Thursday, September 20, 2018

Interview with Acclaimed Author & Motivational Speaker Amberly Lago

I am so thrilled to welcome Amberly Lago to the blog today! I read Amberly's book TRUE GRIT & GRACE in a matter of days and was so inspired and moved by her story. This is a book that will change the way you see yourself and the world -- it will open your eyes to the possibilities before you, and will help you tap into the grit and grace inside yourself. 

Amberly was kind enough to stop by the blog today (in the midst of her busy schedule and book tour!) to answer some questions about not just writing and publishing, but also strength and resilience. Grab a mug of tea, turn off your cell phone, and sink into her insights and words of wisdom. 

It is such a pleasure to present to you... Amberly Lago!

Can you tell us about you that you’d like the readers to know?

I was an athlete and professional dancer turned fitness trainer when a horrific motorcycle accident severed my femoral artery and shattered my right leg almost beyond repair. Months in the hospital and 34 surgeries—along with plates, pins, and sheer will—eventually spared my leg, despite the initial recommendation to amputate. As a result of the trauma, I was diagnosed with an incurable nerve disease called Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, dubbed “the suicide disease” because it is ranked highest on the pain scale. But giving up was never in my wheel house. By embracing gratitude, acceptance, and self care, I found the ability to thrive despite living in constant, chronic pain.

I started sharing my story of hope and inspiration to small assembled crowds and then before I knew it, I was being asked to speak at conferences, schools, and institutions. My heart was instantly filled with joy the more I shared my story and made connections with others. Although I had never written a book before, I was passionate about writing my story in hopes of giving others a shift in their perspective and to leave them believing in themselves a little bit more. I wrote True Grit and Grace: Turning Tragedy Into Triumph and it was published earlier this year by Morgan James Publishing and launched on the Megyn Kelly TODAY Show.

Take us through your writing and publishing process. 

The thought of writing a book was a little overwhelming and I knew I needed help. Although I always did well in school, I didn’t even have a college education. I started asking around if anyone knew of a writing teacher. Three different people told me about an incredible teacher named Jack Grapes. I looked him up and enrolled in his Method Writing class. Method Writing is an organic approach to the creative process, a way of finding your deep, authentic voice. The Method does not take the traditional approach, which emphasizes structure and form; instead it focuses on truth and organic process. Method Writing deals with the inner voice and how it can be used to create unique works of art, true to your own voice and style, true to your own vision and point view, and true to your own life experience—whether writing a book, poem, recipe, Instagram post, or ransom note.

So along with writing every day in my journal, I made an outline for my book, and used Jack Grapes Method Writing class as a way to start writing. I wrote every day, even if it was just a page, and it took two years. I had to find the time to write between working, being a mom, being a wife, and trying to have any kind of social life. There were a lot of days I just wanted to keep pushing the snooze button, but I would wake up at 4:30 every morning to get my writing in before my day officially started.

It took a total of two years to finish my book, and then came time to find a publisher. I attended a conference called “Author 101” where I learned about everything from publishing to marketing and literary agents. Although I left there feeling even more overwhelmed, it’s also where I ended up finding my publisher.

What is your favorite thing about writing? 

My favorite thing about writing is getting things out of my head and onto the paper. When I was in the hospital and stuck in the hospital bed, writing was a way of coping with my situation.

I opened my journal and immediately began a gratitude list—that is, all the things for which I was grateful. So instead of staring into darkness, I focused on what was light in my life, and as the list grew longer, the less depressed I became. This was my medicine and it worked. Psychological depression, as opposed to biochemical depression, doesn’t occur in a vacuum. It occurs in negativity, when “what I don’t have” seems greater than “what I want to have.” We human beings rarely know how to value what we have until we lose it. And I was determined to beat those odds by listing and acknowledging all my blessings. Gratitude turns denial into acceptance, makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates hope for tomorrow. Writing a gratitude list keeps me in a place of gratitude, and when you are grateful you don’t have room for self-pity. Writing down all my emotions is healing and takes me out of my head and keeps me in my heart.

Your writing is so authentic, honest and vulnerable. How do you push past fears, doubts, or self-criticism that is inherent for so many of us in the creative process?  

I try to write like I speak—straight from the heart. Sometimes I will read a post I have written for social media and I think to myself, what was I thinking writing that?? But it is how I was feeling at the time. I have found when you own your story and accept where you are on your journey it strengthens your resilience and allows you to make meaningful connections with others. Plus, it’s much easier to write when you are just keeping it real and letting the words flow.

Do you have any advice for other writers, or for anyone going after their dreams? 

Write from you heart and write vividly, using all your senses. Keep it real. I think readers can smell when you aren’t authentic. I started writing my memoir like I was telling a story and it was less intimidating for me to get started. The secret is to just get started. This is your perspective on life and events, and if you can share what you think, feel, and have gone through, others gather the wisdom and benefit of your experiences. No matter what, keep writing every day.

Can you share a few of your favorite books or authors? 

One of my favorite authors is Brene Brown and I love her book The Gifts of Imperfection. I start my day by reading several of my favorite spiritual books to center me before my day gets crazy. Some of those books include Each Day a New Beginning: Daily Mediations for Women, published by Hazelden; I’ve Been Thinking: Reflections, Prayers, and Meditations for a Meaningful Life by Maria Shriver, and The Wisdom of Sundays by Oprah Winfrey.

What inspires you? 

My two daughters inspire me to be my best and my biggest motivator is anyone who tells me I can’t do something.

 What are you working on now? What’s next for you? 

I am still on my book tour and have one last stop in Charlotte, North Carolina at Barnes & Noble. Next I will be delivering a keynote “Claiming Your Resilience When Living In Chronic Pain” at the annual RSDSA conference and also leading a 5K fundraising walk “Fight the Flame” to benefit those diagnosed with CRPS. I am launching an online inspirational fitness course soon, and my dream is to do SuperSoul Podcast with Oprah AND a TED Talk—Hey! I always say if your dreams don’t scare you, then they aren’t big enough!

Anything else you would like to add?

What I have learned is that life is a series of choices we make regardless of our circumstances. I could either make the choice to give up and let my life be determined by my circumstances, or fight to create something positive out of my situation. My choice is to notice the gifts life offers, which are particularly plentiful when you look for them. I believe in seeing the good in every situation and learning form it.

I believe we can have the life we always imagined, even if our circumstances have narrowed our possibilities. My sincere wish is that my book will help each reader claim their own power and belief in themselves and their dreams, and find their own resilience to move forward and choose a life filled with laughter and love, even when things don’t go as planned. We can’t choose what life throws our way, but we can choose to be happy and live a full life, despite our circumstances. Through our trials, we can embrace our challenges, connect to our innermost resilience, and change our perspective on life. We are strong, but together we are unstoppable.

Connect with Amberly:

1 comment:

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