Stories That Work

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A Note From The Author

As a writer for children and young adults, married to a theatre director, my family and I lived a peripatetic and iffy life. During the 80’s and 90’s I had written a number of books for kids and young adults that were well-received but were definitely not making what could be called a living wage. Then in 1999 I discovered Ernest Holmes’ book Science of Mind and began to learn about the effects of consciousness on real life.

I encountered the idea of a “Wish Book,” a scrapbook in which one could gather images and “visions” of what you would like to bring into your life. My list of what I wanted was easy to make—more book sales, a larger audience, and freedom to attend conferences that interested me. I had just written a humorous book—Surviving the Applewhites—related to our lives in regional theatre, and decided that the easiest way to bring those things I wanted into my life would be for that book, which had been published in 2002 and was already out in the world, to win the Newbery Medal. The Newbery doesn’t come with cash, but because it is arguably the most important award for Children’s Literature in the United States, book sales after winning it generally sky rocket.

So that summer I cut the Newbery Medal off a paperback book I owned, pasted it onto the jacket of my book and made a copy to put into my wish book. The point of a wish book is to look at it often and have fun imagining yourself having everything that you’ve put into it. Every time I looked at it, it made me laugh, because I was pretty sure that humorous books just don’t win Newberys, which are given for “distinguished contributions” to children’s literature. Still, it was a fun exercise.

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But early in January 2003 I received an early morning phone call telling me that Surviving the Applewhites had won--not the Newbery--but the Newbery Honor. The publisher sent me a bouquet of flowers and a fresh copy of the book with the Honor medal attached to its jacket. When I took it out of the mailer I couldn’t stop laughing. It looked exactly like the image in my wish book! My black and white printer had turned the gold Newbery medal to silver.

And true to the best of story principle, that award did get me the sales and audiences and travel I’d wanted. Years later I told myself the story that my book Listen! would win an award with a gold medal. It didn’t win the Newbery—it won a Christopher Award, an award created in 1949 to celebrate writers, producers, directors, authors, and illustrators whose work "affirms the highest values of the human spirit." And yes, the Christopher Award is a gold medal!

Does this mean that Story Principle is a kind of Aladdin’s Lamp that can get whatever you want? you may ask. Honestly, sometimes it really does seem to work that way.

But there is no magic lamp that can take away the struggles and pains and setbacks and shocks of human life. Especially in today’s world of pandemic, earthquakes, political upheaval, racial tensions, military conflict, and the catastrophes caused by climate change, there’s no way to just opt out of difficulty.

But Change Your Story, Change Your Life offers readers the concepts that underlie Story Principle and methods of moving from the simplest and easiest first steps to ways of coping with the darkest and most difficult of human journeys. The Table of Contents, available here, will show you the range of experiences the book covers. For me it has been a survivor’s guide. And as my own life has continued to bring conflicts and challenges, it goes on providing a strong foundation of support.

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From early Readers

These are messages from people who have been learning to put Story Principle to work in their lives in both small and large ways. Starting with baby steps, it becomes possible to move both higher and deeper.

From S.G., a Barrister in Australia:

The CAR PARKS story reigns again. Three times today, we had to park in sticky places where there is (ahem) never any parking. THREE TIMES Meg [six-year-old daughter] and I told the story we would find car parks and did. Twice outside the front door of the hospital (no joke - less than 20 meters from the main entrance, BOTH TIMES and this is a busy hospital - nightmare parking zone!) and the other time was in Errol Street in North Melbourne on a Friday night, which is (ahem ahem) just NOT somewhere that anyone even bothers trying to park. Well. Three times. Thank you very much.

And later:

I took Rick [ten-year-old son] to the hospital to see Mum today. I said as we approached, "Could you think me up a car spot please?" and he huffed and said, "You CAN'T do that; it's just you and Meg being silly." So, of course, there was no spot at all. So I drove around the block and said, "Listen here, Mr. Skeptic, I actually need a car spot. Shut your eyes and believe there will be one, PLEASE." So he did, and there was, and he's been giggling ever since.

From S.B. in Chicago:

September 14: "Changed my story this morning - it worked! My primary vehicle is in the shop, and I am currently driving my backup. My backup vehicle is a workhorse but has its quirks. Such as - when it rains, it won't start. Or it will start eventually - or not. It's a crapshoot. Well, last night I'm lying in bed and listening to the rain - all night - and thinking - oh crap, I am driving the van - how am I going to get to work? Continuing to think to myself, well, maybe it will stop raining before I have to leave. When I got up, it was pouring!! I stopped myself from going into thinking - oh great, now what am I going to do. I thought - no, I am going to change my story. My story is going to be - I go out to my van - in the pouring rain - and it starts - no trouble. (It NEVER starts in the rain) I would not allow myself to go into my "I have no way to get to work because my car won't start" story. I refused. I just kept reinforcing my new story. And I'll be darned if when I got into my car, it started right up - no problem. I love this new story!!

September 15: "Raining again this morning - started with no trouble again. Amazing!"

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Pain Management

"I have problems with arthritis pain in my left hand, particularly the thumb. All-day today, it has hurt much more than normal - really throbbing and painful. About three hours ago, I was sitting here, and it was giving me fits to the point where I thought I would need to go take the mega-medication (that makes me sick to my tummy), but instead, I just said in my head, "My left hand is pain-free." And I just realized a few minutes ago that it is and has been for a while. Thank you, Story Principle."