So You Wrote a Book?

Many people ask how my co-author and I went about creating our debut book together.  It all began because of a podcast. I love talking to people and I especially love when it is with powerful, intelligent and funny women such as Kendall Ann. After recording an episode on her podcast, High Heels and Heartache, I asked her if she had ever thought of writing a book about everything she has learned while doing her podcast. 

That “aha” moment led to, What I Wish I Knew: Surviving and Thriving After an Abusive Relationship. This book was not my first step into the world of writing, but it certainly was one of the most life-changing experiences I’ve had. My passion for writing began in my early childhood. I was constantly reading and typing (literally typing on a type-writer) mini-series and mock-magazine articles. From there my writing has taken more of scholarly and psycho-educational turn due to my work and decades worth of schooling (yes I do seem to have an obsession with school it seems).  

But still I have always been drawn to stories, especially true stories and memoires. That is why the process of writing our book was so unique, it was a way to merge my experience as an academic and clinical writer with that of non-fiction narration and story-telling. 

Each chapter was a new challenge and opportunity for me to learn. Kendall Ann would write her experience from the inception of her abusive relationship, to her confusion about leaving. From there she shared her courageous story of escaping her abusive relationship and then the struggles of trusting herself and finding joy and love again. As her story evolved I moved and grew with her. I was present to her intense pain and her incredible triumph. The only way I could offer the best advice and support was by immersing myself and trying to imagine what Kendall Ann had felt. I would write with the same empathy I experience when sitting with someone I care for in my personal life or that I counsel. That was the only way to offer the truth.

Wearing both hats of writer and therapist, was both exciting and challenging. As I wrote, I tried to create a safe space for Kendall Ann to share her survival story. Being able to synthesize everything she went through into something that made sense to readers was really important to me. I wanted to make sure that the skills, research and ideas I was sharing felt relatable and attainable. I always kept in mind what it would be like to make major changes in life when experiencing the trauma of abuse. It was important to me that the readers gained a sense of empowerment from reading the book. I intended for everything I wrote to be applicable to the present moment. I wanted to reader to feel what it felt like to “take a deep breath” or practice journaling what they were learning in real time

I once read a quote about writing; “when writing a book make sure you write something you want to read, because you will read it 75 times”. This was so close to the truth that I wish I had kept count during the post-production process. I have come to realize that once I know what  I am writing about, I am not someone who experiences writers block. Rather I am someone who experiences more of a word avalanche. My words will come quickly and firmly onto a page. It is not until after they are written and I reemerge in the process as a reader that I truly know what I wrote and whether it conveys my true message. The editing process is where I connect with both my identity as a writer and creator. The first draft for me is when I simply show up. 

I will forever be grateful for this book, my co-author and everything I learned during writing, “What I Wish I Knew: Surviving and Thriving After an Abusive Relationship”. This experience will forever impact the way I work with survivors and how I counsel them. It has expanded my understanding of what it means to be a survivor and has deepened my awareness, compassion and respect for each and every one of them.  

— Dr. Kelley

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