Interview with Musician Heather Schmid About New Album Transformations

 

Heather Schmid is a classically trained opera singer who has worked around the globe as not only a singer but also a television host, philanthropist and spokesperson. She recently released a new album, called Transformations, that serves a beautiful reflection on the last three years of her spent touring Pakistan.

“The songs highlight the heart-stopping experiences, true grace, life, death, and humanity as she promoted world unity throughout Pakistan.  The lyrics on the album were written by Pakistani legend Anwaar Magsood and the melody by Ashaad Mehmood.  Phelay Hum Pakistani Hay fused the American pop rhythms with Pakistani regional instruments and local musician melodies.  … Heather is a new-breed, millennial performer. Within our extant global community, Heather envisions her music as the bridge that can span cultural differences and connect people in their over-arching sameness.”

Heather shares more in our interview:

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What does Transformation mean to you?
Transformation to me equals change so dramatic that you are never again the same. I think of Life never being the the same after a transformation. To me, transformation is growth. That’s why I named this album Transformations. After the past three years, I was transformed. I will never be the same person. I am changed forever because of dramatically positive and dramatically difficult struggles that I faced and I hope I am strong and better because of it. 
How did you come to spend the past 3 years in Pakistan?
When I was a sophomore at Boston University as a music student, I went to Kenmore Square to learn how to meditate in a hotel conference room. As it turns out, on this night there was only one other person who also wanted to learn how to meditate. That was Rafay, and he was originally from Pakistan. Rafay and I are soul mates that traveled thousands of miles together and plan to travel thousands more. We were married in Pakistan among all of our relatives and I have traveled there ever since. Three years ago we decided to create a Unity Project in Pakistan to talk about Unity and celebrate the positive aspects of the nation. It was our hope to reignite a peaceful dialogue between our two nations. 
Amazing! What is one stand out experience in Pakistan that has affected you?
There were moments in Pakistan that were quite harrowing, but that is never what I focus on. I remember the deeply rewarding positive interactions with everyday Pakistanis. Finishing the Unity song, performing in Pakistan, meeting and hearing the positive responses to the music is the greatest, most rewarding thing of my music career. 
After the Unity song was released and become popular on the radio, TV and social media, I started to hear from people on the streets of Pakistan. Many talked about how the song was meaningful to them and how much it meant that in the middle of such negative press about their country, this was something that they could feel proud of. I was in a hotel lobby when a few medical school students eloquently expressed their reaction to the song. They detailed their feelings of despair with the current environment in Pakistan, how dangerous it was because of terrorism. Students credited the song with helping to ease their feelings of helplessness and shame. 
What global issues are of most concern for you personally? 
Access to Education is a very important issue to me.  I mean… I can’t solve the world’s problems but I can help with education. In Pakistan, I see firsthand how lack of education perpetuates poverty. Kids that cannot read street signs are taken advantage of. Parents without enough education take their children out of school to help feed the family. Education is a pathway for a better life for generations. Even for me, educated myself about the cycle of poverty provides a much deeper understanding and hopefully keeps me from perpetuating subconscious biases. But nobody want to hear from a singer how she “educated myself out of my biases” blah blah blah… I was never the popular girl I will tell you that!
You were educated in music through Boston University. How has your classical training at BU influenced your career? 
Classical Training means freedom and autonomy to me. I never had to rely on a producer to arrange a track for me. I could read music, write and arrange parts and open up pro-tools session and do it myself. If I had a great musical idea, I could write it down and arrange the parts mentally and sketch out the idea to see if it was any good. 
I could sing any style of music because I had the classical training which provides a solid foundation vocally. I have the range to sing any part because I trained my voice for so long. I never had to wait for a song to come along that I could sing on. I never had to beg a producer to work with me. As an artist, when inspiration strikes, you want to be able to fulfill your musical vision. That is all possible with my classical training. 
In China I learned and wrote music in Mandarin because of the language learning in opera school. When I was asked to perform and sing with an orchestra, we spoke the same language. Rhythms, beats, measures and notes was our universal language. 
The other thing is, I own all of my own music. If I could not write, produce and arrange, which I learned from my classical training, I would be at the mercy of the owner of the tracks. 
You also had a TV show in China, right? How does your TV show influence or tie in with your work as a musician? 
The Ambassador was a show on CCTV in China. It followed my live shows, meeting locals, exploring the fun local tourist spots, also the charity that each show benefited. It was so friggin’ cool. I loved every minute of my touring life in China. It was basically a travel show, combined with a reality show, combined with my life as a touring artist. I learned how, as the only American in a region, you become a Music Diplomat almost by accident. It definitely seemed like local people were judging my actions to form their opinions about all Americans. I learned I better watch what I say! I definitely learned about music diplomacy through this show. It is what influenced The Unity Project in Pakistan. 
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What is your favorite song off Transformations?
Journey. That cello line seduced me. I am the snake with swirls in my eyes slowly uncoiling from the charmer’s wicker basket with that cello line. I’m done. The lyrics are brutally honest. I feel my own relentless anxiety fade away into peace through that song. It’s like a therapy session. Then I go back into my wicker basket and say “what just happened?” 
What is the process of working with Anwaar Maqsood and Ashaad Mehmood on these songs?
Working with Anwaar Maqsood and Ashaad Mehmood was like being in the presence of greatness and just trying to soak it all in. They call Anwaar Maqsood the Shakespeare of Pakistan because he is such a legend. He is brilliant and smart and hilarious all at the same time. He has produced TV shows, songs, movie scripts, poetry for more than 40 years in Pakistan the whole time poking fun of the government  in a smart articulate way.
It is no easy task to be an artist in Pakistan.  There is virtually no support for artists in the nation. In a country with a history of martial law, military takeovers, widespread corruption, and terrorism; artists struggle on every level. Their forward-thinking mindset is welcome and persecuted at the same time. How can anyone think of inspiring, articulate, creative phrasing when they are worried about road closures and whether their family is safe? Ashaad Mehmood runs the only Cultural Arts School in the whole country. The stories they told as artists in Pakistan were inspirational, difficult to hear, and deeply moving all at the same time. 
So powerful! What do you hope listeners will take away from the album?
Transformations is about connection … higher connection, universal connection, ancestral connection, spiritual connection. I hope the words, struggles and resolutions are universal. It is what helped me recover from failure, struggle and disappointment. I hope we make a connection through the music. 
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Issey Miyake Fashion and Technology

issey miyake design

Almost every day I walk past a boutique clothing store on my street that has an Issey Miyake fashion display in the window. The volume of this designer’s clothes doesn’t seem like it would work on my body but I’m always so intrigued by what he’s creating. Today Dezeen has an interview with the fashion designer about his new collection and the technology being used to produce it.

Excerpt:

Dan Howarth: How does the technology work?

Yoshiyuki Miyamae: Let me quickly talk about the latest concept before we get into the technology. It’s called Windscape, this latest collection. I was inspired by the natural patterns that winds create. It could be about the shape of clouds, a sand dune changing shape, maybe the ripples on the surface of the water. It’s also to do with lightness. I wanted to express the lightness of those phenomena and translate them to the clothes.

We created paper prototypes of the shapes. We tried many patterns including squares and triangles. We usually tend to work like that and to make one paper prototype takes about a day to make it work. The way I came to this point is through endless research and experimenting at the paper stage and gradually translating it into fabric.”

Full interview here

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7 Questions with Cina of Camp Cirrus

camp cirrus

I’ve mentioned before that I curate a Great.ly shop, through which I try to support wonderful creative independent makers who sell unique, stylish items. Camp Cirrus is one of those makers and today I’ve got an interview with Cina to learn more about what Camp Cirrus is all about.

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Camp Cirrus on Great.ly

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I have included several of the beautiful Camp Cirrus items in my Great.ly curated collections. For example, you can find at least one of the brand’s beautiful tea towels in my textiles section. Or you can find a beautifully-colored soft bucket bag in my soft goods section. Learn more about this great brand and why I support them from the interview …

7 Questions with Cina of Camp Cirrus

Q: How did Camp Cirrus begin?

After working as a freelance designer for more than ten years I felt an urge to be more intricately involved in each part of the whole creative process – from inspiration and ideas to the ready-to-sell prodcut. We started very small in 2010 and the company has grown slowly but steadily since then. We are very happy to have resellers both in our home town Helsingborg (in the southern part of Sweden) and in other places as far away as South Korea.

foto Lisa Wikstrand

Q: What colors are your own personal favorites?

That’s a tricky one. I use to say that I like all colours; it’s all a matter of how you put them together. I personally like when they are put together so that there is a little tension. If I really needed to choose, though, I’d say white indoors, green outdoors and accents of olive green and pink.

foto Lisa Wikstrand

Q: That makes sense and I adore those color choices. I see a lot of polka dots and florals in your collection … what draws you to these graphics?

The Swedish/ Nordic/ Scandinavian design tradition is what I lean on and there you have this kind of graphic simplicity. I love the basic patterns – dots, stripes, checks and plain florals. That’s mainly what I work with and I find that the possibilities to vary these themes are endless. However I do also like other more complex design, and I like when my strict shapes are combined with other styles.

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Q: This reminds me of something that you say on your site: “we like when a space or place is nice but not perfect” … Can you tell us a little bit more about what this means?

I like to think that textiles, other small stuff, art, etc. are the things that make a home nice to be in. To me it’s more important what kind of life you live in your home than how it looks in a picture. A home should be a place where all the people living there are represented in the style and I like when you see unexpected items on display beacuse they reflect the indivdiuality of the space. Colour and patterns, books and flowers and the smell of good food all combine to make a nice home if you ask me. That and a few nice people to chat with in the space are all a home really needs!

foto Lisa Wikstrand

Q: What tips do you have for people who are looking to make sure that their homes really do reflect their personal style in this way?

  • Listen to your heart.
  • Use as much colour as you dare; at least some colour is good for you!
  • Keep it simple.
  • Decorate your home for the people who live there, not to impress the guests.

A good practical tip is to make a colour scheme for the home (or a room): base colours (and woods etc.), additional colours and accents. If you are a bit uncertain about colours this is a trick that you can work with to never “choose wrong”.

foto Lisa Wikstrand

Q: How is Great.ly working out for you so far?

It has been a good thing both for sales and exposure. And I have found some new nice blogs and bloggers. It’s a charming and growing community of creative people.

Q: What else should we know?!

That the company is run by me and my husband Matts. We also have an office dog, Morris, who creates a laidback atmosphere at work (when he’s not barking at something!)

Want to find out more?

CAMPCIRRUStrayslisawikstrand

Camp Cirrus is on Facebook and Cina is on Instagram as @cinakjellsson for those who want news and a peek at Camp Cirrus everyday life. And of course you can look for their items in my Great.ly Boutique.

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Interviewed in the Company of Cool People

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I was recently interviewed by Eliza Gale who does interviews with people around the world about the work they do and the work they want to do and the work they love. I think the most fun thing about this interview was that I got to be highlighted in the company of some other really cool folks.

First My Interview

Interview with a crochet blogger

I was interviewed about my work as a crochet blogger and got to share all about why I write (and specifically why I blog) and how that relates to my passion for crochet.

Here’s an excerpt:

Q: What inspired you to start your blog?

A: I am a professional writer who has worked in blogging for more than ten years so it was natural for me to start my own blog. I’ve actually had several personal blogs over the years but I started Crochet Concupiscence, my largest blog, in 2011. At the time I was doing a lot of writing work for other people that I didn’t feel inspired by and I wanted to start a new blog that would be a place of refuge for me. Crochet had become really important in my life and starting a blog about it was a great way for me to share what I was learning in the craft while connecting with a larger community of like-minded people.

Read my full interview here.

On the Home Page

The interviews are put up on Eliza’s blog in a three column format so here’s what it looked like on the first day that my interview went live:

interviews

As you can see, the interviews up near mine were of two cyclists who are working to raise awareness about an issue that concerns them and an escape artist and illusionist who works in magic. How awesome is that?

Other Writers and Bloggers

Eliza interviews people from so many different walks of life. Some of the other bloggers that she interviewed recently included:

jemayel

Anthropologist and homelessness blogger Jemayel Khawajais

sean sullivan

Beer Blogger Sean Sullivan

blogger lola

Feminist Sex Blogger Lola Davidson

writer rory mckay

Fantasy novelist writer Rory McKay

spiritual healer blogger

Tarot card reader and spiritual Healer Julianne Victoria

Incidentally, that photo of Julianne was taken at a place I’ve been to myself: 16th Avenue Tiled Steps

Other Places I’ve Been Interviewed

Here are some other interviews people have done of me and my work:

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Interview with Melissa McPhail, Author

 

Please enjoy this interview with Melissa McPhail, author of the spellbinding epic fantasy, Cephrael’s Hand. Then read on to learn how you can win huge prizes as part of this blog tour, including a Kindle Fire, $450 in Amazon gift cards, and 5 autographed copies of the book.

Q: Your debut novel, Cephrael’s Hand was the winner of The Written Arts Award for both the best fiction and the best Sci-Fi/Fantasy categories–congratulations! So tell us, what was the inspiration behind this story, and can you tell us a little bit about it?

I started the first version of Cephrael’s Hand when I was going through a difficult time in my life. I needed the cathartic joy that I’d always found in writing. I didn’t set out to write a novel—just to write. That first draft had no planning, no world-building, no design. It was pure creative inspiration. And it was awful!

But the characters… I had brought them into being, and they insisted that they had a story to tell. It took my growing as a writer—and over a million words tossed into the trash—to finally tell their story properly.

Cephrael’s Hand is the result of a philosopher’s approach to fantasy. It’s the story of one man’s steadfast determination to save the realm he swore to protect, and his willingness to do anything it takes to accomplish that end—even to betray those he loves. It’s the story of the unlikely pieces (men and women) who unknowingly fall beneath his shadow, and of the players who follow him. Ultimately, it’s a story of salvation.

I see fantasy as a metaphor for life in this world. We all face tests of our honor. We’re all working to accomplish our goals and flourish and prosper. Few of us set out to do evil. Yet evil is done. Goals are abandoned. Integrity is compromised. We totter precariously on thin wires as we move through the labyrinth of life. I strive with my series to illuminate those wire-thin paths, that we might find solid ground beneath them.

Q: Without giving away too much, can you reveal what’s in store for the readers when they crack open Cephrael’s Hand?

If you listen to my critics—too many characters! But this is an epic fantasy dealing with a conflict that spans multiple kingdoms. It takes a team to save the world. ;)

Hopefully you’ll meet interesting characters and a world you can easily find your own place within.  You’ll discover pirates, princes, star-crossed lovers and philosopher-soldiers. You’ll see many characters who are not as they appear, and a few who are exactly as they seem. You’ll find adventure on a perilous road with prince Ean val Lorian, and farcical escapades with Trell of the Tides and the pirate Carian vran Lea.

You’ll often wonder who is good and who is evil—because most villains in real life are cloaked in shades of gray.

Q: Can you tell us more about some of the key concepts that inspired the world of Cephrael’s Hand?

The story is crafted out of many of the philosophies I’ve studied. As I was planning Cephrael’s Hand, I had been reading about game philosophy. Game philosophy speaks on the importance of games in our lives and takes a look at their composition (barriers, purposes and freedoms) and their anatomy (pieces, players, maker of games). It’s a compelling concept with abundant applications, and I became immediately interested in exploring the ideas more via the story of Cephrael’s Hand.

Balance is another concept that threads throughout the story. Exploration of this idea comes out of my study and practice of yoga. If ever a concept permeates our lives, the pursuit of balance is one. Whether seeking to balance work and parenthood, our social commitments and our private lives, or even just the juggle of that list of a thousand things we’ll never get to, every one of us is seeking balance in some fashion. Placing this concept within the framework of a fantasy story embellishes it with a magical lure.

Q: The Cephreal’s Hand constellation plays an important role in the book. Is there a real life constellation that plays a similarly important role in your life? 

I can’t say that a particular constellation is important to me personally, though I’ve studied Astrology for many years. But I’m drawn to the idea, both scientifically and philosophically, that we are all connected somehow with each other and the broader universe. String Theory and General Relativity play to this idea from the perspective of science. Certainly, if we are connected to the stars in some esoteric way, then the actions of the stars can impact us. Astrology believes this, and the graphing of natal charts proves an underlying truth in this ancient, mystical and often misunderstood science. Philosophies far and wide declare that we’ve descended or separated from a universal oneness and teach karmic values with the intent of helping us return or re-ascend to that harmonious state.

The concept of Balance in Cephrael’s Hand stems from this idea of universal connectivity.

Q: Ever since a linguist named Tolkien came along, language has been a very important aspect of the epic fantasy genre. What inspired the various languages in Cephrael’s Hand?

The desert languages are based on Farsi or Arabic, depending on the tribe. Farsi is one of the oldest  languages still in use today, and its traditions lent themselves well to the Kandori culture, which is one of Alorin’s oldest races. Likewise Arabic, being originally a language of the nomadic tribes, seemed the correct base from which to draw the language of the Akkad.

Even older than both of these languages in my novel is Old Alaeic, which is the original language of theangiel, the Maker’s blessed children, and of the two original races: the zanthyrs and the drachwyr. Old Alaeic draws primarily from Gaelic root words. I chose Gaelic because the language maintains some of the earliest roots of our Indo-European linguistic heritage. Its spellings and pronunciations are almost universally reminiscent of mythological beings from ancient times and are often associated, especially in the fantasy genre, with elves, Druids or other mystical races.

Q.  Which other authors have served as influences and inspiration for your own work?

I love lyrical writing, so my bookshelves host an eclectic mix (albeit heavily weighted with fantasy and science fiction). Those who first come to mind from the fantasy genre are Anne Rice, Patrick Rothfuss and Jacqueline Carey, all of whom carry on a great and fabulous romance with the English language, much to the ecstasy of millions. Being able to string words like pearls into a story that reads at times like poetry in motion seems the greatest pinnacle of storytelling skill.

Q: It’s been said that one of the most time-consuming processes of writing epic fantasy is world building.  Without giving too much away, what are a few of your favorite world aspects and what inspired them?

As I wrote in a recent guest post, world-building and the magic system developed for the world are intimately connected. We can’t really describe a fantasy world without talking about the magic that rules it, because so much of what we understand about the world derives from our understanding of how the physical laws of the world work.

In creating my world of Alorin, I established five “strands” of the lifeforce known as elae. These strands are a way of describing and codifying the lifeforce which is the source of energy in the world, but they are only one way of describing it. While most of the viewpoints I am writing from agree with describing the lifeforce in terms of “strands,” there are other races in Alorin who have codified it differently, darkly, or with less purity for lack of philosophical simplicity.

I love exploring different viewpoints and imagining how each would describe a universal energy. I love examining the cultures that seek to describe this energy and how their ideals might alter their understanding of it. For example, the Adept race believes that Adepts are born with the ability to work one of the five strands, but only one. Yet some of the “Wildling” races are known to be able to innately work more than one strand.

The Fhorgs race works blood sacrifice to fuel their magic. Would their magic work without such sacrifice? The Adepts believe that it would. Yet within the Adept philosophy, a working of magic requires faith both in the existence of power and in one’s ability to manipulate it. If the Fhorgs don’t believe themselves able to wield the lifeforce without letting blood, it follows that magic would become unavailable to them simply because of their lack of belief. Moreover, because the Fhorgs don’t limit their ideas of their magical ability to a five strand approach, it’s possible they might achieve more through the wielding of it–or not. These are existential questions for these two races, questions which set them at odds with each other. Questions from which derive conflicts and persecutions, intrigues and betrayals.

Such explorations fuel both world-building and magic-system building, because their delineation establishes how the world works, how the people of the world interact with the energy that fuels it, how they interact with each other, and how they use the energy itself to work arcane acts.

Q: You grew up in a house full of musicians, but your creativity emerged in the form of writing. Have you always felt called to write?

I always thought I would end up with a career in music like the rest of my family. I grew up harboring such an appreciation of these accomplished, classical musicians all around me, it seemed a natural course to follow in their footsteps.

Instead, I stumbled into writing the way one sometimes bumps into providence, colliding with it accidentally. I happened to take a creative writing class in high school. My creative writing instructor believed the best way to teach writing was to send her students out to actually write. So I did—hundreds of pages over the next few years. Writing became both an outlet for my creativity and the escape reading had always provided. I know I share that love affair with many authors.

Q: At one time or another, most writers hit the wall and their work stalls because of the dreaded writer’s block. What do you do to get around or over this mental wall to resume writing?

Usually I turn to music—either composing it or listening to it. If I can find a great new song, sometimes that will help inspire me out of the hole. When a scene just isn’t working, I’ve learned to go back to where I was last doing well in the story and scrap everything that came after. It’s an agonizing process, but often necessary.

Q: The Dagger of Adendigaeth, Book 2 in your series, has just been published. How has your vision expanded from book 1 to book 2, and what kind of creative growth have you experienced in your process this second time around?

We grow as writers with every novel—at least I believe that’s the goal. Many of the things I gained in writing TheDagger of Adendigaeth are intangible, ineffable understandings of myself and my creative process. I think of those times of being fabulously, fantastically stuck and the final moment of inspiration that launched me out of that depressing well. I think of the plot twists that came to me completely without warning, and the absolute magic that is the creative process.

The thing I loved most about writing this book was being able to explore so many viewpoints—especially the viewpoints of those characters who might be viewed as antagonists. But I don’t and never have seen them that way. It’s my greatest purpose in writing this series to be able to show the motivations and ideals that mold and shape each character. The more we can understand each other, the closer to a peaceful coexistence we will find, whether in the microcosm of our lives or the broader political and religious zones.

Cephrael Tour Badge

As part of this special promotional extravaganza sponsored by Novel Publicity, the price of the Cephrael’s Hand eBook edition is just 99 cents this week. What’s more, by purchasing this fantastic book at an incredibly low price, you can enter to win many awesome prizes.

The prizes include a Kindle Fire, $450 in Amazon gift cards, and 5 autographed copies of the book.

All the info you need to win one of these amazing prizes is RIGHT HERE. Remember, winning is as easy as clicking a button or leaving a blog comment–easy to enter; easy to win!

To win the prizes:

  1. Purchase your copy of Cephrael’s Hand for just 99 cents
  2. Enter the Rafflecopter contest on Novel Publicity
  3. Visit today’s featured social media event

About Cephrael’s Hand:  Two brothers find themselves on opposite sides of a great battle, neither knowing the other is alive… A traitor works in exile while preparing for the disaster only he knows is coming… A race of beings from beyond the fringe of the universe begin unmaking the world from within… And all across the land, magic is dying. Cephrael’s Hand is the first novel in the award-winning series A Pattern of Shadow and Light. Get it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

About the author: Melissa McPhail is a classically trained pianist, violinist and composer, a Vinyasa yoga instructor, and an avid Fantasy reader. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, their twin daughters and two very large cats. Visit Melissa on her websiteTwitterFacebook, or GoodReads.


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10 Words that Describe My First Podcast Experience

This morning I recorded my first podcast interview. It’s about my new book, Crochet Saved My Life. The podcast won’t air until about a month from now so I’ll have to come back then and tell you all of the details about it. For now I’ll say that it was an interview with awesome crafty interviewer Sister Diane of Craftypod. (The blog and its related podcasts is a terrific resource for crafty businesses!)

This was my first podcast. I’m not much of a phone person so it was out of my comfort zone, but if you want to grow then you have to push yourself out of your comfort zone. So here are ten words that describe the experience that I had this morning when recording my first podcast interview:

  1. Nervous
  2. Excited
  3. Anxious
  4. Talkative
  5. Enthusiastic
  6. Comfortable (after we got going)
  7. Sharing
  8. Storytelling
  9. Proud
  10. So proud!

I had to say proud twice because once all was said and done, that’s how I felt. I was proud that I did something that felt a little scary to me. I believe that if you shy away from things that scare you then your world gets smaller and smaller but if you face those things and have success with them then each next scary thing gets easier.

I was also really proud to share this book. I really believe that this book is a great thing, for myself and for the crafty community. I think it does a decent job of explaining what depression is like for people who haven’t been through it and letting people who have been through it know that others have been there, too, and gotten to the other side. So I’m proud of the book and that makes me excited to share it.

Once Diane and I started talking about the book and the reasons I wrote it I got increasingly comfortable. A good experience!

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