In new thrilling LGBTQ+ romance, how far will one billionaire go in his quest for ultimate control and vengeance?


BORAS, Sweden – How does a man living a lavish life in multiple cities plan a complicated revenge plot while chasing a new, sexy romance? In the thrilling romance “Mr. Pink” (Oct. 6, 2020), by Patrick Hjertén, this billionaire does just that. Readers will be enthralled with Mr. Pink from the very start, a man who manages to continue living a glamorous, exciting life while seeking vengeance for a friend who was sexually assaulted.

Mr. Pink is usually busy being a bossy, controlling billionaire who owns a magazine, publishing house, and homes in both Stockholm and London. But he’s also busy planning revenge on a man responsible for his college best friend’s coma. When he’s not calling in favors, buying priceless artwork, manipulating the international stock market or indulging in light blackmail, he’s at the spa with his besties or enjoying a casual sexual encounter. Used to being in control of everyone, moody journalist Andreas keeps Mr. Pink guessing from the moment they meet.

And Mr. Pink can’t resist — or stay away. Will he be able to get the guy and stay focused on his elaborate revenge, or will this notoriously successful man find himself going under?

“Mr. Pink”
Patrick Hjertén | Oct. 6, 2020 | Gay Romance
Paperback | 9781735268903 | $12.99 | Ebook | 9781735268910 | $4.99

About The Author

Patrick Hjertén dwells comfortably in both England and Sweden, calling himself a Swedish country life and London city life mixture. He has dreamed of writing a novel since his grandmother read him books as a child and has been creating stories since then. Working as a freelance copywriter, writer, and as head of the business department of a Sixth Form College, Hjertén’s life passion remains all things creative, and his new novel gives insight into that fiery artistry. For more information, visit


In an interview, Patrick Hjertén can discuss:

  • Living in both England and Sweden and how his experiences in those locations inspired him in setting the novel’s location
  • The inspiration for the fiery and controlling yet charismatic billionaire Mr. Pink
  • Working as a copywriter and head of a business department and how that career path influenced his new path as a fiction writer
  • Writing for an LGBTQ+ audience and the importance of #ownvoices authors
  • His unique family heritage as a descendant of a 16th-century Swedish monarch

An Interview with Patrick Hjertén

Is there anyone in particular that you thought of when creating the character of Mr. Pink?

Growing up, I watched “Dallas,” “Dynasty” and “Falcon Crest,” and I loved them. I have taken characteristics from their more evil personalities on the shows, and I have also taken a lot from myself. You could say that Mr. Pink is a darker version of me — my evil twin.

How has your work as a copywriter and head of a business department informed you in writing a novel?

When it comes to copywriting you have to be creative on demand, so to speak. You have to use different tone of voices and you have to work against deadlines. Sometimes really tight deadlines, like one I had recently. This has given me the ability to have a diverse language, and many voices. And I am good at churning out text at a fairly high speed.

There are multiple facets to this novel — an LGBTQ+ relationship, a successful and powerful businessman, a woman dealing with sexual assault — where there any difficulties you found trying to create a cohesive narrative?

I sometimes describe my way of making up a story like when I make a beef stew. I look in my fridge and in my cupboards to see what I have. And then put in a bit of this and a bit of that. And then what happens if I add this? Stir, let simmer and voilá. Mr. Pink is a mix of my own life and own experiences, people I have met, and stories I have been told, all seasoned with inspiration from books that have touched me and ’80s prime-time soap operas.

How did your life in both Sweden and England help to inspire aspects of the book? Did you ever think about setting the book in a different location?

As I mentioned above, I have taken a lot from my own life and from things I have been told by others. I’ve then twisted it and pumped up the drama level. I used settings in England and Sweden, as well as in Los Angeles, because I know these places best. It is so much easier to write about places you know.

Can you talk a bit about your interesting family lineage — not everyone is literally descended from royalty!

It might sound strange but I have always been interested in royalty from the past, and I sort of felt that I was connected to them before I actually knew that I was linked to them. I am the descendant of Erik XIV, of Sweden, and his illegitimate daughter who he gave the name Virginia — he and his brothers had quite a few illegitimate children. They were all taken from their mothers and raised at the court of princess Cecilia (who also spent time at the court of Elizabeth, the first of England, and was a pirate princess). Erik’s father was a noble man who grabbed the power of the Swedish crown, but his mother was a German princess and the source to the really interesting characters. The families of power married each other back and forth. That is why I am connected to Charlemagne in 15 different ways.

When you read about them and the things they did to keep power and gain power it is on par with “Game of Thrones.” One example is the ancestor who had her second son killed so that the eldest could have all the power to himself. And then there’s the ancestor who was the illegitimate son of the duke of Normandy. He was the only one to inherit the title, but at one time, he was challenged and slandered. He had the hands and feet of these people cut off. Some years later, he became known as William the Conqueror when he conquered England.

What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

I hope that they will be thrilled, entertained and that it will be a page turner for them. And of course, that they will want to read more of my stories.

Fantasy novel mixes mythology and alternate dimensions for page-turning adventure


GREENSBORO, North Carolina – Author Alison Levy crashes onto the fantasy scene with the first installment of The Daemon Collecting Series, Gatekeeper (Spark Press, October 6, 2020). Using her writing to cope with anxiety, Levy expertly weaves a page turning story full of action, alternate universes, and heroism. Her vivid world building and unique characters show readers what it looks like to fight for survival while standing up for what is right, even if it’s risky.

In Gatekeeper, Rachel Wilde comes from a dimension that exists adjacent to ours. The people there have structured their society around daemon collecting: they locate, catch, and repair malfunctioning daemons (creatures out of phase with our world that tempt people to do good or evil). Now Rachel has been given two unusual assignments: 1) find a person who has been trying to break down dimensional barriers, and 2) track down a missing line of gatekeepers, human placeholders for a daemon that was too badly damaged to repair.

Authorities of Rachel’s world believe the missing gatekeepers are descended from a girl who went missing from West Africa hundreds of years ago, likely sold into slavery. With no leads to go on, Rachel seeks help from Bach, a raving homeless man who happens to be an oracle. Bach does put her in the path of both of her targets—but he also lands her in a life-threatening situation. Rachel must stop the criminal, reunite a gatekeeper with her stolen past, and, above all, survive.

“Gatekeeper: Book One in the Daemon Collecting Series”
Alison Levy | October 6, 2020 | Spark Press | Fantasy
Paperback | 978-1684630578 | $16.95
E-book | B083XM9M5Q | $9.95

About The Author

ALISON LEVY lives in Greensboro, North Carolina with her husband, son, and variety of pets. When she’s not writing or doing mom things, she crochets, gardens, walks her collies, and works on home improvement projects.

In an interview, Alison Levy can discuss:

  • World building and craft for fantasy writers
  • How she has used writing as a tool to cope with anxiety, and advice for others dealing with anxiety
  • How the fantasy genre as a whole has influenced her writing
  • Her connection to the characters, and how she delicately weaves in mental health topics to her writing
  • What she hopes readers will take away from this story

An Interview with Alison Levy

Can you tell us a little about how you started writing and what led you to this book now?

I wrote a story for an English assignment in 6th grade, a time in my life when my anxiety was particularly bad. My English teacher, Mrs. Webb, pulled me aside to praise my story and tell me what a good writer I was. It gave me a desperately needed shot of confidence. I’ve been writing ever since.

I’ve actually been trying for years to write this story the way I imagined it. I started and discarded two previous versions that I just wasn’t feeling. This time, I think I got it right!

How has writing impacted your life and your struggles with anxiety?

Living with anxiety, for me, is like having a tiger in the house: the tone of my day is dependent on the tiger’s mood. If the tiger is active, everything I do revolves around it; I can still get things done but if I do the wrong thing, it bites, and then I’m incapacited. Some days the tiger sleeps or wanders out of the room, but I’m always conscious of its presence and waiting for it to strike. Writing is hugely therapeutic for me. When I write, I can tune out the real world and dive into my creation. When my mind is fully engaged in creating, the tiger disappears.

What was the process of creating the world that your characters live in? Where did this story start?

This story started with my main character, Rachel Wilde. Rachel sometimes feels like the embodiment of an anxiety-free me; she’s brazen, resilient, sharp-tongued, and hard-headed. Throwing her into a difficult situation that would turn me into a pile of jelly and imagining her working through it is very empowering for me.

Your undergrad education was in anthropology — how did that influence your writing?

Anthropology teaches that we as human beings are products of the society we live in. Our day to day activities are not a universal experience; what is normal and mundane to us is exotic or bizarre to others depending on where we come from. I love inventing new cultures that are exotic and bizarre to the reader but normal and mundane to my characters.

What do you hope readers take away from this book?

I really hope my writing challenges readers to look at their own lives and cultures with new eyes. Being able to turn a critical eye on the day to day things that we usually take for granted is a crucial part of walking a mile in another person’s shoes. If we could all do this more, the world would be a better place.

Dancer’s memoir showcases compelling resilience against all odds after falling into dangerous romantic relationship


Healing and personal growth take center stage in “Eris Rising”

San Francisco, CA — A professional dancer, choreographer, and yoga teacher with talent in spades crosses paths with an enticing, yet manipulative man in Courtney Ramm’s honest memoir, “Eris Rising” (Acorn Publishing, Oct. 27, 2020).

As one of 229 offspring born from the controversial “Genius Sperm Bank,” a genetic experiment that existed in the 1980s and ’90s, Courtney found herself driven toward success. Following her passion for dance, by the age of eight she was studying at the renowned School of American Ballet and soon thereafter, performing on New York’s greatest stages. At twenty-five years old, she acted upon a strong inner calling to start her own dance company in Hawaii. Moving across the globe, Courtney brought along her endless to-do lists and a strong determination to succeed. But one thing was missing from the picture-perfect life she had imagined: a perfect husband. When she first locked eyes with Marcus at a spiritual gathering, she sensed something was off in the uncanny intensity of his stare. But she dove into a relationship anyway, not grasping the danger of the decision.

“Eris Rising” is a story of breaking deep karmic patterns, grappling with the calling of destiny, and changing long-held karma into mission. With the powerful feminine spirit of Eris as inspiration, Courtney’s brave memoir shows how it’s possible to move forward after life-altering harm, in order to find the true warrior within.

Praise for the author…

“This is a book you will insist your friends read next just so you can continue to talk about it long after you finish the final page.”
– Holly Kammier, best-selling author of Kingston Court

“Eris Rising is a scary-good book. Scary because it tells a story of a beautiful life gone sideways–so far sideways that the author is dangerously close to going over the edge. Against compelling odds, Courtney manages to right herself. Therein lies profound life lessons”
– Brad Alan Lewis, Olympic Gold Medalist and author of Assault on Lake Casitas

“Eris Rising: A Memoir of Finding the Warrior Within”
Courtney Ramm | October 27, 2020 | Acorn Publishing | Nonfiction, Memoir
Hardcover | ISBN: 978-1-952112-12-6 | $24.99
Paperback | ISBN: 978-1-952112-11-9 | $16.99

About The Author

Courtney Ramm: Born and raised in the heart of New York City, Courtney Ramm has followed her passion for dance since childhood, which led to a career as a professional dancer, choreographer, and teacher. She’s directed dance schools, performed, and taught all over the world, from Singapore to Thailand to Manhattan. With her Master’s degree in Dance Education, Courtney has led wellness retreats in Hawaii, focusing on empowerment and transformation. Courtney is the founder and artistic director of the non-profit dance company, RammDance. She blends her love of dance with holistic healing, and is a certified Pilates instructor, Yoga teacher, Ayurvedic consultant, Theta healer, Master Detox Chef, and Reiki practitioner. Alongside her focused training and career in dance, writing has always been one of Courtney’s passions. She knew she would write a book — although she never imagined her memoir would take such a twisted turn. Courtney is a full-time single mama to two toddlers. “Eris Rising” is her first book. For more information, please visit:

In an interview, Courtney Ramm can discuss…

  • Her writing process, and why she chose to document the painful experiences she had within an abusive relationship
  • The meaning of “genius,” and how even the smartest people can be susceptible to manipulation and harm from others
  • How she found the strength to leave a cult-like religious community and an unhealthy partnership that her life revolved around
  • Her passion for dance and holistic healing, and how she was able to regain her power and sense of self through these means
  • What the feminine warrior spirit Eris means to her, and why she chose Eris as her memoir’s namesake

An Interview with Courtney Ramm

You have had a longstanding interest in writing, and have always imagined writing a book. When it came time to write your memoir, what was the process like for you?

I truly felt called to write this book. It wasn’t a conscious decision at first, and the words would flood through my head at any given moment, sometimes at 3:30am! The process of writing was a practice of discipline, something I had to commit to every single day for an indefinite period of time until my story was complete. Writing my memoir was filled with all sorts of emotions: nostalgia, sadness, anger, joy, and ultimately deep fulfillment as I imagined finally sharing my story with those who need to hear it.

As one of 229 offspring born from the controversial “Genius Sperm Bank,” you have been in the media’s spotlight from a young age. In fact, your memoir opens with Lisa Ling interviewing you on the topic of genius. Has your concept of “genius” changed at all over the years?

I used to believe that genius meant you were unquestionably intelligent or talented in one specified area–a math genius, for example. I’ve come to understand that genius comes in many forms and the true meaning of genius is broader than I once believed. As I answered Lisa Ling when she asked, “Are you a genius?”, I truly believe that there is genius in every person–that each of us possess an outstanding talent or ability waiting to be tapped into.

The titular feminine spirit Eris becomes an important symbol for you as you regain your power following your escape from an abusive relationship. What can you tell us about Eris, and all that she represents to you?

Eris is actually the name of a planet in our solar system, discovered in 2005. Because of her size, Eris is considered a “dwarf planet”, although she is identical in size to Pluto (which was reclassified as a dwarf planet in 2006). Astrologically, Eris represents the feminine warrior spirit. Eris calls us to embrace our inner power and muster the courage to see the truth, to face oppression, and to fiercely protect what is sacred. In a world long fractured by patriarchal power, Eris comes to set things straight, to balance the scales. Everything I learned about Eris rang so innately true with my story. I feel very connected to Eris, so much that I decided to name my book after her.

You have many passions and talents that have guided you throughout your life, including dance, yoga, pilates and holistic healing. How have these practices helped you to remain grounded and uncover the warrior spirit within?

While I was going through the intense experience I write about in my memoir, I was actively teaching yoga and incorporating different holistic healing modalities in my life. I had a steady self-care practice that rarely waned, despite my circumstances. Even though my partner at the time called me “selfish,” I knew that taking care of myself was the best thing I could do for both myself and others around me. Mindful practices such as Pilates and yoga helped me calm my racing thoughts and connect to my true self, which eventually gave me the strength to find my warrior spirit within.

While recalling riveting — and often dark — real-life events, your memoir also provides an empowering message of hope, especially for readers who may have experienced similar pain in their life. What message do you ultimately want to share with your readers through “Eris Rising”?

When I sent my manuscript to friends for feedback, I was shocked and amazed at how many people resonated with my story, saying how “close to home” it hit for them. I reveal the dark moments because so many of us share these same experiences, and they need to be brought into the light so we can collectively heal and move forward. My story is proof that you can recover and rebuild your life even with the most painful and unexpected circumstances. Ultimately, my message is one of empowerment and hope.

What’s next for Courtney Ramm?

I’ve spent the last year in graduate school at NYU, where I received my Masters degree in Dance Education. It was an incredible experience that opened me up to new possibilities, and I am excited to be creating a curriculum for early childhood dance that incorporates the profound humanistic philosophies of John Dewey, Rudolf Steiner, and Isadora Duncan. I am also re-launching my non-profit dance company, RammDance. Now more than ever, we need the power of dance to connect us to each other and to our unique spirit within.

New children’s book illustrates a sweet, salt-of-the-earth story about a Cajun boy’s journey to become whole again


NEW ORLEANS, La. — Salty is a divine Cajun boy created from the salt of the earth — literally. Dwelling deep within the hidden caverns of South Louisiana’s ancient salt domes, Salty spent his days cooking and caring for the critters of the Cajun swamp. Salty’s life was one of mineral harmony.

But when a crew of burly salt miners arrive, Salty’s ordinary world suddenly changes forever. When the miners crush poor Salty’s body into a witty, gritty pile of granules, his strong Cajun spirit is bottled up in a tiny salt shaker bound for the dining tables of New Orleans’ lively French Quarter.

Finding himself in the kitchen of a cranky chef, Salty strikes up a friendship with a timid girl made of peppercorns encased in a glass pepper grinder, named Pep. Hailing from Southern India, Pep shares her native culture with Salty and he teaches her about life in Cajun country. Together, they help each other endure being crushed and bottled up during their quest to become whole again.

“Salty Strong: The ‘Whole’ Cajun Story” (May 2020, Archway Publishing) is a beautifully illustrated, uplifting children’s tale about the joys of learning about new cultures, having different experiences, and the unlimited power of friendship and giving.

Chris Whitson | May 2020 | Archway Publishers | Children’s, Picture Books
Hardcover | 978-1480888647 | $23.95
Paperback | 9781480888661 | $13.95
Ebook | 9781480888654 | $3.99

About The Author

Chris Whitson was born and raised in New Orleans and now lives in Orlando, Fl. He and his wife have four children and six fun loving, high energy, grandchildren.

“Salty Strong” is Chris’s first children’s book and is inspired by his love for his grandchildren and his own struggles with sobriety and journey to becoming “whole” again. Never a strong reader himself, Chris wants “Salty Strong” to inspire children to overcome their insecurities, give of themselves, and to stay strong and have Faith in the face of adversity.

“Change starts from within.”
Chris Whitson is a proud LSU Tiger fan and member of the Who Dat’ nation who loves Cajun Cuisine and the New Orleans “Jambalaya” culture. When he’s not spending time with his grandchildren, Chris can be found enjoying his Cajun and New Orleans cuisine favorites such as, crawfish, muffulettas, and fried soft shell crab po-boys — dressed, of course!

In an interview, Chris can discuss:

  • Writing about New Orleans and the unique, intriguing, Cajun culture and cuisine and its vast popularity.
  • Incorporating Southern and Cajun history into a children’s book
  • How he learned how to write for children
  • How his grandchildren and journey to sobriety inspired him to write
  • How his Faith inspires him
  • The importance of inspiring resilience in kids

An interview with Chris Whitson

What gave you the idea to bring salt to life?

Salt is natural and pure. It has played an important role in survival, culture, business, religion, and society since ancient times. The significance and history of the natural salt domes in Louisiana are not often mentioned in history books.

How do you relate to Salty’s story?

The book came from a place of gratitude. About ten years ago, my first grandchild was born and my journey with sobriety had begun. As I began writing with no clear intention, unintentionally, the book began to mirror a blend of my childhood joys and stresses and my adult struggles and path to overcoming them. It encompasses all of the most important teachings that I challenged and had to learned through decades of life experiences.

Can you talk a bit about the influence of New Orleans and Cajun culture on your own childhood?

I loved growing up in New Orleans. For me, New Orleans and Cajun cultures are a celebration of family, faith , and community. They are welcoming resilient people who work hard and like to share their joy, culture, and world famous cuisine with others. Once it’s in your blood, it never leaves you!

How did you balance including Southern history in your story while still making it digestible for children?

I kept it simple. True Cajun dialect is much more intense than reflected in Salty Strong. I thought it would be fun and a learning opportunity for kids to read a taste of a unique dialect. I kept it to what many in Louisiana call, “the dis, dats, dese, and dose”. Aka, “this, that, these, and those”.

What do you want kids to take away from this story?

At some point everyone has struggles and may feel “crushed” like Salty. It may be a struggle with bullying, illness, addiction, loneliness… Hang in there, have Faith, give of yourself, and open your heart to others. You will become whole and stronger than ever!

Clinical psychologists pen mindfulness guide that New York Times bestseller and renowned meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg calls “down-to-earth, practical, and insight-full”


From two experts on the psychology of behavior change comes “A Mindful Year,” an inspirational guide, urging and inciting readers to reconnect with themselves.

Releasing on paperback on Sept. 15 from Blackstone Publishing, “A Mindful Year” is a conversation between two friends and colleagues Dr. Aria Campbell-Danesh and Dr. Seth J. Gillihan, discussing tried-and-true practices for alleviating stress and anxiety.

It has never been easier to disconnect from ourselves amid daily demands and distractions. By integrating cognitive behavioral science and mindfulness practices, “A Mindful Year” is a practical guide to help people reconnect and re-ground themselves in what matters most.

With daily calls to action, Campbell-Danesh and Gillihan compassionately invite readers to break unhealthy habits, practice self-kindness and ask all of us: What would you try today if you didn’t fear making mistakes?

“A Mindful Year”
365 Ways to Find Connection and the Sacred in Everyday Life
Dr. Aria Campbell-Danesh and Seth J. Gillihan, PhD | September 10, 2019
Blackstone Publishing | Spirituality
Hardcover | ISBN 978-1982501839 | $26.99
Paperback | ISBN 978-1094091181 | $16.99
Ebook | ASIN B07PHMCGXJ | $9.99

DR. ARIA CAMPBELL-DANESH: Dr. Aria Campbell-Danesh, DClinPsy, CPsychol, is a doctor in clinical psychology and an expert in the fields of behavior change and long-term health ( A mindfulness specialist and creator of the FIT Method, he works internationally with clients on their mindset, exercise, and nutrition. He is regularly featured in popular lifestyle publications such as Men’s Health, Women’s Health and Marie Claire. Dr. Aria is an Associate Fellow with the British Psychological Society and Senior Associate Member of the Royal Society of Medicine.

SETH J. GILLIHAN, PHD: Seth J. Gillihan, PhD, is a licensed psychologist and Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychology in the Psychiatry Department at the University of Pennsylvania. He divides his professional time between psychotherapy practice, writing books and blog posts, and hosting conversations on living more fully for the Think Act Be podcast. His previous books include The CBT Deck; The CBT Deck for Anxiety, Rumination, & Worry; Retrain Your Brain: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in 7 Weeks and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Made Simple. Dr. Gillihan specializes in mindfulness-based cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety, depression, and related conditions. He lives outside of Philadelphia, PA, with his wife and three children.

In an interview, Dr. Aria Campbell-Danesh and Dr. Seth J. Gillihan can discuss:

  • The importance of taking responsibility for our own happiness
  • Reconnecting with our deepest values and letting our actions flow from them
  • How to make time for mindfulness in our daily lives – their book features 365 practices drawn from mindfulness and cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Their transatlantic relationship as friends and colleagues and how that shaped “A Mindful Year”
  • The many ways that focusing on our senses can ground us in the present
  • Practices for bringing awareness to our bodies
  • How to let go of the unhelpful stories we tell ourselves
  • Ways to strengthen and deepen our closest relationships
  • What it means to practice self-kindness
  • Developing gratitude even amid life’s challenges
  • The imperative of service
  • Moving through our worries
  • Opening to life as it unfolds
  • How to build emotional resilience
  • How to survive and thrive during times of uncertainty and difficulty
  • Why the brain is programmed to be negative and how to overcome this

An Interview with Dr. Aria Campbell-Danesh and Dr. Seth J. Gillihan

What is mindfulness, and why is it important?

Seth: To me, mindfulness means coming home. It’s coming home to the present—to the only moment that is ever really ours. It means coming home to ourselves and allowing ourselves to be just as we are. And it’s coming home to our reality, and the people who fill it. Through this homecoming we can find ease even when things are really hard, because we release unnecessary resistance to life as it is. 

There are many different meditation practices out there, so why is mindfulness particularly useful in alleviating anxiety and reconnecting with ourselves? 

Seth: Anxiety is about the future, and mindful awareness brings us into the present. When we center our attention on the present, we can step out of anxious preoccupation with the uncertainty that lies ahead. We also find ourselves there, in the present. That’s the only time and place we truly exist: our bodies, our breath, our sensations, our spirit. The truth of who we are is always in the now. 

Aria: When we’re feeling anxious, we’re living in our heads and fusing with negative thoughts about the future. Mindfulness grounds the mind in present-moment reality and allows us to see that just because we have a thought, doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily true. 

Mindfulness also involves acceptance of the ‘now.’ On a profound level, this includes accepting and reconnecting with who we are. Accepting ourselves doesn’t mean that we think that we’re perfect human beings. Accepting ourselves equates to being okay with who we are. We can see both our strengths and our flaws. We can sit with our quirks and our idiosyncrasies. With this acceptance comes a deeper sense of appreciation and ease.

Aria: The simplest definition of mindfulness is awareness. But awareness of what? Of our experience. Both our inner experience, such as our thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations, and our outer experience, including where we are and what’s happening around us. 

Mindfulness is important because it involves living in the present moment, right now, rather than ruminating about the past or worrying about the future. When we cultivate mindful awareness, we tend to be happier and have greater access to clarity, understanding, creativity and wisdom.

What separates “A Mindful Year” from other books on mindfulness?

Seth: This book offers daily applications of mindful awareness, based on a year of exchanges between two psychologists who are dear friends. As such, it provides the reader with 365 ways to apply the principles of mindfulness, and to hear from the writers about how they found these practices useful in their own lives.

Aria: There are naked photos of the authors scattered throughout the book. Only joking! In all seriousness, I believe it’s our personal friendship that especially distinguishes “A Mindful Year.” Writing every day to each other as close friends means that at the heart of our entries lives love, respect, humor and compassion. Over the course of the year I laughed and cried while writing and reading the messages to one another. I think the readers pick up on this authenticity and can relate the entries to their own lives.   

What are some challenges people face when first learning to practice mindfulness? How do they overcome those obstacles? 

Seth: The most common challenge is probably misunderstandings about what mindfulness is. Popular depictions of it first of all equate it with meditation, when mindfulness is really something we can bring to every moment of our experience. It’s also often tied to the trappings of religion and portrayed as something “extra” that we might add to life. But really it’s the simplest thing—being really and truly in our lives—and it’s available to all, regardless of religious or spiritual commitments. 

Aria: Judgement. We judge ourselves, we judge our thoughts, our emotions and our self-worth. The tricky part is that our minds have evolved with a negativity bias. This tendency to assume the worst is wonderfully effective from a survival point of view, but less helpful when it comes to happiness. The positive news is that the obstacle is the way. Mindfulness involves becoming aware of our judgments, and our tendency to buy into them. A mindful approach draws on qualities such as compassion, kindness, and curiosity. It offers a practical route to letting go of the attachment to judgments about ourselves and others. This is a daily practice, but one of the most worthy endeavors in life.

How did your backgrounds in clinical psychology influence “A Mindful Year?” 

Seth: Having worked with hundreds of patients provided me with invaluable perspective on the kinds of challenges all of us face, and creative solutions that so many people find to manage them. My clinical work was also a tremendous source of inspiration, having seen the strength and grace so many individuals bring to their often gut-wrenching difficulties. 

Aria: As a clinical psychologist you’re privileged to hear some of the most private and intimate thoughts and feelings of others. Something that has continually struck me over the years is that we’re all connected: we all face challenges in life, we’re all hard on ourselves, we’re all heartbroken at some point, we’re all trying our best. One of my personal goals in life is to empower people to bring the best out of themselves. I hope that Seth and I are able to do that with “A Mindful Year.”

While you are colleagues, you’re also friends. How did you decide you wanted to partner together on “A Mindful Year?” How did your friendship impact the way you approached writing this book together? Would the advice and concepts in this book be different if it wasn’t a collaboration? 

Seth: Aria and I knew we wanted to write a book together, because we both love writing and we wanted to blend our voices in a shared project. We chose this format as a way to do what we had discussed together for years: To find a means of discovering greater connection in our everyday lives. We knew it was possible to find deep connection to what we value most but found that it often eluded us. This collaboration was our attempt to foster more moments of mindful connection. It would have been a very different book if we hadn’t been such close friends. It wouldn’t have been as personal, as I think many of the things we shared required a deep level of trust. The tone would have been different, too—perhaps more clinical or academic, rather than warm and intimate. 

Aria: Over six years ago, Seth and I stood on a hill in the English countryside and as the light grew longer, we openly talked about what we cared about most: family, friends, and making a positive difference in the world, no matter how small. We wondered whether it was possible to maintain and strengthen our connections to the people and the passions closest to our hearts—especially during times of difficulty, distraction, and discontent. Writing this book became the vehicle to find out. At the outset of writing to one another, we both expressed how important it was to honor our friendship and therefore to approach the collaboration with honesty and authenticity. Because we care deeply for one another, we were committed to helping the other person to reconnect and reawaken to the present moment, with warmth, encouragement and compassion. As a result, the book is down-to-earth and relational: it’s real and so captures the multi-textured reality of life, with all its loveliness, ugliness, suffering and joy.

In your book you ask readers, what would you try today if you didn’t fear making mistakes? What’s your answer to that question?

Seth: I would live in line with the truth of who I am, which is what I strive to do now. That means worrying less about whether others will approve of my choices and focusing on where I believe I’m being led. It’s also meant being willing to risk making mistakes and recognizing that my job is to do my best, not to ensure success. 

Aria: I’d probably allow my own light to shine more, if that makes sense. I gain a deep sense of joy from helping others to live more freely and confidently. However, I tend to hold back and shift the focus of attention from myself to others. At the base of these habits are fears of being judged, losing humility, and being seen as different or as an ‘outsider.’ To borrow a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson that features in “A Mindful Year:” “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

Educator’s memoir shares eye-opening firsthand account of life under Gorbachev, the final leader of the USSR


San Miguel de Allende, Mexico –– The 1985–1991 policies of perestroika and glasnost marked a new age of openness and transparency in the USSR, leading to an increased mutual curiosity between ordinary Americans and Russians. Beginning with his first trip behind the Iron Curtain, Frank Thoms sought to engage in empathic conversations with everyone he met. Yet he understood he would be inside one of the most inaccessible countries on the planet. In the classroom, he forged close relationships with his students and colleagues. On the streets and in flats, he opened his heart to Russians, and they opened theirs to him.

Thoms went to the Soviet Union seeking to find common ground with its citizens — not to judge but to learn, not to bring America to them, but to be an American with them. As a result, he gained the trust and confidence of the people he befriended — and discovered much about himself.

Behind the Red Veil: An American inside Gorbachev’s Russia (SparkPress, Sept. 15, 2020) recounts Thoms’s quest to understand Russian culture through the eyes of its people. He spent his first twenty-five years as a teacher in New England pursuing an understanding of Marxism, Russian history, and Soviet Communism. He ventured to the USSR for the first time in October 1985 — Mikhail Gorbachev’s first year as general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Over the course of six additional trips, Thoms was twice selected as a US–Soviet exchange teacher of English in Leningrad (St. Petersburg). And twice on his own, he taught English in Moscow and Alma-Ata (Almaty), Kazakhstan. In 1994, in the aftermath of Gorbachev’s resignation, he took his final journey to the new Russia.

Praise for the author…

“An insightful perspective of an American educator’s experience within the Soviet education system. Thoms manages to write his story with warmth and wisdom. A delightful read.”
–Pavel Kozhevnikov, Lecturer, Russian Language and Cultures, University of Colorado

“Frank Thoms’s Behind the Red Veil is not only a souvenir from the USSR but also to a great extent an insight into what Russian schools feel deep inside. When Frank appeared at my school, he did not feel, look, or smell like a teacher. His teaching and learning was the Klondike of new experience, both for him and me.”
–Mikhail Baushev, former teacher at School Nº185

“Behind the Red Veil: An American inside Gorbachev’s Russia”
Frank Thoms | September 15, 2020 | SparkPress | Memoir
Paperback | ISBN: 978-1684630554 | $16.95

About The Author

FRANK THOMS: After forty years as a teacher and twelve as a consultant and keynote speaker, Frank Thoms became a writer, publishing four books: Teaching from the Middle of the Room: Inviting Students to Learn with Stetson Press, (2010), and three books with Rowman & Littlefield, Teaching That Matters: Engaging Minds, Improving Schools (2015); Exciting Classrooms: Practical Information to Ensure Student Success (2015); and Listening is Learning: Conversations between 20th and 21st Century Teachers (2019). He spent the majority of his teaching career with eighth graders in public and private schools in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. He coached soccer and hockey, directed an educational consortium, had his own darkroom, wrote op-eds, led bike tours, rebuilt his VW engine, played volleyball and softball, and served as an educational consultant. For the past nine years, he has lived with his wife in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where he continues to write, joined a philosophy group, mentors university students, and is a member of a book group. He is also on the faculty of the San Miguel Writers’ Conference and Literary Festival and serves as its Ambassador-at-Large.

In an interview, Frank Thoms can discuss:

  • What Gorbachev’s policies meant for Americans who wanted to learn about the “culture of the enemy”
  • His experiences as a teacher living and working in the USSR
  • Why he sought common ground with his students and colleagues, as opposed to trying to Americanize them
  • What major obstacles impeded his efforts to understand Russians and their culture
  • What surprised him the most about life in the USSR
  • What his friends, colleagues, and students ultimately taught him both about Russia and himself

An Interview with Frank Thoms

You have spent decades as an educator and have written multiple books on pedagogy. Your latest book, a memoir on teaching in Gorbachev’s Russia, has a clear appeal to fellow educators, but it also benefits the general reader. What message do you hope these readers take away from this book?

Russians are people who live with the hopes and dreams of all of us. Throughout the book, readers will feel the yearnings of my Russian friends’ wanting to come out from under the ubiquitous cloak of the Communist system and to be able to have choices in their lives. And they wanted to be listened to.

What did you learn about Russian culture during the time you spent living and working in the USSR?

Russians are kind, combative; generous, unpredictable; hopeful, depressed; loving, fearful; honest, deceptive; open, secretive. By invoking the matryoshka metaphor––Russian nesting dolls––I searched for the inner layers of Russian life behind the red veil. In the public sphere, they would focus on doing the bidding of those in authority. But in their flats––cocoons behind the red veil––people lived away from the Soviet veneer, the drab of daily life. We submerged into the moment, shared common understandings, and cultivated a mutual trust.

What did you learn about yourself during that time?

That my insatiable curiosity took me to places I probably should not have gone. That when being myself it endeared me to my students but could cause anxiety among my colleagues. That I could be me without pretense, which kept me from succumbing to others’ expectations. That when choosing to listen it provided me opportunities for growth and self-understanding. Like when I listened to Kazakh sixteen-year-olds share their thoughts about reincarnation.

When you returned to Russia in 1994 following the dissolution of the USSR, what had changed?

Except for upgraded hotels, new Finnish Intourist busses, Western billboards, and numerous foreign cars, I came back to a familiar country. It had the same shortages in shops, its tired busses, dirty back streets, people in drab colors, bábushkas in headscarves, and frustrated citizens with the profusion of old bureaucracies. As the Soviet Union had imported the old Russia, the new Russia was perpetuating former Soviet times.

How did your experiences in Russia shape your ideas regarding transcultural communications?

Be yourself. Come ready to blend with those with whom you meet. Be with them on their terms. When things don’t work out, stay within, wait, and let matters happen as they happen. As a foreigner, you are not in charge, not for one moment!

Do you have any advice for Americans who are trying to learn from other cultures in this current climate, in 2020?

In this time, people are longing for other lands, to travel to unknowns. Having to stay home, however, gives us time to venture virtually. The best way, in this author’s opinion, is reading good books––to escape, if you will, to other worlds, to other peoples. A book allows us to absorb other cultures, build visions inside our heads, collect emotions in our hearts at our own time and pace––and to set sights for traveling when time allows.

Author seeks to reconcile her grandfather’s Nazi past in thought-provoking new memoir


SOUTH BEND, IN – Imagine if you found out that someone you loved had a dark past. That happened to author Gabrielle Robinson, as she tried to reconcile the grandfather she knew with his complex past in her memoir Api’s Berlin Diaries (She Writes Press, September 15, 2020).

After her mother’s death, Robinson found two diaries her grandfather had kept while serving as doctor during the fall of Berlin 1945. He recorded his daily struggle to survive in the ruined city and attempted to do what little he could for the wounded and dying without water, light, and medications. But then the diaries revealed something that had never been mentioned in her family, and it hit Robinson like a punch to the gut: Api, her beloved grandfather, had been a Nazi.

In this clear-eyed memoir, Robinson juxtaposes her grandfather’s harrowing account of his experiences during the war with her memories of his loving protection years afterward, and raises thoughtful questions about the political responsibility we all carry as individuals. Moving and provocative, Api’s Berlin Diaries offers a firsthand and personal perspective on the far-reaching aftershocks of the Third Reich — and the author’s own inconvenient past.

“Robinson’s honesty, courage, and intelligence are crucial in coming to grips with questions of individual responsibility and collective guilt.” ― Helen Fremont, author of The Escape Artist and After Long Silence

“Api’s Berlin Diaries: My Quest to Understand My Grandfather’s Nazi Past”
Gabrielle Robinson | September 15, 2020 |She Writes Press | Memoir | Paperback | 978-1647420031 | $16.95 | Kindle | B0837LV4K4 | $9.95

Praise for Api’s Berlin Diaries

“As a record of post-war tribulation, Api’s Berlin Diaries is a poignant social history; as a search for an elusive, multifaceted grandfather, it’s a fascinating labyrinth.” — 5-star Foreword Clarion Review

“A fascinating and admirably honest account of a woman’s journey to reconcile her love for her grandfather with his membership of the Nazi party. The quotes from his diaries provide a valuable insight into the tumult and agonies of daily life for Germans during WWII. This is a moving and thoughtful book, and a must-read for anyone interested in the German experience during WWII and the legacy of collective guilt.” — Ariana Neumann, author of When Time Stopped

“Gabrielle Robinson has written a riveting account of the journey of discovery she made in order to come to terms with a much-loved grandfather whom she discovered long after his death to have been a card-carrying member of the Nazi Party. Using his unpublished diaries she exposes the mental torture he went through as a doctor, living all alone in the ruins of Berlin following German defeat in May 1945, a stock Prussian faced with the ghastly reality of monstrous German crimes in which he played no part and which he can’t quite bring himself to admit. It is the story of so many Germans then, possibly even the majority.” — Giles MacDonogh, British historian, and author of After the Reich

About The Author

GABRIELLE ROBINSON tells stories about people that reveal their personal situation within its historical context. One reason for her fascination with the intersection of the personal and historical stems from her own experience. Born in Berlin in 1942, her father’s fighter plane was shot down over England in 1943; after her family was bombed out twice, they fled Berlin in 1945, the beginning of a string of migrations that ended in the US. Gabrielle holds an MA from Columbia University and a PhD from the University of London. She has taught at the University of Illinois, at Indiana University South Bend, and abroad, and has won a number of awards for her writing and community engagement. Gabrielle is now settled in South Bend, Indiana, with her husband Mike Keen, a sociologist turned sustainable neighborhood developer, and their cat Max. Her favorite leisure time reading is about animals and trees. Learn more about Gabrielle and Api’s Berlin Diaries at


Was there a specific moment where you thought “I need to turn this experience into a book?”

There were two such moments. The first when I discovered the diaries with their day by day account of life in Berlin 1945. The second when the diaries revealed that my beloved grandfather had been a member of the Nazi party.

What lessons did you take away from writing this memoir?

So many, although they come more as questions than definitive answers. What it is like living in a totalitarian regime. How people cope in desperate and violent circumstances. How love, faith, and writing helped my grandfather survive. The importance of our early experiences in shaping our outlook and attitudes.

How did your previous historically focused titles and your professorial experience influence writing this memoir?

Already as a student I found the excitement of research when I discovered an unpublished play. Since then, by luck and hard work, I have gained a better understanding of history, and, yes, made more discoveries by reading, talking to people, and more reading. Just recently as I was writing about Studebaker workers from the South who met Jim Crow in the north, I was given the minutes of the first African American housing project in Indiana. And now my grandfather’s diaries literally fell into my hands and led to the current book.

In this memoir, you balance history and personal legacy beautifully. Why is this story important to you? What do you hope readers will take away from it?

For me personally, it was as if my grandfather was there talking to me across the decades and it confirmed how much I have learnt and absorbed from him. For the reader, I think the story works first of all on an immediate emotional and dramatic level. Then it also invites questions about the political responsibility we all carry. In the end I hope readers come away not with any easy answers but with an appreciation of what binds us all together.

Do you have any advice from people hoping to tackle a book with tough subject matter?

Memoir writing has many challenges, but I believe the rewards predominate. It gives us an exciting opportunity to re-evaluate and re-invent ourselves and see our lives in a broader historical context. “Memoir is the only second chance you get in life.” Lauren Slater, author of Prozac Diary and Lying. A Metaphorical Memoir.

Globetrotting storyteller pens probing and hilarious travel and personal growth memoir about coming of (middle) age


CHICAGO – From two-time Moth StorySLAM winner Margaret Davis Ghielmetti comes “Brave(ish): A Memoir of a Recovering Perfectionist” (Sept. 15, 2020, She Writes Press).

As the wife of an international luxury hotel executive, Margaret Davis Ghielmetti lived on four continents and traveled to nearly 50 countries, confronted with opportunities for personal growth that challenged her assumptions about her life and her place in the world.

Part cross-cultural travel memoir and part midlife coming-of-age story, “Brave(ish)” follows the globetrotting author’s internal and external journeys – around the globe and back home, both literally, spiritually and emotionally.

She discovers that – if she is ever going to express herself fully and make her creative dreams come true – she needs to stop living others’ lives and choose to put her own life first.

With humor and humility, Ghielmetti reminds us that it’s never too late to reconnect with our own authentic selves – if we are willing to let go of the old roles and rules we thought kept us safe.

“Brave(ish): A Memoir of a Recovering Perfectionist”
Margaret Davis Ghielmetti | September 15, 2020 | She Writes Press | Memoir
Paperback | 978-1-63152-747-0 | $16.95
Ebook | 978-1-63152-748-7 | $9.95

About Margaret Davis Ghielmetti

Margaret Davis Ghielmetti is the author of “Brave(ish): A Memoir of a Recovering Perfectionist” (Sept. 15, 2020, She Writes Press). She has lived on four continents and has visited nearly 50 countries. She is a Live Lit Storyteller who has won two StorySLAMs with The Moth. She wrote and performed a solo show, “Fierce,” about re-discovering her creative expression, and is passionate about sharing the beauty of the world through her photos. Nothing delights her more than genuine connection. She and her Swiss-born husband, Patrick, can be found in Chicago when they’re not out exploring. For more, visit

In an interview, Margaret Davis Ghielmetti can discuss:

  • Life lessons she learned as an intrepid international traveler to nearly 50 countries – and as a long-time expatriate re-creating her life anew on four continents
  • How she learned to let go of roles and rules she thought kept her safe
  • How asking for help (and accepting it) assisted her on her journey as a recovering perfectionist
  • How midlife (and beyond) can be a transformative time, offering the possibility of setting personal boundaries and reconnecting with our authentic selves
  • The benefits of exposure to other countries and cultures, especially now

An Interview with Margaret Davis Ghielmetti

Your book is called “Brave(ish): A Memoir of a Recovering Perfectionist.” What exactly is a recovering perfectionist?

A perfectionist believes there are no gray areas and drives herself to do everything “just right” – ideally without help and by yesterday (at the latest!) A recovering perfectionist recognizes that one of her greatest strengths is also a shortcoming – and struggles to let go of the behaviors she thought kept her safe (but which instead keep her small).

Toward the beginning of “Brave(ish),” you discuss The Davis Family Handbook, a set of rules that guided your behavior and decisions throughout most of your life. How has your relationship to them evolved?

The Handbook rules I listed are ones my parents inherited and then passed on to my brothers and me. They are part of my moral compass today, but I overused them for much of my life. I didn’t realize there could be nuances and gradations. I had to learn to live not solely in “black or white” but also in gray! Some of the most touching comments I’ve received from readers are how my book made them think about their own Family Handbook: the rules in it, and how these rules (often unspoken) have ruled their lives. I’ve had friends say, “It was just one word: SILENCE.” Or, “Whatever you do, don’t talk about x, y, z.”

I’ve included Questions for Discussion in the back of the book as I’d really like to inspire conversations around the rules each of us may once have accepted unconditionally, but from which we now want some detachment – or total freedom.

My relationship to the rules in The Handbook evolved once I had gained the perspective that I had followed them blindly for decades. Only then was I able to see the kernel of wisdom within each one, and to take them as suggestions. I now have the ability to choose, but I will admit that – under stress – I still lean into the rule of Just Do It. I’m definitely someone whose comfort zone is action. Plus, I suffer from FOMO: Fear of Missing Out. I’ve learned to occasionally Not Do It, but this is still very challenging for me!

Are there any mottos that you live by now?

Each January, my husband and I choose a “motto.” It’s not a resolution, but a short phrase to inspire us. Mine have included “Be here now” (when my mom was dying and I wanted to stay present for and with her) and “Sit. Stay” (when I was struggling to finish my book and needed to keep my butt in chair). When my husband suggested “Me, First” (for me!) it changed our marriage: I could see him putting his money where his mouth was in declaring that he wanted the best for me (even though he recognized the cost to him would be my no longer putting his life first).

Your book is peppered with transformational moments, some where you had to learn to ask for help and some where you had to let go of control. What was the most challenging part of learning those life lessons?

The most challenging part was – and is – having the courage to let go of what worked in the past (or at least what I thought had worked). At first, I was terrified, “Who will I be if I’m no longer The Perfect Wife, Daughter, Traveler, Expatriate? If I don’t offer that value to others, will they still love me? If I’m not there for them 24/7 and 1,000%, will they abandon me?” But I remind myself constantly of the wisdom that “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results.” If I want to have a different life, I need to choose to show up differently and to act differently. I am still definitely a work in progress, but then who isn’t?

How did you overcome “imposter syndrome” – and what advice do you have for others experiencing this?

What helped me get past the fear that I was pretending to be something I didn’t yet believe I was? “Fake it ‘til you make it.” When people asked me what I did, I started to respond, “I am a writer.” “I am a storyteller.” “I am an artist.” Each time I said it, I half-expected the questioner to snort with laughter and say, “No, you’re not! I’m sure you’re a good wife, friend and daughter, but those other things? Nah.” News flash: no one said that – ever. Instead, strangers routinely responded, “Wow, cool!” and old friends smiled – genuinely delighted to support my true self emerging from behind the many masks I’d worn for decades.

Can you tell us about your spiritual journey?

My spiritual journey has been a surprise and a gift. I was not raised in a religious home, so when I finally was driven to my knees in desperation, calling out for help from a deity I was raised to NOT believe in, I was shocked and touched that my calls for help were answered (and still are). I have an understanding now of grace. And I believe that the door to faith was always open to me (once I no longer envisioned myself as my higher power!)

You’ve lived on four continents and visited almost 50 countries – but how did this start? What sparked your wanderlust, and where was your first international excursion?

My mother used to say that I was born with one foot rooted in my hometown and one foot out in the world, exploring. I was always wondering about the lives of others, whether as a child peering out from the back seat of the family station wagon driving across Illinois farmland, or as a young woman traveling by train across Europe after college. My very first international excursion was to London with my parents as a 10-year old. I was excited to experience new things (and equally excited to scribble notes in my little Travel Journal.)

Can you discuss the importance of exposure to and understanding of other countries and cultures?

When I interact with people not from my immediate circle, I inevitably find that – yes – we are different, but also the same: every human needs food and shelter and wants love and happiness. When I learn what makes each place unique, I am richer for it.

This might be an obvious question, but we have to ask: what is your favorite place that you’ve visited and why?

One favorite place to return to is my hometown, Evanston, Illinois. Those are my trees and my lakefront, with Chicago shimmering in the distance like the Emerald City. Another favorite is my husband’s home country of Switzerland: it’s just so danged pretty (and it’s still a shock to me as a Flatlander from the Midwest: are those Alps for real?).

As for where we’ve lived, I’ve gotten joy from each place, but Singapore was a favorite, as – just for starters – Singaporeans are smart with a sassy sense of humor . . . the Botanic Gardens, museums, symphony, food and airport are world-class . . . there’s a fabulous indie bookstore in an Art Deco neighborhood. Singapore is also where we moved once I’d already started to find my own voice, so I spent more of my time there doing things I love (and less on chores that no one had expected of me – but me!).

Is it true that you wrote a book when you were 10 years old and later ripped it to shreds?

Yep, my earliest work was a novel about a tomboy with hazel eyes and brown hair (hmmm…wonder who that was?) She runs away from home to tame wild horses in the wilds – of Wisconsin! Once I realized there was a fatal plot flaw, I didn’t fix it – but instead tore that tiny manuscript (written on notebook paper with a Bic pen) into a million pieces. Even at ten, I was a mini-perfectionist.

How did you rediscover your creative voice, compelling you to write a book later in life?

I rediscovered my creative voice out of necessity: my mother, who was one of my best friends, had fallen gravely ill and I was spending most days helping to care for her. Most evenings, I was exhausted and sad and I needed something – anything – that wasn’t pre-grieving her death. I stumbled upon “Improvisation for Adults” at Chicago’s Second City: the fun of “Yes, And” riffing with scene partners was a lifeline. Next, I took up storytelling and fell in love with sharing my adventures (and mis-adventures) with audiences, basking in their laughter and their sighs. Writing and performing my solo show, “Fierce,” about “growing up with my mom” over the years allowed me to honor her after her passing. Once I discovered Instagram, I was overjoyed to post my photos from near and far, sharing details of the beauty of our world that way.

Then, after the 2016 elections, I was motivated to push back against the political climate of “the other is bad” as that has not been my experience! I started writing a book of travel tales but – as the book evolved – it became clear that I was, in fact, writing a memoir. I had feared it was too late for me to become an author, so it was a great relief to me to realize that you can’t actually write a memoir without having lived some life. Better late than never on my author dreams!

Writing is so often a solitary experience, but you also have quite a performing background, having won the Moth StorySLAM twice and taken improv classes at Second City in Chicago. Did performing change your approach to writing at all?

Storytelling has influenced my writing significantly. For hours (and days) before I tell a personal, true story on stage, I rehearse out loud: it’s how I make sure my words “ring true.”

Performing my solo show challenged me to stand in the spotlight in all my raw vulnerability, so I tried to bring that to my memoir, too.

When I was writing “Brave(ish)” – sitting alone in front of my laptop every day, all day – I kept reminding myself why I was writing this memoir: to share hope with and inspire readers. That kept me feeling connected – and connection is essential to me as an artist.

Luckily, too, while I can be very social, I’m an introvert at heart: I like time to myself, so solitary is not a dirty word for me.

The modern West comes alive in prize-winning short story collection by Pushcart-nominated author


Sappenfield traces women’s stories across generations in “Lyrics for Rock Stars”

VAIL, Colorado– Tracing the complex unfolding of generations throughout history, paying particular attention to women’s stories, and children who are often wise beyond their years, Heather Mateus Sappenfield brings dynamic characters to life in a bold collection of stories.

“Lyrics for Rock Stars” (V Press LC, Sept. 21, 2020) is a collection of seventeen stories―some historical, some contemporary—all set in the West. Involving skiers, ranchers, cyclists, suffragettes, tourists, super models, dead pigs, burro racers, religious beet farmers, immigrant miners, scorned lovers, penitent centenarians, and musicians, these stories are as varied as the region’s landscape. Funny, poignant, and resonant, each tale explores how society’s values clash with our individual desires, and the ways we weave our lives through these opposing forces. This collection will make you cry. It will make you laugh out loud. Above all, it traces hope through the long unfolding of generations and time.

Each story is compelling in its own right, and together, they rise in harmonic commentary on the West’s past and present, on its women who populate both, each straining desperately to find her own song.

“An exploration of the inner lives of marriage and mountain towns, the stories in Lyrics for Rock Stars rise like the foothills to meet the peaks…Sappenfield knows the modern West.”
—Nicole Magistro, owner, Bookworm of Edwards & 2015 judge, Kirkus Prize for Fiction

“Lyrics for Rock Stars”
Heather Mateus Sappenfield | Sept. 21, 2020 | V Press LC | Short Stories; Literary
Paperback | 978-1-7330488-5-9 | $17.97

About The Author

HEATHER MATEUS SAPPENFIELD: Heather Mateus Sappenfield’s writing explores the adventures that fill life, often in the Rocky Mountain landscape that has been her lifelong home. She’s fascinated by the many selves each of us becomes in our varied roles throughout the day (some we like, some we do not), and her writing often delves into the internal adventure of juggling those multiple selves. Among the many accolades her fiction has received are the Danahy Fiction Prize, the Arthur Edelstein Prize and three Pushcart Prize nominations. Her work has also been recognized as a finalist for the Flannery O’Connor Award, the Kraken Prize, and the Colorado Book Awards. “Lyrics for Rock Stars” is her first short story collection. To learn more about her life and work, visit:

In an interview, Heather Mateus Sappenfield can discuss:

  • How she adapts her fiction writing to particular audiences and niche genres
  • Why the Rocky Mountain landscape and its history play such an important role in her storytelling, and how living in Vail has influenced her writing in unexpected ways
  • Her approach to writing women characters throughout history—how they’ve been treated, yet also how they’ve chosen to perpetuate certain roles themselves
  • Why—in a life filled with adventure—writing is her bravest pursuit
  • How her literary career defies boundaries

An Interview with Heather Mateus Sappenfield

1. Where did the idea for this collection come from? How long have you been working on these stories?

All of the stories have roots in my life, yet each one quickly and thoroughly sprouts into fiction. I wrote the first one, “Coloring Beyond the Lines,” after leaving my high school teaching position to stay home with my daughter, taking my first wobbling steps toward becoming a serious writer as she took hers. After several near misses with editors at magazines, I headed to Pacific University’s MFA in Writing program to hone my craft; seven of the collection’s stories came from there. Just before graduating, “Empty Feast” was runner up for an award, then “Indian Prayer” won the Danahy Fiction Prize, and I thought, Well, I’m a real author now, but being an author isn’t about writing to the end of a story, or awards; like raising a child, it’s about patiently beckoning and allowing it to unfold into its greatest potential. Post-MFA, I continued writing short stories, eventually entering the collection in some contests, where it was a finalist over and over. Until one day, around my daughter’s twentieth birthday, their overarching themes—the way they spoke beyond themselves—finally became clear to me— surprising me, honestly, and allowing me to fully understand that body of work. And then it won!

2. Your stories trace through historical time periods as well as modern day settings. What connections do you see between the past and the present?

We are creatures woven into legacies—familial, cultural, historical—and, whether we realize it or not, acknowledge it or not, our actions are guided by these threads. I feel life’s greatest adventures, the ones that require the most courage—lie in recognizing how these histories affect us, and then in having the fortitude to accept or reject them according to our personal truths, which often leads to conflict with society, others, ourselves. For this reason the settings of my stories usually have as much influence as any character.

3. Why was it important to you to weave hopeful themes throughout this collection?

I don’t write for catharsis, or to create art, rather to forge a bond with a reader. Foundational to this connection is an implicit agreement that is present in each story’s first words, in how its characters and settings are brought to life, in how their conflicts play out. This relationship invites a reader to lift, from how I arrange mere letters on a page, an emotional investment in a character, and from this to then glean insight into their own lives. It’s beautiful magic. The word “hope” literally means to want something to happen or be true, and I believe most of us hope, at the least, that an inkling of grace waits at the far side of struggle. Providing this in return is my gift to readers.

4. Can you describe your fascination with the many selves each of us becomes in our varied roles throughout the day, and how your writing delves into the internal adventure of juggling those multiple selves?

Imagine someone brushing her teeth, staring at, yet not actually seeing, her reflection in the bathroom mirror as she contemplates the hectic day ahead. See her kiss her husband—whom she’s had a spat with—goodbye, a peck on the cheek, maybe. See her smile and wave to her neighbor as she drives away, then honk at and tailgate the car that pulls out in front of her, then enter her school, smooth her skirt, and greet her class of kindergartners. Most of us similarly pinball between multiple roles each day—a slow, complex erosion of personal integrity—and the how and why of it fascinates me, especially the narratives we create for ourselves, about ourselves, to justify and align them.

5. What can readers expect to see from you in the future? Do you have any other projects in the works?

When a story comes to me—it usually arrives in near entirety—and there’s usually a voice that determines its narration, characterization, scope. The River Between Hearts, the story of an eleven-year-old girl discovering a terrified Mexican classmate hiding in her tree fort because her family has been deported, needed to be told from a child’s perspective, thus as middle-grade fiction. The novel was recently the runner-up for the Kraken Prize at Fitzroy Books and will be released in spring 2022.

On a completely different note, I’ve just finished Spoonfuls, a humorous adult novel in which a 38-year-old woman trapped in adolescence, and an 83-year-old woman trapped in aging, meet in a moment of desperation. The unlikely friendship they forge leads to a race, a journey, and a quest. Above all, their bond guides them both beyond the lives they’ve been conditioned to believe define who they are, to the selves they were truly destined to become. It’s a book that traces the evolving ways women have been shaped by American history and culture, yet even more by their own concepts of themselves. I’m currently deciding if I want to enter it in a contest or seek an agent.

New Memoir Offers Courageous Journey of Assault Survivor Seeking Wholeness


ASHEVILLE, North Carolina – Anne Reeder Heck’s new memoir offers both guidance and solace for those seeking healing and ready to explore paths of forgiveness and spirituality. A Fierce Belief in Miracles: My Journey from Rape to Healing and Wholeness (She Writes Press, Sept. 22, 2020) is a powerful and uplifting story of determination and trust. It’s for anyone who believes in—or questions—the existence of miracles

A Fierce Belief in Miracles recounts the experience of Heck, who at age 26 was enjoying a morning bicycle ride in northern Virginia when she was stopped by a man asking for directions. She was violently beaten and raped. Heck is tenacious in her pursuit to heal the pain permeating her body after the rape, and she devotes herself to a healing quest that opens her to the transformative power of intention, intuition and trust. Her prayers for strength are synchronistically answered with a DNA match and identification of her rapist 14 years after the crime.

Featured on the front page of The Washington Post and by Diane Sawyer on Good Morning America, Heck shares her story to offer hope and support to others navigating their way to wholeness. Gail Straub, award-winning author and co-founder of Empowerment Institute calls Heck’s work “a courageous and generous account of one woman’s healing journey and a testament to resilience of the human spirit.” In this inspiring story, readers will witness the beauty that emerges from darkness, the goodness that is born of ill-guided acts, and the perfection of all that transpires on this path we call life.

A Fierce Belief in Miracles: My Journey from Rape to Healing and Wholeness

Anne Reeder Heck | September 22, 2020 | She Writes Press
Paperback ISBN: 978-1631527494 | $16.95
Ebook ISBN: B083BBSQ5X | $8.99
232 pages | Memoir

About The Author

Anne Reeder Heck’s life and livelihood are brimming with miracles. As a seasoned facilitator of spiritual circles for women, a certified Healing Touch practitioner, and an ordained interfaith minister, Anne is devoted to inspiring and guiding others to trust themselves, open to their intuitive guidance, and experience the magic of life through ceremony, positive intention and a creative, curious spirit.

Anne’s life training has been diverse and compelling. In addition to graduating with honors in chemistry and receiving her MAT, Anne is trained in spiritual dowsing, conscious languaging, women’s rites of passage, and transformational speaking. She is a self-taught artist, specializing in doll making, fiber arts and watercolor. She has trained in and/or participated in over seventy different healing modalities and is grateful to have studied with a multitude of wise and generous teachers.

Anne lives in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains with her husband of 26 years and her sweet retriever pup. She can often be found hiking nearby trails or meditatively turning her pedals on the Blue Ridge Parkway. When she’s not outdoors, Anne is passionately speaking, facilitating workshops, mentoring, writing or making art. To learn more about Anne’s offerings, or to see photos of her healing dolls, visit her at

In an interview, Anne Reeder Heck can discuss:

  • How she came to believe in miracles
  • Actionable steps assault survivors can take to help their journey to healing and wholeness
  • How traumas open us to the miraculous
  • Spiritual and emotional aspects of healing
  • The importance of listening to that still small voice of intuition
  • The use of dolls in healing
  • The challenges of writing about her assault

An Interview with Anne Reeder Heck

What inspired you to write A Fierce Belief in Miracles?

I spent years browsing libraries and later the Internet to find a true story of someone who had navigated their way to wholeness after rape—a story that could give me hope in what sometimes seemed a hopeless search. I wanted to read about those who’d been broken open and had come to discover their inner strength, their authentic voice and an understanding that our traumas are a precious part of our life experience. My book tells that story. What’s more, I consider my story nothing short of miraculous, and one that needs to be shared.

Who is the primary audience for this book?

While the reader audience includes survivors of sexual violence, the book will appeal to anyone who’s seeking deep healing and is ready to explore the paths of forgiveness and spirituality.

What can readers hope to learn from this book?

My intention in writing this book was to offer hope to those on a healing path. I share teachings that I’ve found invaluable and introduce the reader to some alternative paths of addressing the traumas in their life. While I can’t predict what a reader may take from this book, I know there are plenty of powerful messages available to those who are open.

What was the most challenging part of writing A Fierce Belief in Miracles?

The writing and extensive editing process were grueling. I hadn’t anticipated how emotionally draining this would be. What I learned is that writing about trauma can be re-traumatizing. I had thought that it could be healing, but for me that wasn’t the case. Writing and editing required great self-compassion and self-care.

A large part of your healing was directed by the making of dolls. Can you tell us more about that?

Yes. For seven years, I devoted myself to making dolls – medicine dolls you might call them – as part of my healing. By placing my emotion outside of myself, I could see it/myself from new perspectives, have a better idea of what I needed, and alter the course to find a new place of balance. The doll series clearly depicts a path of moving from pain and fear to freedom, vitality, strength, and wisdom.

Every journey to healing is unique, but are there actionable steps assault survivors can take?

I don’t have a prescription for healing, but I share in my book many things that were valuable as part of my own journey. For example, a big turning point for me happened in the writing of my victim impact statement, when I was forced to consider the impact the rape had on my life. While I don’t condone acts of violence, and the healing process was both painful and daunting for me, I also realized this experience taught me many things: the power of my thoughts, the deep connectedness to all life, and the positive influence we get to have through our reverence for all life and through holding an open heart.

Did you always believe in miracles? How did you come to believe in them? Can you remember the specific moment?

As a youngster, I was pragmatic and realistic on the exterior and a mystic and dreamer on the interior. In chapter 11 of my book, a chapter titled “Possibility,” I write: “miracles—transformations that could not be explained by science—were a concept I warmed to cautiously. My mind required a rational basis or personal experience to give credence to something beyond reason. However, the faint and timid whisper of my heart fiercely believed in miracles. It was this heart whisper that began to speak to me in my despairing moments during the years I sought healing. It was this quiet voice that encouraged me to stay open to possibility.”

I consciously chose to stay curious, to be expectant about what may come. It was partly a mind game to keep me focused positively, but truly, I wanted a faith in miracles, to experience proof of miracles in my own life. My transformative moments as concerns this are described in my book. They were nothing short of miraculous. This is partly why I needed to write this story.

How important is forgiveness to the healing process?

My experience is not going to be the same as that of others, but forgiveness was an essential part of my healing. Any anger or judgment I had about the rapist or the experience of rape hurt me more than it hurt anyone else. When we forgive and find peace this helps us, and it also heals others. It’s a compassionate gift to all people to let go of our anger and open our hearts to love.

What does it mean for you to live openly as a survivor of assault?

Terry committed a crime against me that was horrendous and hurtful in so many ways. I couldn’t cover that up and move forward knowing that it could happen to someone else. From day one, I did all I could to identify my assailant. It didn’t matter what that required of me; I simply needed to speak the truth, and be open about my experience. At this point in my journey, the rape doesn’t define me. My healing journey defines me. This is the piece that I’m inspired to share with others – that healing is available to us, and not just healing, but miracles. Yes, miracles.

Endorsements for “A Fierce Belief in Miracles”

“In A Fierce Belief in Miracles, Anne has explored in depth her healing path so that others can navigate their trials with greater ease and inspiration. Pay attention to the teachings offered in this book and you will be supported in new and unexpected ways on your own path to healing.”
~ Lynne Twist, Co-Founder, The Pachamama Alliance; Founder, The Soul of Money Institute; best-selling author, The Soul of Money

A Fierce Belief in Miracles is a courageous and generous account of one woman’s healing journey. A testament to resilience of the human spirit, Anne Heck’s story traces the trauma of rape all the way to a place of hard earned equanimity. Her unconventional path offers hope and wisdom to any trauma survivor. And Anne’s willingness to share her story with unflinching honesty is a powerful signal in a world where too many women know the trauma of rape.”
~ Gail Straub, Co-Founder, Empowerment Institute and award-winning author, Empowerment and Returning to My Mother’s House

“This beautifully written page-turner about a cyclist with a passion for exploring wilderness trails gently guides readers through her violation of rape into a courageous and creative healing journey of self-discovery. The unexpected potentials and guides she meets⎯both inner and outer⎯embolden this indomitable traveler to befriend her fear, anger, resistance, and pain, and eventually enjoy her rewards of trust and spiritual meaning. Wise and breathtakingly honest, this inspiring story will bring hope to those who suffer the after-effects of trauma and long to liberate their captive truths into consciousness.”
~ Jean Benedict Raffa, Ed.D, author of The Bridge to Wholeness, Dream Theatres of the Soul, Healing the Sacred Divide, and The Soul’s Twins.

A Fierce Belief in Miracles is the compelling and moving story of Anne Heck’s quest to understand and transform the scrambled pieces of her heart and soul in the aftermath of sexual violence. Through her fearless exploration of healing modalities over two decades and her determination to embrace the arduous journey and its mysteries, she bestows a gift of hope. Heck’s story of her path to meaning, truth, and transformative integration is an important contribution to the growing body of literature on sexual violence — its complex impact on individuals and society.”
~ Nancy Venable Raine, author of After Silence: Rape an My Journey Back

“Anne gives us the courage to trust that the unconventional path to healing might just be the greatest gift of our lives.”
~ Amy B. Scher, author of This Is How I Save My Life and How To Heal Yourself When No One Else Can