Sarah Nannen – Book Journeys Author Interview Transcript – June 23, 2017

Book Journeys Author Interview – June 23, 2017

 

Maggie McReynolds with Sarah Nannen, author of Grief Unveiled: A Widow’s Guide to Navigating Your Journey in Life After Loss.

 

“Writing a book can be a really powerful and transformational journey when you have the right support.” ~Sarah Nannen

 

Maggie:

Hi, everybody, and welcome to another episode of Book Journeys Radio. Every week, on Book Journeys Radio, we talk to a accomplished authors who have gone from simply having an idea for a book to an actually finished book that’s out there and making a difference in the world. Our goal for this show is for you to walk away inspired and motivated to write your book, whether it’s your first or your third. Today’s author is Sarah Mannen. She is a grief and life coach. He book is titled Grief Unveiled: A Widow’s Guide to Navigating Your Journey in Life After Loss. Welcome, Sarah, it’s great to have you here. How are ya?

 

Sarah:

Thanks, Maggie! I’m so happy to be here.

 

Maggie:

Awesome! To help … orient our listeners, I like to start with the same super basic question. It’s … obvious from your book’s title, but in your own words, can you tell us what your book’s about and who it’s for?

 

Sarah:

Absolutely! Thanks for asking that question. My book is, obviously, for widows. I wrote the book because I am a widow, and the whole purpose of the book is to show people that there’s a different journey they can take in life after loss, that doesn’t look like surviving. It’s a journey that you undertake that really takes you deep into the story of who you are and who you are becoming and how you untangle yourself from the limiting beliefs that culture gives you and that you experience along your grief journey to … transform into the person that the journey takes you to becoming.

 

Maggie:

Yeah. I’m guessing that, no matter what the age, no one – no one expects or anticipates becoming a widow, right?

 

Sarah:

No. It’s actually interesting. I think that’s the – the one thing we all know for sure is that we will all, at some point, die and no matter the age, it seems that we are always stricken with this grief, even when … the person who passes is 87 or 93. It’s always this surprising intensity and grief, and so, it’s not something that we, as a culture, have a really great model with interfacing with, and so, I’m excited and honored to be able to be having a different kind of conversation about grief.

 

Maggie:

I love that. Thank you. I heard a rumor that you – you wrote your book, … a hundred times? Seven times? Three times? Tell me about that.

 

Sarah:

It felt like a hundred times, actually, but it was – it was more like three. I tried to write book – the wrong book a couple of times, and Angela so kindly kept helping me, reminding me of the book I was actually intending to write.

 

Maggie:

That’s interesting. So, it wasn’t simply different iterations of this book, it was other books altogether. ….

 

Sarah:

Yes and no. It – it was me – … along the – throughout the process of “Idea to Done” with Angela, it became so much more about that I had to become the person who wrote the book before I could write it, and a lot of the first iterations of the book was me still hiding and being afraid to step into the message and sharing the message, because it is – it is outside of cultural norms and asking people to open to an entirely different way of looking at something that’s fairly locked into our belief systems about the way things are in the world. And it felt really … for me to be the person sharing that message. And so, I – I hid the first time around. And her process helped me see that, that I actually wasn’t saying what I wanted to say. So, the second time I went and took a stab at it, I became Professor Sarah, and again wrote a similar book with all of the wrong words once again. And … –

 

Maggie:

Academic. Yeah.

 

Sarah:

– figure it out me, right? That’s exciting of other people and using other people – prove and works approve what I was saying was true and – and so, Angela’s process really helped me claim that I was the person who is called to share the message, and to just share it and be vulnerable and be really open and share powerful stories of my own as well as those of my clients to help … show what the message was instead of having to bolster it with all those other people’s words, that I was enough of a person to share the message that could create a space for powerful change.

 

Maggie:

That’s really interesting. So, I – I’m hearing that it’s easy, at first, to feel … who am I – who am I to write this book? Who am I to get this message out there? I know, I’ll quote other, more important and meaningful experts. Right?

 

Sarah:

Absolutely.

 

Maggie:

Yeah. Yeah.

 

Sarah:

Absolutely, it –

 

Maggie:

What do you – what do you wish now, that you had known, before you wrote the book?

 

Sarah:

Well, I wish I knew that vulnerability is really the way to go, and I could have just written the book the first time.

 

Maggie:

Yes.

 

Sarah:

But that was a journey I needed to take, to become the person who wrote this book, but also, I was trying really hard to be a – an author and also a mother of four. I’m a single mother of four as a widow, and so, there’s a lot of demands on my time, and so it was hard for me, creatively, to move back and forth, and I tried to do that for a long time within this book writing process, so…. “All right, I’ll write for an hour and then I’ll go pick up my kids, and then I’ll write for two hours, and then I’m not gonna pick up this book for four days,” because all of these things need to happen, and it wasn’t until I realized that I really needed to honor the importance of what I was doing that I was able to finish the book. So I actually – for the final manuscript creation, I checked myself into a local hotel for four days and just created this writing sanctuary and dedicated every minute of my time to just really nurturing my creative self, sleeping when I needed to and writing when I self-inspired to, and really just honoring what I was doing. I think, before, it was still me hiding from the fact that I was writing a book, and so, by creating that really important phase to just dedicate my time and energy to only writing the book, it was really giving myself permission to – to, again, become the author of this book, and making that a real thing that I was doing instead of a side hustle that I was … cutely pretending to do.

 

Maggie:

Oh, I love that, that’s so interesting. So, it’s li – it’s …, “Well, I’m not really writing a book, I’m – I’m just noodling over this while I’m eating a tuna sandwich,” right?

 

Sarah:

Yeah. Yeah. It was – … it took a while for me to honor that it was a real thing that I was doing, so that was exciting, to get to that place where I was … honoring it as an important piece of my life and my day, and that it was worth investing in myself, to give myself that space in a very busy life, to take the time to create this book so I could share this message.

 

Maggie:

Yeah, I wanna draw that point out, ‘cause I think a lot of writers and – and prospective writers – I’ll use that term – feel like they need to have some special magic or that, … writing has to look like going away for three months, and in a cabin in the woods and so, I really wanna repeat here, for the listeners, Sarah is a single mother of four. And that alone – … even if there were – even if you had no complications in your life, … it’s a pretty … running household. Still a single mother of four. And yet, you wrote your book, and how long did it take you to get, let’s say … a first draft you were happy with? Once you … locked in?

 

Sarah:

A couple of months. … really, I started writing in January, and that wasn’t even the writing, that was the beginning of the program with Angela, which was so brilliant and had nothing to do with writing and everything about getting really clear on what you were writing before you ever began. So, I didn’t actually begin writing the book in earnest until probably February, and March was when my cohort met – that was when my first rough draft of the manuscript was due, so I really spent a month writing the book and then, some time after that, really honing it and tweaking it. So, that was when the third iteration really came through, so – but a couple of months from start to finish, and that was mind blowing. I really believed that it had to be this long suffering, torturous process where I never slept and … that archetype of the writer who’s always tortured.

 

Maggie:

Right. And – … and possibly drunk, …. Or drinking.

 

Sarah:

Yes. Definitely. Right.

 

Maggie:

The whole Hemmingway myth. Yeah. Did you – so, … once you were … into the groove, did you have moments where you – it just wouldn’t come? … writer’s block, where you’re just … staring at the screen in a big “duh”?

 

Sarah:

… it was really nice that Angela’s system really helped us identify when we had those moments and if we were having those moments, and she also gave us permission to write a bad first draft of the book. And so, that helped me so much, letting go of my perfectionism and just writing something and then making sense of it later. So, I guess that’s two answers to the same question. I did have writer’s block a few times, but there was such a beautiful built-in system where she … teaches this, that it’s not this thing that you have to outsmart or outlast or overcome or force your way through, …. It’s more of, well, what is this – … what message is inside of this that you need to really pay attention to? Are you trying to write the wrong book, are you – are you … is your inner author trying to protect you from writing something different than what you – than what you set out to write, and so, learning how to listen to the writer’s block for messages about clarity and what we’re actually creating was – was really nice, but also just being given permission to not have to write a perfect book on the first go-round and having a team of people to help you get it right, eventually, by the time it was published was – was really a big ….

 

Maggie:

There are times when it just makes sense to step away from the keyboard. Yeah.

 

Sarah:

Oh, yes. Oh, yes. And that was a great thing, too, it – there is a lot of clarity when you just step away for a few days and then come back. And sometimes, I came back and – and looked at what I wrote and said, “Oh! Hm. That’s really – I didn’t know I wrote that! That’s probably not what I was trying to say.” And other times, you were just refreshed, you had new energy to – to bring to creating again, so….

 

Maggie:

Yeah. Yeah. So – so, before the – the first of your three tries, … had you tried to write a book, in the past, on your own?

 

Sarah:

Oh, no, absolutely not, but I spent a lot of time thinking about writing a book.

 

Maggie:

Ah! There’s the key distinction. So, … a lot of … throat clearing and warming up and just … thinking about it in your head.

 

Sarah:

Yeah. … I had no idea what book I would write. I – for a long time, … since probably high school, I had been thinking, “One day, I would like to write a book.” “It would be really great to write a book.” “I should write a book,” and a lot of people, over the course of my life, have told me, “You should write a book.” So, it was … a cute thing I might do someday, and after my husband died I – I came … back around to wanting to write a book, and I knew it was gonna be about that journey. I wasn’t quite sure what the message would be. I thought it might be a memoir, and eventually it got more clear that it was … gonna be some type of self-help, helping people explore grief. But it wasn’t – I wasn’t exactly sure what I would be writing about until I … a couple guys to writing book proposals and I talked to my life coach about it and I scheduled some time into my life to write, which I never actually wrote. I wrote some blog posts about it, and some Facebook posts, but I never actually endeavored to write the book. I just thought about it a lot, it was a thing I was gonna do someday.

 

Maggie:

Well, I hear that signing up for the – the program at the Author Incubator and with Angela was – made the difference for you, but what specific aspect to the program do you think came in – into play, that actually helped you get your words out to – and more importantly, … finish?

 

Sarah:

There’s a couple of things, I think, that were perfect inside the program.

 

Maggie:

Oop! We seem to have lost Sarah, so I’m hoping she’s gonna call back in. I wanna remind you that Sarah Nannen is a grief and life coach. Her book is available on Amazon. It’s called Grief Unveiled: A Widow’s Guide to Navigating Your Journey in Life After Loss. Sarah is a – has been … modest and hasn’t talked too much about her personal journey, but as you can probably tell from her voice, she is a young woman and … widowhood wouldn’t have been anything that would have been on her radar. I’m … not convinced it’s on anybody’s radar, at this point – at any point in your life, no matter how old you are. I think we all have an intellectual understanding that our spouses will die and that they may die before we do. But I don’t know that that translates into emotional readiness, and I’m – I’m sure, in Sarah’s case, it isn’t for her. I don’t know that it does for – for any widow I’ve ever met. So, the bravery that she found, to actually write about this, to give it meaning, to not only … write a memoir, certainly tell her story, but more importantly, to take it to the level of self-help, to take it out into the world as a message to create healing. And discuss what grief – what grief means, in contemporary society and how we treat it, as a culture. Statistically, women live longer than men, even if there aren’t any accidents or – or tragedies or unexpected things happening, and many of us women will find ourselves widowed at some point. So, it’s a super important conversation that Sarah’s having. Sarah joined the Author Incubator just after Christmas and began to write her book with us. Oh, good, she’s back. I’m gonna click on her mike so she can tell you her story and – and I could stop doing it for her. Hey, Sarah.

 

Sarah:

Hi, Maggie! Sorry, I didn’t know what happened.

 

Maggie:

That’s really okay. I was just doing a little riff on grief and your journey and starting to talk about the program. We were talking about the most important aspects of the program that you felt helped you not just write the book but finish it.

 

Sarah:

Yes. Lemme say what I said to no one, again, so everyone can hear me this time. I was saying that there’s two parts to – to Angela’s program, to the “Idea to Done” program that – that made this book become a real thing instead of something I was thinking about, and one was just providing a path to completion. What was keeping me so paralyzed was thinking about, “How do I write a book? It’s not the writing that I’m scared of. It’s the book proposal and the sending it to someone in some office somewhere, hoping they’ll look at it and expecting to get ten thousand ‘no’s back.” That whole – the whole process of having someone to choose you to even believe in you enough to write the book was so overwhelming to me. I just – I didn’t even give it … the energy to begin, it kept me stuck. So, having this program that I could apply to, that I could be accepted to, and have someone say, “I’m going to take you to the finish. I know all of the steps to make this happen.” That was huge. … it took all of this fear factor out of, “Will this work? Can I actually make this into a book?” … just gave me the energy to just focus on the writing piece. But she also really helped me get clear on what I was going to say, because I didn’t come to the program with a clear book idea. I wanted to write about grief. That was really my – what I told her, so she helped me get really clear on what book I was writing and who I was writing it for. And once I got that clear, it was – it was – it was so much easier, to write the book, because I didn’t have to spend all my time trying to figure that out. It was already determined before we ever wrote the book, before I ever wrote a chapter. I was already really clear on what book I was writing.

 

Maggie:

So, there’s really no question, going into this program, in your mind that you will finish. … it’s built in, right?

 

Sarah:

Absolutely. Yeah. Absolutely. That was ….

 

Maggie:

…. Sure, I imagine going back to writer’s block and – … and trying to envision the – the – the project being completed, your book being completed, it – it just takes so much of that negative energy out of the process, right?

 

Sarah:

Absolutely.

 

Maggie:

Because the outcome is a given. Yes.

 

Sarah:

Yes. I know, at the end of this, I will have a book, and it will be a real thing in the world that people will be able to read. That was – that was such a gift, to be a part of that, where there was no energetic fear, “Oh, I hope someone chooses me, anybody, really.” And … the other piece was that I was a little afraid of standard publishing world, where I had this belief that – that I was gonna give up a lot of my rights to the process, that they were gonna tell me what I had to write or what I couldn’t say or how it had to come through, or – and so, it was really nice that, within this program, I didn’t have to … feel protective or defensive of the message. It was really important to Angela and her team and my editor that my – my true message came out in my words, that it wasn’t anyone else’s to tweak or modify. So, that was – that was also really empowering, that I knew from the start that my message was gonna be clear, that I had a say in the way that the world saw it, that it wasn’t gonna be dictated by someone else.

 

Maggie:

Yeah, right? … I do think that, in a traditional publishing model, there isn’t much control for the writer, and … you give away your rights to your work, you give away a lot of your profit. And, yeah, there’s that whole “pick me, choose me, like me,” stance that’s – that’s kinda icky, right?

 

Sarah:

Yeah, …. It felt icky, and so, it was really – it was really refreshing to – to hear Angela tell about her program on another podcast, and as soon as I heard her talk about it, I was …, “This! Why isn’t everyone just doing this? This feels so much better. This feels safe, this feels juicy, I feel empowered, … this is what I want.” … winner.

 

Maggie:

Yeah! Yeah. So, your book published a month or two ago?

 

Sarah:

It’s coming out next week, actually. ….

 

Maggie:

It’s coming out next week! Oh, my goodness. … launch team. That’s how excited.

 

Sarah:

Yeah. Really excited.

 

Maggie:

So, … what’s been the best thing so – .. you’re still … in the middle of it, but what’s the best thing so – … it’s done, right? You’re – you’re done?

 

Sarah:

Yes. Yes, I’m done!

 

Maggie:

You’re – you’re in the – you’re in the chute of the log ride at this point.

 

Sarah:

Yeah. It’s so great.

 

Maggie:

So, what’s – what exciting things have happened since you’ve started writing? What’s the best thing that happened, so far?

 

Sarah:

Well, I love that I’m having so many powerful conversations with people about grief. And not just widows, … I’m launching a – a widow coaching program that I’m so excited about, and I’m – and I’m working with a lot of people one-on-one, which is wonderful. But it’s really just exciting to be having a place where people are coming toward me because they want to talk about grief and they’re curious about what it’s like and they’re curious about, “How do I show up with someone who’s grieving?” So, it’s – it’s a conversation that’s really applicable to everyone, not just a widow or a widower, or …. We all interface with grief. We all have iterations of it, whether it’s losing a child or a pet or a job or a limb. … there’s grief that comes with any kind of loss, and so, one of my book is written specifically to widows, it’s – it applies to everyone, and I just – I love that I’m – I have permission now, to have a conversation with people and that they feel inspired and empowered to come toward me and have that conversation. It’s like an invitation for people to come toward me and talk about this thing that we don’t talk about.

 

Maggie:

Yeah! …. Say a little bit more about that. That’s cool, that you have permission to talk to people. As opposed to being, … random person on the street, you mean?

 

Sarah:

Right, right. No, I think there’s something – I think there’s something powerful in having written a book that – that other people acknowledge you as some sort of subject matter expert, or someone who has something interesting to say about something.

 

Maggie:

Right.

 

Sarah:

So, it’s – it really just – it gives you – it also gave me the empowerment to own the topic, because before – before I endeavored in writing this book, I’ll be honest, I – I’ve – for a long time, I didn’t wanna be a person who wrote a book about grief, and I didn’t wanna be a grief coach, because there was already such a strange social stigma attached to me as a widow, that I wanted to be able to give a fun answer at a party when someone asked me what I did, even though I was a widow. … it’s – when you tell people that you’re a grief coach, they’re …, “Oh! Oh, is that really hard?”

 

Maggie:

Yeah. Yeah, well, yeah!

 

Sarah:

But – and so, it – so, it – writing the book gave me – … I felt empowered to claim this as the thing that I’m doing. But I have a message of change and hope and transformation that I’m – that I’m excited to be talking about. And so, it … lifted that stigma out of my belief system and allowed me to talk about this in an empowering – an empowering way of other people. So, it gave me – I gave myself permission, finally, to talk about it.

 

Maggie:

What about the pro – the personal process for you? So, you’d been through something big, you’ve been through something life changing. You’ve been through something traumatic. What was the gift in there for you, about writing a book about it, stepping into a different phase?

 

Sarah:

Well, it’s a – it’s a long journey, and I don’t know that – it’s everyone that’s completed, but it – it certainly changed my whole world view, and it changed the person that I was and – and so much more about writing a book about it. It was really – it was really beautiful, honestly, to share what I’ve learned from my own experience and from the experiences that clients have shared with me about their grief journeys. It was really empowering and beautiful to share that collection of wisdom that is – is not part of our cultural norms.

 

Maggie:

Yup.

 

Sarah:

With the world, because it’s – its’ offering hope and empowerment and I hope inspiration and belief in possibility to people where there is none.

 

Maggie:

One, and I can imagine – … I know you’ve been doing coaching and grief work with clients, but the act of – of taking a personal experience – … a tragedy, even, and deciding, “I’m not just going to move through this for my own personal empowerment,” … but I’m going to take this out to the world. I’m going to turn this into something in which I can be of service.” Right?

 

Sarah:

Yeah. Absolutely. Absolutely. That was – that was a really – … there was a turning moment, turning point moment when I – I knew that that was something I was being asked to choose, and it really was one of those “hit your knees on the kitchen” crying moment, was when I said “yes” out loud to becoming this person, to having this conversation, to offering this different lens of looking at grief in the world, just like I used to do as a birth educator and a doula, helping women see pregnancy and childbirth in a different way. I feel like I’m just shining that light on a different realm of a very human and intimate experience.

 

Maggie:

Well, that’s a naturally interesting, ‘cause that’s … a bookend, birth and death are a part of life that we’re sure much happier if we’re talking about one than the other.

 

Sarah:

Absolutely. Absolutely. But we’re – I think we’re having a – a really – we’re having a really mixed up conversation about both of them. There’s a lot of lemming beliefs about birth and pregnancy. In my classes, people used to say, “… I’m expecting my birth to be gross and scary and painful and bloody and traumatic and dangerous.” And so, the cost of it, really, is about reframing that whole belief system and saying, “Well, what if it’s – … what if it’s an intense experience that can also be beautiful and transformational?” And that’s really what I’m doing in grief. I’m not dishonoring the fact that it is painful and that it is hard and it’s exhausting and it’s a long path. And it’s really scary when you do it alone in a world where people can’t quite see what you’re experiences, through their lens of what they think it’s supposed to be. So, I’m excited to be someone who can shine some light into that and say, “Yes, it’s hard, and yes, it’s painful, and yes, it’s scary, and you also get to grow inside of this and you also get to shift inside of this, and there is support for you. And you can become something beautiful.”

 

Maggie:

…. Yeah. How great, that – that doing this program, writing this book, gave you another tool to be that message in the world. What … advice would you give to someone listening, who – who wants to write a book but either can’t figure out how to get started, or they’ve got their outline or there are three paragraphs and they just haven’t been able to finish it?

 

Sarah:

Well, I think I would tell them to stop trying, first of all. And I would just – … that’s the thing, when we’re trying, we’re really just forcing something into being, or we’re trying to – … we’re going at it from the wrong angle. And so, I would – I would just say, connect with Angela, and that – the “Idea to Done” people. They will help you get really clear on what you’re wanting to say and who you’re wanting to say it to. And they’ll help you birth that book that you are called to write, so you can serve the world in a bigger way. It’s – it doesn’t have to be hard, it doesn’t have to be long, and you don’t have to do it alone, just like all of these other things we’re talking about, birth and – and the grieving. Writing a book can be a really powerful and transformational journey when you have the right support, so don’t keep forcing it. Just find someone that you resonate with to help guide you there, and let it be easy.

 

Maggie:

So, it’s what? It’s almost the end of June, let’s say it’s the beginning of July. If someone were to say, “Yes,” today, … or this week, they’d have – they’d be – they’d be out on Amazon when? Three months? Four months?

 

Sarah:

Let’s see. If they started the program – I guess, it’s nine weeks, “Idea to Done,” is that right?

 

Maggie:

Yeah.

 

Sarah:

You have a man – … you have a finished manuscript in hand in nine weeks, and then, a month later, your book is on Amazon. So, it’s about four months, I think? …. Yeah.

 

Maggie:

Yeah. That’s amazing, isn’t it? Es – especially for all – all of us, and I was one of them, Those writers out there, or would-be writers, to imagine that you have to slave for your life to write a book.

 

Sarah:

Yes. It breaks all the rules that everyone believes about what it is to write a book, and it’s so fabulous.

 

Maggie:

Yeah, I love that. That is so cool. Thank you, Sarah! Thanks for being here, today!

 

Sarah:

Thanks so much, Maggie! It was so fun to talk about it and reflect on the journey with you.

 

Maggie:

Absolutely! Sarah Nannen is a grief and life coach, and her book, Grief Unveiled: A Widow’s Guide to Navigating Your Journey in Life After Loss, will be coming out on Amazon next week. So, check it out. Check out the Author Incubator and her journey, and if you’ve got a book in you, we can help you get it out! It’s been great, thank you all for listening, thank you for being here. Thank you, Sarah, and we’ll talk to you next time. Have a great day.

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