Springtime's editing and production manager, Jane Dean, talks to Madeleine Lenagh about her inspirational debut book, Passage of the Stork, delivering the soul.
JANE: Tell us about your book, Passage of the Stork: Delivering the Soul. What is it about? Could you describe it in just a few sentences?
MADELEINE: It’s a book about my life’s journey. Not only the exterior journey (what I did, where I went, etc.) but also the interior journey to self-realization and acceptance. I weave two different narratives together: that of the conscious world and that of the unconscious world, which is filled with dreams, visions, and archetypes.
JANE: What made you decide to write it?
MADELEINE: I love writing, even as a child I was told that I have a talent for writing, but besides my blog and some professional publications, I never did any serious writing.
When I did my training as counselor, I was asked to write a six-page autobiography describing the events in my life that shaped me. I realized then what a powerful tool autobiography can be for understanding one’s own inner landscape. And, being a storyteller at heart, I recognized the potential for a great story.
JANE: Why do you think your book needed to be written?
MADELEINE: As a counselor, I feel people can be inspired by good stories that give them hope and perspective. I write a blog for the same reason. I believe in the power of stories people can identify with.
And I have accumulated a lot of insight in the development of the psyche and felt the need to integrate that in something that would be accessible for others.
JANE: Who do you think will read your book? Who would you like to read it? Did you have a target audience in mind before you wrote it?
MADELEINE: Yes, I did: those people who are seeking more meaning or more understanding in their lives. People who are faced with the need to make difficult choices or process grief and loss. People who have already sensed a deeper undercurrent to life and wish to bring more of that into their lives. Seekers, searching for their own inner truths.
JANE: What steps have you taken or are planning to take to promote your book? Which methods do you think will work best to meet your target audience?
MADELEINE: I give workshops and readings and occasionally attend professional network gatherings. I plan to always have a small pile of books with me there. Even though the book is written in English, it is easy reading and I expect there will be a market here in the Netherlands. I have joined a Dutch online newsletter, Vrouw & Passie (Women & Passion), as an author and will publish articles on that.
I have a blog and website with an international following. I’ve already begun to focus on the book there: a special section on the book plus blog posts referring to it. I believe this to be the most important piece of marketing. It’s connected to my Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and Twitter accounts.
I’ve also started a Facebook page for the book, registered myself as author on GoodReads and will do so on Amazon as soon as the book is available. A group of friends have already agreed to post reviews on both Amazon and GoodReads.
My younger son, who works in communications management, is going to help me with a video trailer for YouTube. That’s going to be fun!
I will send out press releases to specialized publications here in the Netherlands, and am in the process of drawing up a list of international (UK and US) publications to send press releases to. I’m hoping to do an actual (physical) book launch at an independent bookstore in the Netherlands, which will be fun to celebrate the publication of the book.
JANE: How did you choose your publisher and method of publishing? Did you do much research did you do before you made your choice? And what made you chose this route?
MADELEINE: From the moment I envisioned writing the book, I realized that publishing an English-language book in the Netherlands was going to be a challenge. The idea of sending my manuscript off to publishers and receiving rejection slips did not sound motivating. I toyed with the idea of self-publishing but it sounded overwhelming for someone with little experience. A friend, who likes my writing, introduced me to Jo (who was just leaving the Netherlands for Kuala Lumpur). I did some writing exercises with Jo and she said, “If you write it, I will publish it.” For me, this was an ideal solution.
JANE: What was your biggest challenge once you decided to write your book and how did you overcome it?
MADELEINE: There were several. The first huge challenge was finding the courage to write honestly and in depth. Even about things I’m not necessarily proud of. Even about things I didn’t understand myself. I had to constantly remind myself that other people will benefit from reading my story. Sometimes I had to really sit with a theme (such as my relationship with my mother) and bring myself to understand the complexities of it before I could write clearly about it.
Another challenge was finding the right tone – my voice – for the book. And holding on to it when I was getting feedback from you and Jo. Not getting defensive about the feedback but asking myself, How can I do this so they will understand what I’m doing? I learned a great deal from that process!
Having a group of friends, whom I called my sounding-board group, helped me a lot. They gave me love and encouragement when I was feeling discouraged and suggestions and feedback when I had trouble deciding on things.
JANE: Now you have written your book how has writing it impacted you, your family, your self-esteem or your business?
MADELEINE: A good question! It’s been really rewarding to integrate all my insights in the development of the psyche into my personal story. If someone were to ask me, what are you about? I can answer, read my book! For a while I had the sense that I have said all I really need to say about life and can get on with being retired and devoting my time to bird watching and photography. However, the journey of self-discovery continues and recently I’ve caught myself thinking, So what’s the next book about? Maybe it will be about eldership and facing death.
JANE: What were the highlights of the writing and publishing process from starting to write your book to it being sent to print?
MADELEINE: I suppose the biggest highlights were the milestones, the go – no go moments. Like when I told Jo I would write the book. Or when the three of us met in The Hague to discuss the production process. And, the other day, when I approved the final layout for the printer. (I just wrote a blog post about that moment.) Another great moment was when I approved the cover design and the book suddenly had a face! But I’m really looking forward to holding it in my hands and leafing through it. That gives me goosebumps to think of it.
JANE: If you were to give advice to someone thinking about writing their memoir, what would be your number one tip?
MADELEINE: Believe in yourself and what you have to say. Make sure that, when you start feeling discouraged, there are people around you who will pull you through. Just keep believing in yourself, don’t give up.
Madeleine Lenagh was born in the United States and grew up in Westport, Connecticut. She moved to the Netherlands in 1970. This book is her life story. Madeleine is a trained counselor and body-worker. Additional training in Systemic Ritual®, mindfulness, and Voice Dialogue followed. After a long career in urban planning and project management, she took early retirement and opened a practice for life coaching and counseling. She works with individual clients and organizes workshops, helping people make difficult choices, process grief and loss, learn to take care of themselves, and live their lives in accordance with their soul’s longing. She shares her passion for nature with others through her writing, art and photography, and shamanic practices.
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