The party celebrating Simply . . . Woman was electric! Contributing authors travelled from all over the world to the Radisson, a posh hotel on Toronto’s waterfront. They arrived from far-flung parts of Canada and the US, plus from the UK and Aruba. Contributors from Liberia (via Sacramento), South Africa, and Palestine were unable to come but were there as live as possible through Facebook posts.
The buzz was largely because for many this was their first time publishing their stories. We all knew the contributors’ lived lessons had the potential to heal other women but many didn’t consider themselves writers and were overwhelmed in their attempt to figure out how to get their stories out of the heads and hearts and onto paper. They were, therefore, as enthusiastic as Price is Right contestants when Crystal Andrus Morrissette called for them to “come on down.” She was calling for women ready to share and heal. And I was their first editor. I helped them figure out which story to tell and how to tell it. For me, meeting the women at the party, women I had worked with for months, was very emotional. This book contains 30 stories of journeys to self-acceptance. That’s THIRTY WOMEN, including myself, who I laughed and cried with as we teased out the story that fit best this time and this compilation.
“Warrior Goddess” – You Wanna Be Like Naomi!
Imagine suggesting to a contributor who is living (and thriving) with Stage 4 Cancer that “we have several stories about cancer, let’s instead work on the story of the near loss of your child.” Sounds pretty callous, eh? But as the frontline editor of a series your view is on the drama of the piece and as a human, you can never forget that these stories actually happened. My job was to make sure that each story was amazing while also keeping an eye on the composition of the full book. And together, the team pulled off a book that is compelling, well-written, balanced, and tight. Light in some parts and incredibly heart-wrenching in others. It’s a book to be savoured perhaps, a story at a time, not read end-to-end all at once. But no doubt, some women may find themselves unable to stop as each story, each woman, has something different and unique to share about how they went from suffering to, as contributor Naomi Herrera’s piece is titled, “Warrier Goddess.”
Crystal Andrus Morrissette’s other books have been on bestseller lists all over the world and, notably, one made it to Oprah’s website more than once! What an achievement. The group is manifesting that their next reunion is in LA for a taping of an Oprah special. Nothing is off the table in terms of the limits we can reach with this book and on the impacts it will have.
It’s Hard to Be Vulnerable
As an editor of the book, my main challenges were the intensity of both the stories and the timelines. I needed to make sure that each story was as magnificent as the other. There are no “B Side” stories here! But one of my personal challenges was writing my own piece. Although I have been helping authors with their memoirs as a coach and editor for some years now, the type of writing I do professionally tends to be for the school market. Writing a story about habitat restoration can indeed make you very upset when you consider that the endangered Florida panther’s main predator is the automobile! Did you know that despite there being only around 200 panthers in the whole world, in 2016, 42 of them were killed by cars? Just imagine being a driver who took the life of something so precious! Knowing the human-caused predicaments of many species of animals is certainly enough to leave you sobbing.
But I digress . . . as I often did while working on my piece.
Steeped in writing in a more journalistic style, my first story was about how racism impacted my family and it contained a thread of the personal but then it immediately veered towards the safe: I started loading my story with statistics and facts, rather than experience and trauma. I kept rewriting, but at first, I just couldn’t do it: I couldn’t “go there” as I pretty much demanded, pushed, and prodded the other writers to do. I couldn’t expose that vulnerability and the fear that were the basis of many of the decisions I have made throughout my life, especially those decisions that almost cost my son his life.
Is Being “Nice” An Obstacle to Authenticity?
Mine was one of the last stories to be completed. When I finally took my own advice, I cried as I typed. When I delivered the story to Crystal, I had to take the rest of the day off as I trembled, wondering if I could actually release what I had just written. But by sending it off, it was out of my hands and being shaped into the exceptional story you’ll find within the compilation. And I am so proud to stand tall and say those words with confidence and without fear that bragging isn’t “nice.” Nice can sometimes be the enemy of authentic, I’ve found. And trying to be nice put my son in danger. So my story is an incredible feat for me. I told my tale and I do not care that some may say revealing how their actions almost killed me is less acceptable then the vile behaviour that caused the traumatic events in the first place. To them, I say “choose a finger.” To you, I say “to find out more, hit that “BUY” button below.” You’ll then be immersed in stories that won’t leave your soul — and, by the way, my story starts on page 259…
So when we all met, all of us contributors who signed autographs and who stood on the stage being applauded for our courage, it was a life-changing affair. We laughed, hugged, cried, and danced until 4:30 in the morning, meeting for breakfast not many hours later. Admittedly, I’m not one who has done many (okay, any) empowerment courses or retreats, but while meeting with Lisa Francis and listening to her journey from having amnesia after trauma to being an oracle and healer today, I am so keen to be as emotionally “woke” as many of the women I met over the last few months. So many of them found personal empower through Crystal’s SWAT courses and I’m in the enviable position of being a Senior Editor in her new publishing house through which, I imagine I’ll have many, many more experiences like those unforgettable experiences of the last few days.
“Powerful beyond measure…a must-read!”
The danger faced by the women was physical in many stories and emotional in them all. You’ll find women who have fought for their lives with their fists, their feet, with everything they had within this compilation. You’ll find women whose battles were against mental illness and cancer. Some were fights against their own shame and fear. Women recount behaviours they are embarrassed about. The one thing that threads through all of these stories is the courage that they all exhibited to get to a place of understanding, growth, and power which enabled them to, as the subtitle states, “rise against the adds.”
The community formed in creating this book has been validating for me. I have never felt such gratitude and love as that I have experienced through the participants of this project. So now I invite you to be part of it. Come with us as a little girl, feeling so unloved and that she has to take care of herself, hops on a bus in a busy metropolitan area and heads to the hospital alone, determined to go “get her blood.” You’ll hold your breath as a woman fights for her life in the back seat of a taxi in an impoverished city in eastern Africa. You’ll laugh out loud when you Katie and her family, a group as chaotic and loving as that on the TV show Shameless. You’ll cry with Karry Ann and Libbie. And oh dear, wait until you read about a woman who felt she had healed herself from the sexual abuse she had suffered as a child only for the trauma to reappear on what was supposed to be a beautiful and romantic honeymoon. Just a bit of the flavour of the thirty stories of this compilation.
And still . . . WE RISE
The Oracle herself, Colette Baron-Reid says the book is “powerful beyond measure …a must-read!” and I discovered her vibrancy and power for the first time during the event. I would love to invite you into the lives of some women you’ll never forget. Click on the link and you’ll be only 3-5 days away from meeting new friends, sister’s who’s experiences will have you gasping in one instance, laughing in another, then sobbing and horror-struck in others. Because after all, despite all that happens, we surprise our oppressors when we can still dance and love despite our past. As Maya Angelou famously stated, “still we rise.” You’ll find yourselves immersed in experiences that will empower you, some that will make you nod (or cringe) in recognition because we are all, every last one of us “Simply . . . Woman.”
You can purchase your book for $25 plus shipping, handling, and taxes by clicking here.
When you buy one of these amazing books, the money is going to support my non-profits. So these stories of amazing people overcoming odds will be helping autistic kids and adults with anxiety and depression to do the same.