In this interview, Gael-Sylvia Pullen, author of The Good Around Us, shares insights on writing and promoting a self-help memoir.
The journey from idea to book
Olivia Edwards: In The Good Around Us, you share that writing a book was a dream you had for many years. Can you please talk about how you brought your memoir from a dream to a reality?
Gael-Sylvia Pullen: It was definitely a long journey. At the heart of this answer is steadfast faith and an unrelenting belief that I had something that I wanted to share with others to inspire them to believe. I wanted others to stay hopeful in their pursuit of their most sacredly held dreams. That being said, I guess this 30+ year journey makes me an expert at persevering. Also, finding the right support is crucial. For me the right support was someone knowledgeable about the book writing processes, accessibility, accountability and an encouraging spirit. That eventually led me to Lisa Tener! And Lisa also introduced me to colleagues who helped me in the process – Kelly Malone for editing and Tamara Monosoff for publishing , as well as guidance and support with the videos.
Leading from a place of joy
Olivia Edwards: As the founder and CEO of Girls Fly!, you empower girls and women to pursue their dreams. How has this experience influenced your writer’s voice in The Good Around Us?
Gael-Sylvia Pullen: There is no greater joy than to be a part of someone else’s life and witness firsthand the transformative power of loving people non-judgmentally and showing up to cheer them forward. Fifteen thousand hugs and smiles within approximately three years inspired me to keep showing up and to practice what I teach – BELIEVE that your dreams are not a mistake and each life has value.
Gael-Sylvia Pullen: Happiness is fleeting and blissful. Happiness is a temperamental and temporary place of contentment and satisfaction. Most often, happiness is a wonderful feeling based on the influence of another and circumstances within a moment. Joy is a fundamental place of well-being and contentment that helps me be less concerned with expectations and outcomes, freeing me to have a bigger perspective. I use joy as my barometer and allow the presence of joy to be a source of grounding and strength, and a way of determining my perspective on life circumstances. I experience happiness, but once it is interrupted, there remains a joyful centering that keeps me focused and content with or without the desired outcomes.
Honing author’s craft when writing a self-help memoir Tweet This
Olivia Edwards: For me, the personal stories you tell in The Good Around Us come alive because of the rich detail and memorable dialogue. Can you please share some tips on writing detail in memoir?
Gael-Sylvia Pullen: Make sure you have the right team around you! No compromising! You will know when compatible people are aligning with you. It took MANY starts and stops, but once I connected with Lisa, Kelly and Tamara a whole new world opened up! I learned to accept myself and embrace my written voice through journaling. From Lisa Tener and Kelly Malone, I learned to relax and free myself of self-doubt and judgment. They are master artists, and their artful approach to the book-writing process reminded me of clay in the hands of master sculptors. I learned to relax and allow the transformative process to take place. The journey of words from my head filtered through my heart and eventually became words on the pages. It was a process of gently carving away what wasn’t essential.
Storytelling in speaking and writing a self-help memoir Tweet This
Olivia Edwards: You are a sought-after speaker who provides training on various leadership topics. How is your storytelling style similar and different when speaking compared to writing?
Gael-Sylvia Pullen: I’m still evolving. I always pray before going on stage. I think I feel relaxed because I feel like I am the vessel being used to speak to one person, even if there are hundreds in the audience. Regardless of the topic – finance, franchising, real estate or global community engagement – my mission is always the same: Look for the good around us, the opportunities that are in hand and how to live and lead from a place of hope, inspiration and, yes, joy. In person it does become a bit of an out-of-body experience for me when I speak. I think I am free to get out of my own way. I’m learning to do that with writing.
Olivia Edwards: The Good Around Us is an interactive book that includes “Songs of the Day” for each chapter, which the reader can access by scanning a QR code. What a cool idea! How did you choose the song(s) for each chapter? And what were the logistical and legal considerations of this feature?
Gael-Sylvia Pullen: I mentioned earlier the necessity of the right team. Thank God for Lisa, Kelly, Erika and Tamara! I had a vision, and the team around me helped to make sure it happened. Others had been discouraging, but they also taught me to look for someone who would be supportive.
Within the Good Around Us I share my daily practices for living and leading from a place of joy. During a period of extended isolation, to stay hopeful I began a few small daily practices that I continue today. Each one redirects my thoughts back to a place of peace, hope and joy. Each day I have a completely random Song for the Day, Pic for the Day and a Bible Verse/Inspirational Quote for the Day. This includes music that speaks to the circumstances. Some days I needed spiritual reminders of strength I didn’t realize I held, thus, Whitney Houston’s song, “I Didn’t Know My Own Strength.” Each URL takes the reader to a public platform on YouTube.
Olivia Edwards: The book is also interactive because it contains illustrations that the reader can color. What was your inspiration for this feature?
Gael-Sylvia Pullen: I doodle. I also take daily morning and evening Gratitude Walks. My morning Gratitude Walks lead me to quiet times of Biblical devotionals and artistic ponderings. I found myself enjoying the quietness that coloring inside of my Bible added to the experience. I also found myself writing and coloring poetry that expressed what I was reading. It is my hope that readers will also find the mindlessness of filling in empty spaces adds another dimension of stillness. This feeling of peace and calm aided my creativity throughout the remainder of the day.
Making choices about structure when writing a self-help memoir
Olivia Edwards: Each chapter begins with a story from your life and concludes with a message about how to live and lead joyfully. What factors influenced the choices you made in structuring the book?
Gael-Sylvia Pullen: Quite honestly, taking Lisa’s courses, “Quick Start to Kick-Start Your Book” and “Bring Your Book To Life” gave me clarity and direction. During the process, she helped me realize that I had a wonderful problem: I had multiple book topics. No wonder it was hard for me to articulate exactly where to start. Lisa helped me identify and separate the chatter within my head by breaking down each section into sequences.
The benefits of daily practices when writing a self-help memoir Tweet This
Olivia Edwards: In The Good Around Us, you share routines you’ve developed to help you live and lead joyfully, including daily gratitude walks. How did routines help you in the process of writing a book?
Gael-Sylvia Pullen: Maintaining these daily practices helped me stay grounded and helped me to prioritize. They also helped me start each day off right without feeling like I was being reliant with other responsibilities. Having an accountability book coach and editor helped me stay focused on the task of prioritizing writing. It didn’t take long before writing daily was an essential part of my gratitude walks.
Advice on the publishing process when writing a self-help memoir
Olivia Edwards: What was your experience with self-publishing?
Gael-Sylvia Pullen: Because I had no prior book publishing experience, I was able to explore all of the options for self-publishing one step at a time through the guidance of Lisa and team. There were certainly many more details and expenses than I had anticipated, but they also reflected the higher quality book that I wanted associated with my name.
Finding joy during the coronavirus Tweet This
Olivia Edwards: The Good Around Us shares stories of how you chose joy in challenging times, including illness, deaths of loved ones, and unforgiving professional environments. How can we apply the wisdom you gained to the current coronavirus situation?
Gael-Sylvia Pullen: Practice being intentional in what we say that is hopeful, kind, joyful, patient and possible. There’s new-age thinking and age-old wisdom. I have learned that I don’t need to reinvent wheels. I don’t need to improve everything, but simply embracing the wisdom passed down through the years can get me back to center when I think on the words associated with my faith. Many times, I may be slow to react, but the years of practice started within a single moment carried intentionally throughout each day. I am intentional in thinking “whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Philippians 4:8)
Writing from a place of faith
Olivia Edwards: You write that your faith has been the guiding force in your life and your professional journey in business, government relations, and philanthropy. How does your faith influence your thoughts about leading from a place of joy? How did it influence your writing process?
Gael-Sylvia Pullen: To the chagrin of those who disagree, my observation and experience is that we live in a day and age of “selfies” and where descriptions of “self-care”, “self-help” and “self-love “are mixed within a concoction that makes us self-centered and self-reliant. More emphasis is being placed on a roster of holistic practices –a raw vegan diet, yoga, cleansings, herbs – in order to better cope with the psychological, spiritual and emotional demands of stressful lifestyles. The benefits are not being disputed, but it would be foolish of me to rely on my finite perspective when there are infinite possibilities created beyond my abilities.
For centuries there are recordings of a Creator greater than you and I. Having witnessed the power of this truth, I choose to continue to draw faith, hope, healing, inspiration, joy and peace from a Christ-centered life. It’s powerful to be a co-creator and to know that someone greater than I is right in my midst.
Advice on the book launch process for a self-help memoir
Olivia Edwards: Lisa mentioned you had some launch challenges, due to forces beyond your control. Can you share how you navigated any challenges and lessons learned?
Gael-Sylvia Pullen: It’s a wonderful feeling not to feel desperate, and launching my book is evident of that. It was ready a full year prior to the actual launch. Yes! Sitting on a digital bookshelf waiting to go out into the world. I enjoy bringing wonderful people together and collectively inspiring others. It’s more fun to celebrate with others.
With that in mind, I was hoping to leverage a prior successful relationship with Barnes & Noble for a national book tour with other female authors as a part of Girls Fly!’s “Finding Your Written Voice” series. Approximately fifteen truly gifted authors would join me to encourage other women not to abandon their dreams of published authors. After months and months of planning, it had to be postponed. But, being experienced with disappointments, my faith assured me that not all was lost and a perfect time would come. Just as we began to ramp up for a second attempt, COVID-19 quarantine was mandated. Other than God, who would know that “for such a time as this” the world needs a reminder that there is still good around us and a way to live and lead from a place of hope and joy, even in the joyless moments.
Olivia Edwards: What are your launch plans? and what are you doing to get The Good Around Us out into the world?
Gael-Sylvia Pullen: I am so excited! I am very nervous! I feel quite vulnerable, yet I feel quite thankful. The best expression of gratitude to my husband, my dear friend Arlene, Lisa, Kelly and others is to finish the book and encourage others to find their written voice, to know their life has value and celebrate all that is good around us.
Everyone who knows me or has experienced our family celebrations have expectations to meet a wide variety of people from extremely diverse backgrounds. The diversity is reflected in the food. The desserts are creative, fun and seem endless. There is always live music and the party goes on longer than most American celebrations, sometimes for days! It’s basically an open house for wonderful people to bring their friends and create wonderful memories with new people. I will bring all of these elements to the virtual book launch on May 20th, all day on a Facebook Live Stream here. Come celebrate with me! COVID-19 just made the party a real way to practice what I teach – Live and lead from a place of joy, because there is still good around us!
About the Author
Gael-Sylvia Pullen works globally with industry and community leaders to uncover the good around them. A former co-owner in the largest minority-owned commercial real estate brokerage firm in the state of California, Gael-Sylvia is the CEO of Girls Fly!, a transformational leadership company dedicated to developing high-functioning teams, and a retired award-winning McDonald’s franchisee.
Her path to approval as a hotel franchisee, ownership of a bilingual business radio broadcast, studies at the prestigious Waseda University in Tokyo, time served in the Peace Corp, and years in government relations positioned her for economic and philanthropic growth. Then the Great Recession hit, multiple deaths occurred, and a debilitating health condition kept Gael-Sylvia bedridden for fifteen months. During that time, she launched Sylvia Global Media Network, a global empowerment program, and developed a program designed to help herself and others live and lead from a place of joy. Gael-Sylvia has recovered from her illness and returned to being a joyful, healthy wife, mother, grandmother, and ballroom dancer. She lives in Seal Beach, California, with her husband of forty plus happy years.
The Good around Us: Living and Leading from a Place of Joy, Even in the Joyless Moments is the first in a series of books Gael-Sylvia is writing about business, personal growth, and leadership. The series focuses on personal growth, philanthropy, and business, including empowering employees and community engagement to go beyond brand, goodwill, and profitability.