Lily Dulan: Kindness, Alignment, Regeneration, and Action

Nonfiction author Lily Dulan shares how her personal experience with grief led her to help others and what her biggest back-and-forth with her publisher was.
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Lily Dulan is an MFT Psychotherapist with a master's in psychology, creative writing, and teaching. She is a certified Heart of Yoga teacher and completed coursework at Agape International Spiritual Center under the tutelage of Michael Bernard Beckwith. She started a foundation in loving memory of her daughter, Kara Meyer Dulan, and teamed up with both local and international organizations, such as the Unatti Foundation, Foster Nation, and Venice Arts. She teaches workshops, leads retreats, speaks throughout the community, and hosts a variety of educational and charitable events. She lives with her husband David and their two daughters, Sally and Marcelle.

lily_dulan_AuthorPhoto_credit Alexandra Cooper

In this post, Dulan shares how her personal experience with grief led her to help others, her biggest back-and-forth with her publisher, and more!

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Name: Lily Dulan
Literary agent: Carol Mann Agency
Book title: Giving Grief Meaning
Publisher: Mango Publishing
Expected release date: December 2020
Genre: Nonfiction Self-Help
Elevator pitch for the book: I tell my personal story of loss and describe my Name Work® method. Through The Name Work, we can move through all kinds of suffering and life obstacles by using the letters in our own names or the names of someone we have lost.

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What prompted you to write this book?

Maya Angelou writes, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you.” This has been my experience. I was angry, depressed, and knocked past my knees after losing my infant daughter Kara to SIDS. My untold story of grief and trauma was literally choking me, as the grief had affected my lungs. I was on inhalers and steroids just to breathe, and antibiotics were not working to clear the infection. Once I moved through the initial shock of sudden loss, I slowly and gently began putting the tools that I learned as an MFT Psychotherapist, Yogi, and Sober Woman into practice. I needed to use the knowledge that I had been given to save my life. Through using the letters in my daughter Kara’s name, I was gradually able to heal and bring my focus back to helpful healing and wellness practices. These practices eventually morphed into The Name Work®. They created space for me to be a greater healing presence for myself and the world around me. Ultimately, the qualities that I found in K-A-R-A became my North Star. They are Kindness, Alignment, Regeneration, and Action. For me, healing meant writing about my long journey into accepting my new life without Kara. On this path, I learned to embody the qualities found in her name.

Although some days look better than other days, I learned to practice the first quality and be kind and gentle with myself. By doing this, I was better able to be of service to others and the environment. And secondly, to act as if the world is aligned and God is good even when I felt hopeless. I also re-committed to the practice of taking time to pause and regenerate, which is the third quality. This came through embracing wellness practices like affirmations, movement, and meditation. And finally, I took what I learned into action by helping others.

When I feel lost, I look to these qualities. My work is about teaching others how to work with their chosen name. Through connecting with our names, we can begin to tell our own stories and ultimately create a narrative for healing. Everyone has a story to tell, and The Name Work can help us bring what we need into the light of healing. It is through this process that I was able to birth my story and this healing work. I hope it helps others tell their stories no matter what their creative medium is.

(Your Self-Help Book Should Not Be a Thinly Disguised Memoir)

How long did it take to go from idea to publication? 

It took a long time! I began writing nine years after Kara passed. I thought that I was finished in 2018 with nearly 20,000 words. I then took my work to an editor who helped me with overall organization and chapter headings, as well as with creating a book proposal with sample chapters. I needed to create a proposal as many publishers just want a taste at first. At this point, a dear friend introduced me to the Carol Mann Agency, and I began working with a literary agent. From here, it took many months to find my publisher. Some months later, I was thrilled to finally have found Mango Publishing in Coral Gables, Florida! I soon learned that Mango wanted more, and I found that I could go deeper with my writing process and healing tools. It was here that I began writing the chapter on trauma, something I had been researching for a while. I needed a kick start to do this, so I went to the Sonoran Desert for an uninterrupted week and began the long process of writing another 20,000 words. The chapters "When We Feel Stuck," "Body Image," and "Sitting with Ram Dass" would soon follow when I returned home.

Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title? 

I had to let go of what I thought the actual title should be and enter into the process of collaboration with Mango. I wanted my work to have a wider reach, and this collaboration was necessary. We ultimately landed on the title Giving Grief Meaning. Today, I can’t imagine my book having any other title. I also learned that communication is key and that it is important to reach out to your agent and/or publisher with any questions that you might have from the start.

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Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?

When I thought I was finished, I wasn’t. I had another 20,000 words in me!

What do you hope readers will get out of your book?

I want readers to know that healing is possible. When we commit to growing rather than shrinking from life obstacles, trauma, and tragedy, we can and will make it through to the other side. Our scars, our grief, and our trauma can become our greatest blessings if we use them to bring more light into the world.

If you could share one piece of advice with other authors, what would it be?

I think it is worth repeating, that when you think you are finished you probably aren’t. You will have many false starts. Start anyway! Starting means reading as many books on the writing process as possible. I highly recommend Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott or The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. If you are at the beginning stages of writing, I suggest joining a writer’s group to get your creative juices flowing. Also, write without knowing where you are going. Write for the love of the process, not the product, and surrender to the flow!

(The Don'ts of Writing Nonfiction)

I highly recommend Terrie Silverman’s Creative Rites. There are also Artist’s Way workshops that you can find with a simple google search. Please note that if the cost is an issue, many groups are free of charge. You can find free writing groups at local community centers in your area. On the flip side, it is also important to know when it is time to birth our work. We don’t want to incubate for too long or we will stay stuck. I love creative groups and honor their importance but needed to push myself out of the nest and not look to others to tell me that I was ready. Most writing workshops are great for getting started. They can help us to express more fully, expand, and come undone with wild abandon. When you are finished with the more freestyle creative process don’t be afraid to hire a good editor who can help you ready your manuscript for submission. I thought I was organized and I wasn’t. A good editor can help you with overall chapter organization and or help you to create a book proposal. It was worth the investment for me! 

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