A Conversation With
THE OTHER LIFE
Carrie: After The Smart One and Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA, THE OTHER LIFE is a real departure for you. What inspired it?
Ellen: I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of escape. I guess that’s part of the job description for a fiction writer. I was thinking about that one day after my husband left for work and the children left for school. There I was, all by myself, waiting impatiently for my computer to boot up so I could lose myself in the world I had created, when I began to wonder what might happen if a wife and mother could use those magical hours alone to escape in a more literal sense. At once, I had the image of a portal right smack in the middle of the most domestic setting…an opening that would let the woman cross over to the life she would have had if she had chosen a very different path. The more I thought about this idea, the more excited I got. As details about my main character and her two lives emerged, a story began to form. But it wasn’t until it occurred to me that my protagonist’s mother was dead in one life and alive in the other that I knew I had a book.
Carrie: THE OTHER LIFE is about returning to the road not taken and exploring the life unlived. Have you ever longed to see what happened on the other road?
Ellen: Haven’t we all? I think that’s human nature, especially in times of extreme stress. We play the “if only” game, imagining what might have been. What if I hadn’t gotten married? What if we hadn’t bought this house? What if we never had a child? What if I had been there to prevent that accident/suicide/awful mistake? Of course, it’s easy to condemn this line of thinking as counterproductive, but I believe it’s a coping mechanism. There’s only so much grief and anxiety our minds can hold before we need a mental vacation.
Carrie: In this story Nan makes the ultimate sacrifice for a child, in this case her daughter, Quinn, and her grandchildren. Do you think that kind of love is instinctual or learned?
Ellen: I think we’re hardwired to make sacrifices for our children. It’s the basest human instinct, and it gets switched on like a spotlight when we have our first child. I guess scientists can explain the chemistry of it, but from a personal perspective, falling in love with my first child was the most dramatically transformative moment of my life. I was flooded with something that seemed to alter my DNA, restructuring every cell. I was no longer just Ellen, I was Max’s mom, and I knew from that moment on every decision I made in life would be informed by that simple fact.
Carrie: With Nan and Quinn, you brilliantly capture the mother-daughter relationship and the bond that hovers between boundless love and bruising tension. Did you draw from personal experience?
Ellen: Thanks for that compliment! I can honestly say that my own even-tempered mother is nothing like Nan, but I’ve always been fascinated by the wrenching emotional turmoil of family relationships. I’m not sure there’s anything more interesting—or more human—than the ways in which we are tested by love.
Carrie: As her daughter straddles parallel universes, Nan wonders whether having an escape route will help Quinn manage life’s difficulties with more grace, or instead taunt her with a decision no one should ever have to make. Is it a blessing or a curse…or something else?
Ellen: I love this question, because I think it gets to the heart of the book, and I hope readers will explore this issue themselves. What if their life included a portal to what might have been? Would they welcome the possibility to cross from one life to another? Or do they think they would be tortured by the endlessness of the choices they could make?
Carrie: In musing about her mother, Quinn observes: “Sometimes we don’t just simply grow and change. Sometimes life is so harsh and so dark, a part of us gets excised completely, leaving us permanently altered.” It happened to Nan, but what is it about Quinn that keeps her from the same fate?
Ellen: Quinn lives very much outside of herself. She’s introspective, sure, but she’s a giver and feels like her place in the world (or, in her case, worlds) is to take care of others. She’s so acutely aware of being needed that it’s very nearly impossible for her to make the kind of choice her mother did in her darkest hour. To Quinn, suicide is the ultimate act of selfishness.
Carrie: THE OTHER LIFE probes the choices we make in life. Do you think there’s a way to avoid the second-guessing that often accompanies them?
Ellen: No, and I don’t think we should. That constant reexamination of our motives and choices is how we learn and grow. It’s like what Socrates said about the unexamined life.
Carrie: Grief comes in many forms in this novel. Are there lessons here for those stuck in grief?
Ellen: Grief is such a bear and so very personal. So I don’t know if there are any lessons here, but perhaps some comfort in taking the journey with someone finding her way through it.
Carrie: THE OTHER LIFE has been called “the thinking woman’s beach read” (NY Times bestselling author Joshilyn Jackson), making it perfect for a book club selection. What feedback do you get from book clubs?
Ellen: From my experience, book clubs enjoy novels with fresh writing, complex characters and enough emotional resonance to leave readers with questions that feel very personal. Naturally, I hope THE OTHER LIFE is all those things … and I’m thrilled that the early feedback I’m getting from beta readers suggests that it is!
Carrie: What genres (or authors) do you like to read? Why?
Ellen: I don’t limit myself to any particular genre, but I’m definitely drawn to character-driven stories that take a hard look at human relationships. So a survey of my book shelf would probably reveal more literary and women’s fiction than anything else.
Carrie: Modern women yearn for balance between work and family. As a writer and mother of three, do you have any advice for them?
Ellen: For me, it’s a matter of priorities that boils down to a simple equation: Family = first; Work = second; Housework = dead last.
Click HERE to listen to Ellen’s NPR interview
To enter to win a free copy of THE OTHER LIFE:
Leave a Comment below about the “other life” you’ve always wondered about
U.S. & Canada residents only; No P.O. Boxes, please
Deadline: May 15th, 2011 ~ Midnight, EST
A Candid Conversation with Nealon Hightower
SIX SIMPLE TRUTHS TO FAT RELEASE;
How I Let Go of More than 100 Pounds the Easy Way
Carrie: What inspired you to write Six Simple Truths to Fat Release?
Nealon: Well, Inspired is definitely the right word. After years of fighting with my weight, winning sometimes only to end up losing even bigger, I came to a place of quiet desperation and I finally surrendered to the battle and let my heart guide me to find a permanent solution to my lifelong problem. I vowed to teach the gift to others if I could find the path. I did and I am.
Carrie: What are you reading right now?
Nealon: I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of Marianne Williamson’s new book, A Course in Weight Loss. I feel as though she is going to hit on a lot of very relevant information, though I am still a little disappointed that she is still referring to the term “Weight Loss”.
Carrie: What’s wrong with weight loss, didn’t you lose over 100lbs?
Nealon: This is the major differentiation between my book and most others out there. I very strongly feel, no…I know that weight loss is not the most effective approach. You lose your keys, your job, your home, your dog but you
Are you a big fan of Sue Monk Kidd like me?
When I started Words To Mouth, one of my earliest blog posts talked about the excitement of one of my favorite authors/books coming to the big screen—Sue Monk Kidd’s THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES. Well, now that same author and her daughter, Anna Kidd Taylor, are coming to Words To Mouth. Sue and Anna, wrote a mother-daugher memoir called TRAVELING WITH POMEGRANATES and have agreed to take a few moments out of their busy book tour to chat with me on SEPTEMBER 10th. I’m beyond thrilled ~ what an honor!
From Marc’s ONO website…
ONO is a Business Book with a Soul
If you find yourself wanting more time for the things that matter in life—spouse, children, a “higher purpose,” or a hobby you’re passionate about, you want ONO.
Too many financial obligations make the juicy things in life harder to have. Options, on the other hand, make them all possible. You get to pick. It’s delicious and available to anyone at any income level.
ONO will teach you the mastery levels of Family First Entrepreneurial thinking which will create options in your life. It will show you how to maintain a work-life balance. ONO gives busy moms and dads the permission they need to love their families more than their jobs – yet still create financial independence. Our children spell love T-I-M-E. Sadly, we have to buy that time. ONO will show you how.
If you’re tired of not having a plan that shows promise of breaking loose from the burden of life’s financial obligations. You want ONO. At the end of life it will be the people we love, the places we saw, and how we grew as humans that we will remember. ONO will be your blueprint to create the time and money for all of these.
ONO will help you to:
- Learn the true definition of wealth
- Realize the power of building relationships
- Limit lifestyle to create options
- Discover how to live the Family First Entrepreneurial lifestyle
Through ONO, Marc Warnke will be introducing to you both a lifestyle and a path to follow that will allow money to create wealth and produce positive changes in your life. If fears about having enough money were no longer a part of our daily decisions, we would be free to focus on something greater than ourselves. We could devote energy to a Higher Purpose, whether it was spending a lot more time with our children, volunteering to do church work, helping kids learn to read, donating time, effort or money to a favorite cause, or even shoveling rhino poop at the zoo.If you find yourself wanting more time for the things that matter in life—spouse, children, a “higher purpose,” or a hobby you’re passionate about, you want ONO.
To Enter to Win a FREE copy of ONO:
Is it…could it be…Spring? Let’s keep our fingers crossed…both for better weather and this chance to win a fantastic set of books from Hachette Books! With Spring comes spring cleaning and a chance for a new start, and you’ll want these books to help you on your way.
Spring Cleaning, Spring Foward
- Throw Out Fifty Things By Gail Blanke
- No Matter What! By Lisa Nichols
- Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Home By Thelma Meyer
- The Power to Change Today By Gregory Dickow
- Work in Progress By Kristin Armstrong
Enter to Win by:
You must be subscribed to the Words To Mouth e-newsletter to be informed of winners
U.S. & Canada mailing addresses only ~ No P.O. Boxes, Please
Deadline: March 31st 2009, midnight, EST
!! Best of Luck to You !!
I had the privilege of speaking with Kim Bensen, an incredibly inspiring individual. She’s struggled with her weight her whole life and finally lost over 200 pounds and just celebrated her 5-year anniversary of keeping it off. Her book FINALLY THIN! is open, honest, and encouraging. Kim unabashedly shares her “warts and wrinkles” ~ all the embarrassing stories of her food addiction. She’s been there and relates to those who struggle. In FINALLY THIN! Kim gives an overview of all the different diet programs out there and offers her book as a companion to whichever plan is right for you. She also provides numerous Tips & Tools and over 70 Yummy Recipes.
Kim Bensen is a marketing and PR Expert, wife, and mother of four children who was obese for much of her life, weighing as much as 347 pounds. Five years ago, she lost 212 pounds on Weight Watchers and has never looked back. Her story has garnered her thousands of fans and followers as well as a host of national media: She has appeared on the Today Show, Extra, Fox and Friends, 700 Club, and numerous local TV and radio outlets, as well as in People, Women’s World, Prevention, and Cooking Light. She does a weekly 3-minute segment on Better TV (affiliated with Better Homes and Gardens) and her weekly column, “Here’s the Skinny,” runs in several newspapers across the country. Her website has over 7,000 subscribers who log on for diet tips and recipes, and her recently launched product line, Kim’s Light Bagels, is carried in 800 major supermarkets on the east coast. She continues to lead Weight Watchers groups in CT, where she lives.
The following is additional Q & A with Kim, not a transcription of our conversation, so be sure to click to listen!
Carrie: FINALLY THIN! is your journey to weight loss—and keeping that weight off. Although not always obese, you have battled a food addiction and its challenges since childhood. Tell us a little about your own personal experience.
Kim: I live with my loving husband and four children—ranging in age from 7 to 22 in Southern, CT. In high school I fluctuated up and down 10-15 pounds in a yo-yo cycle that would haunt me for years. In college the spread of pounds grew to 30, then 40. I lost weight for my wedding in 1984, but soon gained it all back and more. Shortly after we were married my eating got out of control and for the first time in my life I was over 200 pounds. For the next 10 years I struggled up and down in the 200 pound range; for 10 years after that in the 300 pound range. I tried every low carb, high protein, low sugar, shake-supplemented, pill popping, bar munching, body piercing weight loss program in existence. Guess what? They ALL worked! But after a while I would feel deprived or discouraged and fall off the wagon, gaining back all that I had lost … and then some.
Carrie: Eventually every-day activities became increasingly difficult for you. How was your health suffering?
Kim: My cholesterol was astronomically high. Eventually even my walking was limited. When I sat down my stomach came to the end of my knees. I had no lap for my children and, if I continued along the same path, my children would have no mother at all. I was eating myself to death. Then, on October 1, 2001, I cried out to God in a desperate, broken prayer which would change my heart … and my life. Three days later, with renewed determination and hope, I walked through the doors of Weight Watchers® (again) and weighed in at 347 pounds. I “knew” I would eventually quit and gain the weight back, but I was hoping to be able to breathe a little easier and – possibly – fit into plus size clothing stores again (which I had outgrown) before that happened. The idea that I might actually become thin never even entered my mind.
Carrie: What was the next step?
Kim: For two years I planned meals, counted POINTS™, drank water, weighed, measured, and kept track of my points on a “tracking bracelet” I had made. For two years I focused on changing recipes and behaviors from the inside out. For two years I watched the scales inch downward, and my once hopeless spirit began to soar. The more I put into it, the more fun it became! I was actually ENJOYING my new way of eating! Week after week I stuck with it. There were challenges and plateaus. There was hope and victory. My journey was long, but it didn’t matter any more. I loved what I was doing! I could live with this! For the first time in years I was under 300 lbs … then 200 lbs … then, on October 7, 2003, I reached my goal.
Carrie: How much weight did you ultimately lose?
Kim: In the end I lost 212 pounds, lowered my cholesterol more than 200 points, lost an inch and a half in each wrist, and went down from a size 6x to a size 6. The weight loss has made countless practical differences in my life: I can fit in any chair, buckle up in a car, and get toys out from under the middle of my boys’ beds. I can fit socks inside my shoes and can wear over-the-counter jewelry without extenders. I even joined Curves to help me with toning and maintenance.
Carrie: How did your weight loss change your profession?
Kim: My weight loss has not only changed my health and my looks, it’s changed my profession. In 2005 I became a leader for Weight Watchers® and began cooking for my members. Today I write a weekly weight loss column called Here’s The Skinny and I’m the Diet Editor for Better TV and Parents TV.
Carrie: How is your book a companion to any diet?
Kim: FINALLY THIN! doesn’t sell anything. No one diet. No product. Nothing. It’s written from the perspective of someone who loves food, loves eating and has always had trouble being satisfied with a “normal” portion of food. It’s written by someone who always yo-yoed and never thought maintenance — happy, enjoyable maintenance — at a healthy weight was possible. It’s a book of hope … and a book of every trick, tip, mantra and recipe I used to get where I am today. No matter what diet you are on, whether you’ve had surgery or are “just cutting back” FINALLY THIN! can help you stick with it whether you have 10 lbs to lose or 210.
Carrie: What suggestions do you give to readers trying to find the diet that’s right for them? How do they know if it’s a good fit?
Kim: FINALLY THIN!offers a “Diet Quiz” with practical questions that help readers think through what their needs are. I also have a “Diet Shoppe” which is simply a short, unbiased summary of 30 of the top diets on the market from Atkins to the Zone. There are a lot more tips and helpful guidelines, but that’s a brief overview of a few of the takeaways from the book.
Carrie: You have created some terrific recipes including Broccoli Crunch, Jalapeno Poppers, and Angel Food Layer Cake, just to name a few. Do you have a favorite recipe?
Kim: I would have to say my Hot Artichoke Dip … hands down. Or my Bruschette … definitely. No. No. Wait! Either my Downeast Chowder or my Chicken Pot Pie or my Family Cheesecake. It’s really hard to say!
Carrie: I understand you have a new bagel line?
Kim: A year ago friends encouraged me to take to market one of my favorite products – a 110 calorie, high fiber, low fat bagel — in six yummy flavors. Today we ship Kim’s Light Bagels to all 50 states and are in major grocery store shelves across New England, New York and New Jersey. Our goal? To get out of the shipping business and be in the supermarkets of EVERYONE who wants a tasty, portion controlled, New York style, kettle boiled bagel! (Yummy Bagel Recipes)
Carrie: How have these experiences shaped you? And, what will readers take away from your book?
Kim: There’s a lot about my story that isn’t easy to share, but my goal is to encourage others. You need to feel the depths of my bondage to food, so that you can see how great the possibilities are of overcoming yours. No matter where you are today, reaching your weight loss goal is possible. No weight is too much. No time is too long. The only way you’ll never lose weight is if you stop trying. Come on … it’s YOUR turn now!
WIN: Kim has not only agreed to provide a free copy of FINALLY THIN! for our book giveaway contest, she’s also throwing a bunch of FREE Kim’s Light Bagels into the mix. To be entered to win the book and/or bagels (two separate drawings), simply:
- Comment on the Words To Mouth website and/or
- Call 206-309-7318 and leave a voice mail message
- You MUST be subscribed to the Words To Mouth e-newsletter to find out who wins!
- Deadline: January 15th, midnight EST
**We’d love to hear your story ~ your challenges and successes. Whatever they are, 2009 is a NEW beginning, so I encourage you to pick up FINALLY THIN!, visit Kim’s website, and just BEGIN with baby steps to losing the weight you need to feel healthy.
Kim’s Helpful Tips for Moms:
- To foster healthy eating habits, Kim suggests asking kids “What are you going to have for your fruit and vegetable before you have everything else?”
- Kim has wonderful perspective when it comes to reconciling the role model she was at 345 pounds and where she is today. “My kids see an area where I’ve struggled and how it’s never too late to turn it around…an example of overcoming.” Kim encourages other mothers: “…don’t wear the guilt, work on yourself, and let those habits trickle down to your kids.”
On a side note: Kim and I talked a bit about emotional eating and food addiction and I got to thinking about the added difficulty of food addiction as compared to our other addictive tendencies. And, by the way, according to my therapist friend, Suzanne Maiden (Dear Zanny) we all have those tendencies, whether it’s alcohol, nicotine, even busyness or exercise–our neuroses can manifest in all kinds of “kooky” ways. Food addiction creates blatant physical side-effects that other addictions don’t ~ not to mention all kinds of judgments. As Kim shares, people can take one look at an overweight person and make all kinds of assumptions. But what about the person who spends night after night surfing internet porn sites and drinking mass amounts of alcohol and in the morning is at the office with no one the wiser? I also considered the added difficulty of beating food addiction over some other addictions. I mean, as difficult as it may be, people stop drinking and smoking cold turkey with a key component being NOT having the substance in the home. Think about it, we all have to eat ~ imagine being addicted to the very substance you need to sustain your life. My heart goes out to people who struggle with weight and food addiction and I just encourage you to read FINALLY THIN! and visit Kim’s website for added support. Even if you don’t have a weight struggle, we all can benefit from Kim’s tips and recipes for a healthier lifestyle.
Kim’s Light Bagels ~ 110 calories, high in fiber, 6 great flavors, and only 1 Weight Watchers point. 2009, unveils Kim’s Lite english muffins and breads.
Kim’s Reading & Recommends:
**Be sure to check out TheDivaCast’s conversation with Dr. Andi Hope-Forsman, Ed.D on Childhood Obesity
Freeing Your Child from Negative Thinking; Powerful, Practical Strategies to Build a Lifetime of Flexibility, Resilience and Happiness – Tamar Chansky, PH.D.
I will be taking a copy of this book along with me on the Manic Mommies Escape Cruise for a door prize. I have another copy that you can win simply by commenting below and/or calling 206-309-7318. Tell me about your child and how you think this book may assist in changing his/her focus or maybe even your own.
TAMAR E. CHANSKY, PH.D., founder and director of the Children’s Center for OCD and Anxiety, is the author of Freeing Your Child from Obsessive -Compulsive Disorder and Freeing Your Child from Anxiety. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and daughters.
Check out Tamar’s websites:
Carrie: Tamar, what inspired you to write Freeing Your Child from Negative Thinking?
Tamar: The first sparks for this book came to me about four years ago, when in the midst of doing my work as a child psychologist for anxious children, I had a couple of weeks when it seemed like every other child in my office was stuck in a spin of negative thinking. These are children who are saddled with a strong negative first reaction to any situation, tend to be hard on themselves and others, are perfectionistic and pessimistic in their view of themselves, the world and the future. I saw the parents of these children trying desperately to cheer their children up and reassure them, to no avail. What these children needed was not to hear that everything was fine (they knew that somewhere deep down), but rather they needed to understand that negative thinking is not the truth, far from it, it is more of a knee jerk reaction in the brain to disappointment or failure. Rather than the brain sending helpful messages like, this didn’t go well, let’s see how to fix it, the negative brain goes to extremes—This is unfixable! You are a failure! Give up, if this didn’t work, nothing will! So these children needed to hear from their parents that these thoughts and experiences are normal, temporary, and completely surmountable.
Do you have fond childhood memories of your parents reading you bedtime stories before you nodded off to sleep?
Apparently, that’s a thing-of-the-past, according to a recent study—due to increased technology, today’s kids won’t have the same recollection.
Take a peek at the MailOnline article and share your thoughts below or call and leave me a voice mail at 206–309–7318.