MEL SELLICK, Author
FJ: When did you decide to become a writer?
Mel: I began writing as soon as I could hold a pencil and haven’t stopped yet. I suppose writing has always been my closest companion… a confidante, a lover, an elixir to warm my bones in bleak times. It’s also probably the best form of therapy I’ve had.
I never leave the house without something to write on. I don’t want to miss those moments when my wild heart comes alive; she never gives a warning and leaves trails of light in her wake. Like all things of beauty, she’s fleeting. Capturing them on paper allows me to come home to myself again and again through the thought-pictures I am gifted.
FJ: What brought you to write this book?
Mel: I’ve always been drawn to content that focuses on what’s good, what’s working and what’s possible, and there’s very little of that in mainstream media. I thought I was writing this book to contribute to a more equitable media landscape. I wanted to arm changemakers, innovators, lesson-learners, do-gooders, truth-tellers, and wisdom-carriers of all types with tricks of the trade, so they could impact the world on their own terms. I intended to create something useful, meaningful and joyful for others and for myself.
It was a bit of a surprise that this How-To also became somewhat of a guide to step into our True Selves on-camera and in life, a process that I had to go through myself as a live, network television reporter. In that sense, this book was a cathartic coming-out process of the Real Me. For the majority of my career, I was paid to be a personality on-camera. Yet, the image I projected on-air had little in common with the person I was inside. It took me years to bridge the gap between inner experience and outer performance. Perhaps this book will help save years of valuable time and help others avoid the heartache that inevitably always comes when we’re incongruent with our highest values and aspirations. That’s why our personal media, the videos we create, the posts we write and the texts we share really matter. They stand for something and media is never passive. There is always a ripple effect. Harvard researchers found that our actions impact up to hundreds of people within the extended networks that we don’t even know! So if you think about it—your social media is like the living archive of your life. It’s also documenting our times, our history-in-the-making. We’re contributing to a collective experience whether we’re conscious of it or not. The more intentional we can be, the more we can show up as our genuine Selves, the more we encourage others to do the same. All of us benefit in the process.
FJ: What interesting facts did you learn when writing your last book?
Mel: I have always kept my professional media career and my commitment to mindfulness separate. Through this writing process, I realized they are perfect compliments! We can’t be our True Selves in our media if 1) we’re disconnected from who that person really is and haven’t examined our values 2) we live on auto-pilot, never fully present to our lives and perpetually in reactive-mode to the ever-changeable weather patters (aka life circumstances) outside of us. Truly, this is the reason why every human should write a book/essay/paragraph about what they’ve learned through their life experiences. No one would ever feel lesser than, insignificant or unworthy because they’d see, on-screen or on paper, the immensity they carry inside of themselves.
I also discovered the neuroscience, positive psychology and social science used to back up techniques in the book are all really just modern-day quantification for what great performers have known throughout history. Our brains learn, connect and create new possibilities through storytelling. We are all connected on this human journey, in these meat suits that ultimately decay and fall away. We understand on some level, we are dying from the moment we are born. Maybe that’s why the desire to be accepted and to be loved for exactly who we are is so powerful. We are finite physical beings, on a finite timeline (at least this go-around).
FJ: What are you trying to achieve with it?
Mel: By understanding how the brain interprets various forms of communication (with nonverbal being the most influential), we’re on the fast track to getting our messages heard and understood. These basics are often lost in much of the social media of our times. Entertainment and creative escape are valuable, but there’s also a hyper-focus on superficial things that can never satisfy our deepest needs. Much of that is perpetuated by a consumerist culture that never has our best interest at heart. So we forget the emotional impact of storytelling, we want followers like everyone else, so we can be seen as someone and recognized for our talents— yet we give preferential treatment to slick packaging, clichéd pitches and buffed derrières that momentarily please the senses but leave us empty of substance.
FJ: What got left out in the final draft?
Mel: That’s a great question. Two things. I included a small section in Becoming the STAR You Are about the top 5 on-camera personas in media today. It’s a solid framework blending decades of interviewing people as a journalist/producer with psychology and mythology. It quickly took on a tone of its own, demanding its own space in a separate book called, Personify Me. That book has morphed into an experiential tool for performance and includes role play, working with and embodying various Archetypes and playing around with universal symbols that add texture and layers to the presentation.
I also found myself doing a deep-dive into storytelling and at the root of that, is excavating Authentic Voice. It’s such a robust subject with many layers of philosophical, artistic and even physiological aspects, that I knew it needed time to rise. Plus, not everyone wants to know themselves that deeply, hah! That work is blossoming into a process of matching the internal, scripted voice with the external (and unique) sonic imprint. It also dives into conditioning from childhood (neuroscience/neural networks), defining and modifying limiting beliefs and Self-Talk (that ongoing script running in our heads) and rewriting the story we’re telling ourselves for a more fulfilled and inspired life.
FJ: Where do your ideas come from?
Mel: Nature inspires limitless ideas/metaphors/teachings on interconnectedness. I’m a conscious consumer of media (meaning I hand-select what I absorb), and I have designated ‘media hours’. I dedicate daily space for meditation, silence, being in nature, writing and listening to music. I never used to do that—but after all of my years in television news with dozens of televisions on different channels, blaring full volume simultaneously with police and emergency scanners and people screaming across the newsroom—I had PTND (Post Traumatic Noise Disorder). It’s taken me years to regain my sense of sonic navigation, which is a lost art form in my opinion.
Many of my ideas come in the open space of my mornings for journaling, analyzing dreams and expanding on thought tendrils that swirl around my mind in those soft, silent hours. I also have a bit of a love affair with the Present Moment that sometimes falls out of synch with the material world, but inevitably shapes my life in more voluptuous ways. I’ve become a master of observation who is delighted and inspired by the simplest of things, especially the way light bends and folds and infuses all of life. Finally, I prepare the ground for fresh ideas with a weekly practice I call Beautifying My Mind. It consists of reading, watching or listening to some beautiful literature, poetry, art or music that is new to me or visiting a space in nature I’ve never experienced. This especially helps when I’m tired, overwhelmed, driving along stale pathways of rumination or falling into impoverished thinking. I’m unlearning so much of what I acquired in my early years including a short-form writing style that has served me well, but feels too limiting and lacking in elegance to carry the observations I’ve been graced with. These Beautifying My Mind sessions seed my imagination and pollinate ideas across the dimensions.
FJ: What’s next for you? What are you working on now?
Mel: I recently received a gift that belonged to a long-passed, family matriarch— a prize for her 1stplace win in a declamation (public speaking) contest. No one is sure, but it’s believed she was reciting a work calling for the abolition of slavery, and that performed it with a mixture of spoken word and a cappella singing.
Her bright life and plans to use her voice against injustice were cut short by being accosted and impregnated and then hidden away as a disgrace. Throughout the generations, women in my family have suffered abuse in all its forms, covered over and buried under layers of religious dogma and deceit.
I have a #metoo story I’ve tried to hide, even from myself, my entire life. I wasn’t ready to face it until recently and told my closest friends just 9 months ago. I’ve always been an intensely private person even in my public career, and I suppose abuse feels darker and more unspeakable when it arises within your family structure.
So, I will find a way, my own way, to speak up or to write or to sing my song of liberation, out of that black void of shame. For myself. And for the many generations of matriarchs in my family who were suffocated by lies, by cultural expectations, by the betrayal of family members and friends who turned a blind eye while hands of violence violated their bodies and stole innocence from their souls. That cycle ends with me.
All of this sounds powerful, and it’s true. What’s also true is that I’m a little freaked out over what people will make of it. I do not want to be misinterpreted nor misquoted. (I have a background in media, remember, so I know how storylines get twisted). I feel no association with labels such as the victim or abuse survivor. On the contrary, I feel empowered by one irrevocable truth: I carry an extraordinarily deep capacity for love, kindness, and compassion not in spite of my experiences but precisely because of those experiences. This is why I’m not interested in sharing gory details either—because I know where the rub is—where my imposter is bumping up against the Real Mel.
I am conscious of the dysfunctional coping mechanisms that arose from the ‘home equals harm’ belief, especially masquerading as a fun-loving globetrotter, while also being a heart in exile. Like everything, both realities are true. I’ve learned a lot.
I also can no longer hide or sabotage my potential or shrink from sharing my wisdom because of events that happened so long ago. They are meant to be acknowledged, stated out loud, accepted and released. I’d add one part to that as well: assimilated. Because I am grateful for all I have experienced.
Kahlil Gibran said in, The Prophet, that joy and sorrow come from the self-same well. Meaning, we can only experience a level of joy equal to the depth of sorrow that’s carved grooves into our lives. I’m now choosing to drink from that wellspring of joy, self-knowledge, reclamation, and beauty, and I offer the overflow to anyone thirsty for the same.
FJ: Do you have any advice for authors on how to market their books?
Mel: I’ve been working as a media coach for a long time, particularly with messaging and speech delivery. Here are some suggestions:
1) Be as close to real as possible. The more genuine you are, the more people are going to relate to you and the more they are going to want to support you and buy your book.
2) Give free books to your top influencers/friends/cheerleaders those you trust and get feedback. If they resonate, they’ll organically market your book to their clients/following.
3) Promote with your WHY instead of what/how. Simon Sinek didn’t break the TED internet vault for anything. When you focus on the why behind it all, it instantly compels others to participate.
4) Make it about others. I know this sounds silly especially if it’s a novel you’re promoting or an artistic work but there’s always a way to find a relative ‘give’ for the viewer/reader. Maybe it will help them escape, live their fantasies out, spur ideas for their next great creation, help them channel their inner goddess… whatever. There is always a compelling reason to make it about them.
5) Organize your own book tour in various cities: I’ve seen this done through Meet-Up where the author promotes their 7-city book tour. It looks so big and awesome yet is easy to do, because the events are essentially free but you get tons of publicity, can legitimately say your book is highly readable and you make your money from all-things associated you’re your book including online courses/live programs/masterminds/additional product sales.
6) You’ve probably heard this but it’s a #1 marketing tool everyone and their brother is doing: an interview series (podcast/radio/internet radio/blog series) and feature those with relevant/complimentary content. It builds both of your lists and is mutually beneficial.
FJ: What do you do to get book reviews?
Mel: I’m just starting, but I received a combination of book reviews through gift copies to esteemed colleagues and former clients whom I respect. Some posted Amazon reviews but most of them just emailed me an endorsement, which I’ll eventually upload into the front of the book under PRAISE FOR BECOMING THE STAR YOU ARE.
By the way, I cherish any/all feedback, comments and reviews. It would be an honor to hear from you!
FJ: Which authors inspire you?
Mel: I go through so many phases in my reading, but at this moment I’m captivated by anything from the late John O’Donohue, cosmologist Janna Levine (A Madman Dreams of Türing Machines), Brené Brown, David Whyte, Maria Popova, Dr. Joe Dispenza, Isabel Allende, Robin Wall Kemmerer (Braiding Sweetgrass), and a newcomer to my radar, Mirabai Star, who wrote a book about female mystics called Wild Mercy.
FJ: How can readers discover more about you and your work?
FJ: Any last thoughts for our Fat Jack’s readers?
Mel: Coffee is likely one of my most favorite and necessary indulgences, along with red wine and spicy food. BTW, I’ve come to learn that certain types of people (and arguably certain astrological signs J), tend to love all three of these. It shows a preference for strong, textured and aromatic pleasures for the senses. That’s also why I’m a devotee of the French Press, which has been making my coffee every day, for the last couple of decades.
Truly, I love this entire Fat Jack’s concept: the pulsing blend of coffee, art, conversation, and sharing. We are longing for true connection, and I believe the senses are the way IN. We live in these glorious bodies and are enabled with multisensory perception for a reason— to enjoy, to explore and to fully inhabit our lives. It’s the IRL connection to others that matters most. Thank you for your gorgeous intentions and for honoring me with your time.