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Boulder author pens and releases book about resilience amid coronavirus in 40 days

Michelle Auerbach participated in a series where 10 experts provided advice on how to navigate the coronavirus crisis

Michelle Auerbach, author of “Alice Modern” and “The Third Kind of Horse” stands on the staircase of Boulder Public Library in January 2018. As part of the “Resilience Series,” a project organized by Changemakers Books of John Hunt Publishing, the Boulder-based writer has written “Resilience: The Life-Saving Skill of Story.” She is one of 10 experts that was tasked with writing a book offering comfort and advice to readers during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Nell Jordan/ Courtesy photo)
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At the start of the pandemic, many took to sewing machines to construct face masks from leftover fabric, some lined their windows with vibrant art and others offered to do grocery runs for elderly neighbors.

Boulder-based award-winning author Michelle Auerbach wrote a book. One of 10 experts selected to be a part of a series of books geared toward offering readers much-needed wisdom during COVID-19, she penned and released “Resilience:The Life-Saving Skill of Story,” published by Changemakers Books, in just 40 days.

Michelle Auerbach stands in the Boulder Public Library in January 2018. Auerbach is one of 10 experts that have written books as part of the “Resilience Series” that offers readers the practical, emotional and psychological skills needed to navigate the pandemic. (Nell Jordan/ Courtesy photo)

What’s even more impressive is that Auerbach interviewed 30 individuals whose insight and advice — along with her own — graces the new 96-page read. Far different from the evolvement of crafting her previous novels “Alice Modern” and “The Third Kind of Horse,” this deadline-driven project was somewhat therapeutic for Auerbach — who, like so many, was anxiety-ridden when news of the coronavirus first hit.

We caught up with the wordsmith to find out what her recent fast-paced literary process was like, what she hopes folks will take away from the book and what other skill has kept her grounded during the COVID-19 crisis.

Daily Camera: Would you say the call to participate in this unique publishing project actually helped ease your fear surrounding the pandemic? I imagine it gave you a passion project to pour yourself into.

Michelle Auerbach: Tim Ward, at Changemakers Press, invited the 10 authors to write these books at the beginning of the COVID crisis as a way to help people become more resilient, and so knowing I was at least doing something to help felt great. My skill is the use of story for change and leadership, so I jumped into writing about how we can all use story to increase resilience, but also to learn the other skills we might need. Once I started conducting interviews with story practitioners all around the world, another change happened. I felt like there was so much strength, compassion, capacity and possibility in the world — and I learned so much from the people I interviewed. It became a passion to bring the work and tools of the 30 people I interviewed into this crisis so people have access to the world those change-makers are making. I wove in my own work and ideas and in 40 days there was a book.

Michelle Auerbach, author of “Resilience: The Live-Saving Skill of Story,” in her Boulder home in May 2020. (Michelle Auerbach/ Courtesy photo)

DC: What was the process like interviewing 30 experts for the book and then compiling it all into a thoughtful and engaging read? Doing all of this in just 40 days seems like a massive undertaking. Nice work.

MA: Thank you. It was so much work that the real credit goes to my family who cooked and shopped and occasionally came into my office to see if I was still there. The publishing industry is very very slow. So when Tim Ward said we were going to do this in 40 days, I laughed out loud. Sure we are. Turns out that when there are people to reach and potential help for the crisis, anything is possible. Then I got excited. There are so many people I have always wanted to talk to about their work, and this gave me an excuse to reach out. Every single person I reached out to replied to me and generously offered their time and ideas and tools. I spoke to a chef and food justice advocate in Ghana, to a political activist in Washington D.C. and to a sewing podcast Black Lives Matter advocate, a creativity expert or two, a neuroscientist. That is just a tiny sample of who shows up in the book. The thing I was most sad about at the end was that I could not use the entirety of every interview. So, I am going to publish them one at a time in my newsletter — because they are just so deeply awesome. If you want to sign up for that, so you can hear all the wisdom, you can sign up at michelleauerbach.com.

DC: What are you hoping readers take away from your latest offering?

MA: I want my readers to step into the world the book creates and feel good for a while. The change we need is already here. Then, I want them to use some of the “How-To” sections and apply the theory to their lives and share in the magic that is story. We are all already good at it or we could not learn or teach anything, make any decisions, or remember or heal from difficulty. Doing story purposefully and with skill helps in all those areas — plus it improves communication, empathy and, of course, resilience. I want everyone to be brave as a storyteller and help save lives.

DC: In addition to writing this book, what have you found to be effective ways to unwind and stay entertained during this unique time we find ourselves in?

MA: Story transports me — the book explains this idea of transportability — and helps take me out of the gruesome moment in which we are living. I have been reading Icelandic murder mysteries, watching shows like “Unorthodox” and “The Expanse,” and also having conversations with friends and people I love and respect and having them tell me what’s up with them. I have recently started collecting stories from people who have seen or participated in a loving, magical or miraculous moment during the crisis. I am going to do something with them because knowing all of this helps a lot in dealing with some of the biggest issues about COVID -19, like the inequity of healthcare and the uneven distribution of impact of the virus. When we can meet that with a little more resilience we can begin to think about solutions that change the status quo and therefore the world.

DC: Lastly, would you say the pandemic and the order to stay at home has actually given you more time to be creative? Are you working on any other projects that should be on our radar?

MA: I read a statistic that people’s workdays have increased by three hours during this pandemic. I see it in my clients — I do change management and leadership development through story in organizations — they are stressed out and have more and more to do. And, most people I know are having a hard time being productive and difficulty focusing. It is a crazy-making set up. I have decided that low expectations are all of our best friends right now. It’s soothing to keep telling myself this line from a great distraction show “The Expanse” — “You’re alive and breathing, you’re doing OK.” I stick with that. What I am up to next is to start publishing all the complete interviews in my newsletter along with some recipes and cool stories to read and listen to and watch and hope that it continues to create a world I would like to live in. I do also sew a lot and so when I have had time I have made clothes that no one sees me in but I feel great about wearing. My COVID wardrobe. It makes my brain shut up for a while because I have to pay such close attention to dangerous machinery. I interview one of my sewing heroes in the book, so it’s all related.


The book cover for Michelle Auerbach’s “The Live-Saving Skill of Story.” Cover art by Anna Moore. (Courtesy photo/ Michelle Auerbach)

The Live-Saving Skill of Story

Michelle Auerbach

Changemakers Press, 96 pages, $9.95

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