Today’s Heroes – The Remarkable, Inspiring Author and Advocate Elisabeth Hirsch

Today’s Hero – The Remarkable, Inspiring Author and Advocate Elisabeth Hirsch

Okay, I am a true fan of my friend Elisabeth Hirsch for she represents all the good things I believe in: a tremendous parent, incredible storyteller, active advocate, and philanthropist who has used her voice to help enrich the human condition while assisting others who might have lost their sight of life’s magic.

Elisabeth inspires me.  And though she may not have realized the magnitude of the words I am now sharing, Elisabeth put a unique fire in me a year ago to fight for children in crisis: that fire leading to the accomplishments of the I CARE Foundation, and the organizations various
accomplishments protecting children around the world from abduction.

For those of you who do not know Elisabeth Hirsch, she is best-selling writer who has written a collection of diverse, enjoyable, empowering, and entertaining books under the pen name E.C. Stilson. When she is not writing, raising money for such notable organizations such as Angel Watch, Primary Children’s Hospital, Pregnancy Resources, or the American Diabetes Association, Elisabeth is speaking for and playing a key role in the healing process for families in crisis who have experienced the loss of an infant or young child.

Remarkably, Elisabeth used the hardships that she and her family faced during one extremely challenging period in their life when she lost her young son, Zeke, and acts so others will benefit from her experience.
And as explored in this interview, Elisabeth’s willingness and desire to help others means that she must go back to those incredible storms whenever she comes to help other families in crisis. As a parent who had to search the world over for an abducted child, and as a person
who, after finding and safely bringing my child home and becoming a highly visible advocate and activist against abduction and trafficking, I know all too well the challenges of advocacy Elisabeth faces because whenever she comes to the aid of those who may be experiencing infant loss, the fiber of her memories are part of her.  Fortunately, Elisabeth Hirsch has such tremendous strength – a strength she has found because of her strong faith in God, her strong relationship and partnership with her husband, the love of her family, and her courage to find her voice.

It is quite remarkable just how much a person can do when they find their voice. Clearly, Elisabeth Hirsch lives in Uhuru, and somehow, I think Noble Peace Prize Laureate Wangari Maathai is looking down from heaven at Elisabeth with a big smile on her face, knowing that this indefatigable women lives unbowed in her morals, ethics, humility, and kindness
– and it all of this – Elisabeth Hirsch makes the world a much, much better place.

Raising four beautiful children with her husband Cade, while running her publishing company Wayman Publishing, Elisabeth came to the aid of the I CARE Foundation this past year and stewarded the message of international parental child abduction prevention. Elisabeth’s help was incredible, as is exemplified by the fact that after nearly 30 years of consistent rocketing growth in the U.S. international parental child abduction rate, the reported rate of abductions dropped by 23% over the past two years – the same period when the I CARE Foundation launched a global abduction
awareness and prevention campaign that utilized the tremendous reach of parenting writers such as Elisabeth Hirsch.

Elisabeth Hirsch is a hero to so many, including her family, her friends, and all those she has directly helped; however,
Elisa’s work, her spirit, and her willingness to help others in need – and the impact she has made, represents all that mankind aspires to be. She is what ‘Today’s Heroes’ symbolizes – and represents the best in all of us.

It is my privilege to share this interview with my friend and hero, Elisabeth Hirsch.

1. You have written several best sellers under the
name E.C. Stilson, including notable titles such as one of the most important
books I have ever read, The Golden Sky. Can you share with us a little about
this story, and what your purpose was in writing it?

I was nineteen years old, already a pregnant mother and lonely wife, when I found out the child I carried had serious birth defects. I wrote everything down, detailing how my baby died and my marriage fell apart, but through it all I found hope, redemption, and even forgiveness in the most unlikely of places.

A few years later, I reread my own words and found miracles that only hindsight could bring. So many amazing things had happened, showing me God was there, always with me, always guiding me.

I knew others going through hard times could read my story and see the miracles throughout their own trials. And understand that at the end of every storm, there is a golden sky.

2. Why did you choose the name E.C. Stilson to pen under?

My nieces and nephews called me “EC” because “Elisa” was hard to say. I always thought that was fun since my first name starts with an “E” and my husband’s begins with a “C.” Cade’s helped me so much with my memoirs, I wanted the “EC” to represent both of us. “Stilson” is my maiden name, and I used it to honor my dad.

3. During World War II, women in the media such as Jacquelyn Saix (one of television’s first producers) and Mary Walsh Hemingway (one of the first women war correspondents) began to transform who, how, and what news was reported, and how this information was shared. Moving forward nearly 70 years, parenting
blog writers are changing the landscape once again on how information is shared and utilized. Which makes the ‘The Crazy Life of a Writing Mom’ irresistible! Can you tell us about this blog and what value do you see in it?

Humor and laughter have more power than most realize. As parents, it’s easy to get lost in the stressful circumstances; we forget how much fun life can be. My blog tries to bring that back, by telling silly stories about parenting, potty training, school bullies, etc. My hope is to help people see how any circumstance can be humorous, if looked at differently. A happy parent, who’s involved with their children, will most likely raise happy kids.

4. How important of a role do parents who write and share their views and perspectives on the Internet play in directing or cultivating public perception or creating new trends?

Parenting blogs have grown substantially in the last few years. When googling terms, it’s amazing how many times I’m directed to parenting blogs. My blog alone has been viewed over 360,000 times. The blogging community has a strong
voice, the ability to be heard more easily by so many people–it’s phenomenal. These writers’ insights and knowledge are guiding others, making them feel less alone in our technologically evolving world.

5. Would you say a mobilized group of parent blog writes has the ability of creating a major impact on an issue or social cause, and if so, can you give a specific?

I think anyone with a strong voice has the opportunity to influence others by standing for what they believe in. Blogging has been a gift to those willing to speak out. With good blog titles and topics, writers now have the capability to be heard. I remember seeing this first-hand when I wrote about my son who died. I went to over 100 other blogs and asked them to join me in a 3-day event where we’d each share stories about our loved ones who have passed on. This event
exploded and was everywhere within the following days. That single event jump-started my writing career.

You can see that promo post here:

http://ecwrites.blogspot.com/2011/09/only-50-more-days-until-golden-sky.html

6. It seems to me that it took a certain amount of courage when you found your voice. What would you tell others who struggle to find the courage to find their own voice, and what could they do to alleviate any fear they may have?

It’s still hard for me to believe in myself and my voice. Even while being interviewed on the radio, or while talking at signings, I’m still nervous. But then I remember why I started in the first place. What was so important that this journey became worth the fight? That’s when I think of my son. I wanted his story out there, something that he’d left behind so he could look down from Heaven and realize I will never forget him. His life was important–it had meaning. That strength keeps me going strong.

We all have stories to tell. The reason we initially started looking for our voices, is the same force that will inspire us to find our way.

7. You are a very humble lady, yet your writing and advocacy has helped so many others. Can you share with us one story of how one of your books helped another?

. . . where to begin. I’ve been so blessed, and many of the things that have happened to me seem a bit miraculous. The one story that sticks out happened in winter of 2011. I’d just started Wayman Publishing and published “The Golden Sky.” It was an emotional time because Cade and I both thought about Zeke’s short life. On November 18th, Zeke’s birthday, we went to his grave and left “The Golden Sky” there. It was my final way of saying goodbye. I can’t describe how that felt. It was very bittersweet. At the time I had a romantic notion that God and Zeke were guiding me. I’d somehow leave the book and then the right person would find it and read it.

Well, it happened! In December I received an amazing email. It started like this:

“Hi, I am sure you do not know me. You see Zeke’s grave is right next to my sister’s grave.”

The email continued, telling me how she’d read my book and now hoped her sister was taking care of Zeke in Heaven! We’re still in contact through Facebook. I’m so thankful that she read Zeke’s book.

8. Losing a young child is a parent’s biggest fear, and it is something you have not only written about, but you have become a teacher, healer, and friend to so many others who have had to face this issue. What are a few important things that you teach others facing this crisis that can also carry over to others not facing this issue?

Keep Going
Some days it might seem simpler to stop facing our problems. But that’s not the easy way out. Giving up and repressing feelings leads to worse problems later on–trust me, I know. Whether you want to be a warrior or a wimp, give yourself time to grieve (and deal with things) so you can eventually find the issue and thus the resolution.

Find the Issue–Find the Resolution
We all go through tough times and grieve in different ways. If we can discover what’s truly upsetting us about any situation, then we can discover how to change things. For example, when Zeke died I had the hardest time thinking that
he’d never grow up–I’d never get to see him become a man. Why? Was there something I could do to make things better? He’d died and the sadness lingered for years, just causing more pain and hurt. When I identified the problem’s
root, I realized I could release his book, in that way his memory would live on even if he could not. By Identifying this deep issue, I found a resolution. And it worked!

The loss still hurts sometimes, but I feel much better, as if I’ve done as much as I can to make a bad situation better somehow.

9. You have helped raise money for such organizations such as Angel Watch, The Pregnancy Resource Center, and Primary Children’s Hospital. Why?

All three of these places helped me and Zeke. The Pregnancy Resource Center encouraged me to continue with the pregnancy. Angel Watch sent counselors to our house. They helped us cope before and after Zeke was born. They also helped Cade and I mend our failing marriage. And Primary Children’s, because that’s the only home Zeke even knew.

10. When the I CARE Foundation sought your assistance by asking you to lend your voice and help steward the messages about the realities of international parental child abduction, you did not hesitate to do so. Why?

I believe in the I CARE Foundation. They fight for the well-being of children, for the solace and strength of parents who are facing terrible tragedies. I don’t know what it’s like to face child abduction, but I do know what it’s like to lose a son. For these reasons and many more, the I CARE Foundation is close to my heart.

11. During the 2012 fiscal year, outgoing cases of international parental child abduction declined by 15% that originated from the United States because there was an increase in abduction prevention litigation. How important is it that other parent blog writers write about social issues that impact children?

Bloggers have more power than they know. If people would band together and write about this, our voices would be heard–and readers would take action. Think about “The Golden Sky”; if a single book–from a previously unknown other–can become a success from a single blogging launch, then imagine how an event like this could raise abduction prevention awareness!

12. Can you name three of your favorite books?

The Bible–because you can’t get better than that.

“Gone With the Wind”–because Scarlett is so real, loathsome and likable–all at the same time.

“The Sum of All Men” in David Farland’s Runelords series. He weaves social injustice into a fantasy story that I’ll never forget. Imagine a world where people could sell their intellect, beauty, and physical strength. Now imagine that same world, where these attributes can be taken by kings, leaving peasants brainless, ugly and physically marred as long as the omnipotent king lives.

13. I just ordered ‘The Sword of Senack’ – a magical YA adventure story about three siblings trying to find one of their lost siblings. Where did this story originate from, and can you give us a little insight?

When Zeke died, my oldest daughter had a very hard time. She’d ask what death is, and why Zeke never came back. I answered the best I could, but when answers no longer helped, I started telling her an allegory. The story is about a brave boy who takes an underwater adventure. “He had to go,” I told my daughter. “It was his destiny.” And through that story, my daughter slowly came to terms with her brother’s death. Few know of the story’s deeper meaning, they just think it’s a fun MG fantasy. But it’s a special book to me, because it represents how my daughter found healing.

14. You’re a wife, a mother, a writer, a publisher, an activist, and an advocate. What do you do for fun that is . . . well, just for you?

I love hiking. I also enjoy playing my violin in the mountains. This doesn’t happen often, but when it does I feel like all of my worries fade–even if only for a moment.

Don’t tell my mom, but I’d also like to get into skydiving. I went once and now I can’t stop dreaming about doing again–it was UNREAL!

15. The word ‘Uhuru’ means to live in freedom by being and living unbowed in your morals, ethics and principles. How important is it to live in freedom? 

Without morals, ethics, principles and freedom of our minds, who are we? If we expect to take life by the reins and truly live, we MUST understand ourselves.  That is true freedom, knowing ourselves and having the strength to be who we are. I’m still trying to learn this myself, but I feel as if writing my memoirs has helped me grow more than anticipated.

Living in freedom may be the single most important aspect of living, because being “free” entails so much.

16. As an accomplished writer who has created an impressive, diverse body of work, what three things would you tell inspiring writers?

Make a Goal and Stick to it!

Many writers don’t go anywhere because they can’t finish a book, or they won’t commit to writing consistently. Even if it’s just a few minutes a day, if someone wants to be a writer they must take the time to write. Writing needs to be taken seriously. Find time. I get up at 5am just so I can write. If I stop being consistent, my writing will suffer.

Don’t Let Anyone Pull You Down

I could probably line a swimming pool with the rejection letters I’ve received.  It’s hard hearing criticism from publishers, editors and even friends. But you have to keep going. Yeah, I could swim in the hundreds of rejection letters I’ve gotten. You know what else I could do? I bet I could make a book using the wonderful letters I’ve received from people who’ve read my books and enjoyed them. I’ve met amazing people. I founded Wayman Publishing. I helped donate thousands of dollars to different organizations. None of that would have happened if I just gave up and swam in my own doubts. Now think of your writing–imagine what you could do!

Find Your Purpose and Hold onto it

Everyone is special. Everyone has something important to offer the world. Once you’ve found what inspires you to write, keep that close. Just like I wrote in question #6: The reason we initially started looking for our voices, is the same force that will inspire us to find our way.

17. When creating a story, how do you map out the direction you’re going?

Since most books are about 60,000 words long, and I write nearly 2,000 words per chapter, I start by creating 30 chapter titles. These must obey the arc of a good story, with the mid-point and climax carefully placed. I usually think
of my resolution and then start my story in the complete opposite place. For example, if my story will end with a confident woman who is financially stable and happy, in the beginning she’ll be poor and insecure. Every chapter must
describe her growth through subplots etc.

18. What is next for E.C. Stilson?

I’m currently working on “Quest for Larin,” the second book in the Mer-son Cycle.

19. What comes to mind from the phrase, ‘Global Citizen’?

I love this concept; it brings such a feeling of unity and hope. This really is a small world. With the way things are going, we’re all so easily connected, unique citizens, all equal with the ability to help each other succeed.

20. Can you tell us something funny that happened to you during your life?

I’ve had so many hilarious things happen to me. But just this morning I talked with a friend about my husband. Cade’s fine now, but recently, he was very ill.  I had no idea he was actually that sick. I kept saying, “Honey, you need
to get out of bed. You’ll feel better.”

“I can’t move,” he groaned.

Was he serious? Suddenly I had a flashback of myself being in labor. I breathed through each contraction. My mom and mother-in-law looked worried, praying for me. Then Cade started hyperventilating in the back of the room. Everyone
gasped.

I was the one in labor! I didn’t have a epidural, thinking I’d save my baby from any drugs. Yet Cade pulled out a damn paper bag, breathing into it, clutching the thing like it held the secrets of life. Then my mother-in-law and MY mother left me as another rolling contraction came. I breathed. Cade breathed. Apparently Cade breathes harder because everyone held his hands and wiped his sweaty forehead! Our families left soon after to get Cade a sandwich–my favorite kind. I couldn’t eat, yet he ate the thing, taking big breathes in between each bite. The ketchup from the sandwich kept falling, splashing beautifully onto a napkin on Cade’s lap, all during my intense contractions.

“I can’t move,” Cade groaned again, bringing me back to the present moment.

We went to the hospital. This time Cade rested in the hospital bed while I watched from the sidelines. “You have an infection in your lungs,” the doctor said. He had such wild white hair, like Einstein. “Another day and you might have died,” he told Cade.

It was my turn to start hyperventilating. I hadn’t thought Cade was sick. I’d been so rude! I sat down and breathed hard, trying to ground myself. My mother and mother-in-law instantly ran over to make sure I was okay. They held my hands. They wiped my forehead. . . .

After the doctor left the room, I caught Cade’s eyes. He kept staring, wondering why everyone was fawning over me when he was the one in pain.

(End Interview)

As I have gotten older and perhaps a bit more thoughtful, I have often thought about God’s will.  In these thoughts, I have come to believe that God so much bigger than any one religion, but the message God shares with all who believe in the Divine’s existence crosses all faiths: be courageous in your life to be kind and compassionate to one another.  In doing so, I think we allow the God each of us respectively believes in to come into our heart and guide our life.

When I think of the goodness of having God’s spirit exist on our earthly world, it is rather easy to see the Divine’s presence in the nature of mankind by simply paying attention to my remarkable friend, Elisabeth Hirsch for Elisa, as she is also referred to, is what is right about this world.

On one final note, my life has become enriched over this past year that Elisabeth and I have become friends.  I not only have been open to the lessons she teaches by her action, but I have been empowered to share my voice.

Elisabeth Hirsch exemplifies what it is to be a Hero for she has made our world a better place for many.  Be inspired – I invite you to read about ElisabethHirsch and Elisa’s publishing company, Wayman Publishing.  Click here to purchase any of EC’s publications on Amazon.

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