I sat down recently with Jackie “JC” Gardner, a published writer who has written several works of fiction. Ms. Gardner contributed a chapter to a compilation of non-fictional stories by professional women who overcame adversity to achieve success for a book titled “Leave your Baggage Behind: Letting Go of the Past and Healing for the Future,” by Linda Eastman.
I met Jackie when we worked together previously for an international development nonprofit organization. We bonded as members of the employee gospel choir and kept in touch ever since through social media. Since then, Jackie decided to become a published author, inspirational speaker, and writing coach even while holding down her full time job and putting her children through college. That type of motivation speaks to me, in case you haven’t noticed.
When I learned of her involvement with “Leave Your Baggage Behind”, I reached out to interview her about her chapter and the experience of working on the book as a contributor. The following questions and answers are the result of that interview.
- The story about overcoming the impact of a teacher who doubted your writing abilities and becoming a successful published author that you shared in your contribution to “Leave Your Baggage Behind” was gripping and compelling. When Ms. Eastman asked you to share from your past, was it easy to choose this particular story, or did you have to internally curate from other stories? How and why did you choose this one?
Yes. I always choose the same story to introduce myself. It so easily speaks to everyone that hears it, and I have grown fond of telling it. I learn something new about myself each time I retell it.
- What was the experience of writing this testimonial like for you? Have you ever shared your story publicly before? What encouraged you to do so?
I have shared my story many times. I do it because I want people to feel accompanied and that they are not alone. It always feels so cleansing and freeing to tell the story. When I retold it this time, I learned that I am stronger and more resilient that I had previously realized. I also realized that I regret having been stuck in that mode of not believing in my writing abilities for so long. Regardless, I feel blessed to be able to help others not to stay stuck.
- Of all the tools or recommendations you could have offered at the end of your chapter, how did you decide on the seven empowerment tools that you share? For our readers, the tools noted in the chapter are prayer, mediation, support group, “walk on water”, and coach and mentor.
I use the first two, prayer and meditation, quite frequently. It helps to center me and calm my spirit. However, different people need different tools. For example, I myself have never created a vision board. I don’t need to, because it is literally in my head and I can see it clearly. However, I see how other people could benefit from it.
I have a great support group of sister friends that I turn to. It is so important to have that support group to talk to share both the good times and the hard times.
Walk on water. What I mean by this is that sometimes things will look impossible. Things will look like they are about to end badly. If you are feeling like you are sinking, then get out of the “water”, dry off and start again! For example, for my book signing event, I started to doubt myself. Then one day, God spoke to me and said “Jackie, are you ok with an event that has only five to six people?” I said “Yes God, I would truly be OK with that. Because those five to six people would have the best time at my event, so it would all be just fine.” So God said “All right then, leave it alone.” I stopped worrying about it right then and there. You know I sold out the book signing event! Everyone came and we all had a great time at the book signing.
I suggested a coach and mentor because sometimes a person needs someone with experience and training to guide them through a process and reach their goals. For example, I’m grateful for my mentor, my business partner Debbie Billups, whom I met through my writing circles that I network with. She helped me launch a scholarship fund to allow culinary students to attend a culinary school, the Charlotte M. Elliott Culinary Scholarship Fund, in honor of my mother. I didn’t know anything about setting up or managing a scholarship fund. Debbie did the research on scholarship funds, found a culinary college, developed the application, and helped set up the fund. If you are interested, visit www.cmefund.org.
- Along the same vein, how did you choose to share the concept of self-CPR? Confess, Proclaim, Release?
I don’t know how I came up with that! Sometimes when I am writing something, the spirit writes through me. That’s all I can say. This is a spiritual growth thing. My faith is very important to me. Everyone’s relationship with God is different, but it is supposed to be different. Everyone’s walk will be different. Mine is unique. In my case, I have been yelled at by God, fussed at, admonished but blessed in more ways that I can count. This is the meaning of “confess, proclaim, release.” Confess your faults or worries, Proclaim that you will be victorious and then Release your cares and worries to the Creator. Easier said than done but with time, it gets better.
- What was it that guided you to close your chapter with a plea to work with and guide the youth in the lives of your readers?
The teacher who accused me of plagiarism as a teen almost messed me up for life! Something negative happens to kids who are bullied. Our youth are suffering because they don’t have the support of their mom, or dad, or teachers, or siblings. Today is a totally different world. So much is being thrown at them through various social media channels. You can password protect all you want. Once they leave your house, you can’t control what is being fed to them.
I try to model this through the work I do with youth through a program called Youth Writers Rock. It’s a new nonprofit that allows youth to write their first novel in six months. Debbie and I worked with a high school group and from January to June of 2017, we helped four high school youth work write their first book, “The Tormenters”. This book is now an Amazon best seller.
- Your testimony, values and choices are obviously inspired by your faith in God. What words of empowerment would you share with readers who do not believe in God?
You have to have a faith foundation in something. If it’s not God, then what is it? What drives you to go out and do well in the world, to excel and achieve in your day to day living? There has to be something that pushes you every day to want to be successful or to help others to be successful.
My faith in God is how I personally move through life. You still need to draw on a component of your life that propels you to greatness. Find that, hold onto it and use it to move forward.
Seeking an inspirational speaker or writing coach? Reach out to her at www.booksbyjcg.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.