By Guest Blogger, Joanna Poppink, MFT, Psychotherapist, Author, Lecturer
To listen to Joanna Poppink’s interview on the “Your Book Is Your Hook!” Show: http://bit.ly/zSpFrC
Conari Press wanted an eating disorder recovery self-help book for adult women. I wanted to write it. We were a match. In August, 2011 Healing Your Hungry Heart: Recovering From Your Eating Disorder reached bookshelves in stores throughout the United States and the United Kingdom.
As I wrote HHH, my book deepened and changed, and so did I. I wrote too much and too little. I told. I stopped telling. I shared and described. I kept the sharing but stopped describing and told stories. I told stories I never dreamed I would tell.
The North Star I followed was an ever changing yet consistent image of my reader. I saw her living a life governed by an eating disorder. I had been that woman. I’ve seen her in my private psychotherapy practice. I’ve heard her speak in 12-step meetings. I’ve heard her on the telephone choking with tears. I’ve read her stories in letters she’s written to me for 25 years. I’ve heard her loved ones tell me their stories and hers.
Throughout every phase of book creation I saw her – a living collage of womanhood yet always being herself. I wanted to show her how she could work her way out of the horrors of an eating disorder and into freedom.
If you are writing a self-help book, please keep the person you want to teach close to your heart and clearly in your mind. Have empathy for your reader’s experience as he or she tries to follow your guidance.
To win my reader’s trust, I told some of my story. The editor at Conari said I mentioned a Cornish lover. I either had to say more or cut it because, as it was, it teased the reader. I decided to tell my private story because I believed that in the telling my reader would recognize herself too.
I realized my reader could tire as she worked her way through my book so I created a “Recovery Check-In” chapter. It’s a rest stop to review progress, reflect on success and gently contemplate challenges ahead.
As I wrote, I got news of a sexually exploiting situation between a professional in the field and a woman in early recovery. I had days of sorrow and rage at the betrayal. I told my publisher I needed to include sexuality in my writing. My editor said, “Follow your heart and write to your reader.” I added a chapter called, “Sex, Stalking and Exploitation.”
As you write your self-help book, make your information accessible by keeping a clear picture in your mind and heart of your reader’s life, why they need what you are sharing, and how they feel as they follow your suggestions. Your reader is your North Star that leads you to the book you need to write and they need to read.
My hook? Healing Your Hungry Heart brings me clients, opportunities to speak, and new connections with wonderful people in the healing community.