When Lisa finally met the love of her life in her early 50s, she found the wedding industry was woefully lacking in services and resources aimed at the midlife bride. That was the impetus for Lisa publishing her first book, Unveiled Wisdom: Wedding Planning for the Mid-Life Bride.
Tell us a little about your background…
I’m a fourth generation Northern California native, raised on a multi-generational family farm. My rural upbringing made me independent and spirited or, as my husband says, “A pistol!” Hard work and creative problem solving were modeled to me daily.
When I was a young girl, my friends and I would write letters back and forth during the summer to keep in touch. My closest friend was about ten miles away. The phones were all party lines, and calling into town was long distance so we weren’t allowed to use the phone. I firmly believe composing these notes began my love of writing. To this day, there’s something really special to me about a hand-written note.
I am the proud wife of a local politician (my husband, Paul, is currently the Mayor of Lincoln, California) and mother of an (incredibly smart) adult son, Daniel.
Paul has a degree in business and also is a classically trained actor and artist. He worked and taught at Disney Animation Studios. I’m proud to say he designed the cover of my book.
Daniel recently moved from Los Angeles, where he had lived for two decades, to Minneapolis to join Target’s corporate based management team. He loves his work and is adjusting to the colder climate.
I completed high school early, married young, and had my son. My marriage ended within a year and I became a single mom. At age 18, I worked in a data entry office for a single day (when computers were the size of small cars) and knew that wasn’t the life for me. I went to work as a freelance makeup consultant in department stores then, at age 22, got a full time position with Revlon. That was a dream job and it launched my sales career.
I enjoyed an outside sales career that spanned over 30 years (I sold everything from car parts to cosmetics to Christmas ornaments).
When did you start to think about making a change?
I have had a couple of reinventions.
The first reinvention began a couple of years before my 40th birthday. I had a continuing awareness that I wasn’t living authentically. My “thrive” meter was at zero. My sales career wasn’t flourishing and neither was my personal life. My second marriage had been in trouble for several years and keeping up the “happy” pretense was diminishing my spirit.
During this time, my son told me about Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way. I began writing what Julia calls “morning pages.” That helped kick the creative cobwebs loose and developed my appetite for more inner exploration.
After a torturous Thanksgiving in 1998, I knew drastic change was necessary. I had an “aha” moment that felt like being hit by a lightning bolt; I needed a new job and to end my ten year marriage. A week later, I had a fabulous new sales job and seven months later, I ended my marriage.
In 2001, at the age of 44, I embraced my spiritual side and undertook a five-year course of study that provided the framework for my part-time intuitive counseling practice. I entered a mentorship program by Sonia Choquette and took several of her certificate classes. I then began a two-year certified course with Alberto Villoldo studying Inca Shamanism. I continued my studies with Alberto and several other teachers for two more years. This period was transformational for me.
In my intuitive counseling practice, I help clients gain clarity and find direction when they’re feeling stuck, anxious, or out-of-sorts. When a client is in emotional pain or in a time of transition or crisis, the desire to get life back on track and feel good again is potent. I help them discover useful insights and experience healing so that can happen.
When doing an intuitive reading for clients, I retrieve information on their current scenarios and future possibilities and share that information with them. Sometimes it’s about validating what they already know and other times it’s about providing a map to help them select their best course. All of my work helps clients live a more in-tune, purposeful life.
I became acutely aware that I like a mix of “mainstream” work and spiritual work. Blending the two makes me happiest. I began exploring how to make this happen, and started my part-time counseling work.
In January 2003, through a routine mammogram, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. This catapulted me onto a healing journey that utilized all that I had learned in my spiritual studies. I was incredibly fortunate to have excellent doctors and spiritual teachers. For me, it was definitely a combination of western medicine and spiritual work that helped me to become cancer free.
The year following my breast cancer recovery was actually the toughest. My dog died, my post-cancer meds were wreaking havoc with my body, I had a hysterectomy, and I was recovering from a broken heart. These things took a huge emotional and physical toll. My hormones were a mess. I felt rudderless and adrift.
In 2006, I shifted from being a road rep to operating a home-based satellite television sales company while continuing my part-time counseling work. I thought this home-based business was a reinvention, but in fact it was a lesson to, as Adam Braun says, “stay guided by my values not my necessities.” It was a BIG lesson. I had strayed off my path and had never felt so unlike myself. I learned just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do it. I closed this business in 2012.
In 2007, my health became my focus. I was miserable, physically and emotionally. I hadn’t felt like myself in four years and I needed to listen to my soul. One day in April of that year, I had another “aha” moment. I awoke and knew I needed to stop taking all the medications that had been prescribed to me post cancer. I went cold turkey. By July, I’d found a women’s wellness practitioner and started taking bio-identical hormones. Within four weeks, I regained a quality of life I’d not had in three years.
Now that I was feeling better, I had the ability to dream, plan, and explore what was next for me. I didn’t want to rush it. I’d lost four years of my life and my goal was to navigate the right course from here. I wanted love but I also wanted peace, joy, and fulfillment in all areas of my life. I wasn’t going to settle for anything less.
What’s your next act?
I am the author of Unveiled Wisdom: Wedding Planning for the Mid-Life Bride, which I self-published in April, 2015, at the age of 58.
My husband and I met in 2009. Everything about meeting my husband was magical. I knew from the beginning I’d met my life partner and that our relationship was integral to my next act. I felt for the first time in my life like I could fully be myself. I could see how all the dots were connecting to change my current trajectory and I was excited. I didn’t know the how’s of it but I knew it was happening.
At age 54, I became a midlife bride and I loved it. Getting married in midlife changes everything. The awareness of who I was, who we were as a couple, and how lucky we were to have found each other was profound. Midlife is like that. The awareness and intention you bring to each endeavor is deeper and more meaningful.
Why did you decide to write about midlife weddings?
Writing the book happened automatically as I experienced the lack of services and products offered to midlife brides. I began filling pages with what I’d been looking for as a midlife bride: support, ideas, guidance, humor, and understanding from one who’d walked the path. It was the evolution of an inspired idea, and about honoring these incredible women who are courageously starting anew in midlife.
Finding love and being fully visible to our beloved because of our age and wisdom, while at the same time being invisible to a youth-focused wedding industry presented an interesting juxtaposition. It didn’t work for me. I wanted not to just lift the veil on this overlooked market but toss it aside.
It became evident to me that an industry-wide conversation would help highlight midlife brides and hopefully create a positive change within the wedding industry. The more I researched, the more I was not just inspired but determined. 26% of all brides are over 40. There are over 500,000 midlife brides in the U.S. every year and they spend $15 Billion on their weddings. These numbers speak volumes. Yet, I was astonished at the few resources available specifically for midlife brides and how we’re generally overlooked. I was compelled to change that.
What other options did you consider?
As I went through Marie Forleo’s online business program, B-School, in 2014, I got a bit distracted. I didn’t yet have a clear vision of what being an author and midlife bride ambassador fully looked like. It’s also very common for people to tell you that being just an author (especially of non-fiction) isn’t enough, and that it’s very difficult to make a living at it. You’re told you need to do an online course, speaking engagements, and offer other services. That sent me into an overwhelm tailspin.
Briefly, I thought about what I could do that would support all the things I was being told were necessary to have a successful online business. I went back to what was familiar; my counseling practice. I looked at expanding it by teaching classes and doing seminars. After some initial investigating and partnering with other practitioners, nothing worked out. I finally recognized that I enjoyed my counseling practice as it was and didn’t want to change its business model.
I also admitted that this detour was a way of avoiding stepping up my game and finishing the book project. I didn’t want to give up on the book. My career path had never been traditional, why start now? Selling books is important but it wasn’t the only reason I was doing this.
How hard was it to take the plunge?
Taking the initial plunge to write was easy. I just started writing my experiences, ideas, observations, and stories. It was fun and in the beginning I didn’t get bogged down with the idea of A BOOK. Plus, when I started, I still had a full time job so that kept me from stressing over finances.
As I started talking with other midlife brides it evolved into a desire to fill the void and accompany these women down the bridal path. I acknowledged early on that I didn’t actually know how to produce a book. I decided to take a class and hire a book coach. That gave me the foundation and structure necessary to organize my ideas and ultimately create the book. This step was immensely empowering. Once I had the necessary tools and became accountable to my coach, I stepped up my game. Luckily, the feedback on both my writing and book idea were positive. It provided encouragement that I was headed in the right direction.
I took nine classes, too many webinars to count, and read at least eight books to help me learn what I needed in order to complete the project. I realized I wasn’t just writing a book. I studied online marketing, website development, copywriting, platform building, social media, publicity, advertising, and formatting for both print and e-publishing. I did tons of online research and conducted many interviews. I worked on the project every day. There were no short cuts. Each time I entertained the idea of a “work around,” I quickly discovered there wasn’t one. I can honestly say it was gratifying to dive in, do the work, and learn.
How did you see your book through to completion?
I set overwhelm aside. I gave myself permission to see the project all the way through to publishing and beyond. That meant committing to doing all the work no matter how much work it was or how uncomfortable it made me.
Once that was decided, I defined what success looked like for me regarding this project and allowed that to guide me. I followed the clues and took action. I didn’t think about why I shouldn’t do something, I just started doing it. I created a map and kept to it. I also didn’t follow all the advice from the experts. I had to listen to my own gut and what I believed to be true about the midlife bride. It’s not that their advice wasn’t valid; it was more about discerning if and how it applied to my project.
My main goal was to produce a high quality product I was proud of that would benefit and inspire other midlife brides. Everything I did from that point forward was in support of that goal.
What challenges did you encounter?
In the beginning, I experienced feelings of not being qualified as an expert to write a wedding planning book. You know, the old “who am I to…” I had to let go of old internal dialogues and get over my fears. I realized I was a front line expert and all the research I was doing provided additional knowledge. I was qualified.
From time to time, I thought about going out and getting a “real job.” Even though I was working diligently on my book it sometimes felt like I wasn’t accomplishing anything. In hindsight, it was probably more about having the sense that I wasn’t making quick enough progress. Since I’d never been through the book writing process before, it was difficult to measure accomplishment. It was during these times that my husband’s encouragement kept me going. He’d listen and help talk me off the ledge, so to speak.
When you’re writing a book, taking online classes, and reading books to teach yourself different processes, it’s all work you do alone. It’s isolating. No one sees what you’re doing or that you’re doing anything. Not until you hold the published book up and show them, and they read it, do they begin to understand how all your time has been spent. Then it becomes real to them.
What kept me going along the way was the positive feedback and encouragement I got from people I admired and respected. Also, the further along in the project I traveled, I was able to look back and see how far I’d come. I began to see myself as a published author.
Were your family and friends supportive?
My husband was very consistent with his support and message. Write your book. Make that your career. He absolutely believes in me. I think some folks thought I was doing a craft project. Others were polite but disinterested. I chose to believe in myself and in my husband’s belief in me. It worked. I also learned not to share with everyone. I held my dream sacred and protected it from negativity.
What did you learn about yourself through this process?
I love to learn.
I have the mettle to see something through to its completion.
I can eat an elephant. It’s one of my Super Powers! I have the ability to see large, complex projects and break them down into organized bite-sized chunks so they can be easily digested and accomplished. It’s weird because I’m both linear and non-linear in my approach.
I can be laser focused and driven.
I love working in a quiet environment.
It’s okay to rely on the strength of others to support and help me.
It’s wonderful to be inspired but turning that inspiration into action is what makes our dreams come true.
I’m not a quitter, but I can say no.
What advice do you have for other women seeking reinvention in midlife?
Do it! Midlife is the absolute best time to embrace change. Follow the clues that present themselves (they’ve probably been showing up for years). And, if you don’t like how you reinvented yourself, do it again!
In my experience, you’re going to have fears and probably some trust issues. That’s normal…Keep going anyway. Do what you can to believe in yourself and use whatever courage you can muster to keep moving forward. Arm yourself with information, knowledge, and love. Then take action because if you don’t, life will be full of regrets or dull—and goodness knows we don’t want to be regretful, dull, invisible, or irrelevant. Love yourself enough to let your dream be realized. And finally, reinvention takes time…a lot more than we want it to!
One of my teachers likes to say “We dream the world into being, so dream beautiful dreams.” I’ll add to that… and begin living them now. This is the fun part!
What advice do I have for those interested in writing a nonfiction book?
Hire a book coach who can help you organize your thoughts and your book. I took a class offered by Ann McIndoo called So You Want to Write? Ann has excellent tools to get your book out of your head and down on paper. Hiring a good coach (however you define that) is well worth it.
If you’re not good at working alone, then join a writing group. Writer’s Digest is a good resource for writers. There are local MeetUps for just about everything. Social Media is another good resource. The truth is, once you start telling people you’re writing a book, you’ll hear about plenty of local authors and groups. When all else fails, Google it.
Because I’m lucky to be self-motivated and disciplined, I didn’t join a local writing group. I did, however, participate in other online groups within BSchool. Having support, input, and access to a variety of resources and experiences is incredibly useful. My A Course About Copy group was by far one of the most helpful I’ve ever participated in. I’m still active in that group. Like BSchool, it’s a members-only group for people who’ve purchased the course. It’s fairly standard for online courses to offer these exclusive groups. I find the group activity to be an essential part of the course.
Accountability is important. I think of this as the Weight Watchers theory. Knowing you have to “weigh in” will help keep you on track. It’s important to have real deadlines, especially when you’re first starting the book. Reporting in to someone who assesses your actual progress will help you stay on course and offer you the most useful results. It’s easy to make excuses or get “in the weeds” in the beginning. Being accountable for your weekly progress keeps you focused on completing each step.
Read, research, and write, and then do more of each. Good research is paramount but taking action is what will get you across the goal line. Don’t get sidetracked or distracted by too many online courses and groups. Write. Develop your platform and write.
Writing a book proposal is good for you even if you don’t get an agent or publisher. It’s all about discovery and commitment. It helps you take your book from idea into a thoroughly researched and crafted concept. It makes you the expert of your project and requires you to make decisions that drive your book forward. Chances are, if you can write a stellar book proposal, you’re well on the way to writing and finishing a darned good book.
To paraphrase Ernest Hemingway “All first drafts are crap.” I didn’t want to believe him. Hemingway was right. Accept it. You will edit and re-write your book many, many times and you’ll never be fully satisfied. That’s a good thing.
Editing is an art. If you only spend money on one thing, make sure it’s a really good editor. I had my book professionally edited by two different people multiple times over the course of a year. The first editor, Victoria Lorini, was referred to me by a friend. Vicki has been in the literary field all her professional life. She edited my book twice and helped me with concept, focus, and line edits. Her manuscript feedback was spot on. She has now retired.
I hired Keidi Keating of Your Book Angel to do the finish edits of my book. Keidi was fast and I liked her style; it meshed well with mine. I knew when we finished the editing process my book would be polished.
I also had several other people read the book and offer feedback and editing. Each time I went through the editing process, the book became better. The feedback I received was immeasurable. It’s amazing what different sets of eyes and perspectives bring to the table.
There’s a knack to taking your ego out of the process and keeping your heart and voice in the pages. The more you go through the editing process, the easier you find your groove.
At some point, you have to know you’re done writing. Don’t noodle it to death. Let it live, even if it’s not perfect.
High quality self-publishing is not as hard as you think. It’s intimidating for first time writers but certainly doable and, as Marie Forleo likes to say, “figuroutable.” I did a TON of research. Some of what I looked at was cost, compensation, flexibility, marketing, finished product, and reviews. Amazon’s ranking was consistently very high. Their professionalism and ease of self-publishing is top notch.
I won’t kid you, the process is time consuming. You have to be willing to spend the time to format your book properly. I followed the protocols via The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th Edition. Is it boring? Yes. But, doing it the right way is worth it. It affords your book the best opportunity for success. Here’s what I know: If you do it right no one may notice, but if you do it wrong all the right people with definitely notice.
Selling, marketing, and promoting your book are much harder than writing your book. Don’t get discouraged. It takes time to build a good platform and sell books. I’m using all the traditional avenues: social media, my website, blogging, guest blogging, and press releases. I’ve been on local morning TV shows and in the local papers; the local wedding magazines covered my book launch; I’ve been interviewed by industry pros; and small dress designers are calling to talk about the midlife bride’s style needs.
I also walk into stores and talk with the owners and then follow up by sending them a copy of my book and a note. I send out book copies to stores and agencies I think might be a good fit and I also do some advertising. My attitude is it just takes the right person to say yes.
Define success on your terms. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of letting others define what success looks and feels like. It’s all too common to compare ourselves to others or use someone else’s monetary standard to measure our success or define our failures. Success comes in stages all along the journey. I find it really important to identify and celebrate each one of these.
Success for me is both a feeling and a measure of achievement. Feeling good about what I do and how I do it. Knowing my authenticity shows up in my work and in my brand and having people respond positively.
Initially on this project my BIG definition of success was a high-quality finished product I was totally proud of, so when I held it up I loved it. I wanted the book to be helpful, inspiring, entertaining, and fun for my reader. These desires also rolled over to my website. I wanted to know that I’d pushed myself and that I delivered my best. I’m happy to say I feel I’ve done that.
Along the way, I experienced successes that were HUGE! When Dr. Christiane Northrup read my book and gave me an endorsement, well that was definitely one of the highlights of the project. I still do a happy dance when I think about it.
My current definition includes reaching a specific number of book sales as a self-published author (getting the book into the hands of midlife brides everywhere!) and to help bring about significant positive change to the wedding industry for midlife brides.
The best feeling is when someone you don’t know tells you how excited they are to meet you because they bought your book and loved it! Now that’s success.
There were times when I loved that I was on this path even though I had no idea where I was going or how I was going to get there. I just kept at it. Love spilled over and kept me going bit by bit.
What resources do you recommend?
Digital Strategies by Nathalie Lussier (Multiple Courses)
Facebook Advertising for Authors by Mark Dawson
APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur-How to Publish a Book by Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch
Writing Nonfiction: Turning Thoughts into Books by Dan Poynter
The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How to Write It, Sell It, and Market It . . . Successfully by Arielle Eckstut, David Henry Sterry
The Elements of Style (4th Edition) by Willam Strunk Jr. and E.B. White
How to Self-publish Your Book Using Microsoft Word 2010: A Step-by-Step Guide for Designing & Formatting Your Book’s Manuscript & Cover to PDF & POD Press, Including Those of Createspace by Edwin Scroggins
Building Your Book for Kindle by Amazon
What’s next for you? Do you think you have another next act in your future?
Oh, I’m sure I do. I stay open to what the Divine sends my way. I’ll certainly keep writing. What I know today is I’m still enjoying this project and we’ve got a long way to go before that veil of invisibility gets permanently lifted for all midlifers.
Contact Lisa Joiner at firstname.lastname@example.org