“I’m not going to die, but I’m going to live like I’m dying.”
This was my brother Dave’s mantra after he was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer three years ago and told he had about six months to live.
His mantra became mine and his courage and grace inspired me to change my life. After he passed the six-month mark, I found myself on a plane headed to Kauai to begin writing the book that had been brewing in me for twenty years. I’d never been to Kauai and didn’t know a single person—but felt called there after a friend told me about this ancient island in the middle of the Pacific ocean, 5,000 miles from my home in New York City.
And this is how a magical web of synchronicities led me to where I am today.
Synchronicity is a concept first introduced by psychologist Carl Jung, which holds that events are “meaningful coincidences” if they occur with no causal relationship yet seem to be meaningfully related. Author Charles de Lint explains synchronicity as “an everyday sort of magic—the inexplicable connectedness we sometimes experience with places, people and works of art.
And from the moment I stepped out of the plane and planted my feet on the six-million-year old earth, a magical synchronicity began unfolding. There is a special community of people who live on this island of lush green majestic mountains, neon magic hold-your-breath beautiful rainbows – expansive skies of gorgeous sunrises, sunsets, and stars glowing so close you almost can touch them. The spirit of aloha is everywhere. Aloha means hello and good-bye, but did you know it also means love, affection, peace, compassion, and mercy? It’s almost always accompanied by a hug.
The very first week I met a local merchant, who, after he heard my story, said I had to meet Laura Lentz. The following Thursday I walked into her living room in Kilauea where she held weekly writing classes (and now online all over the world). The random way we met is one of those synchronistic events that change your life.
Laura, a gifted writing teacher, suggested I write my book in her writing workshops, using her writing exercises to draw out my story in class. Surrounded by the energy of other amazing writers in this safe space, all the stories I’d held inside began to come alive. Over the course of the next few months my book began to take shape and she became my creative mentor and developmental editor. Through Laura, I met many wonderful, big-hearted, immensely talented people on Kauai, just like her. Some of them are now part of my incredible team that helped birth this book.
Limor Farber, who designed the beautiful website you are reading this on, also designed my website, my book cover, the book design, and my logo. Limor was in Laura’s living room that first night.
Also in the circle of talented people who orbit around Laura is Katherine Eid, an extraordinary writer and creative who now lives in Boulder, Colorado, but first met Laura seven years ago, when she lived in Kauai. Katherine has been working with me for well over a year to develop my author platform, which is growing every day.
Then, in February of 2017, I went to the San Miguel Writer’s Conference in Mexico, at the suggestion of a friend, who was going with three other writers, all of whom live on Kauai. And it’s there I met April Eberhardt, now my dear friend. From the very beginning she was a true believer in this book. In her workshop, I discovered there was a lot more to the publishing world than I knew. The narrow lens I’d been looking through widened significantly. April has been a tireless navigator in helping me through the world of publishing and the best choices for my book.
Do you see how this all unfolded? Synchronicities keep threading though my story like fairy dust sprinkled by Laura’s hand.
So, how did I come the decision to do assisted self-publishing?
I followed all “the rules” and submitted a book proposal and queries to publishers and agents just over a year ago. And if you can call rejection letters nice, they were, well – nice. A few were standard issue but most were complimentary and encouraging, but still a stinging “no thank you.” Most of the rejections came because I didn’t have an author platform. I’d been focused on writing my book and naively felt the platform would grow from the book.
Now I look back and feel blessed it wasn’t accepted. The original manuscript I sent out has dramatically improved over this last year. I’m a better writer and Laura and I worked hard at revising, re-writing, editing and polishing all of last year.
We took to heart some of the agent’s and publisher’s comments – and the following month Katherine, Limor and I revamped the website and Facebook page to build my author platform. And we did. Today, less than a year later, we have over 5,000 people on our mailing list and about 10,000 followers on our Facebook page, Grief to Gratitude.
We evolved to the point where I could resubmit a proposal. And with April’s expertise and guidance, I learned a traditional publishing house timeline would take at least another year. We knew the book was ready, and we didn’t want to wait another year or more to publish this book. Although death and grief have been part of the world since the beginning, when loss happens to us – to people we love, it burns the same way it did hundreds of years ago. So many people are grieving in the world – now more than ever – that I didn’t want to waste more time getting this book out. I wanted to throw a lifeline to people now, something to help them navigate. All of us on my team believe this book is needed now.
Isn’t it interesting that as writer living in New York – which some consider the creative hub of the world – I had to go half-way around the world to find all I needed? I’m here to tell you: Kauai is a creative hub in the middle of the ocean, and to me, a magical place where synchronicity abounds. And now, in a full circle moment of synchronicity, April will be coming to the Kauai Writers Conference to co-host a 4 day workshop with Jon Fine on Navigating Today’s New Publishing Landscape. The workshop will help authors understand the new and fast-changing world of publishing. Believe me, it is changing rapidly and my experience is a testament.
We call it assisted self-publishing – because truly, no one can really do it alone. And now here I am, with this incredible team of people who all believe in the message of hope and healing that comes from my book – You are Not Alone, A Heartfelt Guide for Grief, Healing and Hope. Helen Keller said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” My team truly understands this, and they all know each other and work seamlessly together to help create something special we know will help many
And who knows? Maybe when you come to Kauai synchronicities will thread through for you too. Maybe you’ll meet Laura and some of that fairy dust will land softly on your shoulder. Or attend April and Jon’s workshop and learn of all the different ways you can make your dream a reality, just like me. When you see me at the Kauai Writer’s Conference, please come and say aloha. I’m happy to answer any questions about my journey. And maybe our meeting just might be one of those meaningful coincidences. Mahalo!
Debbie Augenthaler is an author and psychotherapist in private practice in New York City, with a specialty in trauma, grief and loss. Prior to becoming a therapist she had a successful career in the financial industry for more than twenty years. Debbie earned her MA in Counseling for Mental Health and Wellness from New York University and completed a post-graduate Advanced Trauma Studies program from the Institute of Contemporary Psychotherapy. In 2012 she received the NYU Steinhardt Award for Outstanding Clinical Service.
Her book, You Are Not Alone: A Heartfelt Guide for Grief, Healing, and Hope combines her personal story of devastating loss with practical insights and simple suggestions for healing. It will be published in May of 2018. To learn more, or to book Debbie for speaking engagements and articles, please visit her website: www.debbieaugenthaler.com and join her Facebook community, Grief to Gratitude.