Where to Find Kilee Brookbank This Fall

Kilee Brookbank, the inspiring burn survivor behind the story of Beautiful Scars: A Life Redefined, has a busy fall lineup of signings and appearances in the Greater Cincinnati area.

While Kilee finishes her third semester at Xavier University, here’s when and where you can meet her and get a signed copy of her award-winning book:

Want more on Kilee? Learn about her charitable foundation at KileeGivesBack.org and visit her personal website at KileeBrookbank.com.

And stay tuned to this website to find out about Kilee’s upcoming appearance on a nationally syndicated TV program! 

Join Five KiCam Authors at ‘Brews and Books’

Cincinnati-area book lovers, come meet KiCam authors Kilee Brookbank, Laura Dewire, Danielle and Christopher Jones, and Keith Maginn from 3-7 p.m. Sunday, November 26, at West Side Brewing in Westwood.

The inaugural “Brews and Books” event also will feature several other local authors and include everything from children’s books, sports books, nonfiction, and holiday books.

This is a great opportunity to purchase some unique holiday gifts: books signed with personal messages from the authors!

“Brews and Books” is a family-friendly event, as well. Of course there will be great local beer, but there also will be plenty of root beer, soft drinks, and food for guests of all ages.

We look forward to seeing you, and we thank you for supporting local businesses and authors!

Lori Highlander

Q&A with ‘Beautiful Scars’ author Lori Highlander

Lori HighlanderLori Highlander was a pretty typical working mom, raising two teenage children and two stepsons in a rural community outside of Cincinnati, Ohio. But in November 2014, Lori’s home erupted in flames caused by a gas leak—and Lori’s daughter, Kilee Brookbank, then 16, was caught inside. Kilee made it out of the blazing house but spent the next 38 days recovering from second- and third-degree burns over almost half her body. When she returned home from the hospital, Kilee needed constant care and physical therapy, and Lori found her life turned upside down. Now, almost three years later, Kilee has made a full recovery, and Lori, 41, has teamed with her daughter on the book Beautiful Scars: A Life Redefined and the nonprofit Kilee Gives Back Foundation to raise awareness of and money for Shriners Hospitals for Children. Here, Lori shares her family’s triumphant story and offers some inspiring words for other parents going through difficult times.

What prompted you to share your family’s intimate story with the world?

We decided to share our story to raise awareness for Shriners Hospitals for Children and to help others who might be experiencing similar situations. No matter what you are going through in life, you can make it if you try hard enough. There might be quite a few bumps along the way, but through each struggle, we are given that life experience for a reason. You can choose to do something about it, or you can sit back and play the victim role. It’s a choice, and our family chose to do something positive with our story

Beautiful ScarsDid the writing process give you a new perspective on what you had been through?

Writing the book allowed me to go through the grieving process that I was unable to do while Kilee was recovering. I was so occupied with helping her and making sure she made a full recovery that I didn’t allow myself to go through all of the emotions. When I was writing the book, I actually sat down and was able to process it and let it all out. The mixed emotions poured out of me like I’d never felt before, and it was great to get it out. But I also had a reality check of how far Kilee and our family had truly come. It was a horrific accident, but Kilee made a miraculous recovery. She continues to inspire people and make the best of what happened, and we are so grateful for this life that we live.

Watching and helping your daughter recover from burns on nearly half of her body was an incredible challenge! How did it redefine your life and your family’s life together?

Our journey hasn’t been typical. At times, in the early days after the explosion, it almost seemed unbearable. But it’s made us who we are, as individuals and as a family. We’ve healed, we’ve grown stronger, and we will continue to share our story in hopes of helping others.

As a woman, have you changed your thoughts about self-image and body consciousness as a result of your experiences with Kilee?

It’s remarkable to see how strong Kilee has been and continues to be. It’s not easy to share your scars with the world, and she inspires young girls, teenagers, and women to be confident with their bodies and accept their flaws and to wear whatever they feel comfortable in. I am so proud of how brave Kilee continues to be, because she inspires me to be like her more and more every day.

What advice do you have for other parents facing seemingly impossible situations with their children?

I would encourage them to try to remain calm and have hope. We all have more strength than we realize, so stay positive and take one day at a time.

A portion of the proceeds of your book benefits Shriners Hospitals for Children-Cincinnati. What do you want people to know about Shriners Hospitals?

That they save the lives of children from around the world every day and there is no out-of-pocket cost to the children’s families. Shriners Hospitals are amazing places that we will continue to support in any way we can. We are forever grateful to them for saving Kilee’s life!

Q&A with ‘Salvation on Death Row’ Author John T. Thorngren

John T. Thorngren’s life has been one of varied experiences that have taken him from Paris, France, to the oil fields of Texas. He’s manufactured car-wash soap, owned a retail store, operated a chemical plant, and programmed computers. He’s the author of a book about probability and statistics and a songwriter of Southern Gospel.

So maybe it’s only fitting that an unexpected path led him to tell the story of a woman condemned to die on Texas’s Death Row, now hoping for parole in 2019. The twists and turns of his life have led Thorngren to find the value in every human soul, regardless of the journey that soul has taken.

This is the background behind Salvation on Death Row: The Pamela Perillo Story.

How did you come to know Pamela Perillo’s story, and what made you decide hers was a story you wanted to write?

I discovered an old friend was on Death Row in another state. Drugs were the root cause. As an effort to bring attention to his case, I decided to write a fiction novel about a woman falsely accused and condemned in Texas. Needing realism, by chance, I contacted Pamela Perillo, currently incarcerated in Gainesville. Pamela is a private person and had never allowed anyone to tell her story. We found we had a spiritual match and so began this effort.

Tell us about the process. How long did it take you to research the many documents and legal proceedings you cite, and how did you work with Pamela to bring her voice to the project?

Pamela and I worked on this project from 2010 through 2017.  This involved over fifty telephone conversations, 150 letters, and countless hours of research.

Did you ever find yourself surprised or challenged by what you learned as you wrote the book?

Yes, very much surprised. I was surprised about how political the causes for and against the death penalty have become. I was extremely surprised about the Frances Newman case. She personified the worst fear of those against the death penalty—the execution of the innocent. I and many others believe she was unjustly convicted and condemned.

How did this project change or affect your beliefs about the criminal justice system and, specifically, capital punishment?

I once believed that the criminal justice system and capital www.casino-spiele-kostenlos.org punishment were fair and equitable—a sort of Pollyanna viewpoint. Now, I believe that there are dark undercurrents to the contrary, and that once you are convicted and condemned, the justice system behaves like the proverbial snapping turtle that will not let loose till it thunders, regardless of evidence to the contrary. Slowly, I see our country becoming more compassionate regarding the death penalty, and I am encouraged.

Can you tell us about Patriot PAWS and why you chose that organization to benefit from the proceeds of Salvation on Death Row?

Patriot Paws was chosen on behalf of Pamela’s efforts to train service dogs. As noted in the book, Pamela’s encounters with animals throughout a difficult childhood shaped her talent in what she is doing now. She and her fellow trainers have made many service dogs available without cost to disabled American veterans and others with mobile disabilities and post-traumatic stress symptoms. Pamela plans to continue this effort after she is released. Certainly, any monies from my involvement should go to Patriot Paws, as neither Pamela nor I began this effort for profit. There’s a beautiful video describing Patriot Paws through the eyes of Texas Country Reporter; Pamela is in several scenes.

How does your own experience, as the survivor of three heart attacks and two heart surgeries, influence your thinking about the value of all people’s lives?

I am sure everyone who has had their chest cracked open like a crab will tell you how much bluer the sky looks. But I believe everyone, if they look back on their life with discerning eyes, regardless of their health, prosperity, or misery, must conclude that they were put here for a purpose, that every life is precious and none worth taking.

What do you hope readers take away from learning Pamela’s story?

I would answer this with a short story from a personal experience. Years past, I used to write my own Christmas cards, a poem or a two-paragraph vignette. These went out not only to family and friends but to business contacts, many of whom I had never met. For several years there were no comments—good or bad. One afternoon, one of these business contacts, whom I did not know, telephoned and said the card had made his Christmas. One rarely knows what we do that benefits others, but when we do—even for just one—we leap with joy. So if the story of Pamela’s life helps but one soul, then our effort was well worth the undertaking.

A Teacher’s Perspective: How to Comfort a Grieving Child

In recognition of October marking Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, A Corner of Heaven author Laura Dewire shares her experience as a teacher helping young children grieve a loss in their family. 

In caring for children, there are things you learn by studying. There are pedagogies and theories all about child development and practices that are appropriate for young minds.

There are also things that can be learned only by doing. I’ve been a first- and second-grade teacher for three years now, and one of the biggest things I’ve learned is how to care for a child who is hurting.

There are certain kinds of hurt that can be fixed with a Lion King Band-Aid and a big hug. There are other kinds of hurt that require a snuggle session with a good book. And then there is the inexplicable kind of hurt you can’t take away or make better no matter how hard you try.

When there is loss in a child’s life, the way in which he or she processes pain looks a lot different from the way an adult or even a teenager might handle grief. It’s important not to underestimate or overestimate what exactly a child is feeling.

The best practices I’ve found for helping a child who is grieving are:

  1. Be an active listener. Allow the child to feel a full range of emotions—sometimes all at the same time. Be the listener you would need if you were hurting or upset.
  2. Be a safe place. A child in school spends more waking time with a teacher than with his or her family during the school year. This means the classroom environment you create has the potential to be a respite for a child who is hurting. Structure and routines are so important in a child’s life! Providing that stability is a major component to aiding a child who is grieving.
  3. Be flexible. When a child’s life is interrupted by pain, the child will react in a way that represents that sudden change. There will be days when everything goes according to plan, and there will be days when you feel lucky to have made it out with all your hair still attached. Remaining flexible and staying positive are imperative.

There is no greater pain for me than to see one of my students automaten hurting. Whether it’s because he fell off the monkey bars or because she’s lost a sibling or parent, when my children hurt, I hurt. Sometimes there are perfect words to say, and sometimes words fail. In times when words fall short, simply be there.

Love them.

Q&A with ‘Beautiful Scars’ Author Kilee Brookbank

Kilee Brookbank was just sixteen years old when she suffered severe burns in a house fire that would change the course of her life forever. Now nineteen, Kilee is a college student, author, speaker, and philanthropist who has found the beauty in her scars and uses her story to inspire readers and listeners of all ages. Get to know the brave young woman behind Beautiful Scars: A Life Redefined.

What prompted you to share with the world your personal story as a burn survivor?

I wanted to share my story because I realized there are plenty of other people in the world who have gone through the same things as I have or who could relate to my story in some way. I want to be someone for those people to look up to and to look to for guidance, and I felt like my story had a way of helping people get through any issues that might come up in their lives.

As you wrote the book, did you learn anything new about yourself? Did the writing process give you an added perspective on what you had been through?

Writing the updated edition of Beautiful Scars was something I felt needed to happen. A lot of things have gone on in my life since we wrote the first book. I have changed as a person, and so has my entire life. While going back through and rewriting it, I kept thinking about everything I have been through. I have always appreciated what has come of my hard times, and the writing process has helped me to get where I am today emotionally.

In what ways has being a survivor caused you to redefine your life?

Being a burn survivor has made me want to do much more than I ever imagined before the accident. I want to give back and especially want to be someone that people can look up to. Ever since the accident, I have never let my experiences or my scars define me; I have always been true to who I am. I have redefined how I think of life and the purpose that everyone has in their lives. Being a burn survivor has made me a better person.

You wear your scars proudly. What do they mean to you?

They signify that I have been through something horrible and came out on the other side just as happy as I was when I didn’t have scars. Some people would be embarrassed or uncomfortable wearing their scars proudly and letting them be visible, but I choose to not think of it as something I need to be ashamed of. People who see your scars don’t know how it feels to be proud of yourself for getting through one of the hardest things. Of course, I am always going to catch people looking, but I don’t let it bother me. I just brush it off.

In a world that is so focused on how women look, what are your words of wisdom for embracing our bodies as they are? How do you challenge the standards of what “beauty” is?

These days, women are constantly worried about body image and their self-confidence. Having scars, I know how it feels to be looked at and examined out of curiosity or whatever it might be. I choose to not let it bother me or let it get me down, which is what I think every woman should do. No one is perfect, and no matter what, people are always going to care for you because of who you are and not what you look like. My advice for any woman who might be struggling with embracing her body would be to not let anyone’s words define who you are. You might not look what society calls “normal,” and that’s okay. It is no one’s business to judge someone based on what others look like. Beauty is on the inside just as much as, if not more than, it is on the outside.

A portion of the proceeds of your book benefits Shriners Hospitals for Children-Cincinnati. What do you want people to know about Shriners Hospitals?

Shriners Hospitals do incredible work. They are an amazing team, and I have nothing but good things to say about them. No matter what, they always put their patients’ care and their patients’ families first. That is what is so amazing about them: They understand what patients and families are going through, and they are willing to do anything and everything they can to help people.

What do you hope readers take away from Beautiful Scars: A Life Redefined?

I want them to take away all the positives and use them in their everyday lives. Dwelling on the negative can be consuming to a person, and that is something that can make your own life, as well as the lives of others around you, miserable. It is important that readers know I appreciate all the support I have in my life and that I love being able to be someone others can look up to. It is an honor to know I can help just one person, and that is why I try my hardest to spin inspire people.

What We’re Doing to Battle the Addiction Epidemic

You’ve probably heard some of the news about the addiction epidemic in the United States, but here are some facts you might not know as we approach National Recovery Month:

• More than 20 million Americans over the age of twelve have a substance-use disorder, and drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the United States.
• As of late 2016, Ohio led the nation in opioid-overdose deaths, and one in nine heroin deaths in the United States occurred in the Buckeye State—the most in the country.
• Montgomery County, Ohio, is on pace for 800 overdose deaths in 2017—highest per capita in the nation.

At KiCam Projects, we’re doing our part to raise awareness about addiction, destigmatize it, and provide information that empowers readers to help themselves and their loved ones lead healthy, sober lives.

“From the beginning of the company, we’ve been committed to furthering the conversation about addiction by publishing at least one addiction-based book each year,” says Lori Highlander, who founded KiCam in 2015 and has spent most of her career as an executive in the addiction-recovery field. “Most people’s lives have been touched by drug or alcohol addiction in some way, and we want to do everything in our power to help readers take action to better their lives, their family members’ lives, and their communities overall.”

In October 2016, we published Addiction, Recovery Change: A How-To Manual for Successfully Navigating Sobriety, written by Adams Recovery Center, to meet the needs of individuals leaving treatment and beginning a new lifestyle.

In May 2017, The Fix: A Father’s Secrets, A Daughter’s Search focused on addiction’s effects on the family, based on the real-life experience of author Sharon Leder, whose father died of a heroin overdose.

And on September 12, we will release Accept, Reflect, Commit: Your First Steps to Addiction Recovery, also by Adams Recovery Center, a practical guidebook for individuals ready to seek treatment for themselves or a loved one.

The launch of Accept, Reflect, Commit will be marked by a training and networking event for addiction-care professionals hosted by Adams Recovery Center from 1-3:30 p.m. September 12 at the Union Township Civic Center near Cincinnati.

“We’re currently planning our addiction-related books for 2018 and 2019, because we know this problem isn’t going away,” Highlander says. “As long as our country is dealing with this crisis, KiCam will be here, working to be part of the solution.”

Q&A with Author Laura Dewire

Laura Dewire is a teacher who learned more from one of her students than she ever expected. An assignment done by young Kailen Offutt opened Laura’s eyes to the prevalence of infant loss and miscarriage, prompting Laura to team with Kailen to create a hope-filled resource for families experiencing unimaginable grief. This is the story of A Corner of Heaven.

What was the inspiration for this book?

My inspiration for this book came from a family portrait that my student Kailen drew when she was in first grade. The picture depicted her family on earth and a small baby in the upper right-hand corner. She explained to me that most of her family lives on earth, but her baby brother, Kulen, lives in Heaven with God.

How long did it take you to write this book?

I wrote the entire book in 20 minutes at my kitchen table on a wintry night. Before I began, I prayed to God, “If this is something you’d like to see made, give me the words.”

How has your relationship grown with Kailen and the Offutt family during the process of creating this book?

The book has been such a source of healing and joy for both the Offutt family and for me. It still astounds me that out of something so painful and tragic, something beautiful and lovely was created. The Offutts are like a second family to me, and I am incredibly indebted to them for their love and support.

What are your goals and/or intentions for this book?

My prayer for this book is that it can be for other families what it has been for the Offutt family. I hope it can be a shining light of peace for families. I hope it can serve as a reminder that God can make something beautiful out of something broken. I hope it heals. I hope it protects. I hope it serves.

What do you hope families take away from sharing this book with their children?

My hope is that this book can be shared by families with one another. I hope they can read it together and experience all of the emotions alongside one another. I hope it’s a book read over and over again, providing healing and solace each time.

Author Laura Dewire is a dog-loving, coffee-drinking glitter fanatic from Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. She enjoys a red lip, a cold can of Diet Coke, a warm doughnut, and cooking in her cast-iron skillet. She tries with all her heart to live and love like Jesus every day.

Q&A with Authors Danielle and Christopher Jones

Danielle and Christopher Jones are a fun-loving Cincinnati couple whose vows have been put to the test in just six short years of marriage. From unemployment to Chris’s multiple sclerosis diagnosis to the death of their 10-day-old son, Danielle and Christopher have weathered a variety of storms while holding on to their faith in God and their love for each other.

Founders of the Angel Baby Network, Danielle and Christopher are passionate about supporting families who have endured child loss, and they seek to inspire others with their story, As Sure As Tomorrow Comes: One Couple’s Journey through Loss and Love.

What was your main purpose behind writing As Sure As Tomorrow Comes?

We wanted to share our story of loss and love and let others know that if we were able to get through tough times, they could too. We also wanted to inspire others to turn those tough times into opportunities to bless others and to have a different perspective on their troubles.

What is the main message you hope readers will take away from your book?

We want readers to know that no matter what, if they make the decision to stay together, even in the midst of hard times, they will get through, and they will do it together. And we want parents who have lost children to know they are not alone.

You suffered an unfathomable loss when your son, Christopher Junior, died. How did you get through that time and then begin to create a legacy for him?

We depended on our faith in God and our love for each other. We decided early on that Junior would have a great purpose, and that didn’t stop when he died. We started creating a legacy for him by donating his organs to research so researchers could discover what the true cause of his death was. We also consented for him to be a part of research studies so other babies would be helped in the future. We created a donation fund at the hospital where he lived his life so that people could donate money toward Neonatal Intensive Care Unit causes at the hospital. Since Junior couldn’t consume breastmilk, we donated all of it to other babies across three different states and seven different NICUs. We learned that it ended up providing more than 3,000 feedings for other babies. And we started the Angel Baby Network to help other families who had lost children. We also got involved in legislation to enact a law that will help reduce the infant mortality rate across the state of Ohio.

How do you handle getting through difficult days, such as Mother’s Day and Father’s Day?

We still celebrate them by living our truth—that we are still parents. Even though our son isn’t with us here on earth, we’ll always be Junior’s mommy and daddy. So if someone at church hands out a flower for Mother’s Day, or if someone asks for fathers to stand, you can bet we’re going to take that flower and we’re going to stand proudly with other parents. Yes, those days are still hard. We’d give anything to have our little boy with us. But we will always rejoice in being Junior’s parents. The 10 days he was with us on earth were 10 of the best days, and the hardest days, or our lives.

What advice do you have for other married couples going through challenges such as financial difficulty, health crises, or family struggles?

Our advice for other couples is to make the decision to stay together and to weather the storm together. The storm will eventually pass.

Chris, why was it especially important to you to share a father’s perspective on the topic of infant mortality?

I wanted people to know that dads hurt, too, and that we have a voice that needs to be heard. I had great plans and visions for my boy, and in his short life, he blessed me by being my son. Often, when a baby dies, men don’t share how they feel, but the hurt is very real. He was my boy, my pride and joy. I want people to remember that.

Moving forward, what are you both most looking forward to in life now? What’s next for you two?

We plan to keep on living life to the fullest and laughing every day. We’re both looking forward to seeing how many families we can help with the Angel Baby Network.

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.