Welcome to my Authors 40+ Series – sharing the stories of amazing authors who published their first book over the age of 40. The series features talented, experienced and inspirational writers who share their (often non-conventional!) writing and publishing journeys honestly and articulately. Next to feature, is Tamsin Hartley!
1) What is the title and synopsis/premise of your first book and how old were you when you published it?
The title of my book is The Listening Space; A New Path to Personal Discovery.
It is a practical handbook that takes the reader on a journey of personal discovery through the Lighthouse of Clean Exploration. Floor by floor, you are introduced to tools to change the way that you listen.
These tools change the way you listen to yourself, helping you to gain clarity in the decisions that you make and take more pleasure in what you do.
They change the way that you listen to others so you can understand and connect with them with greater richness and depth, to mutual benefit.
The book combines the principles of mindfulness with exploration through metaphor using ‘Clean’ questions (i.e. questions that don’t contaminate someone else’s thinking with our own thoughts or feelings). It teaches you how to create a Listening Space – a structured process that can be used to explore pretty much any aspect of a person’s experience, from a problem they would like to gain clarity on to a creative idea they want to develop. When people are listened to in this way they often make transformative and long-lasting changes.
I was 51 years old when I published it.
2) Tell me about writing the book e.g. where did the idea come from / how long did it take / what did you learn along the way?
I had always been fascinated by using metaphor in the coaching work that I do, and once I was introduced to Clean Language I was hooked! Here was a respectful way of exploring a situation that was both resourceful and richly creative.
I then took an 8-week mindfulness course (twice!). It occurred to me that there were many parallels between mindfulness and exploration using Clean questions. Over the course of a year I experimented with using Clean questions for mindful exploration to create the Listening Space. I was writing the book as I created this process.
It took about another year before the book was available on Amazon. This stage was far more time-consuming than I had anticipated. It involved a lot of liaising with the illustrator, typesetter and cover designer to get a layout that I think really works well. There were also a number of ‘fiddly’ admin stages involved in getting the book ready for printing.
I have learnt to be patient and to manage my expectations around time-frames in the process of writing and getting a book published.
3) Tell me about your publishing journey step by step – what happened once the book was finished?
Without the help of Siân-Elin Flint-Freel – my copy-editor, proofreader, book writing mentor, and general task-master – the book would never have been born. Rather like giving birth, there was an amazing sense of achievement in getting my book published, but the work didn’t stop once the baby was born!
After the birth I continued to have some sessions with Siân so she could hand-hold me through the process of feeding the book’s presence on social media – with an occasional elbow nudge here and there!
4) Who or what has helped you the most in becoming a published author?
I quickly came to realise that publishing a book is a team effort. The acknowledgements list was lengthy!
However, I would give particular mention to my monthly online sessions with Siân, which gave the structure and motivation to be productive, and a more objective perspective on my writing.
I also have a friend and fellow coach/trainer/Clean Language facilitator, Sue Sharp, who has an amazing ability to see both the big picture and give attention to the fine detail. Her feedback on my writing and on the suggested activities in the book was so helpful.
Finally, it felt like the whole book came to life when I came face-to-face with the illustrations of Lucy Monkman, who gave form to the characters within it.
5) What are the main obstacles you faced / overcame when writing and publishing your book(s)?
Clean questions and exploration through metaphor were invaluable in the process of writing my book. There were a number of occasions when they came to my rescue!
For example, it really helped to have a metaphor for the structure of the book: the Lighthouse of Mindful Exploration. This enabled me to see what needed to be included in each floor, and what could be left out.
And when I felt overwhelmed by the task of writing the book, a friend held a Listening Space for me, asking Clean questions to explore this feeling. Before long a metaphor appeared. Writing each chapter was like climbing the tall sand dunes on Bamburgh Beach. The harder I tried to get to the top, the more I sank into the sand. I realised that I needed to go at a slow and steady pace, focussing on one step at a time. It was important to pause every now and again and turn around to enjoy the view out to sea. I could also make sure I had fun on the run down before embarking on the next chapter’s climb.
When it came to proofreading the final draft I experienced a very unnerving kind of ‘snow blindness’ in relation to what I had written. I don’t know if this is usual, but I just couldn’t see whether my writing made sense or not. I recruited 6 or 7 willing beta readers to help with the final draft – friends who I knew would be both supportive and critical.
6) How do you promote/advertise your book(s)?
I’ve been promoting my book in a number of ways:
- speaking at various conferences and training events;
- running workshops and training courses;
- posting things that are relevant to the Listening Space on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn (although this didn’t come naturally to me at first);
- producing a monthly blog, which includes some very moving stories about the impact that using Clean questions and the Listening Space have had for others.
What really helps is that I know Clean questions and the Listening Space have made such a difference to my life. It has helped me connect with what is important to me in the decisions that I make. It has also helped me understand others better and I have become witness to some truly inspiring thinking. This simple set of questions helps a person to tell their own story in their own way. For this reason, it is a joy to share with others.
7) How did you celebrate the incredible achievement of your first book being published?
Celebrating the publication of the book was a lot of fun. I had a book launch party in the café of a local arts theatre and invited people who had supported me along the way.
I have some very creative friends who helped bring themes from the book to life.
One friend made some gorgeous lighthouse banners to hang up on the wall:
Another made a lighthouse cake:
We had a parrot piñata:
And a ‘tether the goat’ competition!
You’ll have to buy the book if you want to find out what a parrot and tethered goat have to do with listening!!!
8) What advice would you give to other authors about to begin their publishing journey?
I would say that having cheer-leaders to support you along the way is essential, particularly when self-doubt comes knocking on your door. Keep sharing your ideas with them and be nourished by their enthusiasm.
9) Where is/are your book(s) currently available to read and where can people find you online?
My book is available from Amazon:
You find me online by:
- Visiting my website thelisteningspace.co.uk, where you’ll find:
- Information about Listening Space courses you can join;
- Some lovely Clean meditations to download if you fancy a moment to pause in a busy day;
- A series of blogs with some very moving stories that others have shared with me about the impact that Clean exploration has had on their work and personal life.
- Following me on Twitter: twitter.com/listeningspace2
- Visiting my Facebook page: facebook.com/listeningspace
- Following me on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/the_listening_space/
10) Are you working on anything new we can look forward to in 2019?
Yes. I’m just about to publish a book of poems that I’ve written called, Captured Moments: Poems Inspired by a Listening Space.
At the end of one Clean Language training I attended, we were encouraged to ‘make physical’ what we had learnt from our personal exploration. Within 15 minutes a poem ‘came to me’. A poem which gave voice to some very powerful realisations in a way that was deeply satisfying. I think the last time I’d written a poem was in my teens, and I had never considered myself very good at writing them!
However, over the past few years I have noticed that if I sit still for long enough to ‘capture the moment’, a poem appears. And if I find myself grappling with an aspect of the experience that I want to capture, then I know I can turn to good friends who will help me explore my thinking by creating a Listening Space for me.
Some family members and friends have commented on how much they have enjoyed reading my poems, and suggested I put a collection in print to share with others. There are also some mindful activities at the end of the book that invite the reader to explore their thinking in a creative way.
Thank you for taking part in my Authors 40+ Series Tamsin! If you are an author who published their first fiction or nonfiction book over the age of 40 and would like to be featured in this blog series just like Julie, Lynne, Devorah, Paul, Joanne, Paul, D.P., Reyna, Michael and Christina, please get in touch!