I recently sat down with former client Brandi Heather, who is the author of the new book, Return To Play, to hear her reflections on her writing experience and what it feels like to be a Best-Selling author. Here is what Brandi had to say:
What inspired you to author your first book?
You know when you relate a story to people and they respond back, “oh my goodness, I had no idea other people felt that or thought that, or experienced that? That is what I wanted to write down, so that maybe just one person would read it and think, “wow...that is where my gifts have been hiding”. They were there all along. I love a book that reminds us that we already have so many skills and talents, but we spend so much time trying to get things “right” that sometimes we lose the best part of ourselves.
To be honest, worry also made me move to write the book. Over the past twenty years, I have seen, experienced, and listened as people of all ages and abilities are increasingly struggling with coping and resilience. The mental health crisis, increasing division, and fear of diversity and difference, extreme loneliness, and an ever-increasing inability to cope with the through challenge and change, make me think, what can I do? The book is not full of solutions, it is full of reimagining the journey, what we can do from birth to death to use our natural drive to play as a tool for resilience, facing risk, and finding ways to reconnect.
Describe how your writing space looked and felt?
This is funny, when Ryan first asked me about creating this “space” on one of our coaching calls, my husband said, “your space is everywhere!!” But my favorite space to write was on a comfy chair in my front room that gets sunlight all day. I would twist myself into the chair with my laptop and faux polar bear blanket and write. I tried writing in my office, but deep words find more meaning in comfort for me.
What was your writing schedule like when you were writing Return To Play?
If you read the book you will see that structure and stringency are not my “gifts”, but I would try and write every day. Ryan’s diligent schedule and knowing we would connect each week kept me motivated to write with purpose. The content was the accumulations of notes for a lifetime. I often have thoughts in the moments when my brain is not trying to create “on purpose”. So, many days it was just a matter of constructing from already set ideas and research.
What do your loved ones think about having an author in the family?
My mom is the best. When I told her I was writing a book, she said “of course you are!!??”, she has always been amazed at how much I can keep going at one time. At the time, like so many others, I was working to keep new business growth in the middle of a pandemic, I had my daughter Megan learning online at home, and struggling at times with my own health, etc. My husband, who has this unwavering confidence in me, is so excited for me to share my voice with others, he knows that is where I find my smile. My whole family is so proud.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in crafting “Return To Play”?
I found out so much about myself - but one of the biggest realizations was that in order for me to grow, and imagine and do the things that I speak about, risking with new ideas, trying even when you have fallen down, etc. That takes people… The pandemic has left us at a distance from people, and therefore creative people like me struggle to do what comes naturally without being with people. There were times during writing where I would take my laptop to the park and write, just so I could watch families, people walking on the pathways, etc. I realize that is my fuel, and that social distance also keeps me at a creative distance. I have found new ways to play with groups online, watch them create and connect, but it took me a while to find my place there.
What gave you the confidence to finally publish your book?
It’s called Interdependence - the idea that everything in nature is connected to and depends on every other thing (Cambridge English Dictionary). I believe nothing brave is accomplished without others. My confidence is created because so many people believed that I could and should write it. This includes many days of “am I enough?”, “what if I'm wrong?” “maybe no one cares”, etc. That was always answered by someone who believed it was possible and believed it did matter. Late-night texts, and calls, and yes a few tears, I am so lucky to be surrounded by people who hold me up on the days I can’t find the strength to stand...grateful is not enough.
How did you come up with your book title?
Ryan helped me with this - so many iterations, I knew what I wanted it to say, I just needed a “word tailor” to help stitch it together. Ryan’s work over our coaching calls helped me come to this awesome iteration and now the title becomes a statement. “Return To Play” is not just a title, it is a suggestion and a hope for change.
What makes your book so unique?
There are so many incredible play professionals and diversity and inclusion professionals in the world, but what makes the book different is that I see play as a tool and a strategy for the hard things, inclusion, disconnection, loneliness, mental health. The book reminds us that we are capable of addressing ideas, people, and spaces with nothing in common and create bridges and connections with tools that we already have but may have left on the playground. Negotiation, managing conflict, breaking down barriers to inclusion, finding belonging through a crisis, building answers to seemingly insurmountable challenges by recognizing the importance of creativity and innovation found first ...in play.
Who does your book best speak to?
My book speaks to the educator who has lost their play, like that toy you left at the park, it's buried under the weight of unreal expectations, standardized “one size fits all” education and lack of empathy as well as connection.
It also speaks to the caregiver in every space who works tirelessly to find new and creative ways to heal and motivate themselves and those they work with. I am a teacher by trade, turned entrepreneur by choice, so I hope it speaks to those who have inside them the best ideas, and who wonder if they have what it takes to make it come to life...I hope it whispers to humanity...you are enough, go play.
Where can readers buy your book?
Right now you can buy my book on Amazon, I’m working on more spaces to make it available. People can contact me directly for discounts for educational teams and schools as well. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or find me on the website returntoplay2021.com (available Feb 1., 2021) or on FaceBook @returntoplaytoday.