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Interview with Jill Muehrcke, author of Waking Up Happy!

Jill MuehrckeJuliana (Jill) Muehrcke is the award-winning author of many books and articles. Founder and editor of the international magazine Nonprofit World (, she has studied at the University of Colorado and the University of Michigan and has a BA degree, specializing in English and psychology, from the University of Washington. Jill is listed in Who’s Who ( In her spare time, she enjoys teaching yoga and eating ethnic food. For many years, in several cities, including Seattle, Honolulu, and Madison, she has written restaurant reviews.

Her latest book is Waking Up Happy: A Handbook of Change with Memoirs of Recovery and Hope.

You can visit her website at

Listen to Jill on the Joy Cardin Show at


Waking Up HappyWAKING UP HAPPY: A HANDBOOK OF CHANGE WITH MEMOIRS OF RECOVERY AND HOPE: Powerful, absorbing, and beautifully written, this first-of-its-kind book of transformation and healing includes memoirs of people who have recovered from addictions, harmful habits, and intolerable situations, along with exercises readers can do to make the same transformations in their own lives.

Half of the proceeds of this book will be donated to the Recovery Foundation helping people build new lives – so every time someone buys a book, they will be helping someone TRANSFORM THEIR LIFE!


Those of us who tell our stories here had different time schedules for changing our lives and have taken varied pathways, but all of us were — and are — on the same odyssey. Moving away from our addictions was just one step on that road to a new life.

Before we could create lasting change, we needed to find the root causes that made us turn to drugs – and other addictions – for relief – childhood abuse, neglect, mental illness in the family, secrets and fears that stifled honest communication as we were growing up and made us doubt ourselves and our worth. Confronting those ghosts, we learned to care for ourselves and find peace in our hearts.

It wasn’t about the drugs. There was always something missing at the core. What was missing was love. We had to learn to love ourselves, the people and environment around us, and finally the larger world.

The afflictions that went along with addictions – depression, eating disorders, sexual compulsions – complicated our voyage. We had to be vigilant that we didn’t slip back into those secondary disorders. Doing so required us to become detectives in unraveling the mystery of our own lives, and digging for those answers became one of the most exhilarating parts of the journey. The only thing more magical was sharing our discoveries with others and listening to their stories of self-discovery.

We have come full circle but have discovered that life isn’t really a circle but, rather, a spiral. Each time we come around to what seems like the same place, we’re on a different level, with greater ability to apply the lessons we’ve learned before.

We ask ourselves: How many times do I have to learn this lesson? The answer is: You will be learning your life lessons forever. But each time, you embed that lesson within your psyche a little more fully.

Step by step is the way. Slow and steady is the speed. That’s how change happens – by inches. By millimeters. By micrometers.

It is our brokenness, the jagged parts of ourselves that catch the light like crystal. It’s the glitter of those pointed pieces that beams a light for us and for others.

Taking these lessons to heart, we’re stronger than we ever thought possible. And yet we’re stronger still – immeasurably strong – when we join with others on the pilgrimage. We’re like beads of water falling on stone. Together, we transform the stone into something altogether new. We will never give up.

~ ~ ~GIVEAWAYS ~ ~ ~

Pump Up Your Book & Jill Muehrcke are teaming up to bring you a great giveaway. One lucky person who comments the most on her blog stops will receive a $25 gift certificate. The blog host who receives the most comments through the tour will also receive a $25 gift certificate! Also check out her schedule below to find out how you can win a FREE copy of her book. Good luck and we’ll see you on the blog trail!


Q: Welcome to Beyond the Books, Jill. Can we start out by having you tell us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?

I’ve had dozens of books published – mostly in the educational and nonprofit sectors. My new book WAKING UP HAPPY: A HANDBOOK OF CHANGE WITH MEMOIRS OF RECOVERY AND HOPE is a complete departure for me. It includes my own memoir, plus the memoirs of my daughter and granddaughter and over 30 other people who have made radical changes in their lives. It also includes exercises I’ve collected for decades on how to make positive life changes, as well as advice and tips from the other storytellers. So it is by far the most personal book I’ve ever published. I also feel it has the most potential to change the lives of those who read it.

Q: When you were published for the first time, which route did you go – mainstream, small press, vanity published or self-published and why or how did you choose this route?

The first best-selling book I published was MAP USE – a book on how to use maps – that I self-published along with my husband Phillip. At that time (1978) I started my own publishing company, which I still own today. Many mainstream publishers wanted to publish MAP USE but they wanted to price it over $50, and we wanted to keep the price as affordable as possible – we were able to publish the first edition for $14.95. Since then we’ve been through seven editions and 14 printings of the book. My newest book WAKING UP HAPPY is self-published through my new website Again, my main reason for self-publishing is to keep the price of the book low and yet have enough income from it so that I can donate half the proceeds to the Recovery Foundation (, a wonderful group that helps build new lives by providing scholarships for people who can’t afford counseling. So if you buy a copy of WAKING UP HAPPY, you’re not only starting the journey to a new life for yourself – you’re also helping transform someone else’s life!

Q: How long did it take you to get published once you signed the contract?

With WAKING UP HAPPY, it took me three years from the time I wrote the first sentence till I held the published book in my hands. About half of that was the research and writing, and the other half was the editing and publishing.

Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?

When MAP USE came from the printer, I had a huge party. I haven’t yet had the book-launch party for WAKING UP HAPPY – it is planned for April 30. I still feel as giddy now as I did when MAP USE was published back in 1978. It’s a wonderful feeling to see all that work and planning come to fruition. The party on April 30 will be especially exciting because it will be the first time that all the main memoirists in WAKING UP HAPPY will be together in the same room.

Q: What was the first thing you did as far as promotion when you were published for the first time?

With all my books, word of mouth has been a primary factor. So the first thing I always do is tell everyone I know about it and ask them to tell everyone they know.

Q: Since you’ve been published, how have you grown as a writer and now a published author?

With WAKING UP HAPPY, I had to dig deep inside myself so that I could be totally honest in writing my memoir, including the painful parts of my life. Then I had to help the 30 other memoirists do the same thing. And after publication, I had to stand up in front of roomfuls of strangers and tell them some of the most private things about my life. All these experiences have helped me grow a great deal as a writer and as a person.

Q: What has surprised or amazed you about the publishing industry as a whole?

I have friends who have been published by mainstream publishing companies in the past year, and I’ve been amazed at how little marketing those companies do for them. It’s a far cry from the widespread promotion of the past. As a self-published author, I can do the same things as my friends do through their mainstream publishers. I’ve also been surprised at how much fun it is to connect one-on-one with readers about my book. My favorite thing is when book clubs read my book for their monthly selection and then ask me to join them when they discuss it.

Q: What is the most rewarding thing about being a published author?

The most rewarding thing is to hear from readers that my words have touched them and helped them make major changes in their life.

Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?

The tips in WAKING UP HAPPY are totally relevant to becoming a published author. They’re about how to persevere, how to let patience be your friend, and how to keep making tiny changes in your life each day so that you continue to improve yourself, enrich your life, and turn your experiences into a dramatic story. They’re about using your signature strengths every day so that you become your best self. They’re about reaching deep inside yourself and reaching out to others, because you can’t do it without knowing yourself completely – and you can’t do it alone.


Read a Chapter: Waking Up Happy by Jill Muehrcke

Read a Chapter is *NEW* added feature at Beyond the Books! Here you’ll be able to read the first chapters of books of all genres to see if you like them before you buy them. Today we are featuring Waking Up Happy: A Handbook of Change with Memoirs of Recovery and Hope by Jill Muehrcke. Ordering information follows. If you would like to learn more about Jill, visit her website at

WAKING UP HAPPY: A HANDBOOK OF CHANGE WITH MEMOIRS OF RECOVERY AND HOPE: Powerful, absorbing, and beautifully written, this first-of-its-kind book of transformation and healing includes memoirs of people who have recovered from addictions, harmful habits, and intolerable situations, along with exercises readers can do to make the same transformations in their own lives.

Half of the proceeds of this book will be donated to the Recovery Foundation helping people build new lives – so every time someone buys a book, they will be helping someone TRANSFORM THEIR LIFE!


You Are the Sculptor and the Stone

It began with a dream. As a freelance writer, I’m always looking for new writing projects, and one night I dreamed of climbing a mountain with several other women, passing through fierce storms, and arriving at a sunlit peak where we could see the paths we’d taken, gleaming below us, and realized we could help others find their own trails, supporting them on their climb, and helping them avoid the obstacles that had made our ascent so painful.

Because of this dream, I was sure I was meant to join with other women to write a book, using our experiences to help others. I waited for the book to take shape in my mind. Before I went to sleep, I asked my dream sherpa to offer guidance. But I had no more revelatory dreams, and in time I put the idea aside.

Then one day I was talking to my granddaughter, Shyloh, a beautiful young woman who had just turned twenty-one and was one of the brightest lights of my life. She’d recently been to rehab, gotten off drugs, and was telling me about a place called Connections, where she was receiving the support she needed to lead a new, sober life.

As it happened, the woman who’d started Connections, Shelly Dutch, was profiled that month in the magazine Wisconsin Woman, and Shyloh gave me the piece to read. She also talked about her counselor at Connections, Skye, who had an idea for a book relating the stories of people who’d come to Connections. These amazing men and women were, like phoenixes, rising up from the fires of addiction and using the ashes to fashion brand-new lives.

This, I realized, was the book I was meant to write, and Shyloh, Shelly, and Skye were the climbing companions of my dream. We each had a powerful spark within us, but it took the synchrony of my talk with Shyloh to drive our energies toward a common purpose.

For years, I’d been collecting ideas about the process of change because of my own recovery journey. I realized that all the research I’d done after I stopped drinking and the strategies I’d used to turn my life around could be woven into this book of memoirs to help others on their voyages of change.

Skye already had the book’s title – Waking Up Happy — and its premise – focusing not on the misery of people’s addictions but on the joyous journey of recovery. Shelly donated Connections’ meeting rooms, where we began strategizing and found people whose stories were begging to be told.

Like Skye, I’d read many memoirs of addiction and finished each one wishing there had been less immersion in the years of addiction, relapse, and anguish and more on the gratifying

process of recovering and building a new life. But what happened next? I always found myself asking. How did these tortured souls go on to lead meaningful lives? What were their secrets? The title Skye chose for the book resounded with us because we’d all had the experience

of waking up miserable, detesting ourselves for what we’d become. The crowning splendor of a new life is that feeling you have upon waking – that all’s right with the world and that you have a productive place in it.

Connections Counseling Center – the haven Shelly has designed for people in recovery — is itself a place of joy. Those who enter the warm, cozy space feel welcomed and embraced.

On my first visit there, Skye showed me two walls – one of sorrow and one of jubilation. The first wall is covered with pictures of Connections’ clients who have died – of overdoses, in car crashes, and in all the other ways people kill themselves, by design or accident, when they’ve forgotten how to love themselves.

The second wall is made up of collages of people who have lived to celebrate one or more years of sobriety. Each collage has been created with photos of the person laughing with friends and pictures symbolizing key points on the person’s journey.

“Both walls have powerful messages,” Skye said. “The first makes it clear that addiction is a serious disease. People die from it, and many others come close to dying. But my work isn’t depressing. It’s a joyous job, counseling people who are changing their lives. The second wall reflects that miracle of transformation.”

Tale as old as time,

Tune as old as song,

Bittersweet and strange,

Finding you can change,

Learning you were wrong.

–Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, Beauty and the Beast


There are many reasons why you may want to change your life. If you have an addiction, habit, or intolerable situation that’s devastating your life, you may realize you must make a drastic shift. If you’re in a relationship that’s diminishing rather than enhancing your best self, or if you’re eating the wrong foods, hurting your body, or doing other self-destructive things, you know, deep inside, that you can’t continue on that path. And as you pass through different phases in your life – as you become a parent, for example, or an empty-nester or a retiree – radical adjustments are necessary.

Changing your life isn’t easy. It means learning to know yourself. It means creating yourself anew. Because you’re both the sculptor and the stone, it’s a wrenching task.

And yet every sculptor knows that the piece of art that’s meant to be already exists: It’s a matter of carving its essence from material that’s already there. When asked how the granite bear came to be, the sculptor says, “I just cut away everything that wasn’t a bear.”

All of us in this book have worked long hours stripping away the false, burdensome, excess parts of ourselves to bring our truest spirits into being. Because we’re all addicts of one sort or another, it’s those addictions – to drugs, to habits that suffocated our authentic selves, to people who hurt and abused us and quelled our power– it’s those addictions we chisel at every day.

You needn’t be an addict to feel the clarion call to remold yourself. Everyone’s life cries out for transformation. If you don’t change and grow, you die: Bit by bit, day by day, your innermost soul dwindles and perishes. The cost of not continuing to grow is ultimately feeling half-dead.

There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.

–Anais Nin

Change doesn’t happen in a moment. But often there’s an instant that signals the need for an evolution into something new. Buried in that instant you’ll often find the power of synchronicity.

Synchronicity may be a vague concept for you until one day events come together in an “Aha!’ moment and it becomes crystal clear how everything’s connected, for synchronicity is all about connection. It’s about turning points, signposts that signal a new route. It’s about the way life surprises you when your heart’s open to the universe of possibilities.

This book was born through a series of synchronous events – circumstances too filled with significance to be mere coincidence. The psychologist Carl Jung described synchronicity as a link that goes beyond simple cause and effect to become meaningful, a fusion of elements that, when they merge, turn into something new. Sometimes a synchronous moment causes a major shift, pointing the way toward a deeper purpose, and that’s our hope for you – that as you peruse this book, you’ll find a story, suggestion, or life lesson that resonates in just the right way, touching you at a moment when you’re ready to take a leap toward a new life.

There is no such thing as a problem without a gift for you in its hand.

–Helen Schucman

You’re the artist of your own life. All you need do is pick up the tools for change and begin to use them. Each false start is a carving crucial to the final piece of art, paving the way for you to sculpt your greatest creation: the beautiful self that lies within the stone.

– Excerpted from Waking Up Happy. All rights reserved.

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