Lisa Bonnice answers the question:
What is the nicest thing a non-family member has ever done for you?
Okay, I really love this question because it gave me a good reason to look back on all the really, really lovely things that people have done for me over the years, especially because life can sometimes feel like no one cares. But when you have the opportunity to look back, when you're asked a question like this, you can see that they really do, if you bother to look for it.
I think that the most life-changing, nice thing that anyone has ever done, it was Neale Donald Walsch, someone that I barely knew. But let me back up. All my life, I've known that I'm here to be a writer. When I was in grade school, my favorite book was Harriet the Spy because Harriet wanted to be a writer and she was always writing in her notebook and I did the same. I was constantly scrawling in my little notebook and I had quite a collection of them. And I would love to see them today. I have no idea whatever happened to them... lost it in a move, no doubt. Anyway, so I started writing my first novel in elementary school. So I've always known that I was going to be a writer when I grew up.
So now let's go ahead and fast forward many years. I had just self-published my first book, and it was called Addressing the Goo: The Metaphysics of Weight Loss. And I just loved that title; it came to me on a flaming pie. To me, the goo was the essence of is-ness, the pliable, malleable stuff from which all matter is formed and when you address it, you're telling it how you want it to solidify. And I had lost 50 pounds while writing this so the title seemed fun to me, that it was the metaphysics of weight loss.
Shortly after publishing it, I was at a Humanities Team conference in Santa Barbara — and Humanities Team is an organization founded by Neale Donald Walsch. I was there representing the state of Florida; I was a Florida state coordinator. Neale was there and he made an announcement on the first evening that he wanted all of us to track him down, sometime over the weekend, and introduce ourselves, and he wanted to meet everyone, which was kind of exciting because he was Neale Donald Walsch.
I had brought a few copies of my new book with me to give to friends and to new people that I was meeting. And it just so happened that when I ducked away from one of the conference sessions to see if I could track Neale down and say hello, I found him in the cafeteria, literally, just as he was picking up a copy of my book that I had given to someone. And he said, "Oh, this looks cool." So I stepped up and said, "Thanks. I wrote it." And he asked if I had an extra copy that he could have, and of course I did. So I pulled one out of my backpack and shyly handed it to him, and then we sat down to chat, and I was too cowed by his bestseller presence to talk about my little book. Sort of an "I'm not worthy" kind of thing.
So we talked about other things and we discovered that we had a lot in common. We'd both lived in Milwaukee and we'd both performed standup comedy and both had issues with the church. Anyway, my few minutes were quickly over and I went back to the conference, which was already in progress. I was on cloud nine already when Neale made a point to track me down and find me out of all those people to tell me that he'd been flipping through the book and he just absolutely loved it. He went on and on about it, that he'd never seen anything like it and he wanted to do whatever he could to help me get it out there. And he gave me his contact information, his phone number and email address, and offered to write a foreword for the next edition. But he also asked me to change the title because he just didn't like it. He didn't get the flaming pie. But you know, mama didn't raise no fools. So, all right, I'll change the title.
That evening in front of the whole gathering of people, he held up his copy of my book and told everyone how great it was and that they should keep their eye on me because once I learned to believe in myself, there would be no stopping me. So I spent the next few months rewriting it to fit the new title, which was Shape Shifting: Reclaiming Your Perfect Body, which he loved. And he kept his promise and he wrote me a foreword and even recommended the book to his publisher. And they passed on it, but what can you do? He did what he could. He didn't own the company.
So I self-published it with the new title and with his foreword and went on with my life. And even though the book never went anywhere, Neale's really heartfelt, enthusiastic endorsement kept me going as a writer even when no one else paid attention to any of my books. And during those times when I'm down on myself and telling myself to just give it up and don't quit my day job, I can look at a copy of Shape Shifting with Neale's name on the cover and remind myself that a massively bestselling author and metaphysical master went out of his way, completely unasked, to find me and help me.
And the cool thing is that Marc Allen from New World Library did something similar not too long ago with one of my novels, but it was Neale who really changed my life as a fledgling author by reminding me that this is a calling, one that I'm apparently pretty good at even though I still spend a lot of time telling myself that I'm not. So yeah, Phil, I really appreciate your asking this question because I needed this reminder that once I learn to believe in myself, because I'm still working on it... It's hard to promote yourself without feeling kind of creepy and egotistical, but once I do really learn to believe myself, if I ever do, there really will be no stopping me. And I look forward to doing the same for other aspiring writers once I'm at a level where I'm able to do so. So yeah. Thanks for the question, Phil.
Lisa Bonnice is an award-winning writer and humorist, winning two Excellence Awards from MSNBC.com during her tenure there as a news writer/associate producer. She also traveled the country as a stand-up comedienne, working with the likes of Tim Allen and Steve Harvey.
Her first book, Shape Shifting: Reclaiming Your Perfect Body, includes a foreword by Neale Donald Walsch, with whom she worked within the organization he founded, Humanity's Team, as the Regional Director of the entire southern portion of the United States. Her award-winning True Crime novel, Fear of Our Father, was featured on the Investigation Discovery Network. Her newest novel, a metaphysical comedy called The Poppet Master, includes a foreword by Marc Allen, publisher at New World Library (and the man who discovered Eckhart Tolle).
Lisa hosted her own podcast, Shape Shifting, on BlogTalkRadio, featuring such guests as Lynne McTaggart, Edgar Mitchell, and Neale Donald Walsch. She has been a program host with The Shift Network for over three years, where she has interviewed luminaries such as Gregg Braden, Robert Thurman, and Stanislov Grof. She also hosts an online chat show, Mind Yourself, where she also interviews experts in human transformation.
Click here to visit Lisa’s website.
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This article appears in: 2020 Catalyst, Issue 16: Racial Justice and Healing