I am a huge fan of Brené Brown's work. For anyone not familiar with her, she's a research professor at the University of Houston who has spent the past sixteen years studying courage, vulnerability, empathy and shame. She looks deep into the human spirit in her research and then responds by writing books that, for me, capture the essence of what it means to be truly human. I also highly recommend her TED talk on the power of vulnerability — it's been watched over 31 million times and is an internet phenomenon.
Her latest book is called Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone. The publisher's blurb describes it as: 'A timely and important new book that challenges everything we think we know about cultivating true belonging in our communities, organizations, and culture …'
I'd describe it as essential reading in this time of political, racial and gender turmoil. Everywhere I look at the moment, people seem to be hurling abuse at anyone who doesn't share their particular viewpoint. There's little room left for rational debate or even basic respect. Social media now means that hurtful, degrading, insulting and downright vile comments can be dashed off in seconds with the writer never having to come face to face with their victim. We urgently need to come together, to find a way to be true to our beliefs and ideals without fostering division and hatred along the way.
Braving the Wilderness offers us a blueprint for how to do just that. It's certainly not an easy path that Brené Brown outlines, but I think it's an important one, and one that I intend to embrace to the best of my ability. She bases the book around the acronym 'BRAVING':
B - Boundaries. You respect my boundaries and when you're not clear about what's OK and what's not OK, you ask. You are willing to say no.
R - Reliability. You do what you say you'll do. At work this means staying aware of your competencies and limitations so that you don't over-promise and are able to deliver on commitments and balance competing priorities.
A - Accountability. You own your mistakes, apologize, and make amends.
V - Vault. You don't share information or experiences that are not yours to share. I need to know that my confidences are kept and that you are not sharing with me information about other people that should be confidential.
I - Integrity. You choose courage over comfort. You choose what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy. And you choose to practise your values rather than simply professing them.
N - Non-judgment. I can ask for what I need, and you can ask for what you need. We can talk about how we feel without judgment.
G - Generosity. You extend the most generous interpretation possible to the intentions, words and actions of others.
In isolation, this might seem a bit idealistic, but Brené Brown's gift is the way she combines her research findings with real-life examples and case studies to make the theoretical completely practical. She also writes with warmth, humour and in a thoroughly down-to-earth style that is wonderfully 'real' and enjoyable.
As anyone who listens to the news or reads the papers will have seen, this is apparently the 'worst Australian flu season on record'. My family and I can vouch for that.
First, my husband went down … as if he'd been hit by a truck … which then reversed back over him. It's probably the sickest he's been since we've been married and for five days he was little more than an uncommunicative aching ball of misery.
Next, my daughter succumbed. It was the cough that brought her to her knees, with night after night of interrupted sleep leaving us all bleary-eyed and brain-dead.
And then the flu turned its sights on me. But, I have refused to go down without a fight. So far, I have resisted the raging temperature, rattling lungs and streaming snot that crippled my husband and daughter. Instead, I've endured a week of feeling pretty average that I'm hopeful will not develop further.
So, what has got us through the past fortnight? Books. Propped up in bed or curled up on couches, we've all turned to good books to perk us up. The husband has burned through Inheritors of the Earth: How nature is thriving in an age of extinction, which I will be reading next. The daughter has devoured books 3 and 4 in the Wings of Fire series. And I have been lucky enough to get my hands on an advance copy of Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow.
With a cover quote promising that 'readers will feel as though Harry Potter is meeting Alice in Wonderland', I had high expectations for this book and I haven't been disappointed. It's the debut novel for Australian author Jessica Townsend, and the book has already been sold in 28 territories, with film rights pre-empted by 20th Century Fox. While I'm still about 100 pages from the end, so far it's a wonderfully entertaining piece of world-building with endearing characters and an engrossing storyline. Look out for it online and in bookstores from October.
Today, I received an advance copy of each of the titles that Exisle Publishing and our children's picture book imprint EK Books will be publishing in November this year. Seeing an advance copy is both exciting and terrifying. In my role as Publisher for Exisle and EK, I'm responsible for each and every title — from receiving the initial manuscript to managing the editing and design process, right through to sending the final files off to the printers. It's a long and often involved process, with many opportunities for error. And even though everyone involved always does their absolute best at every stage, it's not until I've held an advance copy in my hand and made sure that I'm happy with it, that I can finally feel as if I've done my job properly!
I'm pleased to report that November's titles are both absolutely gorgeous and I can highly recommend them for your Christmas shopping list!
Feed Your Brain: The Cookbook is the ultimate resource for anyone wanting to eat in a way that maximises brain health. It's not just for people hoping to prevent dementia but for anyone looking to reduce stress or simply have more clarity of thought. Numerous studies have also shown that the right foods even have the ability to improve how our children learn. Best of all, the recipes in this book are DELICIOUS! Seriously delicious and easy too. Over the course of production, I've cooked many of them and they've all received the tick of approval from me, my husband and my daughter. The fact that they cater to those on gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan diets is just an added bonus.
Grace and Katie is a delightful picture book about twin sisters who disagree on just about everything. They both like art and drawing — but Grace likes to be neat and orderly, while Katie loves bold, bright colours. Not surprisingly, when they decide to draw a map of their home and street, it doesn't go entirely smoothly! Written by Susanne Merritt, the author of the much-loved and Speech Pathology Awards shortlisted Don't Think About Purple Elephants, and illustrated by multi-award-winning Liz Anelli, this is a fun-filled story of individuality, sisterhood, creativity and appreciating each other's strengths. Perfect for readers aged 5 and up.
So, that's the advances wrap-up for November 2017. Sadly, I won't receive an advance next month as we don't publish any titles in December, but I'll be back with a preview of January 2018 as soon as that long-anticipated parcel arrives!
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