Episode 2: From Model to Author with Jackie Amsden

Welcome back to Alchemy for Authors!

Today I am chatting with the wonderful author and podcaster, Jackie Amsden. We’ll be talking about Jackie’s background in modeling and how this, for a time, drove and impacted upon her writing her first novel.

We’ll also discuss the human need to feel special and to be seen, and how using manifestation, getting in alignment with your goals, and taking action, can move you closer to your dreams.

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Find the full transcript of this episode below.

Episode 2: From Model to Author with Jackie Amsden – Transcript

Jo: Well, hello, my lovelies, and welcome back to the show. So today I want to introduce you to the wonderful Jackie Amsden. So Jackie is a mum and the author of the self-published YA mystery, The Tokyo Cover Girls. Her podcast, These Mums Write, supports mums to achieve their writing goals and dreams, and launches in January 2022. Jackie lives in the suburbs of Vancouver, Canada. So thank you so much, Jackie, for being here today.

Jackie: Thanks for having me today.

Jo: I’m so excited. I used to live in Canada, so that’s really cool that you’re in Vancouver. How’s the weather there?

Jackie: It’s good, it’s cold. Did you live in Whistler? Because there’s a lot of people from your part of the world that go to Whistler?

Jo: No, I actually lived in Calgary, in Alberta, there for several years.

Jackie: Oh, really?

Jo: Yeah. I’ve been to Vancouver and Vancouver is lovely. I loved it.

Jackie: Nice. Yeah, that’s really cool.

Jo: So I know that you’ve got a really interesting story about your author journey to share with us, and I’m thinking that it actually plays quite heavily into mindset and taking action in that, which is kind of a big part of this podcast. But before we get into that, I would love if you could just start telling us a little bit about yourself and when you were first called to being an author.

Jackie: Sure. Why I wanted to write?

Jo: Yeah.

Jackie: Yeah, that’s a great question. So when I was, this goes back to being a teenager, I think ultimately it was to be seen, right? I think a lot of teenage girls, and boys I’m sure, they just want to feel special. And so for me, I got it in my mind that, I think I saw a newspaper article, but a girl from my school who was a model in New York. And so that planted this seed in my mind that this was the way to be seen, for me is that I wanted to become a model. And if she could do it, then I could. And so I enrolled in modelling school, which is kind of comical now, but because it was held in the ballet studio on the weekends, it wasn’t exactly going to a big name modelling school downtown or anything. It was in the suburbs, but I really wanted it. And eventually it wasn’t really through my modelling school experience, it was just that I happened to grow tall enough to be a model. And so my mom took me to see agents and this agent that I saw was like, yeah, just lose 20lbs and come back and grow two inches. That’s actually the chronology. And so then I did grow two inches. And so then I started to diet and so eventually got an agent and started that journey. And I think back on it now, it’s definitely because I wanted to feel special and to me models are really revered, especially in that age category. It’s like this pinnacle of exclusivity and specialness. So I was just really excited and wound up going to Japan when I was 15 and living there. And that started a journey for me of having this other life. Right. So I would go back to school after, often the trips were in the summer, so you’d get like two months. That was like your standard visa for Asia. So I have this big experience, and I was like, oh, my God, I’m like with all these cool people, and I’m so special. Right. But at the same time, I was dieting the whole time. Right. And I don’t want to paint this as all market models experience, because I definitely had girls that took it less seriously than me. But I was really, you know, this core part of my identity. And so I did really restrict myself. And I thought, well, that’s the price that I pay to feel special. And so I did that for a few years. And then eventually, though, just that starvation mode was too much for me to bear, and I just quit. And I think that experience also for me was really like, the thing about modelling is that it’s very passive. Right? So you aren’t really expressing yourself in any way. In fact, a little bit. You could say there’s some acting involved when you’re posing in front of the camera. But I think the thing that made me also want to quit I finally got there. And it’s not really fulfilling in the same way I think that some of the arts might be, maybe if you’re an actor or whatever, because you’re just really, like, standing there and smiling most of the time. But I had this big experience and I left it behind because it was just too much of a cost. And then I went on with my life and did non-profit work and University, all of those more traditional pieces. But I always felt like, oh, this was really interesting, and not a lot of people talk about it. So the Tokyo fashion industry, there’s, like, a lot of girls that go there from all over the world, like Canada, United States, England, Australia, New Zealand. But I’m not seeing this very much. So I got into my mind that, oh, this is something again, that’s special. Right? This is my special story. I’m going to be the one to tell it, and all these girls are just going to love it because I watched America’s Next Top Model and say like that. Then they’ll love this. So I spent then, I don’t know how long it took me. The thing is I did a undergraduate degree, and I felt like after University, I really had to unlearn how to write, so that it took me a long time. Right. Yeah. To learn how to write in a way that’s like emotive and isn’t an argument.

Jo: Absolutely. It’s very different, isn’t it?

Jackie: Yes, it’s very different. And I only bring that up because I put a lot of time into writing this book, which I thought was going to be, like, so amazing because I felt like it was so unique the topic, but I couldn’t get anyone to get an agent for it. Well, I had a long story there, but I won’t go into that. But I didn’t have an agent for it and I didn’t get a publisher. And so after many embarrassing rejections, I just decided to self publish it. You can see how much it was tied up in that. Right. Like, it was like this identity I had as a teenager and then still feeling like, well, it’s special. I’m special because I did that. I had to write a novel that is like exposing that experience, and the people will see me as special. But one of the challenges was that I couldn’t get into that exclusive club of publishing. Right. And again, when I was a model that was such a source of pride. We are the ones that have agents for writing. I couldn’t get into the club, and so I self published it. And the experience, it wasn’t bad. Like, I did some workshops at libraries and a launch party at my literary organization and stuff like that, but it just didn’t feel like very many people cared or read it besides the few that I just had to really hustle to get in front of. Right. Yeah, right. I think when you don’t feel like anyone else has invested in your writing, it can be really hard to keep believing in it. So I didn’t I was like, you know what? I guess it wasn’t an important story after all. And I’m just going to I just walked away from it at a certain point, and I just felt like the whole writing enterprise is just too much and the wall was too high to climb, which is funny, again, because you could say that about modelling, but I didn’t let that.

Jo: Yeah, it’s so interesting. I think so many beginner authors go through exactly what you’ve been through in that we put so much of our identity into that first book, and we’re expecting people to be as equally invested as we are. And then it’s that real shock and that coming down to Earth that they’re not. It almost robs us of something because we just have such high expectations for that first book. It’s really tough. It’s a tough thing to kind of go through. So how did you move on from that? What was your next thing?

Jackie: Yeah, that’s a great question. So again, I think a lot of this for me, is really tied to having that modelling experience at such a young age really made it so that it was like this core part of my identity. My sense of worth was tied into like, oh, yeah. And I used to be a model. That’s cool. I’m with the DJ, but I thought and I had this really sort of Earth shattering comment, actually, from someone in my writers group. She was like a younger woman. And she said, oh, well, she was lamenting about her life. And I was like, yeah, don’t worry about it. You can still do lots of cool stuff. And she’s like, you’re just saying that you’ve already done your cool stuff. You were a model. And I was like, oh, my God, is that it? Is that all I’m going to have? But I did feel that way. I felt like after I wrote that book, that’s all I had to say. That was all that was special about me. And it obviously wasn’t that special because it didn’t go very far. Right. And then what happened was that I really like Thrifting. And so I downloaded this app for Thrifting Poshmark, where you sell clothes from your closet. Yes. And so I just started writing, actually, in the Poshmark app listings for my clothes. But then they just weren’t listings at all. They just turned into, like, these stories that I was writing. Just like comedy, just very silly stories. But I was really developing this voice through the process of, I guess it’s tendencies of me. But looking at my world, motherhood, living in suburbia, wanting to find your purpose, being middle aged and, like, the weird things that your body starts to do that no one ever prepared you for. So all those things that were just, like my every day and finding like that I did have something to write about. Some people really liked them. Some people were like, what’s happening here? I just was looking at this skirt. But I think the encouragement, though, that I did get from that audience made me realize that, oh, you know what? I do have something else to say, and it’s kind of a modelling. I can now move beyond that. And that’s what I’m writing about now. And so it was really, I think, getting that validation that people thought, yeah, that’s really cool.

Jo: So did you know when you were writing these adverts in that for your clothes, that this was leading you towards something bigger, or were you just kind of doing it for fun? Did you realize that this was going to be part of your writing journey?

Jackie: Yeah, it was just fun. It was like the apps dimensions. I was just like, I just want to play with it. I just enjoyed playing with it. Like, I could write about 100% cotton and the dimensions, but that’s boring. I’m going to tell you a story about this skirt. And then I just kind of, like, moved from there. So I think just really enjoying playing with the writing.

Jo: Cool. And so now you’re working on another book, is that right?

Jackie: Yes, I’m working on a comedy which is very much about those things. Like a woman trying to find alignment after being out of the workforce for a long time to take care of her kids, but not really identifying with the mother identity. That’s something I’ve always struggled with, too, is I’m like the mother. I’m just me. I’m not the person that has a stroller and all those bags full of things. Yeah. It’s kind of identifying some of the double standards that we have for women and for mothers and for people who are trying to find their sense of purpose and just play on that because throughout all of this, having a professional life has also been, like, part of my experience, like having the job and having an income. So it’s playing with those tensions. Yeah.

Jo: So just going backwards a little bit. So when you put your Tokyo Cover Girls out and then you didn’t get this amazing reception that you were expecting. And so how long did you kind of step away from writing for after that? I think you’d mentioned to me previously, anyway, that there was a good few years before you even kind of got back into writing. Can you tell us a bit about that?

Jackie: Yeah, totally. Yeah. It was five years. Five years because I remember because my daughter was born, I have pictures of me holding up the book and holding up my baby together. And of course, motherhood presents many demands on time. I spent my year of mat leaves just, like, focused on marketing. So I did blog tours and, like I said, going to libraries and doing workshops with youth and just lots of different attempts at marketing. But looking back now, I know I did the whole thing wrong. So it was like an upward battle. So of course, I wasn’t seeing very much, like, return on my time investment. So that whole piece of the writing experience was just so overwhelming that people are saying, yeah, you need to have, like ten books before you can do these free giveaways. And it’s like, oh, my God, it took me like ten years to write this book. So I just gave up. All of that was just too much. Combined with never feeling validated with my writing by the important authorities, bloggers. Sure. But there’s I think sense for myself that that wasn’t enough. So I just was like, yeah, I’m done, forget it. And I just focused on moving ahead with my professional day job and just didn’t write. And I just couldn’t. Like, I tried to start a few projects here and there, but it just always felt like work. And then it was like with the first one, I was, like, really excited about it because I felt like there was purpose. Right. Like I was sharing this world. I was, you know, I had been to Tokyo. I wanted to make a difference with this book, you know, in a fun, entertaining way that I couldn’t find that for a long time. So it wasn’t really until I found that voice of making fun of what it means to be a middle aged woman that I got that spark again of like, oh, yes. Okay. Yeah, this is something we need to talk about.

Jo: Cool. So what do you think changed then? So other than getting your spark back for writing this book, what do you think has changed again for you? Because writing a book takes a lot of energy and a lot of time, and after your initial feeling of that kind of overwhelm and not getting the reception you needed, how have things changed for you now that you’re willing to invest that time and that energy again in another book? What’s changed?

Jackie: Yes, that’s a good question. I think a couple of things. So I think stumbling into the world of manifestation and alignment and hearing those terms. Right. It’s like, oh, before I went from like, I’m just here and I was like, I had this mindset that I just need to get through this tunnel. And then at the end of all this hard labour, then I will be like, at the lake, whatever, the magical gold mountain. And then when I got there, I was like, oh, I’m not here at all. Back tunnel was horrible. I don’t want to go back in there, but I think hearing and learning about the ideas of manifesting what you want to create in the world and taking risks and investing financially so that you are forced to take those steps forward and finding those blocks inside you and leaning into them, all of that has meant opening myself up in ways that I had never even considered. And so reaching out to writers to build a community and asking them how they do things. And like the idea of the podcast, which is talking to mums about all aspects of the writing process, I’m learning along the way, but it’s also going into that unknown. And so writing can be very solitary, right? Yeah. And I was so focused just like, on the book. Right. I had my writing group and they would give me feedback because, of course, I did know that’s an essential part of the process, but I wasn’t thinking bigger than that. Right. And I think now that’s what this language has done for me is like opening up myself to something much bigger. And I don’t know exactly what the answer is, but I know that reaching out to people through a podcast or taking a course or joining a Facebook group and commenting and all of that stuff is important and is helping me see beyond what I could have seen before. And so that I can see more possibilities than what was there before. So that you don’t get to that point at the end where you’re like, And I’m done. Okay. Magic. It’s like, no, I can create. Right? I got to create the magic now. I got to do it every step along the way. I can’t. And I don’t want to. I’m learning so much. But yeah, I think that’s really is that opening up. And so it felt like the opposite. It feels like the opposite of how I was approaching before.

Jo: That is so cool. I really see writing a book like a journey too. And the more we can open ourselves up to connecting with other authors and that, it’s just amazing how the universe kind of aligns for us and we end up with just a little bit more success with actually getting a book out there so that there’s something to be said for a good old networking and social media and chatting with other people, doing the work and everything as well. It really does open amazing doors like this. Really, like sitting here chatting with you on the other side of the world right now. That’s really cool. Can you talk a little bit more about what some of your manifestation practices? Is it just your mindset or do you do affirmations or have a set routine that you do with your writing, or what are some of those things that you do?

Jackie: Yeah. One big insight was just changing that idea of finding time to realize I can create time. I was always thinking it had to be done this way. And I just realized, oh, I could do it now. I get up really early, like at five and do writing then because I could never get it. At the end of the day, it was just never happened for me. And so I got into that, like, mindset, fixed mindset where I was like, well, I guess I just can’t do that. I’m not one of those people, right?

Jo: Yeah, I hear you.

Jcakie: And then when I realized, oh, no, I am. I just have to do it in the morning. So a simple shift. I started doing meditation. So I read one of the books that really got me started on this path was Jen Sincero, You Are A Badass. Cool. Yeah, I just stumbled upon it at Valley Village. Like I said, I love Thrifting, and I never would have found it, but I was like, oh, that’s cool. I like, badass. That sounds funny. So I read it and she talks about waking up from the big sleep, and I was like, I am asleep. That is me. Like, my life is good, but am I really fully showing up? What life do I want to have? And I thought, well, yeah, of course I would want to be writing more. Is that all I would want to do? So she talks about one of her visions for her life. So she said, I want to help people. I want to leave the house so that I can put on the things and not be at home all day. And I want to be able to travel. I think those were her criteria of the life she wanted to manifest when she really dug into coaching. And so, yeah, I was like, oh, what do I want? And it is writing. But it’s also not just that because that year that I just did marketing for my book, I was like, oh, my God, this is horrible. I’m just like, here all alone, and that’s not how I want to be. I can’t just do that. So I thought, oh, well, I want to talk to people. It could be like teaching and then it’s some kind of interaction thing, right? Like she said, you can be pretty general, right. But something where I’m helping people and interacting with them, like telling stories. And so I did that got that into my head. And as things will happen, I just thinking, oh, Jen is cool. I wonder if she has a podcast. I was searching her and I don’t know why this happens, but if you search Jen Sincero on Apple podcasts, Cathy’s comes up. And I don’t know because they’re friends. I don’t know how it works. And so I wind up, right, like one step more like just applying that curiosity. I want to learn more about Jen. And then I want to put Cathy. And then just at that time, Cathy, she was advertising the podcasting course in her episodes, right? So then you’re like, oh, what’s that? And so I felt like just like that opening up, right. Suddenly all these possibilities became open to me and visible. And now I’m like, oh, yeah. Now that I’m launching this podcast to help other mums that are grappling with the same things I did, I’m like, oh, this is like fulfilling that thing that I said back when I was reading You Are A Badass, which is about having an interactive component of your ideal life where you’re working with people, sharing their stories, helping people learn all of those pieces. So again, it’s just taking one step. And I think not thinking too much about the outcome. And I’m still on the journey, but it is exciting to see new things that you wouldn’t have seen before.

Jo: Absolutely. Gosh, I love so much about that. So just for our listeners, Cathy is Cathy Heller with her Don’t Keep Your Day Job podcast, which I highly recommend. But yeah, there’s so much to kind of pick apart from what you were just saying. I absolutely agree. That kind of holistic view, like no matter how much you’re passionate about writing, it can’t be your everything. It just can’t. So getting really clear on your why and why you’re here and what you have to offer the world and what that looks like, because I’ve experienced this a lot. You burn out easily if you’re just really tunnel visioned on writing a book or something like that. It’s too early to kind of lose those connections with those other things that light you up in the world, too. And from listening to what you’re saying, too, it’s really clear to me how the universe really kind of steps in or the synchronicities come about when you kind of open yourself up to that path that kind of feels right for you. And so finding that book, which I’m totally going to have to read now, I’ve written that down. We’ll maybe put that in the show notes as well. And then finding these podcasts and then growing this group of yours too, with These Mums Write, and making those connections with other people, going through the same kind of thing as you with writing and that it’s such an amazing sign that you’re on the right path and you’re growing in that. So that’s really exciting. I love seeing when those things happen. So with your first book, you were really quite focused for a while on wanting the agent and wanting to be published, not the Indy self-published route. How are you feeling about that now? Is that still the direction you’re going in or where are you at?

Jackie: Yeah, it’s a good question. I think now I’m just no. So I’m not so fixated on the outcome, but doing the work. So taking the time to build community and engage with your audience all throughout so that you’re not expecting someone to do that for you and to enjoy that experience. So I think that’s the problem with the literary agent and the publishing. Right. Is that there’s so much gatekeeping there. If you’re not one of the ones that managed to climb over the wall, then you’re just like you left on the ground and smelly and there’s like tunnels everywhere. And you’re just like, this is what I work towards. Right. Whereas if we all reach out and support each other along the way, and I really think that’s the way is that we will raise each other up as a community. And so I think it’s definitely been a shift. I used to think you just put good content out there and that’s it. No, that’s actually what I see is just the people that show up and support each other are the ones that building their audience and building their community and moving towards their goals, their writing goals. Which again, I think having that experience in the fashion industry, which it is very much like your fit of this criteria, like your waist that will be 15 inches when I measure it tomorrow, Jackie. This is a very specific criteria. Right? It’s not about what I have to say. It’s about what’s the dimension today. And so I think that it’s been a real shift, like almost like the opposite.

Jo: Yeah. And that’s so positive. I feel like we’re just so lucky nowadays because we don’t have to have those gatekeepers because I agree thinking of them as gatekeepers as far as the publishers and getting an agent and then being one of the few who doesn’t already have a name brand or something out there, being selected to have your books published through them. There are so many more avenues available for us out there to get our words out there, our voice out there. And indeed, self-publishing is such a huge market at the moment, and you have so much autonomy over it. And I absolutely love indie publishing, so I’m kind of totally all for that just because you can, there’s no gatekeepers. It’s just up to you putting your best work out there and doing the hard work and making those connections with other people and all of that. You don’t need to be held back by the opinions of anybody else. And I think we’re just so lucky that we have those opportunities to be able to do that. With your new book, at the moment, what are the biggest challenges that you are finding? Because it sounds like your whole mindset around this book is very different than your first one, but I’m assuming there’s probably still some challenges. Like, I know with writing any book, it’s not necessarily an easy process. So what are you kind of struggling with a little bit at the moment?

Jackie: Yeah. I think one thing is just finding places to get that critique and feedback. I left my writing group just because they’re in Vancouver and I live in the suburbs now because I’ve got kids, and so it’s definitely harder to find that time. So I need to rethink how I do that. But I think connecting with these other writing mums and Facebook communities, it’ll come yeah.

Jo: I think you’re right, because I think you’re laying all the foundations there that. Yeah, I think you’re right. It will kind of fall into place for you with that.

Jackie: Yeah. Just being open. But that is one thing I do miss. It’s hard to find the time for all of that, but I always loved that the most would be you get such great feedback and that was such a fun part of writing. Yeah. And I think that’s probably when I write now, I do feel like because again, I did try some projects and they just didn’t really go anywhere. I think this one feels like it’s in alignment for me because I definitely write by the seat of my pants, as they say. But I just feel like I know the path forward. I can see it more clearly now, not to say I don’t ever make any mistakes or anything, but I feel like overall it’s much clearer for me.

Jo: Cool. That’s exciting. So you’ve got a lot coming up really for you now because you’ve got your podcast and that releases in January.

Jackie: Yeah.

Jo:  And then you’ve also got this book, too. Do you have a kind of timeline in mind, or are you just going with the flow, like this book will take as long as it takes to be written? Or did you have an idea?

Jackie: That’s a good question. I should put a date on it, but I haven’t.

Jo: Fair enough. I tend to try and put dates on my books, but I don’t always meet those dates, so I totally understand. Sometimes life just happens.

Jackie: And yeah, sometimes a book is just going to take as long as a book is going to take to be written. Yeah. But I like that idea. I think I will after this. I think about that end date. And I do like I said, I identify as a Pantser. But one thing I have also learned from doing interviews is it doesn’t have to be one or the other. And so that’s another thing I want to do more at this time is now set some time aside to do some of the planning so that I know roughly where I’m headed. And then, like you said, how long it will take me to get there, because one thing I don’t have that I did have when I was writing the other one was like the gift of a never ending day, stretches of time.

Jo: Yeah, it changes a lot, I think, when you’re a mom as well and you’ve got all these other things going on. So, yeah, that’s got to be really tough. Well, I’m just wondering then if you’ve got any last kind of words of wisdom or anything that you would like to share with our audience and anybody that might find themselves in a similar situation, as you were, where maybe they’ve written a book and then took a really long hiatus from it for various reasons and are getting back into starting a new project. Any advice or words of wisdom?

Jackie: Yeah, I think for me it really came down to voice and realizing getting to know mine. When I started to write this, I just was writing stream of consciousness for a long time. And that’s because I was just really enjoying the voice and I realized that something that is what is really fueling it is figuring out what is my voice. And that gets me excited because I think we all want to feel like we’re creating something that’s special and unique. And the more that we can lean into what is special and unique about us, that is what is going to get us excited about the work. And that’s really for me how it changed from some of the projects where I just this is okay. But it just felt kind of like work to like, oh, this is the feeling I had because with that first one, I do have that feeling. Like I was excited about it because I felt like it was special. And so now, even though I’m not writing about Tokyo, I’m like, oh, I found that excitement again. And that’s what is driving this forward.

Jo: I love it. I just totally love that and totally agree. Finding your voice just puts you on your path again. It’s fantastic. And where can my audience connect with you then? Because like I said, you’ve got a few different projects going on really with this podcast and everything. So how can they follow what you’re doing and connect with you?

Jackie: Yeah, I think the best thing would be if they’re interested in being part of the writing mum community, they could search on Facebook These Mums Write. And if they’re just interested in more, you know, the writing or they’re not quite ready to join a Facebook group, just check me out on Instagram, that is Jackie Amsden and I would love to see them in either of those places.

Jo: Fantastic, well, thank you so much. I’m going to put all those in the show notes too so that people can follow you and connect with you. And yes, thank you so much. It’s been a blast chatting with you.

Jackie: Oh, it’s been great. Thank you so much, Jo.