Thursday, October 1, 2020

Q&A with Carly Israel


Carly Israel is the author of the new memoir Seconds and Inches. She is the founder of the podcast Northstar Big Book.


Q: Why did you decide to write this memoir, and how long did it take to write it?


A: I have had this story inside of me for my entire life. Since I was a very young girl I knew I had a story to tell I just never knew how to tell it. As I grew up and heard about my grandparents’ lives, their stories, their horrors, their miracles, I wanted to tell their stories. And as I lived through my childhood and then my own addiction, I knew I would one day tell my story.


I had thought about creating a book where I told my story in three parts. One would be my maternal grandmother, then my mother, and then my own. But it didn’t feel quite right. Since I was 19 years old I have kept journals. I have a shelf full of over 30 journals, full of my thoughts and fears and stories. I take in the world around me through writing. It is how I connect with myself and my God and the universe.


Fast forward about 20 years and I was about a year plus deep into a daily writing assignment that I took on myself. From those daily posts, I was told, over and over, that I had to write a book. I would smile and say, “thank you,” but still had no clue how to do it or I would be overcome by that awful inner critic who taunts me, “Who wants to read your story?”


Enter my fairy godmother, El. El is an old friend from back in the day. We are Facebook friends and she reached out to me, seemingly out of nowhere, and asked me if I ever considered writing a book? Our first idea was to put 50 of the best lessons and 50 of the best thank-yous from my daily posts and put them all together and write introductions and little thoughts on them.


But, like any good fairy godmother, she wanted more for and from me than I could see. She pushed me and told me that within my little stories was a bigger story. And she basically forced me to sit down with myself and dig deep. She did not offer me a contract until my little stories morphed into this memoir.


How long it took me to write? Twenty-plus years, and then to actually write, three to four months.


And besides the dream come true of getting to write and publish this book, El surprised me with news that stopped me completely. Jen Pastiloff, a writer I deeply admire, agreed to read, and then write my foreword. When I read Jen’s words, and I am not typically a crier, I bawled. That is the universe. That is a big deal for me. 


Q: You describe some very difficult experiences--how hard was it to write about them?


A: The difficult experiences were and are my life. I am really an open human. I think one of my purposes on this earth is to bare my scars and show my humanity and give permission to others to do likewise.


The hardest parts to write were about my childhood, my divorce, and digging through my son’s medical journey. And for the audiobook, which has been a lifelong dream for me, recording some of those sections were heavy and painful.


Q: What do your family members think of the book?


A: So, my mother and my grandmother, Lulu, read every single version. They are my biggest cheerleaders. I asked my mom if she was okay with me sharing all of this and she told me that she was. She honored my stories and wept through them and has always provided me with space to be who I really am.


My father has never read it. My boys read only the first part of their ancestors. Two of my super-close friends read one of the later versions. My hubby has read a version or two, but I do not enjoy his feedback!


My sons’ father read an earlier version and asked for me to not write this book. Because we get to co-parent for the rest of our lives I told him that I needed to write this book and asked him if he could let me know if there were any parts that he could not live with. That was not the most fun time. My closest friend is also a writer and she has dealt with this topic and family and we went over it all.


At the end of the day, my story is my story and it is my truth. I believe we all have our own versions of the truth. This is mine. No shame.


Q: What do you hope readers take away from the book?


A: I hope that readers either read (or listen) to my words and find a piece of themselves in my story. I hope they are inspired by my willingness to share and love myself as I am. I hope that they can incorporate practiced gratitude into their lives and continue their own journeys to love themselves as they are.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: Now I am “safe” in my home with my three boys and our rescue Lab, Monroe, in Coronaland. I normally have to constantly create, whether in writing, making art with words and magazines, or taking on a new spiritual challenge.


I have my sobriety podcast and I am going to start that up again and a dear friend, my soul brother and I are creating a new podcast called Northstar Divorce. (I recently became a certified coach so I can help empower others on this journey to make it something so much brighter). But all of that is on a temporary pause. 


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: One more soulmate, my Jonathan, my heart. We don’t get to be together right now. We can’t be together because of the virus and because of my son, who is in the highest risk group. It is torture and we do not see an end in sight. And he lost his oldest daughter to cancer before her fifth birthday.


I have three incredible humans in my life who lost their children. I think of them, I think of not getting to be with Jonathan and I take all of that and use it to make me super-grateful for whining kids and homeschooling and all of it. Because we get to. It’s all how you look at it.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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