Fractured details your revelations and strides toward bettering yourself both mentally and physically. What was the inspiration that made you want to capture your experiences in a book?
I originally started writing the book as a form of therapy, a way to help get the trauma, events and details of the accident out of my body and mind. Then around my 30th birthday, I had a breakdown. I felt like a failure, I thought I should have been at a different place in my life, I thought I should have accomplished more. After many therapy sessions and allowing myself to cry, be mad, and feel all the feelings – I realized I had so much more to share than just the details of the accident. I took a step back and saw how hard I had fought to be healthy and have a successful life. I knew at that point that my book was supposed to be about that. I wanted to share my struggles and adversity in hopes of helping others going through something similar.
I greatly appreciated your candor in detailing the obstacles you faced and I could truly feel the tragedies as well as the victories. What was the hardest thing for you to write about?
The hardest thing, hands down, to write about was the rape when I was a freshman in college. It was something only my therapist really knew about. I hadn’t even told my parents at the time I was writing it in the book. It brought back all sorts of memories, feelings, and shame. As I was writing it I had to take many breaks, remember that I was not the same person nor in the same place, and keep telling myself I was enough. THEN came the hard part of having to tell my parents about the event. I had hid it from them for 12 years but I knew I needed to tell them before the book came out. Again, all the fears, shame, embarrassment, and emotions came rushing in. But I knew it was something I had to do before I let them read the book – that was probably the only thing they didn’t know about that was in the book. I also knew it was something that I absolutely needed to include in the book since the book is all about finding my voice and sharing my truth. This was a huge part of losing both of those things. I am so thankful to have such supportive, encouraging and loving parents. It was extremely hard for them to hear, but I know it ultimately brought us closer and deepened our relationship.
In Fractured you reveal a past with issues like body dysmorphia and a struggle to find your own voice. What is the message you hope readers take away from your book?
I hope readers can take away the lesson I learned after my 14+ year struggle with diet pills, anorexia, and body dysmorphia… YOU ARE ENOUGH. Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. The image society portrays that you have to be skin and bones to be beautiful is so distorted. I hope readers, especially young girls can read this and have an “aha moment” before they enter into a self-destructive path. It also my hope that men and women learn that it is ok to be vulnerable, to speak, share, and use your authentic voice, live in their authentic skin, and follow their own rules. Don’t shrink yourself to make others like you. It is not worth it. It is so much more fun to live life celebrating your bigness.
You are the founding director of the nonprofit company Step Up Chicago Playwrights. How did that start and where do you see it going in the future?
I founded what was then Step Up Productions in 2009 with the mission to share truth onstage and inspire the audience to embrace their own personal truths (haha see a pattern?) We had 3 successful seasons of shows in which we chose a social service organization – whose mission matched the theme of the show we were producing- in Chicago to partner with and donate a portion of our proceeds to. In 2015, funding was low and we were struggling to be able to fund our next production. I took a step back and cancelled the remainder of our season. I talked with a mentor, friend, and phenomenal artist in Chicago, Brad Akin, and together we came up with Step Up Chicago Playwrights as it is now. A company that pairs Chicago Communities with local playwrights who will write a play based off that community. Our hope is to make theater sound and look more like Chicago, All of Chicago! I have since taken on an advisory role since I moved to California with my fiancé who was relocated for work and Brad has taken on the Executive Director role. I know the model we have sets us up for success. We are in the process of choosing our first playwright and community to kick off the inaugural year with Step Up Chicago Playwrights.
Fractured is about your journey of self discovery, but it’s also about your family. Was there anything about your family that you only learned through this journey?
In talking with my therapist about different patterns I was trying to break and learn the history of where they started (me always being good, my need to please, not using my voice) I learned a lot about my family. I brought different topics up to my mom and asked her a lot of questions about my young childhood that helped me figure out why I embedded certain thoughts, behaviors and patterns into my system. I have to say, even though it was not always pleasant to learn and a lot of hard work, it was a lot of fun putting all the pieces together and learning why I did and thought certain things.
From the outside looking in, Elizabeth had the perfect life. She had a family who loved her, numerous friends, and a successful career. No one knew the hurt, pain, and angst she hid inside, struggling to keep herself small so that those around her would still like her.
It all came to a head on October 23, 2007, when her parents received a call that she was lying lifeless in the ICU in a hospital in Utah — “You better get out here, your daughter is not going to make it.” Fractured: My Journey Back From Death and the Lessons I’ve Learned Along the Way is the memoir of Elizabeth’s recovery, spiritually, physically, mentally, and emotionally. It is about her deliberate decision to begin the hard work finding and using her voice and the struggle to break out of the box that society tried to keep her in.
This is the story of what happens when one woman stared death in the face and decided to make a conscious choice not to go back to sleep, but to wake up and live the life she knew she was meant to live.
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It’s an important time in every young adult’s life: the final summer before post-secondary school and after high school. It’s a transitional period where one goes from being a teenager towards becoming an adult. For a young man who lost his parents before he could tie his own shoes, this final summer holds more than just pre-school anxieties. Wil Carter is preparing to head off to school in Just Shut Up and Drive by Chynna Laird but his grandfather, Gramps, has other ideas in mind. While Wil just wants to work and hang out with his friends, Gramps prefers to toss his charge into a classic truck and head on a road trip. This is a coming of age story where the bond between a young man and the only father he has ever known is tested, strengthened and celebrated. This is a journey across the prairies of Canada that will touch your heart and possibly make you cry.
Our tale starts with Wil and Gramps arguing about a road trip that the senior has pushed on his grandson. The dynamic relationship between Wil and Gramps is funny, heart-breaking and above all else: realistic. This is a delicate and interesting relationship that is being described. We have an eighteen-year-old boy and a ninety-five-year-old man with more than a ‘generation gap’ between. Gramps is the one who raised Wil after the untimely death of his parents in an automotive accident. While each gives as good as he gets there is a nostalgic respect that Wil holds for his grandfather. You can hear the irritation in his voice as he deals with the elder man’s stubborn personality but you can also hear the respect he has for him as well. Wil was not a golden child while growing up and as he is aging and moving forward with his life he is beginning to understand everything his grandfather has done for him. The description of the relationship between the two and the dynamic in action seems like something out of a movie.
Laird knows what Manitoba, Canada looks like and appears to have at least visited the cities, villages and towns described in the book. For readers who live near or in a location used in any story faithfulness to the recreation is paramount. Laird uses local vernacular when referring to some of the locations and even though the story takes place in modern times, Gramps’ relaxed and sentimental accent rubs off on Wil. While it could be said that Laird sometimes tries a bit too hard to make Gramps really sound like a stereotypical old man, it doesn’t detract from the story.
While a road trip before heading off to university or college is an idea that has been done before, Just Shut Up and Drive by Chynna Laird brings more than just self-discovery to the tale. Wil not only learns about himself on his journey with his grandfather. He also learns about the parents he can barely remember. He learns about what he is capable of when a small child stows away in his truck, begging for help. He learns what it takes to be a man to the standards of what his grandfather has wanted for him. This book is a delightful short read that will tug at your heart strings while making you laugh at the same time.
Pages: 166 | ASIN: B00DGJK3B8
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It’s Okay, I’m Watching follows LaTrell Wiggins, a caring young girl who loses her mother to cancer and is left to raise her family. What was the inspiration to write this heartfelt novel of love and strength?
It’s Okay, I’m Watching is the second book I’ve published, but the first of the Dear Grief Series. I lost my mother to cancer when I was nineteen. I was a sophomore in college. I was on the cusp of adulthood. Yet, I felt like a small child lost at a mall. Instead of verbally communicating, I wrote my thought and feelings in a journal. Years later during my stint as a classroom teacher in urban city schools, I encountered students who struggled with emotional and social issues. After delving a little deeper into those situations, I found that they all shared one thing in common, grief. They either lost their loved one to death or through absence. Having gone through a life changing experience of losing my mother I could relate to the different characteristics displayed by these students. This prompted me to turn my journal into my first children’s book entitled, “Mama, Did You Mean To Leave So Soon?” It’s Okay, I’m Watching is the sequel. It goes into more detail with describing the family dynamics and the perspective of parenting as a single father.
It’s Okay, I’m Watching opens the door to conversation with those experiencing all forms of grief. What is one thing that you hope readers take away from your novel?
Wow! I wish there was only one take away. In fact, there are three. I want readers to know you don’t have to grieve alone, you can express your emotions without doing harm to yourself and others, and the importance of communicating feelings to trusted adults.
One of my favorite characters is Shajuan Martinez, LaTrell’s friend. Sassy and confident; she tolerates very little. What were the driving themes behind your characters as you were creating them?
I wanted to take realistic situations and based them off of real-life friends. There’s a lot of single parent homes and kids who have one or both parent’s enlisted in the service. I wanted this book to educate the reader on what Grief is. Grief doesn’t only relate to death. It’s simply a big reaction to a loss.
It’s Okay, I’m Watching is the first book in the Dear Grief series. In which direction does book 2 go in and when will that be available?
Book 2 will highlight LaTrell in her seventh grade year. She wants to test the waters a little bit with her self-image. She is trying to figure out how to fit in and be comfortable within her own skin. The readers will also get a chance to see the different issues Daryl and Luis (LaTrell’s brother & father) experience and how they are coping since the loss of Paulina. Communication will still be the highlight and the one thing that keeps the family bond intact. Book 2 will be released in September 2017.
Growing up in Scott Park, Florida, ten-year-old LaTrell Wiggins lives a normal life. She has it all—two loving parents Luis and Paulina, her humorous younger brother Daryl, and ride-or-die childhood friends, Chandler and Shajuan. But this all changes when cancer takes LaTrell’s mother. The Wiggins are left to pick up the pieces and figure things out emotionally. If this isn’t enough, puberty introduces itself to LaTrell, causing her to reluctantly accept that her body is changing. During this adjustment period the Wiggins quickly learn that communicating is key. Can Luis handle the pressure of raising LaTrell and Daryl alone? Will LaTrell be expected to fulfill her mother’s shoes? It’s Okay, I’m Watching is a story of love, loss, and expected discovery of the strengths in each of us and our loved ones, whether they are with us or not.
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