Ellen Gerst – Love After Loss

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

Love After Loss: Writing The Rest of Your Story

I was widowed at 39 years old and not only lost my husband and my life as I knew it but my best friend with whom I had been together since I was 15 and he was 17 years old. I worked long and hard to move through my grief to a point where I was eventually ready to welcome new love into my life. Love After Loss is both a “how-to” book and a chronicle of my story and how I successfully navigated the dating world and found a new partner with whom to share my life. The book is written from two vantage points, my personal experience and my professional expertise as a coach, and it is a blueprint for the reader to follow on how to find love again after the loss of a partner from death, divorce or break-up, and, most importantly, keep that love vibrant and the relationship healthy.

Tell us something about yourself.

I am originally from New York and have been a resident of Arizona for the past 32 years, which sometimes still surprises me! Growing up, the only things that came to mind when I thought about Arizona were cowboys and Indians and Barry Goldwater, neither of which appealed to me! However, almost a native now, I love the stark beauty of the desert and the perennial sunshine of my adopted state.

I started off my career as an English teacher with the desire to teach children to love reading. However, as a young teacher, I found out that my high school students wanted to ask me out and not learn about Silas Marner! Although I didn’t stick with academia for very long, I’ve been a teacher throughout my life. With every job I’ve held, I left an instruction manual behind for the next employee, and I’ve used writing as a catharsis as I dealt with the tough life circumstances with which I was presented. I believe my greatest ability is to synthesize lots of information and write it in an easy to understand format. As we were taught in school, I write about what I know, so my books fall into the self-help category and are about coping with grief, finding love after loss, and forging healthy relationships. Okay – so I also threw in a little book about preventing teenage pregnancy because it is a topic about which I had strong feelings and not because of my own experience.

What inspired you to write this book?

It is my belief that when one experiences a tragedy that it is proper to ask for help and to accept it from all avenues. In fact, it is even okay to be greedy! The proviso is that when you have successfully moved through your own tragedy, you have a moral obligation to turn around and help the next person who is walking a similar path. Although everyone’s story is different, there are universal truths. Hearing the stories of others and the lessons they have learned can help a reader figure out things in his/her own life. My books are an outstretched hand to those who are still walking through a tunnel of darkness. I aspire to be the light at the end of that tunnel.

How did you choose the title?

We all live our lives in stories. We tell our own story, and we listen to the stories of others. In actuality, storytelling has been a part of man’s history starting long before the written word when cave dwellers drew on the walls of the caves and when oral histories were passed down through the centuries. You could say that our life is broken down into segments, or if you will — chapters. Our “story” continues through the experiences we encounter, and these are woven to become the multi-colored tapestry of our life. The experience of losing a partner may be seen as the closing of one door, but there are certainly more windows to open … and an opportunity to write the next chapter or the rest of your story.

Do you have any writing rituals?

I am not a structured writer, so I do not set time aside every day to write. Instead, I let an idea ruminate in my brain, sometimes for days. When I feel the urge, or the need, to get the words out of my head and onto paper (or computer screen), I simply sit down and start typing. It is as if the words simply bypass my thinking brain and fly into my fingertips. This is a form of automatic writing and oftentimes I will read back what I’ve written and have no idea from where it emanated. Moreover, if I were to sit down and try to write it again, I would find it virtually impossible. That’s not to say a first draft is the final edition. There is always time to wordsmith, correct sentence structure and grammar.

What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors?

I’m really not that particular about what I read, although I do stay away from horror and gore. I like to both be entertained and learn from the books I read, so the selection can range from the fluffy to a textbook. I’ve gleaned some great entrepreneurial ideas from novels, too. After all, these are very creative writers and they dream up great ideas. One example is that a long time ago I read a novel about 3 women who were starting a new business, which was making gift baskets. This was many years before the gift basket industry took off and a friend and I started our own little successful basket venture.

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

I’ve just finished and published a new book, “If You Want To Be Terrific, You Need To Be Specific,” which is great advice for any undertaking. I, however, have applied this adage that my husband uses in business to dating and relationship development. The book consists of 150 sound bite sized tips on how to find love and keep it vibrant and healthy. The reader can choose how many “tips’ or steps he/she will follow per day, week, etc. to find the love he/she seeks.

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

Not everyone is equipped to write the next great American novel, but most have some area of expertise and experience that can be shared with others. Think instruction manual when first starting to write a book. Write all the information down that you want to share. Formatting, wordsmithing, maybe even making it into a story … these all can come later. Use your friends and family as your first sounding board, or you could join a writer’s group for feedback. Eventually find a good editor to review your final draft. The editing process can go on forever as you think more about your subject. Eventually, you need to say, “I’m done and satisfied with what I’ve written.”

There are many publishing venues available today. I am especially fond of the e-book format because it’s so easy and you can avoid printing costs. There are many print-on-demand companies too; I especially like CreateSpace through Amazon because this nets you a listing on amazon.com.

For those of you not familiar with social media writing sites, a popular one is Scribd.com. It is easy to set up an account and post essays, excerpts from your books, poetry … virtually anything for which you own the copyright. Invite your friends and post links to your writing on appropriate sites and just watch as your readership grows every day as I have.

Who is the perfect reader for your book?

The perfect reader for my book would be women 35 and older who have experienced heartbreak or who have never even had a long term relationship. A great majority of people can find love, but according to the divorce rates in this country they are challenged by making the relationship flourish over the long term. I address both finding love and keeping a relationship alive and healthy.

Where can readers learn more about you and your book?

I give relationship tips every day on Facebook at Love-After-Loss-Writing-The-Rest-of-Your-Story and I write a blog on love and relationships at http://finding-love-after-loss.blogspot.com