Jeff Maziarek – Spirituality Simplified

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

My most recent “published” book is called Spirituality Simplified. It’s an easy-to-understand overview of basic spiritual principles, supported by nearly 80 insightful passages from 40 different spiritual growth books. While it references these works, it’s not just a “book of quotes,” but instead incorporates my own personal experience on the path of spiritual growth. Although it’s designed primarily for mainstream readers interested in pursuing this path, seasoned veterans on this journey have found it to be a valuable, centralized resource for the wealth of information related to spirituality.

My second book, Codi’s Journey, is complete but not yet available. This title is a significant departure from my first book in that it that it is a memoir about our Border Collie who passed away in 2005. It will initially be sold as an eBook for the Amazon Kindle, the Apple iPad and the Barnes & Noble NOOK, and a print version of it will be available during the first quarter of 2011.

Tell us something about yourself.

I live in the Chicago area and my professional background is for the most part rooted in the personal computer industry, within which I worked for nearly 14 years as a marketing manager. My career in writing actually began in 1994 when I was hired on a freelance basis to write press releases for a high tech public relations firm in this area. Over a period of six years I crafted about 1,200 releases. In late 1995 I also was hired as a freelancer to work on very complex business proposals for a division of Citigroup, and eventually shifted to doing that very specialized work exclusively for nearly 12 years. My work as an author effectively began in 1999 when I first started working on Spirituality Simplified. In addition to writing books, I also have two blogs I post to, one which is connected to my first book and another that I write just for fun, which is a free site all about a Greek island called Alonnisos that my wife and I have visited 10 times since 1997 (http://tiny.cc/waxcy).

What inspired you to write this book?

The inspiration arose from some very practical advice from a friend of mine named Kaye O’Bara. Kaye was the subject of A Promise is A Promise, a book written in 1996 by Dr. Wayne Dyer that described how she personally cared for her comatose daughter Edwarda for more than 26 years. During a visit to Kaye’s Florida home in February of 1999, she strongly recommended that I write a book related to spirituality, for it was very evident to her that this was a subject for which I had great passion.

How did you choose the title?

The original working title for the book was “Spirituality Made Simple,” but I ultimately learned that it had been used previously. So, it just took some time to arrive at an alternative.

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

There were numerous obstacles, including dealing with an editor/agent who simply wasn’t able to sell the book to a publisher despite her initial confidence that doing so would be relatively straightforward. Once that relationship ended a decision had to be made about what to do with a fully edited and complete manuscript – should be put on a shelf of self-published? I chose the latter without knowing what I was getting myself into!

This choice ultimately required me to take numerous steps (there was no Print on Demand [POD] options at the time), including hiring a desktop publishing professional, an artist to design the cover, applying for a Library of Congress control number, applying for copyright, purchasing an ISBN (they’re only available in packs of 10), and contracting with a printer. Once everything was completed the next obstacle was distribution, and that was a huge one. The major bookstore chains would only buy it through the large distributors (i.e., Baker & Taylor and Ingram) and those firms would have nothing to do with it. I ultimately struck a consignment deal with a small distributor that specialized in selling to metaphysical bookstores, and also set up a relationship to sell on Amazon.com via the Amazon Advantage program (where it continues to sell today).

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

There was no watershed moment where I knew I wanted to work as a writer. The truth is during my tenure as a product manager in the personal computer industry I was called upon to write a great deal of first draft content regarding new products that was then passed on to the marketing communications group. Over time I became increasingly adept at writing technical documents, and then once I moved into a marketing management role in a small high tech company I was able to learn how to write more marketing-oriented content. The opportunity to write press releases actually just “showed up” one day, as did the proposal work. From there I continued to develop my writing skills, and this of course led me to the step of becoming an author. In the end my sense of things is that there is a force out there calling us to where we belong in life, we just need to listen to the quiet voices in our mind as opposed to the demanding “ego” voice. We also need to, as Joseph Campbell once said, “to be willing to let go of the life we’ve planned in order to have the life that’s waiting for us.”

Do you have any writing rituals?

Yes, one in particular is a bit of a quirky one. That is, a few times a day while working on a book electronically I actually stop and play Solitaire on the PC for a few minutes. It helps me to get my mind distracted for spell, and is usually very helpful when I’m stuck. A second ritual that began with my second book is that I’ve reverted back to writing by hand in a notebook instead of doing it all on a PC. This approach is an advantage to me as a technical writer who tends to continually edit on the fly, in that the notebook doesn’t allow me to do much editing since things can get awfully messy with scratch-outs. Once I’ve written a few chapters I then begin entering them into the PC, and then return to the notebook once again. I really feel this process helps me in the creative flow sense of things.

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

Yes, I learned numerous things about the entire publishing process, because as I indicated I had to manage all aspects of it once I made the decision to self-publish. In essence, I now know how to publish a book and am using that knowledge today in preparation for the release of my second book. In addition, from a high level perspective I learned that writing a book is just the beginning of the adventure, because quite obviously if you’re wanting to profit from it you must also be able to sell it, and that’s even more work than writing it. Naively I had held the position from the “Field of Dreams” movie that “If you build it, they will come;” today I realize that such an attitude is very idealistic given the hundreds of thousands of authors generating content.

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

Ah, very interesting question. If one accepts the point that we live in a reality-only world, then everything that was supposed to happen in this situation happened (i.e., the world “should” has no relevance here because if I should done something differently I would have.) Putting aside that philosophical meandering, IF I was to start this project today I would seek out the assistance of a top notch literary agent before I even started rather than waiting until I was three years into the writing effort. In addition, if I were to self-publish in today’s world I would use POD to produce the book in order to keep the start-up costs to a minimum.

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

For the past 20 years I typically read books in the personal growth and spiritual growth categories, the intent being to continually improve myself and in the process learn to help others to do the same. My favorite authors include the late Fr. Anthony DeMello, because I greatly enjoy his very practical, no-nonsense approach to spirituality; Stuart Wilde, because he never tries to appear like he has it all solved, and his irreverent approach makes me laugh; Wayne Dyer, because one of the first books I read in this area was his title “You’ll See It When You Believe It,” and it truly was a life-changing work for me; and Eckhart Tolle, because of all the current crop of self-help authors he appears to be the most authentic.

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

There are actually two responses to this question. First, as I indicated earlier, my second book Codi’s Journey is complete but not yet published. This book is primarily about the final year of our Border Collie’s life (she passed in 2005) with flashbacks to her younger days that provide further depth to the story. The intent of this book is to be of comfort to people who have loved and lost beloved pets; to assure them that it’s perfectly normal to feel intense grief at the loss of an animal companion. The book also takes a position that dogs are far more sentient than customarily thought.

Second, I’m working on my third book at the moment. It’s called My Three Heidis and it’s another pet memoir, this one being about three dogs named Heidi that we had in our family over a period of 37 years. Only the first dog was named by us; the other two were rescue dogs that just happened to share the same name.

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

At the risk of sounding cliché, the most important thing for a writer is to have true passion for their subject matter. In order to create meaningful content you really have to feel strongly about something, or don’t even bother writing anything at all. In this regard, I highly recommend a book by Phil Cousineau called “Stoking the Creative Fire, 9 Ways to Rekindle Passion and Imagination” as an inspirational and practical resource.

A second piece of advice is to remain open to the suggestions of editing professionals; to check your ego at the door when it comes to the technical and content editing process. At the same time, you must not allow the essence (i.e., the heart) of the work to be changed by anyone, and that means sticking with the initial passion that inspired you to create the work in the first place. It’s one thing to improve grammar, punctuation, and flow, it’s quite another thing to modify the primary theme or message – don’t let anyone do that no matter what they promise you.

Finally, remember this sage advice: “If you believe it’s true, it will surely happen,” and that means that you must always, and I mean always, believe in yourself and your work, because if you don’t, nobody else possibly can.

Who is the perfect reader for your book?

Spirituality Simplified: Designed primarily for mainstream readers interested in pursuing a path of spiritual growth, however, seasoned veterans on this path have also found this book to be a valuable, centralized resource for the wealth of information available related to spirituality.

Codi’s Journey: Anyone who has loved and lost a beloved animal companion, and particularly people who felt their pet was truly a family member in every sense of the term.

Where can readers learn more about you and your book?

Thanks for asking! Readers interested in Spirituality Simplified can visit www.spiritsimple.com to learn more about the book and download two chapters in a PDF format for free (Chapter 7: Abundance and Chapter 9: Forgiveness). Readers interested in Codi’s Journey can visit www.codipup.com for more information and to download a couple of sample chapters in PDF format.

Comments

  1. Rainy Broms says

    This book is so incredibly important. Not only is it full of insight and easy to read and process, but it also has a great bibliography and suggested reading at the end of each chapter. I am a Spiritualist Minister and teacher, and this book is the first book I recommend for anyone starting on their Spiritual journey or for those of us who need a refresher or a great source of reference.