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Today you’re going to meet Debra Landwehr Engle. She is the author of several non-fiction titles including Grace from the Garden and The Only Little Prayer You Need, featuring a foreword by the Dalai Lama – and now she’s adding a fiction book to the list.
Debra is the co-founder of Tending Your Inner Garden. Debra and her work have been featured in Oprah Magazine and TIME Magazine. She also teaches A Course in Miracles.
I really enjoyed talking to Deb about how her newest book, her debut novel, Twenty.
From Non-Fiction to Fiction
Deb says the transition was natural. She grew up loving to read fiction as a little girl. Although she’s published several non-fiction books and has a Masters in Creative Non Fiction, she worked on Twenty for years as a side project. Only recently, it started to take her focus.
“With fiction you start with a seed of an idea and then it’s really just spinning things out as you go. You really don’t know, at least I didn’t – have the book outlined, I had no clue where it was going to go,” Deb said.
Deb has spent years holding seminars and teaching classes. On the Happiness in Progress podcast she described it as teaching with an agenda. But with fiction – it’s different.
“To write, not from a teaching standpoint, but really from a standpoint of what it feels like to live these things. What it feels like to be on this journey of life and to be stuck sometimes, but then find those openings, those light moments or those inspirations in our lives.”
Deb says she had no expectations for where Meg (the main character) would end up.
To hear the synopsis of the story, check out the full episode of Happiness in Progress.Maybe the moment we think we want to give up is really the beginning of it all to see life and feel it and experience it. - @DebEngle2 on the #HIPpod Click To Tweet
Reverence for Life
The inspiration for Twenty came from a dream Deb had. Deb said she had experienced a reverence for life in the dream. She points out that we all know our life will end.
“What she [Meg] goes through is growing and understanding that life is right now and no matter what mistakes and what pain we’ve experienced in the past that there’s still beauty in this particular moment and there’s still hope and potential in every moment. Instead of giving up on life, maybe the moment we think we want to give up is really the beginning of it all to see life and feel it and experience it.”
Deb says Twenty was deeply impacted by her work with teaching and writing her non-fiction books. There are so many themes that impact our daily lives as humans including forgiveness, guilt, loss, mindfulness, loneliness, ego and more.
Talking about guilt, Deb said, “That guilt is so embedded and can become so rigid and can create a huge barrier to joy in our lives.”We blame ourselves for the littlest things in our lives and it just becomes bigger and bigger and bigger until it takes control of our life. - @DebraEngle2 on the #HIPpod Click To Tweet
She hopes readers start being gentler with themselves and can figure out what is holding them back from having reverence for life.
To hear the incredible story of how a soldier’s guilt grew in the darkness – listen to this full episode of Happiness in Progress.
‘I saw that incredible pain of losing a child.’
The book’s main character has dealt with a lot of pain and a lot of loss in her life – including losing a daughter at a young age, her mom and losing her husband in a divorce.
Deb describes the writing process as an emotional journey.
While writing about Meg’s daughter passing at an early age in a traumatic accident, she recalled the death of her husband’s adult son. On the podcast, Deb explained how she and her husband had been dating for a short time, her then-boyfriend lost his 23-year-old.
She says she saw “that incredible pain of losing a child,” while writing she was brought right back to the hospital room with her husband and his family, “I was living that all over again. And I don’t think it’s something people ever fully recover from.”
Deb says her husband will always carry that loss with him.
We talked about how when a child dies before their parents – it upsets the natural order of things. Deb describes it as a lack of trust in the universe.
She compares it to a scenario where gravity suddenly stops working. When a child dies, their parent can feel like they’ve lost their footing.
More on the Podcast
Don’t miss our discussion on:
- How to walk out of grief
- How hiding in the darkness makes whatever we’re carrying seem heavier
- What you can expect when you read Twenty
Remember, you can hear the Happiness in Progress podcast on Youtube, Stitcher, Apple Podcasts, online, Mail Tribune — and you can even ask Siri and Alexa to ‘Turn on the Happiness in Progress podcast’ for you.