Genre: Self-help, motivational non-fiction
Format: ebook, paperback
Explores how practicing gratitude creates a cycle of sustained happiness and a transformed life.
Offers 120 creative and compelling ideas to help you journey toward positive, lasting change.
To read an excerpt of BlessBack, click here.
1. Where are you from?
I was born in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, but moved to Bloomington, Minnesota when I was 4. For the past 18 years, Chanhassen, Minnesota is my home. So, when the Vikings play the Packers, I root for Minnesota but have empathy for the Packers. Some of these conflicting feelings were greatly aided when Brett Favre became a Viking for two seasons.
2. Why did you write BlessBack?
About 15 years ago, on a particularly blue day, I found myself knowing I was in a funk but not knowing how to get out of it. I was also in a reflective mood, reassessing my life. I went to my bedroom closet and took a shoebox down filled with saved thank-you notes and letters I had received.
I sat down on my closet floor and started reading. Time spilled out as I read saved letters and cards. I spent the afternoon filling my soul with altruistic feelings by rereading these messages of my life and gratitude. I discovered in these letters the great give-get of thanks, both in its ability to validate the receiver’s existence as well as to reinvigorate the giver’s soul.
Because of my having felt the benefits of gratefulness expressed, I determined to start writing what I call BlessBacks. BlessBacks give thanks backward when we look into our past and express thanks to those people who were our illuminators. These people helped us take a pause, pivot or advance in our life journey. They are the people who when we think of them, we think, “I can breathe deeply here.” They can be safe harbors, trailblazers or maybe even foghorns, depending on what we needed or where we were at the time.
I started on my BlessBack journey by writing thank-yous to people like Tony Blair and John Grisham because I knew the chances of their seeing my letter was slim to none. Besides, I wanted to do the thanking, not be thanked in return. Each time I wrote a BlessBack, it changed my mood. Today, if I start to feel in a funk, I take out a pen and notecard and being with, “Thank you for. . .” It never fails to change my mindset and uplift my spirits.
Shortly after discovering the power unleashed in thank-you notes, I began to receive stories of people giving and receiving thanks, both one-to-one as well as community- and world-changing stories. These were stories about people who had looked into their past and thanked their life influencers. As I began to shape them and research gratitude, before you know it, I had a finished book.
3. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I think I fell in love with words the moment I started to read them in kindergarten. In seventh grade, my English teacher, Pat Fatchett, required that our class keep a daily diary, a practice I continue, somewhat sporadically, to this day. Keeping a diary forced me to write everyday and I learned how to feel feeling and express myself with words.
Emma, my majoring-in-psychology niece, recently told me about empaths. Simply put, empaths are people who feel, at the deepest level, what another person is feeling. Though I don’t think I do this in real life, I think I do this when I read a book. I so deeply embed myself in the story that I take three times as long as the average person to finish a book, especially a fiction book. I do this watching movies too. Yet, to skim a favorite book, (Frankenstein) or to watch a favorite movie (French Kiss) only once, would deprive me of fully feeling what the protagonist is feeling, whatever the genre.
4. What do you do when you are not writing?
I guess I’d say that I like to go to the deep end of life. This expression probably sums up why I take so long to write a book. I tend to turn over each of life’s rocks presented to me and while I’m doing do, looking at facets visible there. Perhaps this comes from writing human-interest stories and always being on the hunt for the “money quote.” Whether I’m entertaining or visiting with someone, I’m involved in the varied aspects of the situation. Summer is in full swing here in Minnesota so I’ve been up at my cabin for a good part of it, enjoying writing in my chair on my dock and soaking in as much Vitamin D as I can before winter comes and takes it away. I’ve also enjoyed the company of visiting family and friends and the fact that suddenly all three of my grown sons have girlfriends. Hallie, Anna, and Jenny are three confident, beautiful women. I am enjoying getting to know each of them and I love that I finally having some women around. I love sitting around the dinner table, listening to what people, and their thoughts and ideas, bring to the table.
5. What sort of support system do you have for your writing? Do you connect with other authors in person? In the virtual world?
God knows that I am a social girl and that I’m living my father’s motto of “Who’s more fun than people?” I love writers, love seeing their writing space where they birth their quirky characters.
I have a strong support system with other writers, Barb Marshak and Joy DeKok, to name two great ones. They are my link to sane living and sane writing. They provide honest feedback when I need it and even offer unsolicited advice when they can see I need it. This is especially true when they see me taking on another “something” and letting my writing slide away from me. We email each other every couple of days. Recently we’ve met once a month to talk about what we’re learning, both writing-wise as well as in the ever-changing world of social media. I also belong to several online writers’ groups where I have learned much from this virtual continuing education.
6. When and why did you begin writing?
I took a decade in my early 30′s to learn how to craft articles and started seeing my articles regularly published. I took another decade to get my print journalism degree, finally accomplishing that feat at 50. But without my having kept the spoken and written words of my life influencers in my head, cheering my on, I would never have had the courage to keep going. The power of others’ words, when they implore us to keep going toward that writing dream, must never be ignored. The “memory’s ear” that poet Marianne Moore wrote about, is so true. We must allow ourselves to hear our illuminators’ voices and use that to advance what we see in our mind’s eye into a reality.
7. What or who inspired you to write your first book?
People― and discovering the illuminators who instilled dreams in them. I love discovering the answers to why? and how? The time I spent revisiting my past by rereading old cards and letters unleashed for me altruism’s power. We truly can change our lives if we will invest the time to thank those who really shaped our lives.
8. How did you come up with the title, BlessBack?
A very good friend created the word, “BlessBack.” She gave me full rights to the word. I trademarked it and went to work shaping sentences into chapters, scenes into stories and voila, I soon had a completed manuscript.
9. Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I believe that we each have a reason for being here at this time, this place. I want people to how important and needed they are right now. Each person matters. If people believed that and encouraged others to believe it, the world would change in a day. We truly have the power to change the way we think, the way we view life. You cannot have a positive and a negative thought at the same time. The two states are counter-intuitive to one another. The average person has 45,000 negative thoughts a day. Imagine if, by expressing our thanks to those who lit up our lives by their good words, we could instantly change our thoughts.
We don’t need to imagine. We simply need to pick up the phone or write a letter to say thanks in a meaningful way. Each time we do this, we train our brain to be happier and stay on the road to living a BlessBack Life.
JULIE SAFFRIN is the author of numerous articles and essays. She received her bachelor’s degree in print journalism and English from the University of St. Thomas. She divides her time between her home in Minneapolis and her Adirondack chair at her cabin on a lake in Ottertail County with her husband Rick, sons Sam, Joe and Jake, and a golden retriever named Mick. She can be reached at www.JulieSaffrin.com.
Give a BlessBack. Change your life. Change the world.