Jess Lourey was the first person to tell me I could write a book. We met at a workshop she conducted at the Moorhead Public Library years ago, back when I was an advertising executive and she was writing a series of mysteries featuring a smart-mouthed, small town Minnesotan with a penchant for Nut Goodies.
We kept in touch, and our lives have changed a lot since then. I traded a corporate life for a creative one, while Jess expanded her empire to include all kinds of interesting projects and adventures. (Seriously, read the bio she wrote at the bottom of this post.) Her most recent passions blend life, travel, reflection and creativity in a way that I’m especially excited about.
I’ll let her tell you what she’s been up to this winter. Here’s Jess!
On November 9, 2016, I was grocery shopping with my husband and son. I had woken up that morning to the disturbing news that Donald Trump had won the U.S. presidential election. He wasn’t my candidate, but that wasn’t the problem. At age 46, I know that you win some and you lose some, and that no political party has cornered the market on wisdom. It wasn’t even that the most qualified presidential candidate in our nation’s history, Hillary Clinton, hadn’t been able to break that ultimate glass ceiling, though that stung.
I wasn’t sure what it was, exactly, that had me feeling so defeated. All I know is that my heart was low as I walked into that grocery store, my son leading, then my husband, me taking up the rear a couple paces behind. I was looking at my husband’s back as he passed another man who was coming toward me. That man set off my radar even though it was early afternoon, in public, and I was with family. He was clean cut, middle class, perfectly in place in that suburb…but there was something about him.
And then, suddenly, he stood next to me. He paused. He sneered, grabbed my sweater, and yanked it before walking away. It took less than a second. He was a stranger to me, but he’d felt emboldened to take something from me—my feeling of bodily safety, some sense of self he saw in my eyes. I didn’t mention anything to my husband or son until we got home. They were outraged. I was heartbroken.
Because I had understood fully in that moment why the election had so upset me: unkindness had won.
I began to talk to friends and family about this. They all shared their own small, sharp examples of unkindness that they’d experienced since the election. It was rampant in my circle, and I knew why. The ugly, fear-driven side every human has had been given a voice and courage in the election of Donald Trump. If you live your life vulnerable, whole-hearted, in search of your best self, that’s hard news.
I stayed sad for another full week. Then, I was called to action. I shouldered some responsibility in the way the election had turned out—I’d grown too complacent, taken my privileges for granted—which meant I had some duty in fixing it. I laid my skills out on a pile in front of me. They are meager: I’m a great teacher, a writer, a connector. I have vision. I possess hard-earned tools that with only a little bit of instruction, others can use to heal themselves.
I piled it all together and realized what I needed to do: I needed to put my healing writing classes online so others could access them, and I needed to create an organization that offers healing, empowering, and relaxing retreats all over the world.
My foremost goal was to create the time and space for people to practice self-care. Play, laughter, good food, naps, creativity. We cannot let these be casualties of the time. My second goal was to help others to claim their voice and find their passion. If you are doing the right thing (for you) at the right time (for you), then you are a warrior for good, starting with your own personal evolution. That is powerful stuff.
Finally, I wanted to cultivate more stories in this world. Our stories connect us, heal us, create a global community, tie us to our history and chart a way to our better future. I’ve written 15 books, taught writing at a Minnesota college for 20 years, and know the ins and the outs of the publishing industry. I am uniquely suited to nurture writing and writers.
With those three goals in mind, I’ve put in 80-hour work weeks since mid-November. The result is these two websites:
Rewrite Your Life, a 10-module, self-paced online course that shows you how to select and then write your most significant story, the one that helps you to evolve and invites pure creativity into your life, the one that people line up to read. It is based on the process I spoke about in my June 2016 TEDx Talk and my book of the same name coming out May 2017. Our writing heals us, and heals the world.
Wellness Retreats for Women, an organization devoted to curating relaxing, healing, and empowering retreats for women (and a couple coed), including an immersive Rewrite Your Life weekend workshop in San Francisco in May, a week-long luxury retreat in Greece where you will find and honor your creative voice through a series of playful, artistic, and empowering adventures, and a 5-day London cultural vacation where you will read famous female authors, explore the locations where these brilliant women dreamed and wrote, and create your own inspired writing.
We all have a role to play in this new world. Mine is to help you to find yours, to tell my stories, and to make sure we have fun along the way. As a special thanks to Alicia, all readers of her blog are entitled to a 10% discount on any retreat or writing class I offer, using promo code WRITERSREADERS.
Kindness will win in the end. Fight on, warriors.
Jess Lourey (rhymes with “dowry”) is best known for her critically-acclaimed Murder-by-Month mysteries, which have earned multiple starred reviews from Library Journal and Booklist, the latter calling her writing “a splendid mix of humor and suspense.” Jess also writes sword and sorcery fantasy, edge-of-your-seat YA adventure, and magical realism, literary fiction, and thrillers.
She is a tenured professor of creative writing and sociology, a recipient of The Loft’s 2014 Excellence in Teaching fellowship, and a sought-after workshop leader and keynote speaker who delivered the 2016 “Rewrite Your Life” TEDx Talk. When not teaching, reading, traveling, writing, watching craptastic SyFy movies, or hanging out with her family, you can find her dreaming of her next story. Her feminist thriller, SALEM’S CIPHER, hit stores September 2016, and REWRITE YOUR LIFE, which walks readers through the process of transforming personal experience into page-turning fiction, comes out May 2017.
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