Meet the Author: You Can Change The World by Margaret Rooke

Today we travel to London to chat with Margaret Rooke about how dyslexia, a byline in the newspaper, working with charities, a view of the sea, a full English breakfast, failure to ‘Mind the Gap’, mental health problems for teenagers, ‘Don’t Stop’ by Fleetwood Mac, and Scooby Doo come together as part of Margaret’s current and past life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am a kitchen-table writer of nonfiction books, based in London. My life is so much easier since my husband finished his Christmas jigsaw in the middle of April. In his defence, it was a tough one. There’s a lot more space to work now.

How many published books do you have?

I’ve had three books published over the past few years. The first two were about dyslexia. We found out that our daughter was dyslexic when she was 13 and this was a big shock to us. At primary school she seemed to be taking learning in her stride, but at secondary school she came to a standstill. I was determined that, whatever label she was given, she would still achieve whatever she wanted in life and wrote books to inspire her and others in her situation. The first was called ‘Creative, Successful, Dyslexic’: a book of interviews with successful people with dyslexia, from Dame Darcey Bussell, to David Bailey, Zoe Wanamaker, Mollie King, Marcus Brigstocke and many others. The second was ‘Dyslexia is my Superpower (Most of the Time)’: a book of interviews with children and teenagers with dyslexia about the advantages and difficulties they face.

Then I decided to write about something else – this time a book about inspiring teenagers called ‘You can Change the World!’ What links these three books is a strong sense of positivity. There’s an underlying message that we can achieve what we want to achieve if we have the right support, focus and drive.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?

I was sitting having breakfast when I was around ten and I noticed a byline on a newspaper that had been delivered to our house, Mind blown. I asked my mum, ‘Is that a job – writing things and getting your name on them?’ When she said yes, that was it. I trained to be a journalist, then worked for charities helping with communications, now I’m back to writing again.

What is an interesting writing quirk you have, that we wouldn’t know by reading your biography?

I love being able to see out of a window when I’m working. Write, pause, look out of window, write, pause, window… It seems to help me put what I’m about to write in perspective.

What does your ideal writing space look like?

My ideal writing space would have a great view of the sea, with a window or door that could be opened to see and hear the waves crashing against the rocks. There would also be a kettle and teabags in easy reach and somewhere to go for a full English breakfast close by. Perfect.

List 3 interesting facts about yourself.

I was single for seven years before meeting my husband.
I find it hard to forgive myself when I get things wrong.
Two years ago I failed to ‘Mind the Gap’ on the London Underground and broke my leg which was trapped between the tube and the platform. This was terrifying, especially when the doors began to close. I was rescued by a London Transport worker called George who flapped his arms round like a windmill to attract the driver’s attention. My hero always.

Where did the idea for your most recent book come from?

I was hearing so much about mental health problems for teenagers, some of this in my local community. I knew that teenagers listen to other teens more than anyone else so thought a book of interviews with young people who make good decisions benefiting themselves and others: campaigners; volunteers; fundraisers and other role models; might be of great benefit. The book’s called ‘You can Change the World! Everyday Teen Heroes Making a Difference Everywhere.’ I knew this book might not be the answer for teenagers who were seriously depressed, but I thought this could work well for children and young people who feel a bit stuck.

The teenagers in the book are amazing. They have stopped supermarkets selling eggs from caged hens, fought period poverty, raised money for charities, found ways to help beat online bullying, worked to save the environment and help the homeless… So many great achievements from a generation we often overlook and misunderstand.

What do you do when not writing or marketing your books?

For three days a week I work for a fantastic charity for older people, Independent Age. I interview the people the charity helps, their families and volunteers to help with all areas of its work.

You are about to speak publicly to a group and read from your latest book. What song do you listen to before speaking?

I don’t listen to music before speaking, but when I was much younger I was depressed for a long time and music really helped me then. I remember ‘Only Yesterday’ by The Carpenters and ‘Don’t Stop’ by Fleetwood Mac in particular were often on my mind. I still like really positive songs like Take That’s ‘Let it Shine’. However I’m a big Bruce Springsteen fan and I like his gritty songs as well as the joyous stuff.

What do you miss about being a kid?

Maybe the sweets, but the truth is the older I get the happier I get. I really recommend ageing, though good health is paramount.

At this stage in your life, what advice would your young self give to your more mature self?

All that anxiety and fear and worry you went through and things turned out well. Who’d have guessed? Maybe you could still tune the worrying down a bit when it takes over.

If you were trapped in a cartoon world from your childhood, which one would you choose and why?

I think it would be great to be one of the Dream Machine gang in Scooby Doo. They seem to get on well, have a good laugh and have a 100% success rate in what they do. A win, win, win.

What’s the last movie you watched and why did you choose to watch it?

Fourteenish years ago I worked for Fairtrade and specifically with Harry Hill on a brand of Fairtrade nuts called ‘Harry’s Nuts!’ Harry watched the film Juno when we were flying back from meeting peanut farmers in Malawi and told me he thought I’d like it. For some reason I never forgot him saying that and I watched it last week. I thought it was brilliant. Such great characters, so well written and well acted. Harry was right!

Tell us about your most recent book.

‘You can Change the World! Everyday Teen Heroes Making a Difference Everywhere’ is an award-winning book of interviews with teenagers from many countries who talk about how they make the planet a better place. Some are campaigning to improve the environment and to deal with bullying, others are supporting Black Lives Matter, educating about LGBTQ rights, keeping teens from joining gangs,  or are simply great role models refusing to take no for an answer despite their own difficulties or disabilities. This is a book to encourage and inspire children and teenagers; to help them see that they can help to make changes in their own lives and in the world around them.

Recent research has shown that adults tend to view teenagers harshly, viewing them as ‘lazy’, ‘selfish’ and ‘antisocial’. Read this book and change your mind!

It was wonderful having you on MTA, Margaret. I love to be able to see out of a window when I’m writing, too. Lovely. I just had to include a link for “Don’t Stop” as I adore this song! Wishing you all the best. – Camilla

Where to find the book.

It’s available at Waterstones, local bookshops and online.

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/You-Can-Change-World-Difference/dp/1785925024

https://www.jkp.com/uk/you-can-change-the-world.html

Connect with Margaret:

Website: http://www.margaretrooke.com

Twitter @margsrooke

Instagram @margsrooke

Linkedin: https://uk.linkedin.com/in/margaret-rooke-3b45848

*************************************************************************

Here are a few suggestions on how to further support this author:

  • Comment on the interview
  • Share the interview using the social media buttons
  • Click through to learn more about the author and their book(s)
  • If interested, buy the book and leave a review

To support this website and the author’s interviewed, visit Support MTA for suggestions. Thank you! – Camilla, Founder and Host

Meet the Author: London Crime by Barry Faulkner

Today we travel to London to chat with Barry Faulkner about how sarcasm and humour, English Springer Spaniels, the River Wye, the Forest of the Dean, butterflies, Literary Festivals, gangs and geezers, Morley Academy of Dramatic Art, petty criminals, and the Richardson gang come together for the making of Barry and his writings.

In which genre do you write?

Crime, police procedural and factual.

How many published books do you have?

Eleven and one at the editors.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?

When I was at secondary school and English Literature was my only interest, other than football! I won a London County Council writing competition and that was it, next stop the Booker Prize! 😃

What is an interesting writing quirk you have, that we wouldn’t know by reading your biography?

Humour, readers comment on my DCS’s sarcasm and humour. The books may be about serial killings but I guarantee the reader will laugh out loud at least once! 😂

What would you choose as your mascot, and why?

English Springer Spaniel, I’ve got three and they are totally faithful and never give up.

What does your ideal writing space look like?

A crowded office at the top of Faulkner Towers overlooking the River Wye, PCs, lots of ideas on pieces of paper and reference books on English Law and UK criminals.

What are you currently reading?

I don’t read much, I’ve read all the authors I like as they issue and my last read was Robert Crais. A Dangerous Man, from the Elvis Pike series.

Where did the idea for your most recent book come from?

I have no idea, I have been writing ideas and plots down for 30 years so have a plethora of notebooks to get the brain cells into overdrive. Ideas can strike an author at any time so I always carry a small notepad. ( usually forget the pencil)

What do you do when not writing or marketing your books?

Walk the dogs in the Forest of Dean where I live and vegetable and fruit gardening at Faulkner Towers. Her indoors does the flower gardens. 🙂

What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself through writing?

The human imagination is a wonderfully powerful instrument.

What is the most enjoyable thing you’ve found through writing?

That’s an easy one…. friendship with readers and other writers and being involved in Lit Festivals.

What do you miss about being a kid?

Butterflies.

At this stage in your life, what advice would your young self give to your more mature self?

Start writing earlier.

What are you currently working on?

Book number 11 in the DCS Palmer Serial Murder Squad series.

Tell us about your most recent book.

‘London Crime’ My first factual book about the UK big criminals’, major heists and gangs from the Messina Brothers of the 1930s through to today’s top guns.

It was great to have you on MTA, Barry. Your background is so very interesting! Wishing you all the best! – Camilla

Where to find the book:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/B.L.-Faulkner/e/B00ND8R6OO

Connect with Barry:

Website: geezers2016.wordpress.com

Biography:

An Amazon Best Selling Author of the DCS Palmer Detective books. 10 out, number 11 coming in April 2020.

Author of London Crime (March 2020) the only available factual book about the UK major robberies from 1930s to the present day, the gangs and geezers that planned and did them plus the aftermaths.

Faulkner was born into an extended family of petty criminals in Herne Hill, South London, his father, uncle and elder brothers and cousins running with the notorious Richardson gang in the 60s-90s, and at this point we must point out that he did not follow in that family tradition although the characters he met and their escapades he witnessed have added a certain authenticity to his books. He attended the first ever comprehensive school in the UK, William Penn in Peckham and East Dulwich, where he attained no academic qualifications other than GCE ‘O’ level in Art and English and a Prefect’s badge (though some say he stole all three!)

His mother was a fashion model and determined that her youngest son would not follow the family career path, she had great theatrical aspirations for young Faulkner and pushed him into auditioning for the Morley Academy of Dramatic Art at the Elephant and Castle, where he was accepted but only lasted three months before being asked to leave as no visible talent had surfaced. Mind you, during his time at the Academy he was called to audition for the National Youth Theatre by Trevor Nunn – fifty years later, he’s still waiting for the call back! After several sales jobs and sending advertising ideas to various agencies he was taken on as a copywriter with the major US advertising agency Erwin Wasey Ruthrauff & Ryan in Paddington during which time he got lucky with some light entertainment scripts sent to the BBC and Independent Television and became a script editor and writer on a freelance basis. He worked on most of the LE shows of the 1980-90s and as personal writer to Bob Monkhouse, Tom O’Connor and others. During that period, while living out of a suitcase in UK hotels for a lot of the time, he filled many notebooks with DCS Palmer case plots and in 2017 he finally found time to start putting them in order and into book form. Ten are finished and published so far, with number 11 at the editors.

Faulkner is a popular speaker and often to be found on Crime Panels at Literary Festivals which he embraces and supports wholeheartedly.
He has recently been seen on screen in the Channel 5 Narcos UK series, Episode 2 The London Gangs and his DCS Palmer book ‘I’m With The Band’ has just been serialised in 16 parts by BBC Radio Bristol. He has been a subject of Corinium Radio’s Writer’s Room programme, Manchester FM’s Hannah Kate Book show, Hawkesbury Upton Lit. Festival ‘Best of British’ panel, Evesham Festival of Words Crime Panel and Bristol Crime Fest Indie Crime Author Panel amongst others

Faulkner publishes a blog about the ‘geezers’ of his youth, the criminals and their heists. It goes in depth about the Krays, Brinks Mat, Hatton Garden , ‘Nipper’ Read and all the other major heists and who ‘dun ‘em’. Take a look at geezers2016.wordpress.com.

He also speaks about that era in illustrated talks for social clubs, WI and others.

As a crime writer Faulkner is quite particular about ‘getting it right’ and as well as his own Facebook page he publishes a page called ‘UK Crime Readers and Writers Page’ which has lots of information about the forensic crime detection methods, police procedurals and other facts of use to both reader and writer of crime and detective books.

Faulkner now lives in the glorious Forest of Dean with his wife and three dogs.

**************************************************************************

Here are a few suggestions on how to further support this author:

  • Comment on the interview
  • Share the interview using the social media buttons
  • Click through to learn more about the author and their book(s)
  • If interested, buy the book and leave a review

To support this website and the author’s interviewed, visit Support MTA for suggestions. Thank you! – Camilla, Founder and Host

 

Latest News: Top Interviews with Most Views for March 2020

Interview with Most Views for March 2020:

#1: Tina Hartas of TripFiction

 Interview with Second Most Views for March 2020:

#2: Love Earth Now by Cheryl Leutjen

Interview with Third Most Views for March 2020:

#3 Maybe Baby by Carol Thomas

Interview with Fourth Most Views for March 2020:

#4 The Twelve Man Bilbo Choir by Peter Staadecker

Top Three Countries With the Most Traffic to Meeting the Authors in March 2020:

Thank you for taking the time to read more about these authors and book bloggers, and for sharing the interviews on this website. A great deal of work goes into these interviews by all involved. Deep gratitude! –Camilla, Founder & Host

Here are a few suggestions on how to further support these authors:

  • Comment on the interview
  • Share the interview using the social media buttons
  • Click through to learn more about the author and their book(s)

To support this website and the author’s interviewed, visit Support MTA for more suggestions. Thank you!

Meet the Author: Aunt Jodie’s Guide to Evolution by Jordan Bell

Today we travel to Adelaide, Australia and chat with Jordan Bell about how being a psychologist, music, crowdfunding, walking in nature, Leonard Cohen, the art of tattooing, and Battle of the Planets come together as part of Jordan’s past and current life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m a psychologist by training, with a lifelong love of science, and I live in Adelaide, Australia. I love reading, music and walking in nature. When my daughter was born, I knew I wanted to make sure she had lots of books which inspired her to love science as much as I do. So as a nerdy mama I had no option but to write one! Aimed at kids 7-11 years, Aunt Jodie’s Guide to Evolution explains the basics of this key scientific concept in a fun and engaging way.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?

I’ve loved writing my whole life. As a child I thought being a writer would be an amazing future career, and I used to spend a lot of time writing and illustrating little books, which I’d bind up with electrical tape. As a teenager, poetry really captured me, and I was in a small poetry circle with two other poets for several years. It wasn’t until I finished my PhD a few years ago (106,000 words!) that I really knew I could write a book. And then when I got the inspiration to write this book, I knew I had to put it out into the world. One wildly successful crowdfund later (we raised 210% of our original goal!) and it seemed like the rest of the world also agreed with me!

What does your ideal writing space look like?

My favourite place to write is in a cafe around the corner from my house – I take my laptop in and they bring me endless cups of tea while I’m tapping away. It’s a gorgeous calm space with delicious food and great local arts and crafts for sale. (Update – due to the new COVID-19 social distancing/shutdown rules, I can’t make use of this great venue at the moment! So I am mostly writing from my dining room table these days – there’s not as much tea-on-demand, but I can work in my pyjamas, so swings and roundabouts!)

What are you currently reading?

I am re-reading the Philip Pullman “His Dark Materials” trilogy as a preparation for reading the new book he’s released, The Secret Commonwealth. I forgot how much I loved it when I read it 10 years ago – it’s beautifully written. I have high hopes for the new adventure!

List 3 interesting facts about yourself.

I love singing and once put on a show of Leonard Cohen songs in my hometown.

My favourite genre to read is science fiction – it comes from my love of science and my general sense of wonder about the world.

Although I am very interested in the art of tattooing, I only have one teeny tiny tattoo myself. If I was going to get something else tattooed on me, it would be the Auryn from The Neverending Story, which was my favourite book as a child.

What do you do when not writing or marketing your books?

I am the Dean at a residential college for university students, so I support students through their academic and personal challenges, to ensure they can continue to succeed at in their studies. I love my job! It’s always interesting and I really like helping people, so I get to do that a lot.

What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself through writing?

That I’m quite persistent, and that I get more satisfaction from “having written” than from the writing itself. And that I’m quite good at explaining things to kids – which I guess is a legacy of my time as a children’s tutor. I was also really surprised at how much fun it was to work with an illustrator – Gabriel Cunnett (https://gabrielcunnettillustration.com/) did all the illustrations for the book, and he seemed to have the magical ability to reach into my brain, see what I wanted to characters to look like, and call them into existence on the page.

What is the most enjoyable thing you’ve found through writing?

I really enjoy the “project” of book creation. The learning curve for writing and then self-publishing my first book was virtually straight up – but apparently that’s a space I thrive in, since I love to learn.

What do you miss about being a kid?

Oh gosh, not paying bills! And the chance to spend so much time reading, and the wonder of learning about human biology for the first time.

If you were trapped in a cartoon world from your childhood, which one would you choose and why?

Without question, it would be Battle of the Planets (the English-dubbed version of Japanese anime series Science Ninja Team Gatchaman) – I used to act out invented scenes from this with my cousins all the time. As a kid I wanted to be Princess, but today I’d probably want to be Mark, the team leader.

What’s the last movie you watched and why did you choose to watch it?

I re-watched The Princess Bride – one of my own childhood favourites – with my daughter last weekend. It’s amazing how well it holds up as a film! It’s got humour, adventure, romance and a happy ending. And Cary Elwes is fantastically handsome, so there’s also that. I read the book it was based on a few years ago and honestly it’s probably even better than the movie. So I wanted to share that story with my daughter.

What are you currently working on?

I am currently working on a follow-up to my first book, called Aunt Jodie’s Guide to Climate Change. In a similar way to the Guide to Evolution, it explains and unpacks all the science of Climate Change, from chemistry, to physics, to biology and geology, in a science adventure that is fun to read. The research load has been intense, but I’m really enjoying it!

Tell us about your most recent book.

My first book, Aunt Jodie’s Guide to Evolution, gives kids a fun and fascinating understanding of the key concepts underlying the theory of evolution, using real science. Perfect for parents who want to inspire a love of science in children aged 7-11yrs, start a child’s science education early, or who want female role models in science for their kids.

Not just another boring bedtime story, this science adventure into the ancient past makes learning about the basics of evolution fun and engaging, and uses words and concepts that are right for kids in middle and upper primary school. For anyone new to science, Aunt Jodie’s Guides also include an easy-to-read glossary, explaining the scientific terms used in the book and how to pronounce them.

It was wonderful to have you on MTA, Jordan. This and your upcoming book sound like great fun to read. Wishing you much success! – Camilla

Book Blurb:

Join Sophie and Matt as Aunt Jodie takes you on an imagination-expanding journey back in time. Learn about evolution in two different species, millions of years apart: the Plesiads, ancient lemur-like creatures from 55 million years ago, and colour-changing Peppered Moths from the 1800s. What happens to the Plesiads when a volcano erupts? How do the moths survive when their camouflage stops working? Discover the secrets that help all creatures transform and develop when big changes happen in the world around them.

Parents, Aunts, Uncles and Grandparents: Do you know what happened after the dinosaurs died out, but before humans existed? Could you explain Darwin’s theory of evolution to your child? Parents, learn along with your kids as we explore the key contributors to evolution: inheritance, variation and selection. Not just another boring bedtime story, this science adventure into the ancient past makes learning about the basics of evolution fun and engaging, and uses words and concepts that are right for kids in middle and upper primary school. Story-based learning helps everyone remember scientific concepts. For anyone new to science, Aunt Jodie’s Guides also include an easy-to-read glossary, explaining the scientific terms used in the book, and how to pronounce them. So give a gift of knowledge to your children and set them up for a lifetime of STEM success!

Where to buy Aunt Jodie’s Guide to Evolution:

www.gumroad.com/jordanbell

Connect with Jordan:

Follow me on Facebook for more information: www.facebook.com/AuntJodiesGuides

I’m on Twitter at @AuntJodiesGuide

And my website is www.auntjodiesguide.com

 Illustrated by Gabriel Cunnett:

**************************************************************************

Here are a few suggestions on how to further support this author:

  • Comment on the interview
  • Share the interview using the social media buttons
  • Click through to learn more about the author and their book(s)
  • If interested, buy the book and leave a review

To support this website and the author’s interviewed, visit Support MTA for suggestions. Thank you! – Camilla, Founder and Host

Meet the Author: Love Earth Now by Cheryl Leutjen

Today we travel to Los Angeles to chat with Cheryl Leutjen about how being an environmental law attorney, writing in nature, trees, blogging, throwing darts, composting, conversations inspired by a dead bush, and a train ride come together as part of Cheryl’s past and current life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m the author of Love Earth Now, which is essentially a story book, chronicling my struggles to live more eco-conscientiously. I draw from my wide-ranging experiences as a geologist, environmental law attorney, small business owner, spiritual practitioner, and mother to navigate the fine line between eco-mindful and eco-madness.

Originally from Kansas City, Missouri, I now live in Los Angeles, my adopted home for some thirty years now, with my husband, two children (when they are home from college). I founded and host the Natural Muse Meetup for people wanting to write in nature. I serve as Vice-President of the Board of Directors of the North East Trees nonprofit. I also enjoy creating art from natural elements, to showcase nature’s gifts. I’m also the butler and handmaiden to three felines, none of whom care one whit about all my credentials.

In which genre do you write?

That’s an excellent question, one I’ve been pondering for a while. I used to think my genre was “creative non-fiction” because the stories I tell are all rooted in my own experience. Then I did some further investigation and learned that it requires a stricter adherence to facts than I exercise. “Outraged exaggeration” is my personal stock-in-trade. So now I’m going with “fanciful non-fiction-ish” as my genre. Which, until it catches on, makes it difficult to enter book contests.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?

I never made a conscious decision to become a writer, even though people had been telling me that is what I “should” be doing all my life. And that’s probably the reason I resisted so long; I tend to flee from whatever it is others think I “should” be doing. Especially if it involves any kind of laundry.

In my prior careers, I’d done a lot of writing for other people’s purposes—and none of it offered opportunities for creativity, nonfiction-ish or otherwise. My creative writing life was inspired by parenthood. I began writing as a way of processing the insanity that only mothers of tantrumming toddlers can know. I started a “mommy blog,” to share my wisest insights with my subscribers—all seven of them. Audience or no, I got hooked on the therapeutic benefits of the writing.

So when I went to a one-day writing workshop, I’d planned to hone my blogging skills. Instead, the environmental themes of my book, Love Earth Now, came pouring out, much to my surprise. Writing is now the essential therapy that keeps me from spontaneously combusting every time I hear more bad news for Life On Earth.

What would you choose as your mascot, spirit animal, or avatar and why?

I was given the coyote as my spirit animal when I completed my spiritual training through the Modern Day Priestess program. How disappointing! I was certain it would be the mighty eagle, a demonstration that I was meant to soar and that I possessed laser focus. Coyote seemed far too common.

A ragtag coyote clan clings to a bare hilltop near my home, a rare speck of open space in our densely-packed Los Angeles. Occasionally, one wanders down, especially in times of drought, looking diseased and bedraggled. Surely this was not the spirit animal guiding me to my noble calling.

Then I studied up on coyote in Medicine Cards by Jamie Sams & David Carson. In many native American traditions, the coyote is known as the great trickster. Coyote lays traps, much like the cartoon Wile E. Coyote, that backfire on himself—and usually forgets to learn from his mistakes. “As coyote moves from one disaster to the next,” they write, “he refines the art of self-sabotage to sheer perfect.”

Welp, I can relate to that. I excel at laying out the best plan for persuading someone to take on a task . . . only to find I’ve convinced myself into doing it. On a tight schedule and with no budget.

Now when I see the bedraggled coyote, I extend some sympathy. Some compassion for a kindred spirit.

What does your ideal writing space look like?

My laptop currently rests on an Army-green picnic table covered in graffiti, some faded and some so recent I had to check for wet paint before sitting. Surrounded by towering trees, the table perches on the hillside wilds of Griffith Park in Los Angeles. Tiny white flowers sprout from the sturdy jade plants at my feet while native oaks sway in the breeze above my head. Noisy blue jays, cawing crows and the occasional hawk circle overhead. Dappled sunshine filters through the leafy canopy, though my fingers cramp in the chilly winter breeze.

This is my ideal writing space. The hard bench offers just enough discomfort to keep me on task, while the natural beauty of this wild, urban garden unlocks the vaults of my imagination. I think of Alice Walker’s quote: “Earth was meant for joy. As an artist, connect with that joy. And you will forever be fed by it.” Steeping here in natural wonder inspires far more creative work than sitting surrounded by four walls.

What do you do when not writing or marketing your books?

When I’m not writing, you’ll find me doing yoga, hiking, bullet journaling, throwing darts, and reading books I wish I’d written, curled up with my cat, Handsome. You might also find me tending my compost bin—which gives me far more pleasure than you might suppose. Diverting my apple cores and banana peels from the methane-producing landfill gives me a solid sense of eco-righteous satisfaction.

What’s more, I like to imagine that I’m working in partnership with all the critters in heap, doing the hard work of converting our food waste into black gold. I used to feel guilty for the waste when some once-delicious dish turned moldy or, horrors, a bottle of wine was left open too long. Now, it’s cause for excitement, like finding the perfect gift for your hard-to-shop-for friend. “The compost critters are gonna love this,” I think. “Hang on, fellas, here comes HAPPY HOUR”!

What’s the strangest thing you’ve experienced in the process of your writing?

Writing outdoors produces some surprising experiences. Ducks inching closer, eyeing my trail mix. The dead bush that inspired a conversation. A wide-eyed, nose-wriggling mole popping out of the green grass next to me.

The strangest, though, was the day I was writing in a neighborhood park, my back against a stately oak. Engrossed in my own world, I suddenly felt a moist bit of something land on my arm. I brushed it off, but the wet bits kept coming, landing on my keyboard, my shoes and then my face (ugh). I looked up and discovered a squirrel on the branch overhead, spitting bits of green walnut flesh on me. I swear he was laughing.

These things just don’t happen when I’m writing in my local coffee shop.

Do you believe things happen for a reason? Do you have an example from your own life to share why you believe this?

Not only do I believe that things happen for a reason, I cling to that belief like the personal preserver it is. To maintain my tenuous hold on something like sanity, I need to know that there’s redeeming value in even the worst experiences. Not just that there’s “a” reason but a Hoover dam good reason why a precious keepsake was lost. Why the cat I rescued sees fit to shred me on a daily basis. Why my beloved mom passed away too soon.

The best example I can recall right now is the time when I got fired from my dream job. I’d slaved over my studies through law school, just for the opportunity to work for a top-notch, environmental law firm in downtown Los Angeles. I’d devoted two years to hammering my square peg into the round hole the firm assigned to me, trying to shoehorn myself into the culture of the firm. I’d asked for guidance and assistance when my reviews were discouraging. And still, I found myself out on the curb one day. Less than a month later, I began a new position in a law department where I fit in and excelled. I would never have given up on my so-called “dream job,” if I hadn’t been fired from it.

Describe the perfect solo date you’d take yourself on … where, time of day, weather, place, etc.

My idea of the perfect solo date is a train ride. Like that song from The Commitments movie, “destination anywhere, east or west, I don’t care.” I’ll bring too many books, journals, and magazines, so I can catch up on a year’s worth of reading. I’ll pack a lunch bag with cheese, crackers, olives, basil, grapes and dark chocolate—which may be consumed with a glass of Chardonnay from the café. I’ll intend to get some serious writing done . . . and end up staring out the window, bobbing my head to the chug-a-chug until I doze off.

What are you currently working on?

I’m working on a companion to my book, Love Earth Now, for people wanting more guidance in discovering their own eco-contributions. So many people who’ve read my book or hear me speak say, “just tell me what I should be DOING” about X, Y or Z eco-calamity. As much as I wish I could offer a simple prescription—”buy LED lightbulbs and all will be well”—it’s not that simple. Unfortunately.

Nor is it for me to dictate anyone’s eco-contribution. I believe that each of us, all seven-plus billion humans, come to this Earth with our own calls to action to satisfy, our “soul work,” I call it. How do your heart and soul call for you to contribute, to live, to be? Only you can know. That’s why I include a “Love Earth Invitation” at the end of each chapter in the book, a simple exercise for each reader to pause and reflect for themselves. The companion workbook will offer more in-depth exercises in eco-mindfulness, opportunities to discover what each of us can do right now that will mean more to the world than all that power and influence can buy.

Tell us about your most recent book.

Love Earth Now is a deeply thoughtful, often neurotic, and sometimes comedic exploration of my own efforts to make an eco-contribution. Hailed an “ode to our planet,” it’s both a tribute to the beauty of Earth, as well as a call for us each to honor our unique calls to action.

It was wonderful having you be a part of MTA, Cheryl. The Natural Muse Meetup sounds great!! I enjoy creating art from nature elements, too, so I know what you mean about showcasing nature’s gifts. Wishing you all the best! –Camilla

Where to buy the book:

I urge readers to shop local bookstores, if there’s one nearby. If Love Earth Now isn’t on the shelf there, request it. “Shop local” isn’t just a trendy catch-phrase; it’s one simple way that any one of us can vote for change with our dollars. Shopping local not only keeps our hard-earned dollars in our neighborhoods; it also fosters stronger communities.

If you’re not fortunate enough to have a local bookstore nearby, you can purchase Love Earth Now, both the paperback and the eBook, through all the usual etailers and through my Etsy shop. You can find links to them on my website at LoveEarthNow.us.

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2BzyVMn

Connect with Cheryl:

CherylLeutjen.com [author website]

LoveEarthNow.us [book website]

Etsy.com/shop/LoveEarthNow

Facebook: @LoveEarthNow

Instagram: @LoveEarthNow

Twitter: @LoveEarthAuthor

**************************************************************************

Here are a few suggestions on how to further support this author:

  • Comment on the interview
  • Share the interview using the social media buttons
  • Click through to learn more about the author and their book(s)
  • If interested, buy the book and leave a review

To support this website and the author’s interviewed, visit Support MTA for suggestions. Thank you! – Camilla, Founder and Host

Meet the Author: Your Goal Guide by Debra Eckerling

Today we travel to West Los Angeles to chat with Debra Eckerling about how telling stories, journalism in college, freelance writing, an Instant Pot, Aikido, and cardio dance come together to form the screen play of Debra’s life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am a goal coach and project catalyst. I help people figure out what they want and how to get it, whether they are at a crossroads and need direction or they are seeking a plan and guidance for a specific project. I do coaching, workshops, and have an online and live support group for writers, creatives, and entrepreneurs, called Write On Online. There’s a Facebook page and group.

I live in West Los Angeles, and am originally from the Midwest (Chicago suburbs). I’ve written for national, local, trade, and online publications; have worked in publishing, education, financial services, social media, and technology; and speak on the subjects of writing, networking, goal-setting, and social media.

In which genre do you write? How many published books do you have?

I write non-fiction in the areas of writing/business/self-help with some tech and social media mixed in.

My first two books – Purple Pencil Adventures: Writing Prompts for Kids of all Ages and Write On Blogging: 51 Tips to Create, Write & Promote Your Blog – were self-published and only released as ebooks.

My third – Your Goal Guide: A Roadmap for Setting, Planning and Achieving Your Goals – was released by Mango Publishing on January 14, 2020, and is available in ebook and paperback formats.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?

Ever since I learned to write as a kid, I loved to write. Growing up, I mostly wrote fiction. I loved telling stories. I studied journalism in college, so I could have a solid writing background – it amazes me how much publishing has changed since the 1990s, btw.

Then, in my 20s I got my first freelance writing break a week after I wrote my first screenplay, which I did for fun. Freelance writing came easy to me. I still loved telling stories, but now I was telling real-people stories, rather than fiction. And, somewhere along the line, I started incorporating my knowledge and experience in my words, as well.

List 3 interesting facts about yourself.

I was never into cooking until I got an Instant Pot (pressure cooker) about three years ago. Sure, I could make the basics, and I love food, but I was never one of those people who thought cooking was meditative and fun. Now, I love my Instant Pot – and also my air fryer – and I will tell anyone who will listen how much I enjoy putting in ingredients and watching them turn into meals. I share recipes and have conversations about food prep. It still surprises me when I find myself discussing cooking or offering advice.

I studied Aikido for nine years. It’s the passive martial art you see on TV, where someone attacks you, you step out of the way, and the attacker falls down … their own power is their downfall. Aikido teaches things like self-awareness, being centered, and creating a mind frame to avoid conflict. Someone attacks you, even verbally, there are ways to use distraction or even kindness to diffuse the situation before resorting to combat, but only if necessary.

I went through a quiet phase as a child. No one believes that when they meet me, since I am very outgoing.

Where did the idea for your most recent book come from?

I started a writing-focused goal-setting group when I was the event coordinator for Barnes & Noble in Illinois, and re-launched the group in Los Angeles a few years after I moved here. Over time, Write On has transitioned from a live group to online. Now, it’s a hybrid of online – I have a Facebook page and group for goal-setting, accountability, and community – and live hangouts.

Several years ago, a member asked me to help him one-on-one, so I began doing personal coaching, speaking and leading workshops. I worked in communication and project management, so I was able to use all of my skills to help people plan their projects, troubleshoot, and complete them.

Then, in 2018 I re-branded my business as the D*E*B METHOD®. My goal-setting and productivity process worked perfectly with my new acronym. DEB stands for Determine Your Mission, Explore Your Options, Brainstorm Your Path.

The biggest reason people do not reach their goals is they don’t take the time to figure out what it is they really want and how to make it happen. DEB, which is Part One of Your Goal Guide, walks readers through my process. Part Two is all about setting yourself up for success.

What do you do when not writing or marketing your books?

My current fitness of choice is cardio dance. I take an amazing World of Dance UJAM class every week, and it is definitely my happy place. Dance is not only healthy and fun, it’s the best stress-reliever. It energizes me and keeps me going.

Do you journal write or keep a personal diary? Has this helped with your published writings? If so, how?

I have been keeping a journal for years. It was mandatory for a creative writing class in high school, and it literally changed my life. I discovered the power of getting your thoughts on paper; it keeps you healthier, physically and mentally, and also helps with problem-solving, as well as capturing what’s going on in your life, good and bad.

As an adult, I’ve used journaling more to track my activities, keep notes on my projects, and catalogue ideas. Journaling and brainstorming are significant elements in the process I teach and are a huge part of Your Goal Guide.

If you were trapped in a cartoon world from your childhood, which one would you choose and why?

I had this question as a college entrance essay for a creative writing program, and it stuck with me. I said I would want to be a cartoon version of myself, because I believe everyone should know how it feels to turn their head 360 degrees. And, yes, I got into that school, but opted to pursue a degree in journalism instead.

Do you believe things happen for a reason? Do you have an example from your own life to share why you believe this?

I believe everything happens for a reason and in a certain order.

About two years ago, when my primary freelancing client was making changes, I took it as a sign that it was time to focus on my goal-coaching. I re-branded myself – I took the goal-setting and productivity techniques I developed over the years and put them into a simplified process, called The D*E*B Method. Shortly thereafter, I met an agent (he found me), and he sold my book.

Ever since I decided to fully embrace what I believe I was meant to do, things have fallen into place.

Which of your personality traits has been most useful and why?

I did competitive public speaking in high school and college. When you master communication, you can interact with anyone, present anything, and get your ideas across.

Any parting thoughts?

I love to meet new people … and part of achieving goals is activating your network, and finding the information and resources you need to make your dreams a reality.

And please connect with me. You can find me on LinkedIn, Facebook – for Write On Online and The D*E*B Method, Instagram, and Twitter. I lead the #GoalChat Twitter Chat on Sundays at 7pm PT.

It was wonderful having you be a part of MTA, Debra. Here’s wishing you many great meals in your Instant Pot and much fun dancing! –Camilla

About the book:

One of the biggest reasons goals fail is that people often don’t put enough thought into what they really want before diving in. Your Goal Guide by Debra Eckerling starts with that first, crucial step: figuring out your goals and putting a plan in place. Eckerling presents readers with her own tested and proven method: the D*E*B METHOD®. DEB is a brainstorming and task-based system and stands for: Determine Your Mission, Explore Your Options, Brainstorm Your Path. It’s a roadmap for setting and achieving goals. Goals can be intimidating because of the pressure people often put on themselves to succeed. However, Eckerling believes that setting goals should be easy—you just need the right tools to tackle them. Through a combination of writing exercises and systems, Eckerling provides readers with a process for making and setting goals that is stress-free, easy-to-manage, and even fun.

Where to buy the books:

You can find Your Goal Guide: A Roadmap for Setting, Planning and Achieving Your Goals on Amazon or at your favorite bookstore. If they don’t have it, just ask them to order it for you.

Your Goal Guide: A Roadmap for Setting, Planning and Achieving Your Goals, from Mango Publishing

Write On Blogging and Purple Pencil Adventures

About Debra:

Debra Eckerling is the author of Your Goal Guide: A Roadmap for Setting, Planning and Achieving Your Goals from Mango Publishing. A professional writer, communications specialist, and project catalyst, she works with individuals and businesses to set goals and manage their projects through one-on-one coaching, workshops, and online support. After years of working, adapting, and polishing her goal-setting and productivity techniques, she put them into a simplified process, called the D*E*B METHOD®. DEB stands for Determine Your Mission, Explore Your Options, Brainstorm Your Path. Debra is also the founder of Write On Online, a live and online community for writers, creatives, and entrepreneurs, and host of the #GoalChat Twitter Chat.

Connect with Debra:

Main Links:
https://TheDEBMethod.com
https://WriteOnOnline.com

Follow Write On Online on Facebook and Twitter
Join the Write On Online Facebook Group
Follow The D*E*B Method on Facebook and Twitter
Join the #GoalChat Twitter Chat
Subscribe to the Guided Goals Podcast

**************************************************************************

Here are a few suggestions on how to further support this author:

  • Comment on the interview
  • Share the interview using the social media buttons
  • Click through to learn more about the author and their book(s)
  • If interested, buy the book and leave a review

To support this website and the author’s interviewed, visit Support MTA for suggestions. Thank you! – Camilla, Founder and Host

Meet the Author: Bowing to Elephants by Mag Dimond

Today we travel to San Francisco, California to chat with Mag Dimond about how travel, elephants, silent retreats, a blue leather journal, Bach, and the Dalai Lama come together as sign posts on the path of Dimond’s life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I live in my “hometown” of San Francisco, where I lived as a child and to which I returned about 15 years ago after moving around quite a bit. I was raised by an eccentric woman who didn’t much like being a mother and who was an alcoholic as well. I was an only child. She took me to Italy when I was 11, and that pretty much changed my life. I became an expatriate at a young age, fell in love with an Italian boy at 14, and grew up pretty fast.

I grew up thirsting for love and affection and understanding….

I married young and was a mother at the age of 20. It wasn’t until I was in my late thirties that I actually completed my college education, and following that I went into teaching writing at the college level (San Francisco State). I began traveling when I was in my thirties – with my husband and sometimes with my kids. Later on, when I was on my own I traveled alone and then with a newfound partner in my life. Travel in a way was an escape from the loneliness I felt in my life and it was also a way for me to learn about who I was…

I’ve lived in San Francisco, Ohio, New York, New Mexico, and of course Italy, and I generally feel at home no matter where I find myself.

I’m close to my two daughters, my five grandchildren, and I’m working on establishing a connection with my four year old great grandson who lives in Oregon.

I have been a Buddhist for over twenty years and attended many silent retreats – my life has changed profoundly because of this practice…. I love to cook, drink good wine, knit, play the piano, write, walk with my dog, read, go to museums, and be in conversation with dear friends.

In which genre do you write?

Non-fiction/essays/travel blogs/memoir

How many published books do you have?

One published book: Bowing to Elephants (pub Sept 2019) by She Writes Press

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?

When I lived in Italy at the age of eleven… my stepfather gave me a beautiful blue leather journal complete with gold trim and little lock and key. I spent most afternoons with this journal, recording such things as loneliness, hunger for experience, questions about my mother’s eccentric behavior, excitement about what I was learning in school, and yearning for love. I was an only child and I had l a lot on my mind. I remember imagining then that one day what I wrote might eventually become published work that would be widely read. I had grown up around books and literature all my life, and this seemed a natural aspiration. Since that early time I persisted in recording my life in journals and notebooks, including my variety of travel experiences in adulthood. The journals were ultimately the scaffolding of my memoir, Bowing to Elephants.

What would you choose as your mascot, spirit animal, or avatar and why?

I would choose the elephant. For several reasons: the elephant represents the matriarchal culture which feels familiar and comforting, and draws me to it. The elephant has a prodigious memory, carrying information about not only its own experiences in the wild, but that of its family members. They say that the elephant has “historical memory,” which connects it to its distant past. Who wouldn’t want to have such a vast store of memory? It boils down to maternal love and memory. Growing up with a woman who couldn’t mother me, whom I tried to love, I always looked for this kind of love; in working on my book I discovered that my memory of the distant past was murky and full of holes, and this disturbed me. A therapist once taught me that when childhood trauma has occurred, it’s likely that memories of one’s early days will be lacking in detail, or may vanish entirely….

List 3 interesting facts about yourself.

I am a great grandmother and proud of it.
I am a terrific (gourmet) cook.
I frequently imagine these past lives: I was once a monastic studying in an Italian monastery, I was a mosaic artist in Venice who helped to create brilliantly colored church interiors…

Where did the idea for your most recent book come from?

It was born out of my amazing collection of travel journals (from Italy, France, Burma, India, Cambodia, Africa, Vietnam, and so on…). The raw material was all in those “diaries,” and all that needed to be done was figure out how to lay out the whole story as I wove in the important segments about my childhood.

What do you do when not writing or marketing your books?

I play Bach on my grandmother’s baby grand, I walk by the Pacific Ocean with my little dog Peaches, I meditate every day, I cook beautiful food, drink good wine, I’m addicted to British murder mysteries (Morse, Prime Suspect) on TV, I knit scarves in luscious colors, I read at least two books at the same time (currently into American history), I eat out frequently in my hometown of SF, I travel (of course!) either alone or with family members…

If you could have a fantasy tea with a famous person from the past or present, who would it be and what would you ask them?

If I had tea with the Dalai Lama, I would ask him to share his secret for accessing happiness, given the deep and relentless suffering he has endured in his long life. All humans want happiness – it is a universal desire – and this man is the embodiment of this emotion. I would like him to share his wisdom with me.

What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself through writing?

I’ve learned that despite my propensity for seriousness and looking into the darkness, I have a surprising capacity to be funny and irreverent at times!

What is the most enjoyable thing you’ve found through writing?

That moment where I know in my bones and in my heart that I have grabbed ahold of an elusive, murky, and important memory from the past and have made it come alive, have made it knowable to my reader.

What is the most inspiring thing that has ever happened to you?

The most inspiring thing was looking into the eyes of a giant elephant in Kenya almost twenty years ago; this humbled me, and transformed my mind and heart, and I can say I haven’t been the same since. I’ve been driven all these years to learn as much as I can about this extraordinary animal and to advocate for its survival. What I saw in those eyes: love, acceptance, gentleness, intelligence.

What do you miss about being a kid?

I had two very special friends growing up: Sue and Lynn – they were sisters. From the time I was four, we spent our days together as a threesome. They lived upstairs from me, and we alternated playing in my apartment or in theirs. We had piano lessons together with a very formal French lady, we made up plays, and we conjured things in the kitchen… They represented family to me, and their mother Josephine was a true bodhisattva, offering love and affection and food and laughter. With my friends and their mother, I felt like I “belonged.”

If you could ask your pet three questions, what would they be?

How does it feel NOT to have an obsessive brain like people have? Good??
How do feel about the job I’m doing, really?
If you could be taken anywhere, where would you like me to take you?

Which of your personality traits has been most useful and why?

My love of words. If it weren’t for my love of beautiful language (and in fact pretty much all beauty!), and my lurking belief that I had the capacity to use words really well, then my book perhaps wouldn’t have been completed. There was a sense that I owed it to myself to craft the most moving, lyrical, and honest work I could and offer it up to the world. I guess I was convinced my words needed to be read.

Tell us about the book:

Bowing to Elephants is a very intimate narrative about traveling in the world and ultimately discovering deep truths about oneself. Beginning as a series of travel essays, it then morphed into a layered memoir that peeled away layers from childhood to look at what drove me to explore the places I chose. I carried an insatiable need to find answers, connection with others, and ultimately to forgive myself for the darkness I held for my narcissistic mother. Thanks to travel, writing, and Buddhist practice, I found many of the answers I was seeking, and most importantly learned to love myself.

It was wonderful learning more about you and your history, Mag. Your book sounds fascinating! Sending you much love and blessings! – Camilla

Book Blurb:

BOWING TO ELEPHANTS, Tales of a Travel Junkie is a travel memoir… with a twist.

An unloved rich girl from San Francisco becomes a travel junkie to escape a dysfunctional family and a narcissistic, alcoholic mother.

Thanks to a journey of healing and self-discovery, the author navigates depression, loneliness, and loss while learning how to break down the false barriers that separate people.

Music, art, and food influence our hero as she finds her way to far-flung parts of the world.

By the end, Dimond accepts the death of the mother she never really had ― and finds forgiveness, peace and her authentic self in the refuges of travel and Buddhist practice.

BOWING TO ELEPHANTS is an epic adventure — Europe, Southeast Asia, Africa, India, and San Francisco — that transformed the author’s life.

More than a travel memoir, readers will be inspired by one woman’s journey of self-discovery, healing, and forgiveness… as they encounter strange lands, tantalizing foods, and mesmerizing characters (including a 14,000- pound African elephant).

Pub. Date September 17, 2019 Publisher: She Writes Press 
 List Price: $16.95
ISBN: 9781631525964

Where to find the book:

The book is available in all independent bookstores –

IndieBound.com for complete information on whereabouts of such bookstores. It is also available on Amazon.

Connect with Mag Dimond:

Dimond offers her free 10 minute mediation on lovingkindness for those interested in following her and signing on to her list. www.bowingtoelephants.com/gift

Dimond’s website: www.magdimond.com/news

Facebook: www.facebook.com/travelswithmag
Twitter: @DimondMag
Instagram: magpiesbeads

**************************************************************************

Here are a few suggestions on how to further support this author:

  • Comment on the interview
  • Share the interview using the social media buttons
  • Click through to learn more about the author and their book(s)
  • If interested, buy the book and leave a review

To support this website and the author’s interviewed, visit Support MTA for suggestions. Thank you! – Camilla, Founder and Host

Meet the Author: The Gift of Crisis by Bridgitte Jackson-Buckley

Today we travel to Los Angeles, California to chat with Bridgitte Jackson-Buckley about how Stephen King, journal writing, volunteering with the Peace Corps, asking questions, and Bill Murray come together as part of Bridgitte’s past and current life.

In which genre do you write?

I write about spirituality and personal growth which often falls under self-help. My book is a memoir categorized under self-help and spirituality.

How many published books do you have?

This is my first published book!

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?

As an only child for 16 years, I loved to read beyond my skill level. I always carried a pocket dictionary while reading Stephen King books. I’ve been writing in journals since I was in the fourth grade and I still have every single one of them! Writing has always been my “go to response”. It remains my first choice of practice to reflect and give voice to what’s inside. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to write a book. I just didn’t know about what I would write. And then came the crisis…which brought about an unintended literary gift.

What is an interesting writing quirk you have, that we wouldn’t know by reading your biography?

Although I love it so much, it’s hard! I always feel such ambivalence; like there is something in me that wants to be said, swirling around inside constantly reminding of its presence. I don’t always know what wants to be said, so I wait until it’s clear or until the swirling and pushing is too intense to ignore. At that point, I start writing until I feel like there has been a purge. When it’s out onto the paper I can relax…at least until the swirling begins again.

What would you choose as your mascot, spirit animal, or avatar and why?

Neytiri from Avatar! She is all heart and means what she says. In short, Neytiri does not play around.

What are you currently reading?

I recently finished BEHOLD THE DREAMERS by Imbolo Mbue, which was an astoundingly profound and well-written read. “The novel is about the fragility of the American Dream as told through the experiences of two New York City families during the 2008 financial crisis: an immigrant family from Cameroon, the Jonga family, and their wealthy employers, the Edwards family.” This book resonated with me because Mbue lost her job in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, as did I, and was unemployed for a year and a half.

List 3 interesting facts about yourself.

I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Honduras.
I speak Spanish.
I LOVE to dance.

Where did the idea for your most recent book come from?

In 2005, during a disturbing turn of events, my husband was hospitalized due to the onset of symptoms for a stroke. He was 33 years-old. In every way imaginable we were unprepared to deal with the long term effects of the challenges that lie ahead. The financial distress, parental responsibility, unexamined emotional wounds, blame, resentment, fear and anger unearthed elements of our psyche that nearly destroyed us and our marriage.
The loss of his ability to work propelled us into the beginning stage of what became the most prolonged and difficult period of our lives. For the next several years, we experienced the devastating loss of our home through foreclosure, ruptured familial relationships, job loss and a steady decline of our marriage.

Throughout this period there were times when I believed myself to be the victim. It wasn’t until I turned to meditation, prayer and journaling to make it through each day and began sincere self-examination, that I was ready to understand the circumstances provided an invitation for growth.

For more than one year, I sat down in a meditative state to ask questions to help me mentally and emotionally navigate the difficult and uncertain times I faced.

During meditation, in addition to periods of silence after prayer, I began to ask questions to solicit clarity and guidance into my awareness. The more I posed questions during a meditative state, I began to notice answers would indeed come into my awareness. However, as soon as the meditation session was over, I forgot the guidance which came into my awareness.

The only way to remember was to write it down. It was at that time I decided to bring a journal to my meditation sessions.

In the midst of this silent struggle, I turned within for at least 20 minutes a day to be able to make it through each day. I continued to meditate and write in my journal. Meditation grew to become the most practical, accessible and effective way I found to calm myself of the anxiety-ridden thoughts that propelled me.

At the time, I had no idea the practice I created around journaling would become my first book almost seven years later.

What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself through writing?

Writing is absolutely a skill that can be honed. I used to think writing was an innate talent, but I now see yes, you can have a propensity to be good at writing due to interest. However, with effort, patience, practice and the willingness to allow space for something new, you can absolutely take your writing to unexpected heights.

What is the most enjoyable thing you’ve found through writing?

Here is a little piece I wrote last year that sums up why I write:

There once was young girl who loved to write. It was all she thought of, day and night, how to tell stories, how she could tell stories. With her stories, she wanted to share her heart, her hopes, her dreams, what she learned, what she had seen and all she hoped to experience. This way – writing stories – is her way to connect, to go deeper within her feelings and her spiritual life. She yearned to talk, to tell, to communicate, not because she wanted to be seen, but because this was her heart’s desire – the impetus to be of service in this way. She understood the power of the written word, the way it influences the heart and mind, the way it creates shifts, movements, and awakenings. She understood this because she experienced this and nothing has given her greater comfort, joy and pull to act. Through the written word, she wanted to tell her story to help others create a new story – not just for themselves, but for everyone.

You are about to speak publicly to a group and read from your latest book. How do you do to prepare yourself?

I wrote about this in an article for The Writing Cooperative on Medium. Here are questions of which I eagerly anticipate the responses at my book events:

Who traveled the farthest distance to attend the event? Select three members of the audience to share their favorite “word of mouth” recommendation for my book. How do they describe my book to someone who has not read it? Someone once described it as a ‘metaphysical thriller’!
Ask what was the unexpected or surprise take away they received from reading my book.

Every interview, conversation and presentation carries a different energy – an energy of its own. Sometimes I can prepare in advance and know what to expect and other times not. I find it refreshing and comforting to know regardless of what I am asked about my book, what needs to come through will come through. I don’t have to have it all figured out. Sometimes I’m compelled to say specific things and other times I’m not. I’ve learned to trust that what comes through is exactly what is needed and wanted to be said and heard in that moment.

What do you miss about being a kid?

Days with my grandmother.

What’s the last movie you watched and why did you choose to watch it?

I recently watched ‘What About Bob’ with Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfus for the hundredth time! I love this movie so much I almost have the entire movie dialogue committed to memory. “…come on, I’ve come so far. I’m baby-steppin’! I’m doing the work! I’m baby-steppin’! I’m not a slacker!…give me, give me, give me, I need I need I need…” This is by far one of the best comedies ever made.

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently sitting with the idea for my next book. It’s “swirling” but hasn’t revealed itself; therefore, during the waiting period I’m working on a spiritual sci-fi script with my screenwriting partners, continuing with my blog on Medium and hosting an online video summit!

In The Gift of Crisis Video Summit, each featured guest is the quintessential example of transformation that can take place when you undergo tough times or difficult circumstances.

While the summit title mirrors that of my book, the focus of the summit will be on 10 authors who have also undergone a crisis and share their experience and insights through writing. Over the years I have benefited tremendously from the writing of authors who poignantly demonstrate the gifts we can find and cultivate in our darkest times. It is an ongoing intention of mine to pay-it-forward by highlighting spiritually uplifting and important stories of hope, resilience, and compassion for self and others.

It’s been a pleasure learning more about your journey to a published book, Bridgitte. Thank you for being a part of MTA! – Camilla

Book Blurb:

Bridgitte Jackson-Buckley was one of the 8.8 million people who lost their jobs and experienced foreclosure in The Great Recession. With her back against the wall, faced with challenges many of us would find hard to survive, Bridgitte realized the only place she could go was within – exactly where she needed to go. Here, for the first time, she reveals how to explore crisis as a tool for courageous change, regaining your self-esteem with self-love and self-compassion. The Gift of Crisis will show how repeated crises can serve as a catalyst to reveal the underlying purpose, and how questions posed during a meditative state can reveal answers that can redirect your life. Practical and deeply inspiring, this book shows you how meditation and prayer can assist during any type of crisis as a means to a calmer, clearer, more courageous and purposeful life.

Where to find the book:

THE GIFT OF CRISIS: HOW I USED MEDITATION TO GO FROM FINANCIAL FAILURE TO A LIFE OF PURPOSE can be found wherever books are sold AND in local libraries!

Connect with Bridgitte:

Medium: https://medium.com/@bjacksonbuckley3

Website: https://www.bjbuckley.com/

Social media links: Instagram and Facebook

**************************************************************************

Here are a few suggestions on how to further support this author:

  • Comment on the interview
  • Share the interview using the social media buttons
  • Click through to learn more about the author and their book(s)
  • If interested, buy the book and leave a review

To support this website and the author’s interviewed, visit Support MTA for suggestions. Thank you! – Camilla, Founder and Host

Meet the Author: Mad, Sad Dysfunctional Dad by Stephen Gillatt

Today we travel to Faversham in the South East of England to talk with Stephen Gillatt about how country walks, mental health, escapism, writing in the maternity ward, sea lions, climbing fences, and Denise the Menace come together as part of Stephen’s past and current life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Stephen Gillatt, I live in a town, my hometown, called Faversham. It’s in Kent, in the South East of England. I live here with my wife and two young daughters. I refer to them affectionately as ‘my three beautiful ladies’. I write anywhere, as long as my phone has battery! But for self-care, I like going on country walks and going fishing. As well as reading autobiographies – I like reading about the challenges, successes, complexities, struggles and beauty of life. People are staggering.

In which genre do you write?

At the moment I write non-fiction (memoirs). I’m writing what I know!

How many published books do you have?

I was lucky enough to publish my first book in July 2019. It’s about fatherhood and mental health. But also explores addiction, self-harm, therapy, relationships and suicide. I talk and write about things a lot of people won’t or can’t. My friends describe my writing as uncomfortable but important. Being a parent is such a wonderful privilege, but for so many there can be a darker side, which is felt, but rarely talked about. I try to write in a way people can identify with; that might help someone who’s struggling, and hopefully provide their partners’ with a window in the lives of the people they love and worry about.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?

When I was very unwell, I started writing as a form of escapism. A lot of people say it’s cathartic, but for me, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes facing how you really feel and are, is painful and uncomfortable. But then I began to realise I might be able to use my experiences to help others.

What is an interesting writing quirk you have, that we wouldn’t know by reading your biography?

I write at any time, any place, anywhere. I’m only bound by my phone battery! And I do very little editing. Most of my writing is ‘one-take’ so to speak. It’s literally just like putting thoughts and memories on to paper. I also wrote an entry for my first book in the maternity ward, after the birth of my second daughter. But I’m not sure whether this is quirkiness or madness …. That’s for other people to decide! If you see me on my phone, I’m more likely to be writing than texting or using social media!

What would you choose as your mascot, spirit animal, or avatar and why?

I’m a fanatical Liverpool Football Club fan! I’ve supported them for as long as I can remember. So it would have to be the (mythical) Liver Bird. Which is on the club badge.

What does your ideal writing space look like?

I wrote my first book on my phone. On buses, trains, at work, before and after therapy. In bars, hospitals, everywhere. The world is my writing space! If I had the time to have a writing place; it would be sitting by the lakes near my house. The only background noise being birdsong and the lapping of the water against the bank.

What are you currently reading?

I have a ridiculously short attention span, so I have a few! Happyslapped by a Jellyfish (Karl Pilkington), The Rum Diary (Hunter.S.Thompson) Being Gazza (Paul Gascoigne) and A season on the Brink (Guillem Balague).

List 3 interesting facts about yourself.

I went to a full moon party in the world’s highest city – La Paz, Bolivia

I once had to eat my Christmas dinner through a straw

I swam out half a mile to swim with wild sea lions in Iquique, Chile. It was totally unsupervised. Five of them surrounded me. I felt totally safe. I was amazing.

Where did the idea for your most recent book come from?

My second book, which I am currently trying to place, is the culmination of years of people continually saying I should write a book about my life. My friends say you couldn’t make it up. So I started writing it. And the few people who’ve read the manuscript, love it. Now I just need to find an agent or publisher who loves it! But you know what? I absolutely love it. So I might even self-publish. I want my daughters to be able to read about the ridiculous and fun-filled life I have had. And not just my first book; about my challenges and pain. People are so much more than their mental and physical illnesses.

What do you do when not writing or marketing your books?

I work full time! I work in social housing, with organisations who provide support and housing to vulnerable people in society. I also have two young children… So time is at a premium! If I do get spare time, or time for self-care, I like walking, fishing, sport and reading.

If you could have a fantasy tea or coffee date with a famous person from the past or present, who would it be and what would you ask them?

Paul Gascoigne. I was lucky enough to see his greatest goal against Scotland in 1996. I want to ask him, (after the way he was treated by the press beforehand) how scoring that goal really felt; what the rush was like. He watched his best friend die when he was ten. I’d like to ask him, today, if he has forgiven himself. Or if he still blames himself. I’d like to ask him if he thinks there is enough support for men in society today. I’d like to ask him if he lived his life again, would he change anything? Would he swap being free of addiction and mental illness for not being a professional footballer? And I’d like to ask him what he would say to men who are struggling in their lives, in order to try and help them not go through what he has. What I have.

Muhammed Ali – I’d like to ask him about the stand he took against the Vietnam War. How he found the courage, to, at the height of his career (March 9, 1966) give up everything. And if he ever regretted the way he sometimes ridiculed opponents in the build-up to big fights.

I’d also love to sit with Lance Armstrong and just ask him ‘why?’

I generally only read non-fiction to my daughters at bedtime!

What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself through writing?

That I can write poetry. I now write a lot of micro poetry, so a poem the length of one tweet. I’m not even sure how it started, but I publish quite a bit on Twitter. And some people seem to like it, although it can be very dark. But I like them, and am proud of them. Writing should make us happy.

What is the most enjoyable thing you’ve found through writing?

That I’ve found a creative avenue that helps me process my struggles, while helping people with the struggles in their own lives.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve done or experienced to help create a scene or plot or to help you remember something if writing a memoir?

I’ll be honest. Despite having a short attention span; the memories I’ve used in my books are vivid. Like dreams I’ve captured and stored in my head. When I write, it’s often because I have a surge of memories (or creativity). I write them down. Then see how they fit into the manuscript I am working on. And then some random things when I reminisce with friends!

Do you journal write or keep a personal diary? Has this helped with your published writings? If so, how?

My first book is a diary! It was written over eighteen months. One year of daily entries, including from a set of therapy sessions. I was given permission to use exit and exit questionnaires, it’s real life. Then six months after I stopped, I experienced a very severe bought of paternal post-partum depression (PPPD). Research says about ten percent of men experience this. So it spans eighteen months in total. Which was my wife’s full labour, the birth of our second daughter, and then a very difficult time afterwards. Now my Twitter account is my (interactive) diary.

What is the most amusing, crazy or inspiring thing that has ever happened to you?

I was knocked over by a bus in the early hours of the morning in the car park of The Ataturk Stadium, Istanbul, after the 2005 Champions League (football) final. I traveled on my own, via Bulgaria, and it was an epic trip. I’ve written a sport travel memoir called ‘4000 miles of mayhem – An imbecile in Istanbul, and other countries’. Oh, and I’m the imbecile!

You are about to speak publicly to a group and read from your latest book. What song do you listen to before speaking? Or, what do you do to prepare yourself?

Well, I am lucky enough to have been invited to speak about my book at a Literary Festival on February 22nd, In Faversham, Kent. Where I live. I think I’ll have a cup of tea. Chill out, speak to a few of the people who have paid to come and see me (I’m donating all ticket proceeds to the mental health community garden where I’m speaking). As for a song? There are so many, Maybe ‘Mummy’s Boy’ by Wretch 32, or ‘Porcelain’ by Moby. I love travelling and The Beach is a favourite film of mine.

How do you prepare yourself to discuss your book?

I’ve been fortunate to have been asked to do telephone, podcast and broadcast interviews in the last year. The first time I was nervous, but as I got used to the way things work, the nerves ebbed away. I also absolutely believe in what I am trying to do. And I really enjoy it, and remember how lucky I am to be able to talk about things that are so important to me, and that people relate to. Mental health and mental Illness (I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and Bipolar Depression in October 2019) has, and always will be, a big part of my life. I’m now trying to do things in my professional and personal life to help people who are living, and especially struggling with mental health problems and mental illness.

What do you miss about being a kid?

How free I felt. The excitement of waking up on a Saturday morning. Meeting my friends. Climbing over a fence, so we could play football on a crisp, immaculate, school football pitch. The crunch of the frost underfoot. Falling over, laughing at ourselves. How the sun warmed us up, and we slowly stopped seeing our breath. Imagining being a professional footballer. And during those times, sharing our dreams, and on those mornings, the three of us, making them our reality. Walking home, just feeling warm. Not because of the sun, but because of the unconditional friendships we had back then. And the laughs we had, the stories we could tell, and the memories we were creating.

At this stage in your life, what advice would your young self give to your more mature self?

Don’t regret what you have done, your choices, and where your life it as. Be grateful for the friends you have and the memories you’ve made. Nobody is perfect, but you are trying your best to make a difference. And you still have time. But above all, do not feel like a failure.

If you were trapped in a cartoon world from your childhood, which one would you choose and why?

Definitely Dennis The Menace! I wasn’t exactly well-behaved as a kid, so his antics would be right up my street!

If you could turn into one of your characters for a day, which one would it be and why, what would you do? If you write non-fiction or memories, what fictional character would you invite into your story and why?

As I (currently) write memoirs, all of my characters are real.

But I’d like to invite Vito Corleone ‘The Godfather’ into my world for a day. I’d like to share authentic Italian food and fine wine with him. I’d love to hear his musings about health and family, mental health too. As well as his take on respect, values, success, failure, and leaving a legacy.

What’s the last movie you watched and why did you choose to watch it?

The Irishman (Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci). I love reading about the history of gangsters and the mafia. I love films made about it too. This history of the Bufalino crime family is really interesting. I watch the Godfather trilogy a few times a year. It’s a masterpiece.

A penguin knocks on your door and is wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he there?

He’s out of ice, and wants to go out for chilli!

Do you believe things happen for a reason? Do you have an example from your own life to share why you believe this?

Yes, I believe in fate… I was supposed to go fishing in Morocco for my 30th birthday. I missed my flight, so traveled to Leeds to party with some friends. Shortly after being back I met my second wife. We connected instantly. Now, we have been married eight years in April, and have two beautiful daughters. There is no way I would have met my wife if I had not missed my flight. I was planning to try to get a job in Morocco, and never return to England.

If you could ask your pet three questions, what would they be?

I have a cat. I’d ask what it would really like to eat? Why can’t you just sleep in the comfy bed we have bought, instead of the bloody sofa! Why do you wait until just before I want to go to bed before you want to do out! (we don’t have a cat-flap).

Which of your personality traits has been most useful and why?

Empathy. I have had a difficult life (who hasn’t) so I never judge anyone. You never really know what people are going through. You only ever know what they decide to tell you. Everyone leads a double life to some degree.

What’s your favorite place to visit in your country and why?

I live on the coast. So I’m lucky to have beautiful beaches a few miles away. I love water. I suppose this is why I like freshwater (catch and release) fishing. There is also a nature walk very near my house. I have been going there regularly for the last six years with my wife and daughters, and at the right time of year, we pick wild blackberries. It always makes me happy, even when the weather is bad… We just go puddle-jumping!

Describe the perfect solo date you’d take yourself on … where, time of day, weather, place, etc.

I’d take myself to a lake. Arrive under darkness and watch the sun rise. Cast my rods out and chill out on my bed-chair. Turn on the radio or a podcast, and maybe read a little. Even have a snooze. Then bask in the glory of the sunset. Enjoying a large hot chocolate (with a little splash of something as a treat) as I’m enveloped by dusk, eventually darkness, and a star-sprinkled sky.

What are you currently working on?

Finding a publisher for my second book, and writing my third book about mental health and social media. Its working title is ‘Making mental health social’ But most importantly, maintaining my (decent) mental health, and just enjoying every minute of family life as me and my wife watch our amazing daughters grow up.

It was wonderful learning more about you, your background, and writing style. Thanks much for being a part of MTA, Stephen! All the best to you and here’s to success with your writings! –Camilla

Where to find the book:

‘Mad, Sad, Dysfunctional Dad’ is available in paperback and kindle version:

On Amazon https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mad-Sad-Dysfunctional-Stephen-Gillatt-ebook/dp/B07TVLBPGQ/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=stephen+Gillatt&qid=1580309131&sr=8-1

The Conrad Press https://theconradpress.com/product/mad-sad-dysfunctional-dad/

Connect with Stephen:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/talkingcl

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/stephen-gillatt-26383816b/

Email: [email protected]

A short television feature Stephen recently did for the BBC: https://www.linkedin.com/posts/stephen-gillatt-26383816b_mentalhealth-resilience-depression-ugcPost-6625164227432730624-HO53

About Stephen:

Stephen is a customer service, public relations and housing practitioner with twenty years’ experience across three sectors. Most recently working in income recovery within social housing and local council community development.

Stephen has been living with mental health problems for twenty-five years and was diagnosed as living with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) in October 2019. In his teens and early twenties, Stephen battled a gambling addiction which resulted in him dropping out of University. Six years ago, Stephen had a nervous breakdown. And two years later began writing his fatherhood and mental health memoir ‘Mad, sad, dysfunctional dad’ (published July 2019) in which he opens-up about post-partum depression, self-harm and therapy. The joys, and struggles of being a dad, and the pressure to just keep going. And how this pressure broke him. But also, how great things can come from the darkest places.

Over the last eighteen months Stephen has featured in several local and national interviews, and in January of this year, featured in a special report aired on the BBC. During this time, he also started event speaking, his first, a Housing Quality Network (HQN) which focused on income recovery, rent arears and mental health. He is now confirmed at an additional six event in 2020.

In February 2020 Stephen will be speaking about his book at the Faversham Literary Festival; and is now writing his second and third book. As well as writing for HQN in his spare time.

Stephen is passionate about mental health (especially men’s), and mental health in the workplace; recently designing and writing a set of workshops for staff, managers, students and prisoners under the banner ‘My mental MOT’. He is currently exploring other ideas to improve mental health in business and society.

**************************************************************************

Here are a few suggestions on how to further support this author:

  • Comment on the interview
  • Share the interview using the social media buttons
  • Click through to learn more about the author and their book(s)
  • If interested, buy the book and leave a review

To support this website and the author’s interviewed, visit Support MTA for suggestions. Thank you! – Camilla, Founder and Host

Book Shelf: Tomorrow to be Brave – A Memoir of the Only Woman Ever to Serve in the French Foreign Legion by Susan Travers with Wendy Holden

Tomorrow to be Brave – A Memoir of the Only Woman Ever to Serve in the French Foreign Legion by Susan Travers with Wendy Holden

My interest in this book was due to having interviewed Wendy Holden on MeetingtheAuthors.com. I really enjoyed meeting Wendy and getting to know her, so went in search of any books my local library had authored by Wendy. They have several that I’m making my way through. I’ve also requested the library purchase her newest book!

A gripping true story that left me in awe of this courageous woman. An up close and intimate tale of what was endured by those who fought World War II, told through Susan Travers’ eyes about what she experienced.

Follow the link to learn more about Wendy and her other books …

Meet the Author: One Hundred Miracles by Wendy Holden

US Amazon: https://amzn.to/2tr2dgC

*********************************************************************************

To support this website and the author’s interviewed, visit Support MTA for suggestions. Thank you! – Camilla

(The above are amazon affiliate links.)