Ashley Shepard Of Shep Publishing House: How Journaling Helped Me Be More Calm, Mindful And Resilient

An Interview With Heidi Sander

Heidi Sander
Authority Magazine
11 min readMay 30, 2022


Journaling protects our thoughts. Journaling creates a safe space for your innermost thoughts and feelings. You know those things you would never even dream of saying out loud? A journal is a perfect place for them to live. Whether these thoughts are positive or negative doesn’t really matter since they’re safe and sound in the pages of your journal.

Journaling is a powerful tool to gain clarity and insight especially during challenging times of loss and uncertainty. Writing can cultivate a deeper connection with yourself and provide an outlet for calmness, resilience and mindfulness. When my mom passed on, I found writing to be cathartic. When I read through my journal years later, there were thoughts that I developed into poems, and others that simply provided a deeper insight into myself. In this series I’m speaking with people who use journaling to become more mindful and resilient.

As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Ashley Shepard.

Ashley Shepard is an author, mom, educator, and wife based in the metro Atlanta, GA area. Ashley is also the owner of Shep Publishing House, an author agency that helps new self-published authors get from the page to the people to publish profitably with efficient and unique marketing strategies. Her works, The Daniel Fast 21 Day Food and Faith Journal and New Mom Thoughts: Real Questions for Moms with Real Feelings have sold over 2200 copies in less than two years since being published. Becoming an author helped Ashley to bring healing to others as well as herself, and now she helps other first-time authors get their books into the hands of their ideal readers who need them the most.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! We really appreciate the courage it takes to publicly share your story of healing. Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your background and your childhood backstory?

Thank you very much for having me! I’m excited to be here and share more of my story with you and your readers. I’m Ashley Shepard, a wife, mom, author, and publishing agency owner. I was born and raised in the south and grew up in South Carolina and Georgia. Family and faith play a big part in my journey as well as education being the daughter and granddaughter of teachers. As a child, I always loved school in general, especially writing, and reading, which makes a lot of sense based on the work I create today as an adult.

Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about journaling. Have you been writing in your journal for a long time or was there a challenging situation that prompted you to start journal writing? If you feel comfortable sharing the situation with us, it could help other readers.

Growing up, I was always the kid who loved writing, decorating, and reading. So journaling was a natural fit for me to recap the day, commemorate important events, or decompress. I used to journal daily, but as I got older and moved on to college and a full-time job, my journaling focused more so on the high points. Meeting “the guy”, graduating from school, landing the job, and other essential milestones began to fill the pages of my adult journal. Then I found myself needing an outlet during one of the most challenging periods of my life. My son was born 6 months before the COVID-19 pandemic started. As a first-time parent, you’re already worried about the usual bugs like colds, the flu, and other icky things. The six-month mark is one of the first milestones where you as a parent feel like you can finally let out the breath you’ve been holding in since your child was born. Just as the first major set of worries dissipated, a whole new, unknown, and unpredictable one started in the form of a global pandemic. To make matters worse, I was dealing with baby blues from having gone back to work too soon. Plus, mom guilt hung over my head from an unplanned C section and difficulty nursing. So in March 2020, I found myself feeling emotionally drained, physically inadequate, and mentally exhausted. Journaling was one of the ways that helped me get back to myself and cope with the unknowns.

How did journaling help you heal, mentally, emotionally and spiritually?

Journaling has always been my place of comfort during the highs and lows of my life. It’s a place to share all of my thoughts without fear of judgment and like a consistent “listening ear”. I knew how I felt wasn’t how I should feel, but also had a lot of doubt about if I was doing motherhood “right”. Journaling, conversations with fellow moms, and prayer time helped me to reaffirm who I was and that everything was going to be just fine. My child was healthy and loved me regardless of how he got here or how I fed him. Still, writing out the thoughts I had or even speaking them into a voice note helped to get them out of my head and release the frustration they created. I wrote and spoke positive affirmations over myself with the help of others, and these repeated phrases became the thoughts I held on to. When I didn’t feel comfortable saying something aloud to a friend, I knew my thoughts would be safe in a notebook. There’s no judgment when you put pen to paper, and I was already doing enough judging of myself; the pages provided freedom in a way.

Did journaling help you find more self-compassion and gratitude? Can you share a story about that?

Absolutely! Though I didn’t have the birth experience I expected or planned, journaling helped me to better appreciate and process my reality. My son was happy and healthy. I had a wonderful pregnancy and though I ended up having a C-section with a difficult recovery, I was healthy too. Many women, especially Black women in the US, cannot say the same. On the other hand, journaling helped me give myself permission to have these thoughts and feelings because though others may have had it worse, my experiences still needed validation. Being a C-section mama is hard! Instead of seeing it as something that happened to me, I started to see it as something that happened for me to see just how strong I truly was. When I look back and read through my writing about recovering from major surgery while taking care of a newborn, I think, “Wow! You did that mama!” This is an incredible journey I can share with my son.

What kind of content goes into your journal? For example, do you free-write, write poems, doodle?

There aren’t a lot of rules for me when it comes to journaling. I just write what’s in my heart and in my mind. Colorful pens are a must, but other than that, I simply write. Bible verses, song lyrics, or whatever comes out on paper is what goes in my journal. Since it’s a free space, I try not to get bogged down by if my thoughts make sense or if they are organized. I just write.

How did you gain a different perspective on life and your emotions while writing in your journal? Can you please share a story about what you mean?

Journaling helped me enjoy motherhood more. It’s often said that being a mom is hard, but you don’t really “get it” until you experience it for yourself. It’s almost like getting married. No explanation truly gives you the real deal until you’re knee-deep in it. You just don’t understand the full spectrum of the experience until you’re a part of it. Journaling helped me process my thoughts and feelings about becoming a mom at a time when lockdowns, work from home, a new mystery virus, and civil unrest were all swirling around outside. Inside, I felt insecure about my body, my role as a mother, and the future of my family. Having a little one and being secluded in the house gives a lot of time to think. It also makes you feel helpless to control the things outside of your home. So instead, I focused on what I could control: me.

Journaling has always been a centering experience for me. From the high to the low points of my life, it’s continuously helped me to feel more like myself. And being a mom in the “fourth trimester” was a time when I needed to feel like myself more than ever. Journaling gave me a safe space to write out all the worries and fears for my child and my family. I also gave myself permission to think and write about all of the thoughts that were running through my head without censoring them. And with that, I found comfort. I’m sure that sounds a little strange, but getting all of the worst-case scenarios out of my system helped me feel less anxious about them. Our mind is a wonderfully imaginative place that often creates movies that never make it to production. The multiple storylines we develop usually don’t make the final reel and aren’t always an accurate picture of the truth. So allowing myself to let those thoughts run their course on paper helped me to sleep a little better and rest a little easier. As I continued to write, I realized that millions of other mothers had the same thoughts, feelings, and worries I did.

Yet, they pressed on.

They survived and are still surviving.

They thrived and are still thriving.

To me, that was powerful and encouraging.

In the quiet moments of the 2 am feedings where you think you’re about to lose it, you tap into the inner strength of this unofficial motherhood society, and you press on. I learned tears on my journal pages were a release and not a sign of weakness. Working on myself through prayer, journaling, and affirmations were all steps to becoming a better, stronger me. I owed it to myself to relearn who I was in this new season and writing out my thoughts helped me do just that.

In my own journal writing, I ended up creating poems from some of the ideas and one of them won an award. Do you have plans with your journal content?

To me, my journal is private, so it’s not something I’d share with others. However, I did create a guided journal for new moms to help them process all of their thoughts and feelings in the first year with their child. Most of the books I looked for during my postpartum period were either snide, snarky, or full of curse words. I couldn’t find what I was looking for, so I wrote it instead. New Mom Thoughts: Real Questions for Moms with Real Feelings was released when my son was 9 months old. Since journaling helped me to combat my own worries, fears, and anxiousness around raising a baby at the start of the pandemic, I wanted to create support for other moms regardless of what they encountered. The guided journal has 52 thought-provoking questions about motherhood, and it takes first-time moms from week one to year one with a focus on their self-care. Now hundreds of new moms worldwide have a safe space to express themselves while processing the wild ride that is motherhood. As a society, we don’t do enough to support new moms, so I’m thankful that my experience can help others reflect and learn about themselves during this time.

Fantastic. Here is our main question. In my journaling program, I have found that journaling can help people to become more calm, mindful and resilient. Based on your experience and research, can you please share with our readers “five ways that journaling can help you to be more calm, mindful and resilient”?

For me, journaling has always had multiple benefits. We need to take care of ourselves mentally and emotionally and journaling can be an integral part of that overall picture.

  1. Journaling provides calmness. There’s a reason why it’s suggested to make to-do lists, create meeting agendas, and write down your thoughts for the next day before bed. Writing things down increases the likelihood you’ll remember them, decreases worry, and helps you process information more readily. The same benefits come into play with journaling. We can’t ever fully turn off the thoughts in our minds, but we can get those thoughts out of our heads and onto paper. Doing so can help us take control of them and provide a more serene headspace for ourselves.
  2. Journaling helps us reflect. Think about all your yearbooks from school. The messages, pictures, and notes are all reminders of your past. Journaling works in a very similar way, except you control the narrative. Reading over old journals is a beautiful way to see how far you’ve come and what you’ve overcome. It’s a reminder of the happy moments and the not so happy ones. Each of these types of moments in our lives helps us to learn and grow into more complete individuals.
  3. Journaling gives a release. In a world where we worry so much about how others perceive us, journaling gives a space to show up for ourselves without worry or fear of rejection or judgment. It’s a way to let it all hang out and come just as you are inside and out. Journaling lets you download your thoughts and feelings to get them out of your head and onto the page. That’s really all some of our thoughts need: a place to rest. For others, journaling can help you further explore the idea or concept to get guidance about which direction you should go next.
  4. Journaling creates quietness. To journal, you usually have to be still and quiet. It’s a time when the crowded thoughts of your mind can leave your brain and spill onto a page. It’s also generally a place where all outside distractions are no longer a concern. You’re forced to be still and focus on your thoughts and feelings. In our busy lives, we don’t always take the time to do this.
  5. Journaling protects our thoughts. Journaling creates a safe space for your innermost thoughts and feelings. You know those things you would never even dream of saying out loud? A journal is a perfect place for them to live. Whether these thoughts are positive or negative doesn’t really matter since they’re safe and sound in the pages of your journal.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of peace to the greatest amount of people, what would that be?

Wow! Thank you for that, and what a wonderful question. I think realizing everyone is doing their best and understanding that each person’s “best” looks different would help people be a lot kinder to others. It’d also help us to better advocate and support those who don’t look, sound, or think like us. Giving and receiving grace is a process that I’m learning and it helps me to show up in difficult spaces with a sense of gratitude, acceptance, and understanding.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them. :-)

Without hesitation, I’d have to say, Oprah Winfrey. Of course, she may never see this, but it’s worth a shot. She’s a savvy businesswoman who carved out her own path in an industry that wasn’t always welcoming. Then she transferred her marketability to other industries to be equally successful. Plus, she seems to have a love of cooking and posts fabulous brunch spreads. Lastly, my mom is a huge fan. She lovingly jokes that my birth interrupted an episode of the Oprah Winfrey Show.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Feel free to check out my books and my work over at

Also, if you’re interested in publishing and marketing your book, follow me here:

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued fulfillment and success with your writing!

Thank you so much for your time and this opportunity! It’s been a pleasure.