This Side of the Dream: Writing a Memoir and finding your tribe by Stefani Milan
This Side of the Dream: A Memoir by Stefani Milan
“…The author takes the reader on a spiritual and, at times, emotional roller-coaster journey as her healing process evolves following her mother’s death…But the memoir is not depressing. Rather, it vividly and gently brings the reader through the evolution of grief, culminating in a feeling of acceptance and coming to terms with the harsh reality that the bereaved must now face.”– Carol Harkavy, Author of Rosie (and me): a memoir.
Through a strong and vivid narrative intertwined with poems, songs, and mystical experiences in dreams, this personal transformational memoir will connect to anyone who has felt despair after the loss of a loved one. It serves as a testament to how the strength of the human spirit can shift tragedy into triumph.
This Side of the Dream: A Memoir takes its reader on a long and difficult journey beginning with the dark and painful period following Stefani Milan’s mother’s unexpected diagnosis and inevitable untimely death from pancreatic cancer. Coming to grips with the loss of her mother, Stefani found herself in an abysmal world filled with unhappiness and despair where she found it increasingly more difficult to function. In an effort to escape from the torment she experienced following the death of her mother, Stefani travelled to Sedona, Florence, and Nashville. Seeking comfort from family, friends, and even consulting with mediums, Stefani began to accept the world without her best friend.
After an extended arduous struggle with her feelings of loneliness, loss, emptiness, and confusion, she was eventually able to achieve acceptance, adjustment, and an augmented appreciation of life. The book is a testament to the strength and resilience of the human spirit to overcome adversity and offers comfort to those who have suffered, are suffering, or, most likely, will suffer from the loss of a loved one.
Interview with author Stefani Milan
What inspired you to write This Side Of The Dream?
I have been writing since I was a young child. I grew up in a very artistic environment where all types of art were encouraged. My father was in the record (music) industry, so we were always around music and artists. My mother was an artist, so she always encouraged my creativity. I remember painting, songwriting, playing instruments, singing, acting, and writing songs my whole life. I wrote my first story in first grade about a little girl sitting on a park bench in winter who could not add numbers. Then a woman named Num Ber came over and helped her and she learned to add. Anyway, I can’t imagine why this story didn’t become a bestseller.
All jokes aside, I wrote a series of songs by the age of fourteen and a host of mini scripts that my cousin and I would film. I was primarily interested in developing my acting and music careers for a long time. Then in a creative writing class in college, I wrote a twenty-page story, and I received a lot of great feedback about it. That’s when I became serious about writing. I remember being at work one day, I was a tutor, and I turned to my boss and said, “I’m going to finish my book and publish it.” I ended up working on that book for ten years and published it in 2014.
Honestly, I think I have always been interested in entertaining people through various outlets, especially acting, but writing is the best for me because I can really get into the characters and develop them. Because I also study a lot about the human brain and psychology, I can add those elements into the characters as well. Of course, my memoir was really an insight into my own life which was a unique writing experience. The death of my mom inspired that book. Writing gives me a high that I can’t explain. It throws me totally into the moment and in that space-time doesn’t exist. It feels like I’m just completely whole and happy, and when I return back to this world, I’m amazed at how much time has passed. And memoir writing is also a form of catharsis.
Which 5 books have changed your life?
The first book that changed my life is called The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. He’s one of my favourite authors. I must have read that book over ten times. The first time I read it, I felt something change inside of me. I began to seek something more, and I wanted to become a better person. I wanted to find myself, and I think that book taught me that in order to do that, I needed to go within.
The second book that changed my life is called The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. I was in an acting class in Philadelphia, PA in the U.S. led by a casting director named Mike Lemon. He wanted us to connect deeper within ourselves, and I had just finished The Alchemist a few months before, so I was on that seeking path. He recommended we all read this book to connect deeper to ourselves which would ultimately help us connect to characters. This book changed my life so much that I reread it almost every year.
The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz is another great book that made me deal with my outside world differently. This is another one I read once a year to refresh my mindset and stay focused on what’s important.
The Happiness Prescription by Deepak Chopra was a book I discovered back in 2008 right after I read The Power of Now. This book was so powerful to me, and it shifted my perspective about how I viewed myself and others.
This one is kind of funny.
There is a book called Why Men Love Bitches by Sherry Argov. It sounds awful. But I read this book about 100 times. Growing up, guys always told me I was too nice, and then they would dump me. Yeah, you know who you are! Anyway, when I read that book I was like, WOAH. All I can say is, one day I was no longer a doormat. When any of my friends were having guy troubles I would be like, I HAVE THE BOOK FOR YOU. Arguably, this book changed my life the most, and I’m really thankful to have found it.
Having published This Side Of The Dream, what are your top 5 tips for independent authors?
You know, publishing independently is not for the faint of heart
I always say this to authors. You have to be committed to the entire process. A lot of authors think they write the book and then that’s it because a lot of authors are only interested in the creative process. But there is so much more to self-publishing. There is an editing process. That sometimes takes many many times to get right. And then there is the publishing process which entails interior design, cover design, and a publishing platform of which there are many. Sometimes you’re outsourcing those things and sometimes you’re doing it yourself. Then there is a marketing process, and that’s always changing depending on technology, social media outlets, and trends. So, be committed fully to it if you’re going to do it.
Find a tribe of authors who want the best for you
Have a small writing group of four people, and that is one of the best pieces of advice I can give to independent authors. It doesn’t help to surround yourself with people who make you feel bad about yourself, and you don’t want to be in a group where everyone is just whining or complaining. So, try to keep a positive mindset and create a group of other writers who share that mindset. And don’t feel like that is going to come quickly. I’ve been a published author for over seven years, and I’ve only found my writing “tribe” last year. It takes time to find those people. But in my writing group, we listen to each other’s writing, give feedback, edit, and help promote each other. There are no agendas or trying to “beat” each other out. That’s the kind of writing group you want.
Don’t get discouraged no matter what
The beauty about self-publishing is, you can always make a piece better. So, do your best, but if one day you decide it’s not your best, you can improve it. In the traditional publishing world, you can’t really do that. But I wonder if that will change. I notice in Hollywood it is kind of changing. An example of that would be the movie Justice League. Zach Snyder came out with his version, which was basically the same story but what he felt was an improved version. A similar thing happened with Suicide Squad. The nice thing about self-publishing is you have the ability to improve anything that isn’t working. If you can get past your emotional feelings about it, you can do great things with the work you love. I’m actually doing that now with my very first book.
Get organised and come up with a plan
I think because there are so many moving parts to self-publishing, having a Google spreadsheet (or something similar) with different tabs can really help you organize all the stuff you’re doing. Self-publishing can become overwhelming so quickly. And you’re being pulled in about seven or eight different directions depending on where you are in the process, so having that spreadsheet is a nice way to stay focused on your goals. Having a plan on how to market and also keeping detailed notes about what you’re doing and when will not only help you for your current book but any other books in the future.
Stay your cool indie self, and don’t get down about money
The cool thing about the indie world is how chill most people are. I find that in music and writing as I used to work in the music industry until last year. And while indie types tend to be the most chill, when it comes to selling, we can get down really quickly if we aren’t seeing those numbers climb in sales or at festivals. I used to be that way, and a lot of authors I knew were really bitter (even the traditionally published ones). Ultimately, we all know money is important, and a great marketing plan will help you generate sales, but I don’t write for money. I write for the thrill writing gives me and to entertain people. And I really believe that if you keep doing that, and you never give up, that one day you can make a decent living writing.
Thanks, Stefani, great advice for indie authors here and inspiration for strong women who have fought their own cancer battles. – Duffy