Lorraine Ash launches her WOW! blog tour for her spiritual memoir Self and Soul

Monday, August 11, 2014
& giveaway contest!

We've all had those moments. Something happens in our lives that shakes us to our very core and challenges us to reevaluate our faith and everything we believe in. Do we hang our heads, harden our hearts and simply walk away? Or do we dry our tears, reconvene with our spirituality (often with the help of nature) and find our voices once again?

Lorraine Ash knows all about those moments, and how hard it can be to come out of them. Self and Soul: On Creating a Meaningful Life is a spiritual memoir about taking stock of the traumas, losses, and disappointments we all experience by midlife. In the author's case, the major one was the stillbirth of her daughter, her only child. After a time, what happens to us can feel like meaningless assaults to the self. But the book shows us meaning can be made of our life events, however disparate, if we bring them down to the soul level. In the end, it’s the quality of our inner life that determines what forces thrive in our psyches and so our lives.

Are you living a life of quiet desperation? Questioning what it means to succeed? Wondering if your efforts matter? In this uplifting memoir, Ash uses her own life experiences to explore inner landscapes where the seeds of divine healing and insight reside. These are the landscapes on which we create our own meaning and find the resiliency to thrive in a changing and challenging world.

Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: Cape House Books (October 20, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1939129001
ISBN-13: 978-1939129000

Twitter Hashtag: #SelfandSoul

Self and Soul: On Creating a Meaningful Life is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and IndieBound. It will also be available on August 15, 2014 as a digital audiobook. Find it at Audible.com and Amazon.com as well as in the iTunes store.

Book Giveaway Contest
To win a copy of Self and Soul: On Creating a Meaningful Life, please enter using the Rafflecopter form at the bottom of this post. The giveaway contest closes this Friday, August 15 at 12:00 AM EST. We will announce the winner the same day in the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!

About the author:

Lorraine Ash, MA, is an author, journalist, and essayist as well as a writing teacher. Self and Soul: On Creating a Meaningful Life is her second book. Her first memoir, Life Touches Life: A Mother's Story of Stillbirth and Healing, was published by NewSage Press and has circulated throughout the United States as well as in the Middle East, Australia, Europe, China, Canada, and Mexico.

Lorraine also is a veteran journalist whose feature articles and series have won seventeen national, state, and regional awards and have appeared in daily newspapers across the country. Lorraine belongs to the Association of Writers and Writing Programs and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, Bill.

Find out more about the author by visiting her at www.LorraineAsh.com




-----Interview by Renee Roberson

WOW: First of all, let me say how honored we are to have you join us today! You wrote your first memoir, Life Touches Life: A Mother’s Story of Stillbirth and Healing in response to the loss of your daughter. You do touch upon your daughter’s stillbirth a bit in Self and Soul, but you explore much more than that. How would you describe the differences between the two books?

Lorraine: Life Touches Life is about survival. It takes the reader deep into the stillbirth experience on all levels, from the physical to the spiritual. It starts with those first raw weeks in the hospital when doctors were uncertain if I would succumb to the Group B Strep infection that claimed my daughter’s life in utero. Wholly, Life Touches Life is about coming to understand and accept a very harsh fate – a taboo topic for centuries – and what a woman does with a maternal instinct when there is no child to raise.

Self and Soul is about sorting life’s many disparate experiences, including disappointments and disillusionments, at midlife. In my case, the stillbirth of Victoria Helen was certainly a powerful and defining experience, but it wasn’t the only one. Though the book takes readers to some interesting places, including a caving expedition, an ashram, Fallingwater, and Sedona, it’s very much about interior landscapes. Self and Soul shows that some of the experiences that happen to a person—a “self,” if you will— can seem futile or hollow or random and take on meaning only when we take them inside us to the “soul” level. That’s where the magic happens and meaning is made.

WOW: Self and Soul is categorized as a spiritual memoir. Have the origins of religions always been a topic that fascinated you?

Lorraine: Yes! As a child, I was fascinated by the roots of my own Catholic faith, namely, Jesus Christ. In all that traveling abroad in my younger years, I experienced a lot of holy places, from St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome to Shinto shrines in Japan. I distinctly remember standing next to a gigantic gold Buddha with a quiet smile on its face and feeling serenity wash through me. The monks, swamis, and roshis we encountered opened in my young mind a portal of curiosity: What did they know? What did their ancient texts say about living today? To this day, when they teach, I like to listen.

WOW: I loved the chapter of your book where you discussed the “colors of consciousness,” particularly the section with the gloaming. Nature plays a huge role in the narrative of Self and Soul. Have you always felt a spiritual connection with nature or is that something that came later in your life?

Lorraine: I came to a connection with nature later in life. Frankly, I was oblivious to the natural rhythms until after the stillbirth. I grew up with the thought that nature, more or less, is something for man to conquer. In the midst of the stillbirth experience, I felt myself, quite unmistakably, a part of nature. Having a baby is supposed to be easy and natural, right? I inherited that thought, too, from my family and my culture. Well, it isn’t, necessarily. I had to very carefully think about what had happened and I landed on the idea that pregnancy is, in nature, an opportunity for life—an opportunity that doesn’t always come to fruition. The realization included a new view of myself as part of natural rhythms and cycles within which I should consciously live.

Some bereaved parents of infants do blame God for what happened. I didn’t, choosing instead to believe that God set nature in motion and nature is unpredictable. Other bereaved parents believe God is punishing them by taking their baby away. I didn’t go there, either, choosing instead to regard God as a great cosmic force that holds all the creation and destruction in the world inside it—a world, by the way, that also contains all the elements needed to heal.

WOW: You also teach writing workshops on a variety of fascinating topics, and one that stood out to me was “The Three Writers Inside Every Writer.” Can you tell us a little more about what you cover in that particular workshop?

Lorraine: The three writers are The Artistic Self, The Genius Self, and The Business Self. I present them as separate so that each can be understood. When the distinct role of each is clear, they don’t interfere with one another in the writer’s mind when the writing is under way. So what is the role of each self?

The Artistic Self is ascendant in the writer’s mind when he or she is structuring a story. This self is very much a craftswoman. Without a firm grasp of the craft of storytelling, no written story will find its full power.

The Genius Self is the part of the writer that finds her transcendent voice. This self knows how to mine the writer for her very best insights. Though facts and actions are important when writing a narrative, the quality of the writer’s voice and consciousness is what carries the day.

The Business Self is in control when it’s time to launch the written work into the world. It knows about publishing, a set of skills distinct from writing skills. It addresses questions such as: Should the writer self-publish, find an agent, or work with a collaborative publisher? What are the best audiences for the book and how can they be reached? The Business Self is pivotal to the success of a book when employed at the right part of the process. It’s the kiss of death, though, when it’s allowed, for example, to decide the topic of a book or when it raises its head and makes the writer afraid to speak her transcendent voice.

WOW: Speaking of The Business Self, in the past few years, you’ve launched your own publishing company, Cape House Books, which you describe as a collaborative publishing model. How exactly does that work and what types of books do you feel would be a good fit at Cape House?

Lorraine: The collaborative publishing model, made possible by technology, is on the rise in the United States. It’s no wonder. The chances of a non-celebrity author publishing traditionally—with the help of an agent, with an advance large enough to live on—are very poor. With fewer big publishing houses and the chance of a book advance lower than ever, this is territory where an author with an emerging voice, no matter how brilliant, may stall for a lifetime. In traditional publishing, an author may wind up with no advance and a 7 percent royalty on each book sold at full price.

Anyone can self-publish, even without the benefit of an editor, designer, lawyer, or publicity team, though I don’t recommend it. The absence of these four professionals can result in a poorly written book, an amateurish cover and interior, a defamation lawsuit, and, in the end, a book that languishes in a no man’s land when it comes to sales. In self-publishing, it’s true that an author makes a 100 percent royalty, or net proceeds, from each book sold. For some kinds of authors, such as those who give lots of talks and want to sell their book in the back of the room, that’s terrific. Many times, though, an author winds up making 100 percent of not much.

Collaborative publishing is a middle ground. Cape House, a boutique company, sits in this hybrid space. It vets the manuscripts that are submitted to it, meaning some are accepted and others are rejected, just like in the traditional publishing world. I am the editorial director. My husband, Bill, is the book designer. We work with a team of experts in the areas mentioned above, including multiple publicists. Authors pay us up front to create a quality book and launch it nicely into the world. In return, they make an 80 percent royalty. The books that are the best fits for Cape House now are memoirs and wisdom books, the latter being any book that helps a person live his or her best life.

WOW: One of the many hats you wear is writing full time for a daily newspaper in New Jersey. What types of articles do you typically focus on in that capacity?

Lorraine: Newspaper staffs are small these days, so specializing, except on the largest metro dailies, is largely a thing of the past. That said, my title is “projects reporter,” so I tend toward writing larger narrative articles and series that explore the effects that cultural, economic, and environmental trends have in the lives of ordinary people. In recent months, for instance, I’ve written about the increase in suburban homelessness in New Jersey and nationwide; veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan military operations reintegrating to civilian life; how Obamacare is playing out; and how rampant student college and graduate school debt is affecting the lives of the millennial generation, their boomer parents, and the economy at large.

WOW: As a journalist by trade and author of two memoirs, do you find it difficult to juggle between the two different types of writing? Do you have separate rituals that help you distinguish between the two?

Lorraine: I don’t juggle between the two different types of writing. Each enhances the other. In journalism, I write other people’s stories and examine the impact of policies, social trends, and economics on people’s lives. In memoir writing, I write my own stories. In book editing, I help others’ stories to shine, a natural outgrowth of teaching. I do not have separate rituals. To me, it all feels like living in an unending stream of storytelling. I never tire of it, either. Even after living on deadline, continually, for thirty-two years, I’m still enchanted by the craft of writing and the challenge of capturing real life on the page in story after story.

WOW: You and your husband live in New Jersey but list one of your passions as “the state of Maine.” We’d love to hear more about your connection with the state.

Lorraine: In 1987, I attended a newspaper conference at the American Press Institute in Virginia. While milling around an exhibit, I bumped into the production manager of The Bar Harbor Times and wound up dining with him that night. He talked about the many wonderful places he’s lived, including Bar Harbor. So I visited him there the next year and had a ball hiking in Acadia National Park and canoeing in Frenchman Bay.

One of the great positives of my childhood and adolescence was taking trips all across the globe every August. My father was a lawyer and the courts were closed that month. Those trips took me out of suburban New Jersey. Walking in a dove garden in Japan, the Parthenon in Greece, the streets of London, and amid abject poverty in Mexico and Thailand all profoundly affected my outlook on life.
But there’s something special about the feel of Maine—the embrace of the salty air, the ubiquitous sound of the sea, the lobstermen, the twilight, the flicker of the lighthouses in the fog. It feels like a second home and I like how the horizon there gives my mind room to expand.

My husband and I have been back at least twenty-five times, exploring Camden, Isle au Haut, North Haven, Ogunquit, Monhegan Island, Portland, and more. Nowadays, we always return to Bar Harbor and can’t wait to dip that first oar in Long Pond or set foot on an Acadia trail. I also love coming to know a place more and more, over time, as it changes and as I do. I’ll meet ya’ at Duffy’s Tavern and Grill in Kennebunk if you’re ever up that way. They serve amazing gluten-free food there, by the way.

WOW: One of your blog tour topics is “Baked Ziti and Enlightenment.” I love your explanation behind that. Can you explain what your goal of that post is?

Lorraine: After my daughter, Victoria Helen, was stillborn, many of my coworkers, wanting to help, cooked dinners. The wife of one of the reporters had made a scrumptious baked ziti. It was nurturing in more ways than one: the woman didn’t even know me. I asked for the recipe and still have the original, written in her hand. I’ve made that dish, and delivered it to sick people, countless times since then. Every time I do, it brings me back to that basic feeling of connection and nurturance I felt when eating that beautiful meal during a painful time in my life. We tend to swap notes about our roads to enlightenment, talk to our therapists about how we are (or are not) being loved, and listen to talks on lovingkindness, but, in the end, creating a bond of caring and affection is just not that difficult. Just be with a person. Hug her. Call. Make a baked ziti and bring it over.

WOW: I love it. I too have learned the power and comfort food can bring to others over the years, so this makes perfect sense to me. One of your other blog post topics explains how exploring our ancestral ties is painful for many and easy to avoid doing. How do you think looking back into our family’s past helps strengthen memoir writing?

Lorraine: Our lives start with inheritance. Some of our ancestors are heroes while others are ne'er-do-wells. Whoever they were, they handed down to us certain genetic qualities as well as proclivities, patterns, aptitudes, and beliefs. Whether we embrace, reject, or modify these inheritances—and we’re probably doing some of each—we’re always interacting with them as we make our own life decisions and form our own identities as individuals. So we may as well interact as consciously as possible and memoir writing helps us do just that. Following the trajectory of our experiences in regard to even one of our inheritances can provide a focus for a rich memoir. On the August 21 tour stop, at Sherrey Meyer’s blog, I’ll talk about a complex inheritance I received from my late father, which can only be completely illuminated by going back on his family tree. I also write on that stop about how looking back helps us literarily, as we write our stories, but also personally, as we live our lives. It’s a mistake to focus so intently at the successes and wrongs of our ancestors that we neglect to see how we are continuing the family story now. After all, that’s how cycles of dysfunction are perpetuated.

----------Blog Tour Dates

Monday, August 11 (today!) @ The Muffin
Stop by for an interview with Lorraine Ash and a chance to win Self and Soul: On Creating a Meaningful Life.

Tuesday, August 12 @ Lisa Haselton's Reviews and Interviews
Lisa Haselton interviews journalist and memoirist Lorraine Ash, author of Self and Soul: On Creating a Meaningful Life.

Thursday, August 14 @ Memoir Writer's Journey
Learn how writing spiritual memoir can be used as a transformational tool with this guest post from author and journalist Lorraine Ash.

Monday, August 18 @ Women's Writing Circle
Lorraine Ash shares her tips for writing a memoir in midlife at the Women's Writing Circle blog.

Wednesday, August 20 @ Choices
Lorraine Ash, author of Self and Soul, shares a guest post on writing from the wound.

Thursday, August 21 @ Sherrey Meyer
Lorraine Ash discusses the importance of exploring ancestral patterns in memoir.

Friday, August 22 @ Memory Writers Network
Jerry Waxler shares his thoughts on Lorraine Ash's memoir Self and Soul: On Creating a Meaningful Life.

Monday, August 25 @ Create Write Now
Struggling with how to bring your best voice to life in memoir? Lorraine Ash shares her advice in this informative guest post.

Tuesday, August 26 @ Renee's Pages
Lorraine Ash discusses the importance and simplicity of food and fellowship in this guest post promoting Self and Soul: On Creating a Meaningful Life.

Thursday, August 28 @ Sherrey Meyer
Sherrey reviews Lorraine Ash's spiritual memoir Self and Soul. Also, enter to win your own copy of the book!

Monday, September 1 @ The Lit Ladies
There are real obstacles and losses in life. The real ones can always be met and overcome. Author Lorraine Ash shares a guest post on mistaking real traumas for fake ones. Plus, enter a chance to win a copy of her memoir, Self and Soul: On Creating a Meaningful Life.

Tuesday, September 2 @ CMash Reads
Who would Lorraine Ash choose to star in the movie version of her book? Stop by for an interview with the author of Self and Soul to find out. Also, don't miss another chance to win a copy of the book!

Wednesday, September 3 @ Words From the Heart
Veteran hikers know that’s what’s in their backpacks matters. Lorraine Ash shares her tools for the proverbial spiritual backpack, otherwise known as the mind, that great lens through which we see and filter life.

Friday, September 5 @ Life Without Baby
Lorraine Ash discusses the legacy of childlessness and how she became a part of it after the stillbirth of her newborn daughter. Blogger Lisa Manterfield is also giving away a copy of Lorraine's book, Self and Soul.

Keep up with blog stops and giveaways in real time by following us on Twitter @WOWBlogTour.

Get Involved!
If you have a website or blog and would like to host one of our touring authors or schedule a tour of your own, please email us at blogtour@wow-womenonwriting.com.


Enter to win a copy of Self and Soul: On Creating a Meaningful Life by Lorraine Ash. Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below. We will announce the winner in the rafflecopter widget this Friday, August 15!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Unknown said...

Thank you for this post from Lorraine Ash. I was moved by the comments about Baked Ziti and brought back to something so elementary - the power and influence of smells and the comfort brought from engaging our senses in a heart heart warming dish. Reading that Lorraine still has that recipe and plays it forward reminded me of the opportunity that we all have to connect in times of loss. Writing to heal is a powerful opportunity to move through our grief by letting go one word at a time and at the same time, to feel a little less alone in the process as we open our heart and story to strangers.

Angela Mackintosh said...

Thank you for this lovely interview, ladies! I enjoyed reading about the three writers inside every writer and also learning about your hybrid publishing house, Lorraine. :) And after reading Renee's fantastic review in the mailer, I'm eager to read Self and Soul. I started writing because of a tragic loss and I find I learn so much by reading other people's journeys to healing and growth. I have always felt a spiritual connection to nature as well and I'm interested to read about your views in your book. Best of luck with your tour!

Tricia316 said...

Great interview. I'd like to know from the author, how do you suggest people find inner peace when they can't travel to far off places, or visit an ashram?

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