Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta is an international author, award-winning journalist, and public speaker who works as an editor and ghostwriter. She is passionate about music, animals, and healthy living—and is just as passionate about living an authentic, bold life. A survivor of bullying, Maryanne wrote Be (Extra)Ordinary: Ten Ways to Become Your Own Hero to help readers embrace their own uniqueness and find the courage to be exactly who they are.
How have your personal experiences shaped the advice and insights in Be (Extra)Ordinary?
I believe my personal experiences shaped the advice because readers can see how an average person can grow and even make a difference.
What did you learn from writing this book? Did you come to understand your own background any differently or more deeply?
I’ve learned, and continue to learn, that it’s always the best way to be vulnerable and honest. By heart, I am a thinker. I’m always “talking” to myself, always in my head. I’m always trying to learn and better myself. There’s nothing like getting it out on paper to truly validate your feelings, if not in a book, then in a journal. Writing is a beautiful tool we should all take advantage of. (And reading too—and I don’t mean scrolling on your phone!)
People go to spas, gyms, and beaches, but to me, nothing is more relaxing and rejuvenating than being alone with words—whether they are your own or from a book.
Which writers and works inspire your writing?
My favorite writer of all time is Mark Twain. Not for his famous Adventures of Huckleberry Finn but rather his later, more esoteric work, Letters from the Earth. Prior to her death, Twain’s wife would censor her husband’s work so Twain would not embarrass himself. Letters from the Earth was written after his wife’s death, so all hell broke loose. The book is radical, which inspires me. Anything that goes against the grain motivates me.
Another favorite is The Christmas Pig by Kinky Friedman. The book has twenty-three chapters. It’s my personal tradition to reread the book every year, beginning December 1. I read one chapter per night, leading up to the eve of Christmas Eve. The book is beautiful and sensitive yet witty and badass. It’s rebellious in a most thoughtful way. It will bring tears to your eyes, while at the same time, you’ll be cheering, “YES!”
People are always asking me what I’m currently reading. Most likely I’ll be rereading either of these highly inspirational books.
What do you think makes a truly meaningful and memorable self-help book?
Anything written with confidence. Anything that is a bit rebellious. Anything that is brutally honest. While they are not classified as self-help books, I love to read memoirs that present heavy-duty struggles the author had to overcome. Rock stars are a perfect example. Stick It: My Life of Sex, Drums, and Rock ’n’ Roll by Carmine Appice or Neon Angel by Cherie Currie were great reads because the writers were honest and vulnerable—and result with great growth at the end.
What has been the most fulfilling part of the writing and publishing process for you?
I write so much. I need to write like I need to breathe. When I write, I forget everything: time, problems, drinking, going to the bathroom. I stop only when I want to eat. Sometimes my handsome husband will come up behind me. I look over and smile. He’ll say, “I just want to sneak in a kiss.” It makes my day. It’s a beautiful way to live.
For this project, I must say, with a tear of joy in my eye, that working directly/hands on with editor Jennifer Scroggins has been an amazing experience. Teaming up with Jennifer has been a work marriage made in heaven!
What do you think makes someone extraordinary? How do you define that term?
I’m always about the person who sets themselves apart from the crowd. Someone who isn’t afraid to speak his/her mind. Someone who doesn’t care what others think. Someone who is true to himself or herself. A person who thinks “gray,” not black and white. Someone who has overcome challenges, whether it’s poverty, illness, being bullied, being raped, mental disabilities, handicaps … Those are the people who are the true inspirations. An evolved person knows what to do with the cards dealt to her or him.
What’s the primary takeaway you hope readers get from Be (Extra)Ordinary?
To not be afraid to be themselves. To step out of their comfort zone. And to be sensitive toward others who are different then they are.