“Memoir is about handing over your life to someone and saying,this is what I went through,this is who I am,and maybe you can learn something from it.” ~Jeannette Walls, The Glass Castle
I’m thrilled to feature author, coach and entrepreneur Flora Brown in this post. Flora and I met through The Gutsy Indie Publisher’s Facebook group. Flora is an author and book coach. Her 11th book, Color Your Life Happy, will be published in June, 2015. The story behind the story of a book is often as intriguing as the book itself. Flora discusses the inspiration for this book and what she learned in the process of writing it.
Please join me in welcoming Flora:
What I Learned When Memoir Writing Crept into My Book on Happiness
One Sunday morning in 2007 I played hooky from church, arranged myself comfortably in bed and watched Joel Osteen, senior pastor of the Lakewood Church in Houston, TX deliver his televised sermon. Throughout his sermon, he repeated “ Claim your joy,” “Don’t let anyone steal your joy.”
As I reflected on his message, my eyes drifted to a promotional product catalog on my bed that had fallen open to a page showing a box of crayons. I had recently retired and for the last few days had been looking for a product I could use to promote my speaking gigs.
Just as Joel was repeating “Claim your own joy!” again I blurted out loud, “That’s right, we must learn to color our lives happy. God has already given us the crayons. (Click to Tweet)
Color Your Life Happy rang in my ears and spurred me to dash over to GoDaddy.com to see if ColorYourLifeHappy.com was available. It was. I bought it without a plan for how I would use it.
After attending the first blog conference in Las Vegas that year, I found a use for my domain. Color Your Life Happy became a blog where I shared steps and strategies that worked for me. I answered the questions people often asked me about how I accomplished this or that. Even though my life didn’t seem remarkable to me, I decided to proceed with my advice on making choices that lead to a happier life.
Blogging a Book…
One year and 100 blog posts later, I realized that I had the makings of a book. I began the task of fashioning those posts into a self-help book.(Click to Tweet)
Because I had previously coauthored two textbooks with traditional publishers, I had no desire to go through the long and exasperating experience of convincing them my book was worthy of publication. I decided to take all the risks myself, and so began my journey as an indie author.
My book set out to be self-help filled with advice on living a happy life. I offered supporting and opposing viewpoints from research in positive psychology and ancient truths. I packed each chapter with a unique mix of practical advice, creative activities, poetry, and anecdotes. But as I went along, more and more of my own life story crept into my book.
As I was just revising my book for a 2nd edition, I was stunned by an incident in my family that is still under investigation. Whereas before I was clipping along sharing advice, supporting it with highlights of research and inserting anecdotes with successful outcomes, I was suddenly stopped in my tracks.
How can I write a book on happiness now? I’m anything but happy I thought. After wallowing in self-pity and entertaining those “why me” thoughts, it eventually hit me.
Anybody can write about happiness when things are going their way. If you can’t write about embracing happiness when you are in desperate need of advice, how authentic is what you have to share?
I remembered what one of my favorite motivational speakers said when I interviewed him on my internet radio show, “When things go wrong, don’t go with them.” (Click to Tweet)
It was at that moment I decided to be empowered by this turning point, find the lesson in it, and take my own advice. I wish I could tell you that I wrote feverishly and finished the revisions in record time. I did not. I had many stops and starts, adjusting my attitude and fortifying my resolve to support my advice with real-life tips and strategies that worked for me and others.
From the stories from my life that I began to craft into my book on happiness, I learned three lessons.
1. Exposing what I was raised to hide is healing for me and my readers.
All families have secrets. My readers count on me to tell the truth that’s worth sharing
to move the book’s message forward. Sharing my experiences growing up during the racial divide in our country, for example, gives a glimpse into a life some people never experienced or realized existed.
2. What seems like boring everyday events to me can be inspiring and encouraging.
“I write to find out what I think.” Stephen King.
It’s the mistaken belief that we must do extraordinary things that makes so many people dissatisfied with their lives instead of appreciating the miracle of each day of life.
3. Sharing the embarrassing and painful parts of my life were exactly what I needed for my own healing and would be the most help for my readers. It’s the way we handle adversity and work through the inevitable pain we will all experience that matters.
“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.” Robert Frost
Telling the story about my sisters’ “stealing” the baby names I had carefully planned for my own children helped me get a glimpse at their side.
Though my book still fits into the self-help genre more than memoir, the stories of my life woven throughout helped me strengthen my belief in myself, honor others who played a role in my life, and share parts of my life my children haven’t heard before. Most of all, those stories demonstrate the message my book shares with memoirs:
Choose to be a victor, not a victim.
Thank you, Flora for sharing your wisdom and experience of writing your book, Your three tips resonate with me and I’m sure will touch many readers, especially “Sharing the embarrassing and painful parts of my life were exactly what I needed for my own healing and would be the most help for my readers.”In sharing your vulnerabilities, you are sharing your strength and showing us the role facing and sharing our pain plays in the healing process. I am excited about the publication of Color Your Life Happy and look forward to having you back when the book is published in June, 2015.
About the Author:
Flora Brown is an author, book coach, and a confirmed coffee snob with a unhealthy love of British murder mysteries. When she’s not writing, travelling, or researching (OK, spending too much time on the net) she helps aspiring authors steer clear of self-publishing pitfalls to potholes. When it was clear early on that she wouldn’t become an accomplished pianist and make her mother proud, she turned her love of bossing other people around into a 40-year teaching career, goading students toward excellence in junior high through university levels. Her 11th book, the 2nd edition of her book, Color Your Life Happy will be available June 2015. In the meantime, you can get free eBooks from her websites http://www.ColorYourLifeHappy.com and www.ColorYourLifePublished.com and follow her on social media.
How about you? How do real-life events influence your ability to write your story and spread your message?
We’d love to hear from you. Please leave your comments below~
Next Week: I’m back from my Lenten Sabbatical!
“I Did An About-Turn and Found the Right Road: Reflections From My Lenten Sabbatical”
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