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Interview with Sue McDaniel | Author or I.M.Heart

By Lauren Smith | April 30, 2008

I.M.HeartThe Virtual Book Review Network is pleased to interview Sue P. McDaniel, author of I.M. Heart.

Looking for a richer, more fulfilled life, but finding obstacles along the way? Learning to be aware of your feelings, accepting them and working with them will help you learn more about yourself and also become more aware of the world around you, as portrayed in I.M. Heart.

Sue McDaniel has a life-long interest in searching for understanding of herself and others. She is a teacher at heart with experience at all levels of education. A love of learning lead to completion of a Ph.D. and the search for understanding led to study of feelings and behaviors. I.M. Heart is her first solo publication. From 1992 to 1999, she co-authored five basic books and Learning, Changing and Leading: Keys to Success in the 21st Century, with Chet Dixon. This book and the workbooks accompanying it were used as teaching tools in the state of Missouri. Visit http://imheart.net/.

LAUREN SMITH: What inspired your journey to write I.M. Heart?
Sue McDaniel: My inspiration comes from both personal and professional experience. I’ve always been an emotional person – growing up in a culture where emotions were not understood or acknowledged. On my life journey, I’ve had some challenging experiences and struggled with repeating some patterns in relationships, worth or value of myself, and working through fear- based feelings. I’ve worked with myself to keep growing and learning. I‘ve watched myself stop or hurt myself, and have been interested in the “factors on the inside” that affect our behaviors and actions for a very long time – so wanted to share what I know.

Professionally, I’ve taught at levels from elementary school to college, and traveled as a trainer. I’m a teacher at heart and I’ve watched people stop themselves when they had so much potential to succeed. I also worked for the Missouri Women’ Council where the mission was to help women and their families succeed economically. I’ve watch clients get training and be on the verge of having an occupation with an income to sustain a family – only not to show up the first day of work. It’s heartbreaking for so much potential to be lost because we can’t get around the feelings related to fear. There are so many gifts awaiting us when we can heal these fear-based feelings and open up to accept the feelings based in love – personally, in relationships and spiritually. I like to see people succeed – including me. When we can take a step to move forward – maybe just one step – then other steps can follow. I .M. Heart gives people those steps — and the hope to keep stepping.

LAUREN SMITH: What did you do to prepare for writing your book?
Sue McDaniel: I’ve worked for years with others and myself, meditated, and used many techniques to heal and move myself forward. I’ve researched for talks and presentations on these topics. Over time, I’ve incorporated all of this into my own philosophy, so I drew from my own personal experience, creativity and teaching background. I avoided research while actually writing because I wanted this to come from I.M. Heart.

LAUREN SMITH: What main message – or messages – do you want readers to take from your book?
Sue McDaniel: I want readers to get the message that I.M. Heart is about connecting – in three ways. 1) First it is about connecting with your own feelings – all of them – the ugly, nasty, grimy ones as well as the happy, warm and fuzzy ones. The purpose in connecting is to heal those that hurt so that you can be less judgmental/critical of yourself and instead see yourself as worthy and valuable. This opens your heart to yourself – to be more loving, compassionate, joyful and hopeful. 2) Second, it is about connecting to others – at a more meaningful and intimate level – because you have healed some of your bumps and bruises – therefore you can give more of your heart because it is more open. 3) Third, it is about connecting to spirit – through an open loving heart. Spirit is love – we are love. Love is the most powerful energy in the universe. We are all connected through the love of spirit. Imagine the miracles we can create when we connect in the energy of love.

LAUREN SMITH: Facing up to feelings is a challenge many face; is it difficult for you to “practice what you preach,” or has writing I.M. Heart become part of the process that makes it easier for you?
Sue McDaniel: Facing up to feelings is a challenge for many because they are afraid that they will be hurt – maybe again and again! For many, it was bad enough the first time – why should I go through that again? I’m just going to bury this deep inside. However, that feeling just lurks there, silently waiting for a change to once again raise its head and remind us that we don’t want to take a chance on a new job, or relationship because — remember darlin’ you really got burned last time. Let me keep you safe – don’t do it. In reality, taking a step in spite of the fear is a growth step that could prove that history does not always repeat itself. This could be a chance to break the bonds of this fear and be free to experience wonderful opportunities.

Feelings are the internal driving force behind actions and behaviors and are a part of our lives, whether or not we want to acknowledge them. We all have patterns of thinking and feeling that have become habitual ways of responding to life. I’ve watched people stop themselves when a wealth of opportunity awaits them. Fear of success, failure, family, relationships, our own worth and value – can stop us dead in our tracks. Facing up to those feelings, honestly, so that we can understand them is such an amazing healing process. See my web blog – The Great New Years Eve Meltdown as an example to how sometimes we have to feel the pain – really feel it – and after the release we can change our perspective of a situation. If we hadn’t stopped to feel it, we would have carried forward a destructive pattern – but being with it to heal it – not to wallow, but to heal – can change how we see other people and the world.

The writing of I.M. Heart was a healing process for me as I documented what I had learned for myself. The clarification in writing it helped me to more fully practice it, and my understanding has expanded as I’ve tried to live it. I’m a human in process and am learning more as I practice this. Yes, it’s easier because I have healed some bruises and accept there are more to be healed. I’m healthier, and can be honest about how I feel – and still function without dumping my stuff on everyone around me. I recently had a bummed day and make an effort to interact in a super positive manner with others – while wallowing in the gutter. It was my deal and I knew I could let it process through, but not scatter my blues on everyone else. I’m stronger, more confident and accepting of myself even when I’m in the gutter.

Sometimes a situation or person instantly pushes a button and boom – the feelings are flying. How ferocious those feelings are is often a surprise can be overwhelming. Since they are “in my face,” I can’t avoid them so I acknowledge then and when I can give myself space to be with them and process them. For me, the people most likely to push my button are the people I love most. More insidious are those that creep up on you over time – a repeat irritation, disappointment, feelings of being alone or unloved, one thing after another goes wrong – and the negative feelings build. You ignore them, push them down and find your muscles tight, your gut in a knot, your patience being short, not sleeping peacefully – and then one more button is pushed and you can’t ignore them any longer. The bucket is full to overflowing and you need to empty it out – so take a look at the accumulation of feeling sludge to understand and heal it – and watch the pressure release.

LAUREN SMITH: How long did it take you to write the book – (was it longer or less time than you expected)?
Sue McDaniel: It took me about 6 months to write the book. The title came to me as a whisper one morning just after I woke up. I was in one of those half-awake, half-asleep modes and the words just kept floating through my head. Finally, I got up and wrote them down, and as the days passed, I realized that this was the title of a book. Then as I began writing the book gradually took form and I.M. Heart was born.

The initial writing time was about what I expected, but the editing and design work took longer. I originally drafted the character I.M. Heart and then a graphic artist enhanced my drawings. The graphic design of the book was done by a creative genius who can take my work and my concepts, click with those and create magic. Then I had to put all the other pieces in place and find a printer.

LAUREN SMITH: The cover of I.M. Heart is very striking, and the character – the heart shaped icon – is very appealing – how did you go about developing the look and feel of your book?
Sue McDaniel: The cover of I.M. Heart is my artwork. It was done before the book was written, in a moment of artistic inspiration. The book was not yet a seed in my consciousness when the artwork was completed – but when I started working the book, I knew the purpose of the artwork.

The title of the book, I.M. Heart, is a play on words. It is the title of the book, and the name of the character in the book. It also represents me, you and everyone else on the planet. We are all I.M. Heart, which really means I AM HEART since all of us have feelings. The character is intended to be cute and an inspiration to others. In every day life and especially when the going gets rough, I.M. Heart – the character – is a model for how to live with and process feelings, heal the hurts and grow in love. Imagine a scary or difficult situation in which you hold the image of I.M. Heart in your heart and mind – knowing that you are ok in this moment and will be just fine in the next – you can handle it. The character I.M. Heart gives hope!

I wanted it to be esthetically appealing, have lots of open space, printed in purple ink – a healing color, so that it would be more inviting to those who were reluctant to read about feelings. I wanted the book design to capture attention first, and then maybe people would be drawn in to learning about something new that could help them in their lives. It is an introduction to living with feelings.

It was my intent that this book be very user friendly, inviting to the reader in its entirety or to open a page and capture a message for the moment. In fact many people have told me that they have read it through and then gone back and read certain pages for specific points. Each chapter also has summary points and strategies.

LAUREN SMITH: What tips would you offer to anyone writing a book for the first time?
Sue McDaniel:

Writing the book is one thing – there is such satisfaction watching a page fill with words and knowing that those words make sense and then having a vision for the finished product. I love the artistic process. However, getting that product ready for publication is another animal entirely. Marketing it is an even bigger deal!

When you self-publish, there are a gazillion details that you have to handle, decisions to make and many times you are the lone ranger in this process. I would tell everyone to 1) Don’t give up on your dream because holding that book in your hand the first time is amazing; 2) Be persistent – most of the steps are not hard, it is just a process of “putting one foot in front of the other” until you figure out what is required; 3) Join some of the publishing organizations and ask them for help; 4) Build your own network of authors who have done this or are in process – so you can support each other; 5) Get help with the Internet marketing strategies – including a web site. They are key to marketing the book and this is still a foreign world to me; 6) Develop presentation for groups or meetings where you can sell your book; 7) Explore the options for selling books in large quantities to gift catalogs, businesses, organizations, etc; and 8) Be sure to get registered with Amazon and distributors for sales. I’m sure there other ideas and I’m always seeking to learn more.

LAUREN SMITH: What can we look forward to from you next – another book, or something else?
Sue McDaniel: I have so many ideas I don’t know what to do with them! I love writing and being creative! There are plans for more books, marketing products and speaking topics.

I want to have an I.M. Heart rock or stone for inspiration and support as well as other items to remind people to live with heart. There are plans for I.M. Heart Stories – a collection of real people sharing stories of loving with heart. There are other I.M. Heart options – I.M. Heart Families. I.M. Heart Children or Teens, I.M. Heart at Christmas. The possibilities are endless.

I am currently co-authoring a book that based on abundance – offering solutions for seeing and living in more meaningful and enjoyable ways. The title is way cool and not to be divulged right now. We have plans to write other books together and I have three more titles I would like to write. In addition, I have another book, completed, but unpublished.

LAUREN SMITH: Is there anything we haven’t covered that you would like to include?
Sue McDaniel: I want readers to know that there is hope in healing those feelings that hurt. It changes your world when you no longer have to carry around those negative feelings that limit and restrain you. The world opens up, becomes brighter and is more fun!

I also want readers to know that I too am in the process of healing feelings and growing to love myself and others. On this road called life – I have my own set of potholes and sometimes I get lost on the highway. However, I don’t fall in a pothole as often and I can climb out of it in a shorter period of time. I am stronger under pressure, more open and willing to be vulnerable in relationships, and kinder to myself. My world looks different than it did in the past – more sunshine, hope and spiritual connection. I.M. Heart – I AM in process and so excited about the miracles to come. Blessings!!!

LAUREN SMITH: Thank you for taking the time to be part of this interview!

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