Dear readers, did you miss our usual Thursday Smart Woman Online interview? We prepared you for it and then -- we didn't post it! Shame on us!
Let's remedy that right now. Today we are delighted to introduce our Smart Woman Online, Lisa Delman, the author of Dear Mom ... Daughters Share Letters from the Heart (Penguin, NY, NY, 2005). This extraordinary book of true to life letters (actually written by daughters to their mothers)gives you a glimpse into the female psyche that you will never get anywhere else. We recommend this book to ALL...in it you will find joy, sorrow, amazement, fear, resignation, and so very much more. It is, truly, a heartfelt project.
Lisa is announcing, here, today, a new project, designed to give support to the hurricane victims. Read on and learn how a simple thing like a hand-written letter can make a big difference:
Lip-sticking: We were so impressed with your Dear Mom project, we wonder if you'd share some of the insights from it with our readers. How did you come to write the book, and what do you hope to accomplish with it?
Lisa: Jane, it all began with my personal experience with my mother. In 1998, my mother suffered a massive heart attack and only had a 20% chance to live. I grappled with the following questions: What if I were never again able to hear my mother’s voice on the telephone? What if I had no time to tell my mother how I felt? I wrote her a series of letters letting her know of my renewed appreciation for her. She miraculously survived and those letters helped her heal.
I had not planned to do anything with the letters. Yet as I told others about the catharsis I had experienced, a grander vision was waiting in the wings. Their empathic responses painfully reminded me that, unfortunately, most women have unfinished business, unspoken emotions, and unfulfilled relationships with their mothers. [do you relate, dear readers? Jane does.]
Eager to hold a divine space in which women could connect deeply with their hearts, I created the Letters from the Heart Project where I asked participants to write letters to their mothers that expressed their deepest emotions and offered insight into their own journeys.
What I hope to accomplish: To help daughters with communication of what they need to say, to help women liberate themselves via the letterwriting process, to help women express themselves without judgment, and to have everyone realize that none of us are immune to the emotions of the heart.
We must work through our challenges to have resolution. Not every daughter can have a great relationship with their mother, yet they can have acceptance and peace within themselves.
Lip-sticking: The letters in your book are often hard to read. They bring tears to our eyes. How did you get daughters to actually write these amazing letters?
Lisa: I received letters from daughters (all women) all over the world, all walks of life. Letters from the Heart Project provides a voice for many. On my site, I had letter writing guidelines and ten ways to open up to your mother.
Context is everything. It is really all about your intentions/goals. As I set it up, I was more interested in the releasing of emotion and the freedom women felt after writing the letter. Amazing letters came pouring in also because of how this Project got started.
Interesting enough, most of the women who wrote the letters did not give the letter to their mother. Some of the mothers had passed away a long time ago. Others did not know what the outcome would be until they started writing the letter. As they went through the process, they could see a reflection of themselves. I did a questionnaire which is on my website. If anyone wants to see the results, go to my website.The results are extraordinary and even surprised me.
Lip-sticking: Is letter writing a dying art? Who writes letters anymore! What's your take on the way computers have taken over our lives?
Lisa: It depends on what aspect of letter writing you are speaking of. I think if you ask anyone, they will tell you how great it is to receive a thank you card or a letter in the mail. It is very heartfelt. For my Project, I am utilizing letter writing to heal the wounds inside.
No matter how much work we have done, it is eye opening to go through this process. When you write to someone, you can see a reflection of yourself. We are all mirrors for each other. In fact, I was speaking at a corporate conference. In the evening, I had a mini workshop on letter writing and the book Dear Mom, I’ve always Wanted You to Know….Daughters Share Letters from the Heart.
25 corporate women showed up and within 5 minutes were all writing a letter to their mother. It is because we all have heartfelt expression to communicate and many times, do not have an outlet for it. Yes, computers are great. They serve us well in many areas. We are much more connected and global because of it. There is a place for everything. Personally, what we need the most right now is more HEART. The Letters from the Heart Project is a beginning and a vehicle for the expression of the heart.
Lip-sticking: We look forward to reading your blog. Do you think blogging can be therapeutic? Should people reveal their innermost secrets online, or save them for special eyes only? How does one decide what's private and what's not?
Lisa: I love blogging, because it is so conversational. Blogging, writing, or any healthy expression is therapeutic. I do feel that there is a power and uniqueness to privacy. If we are too exposed, then there is no intrigue. No value.
The heart is precious, and we must treat it as such always. This is why I also received such incredible letters of life, because women were in the privacy of their own heart and paper when writing them. They were not writing to share to the world. They were writing from the innermost place of their heart.
Lip-sticking: We hear you've just started a new, exciting project to help people connect with the people who are currently suffering through the aftermath of Katrina. Tell us about that....
Lisa: It is called the Heart Mail Campaign. We are inviting all citizens of the world to share heartfelt words of encouragement and prayer for the relief workers, volunteers, and survivors of Hurricane Katrina. Everyone has a crayon, a piece of paper, and a heart. With our words of hope, we give our purest and most powerful energy to the healing of others. Many people around the world that weren’t affected by the Hurricane are frustrated because they feel helpless.
The Letters from the Heart Project is giving people an outlet to send their light onwards with the power of words. In our moments of despair, words are sometimes all we have to hold onto. To find out how you can participate go here.
Lip-sticking: How will you decide which letters get published and which ones don't? That seems like a monumental task, though a necessary one.
Lisa: Jane, I am so glad you asked me this. Yes, it was monumental, especially because of all the letters we received. We received over 1,000 and I did not even have my book contract with Penguin at the time. When I was writing the commentary, and organizing the book, I created a format that I felt was most effective. Then I chose the letters that best fit in that format. I chose the letters that were the most compelling and made the most difference.
I wanted to have a cross section of humanity in the book. I am also love the provocative letters. The ones that have you think. When I was writing my manuscript, I typed the 100 letters (after the selection of 1,000) myself.
Many asked me why I didn’t scan them. I typed them in to feel every emotion they were going through. As a writer, this is part of my responsibility.
Lip-sticking: The Heart Mail Campaign-- Jane is totally on board! But, we love writing. Not everyone is a writer. Give us a writing lesson -- three objectives to keep in mind when using a letter to communicate.
Lisa: (1) Write a letter privately for yourself first. Don’t worry about full sentences, just begin writing. (2) Everyone is a writer of their life. (3) Don’t put pressure on yourself. Just write to work things out in your heart, then you will see the beauty on the page.
I am glad you brought up that not everyone is a writer. Many in the book were not so called writers. The women who were writers said that the exercise of writing to their mother was more challenging for them.
Why??? It was about their personal life. It is not that we need to be good writers. It is missing the point. All of us want to learn how to express ourselves better. This is what the Letters from the Heart Project is all about.
Lip-sticking: In your experience, how important is it to write, using a pen or pencil...does it actually help people get in touch with their feelings? Most therapists want folks to 'talk' it out. Have you found writing letters to be as helpful as open discussions?
Lisa: Writing/journaling is an incredible way to begin to heal. As I mentioned before, everything has its place and is a tool. Utilizing letterwriting as a tool before an open discussion may be a very good idea. All I can say is to go to the website and look at the powerful results.
Lip-sticking: Will you be doing a Dear Dad book someday? A Dear Sister book...
Lisa: Yes, I plan to do 4 or 5 relationships because I am fascinated by the dynamics of relationships through letterwriting. I will begin a new relationship in the fall, Mother to Daughter. It will be progressive and include all women. I need to complete the full circle of women before beginning with men.
Lip-sticking: We usually ask people is they are big online shoppers, but this time, for the first time, we are not concerned with that. We would like to ask on last question -- will you be doing any audio/visual work with your letters, on your blog or website?
Lisa: Absolutely. I will be putting together an audio program and e-course for women. It has been so busy from the book, Dear Mom, I’ve Always Wanted You to Know…that this fall will be the first opportunity for me to put all this together. I am jumping up and down.
We hope, with eager, excited hearts, dear readers, that you will join Lisa in her quest to keep gathering Letters from the Heart, whether a Mom to Daughter, Daughter to Mom, or average citizen to Katrina hurricane victim. What a marvelous way to connect to others -- locally, nationally, and globally.
What's not to like about that?