Sometimes you have to find the ways you’ll have the most fun with and then keep doing those until you have a small success, which then can lead to bigger successes.
As part of my series about “How to write a book that sparks a movement” I had the pleasure of interviewing Laura Di Franco.
Laura Di Franco is the owner of Brave Healer Productions where she’ll help you share your story, build your business and change the world. With three decades of expertise in holistic physical therapy, a third-degree black belt and ten books, she has a clear preference for being badass but she’s also the champion of entrepreneurs who want to grow their health-based practices. Her writing workshops, business strategy sessions, and online writing club are just some of the ways she helps talented professionals maximize their professional impact. www.BraveHealer.com
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share the “backstory” about how you grew up?
I chuckled at this first question because I often tell my writing students, “No backstory, just share what you wrote, from the first word to the last.” People feel they need to justify themselves or who they are with their “story.” Well, here’s my version.
Born in 1968 from hippie parents, I grew up in an entrepreneurial-minded family. Add being first-born to that and you get my current type-A, super-organized, and serial entrepreneur state of badassery. My childhood experiences, including my parents divorcing when I was eight, helped form me into a woman of power, who is using her voice for awareness, healing, and empowerment. I grew up in Marin County, California, just north of San Francisco, and enjoyed every second of my life among the redwood trees and collecting shells at Stinson Beach. I miss those places. I’ve lived on the east coast now for more than half my life.
The first half was about checking the boxes of the list of things I was taught were supposed to make you happy. I went to school, graduated, got a great job, married a successful man, bought a house, and a dog, and had two amazing kids. I had nothing to complain about, except the feeling inside that I wasn’t happy yet. The search for that happiness would lead to painful moments and joyful ones, and I wouldn’t change any of it.
When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action or changed your life? Can you share a story?
I remember Little House on the Prairie and Nancy Drew Mysteries. I was mostly drawn to the first set of books because the main character’s name was also Laura. So, she made me feel famous way back then. Growing up without technology to suck me in, I was always outside, like the girls in those stories. I’d often walk down to the creek near my house to catch salamanders; I was a total tomboy. When I think back to my childhood I’m grateful. I had a hard time with the divorce crap, but being outdoors, and on bicycles, roller-skates and boogie boards shaped my body and my mind into the woman I am today. I spent countless hours on a huge grassy hill behind one of the seven homes we lived in during those years. My sister and I fashioned huge cardboard boxes into sleds, and climbed to the top of the hill to slide down. It never snowed in California back then, so we had to improvise.
What was the moment or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world? Can you share a story about that?
In 2006 we were searching for an activity for my son to try. I was in the middle of being a wife, mom, and physical therapist, and for many years said to my family, “I will definitely write a book one day.” We visited our local YMCA to watch a Tae Kwon Do class. When it was over, I walked out with my son who was five and a half at the time and I asked him, “So, what do you think, do you want to try it?”
“I’ll do it if you do it, Mom,” was his reply.
Six years later we earned our black belts together. He was the youngest at the school to do so, and we were the first mom-son team to do so. This is your book! I thought. I realized I’d journaled throughout that six year journey, as I always had throughout my life, and that my book was sitting, mostly already written, on those pages. So Living, Healing and Tae Kwon Do was born in 2012, my first time publishing anything other than my physical therapy blogs for the world to see. It took guts. My authentic stories, thoughts, and dreams were now out loud for the world to read, and I often wondered if they were good enough.
When I started to get a little feedback, and it was positive, I realized that our stories heal; us and the reader. I was hooked on that idea and have been ever since. My words are more clear and more powerful the more I share them.
In 2016 that idea hit home even moreso. I had written hundreds of blogs and a few more books by then. One day a stranger reached out on Facebook messenger: “I love that blog you wrote on MindBodyGreen and I’ve been struggling. I wondered if you had some more links I could read?”
I typed, “Yes, of course, one second.” I grabbed a few self-care blogs I’d written. I learned she was a mother of five and had been struggling with depression. So I dropped a few links in messenger, but went a step further. I wrote and dedicated a blog to her, anonymously. I wrote about self-care and asked my audience, who I knew was full of fellow healers, mothers, and women who’d suffered with depression, to step up in the comments with love and support. And they did.
My new friend felt the hope and connection she’d been craving. We became friends and she joined a writing class I was teaching. She went on to writing her first two blogs for the world; a story about being a mom of five, and another one about self-care — a reach out to other mothers that said, “If I can do this, you can do this.”
What I didn’t know at the time was that she’d been planning the suicide note she’d write to her husband and five kids.
So…if that’s the only thing I ever do with myself, and my writing, it will have been enough. The fire in me has never burned brighter in terms of sharing my message out loud. My fear of not-good-enough is now quite boring to me. Words heal. They can change someone’s life.
What impact did you hope to make when you wrote this book?
The impact I hope to make with my first and all ten current books is to encourage healers to have way more fun with their fear, and share the stories and words that will change the world. Healers are a unique bunch of badasses. They chose this crazy journey and walk the walk every day. I’m honored to be among them.
The new book, The Ultimate Guide to Self-Healing, is changing the world by sharing the holistic tools people can use at home for peak health and wellness. My healer friends are sharing their vulnerable stories and dropping their insanely-amazing wisdom in each of these books. Each book has 25 of those tools, gifting the reader with 25 new ways of being inspired, feeling hope, and understanding what’s possible for their healing.
We’re changing the world with our brave words.
Did the actual results align with your expectations? Can you explain?
In this recent book project the results have far outweighed my original goals and expectations. I literally woke up on March 20th, in the middle of the pandemic, a week or so after Maryland’s announcement that my physical therapy business would be shut down, and I had a lingering dream in my head. The collaborative book, with all my healer friends. YES! So I walked my sleepy-but-now-excited butt to my computer, and typed in my note to my healer crew in one of my Facebook groups, “Hey ladies, the world needs to understand how to heal at home right now, who would like to contribute a chapter?”
In 48 hours I had all 24 yeses. And five weeks later that first book in the series was on Amazon. In the book world, that would be a small miracle.
We’re about to launch Volume 2 now. And the project has become a series, a video interview series, and a private group for book purchasers to get live training from the expert authors. Dude, pinch me!
What moment let you know that your book had started a movement? Please share a story.
After the launch of that first book to #1 International Amazon Best Seller in the Chronic Pain category, I was basking in the goodness of it all and I received three emails. “When are you going to do another one?” They were all asking that same question.
Whoa, I thought, can you just let me bask a little bit longer in this one? But I said yes. It was when other people started to want to be a part of the project that I knew it was as aligned as I’ve ever been with anything in my life. This project has had much bigger energy than just me. I feel like I’m just following orders from the Universe at this point. It’s amazing.
What kinds of things did you hear right away from readers? What are the most frequent things you hear from readers about your book now? Are they the same? Different?
Holy moly, this has been incredible. Aside from the well-crafted and beautiful testimonials our launch team wrote for us, the words I received on Messenger the other day summed it up for me: “This is a life-altering book.”
I replied, “I know, I feel that. Thank you so much!” And when I read her words and really allowed them to sink in I started to cry. It was a moment of dwelling in pure purpose. The reason I was born. I get to live that every day when I help these beautiful, talented souls express their words, messages and gifts with the world. How lucky am I? The kind words about this book, the project, and my leadership have poured in. I’m finally at a place in my life where I am practicing receiving all that, and still remaining in awe of it all.
What is the most moving or fulfilling experience you’ve had as a result of writing this book? Can you share a story?
Honestly, it’s my “Shirley” story, the one I shared in the question above about the woman who reached out that day on Facebook. Her name is Shirley. She doesn’t mind that I use her name. We met online, but have actually met in person a few times now. I got to give her that hug. It was incredible. I wake up every single day knowing that I’m enough because of her, that my words matter. I have met her husband. I have seen pictures of her children and I know her story. When I stand on a stage or talk to a podcast host and finish that story, I always ask the audience the question I’ll ask you all now: Who is your Shirley?
I’ve been lucky to be able to tell this story. You won’t always know who’s watching, reading, or listening. But know they are there. Trust there are people reading and listening. And when someone tells you how much you’ve meant to them, remember to listen, and receive that fully.
Have you experienced anything negative? Do you feel there are drawbacks to writing a book that starts such colossal conversation and change?
Ha, well, when you become an author and decide to play a bit bigger in the world, it’s not “if” people will criticize, it’s “when.” Although I have to say, with this particular project, there haven’t been any critics. As someone who chooses to get their thoughts and opinions about things into the world, I choose to risk the criticism. Because if you really felt my story about Shirley, you also feel that it’s not about me and my fear anymore. It’s about who’s life I might change, or even save! This helps me be very brave, when it comes to the possible (probable) negativity.
Can you articulate why you think books in particular have the power to create movements, revolutions, and true change?
Books written with intention have the very powerful energy of the author infused in their pages. When we help someone feel something, they are moved. And I think life is about that; about being moved in ways that make you feel fiercely alive. We want to belong. We want to feel things and know our purpose. Books have that power.
What is the one habit you believe contributed the most to you becoming a bestselling writer? (i.e. perseverance, discipline, play, craft study) Can you share a story or example?
I had great coaching and that is what helped me become a bestselling author, along with the discipline of action taking that I have created for myself in life and in my business. I paid attention, studied what my coaches did, and asked a lot of questions. I truly wanted to go at all of this with a beginner’s mind, so that I could pay the information and knowledge forward. And at every turn, I took the action required to go the next step, learn, make the mistakes, learn some more, and fine tune. The habit of action-taking is the most valuable for success in general. It’s when you’re willing to have a little more fun with your fear of failure that the real magic happens.
And…I built a superb book launch team. In 2018 when my second big book was being launched I decided to gather some friends and ask them if they’d help me with my launch. My coach told me what to do and I followed those instructions. That would turn out to be the best thing I ever did for my books, in general. The Brave Healer Book Launch Warriors is now a Facebook group where the ideal readers of all my books hang out. The generous people in that group continue to support me and really give each launch the energy and support it needs to spread the message in a bigger way.
What challenge or failure did you learn the most from in your writing career? Can you share the lesson(s) that you learned?
The biggest lesson I learned was that you need to market your book until you die; that a book does not just market itself. A couple of my early books did not have great sales, because I wasn’t marketing them regularly. Consistency is the key here. A little creativity doesn’t hurt either. There are many ways to market your books. Sometimes you have to find the ways you’ll have the most fun with and then keep doing those until you have a small success, which then can lead to bigger successes. Two books I love on this topic are 1001 Ways to Market Your Books, and Market Like a Boss. Both authors provide lots of great, effective ideas. There’s so much to learn. It was about remembering that I didn’t have to know it all, and that I just had to be willing to keep learning and finding new, fun ways to get the word out.
Many aspiring authors would love to make an impact similar to what you have done. What are the 5 things writers needs to know if they want to spark a movement with a book? (please include a story or example for each)
- Feel something when you write. A successful book starts with great writing. And great writing makes the reader feel something.
- Back when I began to marry my holistic healing practice with therapeutic writing, I realized I had to conjure up the feeling before I sat down to type. I had to ask myself what I wanted my reader to feel, and then actually feel it while I was typing the words. If I was bored, tired, or disinterested, that was the time to walk away from my computer. Feeling is healing. Emotion moves your reader. So, ask yourself, what am I feeling right now? Do I want this vibe? And then ask yourself, what do I want them to feel? That can be a mini mission statement for each book or piece of writing.
- Write about something that turns you on.
- In the beginning the mission was to educate people about healing and how to keep themselves injury-free. It was the “supposed to” of my writing. Well, supposed to’s have an energy. So instead, I thought about what really got me lit up, fired up, and passionate. When that energy flows, the words are never-ending. There’s no writers block when you’re connected to what you love. I write about what turns me on. And that turns others on.
- Have more fun with your fear
- Similar to #2, if you’re not having fun, why are you writing it? Life is short. We’re here to live in our purpose. Purpose is joyful, fulfilling, and good-feeling. You have to get to know the difference between the real fear and the purpose-driven fear in you. If the voice is telling you you’re not good enough, have a little conversation with it. Start to get to know your fear, and how it’s paralyzing you. And then it’s time to have some fun and write about the things you’re a little scared to write about. The things you know will help others. Write for your Shirley.
- Build a community
- You can do it alone, but you’ll have way more fun if you build a community of badasses around you, or join one you’re passionate about. Book magic happens when your words are shared in big ways. The only way you’ll be able to do that is to get a lot more eyes on those words. Do all the things. Be a guest on podcasts, speak, write your blogs, talk to more people about what you’re passionate about, start a new Facebook group…if you can’t find the community then lead it!
- You must fall in love with selling your books
- This one gets all the great authors. Because we want to write, not sell. We don’t know how to talk about ourselves in a way that feels good, worthy, and brave. We’re worried way too much about what everyone else thinks, and not enough about that one person we’ll help when we share ourselves and our offerings. Being a successful author means you’re marketing and selling your books. And selling is a form of self-love. Because when you believe in yourself and your message enough to share it out loud with the world, you give yourself that acceptance, energy, and love. The only way you’ll truly change lives with your book is if people actually know it’s out there. Fall in love with this process of sharing your brave words in bigger ways. It will get easier. It will start to feel a lot better.
The world, of course, needs progress in many areas. What movement do you hope someone (or you!) starts next? Can you explain why that is so important?
Brave Healer Productions has started a revolution of consciousness. It’s about practicing awareness and creating a discipline of it as you walk through life. Awareness and the communication that stems from it are world-changing practices. I hope to spark this interest, curiosity, and passion in everyone I meet! Our words will change the world when we’re brave enough to share them!
How can our readers follow you on social media?
I can’t wait to connect with you! You can find me on the following platforms:
Thank you so much for these insights. It was a true pleasure to do this with you.