Wednesday, June 6, 2012

'I love to travel but the best part is coming home' - Interview with Jill Muehrcke

Tell us about you.
I've been a freelance writer and editor for over 40 years. Nearly 30 years ago, I founded a magazine called NONPROFIT WORLD, which focuses on management and leadership tips for people working in nonprofit organizations all over the world ( I've been the editor of NONPROFIT WORLD ever since, and it's a true labor of love. I've had dozens of books published, mostly in the educational field (under "Juliana," my "real" name (in real life, everyone knows me as Jill!)

Tell us about your book.
For anyone who wants to change their life, and of special interest to those who want to give up an addiction to a drug, person, or self-limiting behavior, WAKING UP HAPPY: A HANDBOOK OF CHANGE WITH MEMOIRS OF RECOVERY AND HOPE includes memoirs of people who have recovered from addictions and intolerable situations, along with exercises and to-do lists to help readers make similar transformations in their own lives. In WAKING UP HAPPY, I tell my true story, the stories of my daughter and granddaughter, and over 30 others recovering from addictions, harmful habits, and intolerable situations. These stories are filled with triumphs and epiphanies, as well as concrete, step-by-step guidance and advice. I am donating half of all proceeds from WAKING UP HAPPY to the Recovery Foundation (, helping people build new lives.

What inspired you to write this particular story?
WAKING UP HAPPY is the book I wish had existed when I quit drinking -- a book of memoirs of people who had recovered along with insights into how they learned to lead joyful lives and exercises I could do myself to put those same lessons to use in my own life.

What can readers expect when they open your book? Give us something that isn’t on the book blurb.
One thing readers say they like about WAKING UP HAPPY is that you can open it at random and find something inspirational, useful, or interesting to read. The long memoirs are broken up with exercises, inspiring quotes, and shorter memoirs, so you don't need to read it from front to back. It is full of surprises!

Where do you get your ideas?
I am constantly reading, especially in the area of psychology, which was one of my majors in college. I am fascinated with how the brain works. Keeping up with the field of brain research is one of my greatest passions.

Who is your greatest inspiration?
The last memoir in WAKING UP HAPPY is the story of Marilyn, my guide, mentor, friend, and companion in laughter for nearly 30 years. I met her at the first Women for Sobriety meeting I attended, and she is my greatest inspiration. When we met, she was as full of fears and self-doubts as I was, and watching her transform herself over the years has been breathtaking. She has attained an amazing level of peace, accepting herself and the world with humor and compassion, and her story in WAKING UP HAPPY is now inspiring and motivating many people.

What are you reading right now?
The Strange Case of Dr. Kappler: The Doctor Who Became a Killer by Keith Russell Ablow. This kind of psychological inquiry into the depths and heights of what people are capable of doing is my favorite kind of book. It's the best kind of "true crime" -- indeed, the only kind that's worth reading.

Who are your favorite authors?
Maxine Hong Kingston, Harriet Doerr, Margaret Moorman, Amy Tan, Elizabeth Rosner, Antoine de saint-Exupery, Torey Hayden, Barbara Kingsolver, Fyodor Doestoyevsky -- and a million others!

What is your current project?
I am learning all about blogs! I have been asked to start a blog for the nonprofit sector.

What do you feel is your greatest accomplishment as a writer?
The challenge of writing WAKING UP HAPPY - capturing the voices of so many people and melding them with exercises for readers to do -- was immense. It goes far beyond anything I've ever done before.

Have you experienced any setbacks for your writing along the way?  If so, will you share with us.
There were innumerable setbacks in writing WAKING UP HAPPY. The people whose stories I wanted to tell were all burdened by painful pasts. They wanted to share their narratives, but doing so was agonizing for them. I had to glean the stories in tiny chunks. Luckily, I was friends with most of the storytellers, so much of the information for their memoirs came from questions I asked casually while doing other things -- taking walks, eating lunch together, e-mailing back and forth. And since I shared history with half these people, I was able to use my own journals to remind them of key points in their journeys and tease out buried memories. I endured a lot of teasing for my constant scribbling of scraps of conversation every time I got together with them, but I think this technique ultimately led to far more nuanced tales than I could have elicited from formal interviews alone.

What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
Long ago, I asked someone, "How do you know if you're a writer?" He said, "If you get up in the morning, and all you want to do is write, then you're a writer." That helped me a lot, because there were many times -- usually after reading someone else's brilliant words -- when I thought, "How can I call myself a writer?" It helped me to know that, yes, I was a writer -- because there was nothing else I loved doing as much as writing. My advice to others who want to be writers: Take time to read and write for yourself. Read the great writers. Pay attention to how they use words and get their points across. Keep a journal. Allow your writing to be a living, daily part of who you are. Hold on to the knowledge that you're in the right place, doing the right thing. Doing what you love.

Are you a panster or a plotter?
Definitely a panster at heart! Many of my writing assignments have required me to be a plotter, and I'm fine with that. But the joy of writing WAKING UP HAPPY was that it was pure inspiration. Only when the writing was done did it fall into logical order. That's my favorite way to write.

Tell us 5 Random Things about you the person, not the author.
1. : I was born near Chicago, have lived all over the country, and am now happily living in Madison, Wisconsin.
2. : In my spare time, I enjoy volunteering, especially teaching yoga.
3. : I love all the ethnic restaurants in Madison. For many years, in several cities, including Seattle and Madison, I have written restaurant reviews -- one of my favorite things to do.
4. : My favorite foods are tacos and pizza - I think partly because I love to eat with my hands.
5. : I love to travel (I have been to all 50 states and 14 countries). But I always find the best part is coming home again.

Where to connect online:
Twitter : @muehrcke45
Facebook : Facebook/Waking Up Happy
Website :

What format does your book(s) come in?
Paperback and all e-book formats

Where to buy your book