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A Literary & Poetry Column
By Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Big Discoveries or Little…

Writing a Book Can Change Your Life

It is not unusual for a reader to claim that a book changed her life or pointed her in a new direction. Many have memories of an “Aha” moment that came when they were reading a classic or an especially insightful self-help book.

Author Alexis Powers’ story is quite different. Her life was changed because she wrote a book.

The ink has been drying on Paths to Freedom for some time so it not the exciting trek an author finds herself taking after having published a book, nor the book’s promise as a best seller that has made the difference for Powers. It was the process of profiling twelve courageous women that has clarified so much for her.

Powers was raised in a tenement district of New York City; five family members lived in two rooms. She suffered years of acute asthma. This kind of hardship led her to alcoholism. Sixteen years sober, the author is now a successful real estate agent and has written two mystery books. Even with that kind of turn-around in her life, she feels her experiences writing this book were more important because they touched her heart.

An interview with Shirley Manning at the Foundation for the Junior Blind affected her deeply. “I had never seen multi-disabled children before,” she says. That day they were all “seeing” a video of an outing the children had taken to the beach. Volunteer professional surfers were teaching these children to climb onto boards and to shoot the waves. “I’m an excellent swimmer,” Powers says. “And I wouldn’t do that. Courage is the word that came to mind.”

Each of the twelve interviews offered a similar awakening—some large and looming, some small but important. One of the featured women, Gloria Killian, never gave up hope after being imprisoned for a crime she didn’t commit. “I came to see that the difference between these people and many others I knew were that my subjects didn’t see themselves as victims!”

“That’s when I realized that I shared that same quality with them, and that I needed to make some changes in my life—to take better advantage of that aspect of my personality.”

Powers says, “Since I’ve been writing this book, I’m an even more appreciative American.” Although she is a second generation American she feels that citizens aren’t generally grateful enough for what their country offers, especially in terms of benefits for the less fortunate.

When this author was interviewing Idilko Choy, she explained how she and her seamstress mother had fled the Stalin regime with only the clothes they were wearing. Alexis flashed on her own habit of marking milestones in her life according to what she was wearing. “I just love clothes,” she said. The importance Alexis had always placed on fashion suddenly seemed very fragile indeed.

In addition to writing this book—Powers believes Paths to Freedom: Women Who Triumphed over Adversity can help others see their own lives differently—she plans to change the kind of charity work she does to a more hands-on kind of philanthropy.

In many ways Paths to Freedom has become Powers’ own path to freedom. It may be ordered on

Tips and Tidbits

(Each month in this box, Carolyn lists a Tidbit that will help authors write or promote better. She will also include a Tip to help readers find a treasure among long-neglected books or a sapphire among the newly-published.)

Gift for Writers:

To learn more about how authors can battle the fear of writing, the fear of speaking, and even the fear of success, read the first few chapters of my The Frugal Book Promoter and then keep reading to help take the stress out of book marketing (and nurture an affinity for it!)

Gift for Readers:

I know you will want to check out Paths to Freedom by Alexis Powers.

Click here for a list of Carolyn's Recent Titles

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