Tag Archives: Jill Jepson

Guest Blogger Jill Jepson: Bearing Witness

Writing as a Sacred PathBearing Witness

by Guest Blogger Jill Jepson

My father was a talkative man. Like many of his generation, he fought in World War II, and he spent much of his life telling about it. His stories about the war were a staple of my childhood. At every meal, every holiday, every Sunday at home, he told about the years he spent in Algiers and Corsica.

When I was a child, I hated hearing his stories. For one thing, most of his experiences involved hardships, and it made me sad to think of my father suffering. For another, he described the same events so often that, by the time I reached junior high, I had them all memorized. Listening to accounts you have heard many times before is difficult for anyone—for a teenager, it is torture.

My father died last summer at the age of 91. Right up to his last day, he continued talking about World War II. But by then my feelings about his stories had changed. I realized that it wouldn’t be long before there is no one left to tell eye-witness accounts of that war. I recently read of a town that stopped holding its annual Veterans Day parade because the World War II vets who used to march in it had all passed on or had grown too old to take part. In a very few years, all the people who experienced that war will be gone. No wonder my father spent his life telling and retelling his stories, repeating them to anyone who would listen. He was making sure what happened then would never be forgotten. He was bearing witness to the experiences of everyone who lived through that war.

Growing up with my father’s stories has shaped the way I think about being a writer. I believe that, at our core, all writers are storytellers. I don’t mean just novelists, but journalists and poets, essayists, even academic writers. We, like my father, are all part of the ancient tradition that started when prehistoric people first gathered at night to relate their experiences. A very venerable lineage.

The act of storytelling is the most important part of the writer’s work. Stories are not trivial things. They are essential. They shape the way we think about the world. They teach us moral lessons. They safeguard human knowledge. They help us understand what life is all about.

When writers tell stories—through novels or memoirs, screenplays or poems—they are recording what it is like to live in this world, what it means to be alive. Writers observe the human journey, pass it on to others, and make sure it isn’t forgotten. My father did this around the kitchen table. I try to do it in my small way in books and articles. To me, it is sacred work. To preserve and record some tiny part of the human experience. To bear witness.

Jill JepsonJill Jepson is a traveler, professor, and transformational life coach, and the author of three books and over 60 articles. She holds a Ph.D. in Linguistics from the University of Chicago as well as degrees in writing, psychology, social science, and Asian studies. Using her extensive travels to places as diverse as Guatemala, Syria, Siberia, and Afghanistan, her writing explores spiritual traditions, history, culture, personal growth, and the writing process. Through her business, Writing the Whirlwind, she offers coaching and online workshops for writers, activists, and others. You can visit her website at www.writingthewhirlwind.net.

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Writing as a Sacred Path: Interview with Writing Coach Jill Jepson

Jill JepsonJill Jepson is a writer, writing coach, college professor, and linguistic anthropologist. She is the author of Writing as a Sacred Path: A Practical Guide to Writing With Passion & Purpose, published by Ten Speed Press. She runs Writing the Whirlwind, a business that offers workshops and coaching for writers, activists, caretakers, and others (www.writingthewhirlwind.net ). Her personal website can be found at www.jilljepson.com.

Thank you for this interview, Jill. Can you tell us what your latest book, Writing as a Sacred Path: A Practical Guide to Writing with Passion and Purpose, is all about?

Jill: Writing as a Sacred Path explores the practices of four spiritual vocations—that of the shaman, warrior, mystic and monk—to provide a new approach for writers. It is for all writers who wish to write with purpose and direction and to develop a deep connection to their writing. It contains more than eighty exercises—although I prefer the term “sacred tools”—using myth, meditation, ritual, dreams, crafts, nature experiences, and other means to help writers deepen and expand their writing practice. Writing as a Sacred Path offers readers a way to approach writing as a life-changing spiritual practice.

Writing as a Sacred PathIs this your first book?  If not, how has writing this book different from writing your first?

Jill: Everything I write is a new experience. I have two previous books out and many articles in newspapers and magazines, and every one of them has been a unique experience. Writing as a Sacred Path came in a clear, fresh stream. It is the work of my soul, something I believe in very deeply, so writing it felt very natural. I’ve spent many years exploring spiritual traditions throughout the world, and I’ve written my entire life, starting before I was even in kindergarten, so I had all that behind me and much of it went into the book. It seemed as if every time I needed an example or a specific idea, one would simply come to me out of that store of memory. The book was a pleasure to write.

How difficult was it writing your book?  Did you ever experience writer’s block and, if so, what did you do?

Jill: I don’t experience writer’s block and haven’t for years. The reason is because I’ve developed techniques for dealing with the fear that creates blocks. Fear is the major reason writers find themselves stuck. Fear of failure. Fear of success. Fear of exposing yourself on the page. It’s not that I don’t have fear—I think all writers do. It’s just that I’ve learned to write through it. To know it’s there and just keep writing anyway. I remember once watching an Olympic figure skater who took a terrible fall and got up and just kept going. One of the commentators said, “She must be in a lot of pain right now,” and the other—who was a former skater herself—said, “Oh, she’s not even feeling that pain. She’ll feel it later, but right now, she’s just skating.” That’s how I feel about writing. You may be in pain, you’re may be anxious and frustrated and scared out of your wits, but you’re not feeling it. You’re just writing.

How have your fans embraced your latest book?  Do you have any funny or unusual experiences to share?

Jill: I get some wonderful correspondence from people. It’s lovely getting an email from someone in India or Australia or Finland, saying that my book spoke to them or helped them in some way.

What is your daily writing routine?

Jill: I write every morning. I’m not really a morning person, in the sense of someone who gets up at dawn. I’m a fairly late riser. But once I do get up, that’s when I’m most creative. I try never to schedule meetings or appointments in the mornings if I can help it. I write for several hours, then have lunch. When I’m really in the flow of things, I can write right through the afternoon and evening as well.

When you put the pen or mouse down, what do you do to relax?

Jill: I read, I play Baroque music on the recorder, and I sit on my deck with my husband and just watch the waterfalls in my back yard. I try to exercise every day. My cats and dogs help me relax, too.

What book changed your life?

Jill: This may sound like an odd choice, but it was a book called The Forgotten Pollinators by Stephen Buchmann. It’s about all the creatures who pollinate the plants of the world, about how pollination takes place, and what would happen if the pollinators died out. I’ve always had a fascination with science, especially biology, and a regret that I was essentially shoved out of it by insensitive science teachers when I was a child. This book touched that love in a special way. It spoke to me about the web of life and the importance of protecting our precious planet.

If someone were to write a book on your life, what would the title be?

Jill: A Comedy of Terrors. Or A Farm Girl in the Twilight Zone.

Finish this sentence: “The one thing that I wish people would understand about me is…”

Jill: That I’m a bit of an empath. I don’t mean I’m psychic, I mean I seem to absorb the feelings of the people around me a little too much. It’s as if I have a super-refined intuition about what others are experiencing. It helps my writing, but otherwise it’s just a massive pain.

Thank you for this interview, Jill.  I wish you much success on your latest release, Writing as a Sacred Path: A Practical Guide to Writing with Passion and Purpose!

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Books! Books! Books!

Well it’s that time of year again – summer is in full swing!  It’s buzzing here on the island – boats, jet skis, people riding bikes, you name it, are all whizzing by my front door.  It’s crazy, I’m telling you, and in a couple of weeks, I’ll be vacationing in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina…just can’t get away from the ocean, lol.

But I love it.  We had a disastrous trip to the Smokies last month what with the rental breaking down and the cabin being haunted – creepy stuff, so hopefully this one will be filled with nothing to do but relaxing stuff.

I do want to mention I’ve gotten in lots of wonderful books lately, so because I’ve had my nose in tours for weeks on end, I thought I’d take the time now to let you know what goodies arrived at my doorstep.

Oh where do I begin…not necessarily in the order of preference they are:

Too Many Visitors 2Too Many Visitors for One Little House by Susan Chodakiewitz.  I will be giving it a review on the 31st, but it is sooooo cute.  Beautiful cover and inside, the illustrations are masterfully done.  It’s a beautiful little picture book.  Susan is in fact one of our clients on virtual book tour this month and what a joy she has been to work with.

Gracious Living on Social Security by Valerie Kent.  Cheryl Malandrinos is in charge of her tour but I asked if I could have a review copy so I could review it here.  Cute cover with an old lady and old man dancing and in the prime of their life so that gives me the impression this book is going to help me when I’m at that ripe old age which isn’t that far off!  I haven’t even attempted to read this yet and I think I better check to see when I have to review it for the tour, but it shouldn’t take too long.  It’s roughly 130 pages so I should be able to do that in a couple of sittings but I do have to mention the illustrations inside are really, really cute.

Coming for MoneyComing for Money by F.W. Vom Scheidt.  Another one of Pump Up’s clients and another book I’m really looking forward to reading.  The book is labeled a literary fiction and I can now see why…this guy knows how to write!  I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to review it before his tour ends in August, but the review will be forthcoming!

Summer HouseSummer House by Nancy Thayer.  Yep, another client.  Look, this woman I have admired for years ever since I bought her book The Hot Flash Club.  And omg, I have started reading this….no wonder she’s a NY Times Bestselling author!  I’m taking this book with me to South Carolina and hopefully while I’m sitting on the beach, I can finish it.

Writing as a Sacred PathWriting as a Sacred Path by Jill Jepson.  Another client…Jill will be touring in August and let me tell you this is a wonderful lady.  Her book is EXCELLENT.  I’ve only read a few pages just out of curiosity but I’m hoping to have her a nice review before the end of her tour.  Another book I’m taking with me to Myrtle Beach.

Angel LaneAngel Lane by Sheila Roberts.  Sheila is an old bud of mine and I was so excited she was coming back to Pump Up in October.  Love this woman!  But look, this book is so up my alley it’s not even funny.  The main character moves to a scenic lakeside community and they all decide to do one good deed a day, or at least that’s what I’m getting from it.  It is from this  good deed doing, she falls in love.  I haven’t even started into this book, but I think it’ll be another one I’ll take to the Carolinas.

Affordable Paradise by H. Skip Thomsen.  Even though he spells his name quite different from the way I do, he can’t be half bad with the same last name as me!  Skip emailed me a few months ago about a tour which we’re getting ready to set up, but he wanted to send me his book so I could see just what it was all about.  Okay, who wants to move to Hawaii?  Me!  Me!  I wish I had the guts to move all the way across country but it sure is tempting.  The thing is, we all think it’s expensive to live in Hawaii, right?  Well Skip says he has found ways to live in Hawaii and not have to spend your life savings doing it.  Really looking forward to reading this book!

Distant ThunderDistant Thunder by Jimmy Root, Jr.  Jimmy (doesn’t it feel weird calling a pastor by their first name?), but Jimmy is so down to earth and not only that, this book is excellent. I’ve only skimmed it so I’ll let you know more later when I review it but whew this guy can write.  Jimmy is touring with us in August and September so you’ll be hearing a lot about him over the course of his tour.

Night of FlamesNight of Flames by Douglas W. Jacobson.  Who doesn’t love books about WWII?  I was frothing at the mouth to get this one.  Douglas will be touring in September and October I believe, but omg, this looks like a great read.

American LionAmerican  Lion by Jon Meacham.  Talk. About. A. Huge. Book.  This book is almost 500 pages but I LOVE biographies and supposedly you’ll be hearing about all kinds of things Andrew Jackson did in the White House that you never knew about.  Jon, btw, is editor of Newsweek and get this…American Lion was the winner of the Pulitzer Prize.  So you know I have to read this one.  He’s also been touring with us this week, so check out some of this reviews, guest posts and reviews…excellent writer and what a fantastic historian.

The Spies of WarsawThe Spies of Warsaw by Alan Furst.  Another Pump Up client touring this month.  And another book that was based on history – WWII.  It’s gotten excellent reviews.  The L.A. Times says, “…one does not so much read them as fall under their spell,” when talking about Furst’s books.  I cannot wait to read this one either!

Homer's OdysseyHomer’s Odyssey by Gwen Cooper.  Another one of Cheryl Malandrinos clients at Pump Up and I just had to email her to see if I could review Gwen’s book.  What’s not to like about a cat story, you know?  But it’s no ordinary cat.  Homer is blind and supposedly he teaches a woman how to love, so there’s going to be a love story in there, too…sounds terrific!

Well that wraps it up.  Too many books, so little time, but my suitcase is going to be really heavy come the first of August!

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