Author Q&A With Heidi Beierle

Author Q&A With Heidi Beierle

In 2010, Heidi Beierle had just finished her first year of graduate studies in community and regional planning and decided to pedal her bicycle solo from her home on the West Coast across rural America to the Preserving the Historic Road conference in Washington, D.C.

Along the way, Heidi was surprised by the kindness of strangers and the emotional pinch of traveling through Wyoming, where she grew up. Her journey led her through the plains and into the Ozarks, where the heat climbed to agonizing temperatures; every pedal stroke in the heat felt closer to death. By the time she completed the trip, Heidi discovered a newfound compassion for herself and a growing love for her country. Strangers opened their hearts to her, and in turn, she opened her heart to herself. Meet Heidi:

You are an author, but is it your day job? If not, what fills your days? I own a small business that offers consulting for recreation, tourism, and transportation, and I also provide writing, graphic design, and marketing services. I currently serve as the operations manager and creative director of a financial advisory practice, and I am an author, artist, and slow traveler.

Did you always want to be an author? I started participating in Young Authors competitions in third grade and wrote a chapter book about an American Indian boy living in the pine forest with his animal friends. When I reached my mid-twenties, I wanted to write Vegan for Dummies. I didn’t write a word, and when I saw that book in a health food store, I dropped the idea. In my late twenties and early 30s, I committed to putting words on the page and drafted a memoir. That put me on the path to becoming an author. I finally felt I had a story to tell.

What is your most recent book and what inspired you to write it? Heidi Across America – One Woman’s Journey on a Bicycle Through the Heartland is my first book and set during summer 2010 when I pedaled solo from Eugene, Oregon, to Washington, DC. This memoir is a story of how I came to love myself and America. The writer in me longed to have a role in my life, and my journey across America was epic, transformative, and had a definable beginning and end. In December 2017, a writing mentor encouraged me to focus on the bike ride. When I started writing, I didn’t know how important my changed feelings about America would be for a book that would come out in a polarized election year. In that respect, I believe the universe had a hand in timing opportunities that led me to this moment – I was divinely inspired. The message of love for self and country feels relevant to everyone, and I see it as a reminder to connect with people (and place and all beings) at the heart level, to love.

How do you hope your book uplifts those who read it? In many ways, Heidi Across America is a story of how I found a way out of darkness, loneliness, and depression and shed a pervasive feeling of irrelevance and not being enough. It offers inspiration for others that they, too, can find connection, purpose, and home (and it doesn’t require pedaling a bicycle solo across the country). One of the unexpected surprises for me during my journey was how the kindness of others softened me to myself. Along with that, exposure to the elements and the world around me, including the dead animals on the road, helped me see myself as part of the greater fabric of life and spirit of place. Together, this kindness and connection helped me experience the care other people had for me, which led me to realize I wasn’t alone and I was worth loving. If I could love a dead owl, I could love myself. I didn’t need to die before I was allowed to receive love.

What are you most excited about with this book? The basic fact that Heidi Across America is published has me gobsmacked. Beyond that, there’s much to learn about getting my book in the hands (and ears) of readers, and I’m excited to take it all in. To support reaching my audience, I’m on a slow travel bike-book tour this year making my way across America again. I look forward to meeting people and being in conversation about America and my book’s themes, of offering a way out of darkness, of sharing love.

How did writing a book help your career take off? I’m using the opportunity of publishing Heidi Across America to build a following and interest in slow travel, develop an online and in-person slow travel curriculum, and prospect for writing and consulting opportunities related to slow travel.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to succeed in your professional industry? Rejection is part of the process of being a consultant and creative, so understand that people are helping you discover your path and not commenting on you as a person. Don’t let rejection discourage you. Income can also be erratic, and frugality and saving are great habits to cultivate (these are different than miserliness or being cheap). Mentors are golden; find someone – possibly in a professional organization – who is a step or two or more ahead of where you are in your career to ask questions and to offer support. Pay that mentor’s support forward by mentoring others. Practice gratitude.

How do you handle setbacks and criticism? There are valuable lessons for me in criticism even when it’s delivered in ways that don’t feel constructive. As with setbacks, I usually need some time alone to feel my feelings and regroup. A walk in nature is a favorite way to digest these kinds of experiences. Setbacks are simply guidance. I have ideas about where I’m headed, and setbacks are directions for something that can’t be known. I consider setbacks and criticism opportunities for reflection and redirection.

Being an author today is like running a business. How do you manage all your publicity, social media and keep your engagement up with readers? Yes, it is a business. Scale your efforts to what you’re able to do and how much help you’re able to bring on. If you don’t have the ability to invest full-time, be strategic about scheduling time for all three of these activities each week and adjust your expectations accordingly. You will also likely go through periods of more activity and less. Reward yourself for periods of heightened activity with rest and down time. Be ok with the fact you can’t get to everything all the time, and sometimes less is more.

How do you hold yourself accountable and achieve the goals that you set forth? I love deadlines and accountability partners. Sometimes they’re one in the same. Having a weekly writing critique partner and weekly crafty group always motivates me around my creative work. Deadlines also need to be realistic and flexible. While it may work to set a goal to bring in $5,000 every month or write 1,000 words per day, those numbers may not match reality well. What actions did you take that could lead to bringing in $5,000 each month? Did you write today? Whatever you aim for, take action today. Then, write a ta-da list (a list of everything you did do, even small things) at the end of the day to acknowledge the action you took. A ta-da list is an easy and healthy way to celebrate your accomplishments. Recognizing your own efforts also antidotes rejection and helps build confidence and momentum to continue working toward your goals.

How do you structure your day and make time for writing? Generative writing I prefer to do in the morning when I’m freshest, and I like to get up early so I don’t burn up my writing time futzing. I also work with weekly deadlines (see accountability partners above), and my weeks can have a rhythm where I write on certain days of the week and will maybe stay up late writing in the evening to deliver pages for critique on time. I prefer to let a piece of writing sit overnight before I come back and edit. I format blog posts in the evening when I might be less sharp since it’s still productive but doesn’t require the same kind of brain power as new writing. Sometimes my schedule doesn’t allow for this, and I’ll write when I have an opportunity.

What do you find most fulfilling in the career that you’ve chosen? Being myself. I’m a creative, principally, and I’ve done a lot of work to own being an artist in a world that wants to shame people who don’t fit neatly into career boxes. I tried traditional employment but struggled. As a business owner, I have more flexibility around how and when I work. I work a lot, but I enjoy the variety of my days and the challenge of learning new things and discovering my path as I go.

What book uplifts you? It’s so challenging to select one. I love Gretel Ehrlich’s writing, and A Match to the Heart will always be a favorite that inspires me to reach. Ehrlich was struck by lightning in Wyoming; she died and came back to life. The book follows her recovery, but it’s a long time before her internal electrical system functions reliably. Again and again, she chooses life and carries on living with purpose despite her often-malfunctioning body.

Connect with Heidi and learn all about her work and her writing via PR by the Book LLC website.

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