“Don’t be bitter, get better” to write a book that sparks a movement, an interview with authors Sara Connell & Alicia Sanchez
Don’t be bitter, get better. I have a folder in my email called rejections for every literary agent, publisher, and influencer that has given me feedback or mentioned I just wasn’t a good fit for them. At first, I used to be bitter and complain and become grumpy with myself on all the reasons why it’s their loss but then I said; Alicia seriously get it together. No one is going to always like your cup of tea no matter how sweet it is you need to find your tribe and use the No towards getting better at what’s important and what you can change.
As part of my series about “How to write a book that sparks a movement” I had the great pleasure of interviewing Alicia Sanchez.
Alicia Sanchez who is an entrepreneur, podcast host, and published writer. She has been featured on the Dr. Oz Show, Black Shopping Channel, endless publications and various fashion weeks with her fashion brand before she began writing Dear God Are We There Yet? “A movement to spark conversation about topics in our lives that may make our voice shake or make our souls smile. Let’s talk like it’s 1995; real and in living color.”
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share the “backstory” about how you grew up?
Thank you again for having me. It all started with a fantastic, large, loud, loving hard working Dominican family. I was the only girl out of three boys, and my parents were entrepreneurs before I knew what that word meant. I grew up in a creative environment and decided to study Fashion right from high school which led me to experience fashion weeks as an intern with Oscarde Renta and Carolina Herrera. Later on, life happened, and I encountered many health-related roadblocks leaving me wondering what’s next in my life. In the midst of business and fashion, I stumbled upon writing.
When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspiredyou to take action or changeyour life?
Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume. If I told you I read that book one hundred times, you probably wouldn’t believe me, but I seriously did. I had so many questions about life, love and religion growing up. I felt like I could relate to Margaret.I didn’t know anything about what type of writing style Judy Blume was trying to convey except she nailed relatability in the sense that no matter what age you were you had a piece of Margaret in you.
What was the moment or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world?
When I had a hysterectomy at the age of 28, I felt that something was taken from me beyond my heirlooms. I decided to open a kids fashion design and sewing school to bring my passion for sewing to kids and inspire them through that creative outlet. On a trip to NYC where I took a select amount of children, one of the girls pulled me aside and said Ms.Alicia, I will never forget my first time to New York, and I thank you so much for teaching us; thank you for everything. My heart melted and I couldn’t believe how much of an impact a simple trip from a glimpse of experiences and teachings was so significant. I knew I had a message not only for the younger generation but people no matter where you’re from and where you want to go. Through an honest conversation, we can help people help people.
What impact did you hope to make when you wrote this book?
I wanted people to come to terms with their aha moments. I wanted them to understand that the road trip of life is ongoing and how we should keep asking questions and how to take control of ourminds and stop focusing on the “there”. This moment right now, the present is what matters because yesterday has passed and tomorrow is not promised.
Did the actual results align with your expectations?
Nope,and I guess that is the beauty of an author. The day I launched my book it was a ghost town. It wasn’t until months after and even a year that I began to bring the pieces together to get people on my podcast or get the book’s exposure. Every author will tell you that real success is about the impact you have on others and trust me I am still working on spreading the word.
What moment let you know that your book had started a movement?
It all started with a piece of paper that said fill in the blank with a question to the universe. Dear God ______? I had friends, family and anyone with paper and pen ask their questions snap an image and post to my feed. I began to see all the interesting questions about what people wanted to ask the universe. Inspired with these humble beginnings, I have begun 52 States & 52 Conversations within the USA to spread ideas, conversations and questions like wildflowers nourishing our minds and enabling a society to listen and know that it is okay to agree to disagree.
What kinds of things did you hear right away from readers? What are the most frequentthings you hear from readers about your book now? Are they the same? Different?
In the beginning, I would hear wow I needed that or that’s so true. At least one chapter of the book you can relate to because these are real stories and real situations thatwe face every day. My favorite chapter is Hitchkiker Todd; it’s about knowing when to let go of the people in our lives that take so much from us leaving us on empty. It’s knowing when to be selfless and pick up a person in our lives to guide and help them. Each chapter ends with a rearview mirror moment so that you can do something to put what you learned into action.
What is the most moving or fulfilling experience you’ve had as a result of writing this book?
The most fulfilling experience is speaking to the younger generation at Colleges and Universities. Being present atthat moment with them and giving them a piece of my world and sharing with them the vision of all their dreams are possible regardless if they have a piece of paper of achievement. It’s teaching them that success comes from within and not letting society dictate their future.
Have you experienced anything negative? Do you feel there are drawbacks to writing a book that starts such colossal conversation and change?
If there isn’t anything negative, we would be living in a utopia. Of course and I still experience some hiccups with my podcast. No one is going to like everything you have to say or what you stand for because people are always going to try to find a way to be negative or defeat you. Nevertheless, they want to try and make you less of a writer or whatever you may call yourself. The title itself Dear God was a massive focus for conversation when I began. I needed to be clear every single time about my definition and metaphor behind Dear God and what it stands for and how this is a space for everyone. I take this in strides, and I use it to help me because I can’t let what other people think control me.
Can you articulate why you think books have the power to create movements, revolutions, and truechange?
The power of my intended purpose is effortless.
Dear God Are we there yet? is a lifestyle community of question seekers. The goal is simple: to empower thought-provoking conversation, share happiness and encourage each of us never to stop asking questions and having conversations that matter. The power of helping people help people with one conversation at a time. Why? Because we need it. Our friends and families need it. And the world needs it.
What is the one habit you believe contributed the most to you becoming a bestselling writer?
Yes,let me clarify in saying I have yet to become a Bestseller in the eyes of the publishing world, but every time someone is impacted in a positive light I do consider the purpose of the book as best achieved. I’ve learned extreme patience from this movement, the book and podcast. I have so much to learn and so many more people to reach to, but I know faith and patience with sprinkles of love and passion is the best contribution I need for Dear God are we there yet.
What challenge or failure did you learn the most from in your writing career? Can you share the lesson(s) that you learned?
Writing is an art, and the more you do it, the better you will get. The biggest challenge for me was getting the book in itself to make sense to evolve and become an evergreen staple in the minds and hearts of readers. I am latina, loud passionate and over the top but rememberinghow to channel that was important for me. Strengths and challenges are ongoing, so for me, I focus on the teachings and experiences I can take from each and how to apply it to the next road.
Many aspiring authors would love to make an impact similar to what you have done. What are the fivethings writers needs to know if they want to spark a movement with a book?
If Authors would like to spark a movement with a book I would consider these, my top five tips:
1. What is your why and why is it your why? It’s funny when you begin to dig deeper on why you are writing or emphasizing what you believe you start to peel off the layers into another realm.You would be surprised at how many people you can inspire. When I started my fashion line I had no idea what my why was and as I began to do business workshops, I realized the pain and struggles as a startup had such an influence on my mindset. I was self-taught and my mother taught me how to sew not Parsons. Therefore, I used the strength of those emotions those setbacks and fueled them to inspire other designers because I could relate to them.
2. No one is perfect, stop aiming for it. When I first began writing grammar nazis were tearing me apart, and they still do. I literally would cry every time I sent my revisions to my Editor, and then I came tothe realization that I’m a work in progress in this roadtrip of life, and so is my writing, English is my second language, and I needed to own that. I needed to reflect on what I am good at and all the people that can help me reach my audience eloquently. I needed to stop striving for perfection because writing is an art and everyone will perceive it differently.
3. Practice what you preach. If you believe in something stick to that belief and show your audience that you live by those words. Not everyone is going to agree with you, and so many times you will get tons of advice or commentary that might not always be nice but take everything with a grain of salt and be transparent. On my podcast, I welcome people to talk about everything and anything but when it comes to Politics, I don’t have much to say, and I don’t pretend to know what to say because politics have never been my forte. As I grow older I see the social and government issues, and I make an effort to get informed, but I don’t go around telling people to think or do something when I don’t know even do it myself.
4. It starts with 1. When I began this movement I had two fans, my wife and my dog. That was all I needed to keep my head up to know it was possible. I speak on my podcast as if I have a million people listening and I make videos as If I am talking to a billion people because if I can impact just one person, I could die today and be happy and fulfilled. I am still trying to grow my movement every day with people who want to hear what I have to say. It’s hard in a world where people can buy bots or show some cleavage and instantly have a gazillion followers. So I stay grounded and remind myself amazing things take time. So be patient with yourself because it starts with you.
5. Don’t be bitter, get better. I have a folder in my email called rejections for every literary agent, publisher, and influencer that has given me feedback or mentioned I just wasn’t a good fit for them. At first, I used to be bitter and complain and become grumpy with myself on all the reasons why it’s their loss butthenI said; Alicia seriously get it together. No one is going to always like your cup of tea no matter how sweet it is you need to find your tribe and use the Notowards getting better at what’simportant and what you can change.
The world, of course, needs progress in many areas. What movement do you hope someone (or you!) starts next?
Let’s talk like it’s 1995! Before the world of social media and yes I think social media works great for many great things, butit shouldn’t define our lives. I would like to see more movements with platforms displaying the authenticity of life without masking misconceptions. I would also like to see highlighted Good News that happens in our world that is hidden below fake news and algorithms that stress and manipulate rage. A good friend and filmmaker Derck Baum from Tradewind Films recently started #thegoodnewschallenge2019 to encourage people to share good press on our social feeds and bring to light people and information that is uplifting while adding a positive attribute to our emotional minds. It’s incredible, and I’d love to see more of it!
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Yes on Instagram it’s @deargodarewethereyet
Youtube: Dear God Are We There Yet?
Thank you so much for these insights. It was a true pleasure to do this with you!
About the author: Sara is an author and writing coach with a private practice in Chicago. She has appeared in Oprah, Good Morning America, NPR, The View and Katie Couric. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Tri-Quarterly, Good Housekeeping, Parenting, IO Literary Journal, and Psychobabble. Her first book Bringing In Finn was nominated for ELLE magazine Book of the Year. www.saraconnell.com