I’m excited to introduce you to local author Julie Saffrin, author of BlessBack: Thank Those Who Shaped Your Life.
Where did you grow up? I was born in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, but moved to Bloomington, Minnesota when I was 4. For the past 18 years, Chanhassen, Minnesota has been my home. When the Vikings play the Packers, I root for Minnesota but have empathy for the Packers. Some of these conflicting border-state feelings were greatly aided when Brett Favre became a Viking for two seasons.
What are some memories you have of that area? I moved away when I was young so I don’t remember much. However, my family visited often and my memories are of going to Carson Park for family reunions, staying with my Grandma LeeLee and trying to cross a railway bridge over the river – not something I’d recommend.
What did you want to be when you grew up? I wanted to be a wife, mom and a writer, all dreams which God fulfilled in my life.
What do you love about living in Minnesota? I live near Excelsior and I love lake life. The other day on Pinterest I found a quote that said, “The waves of the sea help me get back to me.” This phrase so applies in my life that oftentimes I listen to a soundtrack of ocean waves when I write or want to do something creative.
Is there anything you don’t like about living here? Not a fan of winter and so many overcast days.
Tell us about your writing journey. Ever since I can remember, I’ve done some form of writing. My first memory is writing in a little diary that had a key. I’ve kept a journal my whole life. Sometimes I’m very faithful to writing in, but other times I can go months without writing
I had a diary like that too! Is there a lesson you’ve learned during your writing journey? I get a kick out of reading long-ago entries and seeing the life perspective I had then. Life is a journey and a process, and the future is not revealed to us.
That’s probably a good thing. We might not really want to know the future. Has anything surprised you during your writing journey? I love the surprise that happens when we look back and see little steps gained, changes made. It really makes you realize that, much like the process of writing a book, change is incremental.
That’s a fabulous reminder for everyone. Tell us about your current work. Many authors end up writing a book as a result of going through a life-changing moment. The same is true for me.
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. It released in February 2011. I’ve been thrilled with the response.
As far as the editing process – brutal, sums it up. But, as we know, getting through to the other side, the published side, is so rewarding.
Brutal is a great word for that process. What are your future plans and goals around writing? I am currently at work editing my first novel, That Summer Place. I hope to release it next February.
I’ll definitely have you back here to talk about it when it releases. What is something you’d like to experience in Minnesota that you haven’t yet? I’d like to visit all the homes or historic places where famous Minnesota authors once lived. Several years ago I visited the apartment Fitzgerald lived in in St. Paul, and I also visited Charles Lindbergh’s childhood home. I found it fascinating to see the place where he crafted some incredible sentences. Next on my list is the Sinclair Lewis center. I also have many historic sites yet to visit – perhaps the giant ball of string in Darwin?
I wonder if you could write a story about unraveling that ball…never mind. What’s something most people don’t know about you? I can’t keep an indoor plant alive to save my life.
Nor the plant’s, unfortunately!
Thanks for stopping by to hang out with us, Julie.
Julie is giving away a copy of her book BlessBack: Thank Those Who Shaped Your Life so leave a comment or question to be entered in the drawing.
Readers can contact Julie at her website, http://JulieSaffrin.com, on BlessBack’s Facebook Fan page at www.Facebook.com/blessback. To follow BlessBack (@blessback) on Twitter click here. Pinterest groupies can find her board at http://pinterest.com/gadhill/.
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.