It is very hard to find the right thing to say when someone is going through a difficult time. The best thing I've ever said was nothing at all.
Diana Rachel Bletter is the author of the National Jewish Book Award Finalist, The Invisible Thread: A Portrait of Jewish American Women (Jewish Publication Society), A Remarkable Kindness (HarperCollins, 2015) and a memoir, The Mom Who Took Off On Her Motorcycle. Her latest book is The Loving Yourself Book for Women: A Practical Guide to Boost Self-Esteem, Heal Your Inner Child, and Celebrate the Woman You Are.
To follow Diana: www.dianabletter.com.
I've reached that point in my website where authors return for an update. It's an honor and a milestone. Author Diana Bletter was my second author interview when I first began gilagreenwrites back in 2018. I had no idea then that I'd still be interviewing authors in 2023; I just had this desire to give back to the writing community and at that time I thought that I'd spent hours as an author searching for a place to be interviewed online, so why not create my own?
In those days Diana talked about her new novel North of the Highway and its themes of "the intense, powerful, sometimes troubled undertow between parents and children, and how sometimes children need to dig out from the rubble of their parents' lives to build their own." Today, Diana is here to discuss not a novel, but her new nonfiction book that she describes as her answer to her search for "a practical guide to loving herself ...from someone who actually did the work." I don't know about you, but that line alone is enough to make me read on. Welcome back, Diana Bletter!
GG: To be more you, be less you. Do the opposite of what you're used to doing. This is one of the quotations from your site. Could you please explain. How can you be more or less you? Is this like, if you run around pleasing people all day, stop doing that or something else?
DB: Yes, Gila, you got it. If I am the kind of person who loves to please people (for their approval? So they don't abandon me? Because I was raised to never say no?), then if I try to please myself first by asking, "What do I really want?" then I'm being more authentic and more me. I want to keep stretching myself spiritually and that means going beyond the labels I put on myself. If I call myself lazy, for example, then I can be less me by trying something different—and that might help me become more of the person I want to be.
GG: Would you describe your new book as self-help? Is it only for women or would men benefit from it, too?
DB: Literature itself is often self-help. I was just rereading The Secret Garden for the umpteenth time, in which the boy, Colin (spoiler alert) calls on what he calls Magic to help him learn how to walk. As I read it, I was inspired to feel a sense of Magic in my own life. That's the power of books!
I saw a review of my book from a man who wrote that it had "sage advice that is beneficial for everyone. Yes, some parts apply to women, but there is great insight…" So, yes, men can benefit from the book's suggestions. All of us can sprinkle some pixie dust of self-love. It does work like magic.
GG: What do you think is different about your book that is not already out there in this genre?
DB: I wanted to find a practical guide for loving myself. I wanted to read a book without theories, from someone who actually did the work. And when I couldn't find this sort of book, I wrote it myself to help others find useful steps they can take to love themselves. This book has struck a chord; many people are battling self-hatred. I'm encouraging people to stop walking around with their scorn, and love, love, love themselves.
GG: How much does your Judaism and living in Israel inform your book?
DB: "Every blade of grass has its Angel that bends over it and whispers, 'Grow, grow.'" That is from Midrash Rabba, Bereshit 10:6.
I look for sources in Jewish teaching to guide me. Judaism always seeps through my writing.
The prayer, "G-d, the soul You have given me is pure," reminds all of us that inside, we are pure and beautiful, which is why we can—and must—love ourselves, no matter what happened to us on the outside.
I love living in Israel, despite its challenges. It fills me with a sense of purpose and meaning. It has helped me find value in my life.
GG: Remember the problem in front of you is never as large as the power behind you. This is another really stand-out line. Could you talk about it? How is it different from God doesn't give you more than you can handle? So many people specifically ask not to say that to them when they are going through a particularly difficult time.
DB:It is very hard to find the right thing to say when someone is going through a difficult time. The best thing I've ever said was nothing at all.
I love Rabbi Schneerson's quote, "Every small victory within yourself is a major triumph over the darkness of this world. Indeed, that is why this darkness was placed within you, in order to transform it into great light." When I feel stuck in a whirlwind of darkness, it is hard to see any kind of light. I think of my grandmother's silver candlesticks. The only way they became beautiful was going through the fire.
GG: Why did you write this book and what was your writing process?
DB: I wrote this book because my younger daughter, Libby, suggested we do a project together.
I always write fast, with a fountain pen, and let my creativity rush through me. I don't stop to edit. I learned this from Stephen King and Julia Cameron.
GG: Can you compare your experiences writing fiction and non-fiction? Which did you most enjoy and why? How are they different and how are they similar?
DB: Fiction is more challenging for me because I have to create a whole world in my imagination. When I write non-fiction, I'm writing about things as they are.
GG: Could you talk about the publishing process?
DB: HarperCollins published my novel, A Remarkable Kindness, about four women who are members of a hevra kadisha, a burial society, in Israel. The Loving Yourself Book for Women is self-published. The world of book-publishing has changed completely. Amazon has leveled the playing field. I love being able to write and go directly to readers.
GG: Would you like to mention your next project?
DB: I am writing another novel, working hard at it.I'm also working on more Loving Yourself books in the spirit of tikkun olam, repairing the world, one person at a time. Being content with who we are has a ripple effect. We can contribute positive energy to the world by being more loving and positive within ourselves.
GG: Anything you wish to add?
DB: I've learned a lot about self-publishing with my daughter, Libby, who is now branching out with other publishing projects. That's exciting to see.
Thank you so much for visiting today, Diana. As they say in Hebrew: Three times ice cream. I hope to see you again in less than five years this time.
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