Books Make Great Holiday Gifts

Books make great gifts!

If you’re looking for holiday presents (for yourself or others,) I’d adore it if you gave one or both of my books, Depression Hates a Moving Target or You Should Be Writing.

But here are some other ideas as well:


How to See the World: Poems – by Paula J. Lambert

In How to See the World, Lambert takes us deftly along as she examines the new reality in which we’ve all awakened in 2020. She peels back its complicated layers with adept use of metaphor, as well as a revelatory tone that will have readers doubling back to unfold new meanings in a line, a verse, or a poem. Real moments of brilliance sparkle calling us to look beyond surface and pattern to recognize something beyond ourselves, even while we languish in a groundswell of change.

Tell me moonlight can’t speak…she writes, then convinces us that it can. While pandemic is here and unavoidable, do not approach this collection as an outgassing of that reality. It is about much more–how interconnected we all are while teetering at the brink of change and that we must witness the miracle, not turn away.—Rose M. Smith, author of Unearthing Ida


Nothing Bad Between Us: A Mennonite Missionary’s Daughter Finds Healing in Her Brokenness by Marlena Fiol

After being publicly humiliated in front of her entire close-knit Mennonite community, Marlena Fiol didn’t know how she would recover. Follow her journey from an abusive upbringing in Paraguay to escape, love, and loss in the United States and finally on to forgiveness and reconciliation.

Discover a story of healing and personal transformation. Marlena’s childhood was full of contradictions. Her father was both a heroic doctor for people with leprosy and an abusive parent. Her Mennonite missionary community was both a devoted tribe and a controlling society. And Marlena longed to both be accepted in Paraguay and escape to somewhere new. In Nothing Bad Between Us, follow Marlena’s journey as she takes control of her life and learns to be her authentic self, scars and imperfections included.

Read my interview with Marlena.


The Gift of Crisis: How I Used Meditation to Go from Financial Failure to a Life of Purpose by Bridgitte Jackson-Buckley

Approach Crisis with Self-Love, Assertiveness and Courage—You are not alone: Since the start of the recession, 8.8 million jobs have been lost, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Bridgitte Jackson-Buckley was one of those 8.8 million people who lost their jobs. Between 2007 and 2014, she was also one of 7.3 million homeowners who lost their homes to foreclosure. Some affected by job loss and foreclosure, due to the economic downturn, were able to bounce back relatively emotionally unscathed. Many, however, internalized the outer events as a negative reflection of their personal capacities without taking a deeper look at the crisis as a potential underlying catalyst. In The Gift of Crisis, Bridgitte shows you how to explore crisis as a tool for courageous change, regaining your self-esteem with self-love and self-compassion.

Read my interview with Bridgitte.


Love Earth Now: The Power of Doing One Thing Every Day by Cheryl Leutjen

Silver Nautilus Book Award Winner! What can you do for the environment? Do you find yourself wondering what on Earth you can do about the serious environmental challenges we face today? Do you worry there’s nothing any one person can do that will make a difference? Most people say they would like to do something to make the world a better place, but they just don’t believe they have the time, energy, money or power to do anything that will make a real difference. Are you willing to devote 20 minutes a week to find out? Environmental activist Cheryl Leutjen has the planet’s back and is betting you do too. Her powerful book of inspired ideas and eco-mindfulness calls upon us all to Love Earth Now.

Read my interview with Cheryl.


The Rules of Creation by Lynda Allen

The Rules of Creation is a handbook for living life from the pure essence of divinity from which we each sprang. They not only share wisdom, but encourage each of us to explore the depths of our own innate wisdom as well. It offers eight simple rules to live by, which help us not only remember our own divinity, but to live from there with joy and certainty.


The Sudden Loss Survival Guide: Seven Essential Practices for Healing Grief by Chelsea Hanson

Restore Your Spirit after Sudden Loss—Healing after loss. When a loved one passes unexpectedly, the person left behind can lose their bearings. After the sudden loss of her mother, Chelsea Hanson, a nationally-recognized grief educator and founder of With Sympathy Gifts and Keepsakes, didn’t know where to turn for help, what to do next, or how to put the pieces of her life back together. Hanson’s The Sudden Loss Survival Guide gathers everything that she learned during her own recovery process and provides an indispensable road map to aid those who’ve experienced a life-changing loss.


Your Life Is Your Prayer: Wake Up to the Spiritual Power in Everything You Do by Sam Beasley & B.J. Gallagher
Everything you do is prayer: You may not realize it–many people don’t–but the decisions you make throughout the day, the attitudes you adopt, the conversations you have, the way you respond to other people, and the thoughts you think are all prayers. The food you choose to eat is a prayer, the way you spend your money is a prayer–even the way you drive is a prayer! We are constantly communing with the Divine, even in our most mundane activities. And our prayers are always answered in the affirmative: “Yes.”


Letters from a Better Me: How Becoming an Empowered Woman Transforms the World by Rachael Wolff

Self-esteem for empowerment. By practicing affirmations each day, you will become stronger emotionally and psychologically. Writing letters to yourself can be a powerful affirming process that will give you the courage to face adversity and help you develop resilience that can get you through anything. Become the very best and strongest you can be with the unique tools and practices in Letters from a Better Me.


Your Goal Guide: A Roadmap for Setting, Planning and Achieving Your Goals by Debra Eckerling

Start with a plan. One of the biggest reasons goals fail is that we often don’t put enough thought into what we really want before diving in. Your Goal Guide by Debra Eckerling starts with that first, crucial step: figuring out your goals and putting a plan in place. As a professional writer, communications specialist, and project catalyst with more than 20 years of experience, Eckerling is prepared to help you achieve success.

Read my interview with Debra.


Habits for Success: Inspired Ideas to Help You Soar by G. Brian Benson

A self-help book for an authentic life: Habits for Success was written creatively, consciously and with heart. Using his own growth process, triumphs and hero’s journey, the author weaves authenticity and vulnerability into his habits, ideas and stories to entertain and inspire the reader.


Story Power: Secrets to Creating, Crafting, and Telling Memorable Stories by Kate Farrell

Stories are everywhere. The art of storytelling has been around as long as humans have. And in today’s noisy, techy, automated world, storytelling is not only prevalent–it’s vital. Whether you’re interested in enlivening conversation, building your business brand, sharing family wisdom, or performing on stage, Story Power will show you how to make use of a good story. Learn from the experts and become an engaging storyteller.

Read my interview with Kate.


Heart, Sass & Soul: Journal Your Way to Inspiration and Happiness by Greta Solomon

Discover the Life-Changing Power of Freewriting and Journaling—Discover who you are: Writing for yourself is an incredible way to heal your heart, find happiness, and reconnect with the things that matter most. Journaling and freewriting can bring you a deeper level of self-awareness, allowing you to truly know who you are. Heart, Sass & Soul will show you how to develop a writing practice that nurtures inner strength and promotes a rich, fulfilled life.

Read my interview with Greta.


Say It Now: 33 Ways to Say I Love You to the Most Important People in Your Life by Sherry Ricart Belul

Sometimes it’s difficult to find the right way to say “I love you” to the people you appreciate the most in life. The emotions are there, but the words don’t come. Say It Now shows you how to put your feelings into words–and actions, too. From activities that take just a minute, to love letters, joy jars, tribute videos, surprise parties, and more, this book helps you celebrate the most important people in your life.

Random Acts of Kindness: 365 Days of Good Deeds, Inspired Ideas and Acts of Goodness by Brenda Knight & Becca Anderson

The Random Acts of Kindness movement is born. In 1995, a small group of people at Conari Press came together around the idea that small gestures and simple acts can make a difference in people’s lives. Thus, Random Acts of Kindness was born. But they had no idea how big this little idea would become.


The Book of Awesome Women: Boundary Breakers, Freedom Fighters, Sheroes and Female Firsts by Becca Anderson

Sheroes. Women hold up half the sky and, most days, do even more of the heavy lifting including childbearing and child-rearing. All after a long day at the office. Women have always been strong, true sheroes, oftentimes unacknowledged. As we shake off the last traces of a major patriarchal hangover, women are coming into their own. In the 21st Century, all women can fully embrace their fiery fempower and celebrate their no-holds-barred individuality. It is time to acknowledge the successful women of the world.


Extreme by Joan Gelfand

Hope Ellson is from the wrong side of the tracks, but her genius transcends class. When Hope joins FearToShred, a Silicon Valley extreme gaming startup, Hope’s mission is to groom the scrappy company for prime time. Enter Doug Wiser, her very married ex. While the two work in tandem, nefarious forces are at work behind the scenes. Adding to the excitement of this thriller are the stars and heroes of surfing and skateboarding. With a keen eye on women in tech, business ethics and dangerous stunts, “Extreme” will leave you breathless.

Read my interview with Joan.


Dead Pelican by Lisa Haneberg

Honeymooners hoping to find a quiet spot for a romantic picnic instead discover the dead body of Forrest Yates, a top birding guide and bottom dweller human. The murder rattles the local birding association as they prepare for the yearly influx of Sandhill Cranes and the wanna-be ornithologists who flock to the island to watch them. With Ned “The Pelican Man” Quinn as their sidekick, Xena and her team explore the dark side of birding and the tenuous relationship between commerce and nature to solve the case.


Rose by Rami Ungar

Rose Taggert awakens in a greenhouse with no clear memory of the past two years and, to her horror, finds her body transformed into an unrecognizable form. Paris Kuyper has convinced Rose that they are lovers and as Paris could not bear for her to die, he has used an ancient and dark magic to save her from certain death. But the dark magic Paris has used comes at a price. A price which a terrible demon is determined to extract from Rose.


Glorious Boy by Aimee Liu

What will it take to save Ty? This is the question that haunts Claire and Shep Durant in the wake of their four-year-old’s disappearance. Until this moment, Port Blair’s British surgeon and his young wife, a promising anthropologist, have led a charmed life in the colonial backwaters of India’s Andaman Islands–thanks in part to Naila, a local girl who shares their mysteriously mute son’s silent language.

But with the war closing in and mandatory evacuation underway, the Durants don’t realize until too late that Naila and Ty have vanished. While Claire sails for Calcutta, Shep stays to search for the children. Days later, the Japanese invade the Andamans, cutting off all communication. Fueled by guilt and anguish, Claire uses her unique knowledge of the islands’ tribes to make herself indispensable to an all-male reconnaissance team headed back behind enemy lines. Her secret plan: rescue Shep and Ty. Through the brutal odyssey that follows, she’ll discover truths about sacrifice that both shatter and transcend her understanding of devotion.

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Write Now Columbus – November 2020

Hi Writers:

I’m not going to talk about it. We’ve heard enough already, and we’ll hear more later tonight and in the days (weeks, years?) to come.

Take a breath. I’ll take one with you.

Instead, I’ll remind us all that our local literary organizations, especially our beloved Thurber House, desperately need support. Attendance is down and expenses are not. I donated. I hope you will too. PLEASE DONATE.

Between the event I’m not talking about and Thanksgiving, writing events have slowed. The Write Now Columbus calendar shows 18 events. If I missed any, please let me know.

Meanwhile, National Novel Writing Month rolls on!

If you began right now (this was originally written on the 3rd of November,) you would only have to write 1,786 words a day to complete the 50,000 word challenge by the end of November. I’m teaching a free NaNoWriMo workshop, “Now that You’ve Begun, How Do You Keep Going?” hosted by WNBA-SF on Wednesday, November 11th at 3pm. I hope you’ll join me. Registration is required.

For those of you trying to avoid buying books from the big “A,” check out Aiming to keep independent bookstores alive, the founder is taking aim at the big “A.” even offers affiliate opportunities. I set up a store to support Write Now Columbus (we do have expenses) so perhaps you’ll consider purchasing books there.

I continue to post author interviews on my blog. Here are the two most recent with Cheryl Leutjen, author of Love Earth Now, and Marlena Fiol, author of Nothing Bad Between Us.

My most recent project is a Facebook group for mind and mood health called “Mind, Mood & Movement.” I’m posting daily “practices” in mindfulness, writing, and movement as well as memes, surveys, and eventually challenges. If you need a lift, check us out. It’s a private group, but all are welcome.

And if you would like to hear more from me beyond what I offer in these Write Now Columbus updates, please sign up for my author newsletter using the form on the homepage.

No matter the outcome of the event I’m not mentioning, you know what to do. You’re a writer. What do writers do? Writers write.

Write on.

~ Nita

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Author Interview – Cheryl Leutjen

Author Interview – Cheryl Leutjen


In this blog series, I interview other authors. This author interview is with Cheryl Leutjen, another of the “Mango’s Best Authors” I had the pleasure to meet at the Mango Publishing table at the L.A. Times Festival of Books. Cheryl’s friendliness and patience with my many questions (my book wasn’t even out yet) made me feel part of the “Mango family” right away. More importantly, her book, Love Earth Now, covers two of my favorite topics: climate change and mindfulness. I can’t wait for you to get to know her as well.

Nita Sweeney (NS): When and how did your writing journey begin?

Cheryl Leutjen (CRL): That’s tough to say. I’ve always been a writer, though usually to suit someone else’s purposes. I’ve written extensively as a student, geologist, lawyer, and mom—some of my notes excusing the kids from school were quite inspired. I used to write in a diary as a kid until I got punished after my mom read it. That stopped me from putting any personal information on paper for years.

I only began writing for myself again when my kids were tiny and “mommy drinking” wasn’t yet a thing. Journaling—in a notebook with a sturdy lock on it—became my best therapy. When I discovered some humor and the occasional scrap of wisdom showing up on the page, I threw caution to the wind and started a “mommy blog.” I regularly, sporadically, infrequently, and sometimes shared all my wisest insights with all seven of my followers.

Then a new acquaintance invited me to a one-day writing workshop. It was affordable, near home, and facilitated by someone I trusted not to shred me. So off I went, seeking to hone my blogging skills. What poured out onto the page that day instead became (spoiler alert) the foundations of the book I’d publish five years later.

Writing is now the essential therapy that keeps me from running down the street screaming every time I hear more bad news for Life on Earth. Which is far too often these days.

NS: I hear that about the bad news! Tell us about your process. Plotter or pantser?

CRL: I’d say pantser but haven’t pants become optional in these days of Zooming through the pandemic? But “flying by the seat of my underwear” is an image I’d rather not propagate, so we will go with pants.

I’m a Gemini, and my attention span is . . . squirrel! Forcing myself to focus on one project for any length of time is tough at best. The most I can wrangle from my ever-distracted mind is a good solid essay before getting bored with the whole endeavor. That’s why I call my book a storybook because each chapter is a standalone composition of where I was on any given day.

NS: What’s your biggest writing struggle and how do you handle it?

CRL: My biggest writing struggle is believing that anyone else would want to read the hairbrained drivel I put on the page when I first begin to write.  And truthfully, no one would want to read any of my (what author Anne Lamotte calls) “shitty first drafts.” I am certain I’d be excommunicated from the writing community if one ever got out.

It’s in the editing and crafting that transforms my brain lint into something more akin to literature. So when I catch myself doubting, I read a paragraph of something I’ve managed to hone to my satisfaction. Every single time, I’m floored. I don’t recall having written something I don’t hate, until I see the proof on the page. Then I re-confirm my commitment to writing.

Again and again.

NS: What is one thing about writing you wish you’d learned earlier?

Cheryl Leutjen

CRL: I always thought of writing as a solo enterprise. Like the character Jo in Little Women, I entertained romantic notions of myself toiling away alone in the garret with ink-stained fingers and maybe a mangy cat for company.

What I’ve learned is that connecting with other writers, finding outlets for sharing the frustrations and also the successes, makes my own process that much easier. When I couldn’t find a group that offered the kind of support I sought, I started my own, a Meetup called The Natural Muse. We nature-inspired writers gather in the green spaces of Los Angeles—yes, there are still many!—to write. We don’t critique, and we don’t “should” anyone. We do offer community and accountability for getting the work done. How can I not show up when I’m the organizer? How can I just play Scrabble on my phone when everyone else is writing? Peer pressure has gotten such a bad rap, but done right, it boosts my productivity like nothing else.

NS: What’s the worst writing advice you’ve ever heard?

CRL: “Only write about what you know.” So much of what I know now is because I got curious about something, and in the process of studying it, I discovered something to write about.

NS: Do you write by hand or on a computer?

CRL: Though I sometimes journal by hand, I always use my computer when writing for public consumption. I can type so much faster than I can hand write, and I need top speed to spit out those shitty first drafts before the inner critic has too much time to chime in. I’d never finish a single sentence if writing one of those by hand.

NS: What are you currently reading?

CRL: I just finished The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates. I’m the kind of reader who has the book I’m finishing in one hand, and the one I’m starting in the other, but right now, I’m taking a pause. This book was so engrossing, and I’m still hanging out with the characters. It feels disloyal to ditch them for another cast so soon.

The book in the other hand, though, is Jane Fonda’s, What Can I Do?: My Path from Climate Despair to Action. Jane Fonda has done so much to raise awareness about climate change, and I aim to learn from the master.

NS: Is there a book you couldn’t finish?

CRL: For fiction? Never. I will speed read through the worst novel because I. Must. Know. How. It. Ends. It’s a compulsion. If there were a self-help program to spare me from reading another potboiler, I’d sign up today.

As for nonfiction, there are so many I can’t name them all. I start with such lofty ideals about delving into some Topic of Great Import. Then I get bogged down in the nitty gritty, and the book gets abandoned like so many New Year’s resolutions.

NS: What book couldn’t you put down?

CRL:  I’m a voracious reader, so there are many books I’ve read until deep into the night. The one that stands out is The Help. This was years ago, when my kids were younger and needier, so mom doing nothing but read all day was cause for alarm. But that’s exactly what I did, one glorious Sunday, sitting out on my deck letting the youngsters fend for themselves. Or maybe Dad sorted things out. I have no idea. Because I was somewhere in Jackson, Mississippi.

NS: What would you like readers to know about your book, Love Earth Now?

CRL: Love Earth Now is a deeply thoughtful and often comedic exploration of my own efforts to make an eco-contribution. It’s not “Top Ten List” of what you can do for the planet because I don’t believe there is a one-size-fits-all solution to the many challenges we face.

Each chapter of Love Earth Now concludes with a “Love Earth Invitation,” a simple and contemplative exercise that prompts you to explore your own feelings and calls to action. These eco-mindfulness moments provide the opportunity to reflect and discover what you can do right now to contribute to a sustainable future for us all.

NS: Has your writing life turned out differently than you expected? If so, how?

Author Cheryl Leutjen

Author Cheryl Leutjen

CRL: My writing life is sporadic, much as everything else I do. I produce like breeding rabbits for a while, and then not at all. I often judge myself for failing to honor the “write everyday!” maxims, but after nearly six decades on this Earth, I am learning to accept that I’m cyclical by nature. Even the most prolific bunny gets an off season.

What does astonish me is the amount of work required to market the writing. Until I wrote a book, I still thought a platform was the place you stand while waiting for a train. Now there are all these expectations about blogging, email lists, cross promoting and engagement rates. It’s like thinking, “oh, won’t it be fun to get a puppy,” and then realizing just how much work that little one requires. Totally worth it, and totally exhausting, too.

NS: What’s next for you writing wise?

CRL: Next, last and current are pretty much the same when it comes to my writing: employ every weapon in my self-motivational arsenal to keep myself churning out those shitty drafts. They may become blog posts, essays for a new book, or therapy for my mental health. It’s rather like having a baby. The kid may grow up to be a drummer, a baseball player, or a politician. But you tend the infant as you would any other until you get some inkling where they are headed. Then, it’s time for music lessons, Little League or the debate team. Wherever they may land someday, the challenge is always lies in getting myself to put my fingers on the keyboard.


NS: Mermaids or Goddesses?

CRL: I choose Greta Thunberg. Jane Fonda. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. I need strong, flesh-and-blood women to inspire me right now as we stare down the ecological, societal and political crises we face. And may warrior Athena be with us all.

NS: Toast or bagels?

CRL: Shhhh, please! I’m trying to avoid carbs, even though I also believe life without them is not worth living. I am a walking, breathing contradiction of myself at any given moment.

NS: Ocean, mountains, or forest?

CRL: Yes, please. Just get me out there, anywhere in nature, on a regular basis. As long as the weather is pleasant, the skies aren’t full of smoke, and the bugs aren’t biting. Because, truth is, I’m a creature comfort-loving Nature devotee.

NS: Leggings or jeans?

CRL: Jeans if you’re talking the stretchy kind that I can squeeze my Menopause Bod into. Leggings are but a distant memory now.

NS: Dogs, cats, fish, guinea pigs, or horses?

CRL: We had a continuous procession of animals in my childhood home: dogs, cats, fish, guinea pigs, gerbils, and rabbits. And I loved them all. Except for that deranged gerbil who would clamp his jaws around my slender wrist until one of us passed out.

But it’s been all about the felines in my adult life. My family and I used to love to travel before the pandemic, often at a moment’s notice, and cats were the easiest to accommodate. Or so I say. I have one silky gray, muscular, cat draped over my left hand as I struggle to type with the right. Until he tells me it’s time for lunch, anyway, and then I’ve got to go.


Cheryl Leutjen’s deep love of Earth, as well as her hope for a bright future for her children, fuel her passion for responding to the challenges of our time with heart, hope, humor, and spiritual practice. Cheryl writes and speaks to share her experiences on the razor’s edge between Earth-mindfulness and eco-madness, not because she’s got it all figured out, but in solidarity with anyone else who’s fumbling along the path of more conscientious living.

She draws from her experience as a geologist, attorney, small business owner, spiritual practitioner, wife and mother to claw her way out of the abyss of eco-despair. She seeks solace from the sages in Nature who reveal the wisdom she needs to navigate a more Earth-loving path.

Cheryl facilitates the Natural Muse Meetup for Earth-loving writers. She serves as Vice-President of the Board of Directors of the North East Trees nonprofit organization, “bringing Nature back” to urban Los Angeles County.

She resides in Los Angeles with her husband, two children, her muse Atlas Cedar, and three cats who care not one whit about any of her credentials.

Love Earth Now

Love Earth Now

Her book, Love Earth Now, won a 2018 Silver Nautilus Book Award.

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