Dr. Nancy Irwin – You-Turn: Changing Direction in Midlife

What is your most recent book? Tell us a bit about it.

You-Turn: Changing Direction in Midlife is a collection of “over 40 stories of people over 40″ who made amazing professional/personal transitions in midlife. It includes my own story of “you-turning” from a stand-up comic to a psychotherapist at age 42. Plus, there are scores of self-help tips for navigating change at any age.

Tell us something about yourself.

Originally from Atlanta, where I trained as an opera singer, I moved to New York City in 1985 to pursue a career as a stand-up comedian. I worked all over the country and abroad, and moved to L.A. in 1994 when I heard that Hollywood needed more blondes…

When you are a comic, you only work about 30 minutes a day. I had a lot of time on my hands, so I started volunteering in my community. I experienced an epiphany when through this work at Children of the Night, a shelter for sexually abused children in Los Angeles. This waked up the healer in me, and prompted me to pursue a doctorate in psychology at age 42 and to specialize in the prevention and healing of child sexual abuse. I now treat victims as well as abusers, for it is my belief that “The best way to help victims is to help the perpetrators.”

A pre-licensed psychologist and clinical therapeutic hypnotist, I am in private practice in Los Angeles (www.drnancyirwin.com ), co-lead group therapy sessions for sex offenders, and am also a busy public speaker . My first book, You-Turn: Changing Direction in Midlife (Touch the Sun Publishing, 2008, www.makeayou-turn.com), is a collection of “over 40 stories of people over 40.” I’ve been quoted extensively in Cosmopolitan, The Rachel Maddow Show, Redbook, Women’s World, and others, and have appeared on numerous radio and TV shows, including CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street,” Chef Academy, The Greg Behrendt Show, My Fair Brady, The Eddie Griffin pilot, to name a few. I am a member of the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress, a member of the Southern California Society of Clinical Hypnosis, and sit on the Education Committee of the California Coalition on Sexual Offending.

What inspired you to write this book?

When I made my you-turn at age 42, many people were flummoxed…”I could never do that!” “Aren’t you afraid you’ll be the oldest person in your class?” “How old will you be when youu finish your degree?” I wanted to combat that negativity and began seeking stories of other “old people” who were fearless and relentless in living a life they love. I culled over 200 stories over two years, and whittled down to the most diverse and dynamic 43 that are featured in the book.

How did you choose the title?

It hit me like a bolt one day. I was literally making a u-turn in traffic and made the connection between making changes in life. You choose your direction, stay in action, and effect it. Hence, you-turn.

What obstacles did you encounter in getting this book published? How did you overcome them?

I had a contract with a major publisher, and rejected it. I chose to self-publish. The publisher wanted me to basically be a cookie cutter of other self-help books, and I wanted to be different. It was faster and I had more artistic control.

How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?

I wanted to inspire others who felt like life had passed them by. Also, I wanted to establish credibility as a therapist. A book is a great calling card for any businessperson.

Do you have any writing rituals?

No, I am ashamed to say. I am, however, extremely self-disciplined. When I have a project, I organize it and stay on task and on time. I suppose you could that a ritual! But no incense or alcohol or burnt offerings. If I love the project (and I only commit to projects I’m passionate about), then it’s quite easy to stay on task. Like Nike says, “Just do it.”

Did you learn anything from writing and publishing this book? What?

That people are endlessly amazing. The survivability of the human spirit never ceases to amaze me.

If you were doing it all over again, what would you do differently?

Not a thing!!!!

What types of books do you like to read?

Mostly biographies or professional books. Who are your favorite authors? My favorite living authors are Pat Conroy and Wally Lamb. Why? Pat is a fellow Southerner and survivor of many traumas. I relate to all his characters and him. Also, he makes the English language sound like a Stradavarius. Genius storyteller. Riveting writer. Wally Lamb is amazing. He is also a master storyteller and paints exquisite characters. He is amazing in that he can write in a female voice, when he is actually a heterosexual male.

Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?

Yes. It is another nonfiction, and alas another collection of stories. This is professionally-oriented, as it is specifically on pedophiles.

What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?

Listen to your heart. You know deep inside you how your book should look, how it shoudl flow. Take others advice with a grain of salt. Listen to your own inner voice.

Who is the perfect reader for your book?

Anyone who is “fearful or frozen” about making a change in their life. This book will give you the tools to take action in spite of the fear.

Where can readers learn more about you and your book?