Books Forward October 2021 Newsletter

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Incisive, gripping new book explores multi-generational impact of the extremist military dictatorships in Latin America

Award-winning author Tessa Bridal was born and raised in Uruguay, leaving with her family when she was 20. Now, she returns to chronicle the stories of those who disappeared during the country’s political turmoil — following the stories of families, their loss and their resilience in her new book, “The Dark Side of Memory” (Oct. 26, 2021, Invisible Ink).

“The Dark Side of Memory” is a gripping and incisive narrative of the multi-generational effect of the extremist military dictatorships in Uruguay and Argentina, as told to the author by families of the disappeared. Through her retelling, Bridal elevates the stories of the overlooked, voiceless and forgotten humans behind political turmoil.

As University of San Francisco Latin American Studies Program Director Roberto Gutiérrez Varea praises:

“Bridal offers us a poignant, clear-eyed view of the conflict, to best measure the viciousness of the military’s actions, and the courageous resilience of survivors and relatives who never gave up on their abducted kin. In the age of Black Lives Matter and the brutal detention of children by US Immigration Enforcement at the border, The Dark Side of Memory is a most caring and powerful cautionary tale as to the enduring, generational nature of trauma when political violence is unleashed on those most vulnerable.”

“The Dark Side of Memory: Uruguay’s Disappeared Children and the Families who Never Stopped Searching”
Tessa Bridal |Oct. 26, 2021 | Invisible Ink | Nonfiction
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-7369386-0-7 | Ebook ISBN: 978-1-7369386-1-4

About the Author

Tessa Bridal was born and raised in Uruguay, a third generation descendent of a resilient and courageous Irish woman who boarded a ship she had been informed was sailing for Boston. Once on the high seas she discovered that she was instead headed for Buenos Aires. (Her ancestor’s story is told in Bridal’s second novel River of Painted Birds.) Generations later, Bridal reached the shores her great-great-grandmother thought she was bound for. She worked in Washington DC saving to take a three- year acting and directing course at a London drama academy. She returned to the United States and settled in Minnesota, where she studied sign language and became Artistic Director of the Minnesota Theatre Institute of the Deaf. Her first novel The Tree of Red Stars won the Milkweed National Prize for Fiction and the Friends of American Writers annual award. Her work has been reviewed by the New York Times and praised by educators and historians. She is the recipient of the American Association of Museums (now the American Alliance of Museums) Educators Award for Excellence for her work in creating educational theatre programs that became the model not only for science and children’s museums, but for zoos and aquariums as well. She has worked at the Science Museum of Minnesota, the Indianapolis Children’s Museum, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

She is the proud mother of two daughters and grandmother of two boys (seven and five) with a promising future in wrestling, magical thinking, and experimental science.

Early Praise for “The Dark Side of Memory”

“A bright star in a constellation of creative nonfiction works about the violent conflicts of mid-late 20th century in Latin America, the book casts a profound human gaze on a most devastating personal and social tragedy. The Dark Side of Memory weaves its narrative slowly. It pulls you in until you are compelled to read on in spite of a growing sense of foreboding. You are entering the sacred grounds of deep loss and deaths foretold, only, you are doing so held by Bridal’s compassionate hand and beautifully evocative voice. It lifts the lesser known stories of Uruguayan victims of the dictatorships that plagued South America’s “southern cone” up to the altar of quotidian, anonymous heroism where they belong. Critically, it centers its narrative on the behind-the-scenes epic struggle to recover defenseless young children, some born in clandestine torture centers where their mothers were murdered by those who kept them as their own. In doing so, Bridal offers us a poignant, clear-eyed view of the conflict, to best measure the viciousness of the military’s actions, and the courageous resilience of survivors and relatives who never gave up on their abducted kin. In the age of Black Lives Matter and the brutal detention of children by US Immigration Enforcement at the border, The Dark Side of Memory is a most caring and powerful cautionary tale as to the enduring, generational nature of trauma when political violence is unleashed on those most vulnerable.”
— Roberto Gutiérrez Varea, Director, Latin American Studies Program, University of San Francisco

“Tessa Bridal’s The Dark Side of Memory has the immediacy of a novel. We travel alongside a group of indefatigable women: into the torture centers of the Argentine military junta; through their long bureaucratic battles to rescue the children who were stolen from them. This is a book about the way the violence of the past weighs on the future, shaping its possibilities. And it is also a book about how acknowledging that past—fighting against the seductions of forgetting—opens a less violent, more human future.”
— Toby Altman, National Endowment for the Arts 2021-2022 Fellow in Poetry

“This is a holy book—because it tells the truth, concretely and unflinchingly. In the midst of an inferno, The Dark Side of Memory points us to the lives of the mothers and grandmothers of Uruguay and Argentina who, out of great love for their children, refused to permit the perpetrators of devastation to have the final word. Tessa Bridal bears witness to the power of memory, truth-telling, and hope, and so also to the possibility of a just world. This is a tremendous work of love.”
— Ry O. Siggelkow, Director of Initiatives in Faith & Praxis, University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN

“These life stories, portrayed in all their vivid complexity by Tessa Bridal, honor the humanity of the many who were dehumanized by Latin America’s dirty wars. Her creative telling brings us as close as we can get to grasping the motivations behind the crime of enforced disappearance, and to feeling for ourselves its deep and lasting scars upon victims, families and societies.”
— Barbara Frey, Director, Human Rights Program, University of Minnesota

In an interview, Tessa Bridal can discuss:

  • Her unwavering commitment to documenting the stories of the families featured in the “The Dark Side of Memory.”
  • Understanding the impact of family separation. The similarity between the arrests carried out by the South American military and those of the U.S. immigration authorities, including the separation of infants and children from their parents. Argentina’s National Commission on the Disappeared reported that the effects of these experiences were traumatic, and “had a very serious effect on their personality. So serious that sometimes they died as a result.”
  • The human cost of political dissent, and the generational damage of the disappearance of children.
  • The courage and perseverance of women, and the role of family matriarchs in the search for missing kin. After decades searching for her missing daughter, son in law, and grandchild one of the heroic women featured in the book speaks of disappearance as “a permanent crime. It is a form of dying that doesn’t allow for death or life.”
  • Elements of the Cold War not often brought to light, such as the participation of the United States in the Condor Plan, parts of which were resurrected after the 9/11 attacks. These include the passage of the Patriot Act and the Military Order, authorizing the creation of special military tribunals to try non-citizens, as well as secret detention sites where those arrested could be held indefinitely without legal representation.

An Interview with Tessa Bridal

Before we dive in, can you set the scene for us? Politically speaking, what was South America, specifically Uruguay and Argentina, like during the height of the Cold War era?

By the mid-1970s most of South America, including its two largest countries — Argentina and Brazil — were under repressive military dictatorships. Under these regimes it was not necessary to commit a crime in order to be arrested by the military. People lived in fear simply of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Thousands emigrated to Argentina, the last hold out. It felt safer than other countries at the time, but with Juan Perón’s brief return to power, it soon became the most dangerous, and the number of the missing soared. Relatives who persisted in questioning the authorities risked joining the ranks of the disappeared.

Because many were taken to secret holding centers, the numbers of the disappeared are based on family reports. Argentina alone estimates 30,000 (out of a population of 23 million). Mass graves continue to be found. Uruguay estimates about 200 (out of a population of 3.5 million). Research reveals discrepancies between official and unofficial numbers. Unlike the Nazis in World War II, dictatorships were not known for their accuracy and kept few records (still coming to light or being produced with court orders).

A staggering number of children and adults went missing during these tragic times. What happened to them? How many survivors were there?

The number of Uruguayan children still missing and unaccounted for is between 17 and 20. An unknown number of the women arrested during the dictatorships were pregnant. Some were known by their relatives to be carrying a child, but there were cases where the woman herself didn’t know she was pregnant at the time of her arrest. Women associated in any way with guerrilla activities were under constant surveillance, and communication with relatives was difficult to impossible. Whether women gave birth while under arrest or at home, they and their babies were at risk. Many childless families were eager to “adopt” babies and children offered to them by the authorities running the secret detention centers, or taken from their homes at the time of their parents’ arrest. As more of these cases come to light, the numbers increase.

Why is this book important to you on a personal level?

Whenever I visited Uruguay I would hear about the disappeared, either in a news report or in conversations with relatives and friends. I began to research what led up to the arrests and disappearances and to meet with people who had been involved politically during these troubled times, including friends and family members. As I listened to the courageous and undaunted women who searched for years and decades to locate their children and grandchildren, I began to record and write their stories.

Eventually, I met some of the disappeared children (now adults) themselves, and was inspired by their willingness and generosity. One of them felt strongly that books should be written and documentaries and films made about the disappeared but wondered if anyone will be interested in children they have never met. I assured him that I would do my best to ensure that they are.

How did you connect with the families you profiled in your book, and how did you approach documenting their stories? Were any of the people you interviewed hesitant to share their experiences?

A friend who had been imprisoned and had a child born in prison in Uruguay introduced me to the organization Families of the Detained-Disappeared. They gave me the names of people willing to talk about their experiences. In all cases, I asked for permission to record the interviews and to take photographs. I encountered no reluctance to share their experiences. A certain initial reserve, yes. But that is very typical of Uruguayans, who are warm and welcoming, but don’t open up as readily as I have found people tend to do in the United States.

As someone who grew up in Uruguay and later left the country, did hearing these stories change your perspective and the lens through which you viewed political turmoil in Latin America?

Hearing the stories of the disappeared changed not only how I looked at Latin American politics, but how I looked at U.S. politics. I realized that I had not examined as many perspectives of either one as necessary for writing this book. I was not interested in judging and condemning, but in trying to understand how the events I was researching had come to pass. Where and how had things gone so wrong? I do not pretend to have arrived at all the answers, but from that time to this I have had an opportunity to study war and politics, their complexities, and the price children pay for our failure to learn from past mistakes.

Can you tell us more about the importance of family matriarchs and women in searching for the missing?

It is impossible for me to say with any certainty why it was primarily the mothers and grandmothers of the disappeared who never gave up and who put their own lives at risk to find their children and grandchildren. Both the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo in Argentina and the Uruguayan Madres y familiares de uruguayos detenidos desaparecidos (Mothers and Families of Detained Disappeared Uruguayans) were founded and are run by women.

In both countries women are exceptionally independent and in the eyes of some undaunted, aggressive fighters. Laws provide equal and free education for all sexes, women are proud professionals in many fields and have been for decades, and the strict separation of church and state (in Uruguay for instance, one is free to have as lavish a church ceremony as one wishes, but only marriages conducted by a judge are considered legal) all contribute to women’s empowerment and equality with men.

Why more men were not at the forefront of the struggle to find their families is worth its own book. Machismo is alive and well, but I believe that there endures an underlying feeling on the part of men that the home and children are still a woman’s purview. In these areas, the men support, but the women lead.

The title of your book, “The Dark Side of Memory,” has a beautifully somber and mysterious tone. What does it mean?

This is a quote from one of the women featured in the book. She used it to describe her granddaughter Mariana’s reluctance to accept her biological family: the dark side of her memories, the painful ones. Mariana’s biological parents have never been found, and the father in the family that illegally adopted her is currently in prison for his part in the disappearance of Uruguayan refugees in Argentina.

How do you think the experiences shared in your book parallel the experiences of families currently dealing with separation, especially at the U.S.-Mexico border?

The circumstances surrounding the issue are different. The consequences are not. The enforced separation of children from their families has long-term consequences for both parents and children.

What was the Condor Plan?

Wikipedia tells us that the Condor Plan or Operation Condor was a United States-backed campaign of political repression and state terror involving intelligence operations and assassination of opponents. This was officially and formally implemented in November 1975 by the right-wing dictatorships of the Southern Cone of South America.

Has voter suppression been an issue in Uruguay?

There is one instance of it in this book. A referendum on whether or not to revoke the amnesty granted to the military for crimes committed during the dictatorship. It called for 525,000 signatures; 595,000 people put their names to the petition. The recount and verification of signatures took a year. By invalidating signatures where there was the slightest discrepancy, the electoral commission brought the number below the required level. In violation of their right to confidentiality, the names and addresses of those whose signatures came under scrutiny were published, and they were invited to re-sign during a three day period at sites that remained open only during working hours. The revocation failed. The Mental Health and Human Rights Institute of Latin America believed that “the community administered its own punishment: forgetting. But amnesty does not bring about amnesia.”

How did Uruguay change once democracy returned?

The fact that marches and demonstrations in Uruguay are still held demanding government action on the conduct of the military, speaks volumes. Every 20th of May the Marcha del silencio (the March of Silence) takes place in Uruguay’s capital, Montevideo. Not only do the families of those still on the list of the disappeared march, holding placards with their loved ones names and photos, but they are joined by thousands of citizens in increasing numbers each year. It has taken decades to bring to justice a few of the military involved in the crimes of torture, kidnapping, and disappearance. Most Uruguayans would agree that the vast majority has so far got away with their criminal activities.

Praise for “The Tree of Red Stars”

“Tessa Bridal brings a fresh voice to Latin American literature in her first novel, “The Tree of Red Stars.” Bridal, who was born and raised in Uruguay, uses her book to present a harrowing account of that country’s takeover by a military dictatorship, a regime that violently demolished one of Latin America’s oldest democracies. As the story leads up to these dramatic events, Bridal describes life in Montevideo through the eyes of Magda, a young woman from an upper-middle-class family who has lived a sheltered and secure existence – until the growing political unrest threatens to erupt even within her own wealthy neighborhood. And when Magda’s friends and their families are endangered, she is forced to make use of her privileges in ways that will also be hazardous to herself. Bridal’s narrative concentrates on a matter-of-fact rendering of Magda’s transformation into a revolutionary, dispelling stereotypical notions about the relationship between social class and volatile political activism. Magda’s association with the socialist Tupamaro guerrillas stems less from entrenched political beliefs than from her loyalty to her friends and her love for the country in which she has spent her childhood. As “The Tree of Red Stars” proceeds, Bridal recounts Magda’s perilous activities with a chillingly understated sense of inevitability.” — The New York Times Book Review

“…Set in 1960’s Uruguay, Tessa Bridal’s first novel – winner of this year’s (1997) Milkweed National Fiction Prize – is a skillful, utterly engrossing portrait of a social conscience awakening against fervent and often furtive friendships, personal and political loyalty, filial defiance and impossible love. … The Tree of Red Stars is an unpredictable and exquisite story.” — Time Out New York Review

“A moving and fictional account of events that must be remembered.” — Booklist

“A luminously written debut novel, winner of the 1997 Milkweed Prize for Fiction, about love and ideals under siege in 1960’s Uruguay. … Love and the past beautifully evoked in a faraway place…” — Kirkus Reviews

“…Bridal writes with power and compassion…this novel is recommended for all libraries.” — Choice

“…the straightforward plot effectively captures the terror or modern despotism as well as the hope necessary to overcome it. Recommended for all libraries. The book was also selected for the 1998 Teen List by the New York Public Library and was one of 6 books chosen by The Independent Reader as one of the year’s “most recommended” titles.” — Library Journal

After 10 years of writing, debut author’s mysterious seaside town will enchant readers and keep them hooked till the end

Compelling contemporary novel filled with hope, renewal and a touch of magic

Auckland, NZ – After spending nearly 10 years writing, editing, and dreaming, Christopher Parker is making his authorial debut with a page-turning book flowing with love, suspense, mystery, and whimsy. Originating from a short story he created as a child, the result of Parker’s decadelong mission to produce the book has come to fruition with “The Lighthouse” (Oct. 26, 2021, Beacon Press Limited).

Motivated by the birth of his daughter and to fulfill his lifelong dream of drafting a full-length novel, Parker was inspired to write a story like no other, focusing his time on the craft of storytelling and the importance of his characters. Leaving no stone unturned, his devotion to his craft is reflected in his writing, his attention to detail, and the emotional development of his two main characters in a book that fellow New Zealand author Tina Shaw has deemed, “Bloody amazing.”

The thrilling story follows Amy, a young woman grieving the loss of her mother, and Ryan, a young ranch hand whose ardent love for his father drives him to continue running his family’s failing business. When Amy first visits Seabrook, Oregon, she’s immediately fascinated by the beautiful coast and its ghostly past. And while her first impressions of Ryan aren’t the most flattering, their friendship forms deeper bonds as the truth behind the town lighthouse and its supernatural aura emerge.

The two, coming of age and filled with hopeful renewal, embark on an unexpected journey to find the truth, each other, and most importantly, themselves. Parker’s dazzling debut is sure to captivate readers with an unexpected story that will surprise and charm on every page.

“The Lighthouse”
Christopher Parker | Oct. 26, 2021 | Beacon Press Limited | Fiction
Paperback | 978-0-9951495-0-2 | $15.99 | Ebook | $5.99

Something strange is happening in Seabrook. The town’s lighthouse–dormant for over thirty years and famously haunted–has inexplicably started shining, and its mysterious glow is sparking feverish gossip throughout the spooked community.

Amy Tucker is only visiting for the night and has no plans to get caught up in the hysteria, but that changes when she meets Ryan, the loyal, hard-working son of a ranch owner who lives on the outskirts of town.

Their chance encounter turns into an unforgettable weekend, and against the backdrop of the lighthouse-obsessed town, the two of them forge a deep connection, opening their hearts, baring their souls, and revealing secrets long kept hidden.

But as they grow closer, and as the lighthouse glows ever brighter, a startling discovery about Ryan leaves Amy questioning everything she thought she knew. To uncover the truth about her new friend, Amy will need to enter Seabrook’s ominous tower, where waiting inside she will not only find the reason why fate has brought them together… but a shocking secret that will change the course of their lives forever.

“This smart, suspenseful, and briskly paced work will keep readers guessing. … a haunting but hopeful work of supernatural fiction that comes to a satisfying conclusion.”Kirkus Reviews

Praise for Christopher Parker and “The Lighthouse”

“Bloody amazing … ‘The Lighthouse’ will have you laughing then weeping.
I couldn’t put it down.” — TINA SHAW, author of “The Children’s Pond”

Christopher Parker was born in Takapuna, a seaside suburb in Auckland, New Zealand, where he currently lives with his daughter. Having loved writing stories growing up, it was a walk along Takapuna beach and a chance glimpse at a distant lighthouse that made him want to revisit his childhood passion and try his hand at producing a novel. Nearly 10 years on from that fateful stroll, he is proud to finally share his story. You can find him on his website at

Follow Christopher Parker
on social media: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

In an interview, Christopher Parker can discuss:

  • The book’s journey from short story to a full-length novel
  • His motivation and writing process over the past 10 years
  • Tackling themes of grief and loss and the hopefulness the book leaves with readers
  • Developing his characters and crafting the the fictional town of Seabrook, Oregon
  • The use of magical realism and mystery to set the book’s tone
  • The incorporation of the lighthouse and its eerie effects
  • Projects he’s working on next

An Interview with Christopher Parker

1. “The Lighthouse” is an exceptional story that took you nearly 10 years to finish. Where did it all begin and how did the timeline of the process progress?

It began somewhat naively. I had the idea for the story I wanted to tell, I calculated how many words I could write per day, and I figured I could be done in three months. The first draft ended up taking three years and it was awful. It was overwritten and full of subplots that went nowhere. I then began reading as widely and voraciously as I could, determined to learn and understand more about the craft, and I started the manuscript again from scratch. The second draft took a further three years, followed by another couple of years of editing and revision. Had I known what was involved at the beginning, I’m not sure I would’ve begun!

2. What was your motivation to keep writing all these years?

I believed in the story so much that I had no choice but to see it through to the end. At times I felt very much like a sailor lost at sea — too far from home to quit but no sight of a destination either. I had no choice but to just keep sailing. It did me no good to plot an end date or to try and hurry along the process. My only approach was to do my best every day, keep making progress and moving forward. As long as I did that, then I knew that one day I would find myself at the finish line.

3. While you’re from New Zealand, you set your book off the coast of Oregon. Is there any significance with choosing this setting?

This was a decision made early in the process, mostly because the characteristics of the story lent to a North American setting. Ryan lives and works on a ranch, and Amy (in the first draft of the book) was a swimmer on a college scholarship — both these elements felt more quintessentially “American” than New Zealand. As for Oregon, that choice was driven by the needs of the story, too. It was important that the fictional town of Seabrook be situated in a picturesque landscape where a haunted lighthouse wouldn’t be out of place, and Oregon’s beautiful, dramatic coastline was the ideal setting.

4. How did you come up with Amy and Ryan? Are they inspired by anyone in your own life?

Amy and Ryan aren’t inspired by anyone in particular. The idea began with the concept of the lighthouse and then the characters were brought to life to serve the building’s pivotal role in the story. However, once I began writing Amy and Ryan and spending time with them, they took on a life of their own and I became quite attached. Over the years, they’ve become like extended members of the family. Even though the story has been written, I still think about them often and know everything that happens after the final page.

5. What were some of your personal goals with writing this story?

To finish the thing! On a personal level, I simply wanted to do the best job I could and publish something my daughter could one day look back on and be proud to say, “My dad wrote that.” The book is dedicated to her, and she’s the reader I want to impress the most.

6. Without any spoilers, can you talk about the significance of the lighthouse?

I’ve always been fascinated by lighthouses and long admired them. It was never my intention to write a novel featuring one, but when I thought up the central idea of the story, there was no other building better suited to play the part. There is also an obvious strong echo between a lighthouse’s role in being a guiding light for sailors out at sea and the part it plays in being a beacon for Amy and Ryan. In my story, it is a symbol of light and hope, both literally and metaphorically.

7. One of the major themes in the book is Amy’s process of grieving her mother. Why was it important to include themes of grief and loss?

I think, like everyone, I am intrigued by the concept of death and the eternal question of what ultimately becomes of us. The book does deal with grief and loss, but more than that, I believe “The Lighthouse” is a story about love — not just the love that exists between two young people who are fatefully thrown into each other’s lives but also the kind of love that exists between a grieving husband and his wife, as well as that unconditional, unshakeable bond of love that exists between parent and child. I believe love is more than a fleeting emotion or just a chemical reaction in the brain. To me it’s a tangible part of the human spirit that endures long after we’re gone. “The Lighthouse” is an exploration of those ideas.

8. What was the biggest challenge you faced while writing the book?

Being able to step back from the story. When you’re deep in the process of writing, it’s difficult to look at it objectively and ask the tough questions: Does this scene need to be here? Does this conversation serve the story? Is this choice consistent with the character? I’ve had to cull hundreds of thousands of words — some of them I was quite proud of — simply because they didn’t serve the arc of the story or add anything to the journey of the characters. It’s a painful, challenging skill to learn, and I’m not sure I’ve even mastered it, but I believe it’s something every writer must do if they’re to create an engaging, fulfilling story for the reader.

9. What are some surprising things you’ve discovered self-publishing your novel?

Just how challenging it can be to know when it’s time to let go. When you’re publishing traditionally, you’ll likely have a deadline, but when you’re self-publishing you’ve got all the time in the world, which can be a blessing but also a curse. It can be very tempting to get stuck in a loop of getting feedback and making tweaks to the manuscript in the hope that you’ll be able to create something that pleases everyone. But that’s never going to be possible. There’s a fine line between making improvements and editing the life out of the story, and at some point, you need to know when enough is enough.

10. Why is “The Lighthouse” such an important story to you? What do you hope readers gain from the book?

It’s important to me because it’s the exact kind of book I’d like to pick up and read — a story that takes readers on an exciting, unexpected ride and has a bit of everything: mystery, love and a touch of magic. I just hope readers are entertained and that the themes and ideas explored in the story resonate with people.

11. What projects are you working on next?

I have the rough outline of the next novel sketched out, and in the meantime (while getting “The Lighthouse” ready for publication) I wrote a children’s story about a troublesome dog that’s being illustrated now. That only took a month to write, and I found the process refreshingly easier than the gargantuan task of completing a full-length novel. I am, however, looking forward to immersing myself in the next one.

Self-help title turns the trauma of being fired into opportunity

An expert’s debut empowers women to be resilient after experiencing job loss

“a must-read for career-driven people of all genders” –Foreword Clarion Reviews

New York, NY – A quick-witted and fast-paced self-help book from debut author and rainmaker, Robin Merle, dives into the emotional trauma of women whose job loss wasn’t part of the original plan. Involuntary Exit: A Woman’s Guide to Thriving After Being Fired (She Writes Press, Oct. 19, 2021) is about moving forward, illustrated by women’s remarkable stories of pain, progress, and purpose as they chart their own journey to more meaningful success.

It can take less than a minute to get fired. Less than a minute to hear the words that change your life as you’ve known it. You’re stunned, shocked, humiliated because your career has defined your life and you’ve been blindsided. You’re a company Loyalist with a capital L, and you’ve been sucker punched professionally. How do you even talk about this?

With advice for every unexpected twist, turn, and emotional trigger, this book is based on author Robin Merle’s experience at the top of billion-dollar organizations, as well as her interviews with accomplished women who were suddenly severed from their organizations and navigated their way back to success. The real-life examples she offers in these pages prove that readers are not alone and that they, too, can get through this. Whether being fired or needing to move on, Involuntary Exit will help readers rediscover their value and emerge as stronger leaders on their own terms.

Involuntary Exit: A Woman’s Guide to Thriving After Being Fired
Robin Merle | Oct. 19, 2021 | She Writes Press | Nonfiction/Self-Help
Paperback | 978-1647423094 | $16.95

“a nuanced look at the psychology of organizational loyalty and the grief that results from the end of a professional relationship” –Kirkus Reviews

Robin Merle has been a senior executive for billion-dollar organizations. She is a veteran of the power, value, and identity wars at the top ranks; has raised more than a half-billion dollars in philanthropy during her decades working with nonprofit organizations; has served as a board member for three nonprofits in New York City; and has been the vice chair of National Philanthropy Day in New York for three consecutive years. In 2017, she was named Woman of Achievement by Women In Development (WID) for her leadership in fundraising and commitment to women in the field. Robin is a frequent speaker at national conferences on fundraising and leadership. Her short fiction has been published in various literary magazines. Involuntary Exit is her first nonfiction book. Robin splits her time between New York City and North Conway, New Hampshire and Maine. You can find Robin Merle at her website:

In an interview, Robin Merle can discuss:

  • Why being fired is such a devastating experience, including the emotional, mental, and even financial toll of being fired
  • How she conducted interviews with real women who were severed from their organizations, and what she learned from speaking with them
  • How destigmatizing being fired can lead to community-building and personal growth
  • Her advice for dealing with uncertainty in the workplace, especially as we are still evaluating the short- and long-term effects of the pandemic

An Interview with Robin Merle

1. Who is “Involuntary Exit” for? What types of readers will gravitate toward this book?

  • Mid- to high-ranking professional women
  • Women who are in senior management and women who want to get there someday
  • Women who are more junior in their careers and looking for advice to navigate their careers forward
  • Career-focused women, especially those who have been fired or who lost their job during the pandemic
  • Anyone who is unemployed and who feels like they lost their identity when they lost their job

2. What inspired you to write this book?

There was no manual for dealing with this kind of loss. There was plenty about writing resumes, negotiating severances, etc. or self-congratulatory articles about rebounding, without any reference to how people managed themselves from the moment they heard their life at the company was over. I recognized there was a void, and I wanted to help as many women as possible.

3. What was the writing process like for you? How about the researching and interviewing phase?

It was like peeling an onion. The first draft came very quickly. As I began speaking with professional women, the stories unfolded and poured forward, and the writing process became dynamic. I was actually adding interviews two years after the first draft because of the impact of the pandemic. Everyone referred me to another woman with another story.

The interviews were eye-opening, validating, and therapeutic for almost all of the women, by their own admission. It was as if no one had ever asked them about something that was so commonplace, and they finally felt heard and not alone.

One of the most exhilarating aspects was following up with the women a year or two after they had been let go and hearing how happy they were, some at senior levels for a different company and some as founders and presidents of their own firms.

4. During the past year amid a global pandemic, countless women left their jobs to take care of their families. How will this book help those women should they return to the workforce down the road?

The book’s tactical advice is relevant to any job loss, whether involuntary or voluntary. My research found that the pandemic helped many women step back, reflect, and reinvent themselves during the “Shecession” (what economists have called the early months of the pandemic), which is a key strategy promoted in my book. In addition to encouraging big-picture thinking, the book addresses readers’ short-term and/or practical needs. For example, readers will hear about the nuances of networking for reentry. The book is filled with tips, takeaways, and advice based on real experiences, and is easy to flip through and refer back to when spirits sag or questions loom like How do I handle this?

5. “Involuntary Exit” also dives into the emotional and mental trauma of being fired. Is one of your goals to destigmatize being fired? What would it look like to shift the shame of that experience into something positive?

Yes, being fired can feel stigmatizing and I want to change this. What I learned in my research is that it was more uncommon if a woman had not been fired on her way to success. Hearing the stories of other women who have not only survived but prospered is part of the healing process. Knowing that you are not alone, that your feelings are valid, that there is empathy and community behind you is restorative. This is the antidote to withdrawing to a dark corner of your psyche dripping with shame. My hope is that readers will ultimately accept that being fired was a blessing in disguise that has helped them carve out a more rewarding life and a beautiful future.

6. What’s the one piece of advice you would give someone who has experienced a recent dismissal?

Don’t confuse moving quickly with moving forward. Take the time to assess your strengths and passions and determine if you want to replicate what you had or do something completely different, assuming you feel financially secure to do so. And, of course, read my book. Inside, you’ll find a community of women who will help you navigate your way back to success on your own terms.

Award-winning author, veteran releasing important historical work on POWs

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – In his latest work, award-winning author and military veteran Gary Slaughter documents perspectives of World War II that have flown under the radar for decades. Fletcher House Publishers will release “WWII POWs in America and Abroad” on Nov. 11, 2021.

Little has been written about the 6 million people held in prison camps around the world between 1939 and 1945. The Allies and the Axis powers held one another’s armed forces as military prisoners of war (POWs).

The Axis powers also confined millions of civilian prisoners in death or concentration camps. In addition, the Axis also imprisoned Russians, Slavs, European Jews, people with medical and physical disabilities, non-Jewish intellectuals, and religious leaders.

Even the United States imprisoned its own citizens in camps throughout America – over 100,000 Japanese-Americans and 11,500 German-Americans, most naturalized U.S. citizens.

Like military camps, these civilian sites were also surrounded by barbed wire and guard towers. In 1943, when a German POW camp was built in Slaughter’s hometown in Michigan, he became fascinated with POWs as a young boy. During the last two decades, Slaughter has authored five Cottonwood novels, set on the American homefront during the latter part of World War II, each containing POW storylines. Following book talks, most attendee questions related to POWs. His extensive research resulted in this captivating book.

“WWII POWs in America and Abroad”
Gary Slaughter| Nov. 11, 2021 | Fletcher House Publishing | Nonfiction / History
Paperback | ISBN: 9781733802130 | $20
Ebook | ISBN: 9781733802147 | $6.99

About the Author

Gary Slaughter is the author of “WWII POWs in America and Abroad” (Fletcher House Publishers, Nov. 11, 2021). He was born and raised in Owosso, Michigan. After graduating from the University of Michigan, he served seven years during the Cold War as a Naval officer, principally on anti-submarine warfare (ASW) destroyers. Following a distinguished military career, he became an expert on managing corporate information technology and consulted to clients worldwide. In 2002, Slaughter put his career on hold and began to write the award-winning Cottonwood series of five novels, depicting life on the American homefront during the last five seasons of World War II. In 2016, his critically-acclaimed memoir, “Sea Stories,” was published. The book’s 60 vignettes recall Slaughter’s life in the Navy. One vignette tells of the once top-secret role he played in avoiding an all-out nuclear exchange with the Soviet Union during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

In an interview, Gary Slaughter can discuss:

  • The 6 million people who were held in prison camps around the world from 1939 to 1945 during WWII
  • Growing up during WWII, particularly in his hometown of Owosso, Michigan, where a German POW camp was based
  • The daily lives and varying treatment of POWs in the United States and abroad
  • How the U.S. got involved with housing POWs from other countries on American soil
  • Internment camps that imprisoned thousands of Japanese American citizens in the U.S.

An Interview with Gary Slaughter

Why do so few people today know about the millions of people imprisoned around the world between 1939 and 1945, especially about the American citizens held in POW camps right here in America?

There are several reasons. First, most Americans who were old enough to have observed POWs in our country are no longer living. Second, by 1946, every POW had left America, taking their records with them. In addition, POWs were imprisoned in camps near small towns with little national press coverage. And few history books, following the war, included this event.

You’ve been fascinated by World War II POWs your entire life. How did the United States enter into the POW business?

In 1943, Americans landed in North Africa to join the British who were fighting there and had captured many Germans and Italians. The British had few materials to construct POW camps and couldn’t spare men to guard them. So, the United States agreed to take custody of 50,000 POWs. They were shipped back to America on the empty Liberty ships that had just off-loaded American troops and equipment in Algeria and Morocco.

The United States had no facilities to house prisoners in America because our primary focus was on the build-up of our armed forces. But, within weeks, a construction program for POW camps was submitted to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. These camps were to be built on American military bases and on the hundreds of abandoned Civilian Conservation Corps camps.

In the 1940s, small towns across America, such as my hometown of Owosso, Michigan, were among the 940 American communities where permanent POW base camps and branch camps were established.

To prevent mass escapes, the prisoners were dispersed widely in 155 base camps and 785 branch camps located all over the country, at least 170 miles from the coast and 150 miles from the Canadian and Mexican borders.

When World War II ended, there were some 5,000 Japanese, 51,000 Italian, and 379,000 German POWs for a total of 435,000 POWs in America. These were in addition to the huge number of POWs in Allied camps in both Europe and Asia.

You mentioned a POW camp in your hometown of Owosso, Michigan. Tell us about it.

In 1944, when I was 5 years old, a German POW branch camp for 2,000 POWs was established on the grounds of an auto racetrack about four miles west of Owosso. The camp was about 100 yards square and was surrounded by two (inside and outside) high, barbed wire fences with watch towers.

On Sundays after church, Owosso citizens drove their families out to the camp and slowly drove around the perimeter to observe the German POWs inside.

The POWs were housed in large tents. They lived there from spring until winter, working on farms and in factories in the area. In the winter months, they returned to their base camp near Kalamazoo, Michigan.

How did you become interested in the subject of POWs in America?

When I was in grade school, my best friend, Billy Curtis, and I took a shortcut through the parking lot of a canning factory in our neighborhood. On our way to school, we observed German POWs unloading truckloads of fruits and vegetables and carrying them into the factory where they were processed into cans or jars of fruit and vegetables.

The vast majority of our POWs were young men who seemed to be having the time of their lives. They befriended us and, in a way, we became like their younger brothers. They even invited us into the canning factory to join them for lunch in their dining hall, of course with the consent of the Army guards who were armed with submachine guns.

We loved being accepted by this group of smiling, blond haired, and blue-eyed young men. This experience began my lifelong interest in POWs.

In the 1980s, as an expert on the subject of corporate information technology, I was invited to consult to many European companies. On two occasions, I met high level executives who were eager to discuss the times they had experienced as POWs in America.

When you were a young boy, was your perception of Germans influenced by seeing these POWs working in your community?
Yes. Owosso had a significant number of German immigrants, so we were used to being among them. But the presence of German POWs enhanced our positive impressions of Germans in general.


The vast majority of prisoners in POW camps were enlisted men. According to the Geneva Convention, they were required to work. However, that work could not be demeaning, dangerous or defense-related. Prisoners worked the same hours as their American counterparts, eight hours a day and six days a week, in jobs such as farming, forestry, and food processing. And, POWs were paid for their work. But what was life like for an imprisoned officer?

Some German officers in American POW camps volunteered to do manual labor, just to keep in shape and pass the time.

All officers were provided fine quarters, a garden, and an American, German-speaking GI to assist them. They were also served better food than the enlisted POWs. Officers were even provided a car, driven by their GI, to tour the countryside. But they had to swear not to attempt to escape. Of the hundreds of German officers imprisoned, none ever attempted to escape.

In short, because of the fine treatment, most POW officers rather enjoyed their stay In America. Needless to say, the Germans preferred being in an American POW camp to fighting Russians in the dead of winter. And we acquired much information from the personal GIs assigned to them.

You’ve talked about how German POWs were treated here in the United States, but how were American POWs treated in German POW Camps?

Germany was our only WWII enemy to sign the Geneva Convention. This document spelled out how enemy POWs were to be treated. Japan and Italy did not sign. On balance American POWs in German camps were treated very well as compared to Americans held in Japanese camps. Unfortunately, when it appeared that Germany was losing the war, treatment of our POWs there worsened considerably.

After the Japanese air attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the United States suspected that Japanese Americans living here might act as saboteurs or espionage agents, so the United States even imprisoned its own citizens. During the war, these citizens included some 30,000 Japanese Americans. Can you discuss that?

Yes. This was tragic. A War Relocation Authority was established. Its mission was – and I quote – “to take all people of Japanese descent into custody, surround them with troops, prevent them from buying land, and return them to their former homes at the close of the war.”

On March 28, 1942, these Japanese Americans were forced to sell their property within two weeks. Many of them were business professionals, doctors, and lawyers.

Conditions at the camps were sparse. They were forced to live in uninsulated barracks furnished with only cots and coal-burning stoves. Residents used common bathroom and laundry facilities. Hot water was usually limited.

They set up schools, churches, farms, and newspapers. Children played sports and engaged in various activities. These Japanese-Americans spent as long as three years living in the camps.

Finally, in December 1944, internees could return to their homes, but most remained in the camps for another year because of anti-Japanese sentiment in America. About 55,000 returned to life outside the barbed wire. Those who returned to the West Coast found their property vandalized, farms gone to seed, and businesses bankrupt.

What was it like growing up in Owosso during the war? Everyone had to sacrifice for the war effort. Did you feel deprived?

As a young boy, growing up in America during the war was exciting, but we had to adjust to shortages of food and clothing. Food was rationed since we were feeding our military and POWs here and in Europe and Asia. Because clothing factories were converted to produce clothing for our military and for POWs, civilian clothing was also rationed. And there were no new toys or bicycles because those factories were converted to produce war materials.

Yes, all American families sacrificed, but we never lost sight of the fact that these sacrifices were necessary for us to win the war. After all, every family in my neighborhood had one or two members serving in the armed forces.

Is there anything that you experienced during the war years that you miss today?

I miss the spontaneous expressions of patriotism and the love and respect for our fellow citizens as it existed during the war. Everyone sacrificed and no one complained about it. We were all extremely proud to do so.

Watching classic movies is a passion of yours. Are movies about POWs mentioned in your book?

During the war, American movie theaters showed newsreels featuring the latest progress of the war in Europe and the Pacific. All Americans were very interested, because most had fathers, uncles, brothers, and cousins fighting the Germans or the Japanese at the time. Many Hollywood movies featured storylines about the war, including POWs and their camps.

One of my favorite POW films is “The Great Escape,” based on Paul Brickhill’s nonfiction book. This is a first-hand account of a mass escape of British and American prisoners from German POW Stalag Luft III in the province of Lower Silesia, Nazi Germany. Actual events are depicted in this best POW camp escape movie. I won’t tell you how many times I have watched this gem that stars Steve McQueen, James Garner, and Richard Attenborough.

You have devoted your life to writing over the past two decades. What advice would you give aspiring writers?

It’s been extremely hard work but worth every drop of perspiration that has fallen from my brow.

Positive and enthusiastic feedback from my readers is more than I ever thought I would be fortunate enough to enjoy during these last years of my life.

My advice to aspiring authors: Don’t sell yourself short. I never had any idea that I would be a respected author of eight books, both fiction and non-fiction. Simply put, don’t underestimate your ability until you’ve given it good try.

You and your wife, Joanne, collaborated on all of your books. How did you divide up the responsibilities to produce these books?

First of all, Joanne is extremely intelligent and very meticulous. She was an English major in college, taught English for 10 years, and is a voracious reader.

Joanne relieves me of an author’s tasks that don’t appeal to me. She takes my draft manuscripts and then studies, corrects, and improves them. She works with our agent and publisher to produce these works of art. Then, she promotes and schedules my book events. Finally, she handles book sales and financial transactions.

After having described all this, you might ask me, “just what do you do?”

You and your wife have been a team in a very successful business career spanning many decades. What is the secret to the success of your partnership?

The most important ingredient is that we completely trust each other, and we have learned over the years how to divide the work in a way that takes advantage of each of our strong suits. But most importantly we both love and like each other.

You often write about Owosso. Have you ever considered moving from Nashville back to Michigan?

Absolutely not. After graduating from the University of Michigan, I spent the better part of a decade as a naval officer on ships homeported in warm climates, like Key West and Norfolk, Virginia. Before moving to Nashville, we lived many years in Naples, Florida. We sometimes wonder why we moved way up here to Nashville. But going back to Michigan? The idea literally sends chills up my spine.

Importance of connection and empathy shines in author’s debut novel

Captivating podcast turned book about life-changing messages from a mysterious messenger

Richmond, VA — Author Liz Keller Whitehurst first released her inspirational debut novel, Messenger (Warren Publishing, Oct. 19, 2021), as a riveting 16 episode podcast series in 2020, the timing perfect amid the pandemic that had many people searching for encouraging messages to hang on to.

Now, Whitehurst is adapting her podcast into a print book, with the same pivotal themes of initiation, connection, relationship, and mystery, which form the heart of this refreshing novel. Whitehurst reminds us that we are all messengers for each other, and that empathy and connection can come from the most unexpected places.

“You know that message everybody’s been waiting for their whole lives, as long as they can remember? Well, I bring that message. That’s my job. It’s up to me.”

While searching for a new, intriguing story among the insanely competitive media world of New York City, young journalist Alana Peterson finds Messenger, an old woman who gives life-changing messages to strangers all over the city. Alana thinks she’s found her big break with Messenger’s story, but soon realizes there is much more to Messenger than meets the eye. Through a series of mistakes, Alana bends the trajectory of the story to tragic results, only then realizing Messenger’s bigger plans.

“Oh, no, Honey. Not the end. A new beginning!”

Liz Keller Whitehurst | October 19, 2021
Warren Publisher | Literary Fiction/Spiritual
Paperback | 978-1-954614-44-4 | $17.95

More about Liz Keller Whitehurst

Liz Keller Whitehurst is the author of the forthcoming debut novel, Messenger, and author/creator of the serial podcast MESSENGER: A NOVEL IN 16 EPISODES, which she launched in 2020. Her short stories have appeared in many literary magazines and journals, including Gargoyle, The Portland Review, Five Fingers Review and Nimrod International Journal. She was a finalist in Nimrod International Journal’s Short Story Competition. She earned an MA in English from The University of Virginia. In addition to fiction writing, Liz has spent her professional life writing and teaching. She’s done corporate, non-profit and freelance writing and has taught English and writing at Virginia Commonwealth University, University of Richmond and J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College. Her last teaching post was co-leading a memoir writing class at the city jail. Though born in Ohio, Liz grew up in Winchester, Virginia and has lived her adult life in Richmond, Virginia. She shares her current 1891 home, located in one of Richmond’s oldest neighborhoods, with her husband. Her second-floor writing desk overlooks the James River.

Follow Liz around:
Instagram: @lizkellerwhitehurst
Facebook: @lizkellerwhitehurst

In an interview, Liz Keller Whitehurst can discuss:

  • How her own great need inspired a story of connectivity and empathy
  • Why she decided to release her book first as a podcast, and why she’s releasing it as a print book now
  • The process of turning a book into a podcast, and vice versa
  • Her writing process and why she chose multiple narrative forms to tell this story
  • The use of magical realism in the book
  • The real-life messages she received from podcast listeners
  • What a clinamen is and how it relates to her novel
  • How it feels to be a debut novelist in her 60’s
  • How we can all be messengers for ourselves and each other

An Interview with Liz Keller Whitehurst

1. What’s one message you received that changed your life?

On the morning before my birthday, April 2020, with the COVID-19 epidemic surging, I awoke with a clear and urgent message: Messenger’s time has come. Figure out a way to get Messenger’s story out.

2. When did you start putting together the story for Messenger?

The seeds of Messenger began in 2013, when, during a time of great need, I begged for a message, for the answer to an undiagnosable health challenge my college-aged daughter faced. I went to New York City, where she was a student, to help. Every day while she was in class, I walked the cold, gray streets, stared into the faces of the multitude of people I passed, and wondered if they were desperate for a message, too. To distract myself, I journaled descriptions of faces, interesting people, physical locations, sounds, smells. I had no idea I was working on a new book.

3. How would you describe your writing process? What made you choose to write multiple narrative forms?

I am definitely a pantser (write by the seat of my pants) versus a plotter (planner and outliner) and I “see” and “hear” scenes organically. I strive to get them down as best I can while having no idea how the puzzle parts fit together. I’m also quite influenced by my life and particularly by what I’m reading. Messenger’s multiple narrative forms were really inspired by, believe it or not, Moby Dick! Of course I’m not comparing Messenger to Melville’s tour-de-force, but that’s where I got the idea to use multiple narratives, journals, and lists as a structure to tell the story The character of Messenger came first but I knew I needed another character to form a relationship with her and to create some action. Then I read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, the wildly successful and amazing non-fiction book by Rebecca Skloot. My character Alana, inspired by Rebecca, was born.

4. The book being released as a podcast first is such a fun, unique twist! What made you decide to release Messenger first as a podcast?

I finally finished Messenger mid-2019, it made the rounds of traditional publishers, thanks to my wonderful agent, April Eberhardt, got reads, but no traction. Then the holidays and 2020 came and everything changed with the pandemic. After I received the message to find a way to get Messenger out, my first idea was to create a website and release the book in episodes, as a serial novel. I queried some trusted friends, especially creative extraordinaire, Rachel Pater, and received another message from them: make Messenger a podcast. Thanks to our talented podcast team, we launched MESSENGER: A NOVEL IN 16 EPISODES in July, 2020. It’s still free and available on my website and at or wherever you get your podcasts.

5. What would you like readers to take away from your book?

My hope is that Messenger readers will find light, comfort, hope, perspective, motivation and inspiration in its pages, will sense the underlying connection we all share, and will believe that a slight swerve can change everything. I also hope readers will wake up and watch for messages coming their way and look for opportunities to be messengers for others.

6. A writer always loves hearing from readers, but you asked your podcast listeners, Have you ever received a message from an unexpected source? What was your response?

We received so many messages from this request we created two bonus episodes of real-life messages from listeners. The messages people shared were diverse and intriguing, inspiring and mysterious. Though all very different, one aspect was key to all the messages–timing. Just like Messenger’s messages!

7. You use the term clinamen in the novel and define it as a slight swerve that changes everything. What do you mean? What is its significance to the novel as a whole?

There are many definitions for the term clinamen but in this novel it refers to the underlying theme that a slight swerve–in a life, a city, the world–can change everything. Messenger teaches Alana that a mysterious underlying web connects everyone and everything. Because of this interconnectedness, what happens to any one life affects the whole. That’s how Messenger works.

Books Forward BFFs October Influencer Newsletter

Check out the latest newsletter for our Books Forward Friends. This issue features highlights of our BFFs, fun titles available for review, and special opportunities for our friends.

Download the October 2021 newsletter here!

Experienced philanthropist creates joyfully practical new guide to simplify giving to the cause dear to your heart

Camden, Maine – There are many ways to give back, from volunteering, serving on a board, raising funds, or donating time. Each role requires a specific skill set, but where does a person turn to get started? There has never been a formal guide for volunteers and activists to help them navigate the day-to-day activities associated with doing good through philanthropy; until now! So skip scrolling on the internet for hours to figure out how to advance the cause dear to your heart, and use this shortcut guide! “For A Good Cause” (She Writes Press, Oct. 12, 2021) by philanthropy expert philanthropist Diane Lebson is for anyone who has ever said to themselves, “If I could make a difference in the world, how would I want to do it?”

Lebson’s book compiles everything you need to know about intentional volunteering and participation in philanthropic events. This accessible guide offers a wealth of information regarding best practices to follow, garnered through decades of experience in a nonprofit career and collaboration with 26 female philanthropists who also share their experience with step-by-step lessons.

Lebson’s priceless knowledge on how women can give joyfully and effectively to a cause is packed into this action-oriented guide, and will surely benefit anyone interested in making the most of their charitable endeavors. Let’s get started!

“For a Good Cause”
Diane Lebson | October 12, 2021
She Writes Press | Philanthropy and Charity
Paperback | 978-1-64742-303-2 | $16.95

Early praise for “For A Good Cause”

“As a trailblazer in women’s philanthropy, Diane Lebson provides insightful advice on how to be intentional in your generosity. For A Good Cause illustrates what research at the Women’s Philanthropy Institute has demonstrated — that women are drawn to an expanded definition of philanthropy that includes time, expertise, advocacy, networks and money, applying all of their resources to work for good. Readers seeking greater confidence in how to do good will benefit from the real-world lessons and decades of experience shared through Lebson’s stories.”
—Jeannie Infante Sager, Director of Indiana University Women’s Philanthropy Institute

“We know from research that women don’t resonate with the word “philanthropist” as it can be perceived as primarily the donation of money. Women know that they provide so much more than just treasure when they care about a good cause – they also give their time, talent, testimony and ties. Yet this broader definition of philanthropy is rarely celebrated, leaving women to believe that their full support is not valued. Lebson’s practical guide for women’s engagement with charities lifts up and honors what women bring to the table as talented and thoughtful volunteers, leaders, donors and amplifiers of the mission. In addition, her plethora of stories and practical advice is a welcome aide to women as they consider the best approaches to benefit any cause they hold dear.”
—Kathleen E. Loehr, author of Gender Matters: A Guide to Growing Women’s Philanthropy

“In every encounter with Diane, I am always impressed (and motivated) by her energy and enthusiasm for supporting individuals to find joy in their philanthropic pursuits. Easier said than done! I am thrilled to see Diane articulate in word through her book, For A Good Cause: A Practical Guide to Giving Joyfully, the passion and practical steps anyone can take to embrace the sentiment of joyful giving. I believe truly that with her practical tips and relatable storytelling, you will feel confident and empowered to explore and expand your own philanthropic journey.”
—Katie Vlietstra Wonnenberg, President and Board Member, Phi Sigma Sigma, Inc. and
Phi Sigma Sigma Foundation, and student in giving joyfully

“In my many decades as a nonprofit CEO I can’t remember reading a book that so comprehensively addresses all the facets of philanthropy from volunteers to donors to even starting your own nonprofit. Diane’s contribution to the discourse reminds me that women have always worked hard to make the world a better place, now with For A Good Cause we have a guidebook to do it well and most important to do it joyfully. Bravo Diane!”
—Lidia Soto-Harmon, Chief Executive Officer, Girl Scouts Nation’s Capital

“The definition of philanthropy is a desire to promote the welfare of others, yet it has tended to be seen as limited to fundraising for a charitable cause. Diane Lebson’s new book For A Good Cause does a thorough and practical job of helping broaden that definition. She skillfully and with a very comfortably paced writing style introduces the reader to the many different ways you can “do good”…from serving on a board, to advocating for policy change, to making charitable contributions and so much more. What I found especially useful is her understanding of the importance of finding the right “fit” when you choose to engage in philanthropy. I highly recommend For A Good Cause if you are just getting started or if you have been a long-time philanthropist who is thinking of pursuing a new direction.”
—Anne Dalton, Community Volunteer, Portland, Maine

About the Author

Diane Lebson: Diane grew up as a first-generation American in Milford, Connecticut, the daughter of working-class, Polish immigrants who instilled in her a strong work ethic and desire to “do good.” After studying international relations in college, Diane stayed in Washington and began her nonprofit career on the national staff of United Way, the largest charity in the United States. Over the course of seventeen years, she managed United Way’s national literacy program, directed the national board of trustees, and built a women’s giving program that has to date raised over $2 billion and mobilized over 70,000 philanthropists. After leaving United Way, she went on to lead US fundraising operations for an international nongovernmental organization that serves orphans and abandoned children, lead a public library foundation, serve as the Chief of Protocol at the US Embassy in Canberra, Australia, and oversee the women’s giving program for the American Red Cross. In 2018, she and her husband cofounded Evergreen Philanthropic Solutions, a national consultancy that helps nonprofit organizations, individuals, corporations, and foundations achieve their philanthropic goals. For more about Diane, please visit Evergreen’s website at

Follow Diane Lebson on social media:
Twitter: @diane_lebson | Instagram: @dianelebson

In an interview, Diane Lebson can discuss:

  • How to help people find the charitable cause that is the right fit for them based on how they want to help, and what they are passionate about
  • Ways to ensure an organization is effectively using your donation.
  • How to become an educated supporter to make a difference in the charity you love
  • Ways you can make a difference with limited resources, such as money and time
  • The ambitions behind writing the book – how her career in philanthropies and nonprofits began, and when she realized it was her passion
  • How women differ from men in their philanthropic approaches
  • How to help raise more for a cause that is important to you, especially when you don’t feel comfortable asking others for money
  • The questions you should be asking if someone asks you to serve on a nonprofit board
  • How nonprofits can most effectively engage women as donors, volunteers and supporters

An Interview with Diane Lebson

1. What are a few signs that a person has found a charitable organization that is the right fit for them?

The most tangible sign that a person has found a charitable organization that is right for them is that they can actually feel it. They feel a sense of joy when they engage in their volunteer endeavor, even when the work is hard and challenging. They also are able to articulate how their charity work makes a difference and specifically how what they are doing is changing lives.

2. How do you think this guide would have impacted your life had it been available when you were first getting started?

If I had this guide when I was first jumping into philanthropy, I would have been able to focus my efforts more strategically. I would have wasted less time making mistakes and questioning whether I was doing the right thing in my charitable endeavors. I would also have been able to be more intentional in my efforts by selecting opportunities that were more closely aligned with my values — as opposed to responding to things that people put in front of me.

3. How did your relationships with other female philanthropists help you while writing this book?

Just like female philanthropists helped me chart my philanthropic path, they helped me on the journey of writing this book. The female philanthropists in my life are wonderful teachers and I am so grateful to the ones who mentored me along the way, connected me with opportunities, and encouraged me when I was challenged. In a similar way, the women I interviewed For A Good Cause were generous with their advice, networks, and cheerleading.

4. In what ways can a person with limited resources, money or time, still contribute to a charitable cause they care about?

There are so many ways that people with limited resources can make an impact in the philanthropic space. Post on social media about the causes that are important to you. Sign up for your favorite charity’s e-newsletter so that you can keep abreast of their activities. Identify a change agent you admire and become their pen pal by sending them notes of gratitude and encouragement. Live your values — try to buy from companies that engage in cause-related marketing campaigns.

5. What is your best piece of advice to someone just beginning to become interested in philanthropy, and how can they get started?

Don’t just respond to the volunteer or fundraising request that pops up in your inbox — think hard about what really matters to you and invest your entire effort to that cause. We diminish our power and our passion if we give or volunteer without intention. Just as you would with a financial investment, think about the long-term impact of going “all in” on an issue that matters to you — at the end of your life, you will find that you will have a positive impact on more lives if you concentrate your focus.

Poignant collection of short stories explores the search for a better life in California despite obstacles of human connection

GARDEN CITY, NY – Psychotherapist and writer Linda Feyder’s upcoming evocative short fiction collection, “All’s Fair and Other California Stories” (Sept. 28, 2021, She Writes Press), transports the reader into brief, but telling moments in each character’s lives around different California landscapes. This psychological exploration ruminates over the desire for human connection and a better way of life despite challenging experiences.

In present-day Southern California, a diverse group of characters seeks the fulfillment and connection this sunny state has always promised. They come with hopes for a better lifestyle, for a change of perspective, or for the dry, mild West Coast weather.

A couple moves to Palm Desert from New York for the arid, warm climate a doctor prescribes and they manage both illness and homesickness. The woman makes an unlikely friend in a young albino boy who teaches her a harsh lesson about the margin for cruelty that resides in us all. A young Mexican woman migrates to California and marries an American man—only to be deserted. A young man is disqualified from the Naval Aeronautical program and returns to his sister’s home, where he struggles with his identity and sexuality. After years of estrangement, a teenage girl travels to California from New York to spend the summer with her father.

This collection contains several “snapshot” stories—poetic pauses—that blend a set of images into an artistic visual unit, much like a brief cinematic experience. Every character in this collection is distinct from the next, but all of their stories unfold under the glare of the same Southern California sun—a western desert light so clear and unfiltered that it reveals everything.

“All’s Fair and Other California Stories”
Linda Feyder | September 28, 2021 | She Writes Press | Short Fiction
Paperback | 1647421993 | $16.95
Ebook | 1647421993 | $9.95

LINDA FEYDER is a practicing psychotherapist in New York. She has been writing fiction for many years and her stories have appeared in literary journals and magazines. She sees her love for the human narrative as the drive behind both of her professions. Born in California, her interest in the state and the people it attracts are the subject of her debut collection of short stories. She earned her MA in Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Houston and her MSW from New York University. She lives in Long Island with her husband and enjoys traveling to different locales.

Follow Linda Feyder on social media:
Facebook: @Feyderlinda | Instagram: @linda.feyder

In an interview, Linda Feyder can discuss:

  • How fiction and psychotherapy compliment one another
  • Her work as a psychotherapist
  • The Mexican immigrant experience in California, including her mother’s story as the daughter of a Mexican immigrant.
  • Understanding a person’s narrative and the human condition
  • The search for fulfillment, a better life and human connection

An Interview with Linda Feyder

1. What are the different characters seeking or experiencing?

Most of my characters desire human connection despite real or imagined obstacles. So many of the obstacles that stand in their way are emotional: Joyce’s inability to tell her husband what she’s really feeling because he’s going through an illness in “All’s Fair”, Russell’s confusion about his career path because he can’t come to terms with his sexuality in “T-Zone,” the male character in “Blind Date” who can’t be with the woman he loves because he still feels over responsible toward his parents. (Yes, guest article could expand on this – people so often feel they can’t do things or have what they want because of emotional obstacles.

2. How did you step into all of their shoes and come up with the various glimpses into their lives?

I think the one quality a psychotherapist and writer must have is empathy: the ability to stand in someone else’s shoes and imagine what that feels like. My characters usually come from spotting someone on the street or in a store or in some facet of my life and being curious about him or her. I usually don’t know anything about them, but imagine a brief moment in their lives that reveals something.

3. How has your work as a psychotherapist reflected in your writing?

I became a psychotherapist after I was a writer. Writing was always my first love since I was a child. But raising children and seeking a stable career moved me into the direction of psychotherapy. It’s only now that I see the link and realize the two professions aren’t far apart. My love for the human story is evident in both places. I’m endlessly fascinated by people’s stories, real or imagined. I want to understand what they are thinking and feeling, how they view situations and what that says about them. I’m not sure if my work as a psychotherapist is reflected in my writing, but I do know that my work as a writer is reflected in my psychotherapy. Listening to my characters and trying to figure out what they are saying to me has informed my work with my clients. I realize this more and more as I have grown as a therapist. ( I can expand on this).

4. What was growing up in California like?

California will always be my first home. I was born and raised there and left when I was 25 for graduate school in Houston, TX. There are things about a place that once you have left stay with you: love for natural beauty, the smell of eucalyptus, eating al fresco, and the influence of Mexican culture. I grew up free to roam and lived across a field from a horse stable where I learned to ride, had my first job at 13 cleaning and feeding horses, and met my lifelong friends. I didn’t see my parents until dinnertime and I’m so grateful for that freedom and experience. I realize now how self-sufficient that made me. I also craved a cultural life and was probably far more bookish than my peers. It is hard to stay inside to think and write when the sunny California weather beckons.

5. What is the connection between all of your stories?

My collection of thirteen stories is a portfolio of observed scenes from modern life set in Southern California with all its diversity and allure. Each character is seeking connection with others and a better lifestyle in the sunny state that promises much, but often doesn’t live up to the dream when met with each character’s own limitations.

Outdoor adventures combine with the joy of reading in lively picture book’s celebration of imagination

“From out to in, from here to there – books can take you anywhere”

Edwards, CO –Calling all explorers! What if you could go anywhere in the world? Through the power of imagination, and the art of the written word, each of us can pick up a book and set sail to a magical destination. Fostering curiosity and literary appreciation is at the heart of Nicole Magistro’s whimsical picture book “Read Island” (Read Island LLC, October 5, 2021).

Join a very brave girl and her animal friends as they traverse the seas in search of an island made of books. Propelled by their sense of wonder, the group makes exciting discoveries, meets unique new animal friends, and learns the most important secret of Read Island – “This world of stories, safe and true, is always here to welcome you.”

Equal parts a celebration of reading and a valuable lesson in environmental stewardship, this tale is the perfect addition to a little explorer’s growing bookshelf.

“Read Island”
Nicole Magistro | October 5, 2021 | Read Island, LLC | Juvenile Fiction
Hardcover | ISBN: 9781736523308 | Price: $18.99

About the creators…


Nicole Magistro is a professional reader and amateur mother who lives in the mountains of Colorado. She owned a bookstore for 15 years, wrote thousands of book reviews and memorized a few too many bedtime stories. Her favorite place in the world is the real Read Island, which inspired this story.


Alice Feagan grew up in a small town but has traveled the world many times over through the pages of her favorite books. This love of stories (and a mild obsession with art) inspired a career in illustration. Today, she is a children’s book creator known for her distinct cut-paper collage style. When she is not writing or illustrating picture books Alice can be found hiking, creating, or reading with her two young sons. The Collectors was her authorial debut, and Read Island is the third book she has illustrated.

Follow the creators on social media:
Facebook: @myreadisland | Twitter: @nicolemagistro | Instagram: @myreadisland

In an interview, Nicole Magistro can discuss:

  • What inspired her to write this book, including the story of the real Read Island, one of the Discovery Islands in British Columbia, Canada
  • What it’s like on “the other side of the counter” as a former bookstore owner turned author
  • How Alice Feagan’s collage illustrations can become a seek-and-find game for readers
  • What message she hopes to impart to young readers

Praise for the book…

“A beautifully illustrated children’s poem about the joys of reading”
–Kirkus Reviews

“Who wouldn’t want to live on Read Island? Not every kiddo gets a chance to travel in real life, but they really go places with this charming picture book!”
Anne Holman, co-owner, The King’s English Bookshop, Salt Lake City, UT

“A beautiful celebration of the adventure that is a story. A must-have addition to any picture book library”
Megan Waterman, owner, The Book Nook, Canby, OR

“An instant classic”
Wendy Hudson, owner, Nantucket Book Partners, Nantucket, MA

“This beautifully illustrated picture book expresses what all book lovers hold dear – books can take you anywhere. Magistro’s lyrical rhymes pair perfectly with Feagan’s timeless illustrations”
Sarah Hopkins, bookseller, The Bookworm of Edwards, Edwards, CO

“Unite book-loving animals, high-seas adventure, and gorgeous, innovative illustrations and you arrive at Read Island… a beautiful vessel for parents and children to understand, discuss, and celebrate the magic of reading”
Heather Mateus Sappenfield, author, The River Between Hearts

“A captivating and beautifully illustrated read-along that has all the makings of an instant classic… the perfect example of a picture book that will invite repeat visits long after readers have ‘aged out’ of the text.”
IndieReader (5-star review)

“I want to go to Read Island! What a magical, lilting, sweet story”
Nicole Sullivan, owner, Book Bar, Denver, CO

An Interview with Nicole Magistro

1. What inspired you to write this sweet story about an island made of books?

The real Read Island is our family’s favorite place to visit every summer. During the pandemic we couldn’t travel to Canada, except in our imaginations. Through meditation, my 9-year-old son and I “visited” as often as we could, and during one of these mental journeys, the symbolism of the place name became the story. It was a lightbulb moment – books can take you anywhere!

2. As a former bookstore owner, what is it like to be “on the other side of the counter” now that you’re an author?

Certainly I feel that indie booksellers are my tribe, and bookstores feel like home to me, but presenting a debut book to these professional readers is still nerve wracking! Booksellers have to make tough decisions in order to curate the perfect mix for their stores, and so I am eternally grateful every time a buyer takes a chance on my book. It means the world to me. And I get goosebumps every time I see Read Island on display “in the wild!”

3. Alice Feagan’s illustrations use a collage technique. Can you tell us more about the materials she used?

Alice is supremely talented with traditional and modern techniques. In the early versions, she hand drew each character and each scene to visually propel the story along. Then she selected a palette and textures to begin the digital work. And finally, she built layers using the text and images from classic children’s stories, fables, songs, and maps. This brought to life all of the thematic elements of the book. Alice uses textures from the natural world (and the literary one!) for colors, shadows and sources of light. Every step in her process was a surprise to me, and I continue to find little gifts on every page. You will, too!

4. While this book celebrates reading and promotes literacy, it also highlights the beauty of the natural world. Do you have an environmental message for kids as well?

A personal goal of mine is to have a strong mind-body connection with the Earth. I possessed this wholeness as a child, yet I somehow managed to un-learn or separate myself from nature along the way. I’ve learned that the binary of inside and outside doesn’t really have to exist! This story represents how our mindful, human adventures can exist in harmony with the wonders of wild places. But of course, it’s a message for kids so, simply, I want to help the littlest readers maintain that connection to nature and our physical world.

5. Are you available for events with bookstores, libraries, or schools?

Absolutely! Alice and Nicole love connecting with readers, talking about books and getting new recommendations for things to read ourselves! Check the website for upcoming events near you, or reach out to us about hosting an event at your bookstore, school, library or community center!