Carla King interviews Jackie Stebbins on turning a healing journey into a writing and speaking career
Nonfiction Authors Association Podcast | July 12, 2023
“I think [sharing your personal story is] that balance of–you let the story speak for itself, without maybe being too selfish. Even though it’s your memoir, not making it all about you. It’s the balance of attention to detail…and maybe taking that step back, and allowing the story to carry on, whereas others can feel themselves in your place.”
-Jackie M. Stebbins
Jackie M. Stebbins was living her dream as a nationally recognized family law, criminal defense, and civil litigator. But her career as a lawyer abruptly ended in May, 2018, when she was diagnosed with a rare brain illness: autoimmune encephalitis. Stebbins persevered to make a remarkable recovery and transformed herself into an author and motivational speaker. Stebbins is the author of the JM Stebbins blog and host of the Brain Fever podcast. Her book Unwillable: The Journey to Reclaim My Brain, was published in May 2022.
Also check out Jackie’s blog post It’s Not Cliche: Five Tips for Writing a Healing Memoir.
Nonfiction Authors Podcast: Guest Name
Find the video podcast, show notes, links, quotes, and podcast transcript below.
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- Jackie Stebbins on Instagram
- Jackie Stebbins on Facebook
- Jackie Stebbins on TikTok
- Jackie Stebbins on LinkedIn
- It’s Not Cliche: Five Tips for Writing a Healing Memoir
- Brain Fever Podcast
- Unwillable: A Journey To Reclaim My Brain by Jackie Stebbins
- Brain On Fire by Susannah Cahalan
- Loft Literary Center
- One Book One North Dakota
- Books by Byron L. Dorgan
- This Is Not A Pity Memoir by Abi Morgan
In this episode…
- How the discovery of a healing memoir helped Jackie decide to write her own.
- The process Jackie used in beginning her writing journey.
- How Jackie balanced personal processing with connecting to readers.
- How Jackie connected with various communities that could connect with her book.
- How Jackie collected blurbs for the launch of her book.
- Tips on how to start your speaking career before your book is published.
- How Jackie published her book quickly.
- Advice for those planning to publish a healing memoir.
[00:00:00] Carla King: Hello, and welcome to the Nonfiction Authors Podcast. I’m Carla King, your host, and before we start, I’d like to invite you to go to the Freebies tab at nonfictionauthorsassociation.com to check out our free reports. We developed these reports to help you figure out things like ISBNs, distribution, optimizing book sales on Amazon, generating book reviews, growing your email list, and we provide checklists on things like publishing and book launches.
Now, stay tuned for this week’s guest.
In a moment, I’ll be talking with Jackie Stebbins about how she turned her healing journey into a writing and motivational speaking career. This is a topic that we at the Nonfiction Authors Association talk about a lot.
It’s a difficult journey, and I’m sure that you’re going to be inspired by Jackie’s success story. But first, a quick note that this podcast is brought to you by the nonfictionauthorsassociation.com, which is a supportive community where writers connect, exchange ideas, and learn how to write, publish, promote and profit with your author careers.
You can subscribe to The Nonfiction Authors Podcast on your favorite podcast app. And visit our website to find transcripts, show notes, and links to all of our episodes. Also explore our membership options and download free reports, search the archives for answers, get all kinds of advice, and get answers for your writing and publishing questions.
Now I’d love to introduce Jackie. Jackie M. Stebbins was living her dream as a nationally recognized family, law, criminal defense, and civil litigator. But her career as a lawyer abruptly ended in May 2018 when she was diagnosed with a rare brain illness called autoimmune encephalitis. Stebbins persevered to make a remarkable recovery and transformed herself into an author and motivational speaker. She is the author of the JM Stebbins blog, and host of the Brain Fever Podcast. Her book, Unwillable: The Journey to Reclaim My Brain, was published in May 2022. Welcome to the podcast, Jackie.
[00:02:20] Jackie Stebbins: Carla, thank you so much for having me. What a joy to be here today.
[00:02:24] Carla King: We’re glad to have you, because it’s difficult to write out the healing journey. First of all, you’ve got a lot of information on your website, but could you just spend a minute or two on the trajectory of your legal career, to disease, to author speaker career, and then we’ll dive into your writing journey.
[00:02:41] Jackie Stebbins: Absolutely. So in 2018, I thought I had the world by the tail. I owned my own law firm, it was called Stebbins Malloy. I was the senior partner, the oldest person in the firm at the ripe old age of 34. I was nationally recognized for my work as a trial lawyer, I was making more money than I ever dreamed anyone could make, and I absolutely believed wholeheartedly that I was in control of my destiny and my future and fate.
I had a lot of grit and I always thought–as hard as I worked, I could achieve anything. Absolutely nothing could ever stop me. And of course you can see the writing on the wall–that’s a little bit of a double-edged sword. So I had a stay-at-home husband–he took care of our two children. They were five and three. And I started to believe that I was burning out at work. I was working long hours, I had long ignored warnings from family and friends that I was working too hard, and I started to fall ill with the symptoms that were actually quite easy to chalk up to burnout. And unfortunately, lawyers statistically become depressed.
So what started as sleep interruption, wake up calls routine at 4:00 AM, turned into insomnia, which turned into tremors in my hands. I had this blaring white noise going through my head, I was clenching my jaw, and then the tremors really started to spread. So I left work on May 8th–a Tuesday–after having a massive panic attack at my desk. And I didn’t really recognize it for what it was. And I was just going on fumes, really believing that I was almost like an empty shell of my former self.
And I left work, and told everyone I’m just gonna take a week’s break, I’m gonna start getting some Zoloft. Little did I know, Carla, that my last day as a practicing attorney. It was my last day at the law firm. It was the last day of my career.
When I went home, I became uncommunicative. I was paranoid. I began to hallucinate. I would mostly sit and stare. I couldn’t tell time. I believed I was having a complete psychiatric break. So I voluntarily checked myself into the psychiatric ward, where I spent 48 hours lost in circular hallways. Confused, weepy, jittery and that’s where I officially couldn’t tell time or date.
My memory mostly goes blank from when I leave work. I had amnesia for a few months, and after the psychiatric ward, a nurse practitioner saved my life, because she saw me for the zebra that I was–not the regular horse. And she said, this woman has something wrong with her brain. And I did. So I got to a neurologist. I could not draw a clock–that is the very poorly drawn clock on the cover of my book. And he said, ‘That book, Brain On Fire,’ he said this to my mom and my husband who were there, because I really wasn’t there, just physically. He said, ‘That book. Yeah, it’s a good book. And I think she has that disease.’ And I did. I started having seizures and landed back in the hospital, and finally–with the godsend of intravenous steroids–my brain was turned back on day one, and I crashed back into Earth and went, ‘Oh my God, my life is destroyed.’
[00:05:51] Carla King: Wow, that’s quite a story. And it’s also an example of how healing memoirs can help other people heal, right?
[00:05:58] Jackie Stebbins: Yes.
[00:05:59] Carla King: So that was four years–2018 to 2022. From the time that you got sick and healed–you’re probably still healing a lot, even now–to actually authoring that book.
So when did you start journaling–or when did you have the wherewithal to think about a book, or even start thinking about journaling your experience?
[00:06:28] Jackie Stebbins: So my mom was always an avid journaler, but it really was not a habit I had ever picked up. I was always so focused and committed on one thing–becoming a lawyer, and then working as a lawyer. And I really was just born to be a workaholic, I think.
When I woke up and started to have insight into my condition, I had to learn about this condition. I had never heard about it. And I know my family kept saying, ‘There’s this book, it’s called Brain on Fire.’ And I think where my mind was at is–I started to fill in the gaps and realized that my life and law firm had been going on without me.
I wanted to know–could I recover and am I disabled for life? Is my brain going to work? Am I going to have this personality? And latched onto the idea that there was this book. And it sat right behind me on my bookcase. Someone bought it right away, and it was sitting there. And on the front cover, Susanna’s hair is disheveled, it’s black and white and scary. And I said, ‘Get this book away from me. I’m living this. I am not going to read it.’ But I think I could see, ‘New York Times #1 Bestseller,’ and I thought, Okay, this woman recovered. There is hope for me.’
And I don’t remember when exactly, nor does my family, because it takes a while for my memory and life to come back to me. I just know that I knew Brain On Fire was there, and that it helped save my life. So I was absolutely determined that I was going to write a book as well.
[00:07:48] Carla King: And what did that process look like at first? Did you outline it? How did you manage it? Did you join a writing group?
[00:07:56] Jackie Stebbins: I think my process is very unique–probably because I’m a lawyer. And I think I had this inherent belief that lawyers know everything. We don’t. We do not know how to write books. And I think, also, I was lost. I was in shambles. The illness had completely broken me open. My brain didn’t work very well. I struggled with short-term memory. I still struggle with some cognitive ability. And for one year, I really had to fight to survive. I believed that I was honestly just gonna drop dead, that my children wouldn’t have a mom.
So that first year, I just had to sit with the illness, and have some sort of hope and faith that the life I was leading wasn’t as good as it was going to get. I was mostly confined to the house, I became unrecognizable under all the medication and steroids. So I waited that one year, and I can tell you what kept my spirit going was the idea that I would write this book. So I think here and there, maybe, I jotted things down–or different little quotes. But when I say I was broken open, I’m really not lying.
So one day after the anniversary of my seizure and diagnosis, I started writing. And I wrote and overwrote, Carla. I had no discipline. I was a rudderless chef. But the good news is I committed that story to paper, which was what I needed to do. And I think I just started, maybe, slowly building my brain back, and building my confidence back. And putting my life–I’m not kidding–my life story on paper.
I didn’t understand a memoir was a sliver of time, so I wrote and wrote. I didn’t really have an outline, I didn’t name chapters. I just had these massive word documents until someone got a hold of me when I was at 100,000 words and I wasn’t even near the end. And that’s when I started to maybe get a little more disciplined in my writing, and really my learning how to write.
[00:09:47] Carla King: Yeah, that’s the trick, isn’t it? And I think, also, do you think that in the healing journey, we write for ourselves first before we write for an audience?
[00:09:58] Jackie Stebbins: Absolutely. And I think I had to come to some terms of what happened to me. I had to process what happened to me. And wasn’t really until later I learned from another book–it was Dr. Ava Easton’s, Life After Encephalitis, which is really an academic book about life after encephalitis. But really, it’s about the power of narratives. And I think–probably intuitively–I understood what I was doing.
I was trying to take the chaos and manage and organize it, and give it some linear shape. So maybe I knew that intuitively, but I couldn’t really articulate it. And so I really was writing for myself, but the whole time I was saying, ‘I want to write to help other people.’ So I really think I was on this twin track. It’s just, some days, maybe I was better at one side than the other. And it took years–it took three years, almost exactly, from start to finish. And I can say that about two and a half of those years, I greatly floundered.
[00:10:58] Carla King: A lot of people take that long, or even much longer. In fact, I think that’s a short writing journey for something that you went through. It’s great that you healed quickly. Some people go through years and years before they can function again and start to write that.
So what was the difference between the stuff that you wrote out to get it out, and the stuff that you wrote to create a message for your readers?
[00:11:28] Jackie Stebbins: I would say it became, really, a balancing act. My story, I know, is–it’s a really great story. Honestly, I would’ve never had the mind to write this as a novel. Honestly, I was never that creative. Lawyers aren’t notorious for being creative. It’s not really rewarded in our profession.
So I think I had to take this real balanced approach in getting the story out, and having enough of the grueling detail that–honestly a lot of parts feel straight out the exorcist. And to kind of balance that with maybe–what could be more broader themes for other people? Because autoimmune encephalitis is very rare. It’s a one in a million type disease. So I didn’t want the book to only speak to AE survivors in their family. Admittedly, I wanted a great portion of the book to speak to AE patients and their family, because there’s not much out there. There’s Brain on Fire.
But I wanted the book to have more of a broad message. So I think it’s that balance of–you let the story speak for itself, without maybe being too selfish. Even though it’s your memoir, not making it all about you. It’s the balance of attention to detail–which maybe lawyers are a little too oriented to detail. And maybe, again, taking that step back, and allowing the story to carry on, whereas others can feel themselves in your place.
So I think once I learned things like tension, and dialogue, and scenes–that really helped me narrow the story, and narrow the chapters a little more than this–maybe all over the place, trying to convey too much. So that was just the way the process worked for me–being, again, a rudderless ship, until a few people got ahold of me and reigned me in and got me really disciplined. And I think that helped me narrow my story, but really broadened the overall themes.
[00:13:25] Carla King: Who were those people? Were they friends, editors, professionals?
[00:13:31] Jackie Stebbins: I latched onto one person, who’s a national humanities scholar. He is a prolific author. He’s just so talented. And I think I was so naive, like, ‘I’ll just latch onto him and he’ll help me find this publisher.’ And I had to learn it doesn’t really work that way. I had to learn the craft of writing.
I was not an English major, I didn’t have an MFA, but I really believe you have the ability to give yourself an MFA. Honestly, nearly free in the digital culture we live in. What happened was–about two years in, he was trying to tell me what to do, and I didn’t know how to do it.
[00:14:09] Carla King: Was he saying, ‘Write this in scenes,’ or, ‘Write it in the first person’?
[00:14:14] Jackie Stebbins: Yeah. “Tighten it,” and, “You’re too manic, Jackie.” Which I probably, admittedly, was. And, “It needs this and this,” and I didn’t speak the language. So admittedly, I was mad at him. My feelings were hurt, which I can see it all now in hindsight.
And I turned to a friend who actually does have a Masters in English. And he writes–I knew he had written novels and short stories. And he took one look at it, and he let me down very gently. He basically said, “This is terrible. It’s not ready for a a publisher to see. You need to put it away. I know this isn’t what you want to hear.” But he gave me some of the best advice. He said, “Put this away. Read other memoirs by the stockpile. Read memoirs, or read books about writing memoirs.” Of course–oh my gosh, what a novel concept.
And then another friend got a hold of me who’s a PhD in philosophy. He was one of my old professors. And he also gently said, “You don’t have your voice.” And he and his wife–she’s a PhD in English–directed me to the Loft Literary Center–writing classes. Again, what novel idea that I had not thought of.
And I think the advice from Wolfgang, and Jack, and Kim came at the right time, and I was able to build those skills. Then I could look back to my friend Clay, and I could answer the questions he was asking, and I could do what he told me I should do to make the book better. So it really did work itself out after a lot of trial and error. And I was lucky to have good friends grab me. I needed the life raft at the time, and they threw one.
[00:15:41] Carla King: I think you were good at reaching out, especially with healing memoirs. I’ve heard a lot of stories where people write alone and alone, and then they publish and they haven’t reached out. You’re very good at reaching out for not only help, but also you started early to involve yourself with the various communities around AE, and introduced yourself to the important people there. When did you do that?
[00:16:08] Jackie Stebbins: I think for me, that old adage, ‘The harder I work, the luckier I get.’ There’s just been a lot of strokes of good luck in this journey, including my, honestly, miraculous healing from this disease. Most people really don’t heal and recover the way I did. So what really started it, Carla, was a long time ago, I asked my mom how to become a motivational speaker in high school.
It was the one detour I took from being a lawyer. And she said, “First you need a career, and you need some type of special story.” And I knew I had neither. But I always kept that in the back of my mind. And when I woke up from this dreadful disease, I knew instantly–my career’s over. You can’t have your brain impaired and still be a practicing attorney.
I just knew that, I believed that. I knew my career was done. But I also knew that the black hole of despair, depression, grief and loss–from the loss of everything–could really swallow me whole. So again, I think intuitively I knew I had to do something. And I think I took out the best insurance policy against depression I could.
I decided–pulled it out of thin air–to honor my mom’s advice and become a motivational speaker. I had the career and I had one heck of a story, and I just created what was called JM Stebbins. Again, out of nothing. And what I was really doing was laying the foundation to improve my writing with my blog. And I was building a community that grew to be so much bigger than me.
I have a worldwide following on my podcast, on my blog. And now I see nonfiction authors starting out and they’re saying, “I need to build my community. I need a newsletter, and I need to be on Substack, and I need to be on TikTok. And I’m going, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s what I was doing all those years.’ And I’ve always been a networker Carla. Actually securing the blurbs I did was–I’m very happy to say that came easy to me, because I love to network. And it was amazing to meet Susannah Cahalan and have her blurb an endorsement. That means the world to me.
But I’m really just a people person, and that was one thing that–even through my illness–didn’t go away. So when that book was ready to be launched, I was ready to ask for people’s blessing. And it was really humbling to get those blurbs.
[00:18:14] Carla King: How did you approach people to get those blurbs? Did they know about you first? Did you email them out of the blue with your book? How did you win those blurbs?
[00:18:24] Jackie Stebbins: Susannah’s was another stroke of good luck. My friend at the Humanities Council said, “Jackie, who do you want to interview?” They have this great program called One Book One North Dakota, where people interview different authors. And I made a joke, and then I said, ‘Susannah Cahalan,’ thinking, ‘Ha. That’s also a joke. That would never happen.’ And about two hours later, Sue wrote me back and said, “Jackie, I talked to her. She’ll do it.” I was like, ‘What?’ So I was able to interview Susannah through the humanities program and she’s just gracious and wonderful, and now we email. That was really neat and a big surprise.
Senator Byron Dorgan has been a friend for years from political involvement. He wrote a New York Times bestseller. Heidi Heitkamp–one of the North Dakota Senators, as well. Her niece is my best friend. I’ve known her forever. I was able to meet Maria Burns-Ortiz through the Loft Literary Center. I was actually in one of her classes and I didn’t know who she was. She is Rhonda Rousey’s sister, and their family actually spent some time in North Dakota, so Maria and I were able to bond over that. I now consider her just a friend and colleague.
And Dr. Helen Ager, a world-renowned psychiatrist–her son Sasha fell ill with AE when he was 11, and she and her husband were two of the co-founders of the AE Alliance. I was able to meet her person last year at a fundraiser, and I think the world of her.
And Sarah Vogel. Sarah just wrote a beautiful memoir plus about taking on the federal government as a young lawyer in North Dakota. And John Grisham blurbed her book. How wonderful is that? I know Sarah–she was, of course, a lawyer in North Dakota. I reached out to her. I’m so honored and humbled that those amazing people would put their name on my book.
[00:20:01] Carla King: Yeah. It’s nice if you’re a natural networker, right? It sounds like you are. A lot of writers are not. We’re trying to encourage people to get out early. You started your speaking career before your book was done. How did you approach that?
[00:20:17] Jackie Stebbins: Sure. And I’m going to go back just once, Carla. And I think, for people who aren’t natural, or that doesn’t come easy to them, just write a nice email, honestly. And I think something I’ve learned too, is–especially in social media–it’s nice to form a relationship. Maybe don’t ask right away.
It’s nice to get out there and build those relationships. And then, hopefully you can ask down the line too. I think maybe there’s a good balance of just cold emailing someone or naturally letting this organic relationship bloom and then, hopefully asking to secure a blurb.
But starting my speaking career–that was just in 2019. I felt stuck. I felt hopeless, even though I knew my recovery was coming along and I was going to write this. I felt a little hopeless. I was Jackie Stebbins the lawyer–who am I now? And I felt imposter syndrome. I wasn’t a writer. I could blog a little, or speak. But you have to start somewhere.
And I started by creating a Facebook group. My best friend put together a logo and I think I was faking a little until you make it. I was almost kind of still Jackie, the lawyer. And I had letterhead, and a logo, and really it was just made up.
But you put your name out there and say, “I want to speak, and I have this story.” And you will be surprised at the calls and emails that will come in if you are willing to share your story for free. You might get fed, you might not. And I think that was also helping me, Carla, help me refine my story and my message. I think, when you’re writing nonfiction, it’s so personal to you. And you want to write and overwrite and include all of this. I think starting to speak too actually helped me become better writer, and helped me refine my message.
[00:21:56] Carla King: Yes. You do have a universal message. Everybody’s experienced failure, probably even catastrophic failure, which you did. And it’s not important to them what the cause of that failure was. My friend Alan Carl broke his leg in Africa. He had to overcome days of getting to the right place. And he speaks about this to this day– overcoming adversity, right? Which is a universal message. And Cherie Kaphart- both of these people are interviewed on the podcast–is undiagnosed. And her overcoming that is what she speaks about and writes about. Those are just stories that everyone needs to hear. The fact that you have AE, which is very rare, it doesn’t matter.
[00:22:43] Jackie Stebbins: Yeah, I think everyone wants a message of hope–especially coming out of the pandemic. And I know, so many times you’ll hear–nonfiction for sure–writing coaches, or all these different people I follow, they’ll say, “You have to ask yourself these questions. One of them is, ‘Why this story right now?’”
And I think another stroke of luck for me was that I was floundering through the pandemic, and towards the end was when I was really getting ready to publish this book. People needed messages of hope–whether it was AE, whether it was someone who had died from Covid, whether someone had died of depression and a broken heart through Covid. There was just so much grief and loss, and I think that was just something that people craved universally.
But I also think there was a craving in the AE community there. There really was one book. There’s also, This Is Not A Pity Memoir, by Abi Morgan. It’s a beautiful book. She is a UK playwright and screenwriter, and her husband fell ill and I don’t think, to this day, he knows that’s his wife. So there wasn’t a lot out there for AE patients and their family, and I think I really was able to fill that niche.
So again, it was those dual tracks. Because I felt so lost and alone in my recovery, I wanted the me that I needed in recovery.
And I think now through my speaking, the book Unwillable, and the podcast, I’ve tried to be out there and open for people who are suffering with this disease. But I find out a lot too. There’s a lot of other people reading and listening because of the way they feel life has let them down. But that’s not what counts, right? It’s how you get back up. It’s not if you hit the wrong note, it’s the notes you play after. And I think people are all just–there’s a lot of suffering in the world, unfortunately. That’s life. It’s beautiful and there’s a lot of sorrow. And I think people just crave something that they can kind of latch onto and say, “Hey, if this lady in Bismarck, North Dakota can do this, you know what? I can too.”
[00:24:41] Carla King: That’s a great message. For the last question–how did you publish and what was happening that made you decide on how to publish and why to publish quickly?
[00:24:54] Jackie Stebbins: Sure. So actually, I didn’t self-publish. I really lucked out and I found a publisher that just was awesome and I think it was a perfect fit. So I published with Calumet Editions. And Wisdom Editions is the imprint that my book is under. And they were able to deliver that immediate turnaround that I was ready for.
And it’s a small press, but it has this joint venture feel to it. And I think it’s very modern. We mostly sell online. So there’s no print runs, there’s no returns, and you can get the book into brick and mortar. But a lot of shop off Amazon. Good, bad, or indifferent, a lot of us–we want a pile of books to be read, we go to our Prime cart. So I loved their model. I think I had one of the most wonderful copy editors ever that helped really polish Unwillable.
But there were so many times, Carla, where I wanted to take this laptop and throw it out the window and stomp on it and break it. And I’d call my mom and say, ‘I can’t do it, mom. I’m never gonna make this as good as it can be.’ That was probably the first time in my life I would hear myself say that. And I’d say, “I’m just going to have to self-publish.” But I couldn’t up the dream. When I decided to embark upon this journey, I was going to be published or die trying. And old habits die hard. That’s kind of Jackie, that driven lawyer talking. So I found Calumet after a university press just kept ignoring me. And it just worked out. And I didn’t need an agent. And it’s been a great fit for me. And I’m really proud of it. I guess that route really worked well for me.
[00:26:29] Carla King: They sound like a hybrid publishing outfit.
[00:26:33] Jackie Stebbins: Yes, I feel like there’s elements. They acquire you traditionally, but this joint model that’s hybrid. I think it’s a very unique model, but it was very persuasive to me in my position. I couldn’t imagine writing query letters forever and ever to try to get with the big five and be rejected, when I truly felt there was a need for my story in the world, I really did–that it could help others. And so to me, expediency–that was desired, and Calumet could deliver on that.
[00:27:05] Carla King: Good for you. Yeah, I think I heard on your podcast or read something on your website that said you were ready. You were going to self publish because it was faster. So you didn’t end up doing that. Listen, do you have any final advice for those who are aiming to publish a healing memoir?
[00:27:23] Jackie Stebbins: Absolutely. So I’ve been working on a blog on this, Carla. And I think I have a five point plan. So here goes. Nothing is probably earth shattering, but I think if people are really thinking about it–one, decide your story is worth telling, and commit that your story matters and that it’s important.
I think the old adage is, “Every story on Earth has already been written, except for yours.” So decide your story is worth telling, and just start writing–even poorly. Even if you don’t have any background, start writing. At some point, you can talk about it, you can think about it, you can hire a book coach or a writing coach. You have to start writing. So get that pen, get that paper, or your laptop.
Number three, then. I think, as you’re writing, look for those ways to hone your abilities. There are so many. There’s free writing classes. I have friends that have writing groups on Twitter. A local group–we have one called the BisMan Writers Guild. I have learned more from these amazing peers of mine, all for free. Absolutely fun.
Follow writing coaches on Instagram. There’s content creators. My goodness. BookTok. Colleen Hoover blew up–I think–the publishing and writing industry, and I think she really made it big on the hashtag #BookTok. So find ways to learn and follow–some for free, some you can pay for. I paid for my class at the Loft, but my goodness for me at the stage I was at, I needed it.
Four, I think you need to continue on even when it’s hard. You mentioned a woman you interviewed said she wanted to burn a draft, or maybe she did.
[00:28:57] Carla King: She did burn the draft.
[00:28:58] Jackie Stebbins: She did burn it. And when I would call my mom and say, ‘I can’t, I stink. This is never gonna happen.’ Keep writing, doing it. You sit down at the computer and let your fingertips bleed–whatever that quote is. “Writing isn’t easy, sit down and bleed.”
And then number five–I think just believe that at some point you are going to literally close the book on a challenging time in your life. And you’re going to close a book that you are very proud of. You have to start, you have to finish, and you have to keep at it. And for me, it was therapy. I say often, ‘Writing saved me.’ It really did.
[00:29:36] Carla King: I love that metaphor of closing the book on that era of your life. Moving forward, telling the story, and going from there. That has a lot of value, Jackie. Thank you. And I know we can find you on the web, on the podcast. Do you want to mention the websites and how we can subscribe to you?
[00:29:55] Jackie Stebbins: Sure. So JM Stebbins, like Jackie M. Stebbins. Or unwillable.com will take you to the same website. Our podcast, Brain Fever, is pretty much found anywhere that you subscribe to podcasts. My blog is on my website at jmstebbins.com. I’ve started TikToking, even in my old millennial age. I don’t know if I’m very good at it, but it is fun. And on my Instagram, I think on my link is my Linktree to link about everywhere I’m at. So if you Google Jackie Stebbins, I think from there you can pretty much find me. And my book is widely available, mostly on Amazon, so pretty easy to find as well.
[00:30:36] Carla King: Congratulations, and thank you for sharing your writing journey as well as your healing journey with us.
[00:30:42] Jackie Stebbins: Thank you so much for having me, Carla. I just really hope that this speaks to someone who maybe doesn’t feel well today, but they hear this message and decide that they would love to write their memoir.
[00:30:53] Carla King: That’s our aim. Get more books out there.
[00:30:56] Jackie Stebbins: Yes.
[00:30:57] Carla King: Thank you. And thank you to our nonfiction authors and the professionals who help them. Remember, keep writing and publishing. The world needs your experience and expertise as well. Until next week, thank you.
Quotes from our guest
“I think [sharing your personal story is] that balance of–you let the story speak for itself, without maybe being too selfish. Even though it’s your memoir, not making it all about you. It’s the balance of attention to detail…and maybe taking that step back, and allowing the story to carry on, whereas others can feel themselves in your place.”
“…just believe that at some point you are going to literally close the book on a challenging time in your life. And you’re going to close a book that you are very proud of. You have to start, you have to finish, and you have to keep at it. And for me, it was therapy. I say often, ‘Writing saved me.’ It really did.”
“And I think now through my speaking, the book Unwillable, and the podcast, I’ve tried to be out there and open for people who are suffering with this disease. But I find out a lot too. There’s a lot of other people reading and listening because of the way they feel life has let them down. But that’s not what counts, right? It’s how you get back up. It’s not if you hit the wrong note, it’s the notes you play after. And I think people are all just–there’s a lot of suffering in the world, unfortunately. That’s life. It’s beautiful and there’s a lot of sorrow. And I think people just crave something that they can kind of latch onto and say, “Hey, if this lady in Bismarck, North Dakota can do this, you know what? I can too.””