Friday, January 11, 2019

Lisa A. Sniderman on Finding Light in the Darkness of Dermatomyositis (DM) | A Chronic Autoimmune Disease

In this interview, Lisa A. Sniderman talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com, about her book, A Light in the Darkness: Transcending Chronic Illness through the Power of Art and Attitude.



“Who are you at your core? That part doesn’t change, even if something happens to you.” ~Lisa A. Sniderman

Lisa’s stage name is Aoede, a muse from Greek mythology and it was one which she selected so she would be reminded to be “continually inspired and to inspire.” She has been involved in music since the early 2000s and describes herself as a folk-pop artist who is also into young adult music and audio books which can be converted to stage plays.

A Light in the Darkness sprang from her experience, since April 2008, of living with dermatomyositis, a degenerative, inflammatory muscular disease whose symptoms include skin rashes and which causes muscular weakness and attack the immune system. At the time, she was six weeks away from getting married and was about to go on tour to promote her first album, and the last thing she expected, when she went to a dermatologist for a skin rash, was to be diagnosed with a serious illness. She was initially in denial, but she had no choice but to confront her condition when, in 2010, she was hospitalized for muscle weakness and subsequently confined to a wheelchair while she underwent months of physical therapy.

Lisa says her story is one of persevering through the condition by using creativity to heal and manage it and has realized that it can also help others heal and persevere through their own difficulties, disabilities, and life challenges. That said, the book sprang from her realization that she hadn’t fully processed her condition personally, instead, hiding from it behind her persona, and that personal processing produced the book as well as an understanding of who she was, now that she could no longer act the way she used to.

Lisa remarks that, in those times when she is “in flow,” she doesn’t have to focus on her condition, and this is why she enjoys the creative process. She admits that her journey is a “roller coaster,” as the condition flares up every now and then, and notes that, while we do not have any choices on what is thrown at us, we do have choices on how to act and react. As such, she chooses to focus on love and gratitude, noting that it isn’t always easy to do so and that such focus affects her relationships with the people around her and the community she is a part of, including her husband.

Where attitude is concerned, Lisa notes that she has more compassion and has incorporated her spirituality in her life more now, compared to before she was diagnosed, when she was always on “go, go, go,” mode. She learned compassion during her hospital stay after seeing fellow patients who were in just as bad a situation as she was and felt blessed because she knew she would recover, whereas the patients were unlikely to do so.

Where creativity is concerned, Lisa was still trying to find her sound and voice when she was diagnosed, and after that she had more vulnerability in her work, as she was able to tap into things which she experienced, directly or indirectly. Lisa herself only realized recently that the material she was creating was related to the journey of healing that she was on, giving as an example the protagonist of one of her own plays, which reflected the struggles that she, herself, was undergoing at the time.

Part of Lisa’s journey included a desire for her to collaborate with other artists to heal, and her invitation resulted in a play, Lights in the Darkness, which was a collaboration with some 35 artists from all over the world. Lisa admits that this would likely not have happened had she not have made herself vulnerable enough to share her own story, and she reflected that she didn’t expect the reaction that she did when she first sent out that invitation.

Lisa notes that she has had many life lessons come out of her experience which she wants to share with others. Some of these lessons are: where you are and who you are is enough; never stop dreaming; and always keep shining your light.

Purchase from Amazon: A Light in the Darkness: Transcending Chronic Illness through the Power of Art and Attitude by Lisa A. Sniderman

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Joan Diver on Her Healing Odyssey Story, When Spirit Calls

In this interview, Joan Diver talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com, about her book, When Spirit Calls: A Healing Odyssey.



“If we all could understand that we are connected by a common consciousness, this is what could solve the problems of the world.” ~Joan Diver

When Spirit Calls is the culmination of over two decades’ worth of work, as she started it back in the early 1990s, initially as a project for writing out six or eight spiritual experiences. Her journey began with a bad back which began back in the 1970s and some unsuccessful operations, which made her look for alternative methods of healing. She began having some unusual experiences after one particular surgery, and after asking a psychic what was going on, she was told that she was in the process of balancing her various energies. A visit to a New Mexico healer placed her right on the path she is presently on, and along the way she made a commitment, visiting the Great Pyramid of Giza, to “go forth and do it,” which she would later discover was to write her book. It was after that when she received, and accepted, various invitations to travel to places where she experienced unusual events as well as a positive shift in her foundation work, which she was still then into.

Some of the unusual experiences Joan experienced was getting greatly moved when, in China, she visited a destroyed temple as well as when she watched a group of prisoners who were being paraded through town to their execution. She also had some spiritual experiences when visiting Israel, with the most profound being one where she felt led to walk to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where she felt guided there and back, as she still doesn’t know the path to and from there.

Joan notes that going on a journey like she did would both heal oneself as well as bring up fears that need to be faced and resolved, and some of the issues she needed to resolve were her own self-doubts. The most serious concern she had during her journey was her back, as it tricked out several times during her journey. She looks at these events as gifts, as she finds herself in a better place once she had resolved these. Moving forward is her primary concern, and she knows she’s on the right path when she feels “a ball of anxiety.”

For Joan, the highs are when she reaches a place where she feels a deep connection to the peace and love within herself as well as within others, as well as when she can transform other people’s lives and emotions. For her, a high feels like a great inner peace, and awareness of the connection between and among all, as well as being able to see the signs in one’s life which guide one onwards - something which can be fairly scary, but following which delivers a “great gift.”

Joan’s husband, Colin, was trained logically, so initially he felt threatened and skeptical about the journey she took, as he was afraid Joan would leave him. His mind changed as he watched Joan transform and felt that he was getting left behind, and so began traveling his own journey, with the major turning point being meeting someone he had encountered in a past life. At present, he describes himself as a “stowaway” on Joan’s journey, and the two are as close as they can ever be.

Where When Spirit Calls is concerned, Joan notes that it is a “page turner” and can be read as much as a memoir as well as a way by which a reader can see a reflection of his or her own life, as the experiences speak to a universal form. To those who are questing for something other than what they have, Joan recommends that they take the time to be still, in whatever way works for them, in a way that enables one to step out of their life for a short period of time. She also recommends that people seek help from others who can help them gain a new perspective on their own lives. It is her hope that When Spirit Calls inspires people to see their own fears and hurts, then seek healing so they can find peace for themselves, as well as to love and to forgive and to be open to the possibilities of there being a guiding spirit and that we are all connected to a common consciousness.

Purchase from Amazon: When Spirit Calls: A Healing Odyssey by Joan Diver


Sunday, December 2, 2018

Mariam Baker on the Sacred Voices and Stories of Women

In this interview, Mariam Baker talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com, about her book, Sacred Voices: Stories from the Caravan of Women, written with and illustrated by Cynthia Dollard.



“Passion for love, harmony, beauty and peace.” ~Mariam Baker

Mariam has always yearned for peace, and over the years she has seen that people are more similar than different; and this was the inspiration for Sacred Voices. The book covers unheard oral tradition stories and poems spoken by women, such as, perhaps, a story or a lullaby a mother would tell her child, as well as recipes for dishes which women cooked. Mariam herself realized, early in her life, that the voices of female mystics and saints weren’t as accessible as those of their male counterparts, and this book attempts to bring these feminine voices out. Sacred Voices also speaks to Mariam’s efforts to bring about peace throughout the world and in humanity.

Sufism, according to Mariam, might be referred to as a mystical branch of Islam at present, but the tradition that Mariam follows extends far back before the Prophet Mohammed, and the tradition celebrates and honors the sacred throughout the world and the universe. Sufism thus attracts followers from other religions, as the tradition is universal in nature, particularly since it emphasizes one human tribe, one human unity which is moving to a realm of greater wisdom. Mariam notes that the Tree of Abraham is the underlying commonality amongst the traditions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and she hopes that humanity is at a point of transition, where the voices of women, and the opportunities they have, are increasing. This unlocking of women’s status, Mariam notes, helps open up a larger creative foundational wisdom, where both right and left brains are used to solve problems. She also remarks that women cannot ignore their bodies, as they are the carriers of future humans, and that this can help bring about an awareness of all of us humans being interconnected with each other.

Mariam points out that Islam is presently a generally unknown quantity in the world, and because that is so, it is easy for others to blame it and its followers for a lot of things. She also remarks that similar biases also exist against women and “others.”

The book’s layout reflects Mariam’s and Cynthia’s desire to reflect the beauty of the stories within, and in addition to the stories poems and recipes are included to show the richness of women’s lives. Mariam gathered the material for the book throughout her travels, and she remarks that some of the women didn’t like to be identified, given the rifts within and without Islam itself. Her favorite interview was one she conducted with a woman whom she had known since the latter was a little girl, and the story of her journey moved her. The interviews which most touched her were the ones which she heard from two women who were refugees who moved from one place to another until they reached the United States.

Purchase from Amazon: Sacred Voices: Stories from the Caravan of Women by Mariam Baker and Cynthia Dollard

Friday, November 16, 2018

Suzanne Adam on Life in Chile and Her Memoir from the Bottom of the World

In this interview, Suzanne Adam talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com, about her book, Notes from the Bottom of the World: A Life in Chile.



“And I would say, to have an open mind, to want to learn or to be curious about the people and that country.” ~Suzanne Adam

Notes from the Bottom of the World is essentially a collection of essays on a variety of topics that Suzanne wrote over the years, some of which are expanded versions of blogs she had posted. These essays range from childhood memories to travel blogs, and she didn’t intend to have these published in a book when she originally wrote these.

Suzanne was an only child who grew up in a town near San Francisco, after which she joined the Peace Corps. She began teaching after her Peace Corps stint, and it was during that time she met the man who would become her husband, and she went with him when he returned to Chile, and has lived there since then. The couple’s original intention was to return to California, but they wound up settling in Chile, and Suzanne found the process of settling in rather challenging, with one of these being a small-town girl who needed to adapt to a big city. Other challenges included standing in line, during the times of social unrest, to buy food, and getting used to the cold weather.

Suzanne remarks that not having the kinds of foods she had been used to, as well as living frugally, is something that has had a lot of impact on her, and she has noted that there is a lot of waste that is generated today. She has also realized just how important her connection to the natural world was to her, due in a large part to her upbringing in northern California, and she used this to help herself sink roots in Chile. She notes that, in general, people who live in cities tend to be less connected with the natural world compared to those who live in towns and smaller settlements, and that Chileans are becoming environmentally aware at present, with plastic bags being banned in several places and the government pushing for dependence on solar power.

Suzanne notes that Chile’s geography leads to its isolation, as it is separated from other nations by the Atacama desert and the Andes mountains, which has led to the inward-facing society that she saw when she first came over. The nation also wasn’t diverse, socially or culturally, but this is changing now, thanks to interconnectivity and a present influx of migrants from other nations. This immigration is viewed with mixed emotions amongst long-term Chileans, but the reception has been generally positive.

California and Chile are similar, with Chile being a “turned upside-down” version of California where the climates are concerned. Suzanne remarks that the mountainous areas immediately around Santiago, the capital of Chile, tend to be bare of trees, but the southern mountains have a lot of forest cover, and the country’s coast is similar to that of the western United States.

Suzanne admits that her heart is in both the United States and in Chile, as she has lived longer in Chile than she had in the country of her birth. She also notes that Spanish is widely spoken in California, and remarks as well that the golden poppy, which is California’s state flower, grows in central Chile. She notes that Americans could learn to live more frugally, even as she bemoans that Chileans are presently moving towards the same kind of consumer society present in the United States.

To those who would relocate to a land different from their own, Suzanne recommends that they study the local language ahead of time, as not knowing the language would hinder acclimation. She also recommends to learn about the people and the culture and to have an open mind while doing so.

Purchase from Amazon: Notes from the Bottom of the World: A Life in Chile by Suzanne Adam

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Jennifer Cohen on How to Cultivate a Life of Sustainable Abundance

In this interview, Jennifer Cohen talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com, about her book, which she co-authored with Gina LaRoche, The 7 Laws of Enough: Cultivating a Life of Sustainable Abundance.



“We have to get into what is scarce versus finite. There are limitations, but we are manufacturing most of the scarcity on the planet.” ~Jennifer Cohen

According to Jennifer, The 7 Laws of Enough came about because their publisher asked them to create it, but the book is the culmination of fifteen years of research and inquiry which created the aforementioned seven laws.

“Sustainable abundance” is a term defined by Jennifer and Gina as a form of abundance which is just, ethical and reciprocal, pointing out that the present method of living is unsustainable and that living in a manner of sustainable abundance is a return to a sustainable way of life. Abundance is also the capacity to remember and notice the bounty that is equally available and freely given to all.

Jennifer notes that “abundance” is used in everyday life as a way to justify their excessive consumption, and she notes that reciprocity is about being accountable for returning as much as has been taken. She noted that one of the steps to getting to a knowledge of reciprocity is by taking note of the real cost of producing goods, costs which include environmental impact and impact on people. She gives, as an example the case of Ray Anderson, who owned one of the largest carpet manufacturers in the world, as someone who operated on reciprocity, in that he decided that his company would have zero carbon impact and pollution where the environment was concerned. He succeeded in this aim, and Jennifer notes that there are presently several companies which are also working with reciprocity in mind, as the momentum to do so seems to be “building.”

Scarcity is “the myth of our time,” according to one of Jennifer’s mentors, Lynne Twist, who also adds that this is “the sea and the water that we’re swimming in.” The three elements of this myth are:

  1. There’s not enough to go around.
  2. More is always better.
  3. This is the way things are.

Jennifer points out that clean water being a finite resources is true, but that it has not become a scarce resource until recently, as an example, and notes that, even with present methods used in the international food system, there is enough food to feed seven billion people, although this system might not be useful when feeding nine billion people. She also remarks that, while 30,000 children die every day from hunger, this is not due to an insufficiency of food but because present economic models are based on the mindset of scarcity. Jennifer notes that value is driven up because of this mindset, for everything from diamonds to food. Although Jennifer admits that neither she or Gina are anthropologists, she argues that this mindset began with agriculture, when people began stockpiling and hoarding things that were more of one’s share, and also notes that, biologically speaking, the human brain is designed to survive, and that anyone can steal food from another person when their brain believes that it cannot survive unless it does just that - something which comes from a mindset of scarcity. That said, Jennifer points out that the neocortex enables humans to think beyond limbic system survival programming, and that, while this is the seat of human potential, it is difficult to get to a state of fulfilling human potential when one is bombarded continuously by messages which stimulate fear.

As one of their mentors said, “You treasure what you measure, and you measure what you treasure,” which means that, in a world of scarcity, what is measured - the metrics for success - are stuff owned, achievement and accumulation of capital.

Love is the seventh law, and according to Jennifer, where her co-author Gina is concerned, it is the only law. She also notes that, biologically, human beings cannot exist without love.

The other laws, which enable sustainable abundance and, like love, are the metrics by which a life of sustainable abundance are lived, are:

  • Joy.
  • The depth with which we are resting.
  • Being in alignment with the truths of what it means to be an impermanent human being.
  • Relating to ourselves as all of us human beings belonging here.
  • Declaring and living inside our own “enoughness.”
  • Tell the stories that enable us to live a life of sustainable abundance, rather than of scarcity.

Jennifer noted that leaders tell stories for a different kind of future, then take a stand for those stories and invite people to live into these, giving the examples set by Dr. Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi.

While the American Dream is essentially for a person to be “self-made,” this is an individualist success point of view, and Jennifer points out that nobody is self-made. Nobody does everything alone, Jennifer points out, as people need others to help them carry out what needed to be done; indeed, she mentioned monks in caves, who need support for them to maintain their meditations, as well as that most people don’t know how to make their own clothes or build their own homes.

To those who are struggling, Jennifer says, “It’s not your fault,” and that this moment just might be enough.

Purchase from Amazon: The 7 Laws of Enough: Cultivating a Life of Sustainable Abundance by Gina LaRoche and Jennifer Cohen 

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Scott Stein and His Clever Leadership Hacks & Shortcuts to Boost Your Impact and...

In this interview, Scott Stein talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com, about his book, Leadership Hacks: Clever Shortcuts to Boost Your Impact and Results.



“If they [leaders] can delegate, they can actually get a lot more things done in less time.” ~Scott Stein

Scott Stein has collected a great number of hacks from various leaders whom he has dealt with in the past twenty-five years, and after sharing these with several other leaders, it often was the case that the latter would ask him to write those hacks - effective shortcuts which help boost productivity - so they and their people could refer to these. The result was Leadership Hacks, which is portioned into sections in such a way that a reader wouldn’t need to read the book from cover to cover to get anything out of it, and instead just check on the section he or she is interested in so they could improve their effectiveness.

The top challenges facing leaders today, according to Scott, is not having enough time for them to do everything they need to do. This results in leaders taking shortcuts which may be inappropriate in the long run, as they will eventually need to work harder and will need to deal with any negative consequences of such actions on their people. Where leadership throughout time is concerned, one of the biggest challenges has been having one’s people take action in a manner the leader wants, and this has been exacerbated at present by the need for leaders to make decisions and take action quickly. Scott notes that leaders today need to be smarter in the way they work, so they can be more efficient while not skipping steps as they go along, and the book provides practical advice and procedures for doing so.

Scott notes that there are quite a few books on leadership out in the market today are done by academics who have never had any practical experience in leadership and also remarks that there are leadership programs available today which might have been applicable a half-century ago but which are not applicable today.

Scott notes three categories of hacks where leadership is concerned, all of which he has hacks for:

  1. Personal hacks - the things leaders can do to help them work smarter.
  2. One-on-one hacks - when a leader interacts with one of his subordinates.
  3. Team hacks - when a leader interacts with his team or organization.

One of the hacks that Scott mentioned was how to hack one’s inbox, which is particularly vital if the leader is in charge of an organization with literally thousands of people. Moreover, according to a McKinsey Global Institute report, leaders spend around two and a half hours of their time each day reading and answering e-mails, which makes hacking one’s inbox important. Scott mentions a four-step e-mail inbox hack which he picked up from a global HR leader who deals with 15 countries and over 10,000 people under her. The process is as follows:

  1. Scan the e-mail.
  2. Delete anything that is not important, to eliminate visual clutter.
  3. Sort the remaining e-mails according to level of importance.
  4. Respond to any necessary e-mails.

Scott also gave some advice on how to get e-mails responded to, and this is by telling the recipient, in the Subject line or at the very beginning of the e-mail, what the desired outcome is. There are five different types of outcomes, which give context to the reader, viz.:

  • FYI - I just need to give you information.
  • I need some information from you, can you share this with me?
  • A decision needs to be made.
  • I need you to take action on this.
  • We need to have a meeting, because what we need to discuss is too complex to communicate over an e-mail.

Where delegation is concerned, Scott notes that, according to a Harvard Business Review article noted that more than half of the companies surveyed were concerned about the ability of their leaders to delegate. Scott believes that most leaders don’t delegate because of the time concerns, as leaders feel that the job could be done more efficiently, and in the way the leader wants it, if they did the job themselves, rather than giving it to a subordinate and having him mess it up. Leaders also might not trust their subordinates, for whatever reason, or might not have trained their subordinates properly, which makes leaders reluctant to delegate, and Scott notes that there are no organizations that give leaders a process on how to delegate, and then remarks that there are four levels of delegation.

Level 1: “Don’t do it, because I’ll do it myself.”
Level 2: “Let’s work together to map out / write down the activities, and the sequence that the activities need to be taken, along with a time frame for doing these.”
Level 3: “Create your own map on what needs to be done, and I’ll check on it before you carry out the task.”
Level 4: “I’ll give you this task to do, and then check on you later.”

Moving one’s staff up these levels, Scott notes, empowers the staff and gives the leader more time to handle other things.

The three ingredients of leaders who are admired by other leaders have three aspects which enable them to get things done in a way that motivates their people:

Mindset - open to learning and trying new things. This is the Growth Mindset mentioned by Carol Dweck in her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, as opposed to the Fixed Mindset, as the Growth Mindset is the belief that one can cultivate one’s learning as well as learn from one’s mistakes.

Approach - the steps taken and how one’s subordinates are engaged so that they will take those steps.

Impact - on the people around the leader.

A lot of leaders learn into becoming a leader, according to Scott, and these leaders often guess and decide along the way, where risky decisions and possible new ways of doing things are concerned.

There are four different kinds of team meetings, according to Scott, and these should all be done separately, rather than all mashed together into one major meeting, as each meeting has its own process. Scott notes that meetings are a waste of time, according to nearly half of the recipients of a survey given, and the types of meetings are:

  • Check-in meeting, where the leader checks in on the work done so far.
  • Problem-solving meeting, where a problem is discussed and solved. This may require the presence of people who have expertise in the problem concerned and does not require the presence of those who are not involved with the problem.
  • Decision-making meeting, after which action will be taken.
  • Strategy-development meeting, which is a planning meeting that looks into the future.

Where technology is concerned, Scott points out that, according to all the research done on the topic, technology is highly distracting. Even having a smartphone beside one can reduce cognitive thinking and ability, because of the notifications that come in; and the impact extends into family life, when a leader is stuck to a screen when the rest of the family is around and wants to spend time with him.

Purchase from Amazon: Leadership Hacks: Clever Shortcuts to Boost Your Impact and Results by Scott Stein

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Jennifer Anne Moses on Writing The Book of Joshua | A Novel about Mental Illness

In this interview, Jennifer Anne Moses talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com, about her novel, The Book of Joshua.



“Find a way to get to the truth.” ~Jennifer Anne Moses

The Book of Joshua was inspired by a real-life friend of Jennifer who was a teenage summer love, Danny. It turned out that Danny would have a schizophrenic break during college, and while he did seem to get his life together (Danny did graduate from Princeton) he ended it by burning himself to death on the front lawn of his parents’ house. These incidents, and Danny’s fascination with her before the schizophrenic break, which wasn’t diagnosed until after it happened, were the inspiration for the main character of Joshua.

While Danny was the inspiration for the story, the main character, Joshua, is similar to Danny only in that they both had a “star quality” and a fascination, to the point of stalking, a girl they were interested in. Joshua, however, is given more hope, and his essential struggle is figuring out who he is, which reflects Jennifer’s own struggle in her own life. The novel describes the effects Joshua’s condition has on them, and Jennifer remarks that mental illness is a “cancer of the soul,” remarking that, even if one had cancer, one was still around, whereas with mental illness, one is destroyed from the inside out. She also notes that addiction has a similar effect, based on her own personal experience.

“Secrets keep you sick,” is a saying that Jennifer remembers, and she notes that secrets have to be “lanced” and aired out in the fresh air and light of truth, lest these consume the one keeping it. This is reflected in Nate, Joshua’s younger brother who, because he is “pissed off” with keeping the secret, provides the breakthrough to enable Joshua to figure out what is going on. The other character with whom Joshua bonds is Elizabeth, and while she has a secret of her own, she is determined to not let that rule her life; and unlike Joshua’s parents, Elizabeth and her mother are on the same page. She and Joshua bond together strongly as friends, and this helps Joshua along in his journey to figure out what happened.

Jennifer remarks that secrets and lies lie heavily on people and on society and the community in general, and that these eventually come out in such forms as gun violence, murder, suicide and other such acts. She believes that the truth should be told, as secrets will eventually get out, and that doing so will release one from the oppression of keeping such secrets. She also believes that one’s power or talent is given to one at birth, and that one should follow that path, which will become one’s journey in one’s life.

Purchase from Amazon: The Book of Joshua by Jennifer Anne Moses