Q&A with Author Michèle Swiderski

After 10 years of battling depression and anxiety, Michèle Swiderski wrote her first book, A Joyful Life: How to Use Your Creative Spirit to Manage Depression, with the goal of helping others who felt stuck in a revolving door of mental illness.

Here, Michèle tells us why she felt called to share her story and details some of what she has learned over the years.

What prompted you to write a book about your experience battling depression?

My most recent healing experience from depression and generalized anxiety was unique. I felt I had stumbled onto a huge secret that I was compelled to share with the world. I had been through bouts of depression before and never felt strong once over the hump. Even though I was well enough to return to work, I remained extremely fragile and vulnerable. But this time was different. This time I felt strong because I had discovered the right mix of “ingredients” for my self-designed treatment plan. I knew specifically what I, Michèle, needed to maintain balance in my life. And much of it did not fit under a traditional medical approach. I hoped that others could benefit from what I learned.

What did you learn in the process of writing the book? Was it therapeutic for you in some way?

Yes, it surprised me how very therapeutic writing my story was. I never expected that, because it was not the reason I wrote this memoir. But it was a nice bonus. It was as if writing my story released me from a huge weight, as if I had given it wings to go inspire others. It was a beautiful thing, looking back. Maybe I could liken it to a musician who writes a musical score and until the piece is finished and made public, it only exists in her head, but once the music is released into the world it no longer consumes her head. And there is now room in that creative part of her brain for other scores. Does that make sense? It was extremely freeing for me.

How do creativity and spirituality relate to a person’s mental health and well-being?

I can only speak for myself, but I suspect that much of what I learned during my healing year, how creativity took a central role in my healing, could be applied more broadly. My experience with the healing power of creativity has certainly changed the way I look at the act of creating; engaging in creativity was always a natural inclination for me, but now I understand that it is a must for my mental health! The same is true regarding Spirit—that if we allow Spirit to take up residence in our lives and we keep it well nourished, it can most certainly have a healing effect, that Spirit is important for our overall life balance. I would not be the first to suggest the healing power of prayer, for example. I think it is universally understood by those who care to explore spirituality.

Do you still use the principles in your book in your everyday life?

Absolutely! If I don’t, my well-being becomes shaky and I find myself dragging through the day wondering what is wrong, why I am feeling down, or why I have lost my get-up-and-go. If I omit morning meditations, don’t get exercise or don’t see my friends for a while, it’s amazing how quickly the mood can sink. Equally important is how suddenly it can be lifted with the needed correction.

That’s why I included a template for developing a personal action plan in my book, something to create when feeling well so that it is ready to guide us back when we are unwell.

What do you hope readers take away from A Joyful Life?

I would like readers to come away with hope in the struggle with depression and anxiety. The battle is not easy; I know that. It might be the biggest challenge of our lives, but it is still possible to heal from depression and it is worth investigating a different approach. It is possible to have depression and still lead a happy life – but it is a constant work in progress.

For me, it was a matter of trusting Spirit and relinquishing control for my day-to-day existence, plus needing to be disciplined in integrating daily creativity as part of my wellness plan. If readers think they don’t have time to “play,” I would ask, how much do they value mental health?

I also want them to understand that I am not suggesting an alternative to medication. Personally, when I was finally prescribed the right medication, one that worked with my particular brain chemistry, it was like being given back my personality dipped in sunshine, something I hadn’t seen in over twenty years. It was a very joyful reunion indeed. But in my view, medication alone is not enough. It works best when combined with Cognitive Behavior Therapy or something similar, as well as with regular exercise, a healthy diet, and limited intake of alcohol and caffeine or other stimulants. Depression is a serious illness, and we need to treat it with respect.

Q&A with Author Kayla Scoumis, Adams Recovery Center

Kayla Scoumis is the clinical coordinator for Adams Recovery Center and the primary author behind Accept, Reflect, Commit: Your First Steps to Addiction Recovery. Applying the hands-on clinical experience she and her colleagues have gained in the field, Kayla wrote Accept, Reflect, Commit to serve not only individuals battling addiction, but the loved ones supporting those individuals, as well.

What’s more: The core concepts addressed in Accept, Reflect, Commit are issues faced by all people at one time or another, whether addiction is present in their lives or not. Here’s the background on Accept, Reflect, Commit and how it can help readers of all circumstances and walks of life.

1. What prompted you and the Adams Recovery Center team to write Accept, Reflect, Commit?

Addiction is becoming more and more prevalent in today’s world. It’s not something we can just ignore or pretend affects only certain people or areas. It’s widespread and it’s making an impact on people of all demographics. Opiates are especially concerning, and overdoses are happening daily. With all of this happening, there is a lot of confusion and judgment when it comes to addiction and its treatment. We wanted to create more access to information about addiction treatment and the issues present for those in early recovery. We want people to gain a better understanding of what it means to recover from addiction and the changes that are necessary to live a life of sobriety.

In a way, our clients inspired it, too! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a client say, “Wow, I wish my mom/brother/cousin/friend/etc. could learn this stuff,” and we agree! So, we basically put our program into a book, as well as information about seeking treatment. Reading this book is like attending some of our most important group sessions. Though it does not replace treatment, it can be a great asset for those seeking recovery, and it can provide valuable information and insight for the people supporting individuals battling addiction.

2. There’s so much news about the heroin epidemic nationwide—what are you seeing in your day-to-day experience?

Here’s the thing: The clients we see fully recognize that they are in a miserable situation. They desperately want to get out of the cycle they are in and don’t want to continue using. However, that requires change, and change can be super hard, especially when addictive substances are involved. Drug and alcohol addiction incites people to develop certain behaviors and thought patterns that are problematic and destructive. We discuss many of these thoughts and actions—such as manipulation, dishonesty, black-and-white thinking, etc.—in the book.

Another thing we are seeing with the heroin epidemic is the roadblocks clients face with seeking treatment. It can be overwhelming to acknowledge a need for help, let alone to actually seek that help! Many people seeking treatment are facing obstacles such as difficulty with insurance companies and wait lists at treatment centers. When someone is already feeling down and out, the perceived impossibility of actually climbing out of the hole can feel too great to accomplish. In the book, we offer information about different treatment options and provide guidance for those seeking treatment to hopefully make it feel more doable.

3. What are the primary misconceptions about drug addiction?

One of the biggest misconceptions is that people who are addicted to substances can “just stop it.” Many people still believe that people choose to be addicted and can stop at any time. This is so far from the truth! Once a person becomes addicted to a substance, he has a physical and mental dependence on it. Also, even when the substance is taken away, the behaviors and thought patterns are still there and probably will lead a person back to using. People need more from addiction recovery than to simply take away the substances. Individual needs will vary based on a lot of different factors, which is why we recommend seeking a professional assessment to determine the best option.

That leads me to another huge misconception, which is the belief that the “cure” for one will be the “cure” for all. Just because Dad was able to stop drinking one day and never look back does not mean it will be the same for his son. Understanding and accepting an individualized approach to treatment can assist people with the frustration they may feel toward themselves or their loved ones for not “getting it.”

4. How does this book help those in addiction and their loved ones take steps toward recovery?

The book outlines many issues that people face when seeking treatment. My hope is that people who are struggling will read this book, be able to identify themselves within the pages, and gain a better understanding of themselves through its content. My goal was to write this in a very casual, relatable way. I think one thing that often drives people away from seeking help is the fear of judgment, or the belief they are “lesser” than others. Hopefully people who read this will feel understood and accepted—like they aren’t the only person who is struggling with this, they aren’t the only person who thinks, feels, and behaves the way they do. I think when people find that connection and relatability, they feel a lot more open to change.

When it comes to loved ones, I also hope they can better understand their people and their struggle. What I hope for even more, though, is that they can begin identifying their own issues. Addiction is often a systematic issue—meaning it does not just affect a singular person but also those around them. People often adapt to the addicted individual’s behaviors and develop their own problematic responses. Loved ones reading this book can hopefully identify with their own issues and learn about the changes they need to make, as well, not only to better support their person but also to better care for themselves.

5. What gives you hope that those battling addiction can get clean and sober and stay healthy?

Seeing the changes our clients make every day brings a lot of hope and inspiration. People come in feeling so lost and unsure of themselves, but with time and effort, they are able to begin seeing a lightness in life again. The amazing thing about sobriety is that, regardless of how people find it, when they truly want it, they can have it. Stories of inspiration, hope, and connection are all around us if we look for them. It’s difficult to see that sometimes in the wake of terrible stories on the news and statistics, but the reality is that people can make positive changes and drastically improve their lives.

6. This book is a great read even for those whose lives haven’t been touched by addiction. What common issues, faced by all people, do you address?

Oh, wow—so many! Honestly, I think people could easily ignore the addiction-specific information and still learn a ton about themselves. The book touches on very human issues such as comparing ourselves to others, instant gratification, holding others and ourselves accountable, being afraid to show our true selves, dealing with grief, and engaging in a victim mentality. Those are things that anyone (I would even say everyone at one point or another) can have issues with and can benefit from learning more about. We all have changes we can make to be the best versions of ourselves and stop engaging in problematic coping skills to deal with life’s stresses.

7. What’s the number one thing you hope readers take away from Accept, Reflect, Commit?

That change is possible if you allow it to be possible. Though there are many roadblocks in addiction recovery, the biggest one people face is often themselves. It’s not just the drugs or the alcohol or the relationships or the neighborhood—it’s them. While that may be difficult to accept, my hope is that people can actually find empowerment through that knowledge. Literally nothing can hold you back or drag you down unless you allow it to do so. In the book, I encourage people to challenge their perspectives and try on some new ones that might be better suited for a happy life. My hope is that everyone who reads this book can walk away from it believing that life is within reach.

Welcome New Authors: Karl Williams and Barbara Moran

KiCam Projects is delighted to welcome new author Karl Williams and Barbara Moran, whose book will publish in April 2019!

Karl has teamed with Barbara to tell her story of growing up with autism at a time before autism was even beginning to be understood. Barbara, a graphic artist, spent her childhood in a mental institution, improperly labeled as schizophrenic. Only when her sister later became a doctor did Barbara, then in her 40s, finally receive the correct diagnosis.

Barbara, who lives in Topeka, Kansas, has had her artwork displayed at the MIND Institute at the University of California-Davis. She features the objects that speak to her imagination, particularly locomotives, cathedrals, and stoplights.

Karl, a musician and writer, previously has published two books with leaders in the self-advocacy movement, and a portion of the proceeds of his project with Barbara will benefit Breakthrough House, which supports mental health recovery in Topeka.

The forthcoming book, tentatively titled Hello, Stranger, will enable readers to see inside a unique mind to better understand autism and the spectrum of neurodiversity.

It also reminds readers how far society has come in accepting and caring for individuals with autism—and how far we still need to go to empower them and embrace their gifts.

Welcome to the family, Karl and Barbara!

Q&A with Author Keith Maginn

Keith-MaginnKeith Maginn believes that writing to help and inspire others is his life’s purpose.

A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, Keith earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Miami University before going to work for AmeriCorps and Habitat for Humanity. His forthcoming book, (Extra)Ordinary: More Inspirational Stories of Everyday People, releases October 10, 2017, and is available for pre-order at KiCamProjects.com and on Amazon.com.

1. What’s the background on your (Extra)Ordinary series? What inspired you to write these two books?

My first book was a memoir (Turning This Thing Around), and my second was an account of a philanthropic road trip through the South (Goodwill Tour: Paying It Forward). After writing these books about my own life and then having others share their life stories with me, I got to thinking of all the remarkable stories out there about “regular,” everyday people. The inspirational stories of people I know personally were not being told, and I felt they deserved to be. That was the impetus for my third book, (Extra)Ordinary: Inspirational Stories of Everyday People.
Fortunately for me, KiCam Projects picked up that book and then asked if I’d be willing to write a spinoff, this time telling the encouraging stories of people from all over the world who overcame major struggles. Many of them now use their experiences to help others, and I am honored to be able to share their powerful stories in (Extra)Ordinary: More Inspirational Stories of Everyday People.

I always wanted to highlight positive stories, since we are so often bombarded with negative and sensational news. Despite what we see on TV and on social media, there are a plethora of good people doing good things in the world today.

2. What makes a great story?

I most strongly connect to stories about people who have endured major challenges and have been able to rise above their obstacles to thrive. The people I write about have been pushed to their limits. Stories that touch me are ones that move me emotionally, ones that make me laugh and cry. I try to have the same effect on my readers—to inspire them, make them think, maybe even challenge them.

3. What’s the most rewarding part of the writing process for you?

I like getting caught up in the writing, where everything else fades away and the work starts to flow effortlessly as time passes unnoticed. Everyone has a story to tell, but few find the courage to actually write that story. I can take pride that I took the leap and won’t have any regrets about not giving it a shot.

I also love hearing from readers whom my books inspired. Knowing my work has positively impacted the lives of others is a special feeling and sometimes carries me through when I question if all the hard work and sacrifice are worth it.

4. You say your life’s purpose is to be a writer. How and when did you realize that, and how has that knowledge affected your life?

I have been writing as long as I can recall. Even when I was very young, I would write poems or letters for special occasions (weddings) or difficult situations (funerals). I always felt like writing was my gift. Writing comes easily to me. The call to write has been with me my entire life, sometimes faintly in the background and other times so deafening that I had no choice but to put my thoughts on paper. Even when I have had to pursue “real jobs” to make ends meet, writing has always been there as an outlet. I not only feel writing is my calling, but, more specifically, writing to inspire others is my life’s purpose, the reason for all I have experienced and the reason I was put on this earth.

5. What do you love best about being a writer?

I love connecting with people with more depth. Putting out a very personal memoir strengthened my existing relationships with family and friends and enabled me to meet and bond with many new people. I love trying to get out of my mind and ego and live more from the heart. People respond to that and are much more willing to open up. This produces a deeper connection that isn’t typically found in our overly busy and sometimes superficial society.

6. What have you learned from the people you’ve gotten to know in your writing career?

Life is hard. Everyone is going through something, often behind the scenes. But we don’t have to struggle alone—we are all connected, and we need each other to get through life in a meaningful way. When we drop our defenses to show our true selves, we can connect with more depth and compassion.

I also learned about the amazing power of love and the incredible resilience of the human spirit. I have witnessed the miraculous unfolding of individuals when they find the courage to step out of their comfort zone, which is the only place where true growth occurs.

7. What do you hope readers take away from your books?

I hope readers gain courage to take some chances, to step out of their comfort zones. I hope they are better able to face their challenges and perhaps listen more to that intuitive inner voice, which I call the heart.

‘Cosmopolitan’ Interview with Kristin Bartzokis

One thing we at KiCam cherish about our authors is their ability to be open and authentic in sharing their stories. No matter how painful their pasts, our authors tell the unvarnished truth, showing their strength, determination, and often a great sense of humor!

All of those characteristics are on display in Diary of a Beautiful Disaster author Kristin Bartzokis’s interview with Cosmopolitan

Kristin, who has Treacher Collins syndrome, has never looked like everyone else. She’s had numerous surgeries to reconstruct her face, and she wears a hearing aid.

In her interview, she addresses what it’s like to look and feel different and to deal with others’ reactions, which range from simple questions to gawking and pointing.

“I know everyone has those up and down moments,” Kristin says, “but there are times where I’m like, ‘I’m so over this. I just want to look like everybody else. I don’t want to stand out, I just want to be able to walk through the mall or do my grocery shopping and just kind of blend in.’ ”

Nevertheless, Kristin has embraced her role as an advocate for people with physical differences, and she’s embracing herself, as well, by celebrating the strength, courage, and drive that have made her a successful gymnast, marathon runner, and creative professional.

Read the full interview here.

‘Beautiful Scars’ Wins Ben Franklin Award

Beautiful Scars, the first book published by KiCam Projects, won the 2016 Benjamin Franklin Award for Best Inspirational Book, presented by the Independent Book Publishers Association on April 7 in Portland, Oregon.

Beautiful Scars is the story of burn survivor Kilee Brookbank, told together by Kilee and her mom, Lori Highlander, founder of KiCam Projects. The desire to share Kilee’s story of determination, hope, and healing inspired Highlander’s decision to start KiCam as a way to give voice to other authors with remarkable stories of survival and recovery.

“We are thrilled to receive this award, and we thank the IBPA for honoring us and for supporting indie publishers every day,” Highlander says. “We have an exceptional team at KiCam, and we’re telling exceptional stories. Our family’s story is only the beginning. There is so much more in store!”

Kilee and Lori will be signing Beautiful Scars June 1 at Book Expo America in New York City.


KiCam Welcomes New Author: John Thorngren

KiCam Projects is delighted to welcome our newest author, John Thorngren, whose book will release in January 2018.

John, of Lake Dallas, Texas, is telling the story of Pamela Perillo, who has been imprisoned in Texas since 1980. Convicted of capital murder, Pamela initially was sentenced to death before she was resentenced to life in prison, plus thirty years, in 2000.

Pamela’s story is one of healing and conversion. Addicted to drugs from a young age, Pamela got clean and sober in prison and developed a true Christian faith. Her spiritual salvation has been the focus of her life behind bars, where she has shared her faith with her fellow inmates and has found meaning in training dogs for the disabled.

John’s book bears witness to the tragedies of abuse and addiction, the horrors of Death Row, and the potential for change within each person. Proceeds from the book will benefit Patriot PAWS service dogs—a testament to the fact that each person’s life, each person’s story, can make a powerful, positive impact on the world.

Welcome to the KiCam family, John! 


‘Beautiful Scars’ Finalist for Benjamin Franklin Award

Beautiful Scars, the debut by authors Kilee Brookbank and Lori Highlander, has been named a finalist for an Independent Book Publishers Association Benjamin Franklin Award, to be presented April 7.

Beautiful Scars, the story of Kilee’s recovery from being severely burned in a house fire in 2014, is a finalist in the Inspirational category. The Benjamin Franklin Awards are among the most prestigious honors for independent presses like KiCam.

A portion of the proceeds of the sales of Beautiful Scars will benefit Shriners Hospitals for Children-Cincinnati, where Kilee spent 38 days healing after the fire. Beautiful Scars was the first book published by KiCam, and Lori and Kilee will be signing copies of the book at Book Expo America on June 1 in New York City.

See the complete list of Benjamin Franklin Award finalists here.


Spring Ahead with KiCam’s Books!

As much as we’ll enjoy saying farewell to winter, losing an hour of sleep this weekend is never something to look forward to.

So, to make “springing ahead” a bit more bearable, we’re having a sale!

Our entire spring line will be 20% off from March 13-March 26 when you purchase at KiCamProjects.com!

And to sweeten the deal even more, you can catch up on our fall 2016 books at an awesome 50% discount during that same time period.

You can take advantage of the spring sale both for released and pre-sale books, allowing you to stay up to date with the works from all of our incredible authors.

Head over to our shop page and fill your cart. No discount codes needed!

Enjoy! And thank you for supporting KiCam Projects and our authors.


KiCam Teams with Bookmasters for Nationwide Distribution, Sales

KiCam Projects has signed an agreement with Bookmasters, Inc., for nationwide sales and distribution of its trade books.

The partnership will provide greater exposure and reach for KiCam’s authors, helping to spread their messages to more retailers and consumers.

“This is an exciting step for us as we continue to grow and try to change the world, one great story at a time,” says Lori Highlander, president and founder of KiCam. “Our goal is to provide a larger platform for our authors to touch more lives with their powerful stories.”

KiCam focuses on publishing true stories of survival and recovery, whether from illness, addiction, tragedy, or other challenges. KiCam also offers its authors and collaborators the opportunity to designate a portion of the proceeds from their projects to be donated to a nonprofit organization.

Founded in 2015, KiCam published three books in 2016 and released the illustrated children’s book A Corner of Heaven on Jan. 17. Eight more books are slated for 2017 publication.

Bookmasters, based in Ashland, Ohio, is one of the largest providers of integrated publisher services in the United States. For more than 40 years, Bookmasters has offered services to publishers and authors such as book manufacturing, print sales and distribution, warehousing and fulfillment, eBook sales and distribution, and editorial and design services.

Bookmasters is owned by Follett Corporation and is a strategic partner with Baker & Taylor, premier worldwide distributor of books, digital content, and entertainment products. Bookmasters’ sales team works directly with large wholesalers, retailers, and online sellers and has deep reach into the Christian and specialty markets, as well.

“Greater exposure is key to the success of any book, and working with Bookmasters will enable our authors to reach more readers,” Highlander says. “The mark of KiCam’s success is how well we serve our authors, so we’re delighted to be making this leap forward.”