Writing Your Way Out of Anxiety with Guest Sarah Humpherys

This week the Mental Health Mamas are thrilled to bring some youth voice and perspective to the podcast. Sarah Humpherys is a nationally published author and a self-proclaimed die hard fantasy nerd. Tune in to hear Sarah talk about the impact of mental health on her writing, what life has been like during the pandemic, tips for aspiring writers and more!

Notes and Mentions

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Serena: Hey Everyone, I?m Serena.

Tina: And I?m Tina and we are the Mental Health Mamas.


Serena: Welcome to No Need to Explain, we are so glad you?re here.

Tina: First, as always, a quick disclaimer.

Serena: We come to you NOT as mental health professionals or experts in the field, but rather as parents with lived experience who are on a mission to normalize the conversation around mental health.

Tina: If you or someone you love is experiencing a mental health crisis, please seek professional support. You?ll find a variety of resources in our show notes and on our website, NoNeedToExplainPodcast.com.

Tina: Serena, we have had many guests on our podcast in the last two seasons and yet, today?s guest is a very first for us. We generally have adult voices, often parents with lived experience, sometimes people who aren?t parents but they come to just normalize mental health. And as I said, today, it is a first for us. Sarah Humpherys comes to us as a teen, a newly minted adult!

Serena: Yeah and we are excited to bring some youth voice to our podcast this week. So at seventeen, Sarah became a published author of a Fantasy Fiction novel called Stone Cold. We will delve into the book in a bit but in the meantime, Sarah, welcome to the podcast!

Sarah: Hi there. Thanks for having me here.

Tina: So Sarah, writing a novel seems like quite an undertaking and you have had one published on top of that. So tell us a bit of your story and how you became interested in writing.

Sarah: Well, I?ve always been interested in writing. That?s just my hobby. That?s been my interest for a very long time. Ever since I had access to a computer, I?ve been typing. I started typing when I was first eight years old and I?ve been writing stories since. Half of them weren?t very good but I had ideas in my head and it?s always been really fun and I love it because I love fantasy and I love going on adventures and magic. That?s just really appealing to me because this world can be a little bit boring sometimes and I just need a break and I want to fly on the back of a dragon when I write my stories. I was able to go into a writing program where a New York Times best selling author taught a whole lot of people who were interested in writing, how to write a book, how to write a query letter, how to get traditionally published and I was able to pitch to agents that she knew and that?s how I got published.

Serena: Hmm. That?s amazing. So maybe we need some tips from you at this point. But let?s talk about your book a little bit. So tell us about?like, what is your book about?

Sarah: My book is about a kingdom where everyone wears enchanted stones that take away emotion. It?s an emotionless society. They don?t like feeling. They think it?s bad. And there are some people that the stones don?t work on and those people are considered a blight to society and they?re hunted down and executed. And the main character is the princess of this kingdom and she?s one of those people that the stones don?t work on. So she has to pretend to be emotionless and keep to the shadows and she?s a little bit anti-social and anxious all the time because she?s afraid she?s gonna get executed. And the book is basically her story dealing with self-expression and dealing with her emotions and there?s a lot of stuff going on. It?s a romance and there?s a marriage alliance and it?s really fun.

Serena: And so how much of this relates to you and your own personal health struggles, mental health struggles?

Sarah: Literally all of it.

Serena: OK

Sarah: Yeah. The main character is basically me and I wrote it when I was fifteen. And when I was fifteen and still am today, but I was really anxious about everything and I didn?t exactly have a good grasp on how to express myself or talk to people because I?m really anxious about talking to people. So the book, while I had an idea and while I went through a writing program and wrote the book just for the sake of writing a fantasy novel, it ended up being something for me to?almost therapeutic in a way because I was able to write a character who found out how to deal with her emotions and express herself and get over her anxiety somewhat.

Tina: Yeah, so Serena and I can relate a little bit. We find writing quite cathartic and we?ve done a little bit. None of it?s been published except by us on our website. How about that? But I?m curious how you worked through those emotions as you were writing. We supported parents for a long time and we know that when you put something on paper, it just, it becomes pretty powerful and kind of can change things, shift things for you. So tell us a little bit about how writing this book shifted things for you.

Sarah: Well writing in general can be really helpful. If you just want to journal and put your feelings out, that?s what a whole lot of people do and sometimes people write poetry. That?s good too. Me personally, I write novels and usually what I try to do with my novels, I put my own character flaws into these characters and then I allow them to get over those flaws throughout the story. So it?s like I?m trying to get over my own problems through these characters and through the stories that I write. So that?s what I tried to do with Stone Cold.

Serena: That?s great. I can imagine you coaching others in that some day, helping them do the same thing. So let?s shift gears a little bit and talk about being a teen during a pandemic. Obviously this has been a tough time for everybody. You know, everybody had a different situation but we?ve all been dealing with a pandemic together. So how was that for you and your family? We often get that parent perspective but we would love to hear from you as a teenager what it?s been like for you.

Sarah: Ha, ha. Well I have siblings and we did not get along with each other.That?s one big thing because all of us were stuck in the same house. Oh my gosh. And my dad wanted us to spend time with family and so he had time throughout the day when he would pull all of us off our electronics and off of our work and we would have to go down and mandatory family game time. So we were? It?s the five of us. Me, my two siblings and my parents and we were stuck in our house with each other and that was interesting. I?m grateful at least that I don?t have any specifically really younger siblings or a lot of siblings so I guess it wasn?t as bad as it could have been for everyone.

Tina: Yeah. And so what about? So, we?ve heard lots of perspectives on whether people liked to go to school, whether they missed their friends, whether they really preferred to be at home by themselves. What is your perspective on that?

Sarah: I really missed going to school.

Tina: You did.

Sarah: I wanted to go to school. I like my friends and I liked learning and getting out of the house. That was nice. Yeah, so it was kind of hard for me. And so the first little bit I didn?t really do anything. I know a lot of people said, oh yeah, I trained for a marathon or I picked up a hobby or I was so productive with my time. I was not productive with my time. I watched so much TV. One good thing that did come out of the pandemic is that I had time to edit my book. I edited my book over the summer and then I was able to email it to the publisher. So that was nice.

Tina: Yeah, so let me put a frame around that. OK. COVIDs hard and you edited a book, you finished high school, you?re preparing for college. You did do some stuff other than watch TV, right?

Sarah: Yeah

Tina: We do know that, and we help parents who perhaps were not trained well in caring for themselves and that?s important, right? It?s important to, you know, take good care of your well-being. So we often talk about our toolboxes like what kind of tools are in your box to help you take good care of yourself? So putting that out to you.

Sarah: OK, writing is my main one and I do it all the time and watching TV and reading too. When I want a break and I want a fantasy story and I just get to curl up with a book, with a blanket and popcorn. I love popcorn! Find stuff that helps you relax and lets you just be comfortable and do that every once in a while when you just need a break. Another thing that I really like doing is that I love listening to music. Music is amazing. The more dynamic a song is, the more it helps me to feel positive and upbeat so that?s one thing that really helps me when I feel down. I just turn on some really, really fast high beat music and it helps me.

Tina: Mmm. That?s awesome.

Serena: So I was joking before but only half joking. The idea that there are a lot of people out there who would like to write a book. Maybe have that as something they want to do in their lives. But it?s?I would say maybe writing comes really naturally to you but I myself have thought about writing a book but it feels like such a big undertaking. So I?m just curious if you have any tips for somebody who would like to write a book but isn?t sure how to get started?

Sarah: OK, well writing a book can be really daunting so one thing that I?ve figured out over a lot of these years is that it?s really, really helpful to get other people to motivate you while you?re writing a book because it can be extremely challenging, especially if you?re trying to write a fantasy book. You have to deal with all these different characters and world building and all this stuff that is complicated sometimes. So having other people that you can bounce ideas off or just support you and motivate you is amazing and I have a lot of friends who are also writers and we talk a lot and we try to again, motivate each other and get inspiration and that?s extremely helpful. So if you want to start writing, then find another person who wants to start writing. You can try to find the way out together.

Tina: Mmm. Nice.

Serena: That?s great advice. Thank you for that. So before we kind of wrap up our episode for today, is there anything we haven?t asked you that you would like to make sure you put out there to the world?

Sarah: Hmm, not really. I just think that more people should start writing because everyone has a story to tell. Everyone has worth. Everyone has something that they can use to inspire other people. I always think, what if a person has a story in their head that can motivate other people and be their favorite book or their favorite TV show? You never know. So if you feel inspired and you want to write something, then write it.

Tina: There?s a lot of power in writing for sure and I think you?ve helped people understand that from your perspective. And I also can imagine people will want to connect with you so I?m curious how people find you?

Sarah: I am on Instagram and I am on Facebook and you can basically find my book anywhere. That?s the good thing about it not being self-published. It?s traditionally published so it?s not just on Amazon. It?s on Barnes and Noble and Google Play and anywhere else you buy a book.

Tina: That?s awesome and we will put?you have a website. We will put that on?in our notes and put whatever your?however people reach you on the social media sites. So yeah, we?ll include all that.

Serena: Yeah. So Sarah, thank you so much for joining us today and bringing us the youth perspective and being willing to share about your own mental health. I know that the things that you?re doing are definitely helping other people out there.

Sarah: Thank you. You two are cool too.

Tina: Mmm. And so podcast friends, we are, as always, grateful for all of you listening and supporting us. You can help us out by visiting Apple podcasts, leave us a review, subscribe and please share with others. You will find lots more content on our website, little bit of writing, NoNeedtoExplainPodcast.com. You can also connect with all of our socials on our website as well! And?we have another exciting, not so new but newish thing which is?

Serena: Yeah, we have a way to receive voice messages from you. So it?s just a recording. We would love to hear from you. Give us a call and leave a message. Share a story or just call and say hi and that number will be in our notes as well. And this is your gentle reminder to take good care of yourself while you are also taking care of your people.

Tina: Thanks for listening!

Serena: Bye!