So I’m obviously not great at updating the website… but work has taken over and I’m not complaining. But I have strayed mainly because any content I write or produce I tend to let live on the website I did it for, rather than simply repost here. Meaning, I haven’t done anything solely for the website in a while. I’d say this is primarily because I’m not always sure what Three Quarters Full is about… but I suppose that’s what makes it mine.
In any case, I’m going to recalibrate and bring you up to speed.
I’m knee-deep in books on spirituality, mysticism and real life stuff. I’m going to try to get into a novel again soon. But I seem to be increasingly leaning towards non-fiction. On that note, I have to say that I quite enjoyed actress/comedian Lauren Weedman’s Miss Fortune: Fresh Perspectives on Having It All from Someone Who Is Not Okay. Before that I read Leah Remini’s
Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology. I find the scientology stuff pretty interesting.
But it’s not all Hollywood. I also dove into Raja Shehadeh’s Language of War, Language of Peace: Palestine, Israel and the Search for Justice. Beautifully written – it’s bursting with emotion even though it’s as much about politics as daily life. I highly recommend it.
Here is a segment I did for ABC RN’s Life Matters program recently – part of an ongoing migrant series I’m doing there between producing on the show.
I’m also writing for SBS Life – this is a feature I wrote after reading a provocative update by Ophelia Haragli on Facebook. She runs My Sisters Keeper, and as a cancer sufferer, has a lot to share on living with cancer, and how feel-good campaigns can affect people when they’re unwell.
And for Junkee, I wrote this screed on Hollywood’s tendency to take inspiration from, and exploit, real-world geo-politics in its stories.
I have to share a couple of thoughtful reviews of my new book, This Is How You Get Better.
“As Awad guides you through the tale of misplaced lust, mild despair and evident self-loathing you emerge with an appreciation for the simplicity of a drama-free life and the things that have gone right, whilst being reminded that even the poorest of life choices can offer the opportunity for the greatest growth.”
Full review here.
“Amal Awad is a writer of characters. She makes them whole. She makes them vulnerable. She makes you care. She writes about emotional angst, confusion and the big questions of life in a simple and realistic style.”
Full review here.
While it seems actual physical bookstores are rapidly disappearing, there are still some wonderful stores to be found, many of which specialise in particular strands of literature or non-fiction. For me, a regular stop by Phoenix Rising Books in Glebe is essential. The owner, Sue Sharpe, is not only a very lovely lady, but a vastly knowledgeable one who is invested in her subject area – namely, new age, wellbeing and spiritual texts and audio, amongst other things. We had a chat about these categories, her support of self-published authors and where she thinks books and bookstores are headed.
Tell me about Phoenix Rising Books and what your business is ultimately all about.
Phoenix is a bookstore plus. Our specialty is mind, body and soul, and broadly that covers material you can read, listen to or watch which has the potential to shift your level of awareness beyond the physical day to day realm to the universe beyond. What has become very special is the diverse community Phoenix attracts and how many people share their experiences with me as they read books they select. I have customers that have been with us for 15 years and it has been a delight to watch their progression and transformation, not to mention my own learning and development as we share experiences. We stock titles ranging from the beginning of a subject right up to the expert level from authors across the globe.
How long have you been in “new age”?
I purchased Phoenix Rising Books mid-1999. I have always had a passion for books and can recall as a youngster thinking that having a bookstore would be great. The genre at that time was very new for me. I had my personal reading, which I soon realised was just skimming the surface. So the learning curve has been huge, and it has only been in the last two to three years that I have felt like an ‘expert’, and by this I don’t mean in knowing it all, but knowing where to research and find the leading edge of authors in this field.
You’ve mentioned before that you reject the ‘self-help’ label. Why is that and what do you prefer?
I sense that self-help has a ‘fringe’ element tag to it and so when that label is used it can switch people off as what comes to their mind is the 1960’s alternative living community. I don’t actually have a label as such. The material offered in all the books we stock has, in the most part, been created to open the reader’s thoughts to ideas outside their current reality. They can learn skills to change behaviours or emotional responses, to bring into their current work and family life and to nourish their soul at times of difficulty.
There’s a lot of talk about the “death of print publishing”, but in my own experience, it seems there’s still a huge market for it, particularly in non-fiction. What are your thoughts on this?
I feel there is still a huge market for print material. As the younger generation grows up, maybe that will change. What I am seeing is that whilst it is easy to get an e-book, the reading experience is not the same. It’s a bit hard to curl up with an electronic device! What customers are telling me is that for this genre they prefer the paper format as they can make notations, go back to it, pick it up and put it down without having to worry about power source.
What are your best sellers and what do you think makes them successful?
Over the years there have been two titles that stand out in sales volume. The first was the film/documentary ‘What the Bleep Do We Know!’ Released in 2005 it was one of the first in this category to talk about the world beyond our physical body. It was screened at the Dendy in Sydney for many months and the DVD still continues to be a good seller. For many people it was the first time they had considered the importance of their thoughts, the impact on the environment they may have and how they can choose to change their reality. Supporting the storyline were a credible team of scientists, neuroscientists and the like.
The second title that comes to mind is ‘The Untethered Soul’ by Michael A. Singer. Released in 2007, it just keeps attracting people to read it. Singer very clearly takes you through the process of how we close our hearts based on trauma, fear and or anger. He explains what impact this has on our physical and psychological bodies. As you are reading he takes you with him, so when he suggests ways of opening your heart, it becomes easy. Easy is not the right word – because to make that change requires paying attention and practice.
Do you find that the classics remain popular for particular reasons?
Often they are referenced by many other authors and so still stay in circulation. Mostly though they resonate with us at a core level as the archetypes they relate with are components of the human condition, regardless of gender, race or culture.
Where do you see the new age industry headed, particularly with the rise of oracle decks and self-published gurus?
The challenge for any author or artist, regardless of the product type is to get heard in the ‘noise’. The wellbeing and health industry, where I put our genre, is growing and so I suspect we will see more and more product and noise. The challenge will be to cut through this noise and find what is just right for you. This is where somewhere like Phoenix can assist in the sense that based on customer feedback we can help to make a path through the noise. The challenge is that what will be ‘noise’ for one person will be ‘gold’ for another.
You have good relationships with a lot of self-published authors. What are you looking for when they tell you about their books?
Firstly, my admiration for self-published authors is enormous. It is a very gutsy thing to do and for that alone I would like to support. As we talked about earlier, cutting through to what works for our customers is my role. To help with this I take books on consignment, list them in our new release program and see what happens from there. If customers purchase then we will take the title on as a permanent title.
What advice would you give to self-published authors?
To get your social media platform as robust as you can. You need to build your audience; no one else can do this for you. A great resource is a book called ‘Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World’ by Michael Hyatt. In this book he takes you through a plan, based on his extensive knowledge and experience as a writer, publisher and speaker.
How can people follow what’s happening in store and online?
You know when you keep hearing a name, or a book keeps getting mentioned? That’s been happening a lot to me in the last several months with Danielle LaPorte. Motivational speaker and “guru” of sorts, but she’s got sass. Her message is on point with a lot of healers and spiritual folk, but her voice is distinct, and I find that appealing.
So anyway, I’m reading (and working through) her book The Desire Map: A Guide to Creating Goals with Soul“, upon recommendation (also available in a Kindle version). The premise is refreshing and simple: how do you want to feel? Discarding rigid goal lists and intentions can be liberating if you focus instead on the feeling you’re seeking. In other words, you might be setting yourself up for failure if you’re setting restrictive KPIs to the Universe. And, of course, you know what they say: be careful what you wish for.
So lots of nodding and post-it noting as I go through it. The interesting thing for me is how affirmative a read it is. I feel like much of what she says isn’t at all new to me but, rather, confirming many of the lessons I’ve been accumulating over the years (particularly the last three or four).
Other things I like:
- Conversational tone and easy to read – not to diminish the writing at all, because LaPorte writes beautifully – she brings to her writing heart, experience, self-deprecation and brutal, painful honesty
- Some zinger quotes – “Desire hurts so good”.
- Messaging is strong, purposeful and useful. She talks about life-affirming discipline. Divine purpose. Inner versus outer attunement.
While I’m yet to reach the actual workbook part of The Desire Map (yes, there’s homework), I feel confident recommending this book to people who are feeling like they shouldn’t be feeling a certain way. This book is about freedom and connection to yourself, in a very practical yet spiritual way.
Available through the above links in Kindle or print versions
So I’ve taken a bit of a break from … things. Namely, social media. Writing columns about stuff that many other writers are capable of handling. And just in general, I’ve taken the time to simplify and work out some creative goals. It’s one thing to want to be(come) a good writer, the kind who produces stories that people willingly lose themselves in for two nights straight; it’s another to get lost in the idea of it, and not really do anything.
So. I took my attention off the more public writing I do at times, and went into novel-writing overdrive. The result is that I’ve (finally) finished a couple of drafts of my sequel to Courting Samira and am now in that squirmy, heart-wrenching phase where I can’t bear to look at the manuscript in case I decide it’s all rubbish and decide I have to start again.
I published Samira without an editor to guide me throughout the process. I certainly benefitted from the advice given to me by knowledgeable people (see the acknowledgments), and in particular, being my own editor had its rewards. I don’t worry about being too attached to my stories. If anything, I worry more about being too hard on myself and junking everything.
So I’m trying to figure out a few things, given the sequel – This is How You Get Better – will be self-published again. I’ve learned a LOT from publishing two books. I’ll be far better prepared this time, and am giving myself ample time to do things right. But, the editing process is the thing that’s gnawing at me right now.
Finally, the issue of cost. Unfortunately, getting funding can be tricksy for self-published authors, even if they’re full-time writers. I won’t launch into a discussion on the system of grants, but suffice to say that having a publisher certainly has its benefits on that front.
Feel free to drop me a line if you want to share your own thoughts on self-publishing/editing/being-your-own-worst-critic.
And here’s a nice success story for the self-publishing naysayers.
It’s been a while, but my second novel (due out in October) has been taking up most of my non-work time. But not to abandon things completely, here’s a great interview with Rita Balshaw, life coach, aromatherapy expert and author of Hippies in the City. I met her at a workshop at Perfect Potion and found her to be thoroughly engaging and in love with her work. Make sure you read to the end for a very cool giveaway!
In five words, how would you describe yourself?
Creative – Calm – Curious – Caring – Complacent
Have you always been an earth- and health-conscious person?
Yeah, I truly have. Natural therapies, cooking and conscious living has deeply touched my heart ever since I can remember. I feel that I was born into the subject matter, and as a young girl I always found peace spending time in nature and pursuing creative projects. My passion for holistic living only continues to grow…
You live your message, evident in the way you eat, cook and work. Do you ever find it to be challenging the way so many of us do? Or is that healthy living is just your reality? (I.e. you don’t need to convince yourself not to eat junk food, because you actually don’t want it!)
I don’t find respecting my body a challenge, as each day I am rewarded by feeling physically and emotionally nourished! I actually find not living a healthy lifestyle a huge challenge, as it makes me feel miserable, uninspired and disconnected. Some days I feel out of balance, normally induced by lack of sleep or hormonal challenges, but I always observe myself and treat my body well.
You are a multi-talented guide to natural living. What first led you into such a natural, holistic approach to living?
I believe my life purpose is to inspire others to achieve a more happy and meaningful life though natural therapies and holistic living. I was defiantly lead to live this life by a source greater than myself, and for this I feel most grateful. When I left school I studied nutrition, this gave me a great foundation to understand food and the workings of the human body. I also believe that being diagnosed and treated with a melanoma when I was 23 years old had a lot to do with how I look at health and lifestyle.
Your book, Hippies in the city, is an encyclopedia on living your best life. From cheeky spells to nourishing winter recipes, as well as aromatherapy oil coverage, it’s clearly a blueprint for a healthy life. What was the process of discovery like for you? I.e. developing this guide to living?
An encyclopedia! I like that! It makes me feel happy to hear, as the book was very much a labor of love. I put everything I had into creating Hippies in the city and was desperate to share as much knowledge as I could with my readers. The process was organic and fluid. I wanted to formulate something unique that covered all things healthy living; food, aromatherapy, yoga and more. Inspiration is always available to me, and I was lucky that I was blessed with the drive, self belief and discipline to make the book come alive. And yes each day I learn so more about food chemistry, human behavior, plant biology and spirituality.
What do you think some of the misconceptions about aromatherapy are? I.e. do you think it gets lumped in with alternative treatments that aren’t scientifically validated?
People who haven’t regularly treated their health with natural therapies are often skeptical about the helping powers of plants, and will say things like, “does this really work?”. This for me is exciting, because you get to show them that “yes, nature is your most effective preventive treatment”.
As someone who gets to interact with consumers regularly, through your work at Perfect Potion, what do you think are the most common issues people face and want help with?
People come to us with an assortment of physical and emotional health concerns. Eczema, psoriasis, acne, anxiety, stress, depression, fatigue, insomnia, body weight and hormonal related issues are the most common. Perfect Potion has everything needed to assist with the body’s healing process, making my job super easy and very rewarding.
What do you consider to be the general benefits of essences, and do you think they should be combined with a holistic healthy life plan to be truly effective?
Essential oils affect us physically and emotionally, working on multiple levels to benefit the whole being. Yes, it is most certainly best to combine aromatherapy treatments in conjunction with other holistic healing methods. A clean whole foods diet, exercise and meditation will compliment a holistic living plan perfectly.
It can be quite daunting to approach something as expansive as aromatherapy without the knowledge of what the essences do and their potency. What can beginners start with to get acquainted with oils, etc? What tips would you give to someone who is new to alternative methods of dealing with stress, physical and mental ailments, and poor diet?
Be open to the process of learning. If your intention is to start to feel healthier, happier and more connected to yourself then please trust that you will learn what you need to when you need to. The study of aromatherapy is indeed expansive, and little by little you can learn about this ancient and medicinal craft. Practical steps like attending our workshops at Perfect Potion and reading the Hippies in the City book is the best place to start. The beginning of my learning journey started with treating myself as the experiment as I explored all things holistic living. I do heaps of research and attend various yoga classes, workshops and seminars, simply because I enjoy it.
You do a lot of teaching, coaching and inspiring. What do you find most appealing about your work, and what’s next in terms of creating awareness?
My job is fundamentally to empower, educate and inspire others. I love the fact that each day I get to heal and nourish myself and help others. My professional and personal life is not at all separate from one another, it’s like I never clock off! It is nice to live a life each day of purpose and complete authenticity. What’s next? My second book, along with many workshops, wellness retreats and a Hippies In The City television series!
Finally, do you have a website and where can we buy your book?
At www.hippiesinthecity.com and #hippiesinthecity for some instagram fun!
Rita is kindly giving away a product from Perfect Potion (I think it’ll be a sleep one!). To enter, send me a message via this website’s contact form or like my Facebook page and send me a message there, and tell me what the secret to good sleep is!
If someone told me 10 years ago that I’d be writing about wearing tracksuits pants under my netball skirt, and how Hollywood was my first love, I’d have said …. well, something most likely very sarcastic before retreating to a quiet corner to indulge in a DVD commentary while eating a bag of fun-size chocolate bars.
In any case, my book is out now as an e-book and in print direct from Amazon. Soon it will be in bookstores and also more widely available as a print online.
I have DisneyWar by James B Stewart, but I’m loving Neal Gabler’s tome, Walt Disney – The Triumph of the American Imagination.