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Expat Author Julia Simens: Writing My Book

Last month, some of you Adventurers may recall that I wrote about Julia Simens’ insightful book Emotional Resilience and the Expat Child.

While interviewing Julia I had asked a few questions about how she went about writing her book.

As someone in the early throes of trying to write a book, I can tell you that it is a daunting process for a reason: it’s hard work. Even harder if you want it to be any good!

I find it interesting to hear how authors approach their writing process because I wonder what the tools, tricks and tips are that work for them. Julia was kind enough to share some of her insights, and agreed that I might share them with you.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Julia had been thinking about writing a book on emotional resilience in expat children and what it might look like for more than a decade. Satisfied with the type of book and a general sense of the structure, she spent another year conducting research of books and articles to collect what she wanted to put into the book.

Nailing down the actual format of the book took some time. Julia had one concept in mind, but when she shared it with her publisher (Jo Parfitt, Summertime Publishing), it didn’t seem to work.

‘It just did not flow since I knew where it was going but I had not given enough structure for others to ‘get it’,’ Julia shares. ‘I tried about four different rewrites that I shared with my family. Each and every time I would show them something, there was no wowfactor.’

Then she thought back to what the best-selling author of ‘The Seven Habits  of Highly Effective People’ had written.

‘I took Steven Covey’s words to heart: Start with the end in mind. Then my workbook took shape and everything clicked.’

The writing began in earnest, and Julia relied on slightly unusual tactic to find just the right ‘voice’.

‘The best thing for me to get a handle on what I wanted to convey was to orally write my research,’ explains Julia. ‘I am a teacher so I would pretend that I had to teach that concept to my IB psychology students, then I would orally teach it to my parenting  groups. I was able to find a happy medium where my written words matched my oral
words.’

Since Emotional Resilience and the Expat Child is in part a workbook, there are exercises about identifying and dealing with emotions to fill out that correspond to the text. Julia wanted to make sure that busy parents could read the book one part at a time without it being overly repetitive.

‘I wanted the sections to be stand-alone so you could get something out of the section without having to master the prior chapters,’ Julia notes. ‘I would read each section in isolation to see if it had enough information to get the point across but not too much
information to be boring.’

‘I didn’t have a time commitment on when the book had to be finished so I was able to go back and revisit each chapter multiple times; that was helpful in weeding out unnecessary words or information that could be confusing,’ continues Julia. ‘I think the combination of time and oral work made my book very readable for many parents in
international schools.’

The end result is indeed a highly readable, family friendly book full of useful information and exercises to help parents develop and enhance the emotional resilience of their children and themselves. So what’s next for Julia?

‘I am hoping that parents send in their own family stories because I would love to be able to make the next book about other international families and their emotion stories.’

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