Carol Holland March is a writing instructor and coach, a visionary fiction author of novels and short stories, and a nonfiction writer whose work focuses on finding the inner path to hope and healing. Her newest nonfiction releases are When Spirit Whispers: A Journey of Awakening (a 2022 New Mexico/Arizona Book Award Winner) and its companion workbook, When Spirit Whispers: A self-guided journal for accessing your intuitive wisdom. You’ll find Carol on her website at CarolHollandMarch.com and on her Amazon author page.
Who did you write the books for, and what do you hope readers will take away from them?
I wrote When Spirit Whispers and the accompanying workbook to talk about healing from trauma. About how looking inward and writing helped me overcome the effects of the early childhood trauma that had so affected my life. This inner focus helped me overcome the “people pleasing” syndrome and fear that my creative work was not good enough. I had blamed myself for being a writer who did not write and a person who did not live up to her potential, but focusing inward led me to the resources I needed to pull myself out of anxiety, depression, and a deep-rooted lack of confidence.
To those who are creative but can’t produce their work, and to those who know something is missing, but aren’t sure what, my book shows how I asked for help from my creative center and received it! I hope my nonfiction books will help others realize how addiction, lack of confidence, and many of the so-called “neurotic” disorders are coping mechanisms developed to overcome the effects of trauma. I want to tell everyone who suffers this way THAT IT IS NOT THEIR FAULT. Change is possible. Healing is possible. And creative work will build the bridge to a new way of living.
Tell us how the books came together.
In 2017, after my second cancer diagnosis, I put away the novel I was working on to devote my time to telling my story. I thought it would help others to understand the healing journey of a creative person who was so blocked by resistance that she could not offer her work to the public for most of her life. I began work on the nonfiction book after my cancer treatment was complete in 2018. I had plenty of ideas and tons of material, but encountered huge resistance in producing a coherent narrative. I started and stopped, re-organized, changed perspective—the same time-wasting things I did with my first novel. My decades-long practice of journaling saved me from despair. Gradually, I worked through the blocks, which were largely based on a deep belief that whatever I said or did would be wrong. That’s not true, but it was the message I had internalized from my programming.
My novels (The Dreamwalkers of Larreta trilogy) had come out in 2016-2017, and I continued to write and publish short stories, but it wasn’t until the pandemic hit that I took all those ideas for nonfiction and shaped them into a book. After I clarified my intention to finish Whispers, the writing took about a year. I had collected quotes and prompts without a particular purpose in mind, and halfway through Whispers I added a workbook of questions, prompts, and suggestions for anyone to use journaling as a healing tool. Since I teach Writing for Healing, and how to open to the creative impulse, it seemed a natural addition. After doing my own edits, I went through another two rounds of editing and proofing and published the books at the end of 2021.
What makes these books unique in the self-help/spiritual healing market?
Whispers is my recounting of a personal journey. It offers the hints and clues I followed as I searched for answers to the universal questions: who am I, and what in the world am I doing? I don’t offer a program, recommend any system of thought or healing practice. I believe we all can tap into our inner wisdom and learn what is appropriate for us. My first meditation teachers offered no ideology, only techniques designed to help students develop clear communication with their own highest knowledge. It worked for me, and I appreciated being taught to learn for myself rather than accepting external rules and traditions. In the book, I use my experiences with people, animals, and places to illustrate how spirit, always whispering, led me back to myself.
What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
When Spirit Whispers is a memoir of sorts. I wrote about my early experiences with my Wise Inner Guide and how that led me to the teachers and systems of thought that were right for me. The book does not cover all my experiences—that would take volumes—but I hoped to choose events that would point the way to anyone interested in the healing journey. I tell of what I’ve learned and of the places where I found spiritual guidance. What was most difficult about the writing was choosing the incidents and subjects from among a lifetime of experiences. Honing it down, finding what I hoped were the most significant elements. And using language that would resonate with others.
Do you have a favorite quote from When Spirit Whispers you’d like to share?
“In that land of red rocks and crashing silence, my connection to the earth flared into life. I sensed the web of energy connecting people and rocks and sand, cactus and juniper and mountain lions. We all breathed air. We all needed water. I was not so different from the ancient people who had walked this way. I was still connected to them, to the rocky cliffs and to the big-horned sheep who danced along their edges. This desert seemed more real to me than any city.”
What was the most rewarding aspect of putting this project together?
As with all my books, the most rewarding aspect is finishing! Writing through the tough parts, overcoming resistance, and making the book as good as I could manage. I have received some wonderful feedback from readers that it was useful to them, which is the best result I could hope for.
When you tackle a nonfiction project, do you think of it as storytelling?
I believe everything is a story, including the way we see our culture and the decisions we make in our lives. One of the great benefits of writing was to change my story from that of a woman victimized by circumstance, to one who has agency, takes responsibility, and does not blame others for the events of her life.
Besides nonfiction, you write novels and short stories you call “visionary fiction.” What do you mean by that term?
I read fantasy and magical realism, and when I looked for a term for what I write, visionary fiction fit best. I am interested in characters who are influenced by unseen forces, the world “behind the veil.” My characters strive to discover who they are in the larger sense. I write about life on other planets, interpenetrating planes of existence, and an earth that is imbued with magic. My characters live more than one lifetime. Often, they remember the world from which they came. Since childhood, I have perceived more than meets the eye, so it’s natural to me to write about it.
What writing projects are you working on now?
I am still writing short stories. One is coming out this year in New Myths magazine, and JMS Press will publish one of my novelette length stories in March. I am almost finished with the first draft of another nonfiction book with a working title of Open the Door to Your Creative Self. When that’s finished, I plan to write a novel that’s been haunting me for years. I have the characters and an outline, and I’m itching to have more time for it.
KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kat has a speculative fiction blog at klwagoner.com and writes about memoir at ThisNewMountain.com.