. You are always thinking about how to better promote the book. I know for my book to be successful, I need to be in the top three spots on Amazon for the search term “grant writing.” That is not an easy feat.
I ordered 50 books to have on hand for conferences or workshops I teach on grant writing. The box arrived and I could not bring myself to opening it. I did not want to relive my negativity around the pathetic back cover issue.
What a waste of printing. I cannot possibly share these copies. Or so I thought…
My partner Lucas and his twin brother Lee urged me to open the box. I did so begrudgingly, and the first thing I noticed was a highlighter mark through the title “How to Write a Grant.” I was insta-furious with Amazon, wondering if everyone’s copies were being delivered with highlighter marks.
As my eyes scrolled down the back cover, however, I realized that Lee had provided a new ending to the unfinished paragraph. It was hilarious!
The second book had a new back cover designed by Lucas. Combined, these books made me cry again.
This time, however, it was tears of laughter.
Failure really does take a little distance to fully appreciate. Here are my big takeaways from the experience:
Take Full Responsibility. If you ask me what my core values are, I will tell you they are taking responsibility, hard work, and making each move count. I learned all three growing up a ranch kid in Wyoming. Lucas updated the book cover for me and made the design error. Not once did I feel angry or mad at him. It was not his fault. It was my responsibility to check his work before sending it to the printer. I am thankful that perspective is in my hard wiring.
Always Have Independent Review Of Your Work. It was not sufficient to review the back cover myself. I should have sent it to my editor, Elena Hartford. My editor was busy after I fixed the cover, and I was antsy to get the new file uploaded to Amazon. I resisted uploading the new file, however, or I would not have learned my lesson. I waited until Elena could bless the new cover with her magical editing eyes.
It Is Okay to Feel Sorry for Yourself for Exactly a Half Day. I have no regrets about laying in bed wallowing in my own self-pity. I read an amazing book. I gained perspective. I thought a lot. I recharged my batteries. When you move fast, mistakes are an inevitable reflection of making good progress. Go ahead and feel sorry for yourself from time to time, and then get back in the saddle and make each move count.
Leverage Humor to Make Light of Learning Opportunities. It was an especially sweet finale to this whole learning experience to receive the edited copies from Lee and Lucas. They are very special copies that I will keep forever. If someone in your life fails, see if you can’t find a way to use humor to laugh at the situation with them.
If you want a copy of the book with your own custom back cover, send me an email with your mailing address at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you want a copy of the book that has a proper back cover, you can grab a copy on Amazon here. You can learn more about this entire journey teaching people to be grant writers on my website www.learngrantwriting.org.
As I drove to Lexington, Kentucky yesterday from my temporary station in Louisville, I remembered the first time I’d committed to going.
In 1991, while taking Literature of Appalachian Women in Alaska that rocked my world, we students were given copies of the Lexington Herald-Leader’s editorial series by Maria Henson.
Henson, who was later awarded a Pulitzer Prize for her work addressing domestic violence, did something that was unthinkable at the time: she spotlighted how prevalent violence was in families, published pictures of victims, their injuries, their stories, and published pictures and personal addresses of judges and officers who’d failed to protect victims.
(To see Ms. Henson speak about her work, click here.)
At the time of the class, I was likely between restraining orders,
definitely on welfare, and edging close to a degree in journalism. Yet the
closer I got to success, the scarier my estranged husband became.
I couldn’t believe how fearless The Lexington Herald-Leader was to publish the work. How progressive and tenacious Ms. Henson was. I naturally imagined myself one day, visiting Lexington, and maybe setting down roots there.
There were four takeaways from Ms. Henson’s work that transformed my world, nudging me to become a domestic violence advocate, tell my own story, and hold the judicial system accountable.
Domestic violence is everyone’s problem.
Rich, poor, white, brown, young, and old. The prevalence was not limited to Lexington Kentucky, remaining an epidemic worldwide today.Intimate partner violence flourishes in isolation and secrecy.
Domestic violence flourishes in isolation and secrecy.
victims are controlled and isolated, they will not believe in their own strengths,
know about services and laws to protect them, and are more likely to blame
themselves for what is happening, thus remaining stuck and feeling hopeless.
Until we believe that every person is equally
valued, worthy of respect and protection, regardless of gender or any other
factor, the systems response will remain inadequate.
Had the threat come up from a mugger, rapist,
or holdup man, the authorities might have seen their duty more clearly. But
this is what the law calls a “domestic case.” -Maria Henson in A Death Foretold about Betty Jean
A stranger can make all the difference in
addressing the violence.
By now, decades later, most of us are aware of programs like Green Dot training bystanders on what to do if they witness domestic violence. But look at the power of Ms. Henson’s work. She was in her late twenties when she decided to roll the dice and change her world. It was risky, publishing names and faces of those in her then-small community. She worried that her effort would cause further violence or even death to some of the victims, who’d agreed to go on record in the Lexington Herald. “If I put these women’s names in the paper, will they be in further danger?” she’d asked herself.
But less than two years after her work was published, legislation dramatically changed in how Kentucky managed domestic violence cases.
It had been a while since I thought about those columns. But
when I saw the Lexington Herald, it all came flooding back.
I sat in my rental car and sent an email to Ms. Henson. I
had to thank her for inspiring a revolution, and changing so many lives.
It’s Domestic Violence Action Month, a terrific time to make
a donation to a local shelter, volunteer, or even share a DV shelter event on
your social media.
I’m off to see family now, before going to North Carolina
and visiting my esteemed Literature of Appalachian Women professor and dear friend,
Dr. Virginia Carney.
A quick note to share art and conversations that I think you might enjoy, too.
My recent favorite book is Successful Self-Publishing by Joanna Penn. For anyone considering beginning a writing career, the author gives a step-by-step guide of how to succeed. And in a perfect world, I would love to think that I could become my own publisher one day and have more autonomy over my career as a writer.
Best watch at the theater: The Peanut Butter Falcon, reviewed here by Forbes. Sentimental and kind without being simple, I loved it so well that I saw it twice.
Addictions and recovery have been on my mind. My work, my family, and my community in Alaska are heavily impacted by substance abuse. This interview finally helped me understand how the incredible shame people in recovery face can make their success a near impossibility. I hope I will never look at a newly sober parent of a delinquent minor the same way.
I joined some dynamic authors for a talk about domestic violence. Leslie Morgan Steiner, Dr. Christine Ristaino, and Kerry Schafer and I each hope that you’ll join the conversation, and share it with your loved ones as you see fit. It’s now available on YouTube.
Thank you for the emails and comments. I never feel alone with this community.
As I was driving my friend Ruth to lunch the other day in a windstorm, I grumbled in too great of detail about how many (relatively) little things turned to ash the previous week.
Long made plans to raft with my family? Cancelled due to weather. My nifty birthday gift, a book given to me by a friend? The cat barfed on it. And on and on.
Out of nowhere, a huge sign flew into my car. Thwack!
Despite the weight of the sign, and despite the fact that hit the window of my now screaming friend, it didn’t crack a thing.
We could not stop laughing.
It was a terrific re-set. It reminded me of the song, I Saw the Sign by Ace of Base. I saw the sign, and it opened up my eyes.
I deal much better with big crises than I do with the accumulation of small things.
There are many good things coming up, some that I haven’t permission to mention yet. But here’s a few delightful things in my author world :
• That day at lunch with Ruth, we gave my new nonfiction work in progress a subtitle. Thriving, Decoded: Calm the Crazy andControl the Crisis. Do you like it?
• I’m teaching a new class online. My online Udemy Course is available online for free if you click here. (I could use a review, please. )How to Help if Someone You Love is Being Abused. It’s my first online course. I have very good intentions, but my video editing is amusing. Sorry in advance. Hopefully, you’ll get good information and a giggle at the same time.
• My youngest daughter just taught me Powerpoint skills for the neatest conference I’ve ever been asked to present at; The International Association of Women’s Police, with more than 3,000 female officers from around the globe in attendance. I’m really jazzed!
And then I’ll get to take a long break to see family in late September and October.
My daughters are both healthy and working, and the weather is very warm for us here in Alaska.
So much for me. How are you? Have a beautiful week.
Just a quick note to say Hello to you and goodbye to July.
My oldest daughter had a birthday recently, and we just celebrated together a few hours ago.
This is definitely my more reclusive child. The one who gets upset if photos of her are posted on social media without her permission. The one with a childlike voice and amazing brain bandwidth. The one most impacted by choices I made in my youth.
Needless to say, our relationship is complicated. Sweet. Intense. Fiery in spots.
She texted me on Monday and asked me to find out what was the exact time of her birth. While I scoured the house during the hours following, I found everything but her birth certificate.
Old letters to teachers. A journal to me. Report cards. Missing children’s poster. A birthday card from her youth.
I found the birth certificate. Sent her the answer.Then she reminded me that she wanted spaghetti. My forty-eight hour spaghetti.
Preparing it gave me a lot of time to think about her life. All of the hopes and the heartaches. The adventures and the aggravations. The expectations that have needed readjusting so many times over the years. I teared up as I chopped the onions.
I worried that the spaghetti wouldn’t turn out. Was there enough cayenne? Garlic? Too few whole tomatoes?
There is something beautiful and basic about creating a favorite meal. My daughter sent me the bitmoji via text below after she went home.