Last year, I connected with Leah Grey about writing a guest post for WriteLaughDream.com. Grey, the wife of a recovering addict, wrote an amazing post entitled “How Not to Give Up on Your Marriage.” Still, a post that is shared and read often to this day, Grey has a powerful message of healing, redemption, and family in regard to addiction and recovery. It’s her ministry and has undoubtedly impacted the lives of so many across the country.
Although she has a shy demeanor and wouldn’t necessarily label herself the “independent woman,” she has definitely shown great courage, transparency, and strength in sharing her story and helping to pull others up along the way. She’s knowledgeable, caring, and keeps God at the forefront of her work.
That connection with God and utilizing her experience as the catalyst to help other women and families led her to write her new book, “We’re Not Okay: Modern Day Harm Reduction in Christian Parenting.” She references it as the “unparenting” book helping parents navigate the new experiences that their children deal with in today’s society. What started out as an e-book idea has blossomed into much more for the first time author.
I got the opportunity to speak with her about the writing process, sharing so much of herself, the challenges of book formatting, and much more.
WLD: Differentiating your concept. How were you able to come up with the concept of your book?
LG: It’s called “We’re Not Okay.” It started because I started noticing how many people in my life had teenagers who were suicidal. Like a lot. And I was from a really small town. And it’s not like I knew a lot of people. There was at least like I can think of like four off the top of my head who had suicidal teenagers and I was like okay, what is going on? When I was a kid, I was suicidal, my best friend was, my husband was as a teenager and adult. I was like there’s gotta be something wrong. And what can we do as parents? I think we are in the most information-driven era ever and our kids are getting worse. Right? So what is it that we’re doing wrong? So it’s actually like an unparenting book. I wrote a book against parenting books kind of.
It’s really amazing. Even if you look at, pick out the suicidal part and just look at how many kids are depressed or how young kids are that have anxiety. My stepson is 10 and he’s had anxiety since he was five. Five. That’s crazy that a five-year-old has overwhelming anxiety, you know? We’re doing something wrong.
From you having the idea of seeing that pattern with teens. How long did that process take from conception to completion?
It probably took a year. But I really, it only took me about 2 months to write it. And then I sat on it for 4 months without looking at it all. I read once that the best thing you can do as a writer is to write your piece and then put it away and then come back to it much later. So, I try to do that, I don’t do it with my blog posts, but I try to do it with everything else that I write. So, yeah just put it away. But after we took it back out and then started editing it that was probably another 3 months and the publishing was another 2 at least just to figure out how to format it and stuff. So yeah, a year.
What did you feel like were some of the keys to actually finishing it?
I never intended for it to be a book. It was meant to be a free e-book. So when I went back, so there was no pressure on it. So when I went back to look at it again I was like oh this is actually pretty good I think and it’s way longer than I intended it to be. So, why don’t I see what it would look like as an e-book? So it kinda started out as just an experiment. I wanted to see what publishing a book was like. And then when I had it in the e-book it was so cute, and then I thought well I might as well just make a paperback. It wasn’t something I really set out to do like I’m going to make a book. I just wanted to learn the process of it.
Do you feel like you ran into any challenges in that process?
Yeah, making a book. It was so much harder to format than I anticipated. Especially going to paperback. Making an e-book wasn’t so bad. But when I decided to do it for kindle and paperback on amazon. I had no idea that there was so much that went into a paperback book. They have totally different rules. So then I had to go back to the drawing board and restudy about how to format a book and what needs to be in it and what it should look like. Little things, like I didn’t know that at the beginning of each paragraph there should be an indent after the initial paragraph. You know? Like little things. I probably ordered 20 books off of amazon sampling it to see if it looked right. That’s a lot of money.
And amazon is a little inconsistent too when you only have one book. I would get two at the same time and one would be printed properly and the other one was not. So, and that was just from them doing one-off printing. So that’s something to watch and know too. Right? They’re not always perfect and it’s not always you.
What is one thing you could grab from a formal publishing company?
Honestly, actually, I think it would be like a promoter. I don’t even know if that’s what you call it. But I hate the self-promotion of it. I would rather that someone else talked about my book and told people that it was good than me having to be like “oh yeah I wrote a book telling you how to be a parent you should read it.” I don’t like to push my own message. Yeah, so I would like someone to distribute it and get it out there.
Do you have a favorite passage from your book? Tell me about why that part sticks out to you so much.
I redid Paul Harvey’s 1965 radio broadcast “If I were the devil.” If you haven’t heard it, it’s just like a thing that he did on the radio, it’s really beautiful. He just kind of says like this is all the things I would do to hurt people if I was the devil. So I did an updated version of it. And I did an audio too. Which is kind of like a fun thing when you have an e-book you can do that. I did my own radio version of it. But I like it because it exposes the way that we get deceived and the way that we think about things. With the media and everything that’s going on, we kind of get like “Oh this person is right and you’re wrong and I’m right. “ And we kind of get caught up into the hype in everything. And I think that we need to sit back and kind of remember that people have not changed. We’re always the same. We haven’t changed. We have different problems, we have different privilege, and clothes and houses and cars and spouses. But in our essence, we’re exactly the same. We haven’t changed. And every single person just wants to be loved for who they are and they want to know who that person is and that’s it. It’s kind of what the epitome of what the book is about. And we can’t just stop our kids from coming into hardship but all we can do is love them and let them know that it’s okay to be themselves. And I think that’s kind of what he was saying back in 1965. And our message is still the same. You know? We’re still doing exactly the same thing. It was a long time ago, I think that’s kind of cool.
CLICK TO TWEET /// Every single person just wants to be loved for who they are and they want to know who that person is and that's it. - Leah Grey
Check out the audio and excerpt HERE.
Do you ever struggle with the transparency necessary to talk about dealing with a family member with addiction?
I’m still anonymous. But I am planning not to be soon. I did that for my husband’s job.
But he had to really come to terms with me telling everybody about his story. I can’t tell mine without telling a little bit of his. Even when I meet people, like we just moved to a new neighborhood, they’re like oh what do you do? I’m a writer. What do you write about? Addiction. And then it keeps going from there. So yeah that’s been hard, but it’s good. I really truly believe that God will only introduce me or have the people ask who actually might need to know it. And maybe not right at that time. But they’re going to keep it in there. Nine times out of ten, they say “oh you know what? Actually, I know somebody who might need your stuff.”
Any advice you would give to an aspiring writer?
Don’t read your work. Just write it. No eyes backwards. Just keep writing until you feel like it’s done. Even if you set it down and you haven’t done it for a while. Just pick it up and just keep your eyes forward to the end. Because once it’s done then you can go back and you can change it and everything. But that sense of accomplishment is so motivating just to have it done. And I think we can get stuck in the editing process of it. And I also find that people who are good writers, they don’t even see the patterns that they’re making throughout their writing. So when you write the whole thing and then you can go back to it later, you’re like oh I see this pattern and I mentioned this over and over again and it really helps you get a full picture of what your message is instead of just pieces.
CLICK TO TWEET /// Don't read your work. Just write it...Just keep writing until you feel like it's done. - Leah Grey
And if you have a good editor, they’ll pull that out of you.
Anything else to share about writing your book? Did you pull anything from the blog for the book?
It was its own concept. I’m really trying to just focus on one thing at a time. So I started out really talking to wives. I met some parents and I was getting some emails from parents that had questions. And so I was like “okay it’s time to expand my reach now to some parents too.” So that’s kind of how the book started. It was really just meant to pull parents into the blog. But, it just turns into its own thing. I think a lot of writing does that. Takes on a life of its own.