Happy Friday, Friends! I have been so fortunate to connect with the writers community: learning so much and making friends. I decided I wanted to give back to the community by hosting Friday Friends. Today I am super excited to bring you the delightful Yancy Lael.
1. So, what have you written?
I have 4 books out in the world right now. One is a non-fiction book (Soulful Skincare) about natural skincare that I wrote after I closed the doors to my bath and body business. My customers had been asking me for years to share all my secrets…so I did! I also have a novel, The Poison Box, which was 17+ years in the making. It’s my favorite of everything I’ve written. Those characters have been my friends for most of my life, and they continue to speak to me. (I’m working on two more books about them.) My recent releases are The Paris Diaries and Dear Me.
2. What subjects & causes are near and dear to your heart?
One of my greatest passions is the environment. That’s always been a cause dear to my heart, since I was a little girl. I love nature and feel very strongly about protecting our beautiful land, skies and waterways. I also love helping young people – both little kids and teenagers – and I’ve been working in education for a long time, now, to that end. Another passion is women’s self-esteem/self-worth. I’ve witnessed so many women struggle with low self-esteem and distorted body image, including myself, and I’ve been writing a lot about that since I was a teenager. I’ve been working on lots of projects over the years related to this, and am writing a sequel to Soulful Skincare that really focuses on this issue.
3. How did you conceive the Paris Diaries? 4. How did you conceive the story Dear Me?
(I have to answer these questions together – you’ll see why. J )
The Paris Diaries and Dear Me were actually never intended for publication. They were both pieces I wrote in my journal back in 2009. I went to Paris – a lifelong dream of mine – in May 2009 with a man who was, at the time, my ex-boyfriend, but best friend. While we were there, the forced intimacy of being in such close quarters made me fall in love with him all over again (I’d never really fallen out of love in the first place) and I was absolutely besotted with both Paris and the ex.
Unfortunately, his commitment-phobia kept thwarting our efforts to reconcile, once we arrived home. At the time, I was madly writing down my memories from the trip so I wouldn’t forget them, all the while struggling with our ill-fated attempts to repair our relationship. My journal pages would skip from the present moment – the arguments we were having, the anger I was feeling – back to the beautiful memories of Paris and how close we had been there, and then back to the present again. There was something about the way I wrote those entries – so raw, and so earnest – that kept me re-reading it over the years, thinking it wasn’t a half-bad story.
In the journal, the Paris entries were followed by a 30-day series of love letters I wrote to myself when my ex and I couldn’t get past his commitment issues. I had been devastated and decided to try to heal my heartache by giving myself the love that I couldn’t get from him.
The funny thing is that the ex and I DID end up together for almost six more years, until he quite suddenly moved out to pursue a relationship with a young woman he had started dating. Soon after he left, my cousin, who had traveled to Paris with us, passed away. The two losses were so staggering to me, I felt compelled to share the story, in particular as a tribute to my beautiful cousin. I decided to make Dear Me a companion booklet, just because it was so deeply connected to the Paris story. I hope it helps others who have gone through a difficult breakup to remember their own beauty and worth.
5. What was the most curious thing you discovered in your research?
As I have researched natural beauty, self-esteem, and relationships these past few years (which seem to be themes that come up again and again for me), I think the most curious thing that has come out is how much alike we all are. We share so many insecurities and doubts. I find it so fascinating that we can see so much brilliance and beauty in our sisters, but often fail to see the brilliance and beauty looking back at us in the mirror. I hope, in time, that we all learn to recognize our own light.
6. What music inspires you?
All kinds – I love classical, rock, and any song that’s passionate or maudlin. I have a particular soft spot for Tori Amos and Carly Simon.
7. How many books did you read last year?
I set a goal to read 60 books last year – ten more than I usually read – but I was dealing with a lot of emotional processing after the boyfriend left and my dog passed away, so I only got through about 30. I’m back on track for this year, though! I should be able to get in 50-60 by December.
8. Coffee or Tea?
Tea, 100%. I hate coffee!
9. What are you knitting/ creating right now?
I’m working on a mini poncho, a hat, a sweater, and two blankets. (I’m always working away with yarn!) I’m also working on the sequel to Soulful Skincare, 2 sequels to The Poison Box (I guess it’s going to be a trilogy!), a young adult novel, and a children’s book which might turn into another young adult novel. There’s never a shortage of creation over here, that’s for sure!
10. Do you have any writing rituals?
At this point, I just go with it whenever I can fit it in. I used to get tea, and set up at my desk, and play certain music…but now, I’ll write on scraps of paper on my lunch break, if I have to. Whatever it takes! I’ve lost all sense of ritual, out of necessity. But just the feeling of my fingers tapping on a keyboard is ritual enough for me.
11. Do you have a theme song?
If I had to choose, I’d say Libby, by Carly Simon. I’m not even sure what that song is about, so that’s probably silly to say (I read it was about her friend, but that didn’t really enlighten me as to its ultimate meaning), but there’s something about it… The piano is so beautiful (I play a little and it’s my favorite instrument – there’s nothing like piano music). My mother almost named me Liberty, so I feel a connection to the name, as well as all the mention of Paris (I even mentioned the song in The Paris Diaries), and there’s something about the emotion of it that I connect to: longing, passion, triumph, sadness…all of it all lumped together. That’s me.
12. What is one thing you would tell your younger self?
You are worth so much more than you ever dreamed. Stop settling for crumbs and hold out for what you really want. You deserve it and you can have it.
13. Is there anything else you would like to share with us today?
I really wasn’t sure what to say here, until I saw that this was number 13 – a number that’s very important to me. In The Paris Diaries, I talk about an intense experience I had with the number 13 at the Place de la Concorde. It was a number that started appearing to me when I began my relationship with the ex. But after he left, I still encountered it again and again. To this day, I’m trying to uncover the clues that connect me to this number. Those are the kinds of everyday magic that thrill me and make me remember that life is constantly offering us a strange fairy tale.
I have never been to Paris, but I just know that reading Yancy’s book will take me there. Who’s with me?