My guest today is children’s author Terry Nicholetti. Terry is Founder and Chief Encourager of Speak Out, Girlfriend!, a former teaching nun and professional actor/playwright, and an author with nearly 30 years of experience in sales and marketing. A member of Unity Worldwide Ministries congregations for more than a decade, Terry has built her Speak Out, Girlfriend! 9 Steps to Get from Fearful to Fabulous in part on Unity principles, especially that the spirit of God/Source/Universe lives in each of us, and that we create our life’s experiences through our thoughts. Terry created and produced the GoldStar Magic! Family Pen-Pal Kit™, which includes the delightfully illustrated NoraLee’s Adventures on Planet Ifwee, to help children and their grandparents get closer together, one story at a time.
Congratulations on the release of your latest book. When did you start writing and what got you into children’s books?
I’ve been writing most of my life. I did volumes of journaling, as I was on a journey of healing the PTSD resulting from my childhood experiences of physical, emotional and sexual abuse. As I realized that my parents were doing the best they could, given their own childhood wounding and ignorance of its impact on their lives, I was more and more deeply inspired to share what I was learning, and perhaps make a difference in the lives of children and adults who find my work.
My first book was non-fiction, Fed Up! A Woman’s Guide to Freedom from the Diet/Weight Prison, published by Carroll & Graf in 1993. I wrote it with David Levitsky, an obesity researcher from Cornell University, because I wanted to share a message that the obsession with thinness was making many of us sick, and that it was far better to focus on health, pleasure, and fitness.
I wrote NoraLee’s Adventures on Planet Ifwee as part of the GoldStar Magic Family Pen-Pal Kit™ to share the message of GoldStar Magic. And for the past 18 months, I’ve been committed to publishing a bi-weekly newsletter for my 800+ subscribers. I’m very proud that I haven’t missed one issue. What I haven’t quite mastered yet, is getting the article to be a blog first, so that I can enter the 21st century of social media expansion! I do have a Facebook page, under the brand of Speak Out, Girlfriend!
Did you have any struggles or difficulties when you started writing?
When I heard Woody Allen explain the inspiration for one of his movies, “I wanted to show in an entertaining way, that…,” I cried out, that’s me! I’ve always wanted to share things that could make a difference in other people’s lives by writing, speaking, or performing.
But as soon as I tried to take something to market, I’d get stuck, and be back looking for a “job job” to pay the bills. (That’s how I got my 30 years’ experience in sales and marketing!)
It’s not that my products and programs weren’t any good. After all, the few dozen families who bought my GoldStar Magic! Family Pen-Pal Kit™ really loved it.
So I had to do quite a bit of self-exploration to uncover the fears and limiting beliefs that were blocking me from believing in myself, and being able to do the work. It’s not been a straight line, but more of a spiral of growth, both emotional and spiritual.
When I moved from Ithaca, NY to Washington DC in 1998, I was missing my three granddaughters, ages 10, 8, and 6, and wanted to stay close to them. At the same time, I was going through a rebellious phase, resisting doing daily things we all need to do, cleaning, sorting mail, paying bills, etc. My therapist encouraged me to make friends with the “little girl” within me who was so angry about “should,” and find a way to work together. She also encouraged me to look for the “why”: why I should care about this task that I don’t want to do.
One day I told her that I had paid all my bills on time that month, and she said, “Good for you! Give yourself a gold star!” What an idea! So I started a little notebook, listed my accomplishments, and gave myself a gold star each time. I wanted to share this idea with my granddaughters, so I designed a two-way postal card out of oak tag.
On the top part it said, “Here’s something I did that I’m proud of.” On the bottom half, to be returned to the sender, it said, “Here’s what I think of your story.” I made up a supply of these cards, and for a while, we exchanged these messages with great joy.
When I shared these cards with my friends, they said, “This is a great idea; you should turn it into a product!” I didn’t want to just write up a boring “how to” pamphlet to explain the cards, so I got the idea to write a children’s story about a little girl named NoraLee Johnson who hates doing chores and misses her grandparents who have moved away. During her visit to Planet Ifwee, she learns how GoldStar Magic can change chores from boring tasks to be avoided into satisfying activities of caring and sharing.
Do you plot in advance or do you write by the seat of your pants?
For NoraLee’s Adventures, the plot was driven by the lessons I wanted NoraLee to learn. So I invented Planet Ifwee, a place where people only do what they care about. One of their residents, Loofi Mondel, was traveling in his space ship and overheard her complaining, so he invited her to come and meet some of his friends and family on Ifwee. Their motto is, “If we care, it’s magic!” The story just flowed from that.
What do you hope readers will get from your book?
First, I hope they will be entertained. The illustrations are delicious, and the Ifwee Song, produced by brilliant children’s songwriter Jan Nigro, is so much fun! Then I want whole families to learn the “power of intention,” to realize that if they spend some time mindfully discussing what they care about together, all members will be more likely to pitch in and help out, and the results will be very satisfying. And finally, I want to encourage children and their grandparents (or any other adults who live elsewhere) to get closer together by sharing NoraLee’s story, as well as their own stories about what they’ve accomplished.
How was your experience working with an illustrator?
The brilliant and talented Annie Campbell was my encourager as well as my partner in developing the characters. I took out a home equity loan to self-publish NoraLee’s Adventures on Planet Ifwee and the GoldStar Magic! Family Pen-Pal Kit.™ So she knew I was serious about this project. I paid her half her fee up front, and the balance when the illustrations were done. But she started ahead of time while I waited for the loan to come through, and her first sketches of NoraLee and Loofi really set the tone for my work. Then we continued the dialogue as I wrote the story, and we had many long discussions about what to illustrate. I loved the process.
Many writers experience a vague anxiety before they sit down to write. Can you relate to this?
I used to have a sign over my computer that said, “Expect the Aaaagggghhhh! Then just start typing!” I have made some peace with the fact that I’m going to feel afraid and stuck often. And I’ve come to trust that, if I just follow the advice to start typing (or in some cases writing longhand) the words will come. I actually enjoy editing almost more that the initial writing. Shaping and refining the “dough,” especially after feedback, is very satisfying. Now that I am practicing mindfulness meditation, I’m much better at taking some deep breaths and connecting to my deepest self, my Source (God/Universe/Spirit) before I start any project, or at any moment when I am stuck.
Do you have a website or blog where readers can find out more about your work?
I’m a consultant and actor as well as a writer, so I have a website that covers all of that. GoldStar Magic has its own page on that site, and can also be reached directly. There’s also a link on that page to my listing on Amazon.com, as well as a link to listen to or download the Ifwee Song. And here is a link to my current blog. I’d love to invite your readers to visit my website and blog, and join the conversation.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=0971648816]