My newest book: an opportunity to share hope and resilience with trauma survivors

Something I’m thankful for: my writing partner and the book we wrote together. I’m sharing the cover with you. It’s the first time it’s been posted publicly.
My co-author, Matt, and I really like this cover because of the light coming into the group therapy circle: providing the light of hope in the face of the indescribable darkness that is being “stuck” in mental illness and desperation.

I think it was spring of 2016 that Matt Jaremko and I discussed writing a book to help trauma survivors. It took us a bit to find our writing groove in terms of both how we could best communicate what we wanted to say that would extend hope and model the power of resilience for traumatized people, AND for us to find the most efficient way for us to write together without becoming frustrated…we initially tried using Google Docs, and, never having co-written with anyone else, I didn’t realize we couldn’t be in the document at the same time. So I was working and Matt was, too, and the page was jumping all over the place…it was not fun. So we dispensed with that pretty quickly and moved to Word and Track Changes, which is the industry standard for working with editors.
Once we found our way to work together by exchanging the manuscript (“The book is now in your hands. I will not touch it until you send the manuscript back to me”), our book began to take shape in a meaningful, rewarding way. Matt and I have such a strong respect for each others’ strengths and abilities. He is, without a doubt, one of the two smartest, most compassionate and caring men I know, with the other being my husband, Daniel. Not coincidentally, these 2 men also comprised my primary support system when I was broken.

I rank our book, “Trauma Recovery: Sessions With Dr. Matt–Narratives of Hope and Resilience for Victims With PTSD,” as one of my “heart” books. What this means, for you non-writer types, is that this book is one of the most personally meaningful to me. It is defining. It IS to come full circle. While I love all 4 of the YA fiction novels I’ve written, 3 of them: Courage in Patience, Hope in Patience, and Truth in Patience, are the most precious to me because I wrote them while in recovery when I was working with Matt Jaremko, many years ago. They are the arc of Ashley, a teen girl who is entering recovery after being abused by her stepdad and neglected by her mom through deliberate indifference. Ashley’s biggest hurdle is facing the truth about her life–about her worth as a person, in spite of being discarded by the person who should have loved her most. She is removed from her stepdad & mom’s home & placed with her father, David, who she does not know at all.
Ashley is a frightened victim at the outset, a person beginning to realize her value in the middle, and a strong survivor capable of advocating for herself at the conclusion. That’s why the books are called Courage (1), Hope (2), and Truth (3). They are set in the small E. Texas town of Patience, and the girl’s therapist is Scott “Dr. Matt” Matthews. Guess who he’s modeled after?

When Matt and I decided to take 2 of my characters–Ashley and Dr. Matt– and place them in a group setting in order to facilitate the combination of fiction and teaching about resilience, we took Ashley, aged her from 15/16 to 19, and made her a member of Dr. Matt’s Thursday evening Therapy Group for Victims, Survivors, and Righteously Indignant Angry Folks. Then we imagined the other members:
Hunter, age 32, who woke on the ground in the dark after a rain-wrapped tornado destroyed his mobile home, critically injuring his toddler daughter;
Felicia, age 34, who, at age 14, was nearly raped by her brother’s friend; 20 years later, she is still haunted by it, but needs to come to realize an even darker truth about her youth;
Ben, age 20, who saw combat horrors in the Middle East and returned home a fundamentally different person;
Patty, age 47, who lost control of her car, with her husband being killed when they hit a semi-truck;
Jake, age 30, an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) who responded to a hate crime-shooting at a local church’s Wednesday night prayer service. The son of a preacher, Jake lost his faith as a result of what he saw.
Darrell, age 35, who served time in prison for armed robbery. When he was released, he entered therapy to seek solutions for the frequent rages that overtook his decision-making abilities. Through his work with Dr. Matt, Darrell learned new ways of interacting with others. He joined the Black Lives Matter movement and discovered his passion for making a difference through teaching young African-Americans about non-violent protest.
Betty, age 40. Her family-of-origin abandoned her when she began coming to terms with the sexual abuse perpetrated on her from a young age. Betty worked with Dr. Matt and gradually found the strength to rebuild her life. She entered college as a non-traditional student and became a bilingual education teacher, where she puts her native Spanish to work.

We wrapped our manuscript in July, began seeking a publisher in late summer, and by October–and this is remarkably fast to find a publishing “home”–we were offered a publishing contract with a “Mind-Body-Soul” imprint, Ayni Books, and our book will come out in late spring/early summer 2018. The book will have international distribution and be available in both print and e-book.

We began sharing the manuscript with others, asking for blurbs, and we were blown out of the water by what our readers said. Check ’em out.

We invite you to read the Prologue: The Internal Dialogue of a New Patient Being Sick and Tired of Being Afraid and Stuck.

I wrote this Prologue from the memory of where I was when I entered treatment to recover from Childhood Sexual Abuse. At that time, I was 38 years old, the mother of 3 teen girls, and I broke. I could no longer pretend that the stuff I’d gone through as a child and young adult, and in many ways continued to endure as an adult, were not killing me. The pretending was killing me. I was slowly killing myself through binge eating. Efforts to deal with the never-ending anxiety I lived with night and day were futile. Prior to working with Matt, I never stuck with therapy once I was nudged toward being authentic and honest with myself and others about how broken I was. I “clicked” with him and, after Daniel, Matt is the first man I ever truly trusted. Until that time, my understanding of men was that they would abuse me once I began to let my guard down.

This prologue is thoughts of the person prior to entering a therapist’s building when the choice at that time is either get better or die. These are exactly what it was like to be in my head at that time.
Facing the truth about one’s life is a soul-searing experience. For me, the journey to REAL, and WHOLE, was much like the process of birthing a child. It was exhausting, but without a doubt, learning to be resilient and authentic was the most gratifying experience of my life.
This is what we hope will be the result for those who read our book.

Please help us spread the word about our Facebook page. “Like”/”Follow” us, and you won’t miss out on the journey.

Sneak Peek at my latest book, TRAUMA RECOVERY: SESSIONS WITH DR. MATT!

Hey, guys, my writing partner, Matt E. Jaremko, and I are starting to share info about our book, Trauma Recovery: Sessions With Dr. Matt. The Prologue is currently posted on our website, drmattbook.com
The excerpt is here: http://drmattbook.com/appendix-a-finding-a-therapist/
Also, please “Like” our page, https://www.facebook.com/sessionswithdrmatt/

Chris Crutcher’s “High School Commencement Address that Will Never Be Heard”

Chris Crutcher is my literary idol as well as a wonderful person. If you have not read his books, get thee to a library/bookstore and get to readin’. Your life will be richer for it.

The High School Commencement Address That Will Never Be Heard
by Chris Crutcher

Good afternoon to NO parents, teachers or administrators and to ALL graduates. It’s my great honor not to have been invited to speak to you on this momentous occasion.

As members of a species with five digits per hand, you have often been given things in tens; amendments, commandments, Top Ten lists, etc., so it makes sense that I follow that format. In my lifetime I have not amended anything of consequence and most of what I’ve commanded has been ignored; so… Crutcher’s Ten Meanderings.

One: Don’t eat kale.
_ It’s really good for you, but it does NOT taste that great and plays havoc with your false teeth. (Wait…is that just me?)

Two: Don’t listen to me. (If you WERE listening you could stop here…but you’re texting with the kid three rows back).
_ I’m an old guy. I’ll tell you my vast experience is the reason you should do what I say; that I don’t want you to make the mistakes I made, and can smooth your path if only you’ll listen. But that’s a lie. I graduated from high school in 1964 – near the end of the rule of reptiles – and my memory of that time is clouded by wishful and convenient thinking, which is to say I remember being a lot smarter than I was. So high-five your own screw-ups. For whatever reason, “learning the hard way” is accompanied by embarrassment. Welcome it. We are a trial and error species that refuses to embrace our errors. We call them mistakes. Worse, we call them sins. We refuse to celebrate the very things that teach us. Your elders, those surrounding and rooting for you today, cannot make those errors for you. We have our own work cut out.

Three: Stay alive.
_ Be amazed at your existence. Life gets scary sometimes; can make you consider an early exit or take risks that promise to end badly. But you won the lottery times a billion just getting here. One misfired sperm or rotten egg going all the way back past salamanders and you don’t even make this scene. As much as there is a difference in our ages, you and I have a unique thing in common; we’re both as old as we’ve ever been. We have a history we know and a future we don’t. My history is longer and hopefully my future shorter than yours, but we both have the capacity – even the duty – to influence the quality of our futures through our knowledge of our histories; a unique gift we can’t afford to squander, or cut short. So make it last…and make it worth it.

Four: Fight tyranny with your every fiber.
_ Whether or not you believe you live in the greatest country in the world, you live within a legal system structured to allow you to find your own greatness, however you may define that. HUMANS, mostly white men, have tried to diminish that rule of law through exclusion for most of our history, but TRUE rule of law, laid down by our Constitution, calls for HUMAN equality. Which means: policies of racism, homophobia, misogyny, gender discrimination, and whatever else I’m forgetting, are the policies of tyranny. I was born in the year following World War II (exactly nine-months, as my mother tells it, from the day my father returned from Europe) so, though I didn’t live through that war, every adult in my childhood fought against, or witnessed from afar, the ultimate threat to our liberty. That’s long ago history to you; you were born into one of the great MATURE democracies, but you would do well to remember that diminishing freedoms to one American opens the gates of threat to all Americans. If you are inclined to take your independence for granted, don’t.

Five: Do not hit your kids.
_ And no fair calling it spanking and whacking away. If you did it to an adult, it would be assault. Your kids learn one thing from being hit: to hit. It doesn’t really hurt you more than it hurts them. They won’t learn not to do what you’re hitting them for; they’ll learn that the person responsible to love and protect them is willing and able to hurt them, and if you do it often, they’ll realize that a time will come when they can stop you. In my lifetime the two places I most often heard, “Spare the rod, spoil the child” were church and child abuse support groups.

Six: Do not use the word “perfect.”
_ “Perfect” is a word inserted into the English language only to make us feel bad. It is the only word I know defined by what cannot be. “Nobody’s perfect.” We hear it all the time. Well, if nobody’s perfect, there’s no point in talking about it. A perfectionist is someone who spends his life feeling bad because he can’t live up to standards no one else lives up to either. A perfectionist spends an inordinate amount of time scolding herself for every mistake and scolding the rest of us for not feeling bad for ours.

Seven: Do not confuse respect with fear.
_ When I was a lad there was a TV cowboy named Wyatt Earp, who had also been a real cowboy. On television, Wyatt, played by Hugh O’Brien, brandished a sidearm called a “Buntline Special.” It looked like a pistol, but the barrel was nearly rifle-length. An oft-uttered Wyatt Earp line that caused great consternation in me was, “Respect comes out of the end of a Buntline Special.” Uh, excuse me, Wyatt. That’s not respect; it’s a bullet. Wyatt Earp and a whole bunch of flawed cowboys and business-folks and teachers and housewives and househusbands coming after him believe that if you scare someone – if you threaten them with something they believe you can and will do, they will show you respect. And well they might; SHOW it…right up until they don’t have to. Then they will show you contempt. Respect and fear: one’s good; the other, not so much.

Eight: Don’t worry about your mediocre grade point average.
_You wouldn’t have had any fun at Harvard anyway, and those of us who came before you have mucked up our ability to evaluate your intelligence so badly that your grades reflect, more than anything, your ability to memorize stuff you’ll never use.

Nine: Never let beliefs handed down to you before you had the capacity to develop your own, stand in the way of seeking truth.
_ AS you develop your own beliefs, remember this: if they elevate one group over another, if they present themselves in blacks and whites rather than greys, if they disregard acceptance or reject celebration of differences, if they don’t include taking care of your oh-so-finite planet, they need work.

Ten: Celebrate relativity.
_ Nothing exists without its opposite. Things are what they are in relation to other things; a hugely important piece of information for living here on the blue marble. There is no joy without despair, no courage without cowardice, no loyalty without betrayal, no freedom without oppression. Every goal we set includes the possibility of failure; and self-contempt, should we allow it. The laws of probability say everyone here already knows that. But even when you fall short, if your goals are righteous, they remain. The full richness of being alive requires that you recognize and embrace relativity. Ask yourself: Do I appreciate joy more than I reject despair? Do I embrace courage more than I fear cowardice? Do I love loyalty more than I loathe betrayal? And most of all, do I honor freedom – not only for myself, but for everyone – more than I hate oppression?

Eleven: Move.
_ You may have heard the saying “Your body is your temple” in order to get you to take care of it. Well, it may be your temple, but it’s also your car. It’s your bike. It’s your skateboard. It gets you around. When our species came down out of the trees and the frontal lobe – the rational brain – was developing, we moved up to seventeen miles a day, staying ahead of what was trying to eat us and chasing down what we needed to eat; which means our THINKING brain developed on the run. It only makes sense to change our own oil every three thousand miles and refuse to let our fan belts fray. Movement helps us focus; it clarifies purpose while helping us breathe easier. Movement lessens depression and anxiety. There is no mind/body dichotomy. The two are inseparable. Keep them moving.
(Side-note: When someone tells you, “By God MY ancestors never came out of the trees!” offer your condolences.)

Twelve: Allow no time for fear.
_ Most of what you’re afraid of will never hurt you, and you can’t imagine some of the things that will. Either way, you won’t see it coming, so time being afraid is time wasted.

Thirteen: Guns put holes in things.
_ What so often leaks out of those holes, is life. When someone tells you “Guns don’t kill people; PEOPLE kill people,” report them immediately to the Dumb Police. In my youth there was a public service TV ad that began with a set of keys dangling from the ignition of a car. A passing teenager spied the keys, looked quickly both ways, hopped in and drove off. Fast forward to cops pulling said teenager out of the car in cuffs. The somber announcer said, “Remove your keys. Don’t help a good boy go bad.” Keys don’t steal cars; kids do. But not without the goddam keys.

And speaking of the Dumb Police, the mathematical control freaks among you may have reported me at the moment my Ten Meanderings reached eleven, but few high school students have reached this educational promised land without the aid of EXTRA CREDIT. You can throw three out and still get an A…with one exception. You can’t hit your kids.

I’m featured this month on the SCBWI-Austin site!

 

Hey guys! My SCBWI chapter did an author profile interview: I talk about my day job, what I hope readers find me to be, and give a hint about the super-secret project I’ve been working on for the past year… I also mention Chris Crutcher & Cynthia Leitich Smith!

http://austin.scbwi.org/2017/06/01/member-interview-beth-fehlbaum/

 

 

Hope in Patience ebook is FREE this week!

That’s right! This week ONLY, the Book 2 ebook in THE PATIENCE TRILOGY, Hope in Patience, is FREE on Amazon! Get yours here!
Are you more of a paperback person? Here ya go.

Get Book 1, Courage in Patience ebook here for just .99! The paperback’s here!

Book 3, Truth in Patience ebook here for just 2.99! Here’s the paperback.

If you like what you read, try my most recent book, Big Fat Disaster, in ebook and paperback.

Hey, YA Fest PA! Can’t wait to see you soon!

Hey, YA Fest PA! I’m coming your way on Saturday, March 18, and I can’t wait to meet you guys!

Here’s a little introduction to my books, The Patience Trilogy (Courage, Hope, & Truth), and Big Fat Disaster...

What would you do if you were taken from the only home you’ve ever known and dropped into a tiny rural town with a parent who you’ve never known?

How about if you were suddenly homeless because of something your dad did?

Ever been going through something really rough, but when you tried to talk to your parents, they wouldn’t listen?

As an author, I’m interested in exploring how brave teens react when their backs are against the wall, and they have only themselves to depend on—at least at first.

I didn’t have to look too hard to find inspiration for the books I write. I didn’t have anyone listening when I reached out for help when bad stuff was happening to me, like it did to Ashley Asher in The Patience Trilogy. When I was in high school, I felt extremely out of place and awkward. Although my family looked just fine from the outside, those of us who had the inside scoop were struggling to survive.

 

That’s how it is for Ashley Asher, a teen girl who tells her mom what her stepdad has been doing to her since she was 9, but her mom does not act on Ashley’s outcry. Ashley’s best friend forces her to tell their teacher, and Ashley is placed in little bitty Patience, Texas, with her father and his family. She’s learning basic “I’m new here” stuff, like which drawer her stepmom and dad keep the forks and knives in, but she’s also trying to wrap her brain around the question of WHY. For example, why doesn’t her mom care enough to do something—anything—to protect her, and WHY did her stepdad mess with her in the first place?

It’s not until she has a meltdown and her dad and stepmom figure out that Ashley needs professional help that they bring the traumatized teen to Dr. Matt, and he begins helping Ashley figure out how to move on.

I was never made homeless—unlike Colby Denton, the 15 year old girl at the heart of Big Fat Disaster—but I definitely felt really alone when I was in high school, and when people were mean to me, I had no idea how to deal with them.

Colby’s dad, a candidate for U.S. Senate running on a “Family Values” platform, steals from his campaign and cheats on Colby’s mom. Because of his criminal acts, the family is made homeless.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, Colby is “the fat girl” in a family that looks “perfect” from the outside: her dad was a college football star; her mom is a former beauty queen, and Colby is “sandwiched” between her older sister, Rachel, who is a carbon copy of their mom, and her younger sister, Drew, who is not only too cute for words, but she even reminds Colby of the Weight Watchers Points for every food (thanks to their mom), AND she has a habit of asking Colby stuff like, “Where do you think that ice cream will look best on you?”

Here’s the thing: I went through the same experiences that Ashley did, except that I didn’t speak up, and I did not get help until I was an adult. And, like Colby Denton, I have Binge Eating Disorder, and I know what it’s like to eat my feelings.

See the book trailer for Big Fat Disaster, here!

Even though I write about hard stuff—and characters dealing with shame of one kind or another—I believe it’s hard stuff that NEEDS to be talked about, because the only way to begin to shed the cloak of shame is to drag it out of the shadows, into the sunshine, where truth thrives in the light of day.

Check out The Patience Trilogy (Courage, Hope, & Truth), and Big Fat Disaster, and come see me at YA Fest PA! Chapter previews of all my books are available on my website: http://bethfehlbaumbooks.info

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s true!

Staying In is the New Going Out: #Read4Refugees!

I’m staying in to read one of my favorites: Jennifer Brown’s HATE LIST!

Authors are banding together to raise money for refugees. From the Read 4 Refugees fund-raising site: https://gojanegive.org/read4refugees/

 

“A generous donor has pledged to add a $10,000 bonus donation if we raise $50,000 by March 20! So please donate and share now! Campaign ends March 31, 2017.

All donations go to support RefugePoint, a stellar nonprofit that provides lasting solutions to the world’s most at-risk refugees. RefugePoint saves lives by helping refugees to resettle in the U.S., Canada, Australia and other countries. Through services including healthcare, counseling, skills training and small grants, RefugePoint ensures refugees can find safety and pathways to self-reliance, no matter where they are. Read more about their work in the New York Times.”

It’s Lisa Cresswell’s newest, CRAWDAD–and a Giveaway! Enter to win!

 

Welcome to the Crawdad Book Blog Tour!

For the whole month of January, my new contemporary young adult novel Crawdad, will be featured on the blogs of some of my besties – authors and book bloggers who support the readers and writers of  diverseYA – and I couldn’t be more pleased. I hope you can visit them all and enter the giveaway.  Here’s the schedule:

Magic of the Muses – Eileen Schuh January 1

Rich in Variety January 8

Beth Fehlbaum Books January 15

CJ Burright January 22

Twinjas Book Reviews January 29

 

~About the Book~

 

Seventeen-year-old Jamil Ramos grew up on Alabama’s Gulf Coast believing his mom, Loretta, was his only living relative. She put a trumpet in his hands as a toddler and sparked his love of jazz. But when Loretta drops a bomb on Jamil from her deathbed- she’s not his mama and his daddy is still alive, living in Charleston, S.C. – his world is turned upside down.

Now, with the only mama he’s ever known gone and the Loyola University trumpet audition less than a week away, Jamil has trouble feeling his music. When his band teacher tells him to get it together, Jamil decides to hitchhike to South Carolina over to find his father and get his questions answered. All he has is a name –Leon Ramos.

Jamil relies on the kindness of the strangers he meets-a gay teen kicked out of his home, a runaway prostitute, and a street musician-as he makes his way across Florida and Georgia trying to avoid the cops along the way. But when Jamil is robbed of his most prized possession, his trumpet, his plans go anywhere but where he’d hoped. That trumpet was supposed to be his ticket for a scholarship, the only way to college his mama could give him. Lost and alone without it, Jamil wonders if finding his father is worth risking his future.

You can find Crawdad in print and e-book on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Goodreads!

~About the Author~

Lisa T. Cresswell has been writing middle grade and young adult books for what seems like a mighty long time. She can never seem to make up her mind if she likes reality or fantasy, so she writes both. She also likes lemon jasmine green tea, dark chocolate almonds, and lots and lots of coffee. And of course, BOOKS. ALL THE BOOKS!! You can see all of her work at www.lisatcresswell.com 

~Enter the Giveaway~

Enter to win one of three copies of Crawdad to be given away in January!

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