Jill Jepson is a traveler, professor, and transformational life coach, and the author of three books and over sixty articles. She holds a Ph.D. in Linguistics from the University of Chicago as well as degrees in writing, psychology, social science, and Asian studies. Using her extensive travels to places as diverse as Guatemala, Syria, Siberia, and Afghanistan, her writing explores spiritual traditions, history, culture, personal growth, and the writing process. Through her business, Writing the Whirlwind, she offers coaching and online workshops for writers, activists, and others.
Jill will be on virtual book tour in August ‘09 to promote her latest personal growth/writing book, Writing as a Sacred Path: A Practical Guide to Writing With Passion and Purpose. We interviewed her to find out more about her wonderful new book.
Q. Thank you for this interview, Jill. Can we begin by having you tell us why you chose to write a personal growth and writing book?
A: I think I could best answer the question by saying the topic chose me, rather than vice versa. The book was a natural outcome of a lifetime of writing, teaching writing, and coaching writers. It was also the result of a long spiritual journey that took me all over the world and through many spiritual experiences. When I found those two threads of my life coming together, the book seemed to appear in my consciousness, practically asking to be written. It was a very organic, very instinctive process.
Q. Did you outline before you wrote your book or just went with the flow?
A: I put my fingers to the keyboard and let the words come. As I was working on the book, ideas would come to me at all hours of the day and night—it was all I could do to get them all down. The book is organized around four spiritual practices—that of the shaman, the warrior, the mystic, and the monk and how writers can use aspects of those practices in their lives and their work, but that organization grew naturally out of the material itself, not as the result of an outline or a conscious attempt to organize. It was only in the last stages of the book that I sat down and looked at organization, making sure to get everything in its proper place, to be as clear as possible.
Q. What kind of research did you do before putting this book together?
A: The book was the result of years of research. I spent many years traveling, interviewing people from various spiritual traditions throughout the world—from Siberia to Syria, Japan to Guatemala, and many other places. I studied world religions in depth and read many sacred texts from different cultures. Part of my research was also done in the library: I read scores of biographies of writers and collections of authors’ published letters, memoirs, and personal journals.
Q. Can you tell us if you interviewed people for this book and can you give us an example of who?
A: I interviewed many writers for the book, from well-known authors to beginning students. Among the authors I interviewed were Lynette Brasfield, author of the novel Nature Lessons, the late Omar S. Castaneda, award-winning author of several short story collections and the children’s book Abuela’s Weave, and Pushcart Prize winning short-story writer Susan Welch.
Q. Did you get endorsements for your book prior to publication and can you tell us how you went about getting them?
A: I was very fortunate to receive endorsements from two highly respected authors. One was Julia Cameron, whose book The Artist’s Way and other works have changed people’s lives. The other was Alan Seale, an internationally known life coach and author of The Manifestation Wheel and other works.
Q. What was the hardest part to write?
A: I can’t say which section of the book was hardest, but I can say what the most difficult aspect of the writing process was: determining what to leave out. I had so much material, so much to say, so many wonderful examples and quotes that it was overwhelming. I had to pare things down so that the book was a reasonable length and easily digestible. That was very difficult, but my editors were excellent mentors in that process.
Q. What message are you trying to get across to your readers with this book?
A: The most essential thing I want to get across is that writing is much more than a profession, an art, a craft, or a pastime. It is really a way of life, a way of being in the world. It colors the way we see, think, and relate to others. Most importantly, writing is a spiritual act, tying us to the Earth, the Universe, the Divine. The title says it best, I think: Writing as a Sacred Path.
Q. Do you plan on writing more personal growth/writing books?
A: Yes. I’m currently at work on a book designed to help writers in a practical way through the use of mythic archetypes.
Q. Thank you for this interview, Jill. Can you tell us where we can find out more about you and your wonderful new book?
A: Most information can be found on my personal website, www.jilljepson.com, and the website for my coaching business, www.writingthewhirlwind.net