Books I’m Crazy Grateful For

Books are many writers’ closest friends. It’s one reason we feel so compelled to write them. With Thanksgiving soon upon us, I decided to share a few books I’m CRAZY grateful for. I’m not sure my life would be the same without them…

I first read A CRY IN THE NIGHT by Mary Higgins Clark during the fifth grade, mostly tucked away in my loft bed with a bowl of Doritos. 😉 As Jenny MacPartland was swept off her feet by a talented, mysterious artist, so was I. As she discovered horrifying truths that threatened her life, I felt my own life being threatened. Great books take us out of our lives and into others.’ This book taught me that. And nothing had captivated me in such a way before. It marked the beginning of a ‘real life’ love affair—with mysteries, thrillers and suspense.

If Jenny MacPartland had THE GIFT OF FEAR by Gaven de Becker, there wouldn’t have been a book. De Becker is the leading expert on instincts, survival and violent behavior. His book features people who could have died at the hands of attackers, but didn’t. And whether they realized it or not, their fear helped save them. When I sense that someone’s following me, I now turn to look rather than dart away. I look suspicious people in the eye, observe their appearance. I know what to scream if I need to. And I won’t step into an elevator with someone who gives me the creeps. I may never know how much THE GIFT OF FEAR has helped me, which is perfectly fine by me! I recommend it to EVERYONE, particularly women. It’s an empowering book you’ll want to read time and again.

Julia Cameron’s THE ARTIST’S WAY had me in tears on the elliptical when I first began reading it. A passerby said, “If it’s so bad, you can stop.” I would’ve laughed at the workout angst joke, but I was too intrigued by the words before me. At the time, I was at a crux in my relationship and career and had no clue what to do. The ARTIST’S WAY is one of those books that feels like it was written for you. “How did you know that?” I kept wanting to ask. And like DeBecker, Cameron’s insight helped me help myself and has stayed with me since. The ‘morning pages’ exercise, free-writing three pages promptly upon walking, revealed answers I’d been seeking.

“I have an agent, so now what do I do?” This question led me to Kristen Lamb’s, ARE YOU THERE, BLOG? IT’S ME, WRITER. The web is overloaded with information for people who want to write a book, represent themselves or seek agents. But once you have one…not so much. An author friend said to “just keep writing. The agent does the rest now.” That didn’t feel right. I plugged random words and phrases into and came upon the title that to this DAY makes me laugh. It says so much and in such a funny, fun-loving way…Much like the whole book. It changed the way I view social media and life as a writer in hugely positive ways. If you haven’t read it (or WE ARE NOT ALONE: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media, also by Lamb), joined Kristen’s blog or the #MyWANA Twitter conversation, get out from under that rock! Er, I mean… It would be in your best interest to check them out. 😉
What books top your Crazy-Grateful-For list??? You know I love hearing from you. (A blessing I count often! ;))

The Dream Diet: The WRITE Way to Success

I had a long chat with a woman today who reminds me so much of my former self: lots of potential but too insecure to recognize her dreams, much less pursue them.

Perhaps the most important lesson my former career as a nutritionist/nutrition therapist and personal experience with weight and body image issues taught me is this: Failure to follow our dreams, to live largely and with gusto, makes way for weight, body image and food issues. And fixating on what we perceive as our primary issue (say, added pounds) will keep us from those dreams like a pack of guard-dog hyenas.

If we focus on the symptoms (those pounds) rather than the culprit (failure to pursue your passions), our symptoms will expand until they swallow us and our emotional well-being whole. Meanwhile, our dreams will slip away until we either forget we had them or keep us from recognizing them in the first place.

We’re not afraid of being large (or other negative adjectives), we’re afraid living large. God forbid we don’t succeed, right? Please tell that inner-naysayer to shove it; bumpy roads lead to success.

And how do these lessons relate to suspense, you ask? (Thanks for asking! Brings me to my next point…;)) We don’t simply want to read and write page-turner novels, we want to live them. Who wants a life in which we do not look forward to the next day while savoring the current one? In which challenges are simply obstacles worth surpassing and learning from–so we can get to all the saucy, thrilling good stuff? 😉 Since the day I claimed writing as my career, I wake up eager for what the day will bring. Heck, I daydream about it before I fall asleep at night. And guess what—food/body/weight “issues” have long since fallen to the wayside. The same has happened time and time again to friends and former clients.

I’m not suggesting that pursuing your dreams cause you to eat more fruits and veggies, swap pastries for whole grains or associate food with gratitude, rather than guilt. Nor will it make you instantly happier with you and your body, precisely as they are. But doing so can ease the process.

Not convinced? Try it. Before each meal, jot some notes down on your laptop or journal about your dreams. Complete the following: “If I had a magic wand I would…” (Sorry, ‘alter my appearance/weight/metabolism,’ is not an option.) Then plot some baby steps to help get you there.

As readers and writers, i.e., lovers of words, I suspect that Julia Cameron’s guidelines in the “Artist’s Way” will serve you wonders. Cameron suggests free-writing several pages each morning—free of self-judgment, whatever comes to mind. If you have no clue as to your personal obstacles, wishes and dreams or other issues you’re failing to face, they will show up in those pages. I’d put money—okay, granola bars—on it.

We love mysterious, suspenseful, thrilling stories…the way they captivate us, make our day’s stresses seem, for the moment, obsolete… (See more on this in my previous post, Thrill Therapy) Well, use your imagination. Your life is a story, of your own creation. Where is it heading? Who is the heroine? Most importantly, what does she most desire? If you’re so bold as to post your responses here, I promise to cheer you on wildly.

If you’ve already learned these lessons (hooray!), I’d love to hear your story.