Author Dr. Jill Grimes: “How I aim to help young people gain confidence as they begin to take charge of their own health concerns”

Authority Magazine
May 27, 2020 · 9 min read

I hope young people will gain confidence as they take charge of their own health concerns, with a better understanding of how to help themselves, when to seek care, and what to expect for potential diagnostic tests and treatment when they do see a clinician.

(As a bonus, I hope parents will be less stressed, knowing their daughter or son has a trustworthy tool to help them navigate these new waters.)

part of my interview series on the five things you need to know to become a great author, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Jill Grimes.

Jill Grimes, MD, FAAFP, is a nationally recognized medical media expert, award-winning author, medical editor, and Board-Certified Family Physician. Her passion is prevention, and her message spans print (Parenting Magazine, Glamour, etc.), online (Refinery29, Foxnews.com, etc.), and television and radio talk shows (Sirius XM Doctor Radio). After two decades of private practice, Dr. Grimes now enjoys seeing patients part-time at the University of Texas in Austin. She is a proud mom to two awesome collegiate daughters. Academically, Dr. Grimes enjoys educating healthcare professionals by speaking at national AAFP, Pri-Med®, and Harvard Medical School conferences and remains on clinical faculty at UMASS Medical School.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share a story about what brought you to this particular career path?

a family physician, I wanted a new approach to educate about an old problem. The popularity of medical shows like Grey’s Anatomy and ER helped me to realize that stories are far more powerful than statistics. I decided to write a few patient “stories” about sexually transmitted infections, with the intent of making a few pamphlets for my office to help educate about this common problem. It turns out the stories were far more effective than STD “lectures,” and with that encouragement, I decided to expand the project to a full-length book, Seductive Delusions: how everyday people catch STDs, which has now been used in high schools for almost a decade. The best compliment ever came through a teacher who shared that a student commented, “Is it weird we are all reading this book like it’s Hunger Games?”

Can you share the most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?

Doing publicity for an STD education book is challenging at best, and as a new author, I had a very steep learning curve in the media world. One of my earliest radio show interviews (which I almost turned down) was from PlayBoy Radio. Frankly, I went in with a huge bias against the whole thing, especially the PlayBoy Bunny host, assuming she would downplay the risks of STDs or perhaps not be very educated. I couldn’t have been more mistaken! This woman was incredibly intelligent, articulate, and enthusiastic for educating her listeners. Our interview that was supposed to be about ten minutes ended up lasting the whole hour, with no commercial breaks and an overflowing waitlist of callers with questions. Take home message- keep an open mind and check your bias at the door!

What was the biggest challenge you faced in your journey to becoming an author? How did you overcome it? Can you share a story about that that other aspiring writers can learn from?

That pesky day job…and the family- who has time to start writing? I worked part-time as a family doctor, helped out with my parents (mom had Alzheimer’s, dad had Parkinson’s), our kids were young, and I loved being their girl scout leader and an involved parent at the school. I had my first book “completely written” in my head, but lacked that magical weekend or few days secluded in a hotel room or friend’s cabin to get those words on paper. I scheduled this writing vacation for myself half a dozen times over several years, only to have one crisis or another shut that down. Ultimately, a friend of mine was becoming a life coach and wanted to practice her skills on me. I laughed but agreed, and she insisted that we focus on “that book” I was always talking about. She made me commit to writing ten minutes per day, every day. I told her it took me ten minutes to set up my writing area and get in the zone, but…I agreed to her terms. I ended up writing on my laptop while I waited in the car line to pick up our girls because we all arrived early and sat in parked cars for at least fifteen minutes. Lo and behold, once I committed to that daily writing, before long, I was looking at my outline, then first completed chapter, and frankly that energized me to squeeze in far more than ten minutes every day. My advice? Stop waiting for that golden opportunity and start writing today!

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When I completed my first manuscript, some close friends convinced me that I better put a huge watermark on every page before I gave it to anyone to read so that no one could steal my idea. Another friend who happens to be an internationally best-selling author (Jeff Abbott- read his books!) generously offered to read my manuscript. I’m so embarrassed I made him plow through my stories obscured with that huge stamp! I failed Writing 101 of simple manuscript preparation. Jeff was kind and simply told me to remove the mark, change my font to standard Times New Roman, and stop worrying about the throngs of other writers producing stories about people with STDs (LOL). But seriously, now that I help coach new writers, please know that it is highly unlikely anyone else is going to steal YOUR story, even though you are hopefully writing about a much broader topic that I did with my first book. You can’t successfully pitch your book without telling agents and publishers about your book, but I often hear hopeful newbies saying they “can’t say” what their book is about because it’s too good to share. Trust me, you need to practice pitching, and you need to clearly share your ideas.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I am thrilled to be releasing my passion project (and 5th book!), The ULTIMATE College Student Health Handbook: Your Guide for Everything from Hangovers to Homesickness. For the past decade, I’ve been making college first aid kits for high school graduation presents. What started as an index card with a few instructions became a twenty card, laminated booklet…which became this book! (Do you see a pattern here?) While I failed to have this book ready for our first daughter to head to college, I did manage to have this completed before the second daughter finished college. Even better news, our younger daughter is a rising senior animation major at Loyola Marymount University, and she is the illustrator! (Side note- my publisher decided on the illustrations; authors may have input but typically do not have any authority in that realm.)

Can you share the most interesting story that you shared in your book?

The ULTIMATE College Student Health Handbook contains tips, tricks, and inside info for how to treat a huge variety of injuries, illness, and anxiety, but let me share a few things you may not know about marijuana. Today’s pot is not “your parent’s pot” because first and foremost, the THC concentration (the part that makes you “high”) is five to ten times higher now than twenty years ago. Additionally, if you didn’t grow it, you don’t know what’s in it. Illegal drug dealers often add chemicals like formaldehyde or LSD to boost the buzz, not to mention adding lung-damaging glass or sand particles to increase the weight (it’s sold by weight). One in six teens and one in eleven adults will become dependent on marijuana, making it a huge challenge to kick the habit when it’s time for internships, jobs, and their required drug testing. Pro tip- some companies use hair samples instead of urine drug tests, and pot can be detected in your hair for up to three months. I’ve seen too many seniors in tears because they assumed quitting pot a few weeks in advance would be enough, and then they flunked their test and lost their job offer.

What is the main empowering lesson you want your readers to take away after finishing your book?

I hope young people will gain confidence as they take charge of their own health concerns, with a better understanding of how to help themselves, when to seek care, and what to expect for potential diagnostic tests and treatment when they do see a clinician.

(As a bonus, I hope parents will be less stressed, knowing their daughter or son has a trustworthy tool to help them navigate these new waters.)

Based on your experience, what are the “5 Things You Need to Know to Become a Great Author”? Please share a story or example for each.

  • NOW is the “write” time- don’t wait for the perfect time, because it never exists.
  • Don’t obsess over your title because the odds are good it will change anyway.

Of my five books, the only title that the publisher did not change was the second edition of my first book. With luck (and a good agent), you will have input on the title, but unless your day job is in book marketing, the professionals at your publisher outrank your knowledge for sales. And I know, I know…it’s so hard to let go of your perfect title.

  • Do spend time crafting your elevator pitch.

Your pitch is the key that unlocks doors to agents and publishers. As a publishing conference pitch coach for the past decade, I can assure you that it’s possible to go from bumbling novice to confident author quickly once you learn the formula and then practice, practice, practice. Hone it down until you can engagingly describe your book, platform, and market in sixty seconds.

  • Your market is not “everyone.”

When you pitch, be sure you have narrowed down your audience, because if you say your book is for “everyone,” the agents and publishers will stop listening right there. Consider not only who will read this book, but who will purchase it. Knowing a more specific audience will also help you speak more clearly to those readers as you write.

  • Finishing your manuscript is only “Chapter One.”

For my first book, I naively assumed as a doctor writing a health book, I would hand off my book to my publisher, let them sell it everywhere while I went back to my practice seeing patients. That’s not how it works! You are the expert on your book, and you need to sell it. For me, that meant hiring a private publicist, going to media training, and pushing way out of my comfort zone to be interviewed on television and be a guest expert on radio call-in shows. Today this means working hard to build up my social media presence across platforms. Marketing, publicity and sales are often more challenging than writing your book, so factor in the extra time, money, and effort to go the distance.

What is the one habit you believe contributed the most to you becoming a great writer? (i.e. perseverance, discipline, play, craft study) Can you share a story or example?

Read every day! If you are going to write a book, read as much as you can in the same genre, learning what resonates with you and narrowing down what specific new angle or information you can offer. If you’re writing nonfiction, that reading includes your research as well. For The Ultimate College Health Handbook, for example, I read books like The Campus Cure: A Parents Guide to Mental Health and Wellness for College Students as well as hundreds of studies from medical journals.

Which literature do you draw inspiration from? Why?

For my genre, I was inspired by many of the pregnancy and parenting books written by physicians, especially the Baby411 series by Ari Brown, MD. Her talented use of humor, plain language, and evidence-based medicine transcends educational, social, and economic backgrounds, and continues to inspire my writing today.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

As a family physician, my dream is to get everyone on board with PREVENTION- whether that is vaccinations, healthy eating, meditation, or daily aerobic exercise. I’d vote for starting with more insurance companies offering financial incentives for these healthy behaviors, and employers offering easily accessible office gyms and healthy food.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Website: https://jillgrimesmd.com/

Link to Buy Book: https://www.amazon.com/Ultimate-College-Student-Health-Handbook/dp/1510751033

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jillgrimesmd?lang=en

Thank you so much for this. This was very inspiring!

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Authority Magazine

In-depth Interviews with Authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.