2019 Indie Best Award Winner

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Teetering On Disaster

Shelf Media hosts the annual Shelf Unbound Best Indie Book Competition for best self-published or independently published book. In addition to prizes, the winner, finalists, long-listed, and more than 100 notable books from the competition are featured in the December/January issue of Shelf Unbound.

It was 1992 when her father saw the economic collapse coming, he had two choices, the rough path or the easy path, and he chose the rough one…Dad began.

Then I interrupted, “DAD, ITS MY MEMOIR!”

And then my Mom piped in and yelled, “OH MY GOD! I RAISED A BUNCH OF NARCISSISTS!”

Let’s try again… Meet Michaela: she’s the girl next door–except that “next door” happens to be a 27-foot 5th Wheel Trailer with no electricity or running water in the Sierra Nevada’s. At 17 she sets out to take on the world, but 10 years later, she finds herself right back where she started…in a small mountain town in the middle of nowhere. You’ll laugh and you’ll cry-sometimes at the same time- as she stumbles upon a few Mr. Right Now’s and other adventures on her quest to find love and uncover the girl she always was but had lost somewhere along the way.Join ‘Crazy Kayla’ and her nutty cast of characters for a little muddy-path Rock Crawlin’ through the true story of how her American Dream survives and thrives, in the face of life’s inconveniences and heartbreaking setbacks that sometimes leave her Teetering on Disaster.

About The Author

Michaela Renee
Michaela Renee Johnson is a licensed psychotherapist, Be You Find Happy podcast host and an award winning published author. She inspires happiness by encouraging people to speak their truth with grace, and live a courageous life of authenticity.

Her business Be You Find Happy holds workshops and conversations on happiness in spite of life’s setbacks and has landed her speaking opportunities across the nation.

She lives in Northern California with her husband and son. She enjoys traveling and has visited 19 countries; she loves the ocean and everything in it. She rarely finds herself without an activity whether it be hiking, yoga, tinkering the garden, golfing, reading or spending time outside.

Interview with Michaela Renee.

Tell us about your book. 

MR: The story begins in 1992 when my parents moved us from an upscale neighborhood in Sacramento to a 27-ft trailer in the Sierra Nevada Mountains with no running water or electricity. It’s been described by a reviewer as “Swiss Family Robinson meets Jerry Springer.” I believe it’s poignant and humorous especially now with people having more connection than ever, but feeling more alone and overwhelmed than ever.

It’s an often humorous, always brutally honest, and at times heartbreaking true story of a family of five that must give up any reality they’ve ever known to carve out a new one they’ve never imagined. As a pre-teen I was caught in the middle navigating my way through adolescence — shaving my legs for the first time in the frigid water of an irrigation ditch — but the experiences I had gave me profound wisdom about my family, the world and my own ability to thrive in the face of life’s inconveniences.

The story continues into adult-hood when I get divorced in my twenties, stumble upon a few “Mr. Right Now’s,” and end up right back where I started: a small mountain town in the middle of nowhere.

Was it difficult writing about your experience and putting it out in the world for others to read? What was that experience like writing this book?

MR: The truth is this book began as an online blog that started getting a tremendous following, I was writing it as part of my own therapeutic healing process and it blossomed into a book. It gained wings and quickly became a published book…

So, I think the hardest part about publishing a memoir is the realization that people suddenly know intimate details of your life, and especially in an age of social media feel compelled to share the rights and wrongs. Sometimes it’s incredibly humbling when people say that my true life story inspired them in some way, and those moments make any negative press worth it.

What is your favorite chapter / memory included in this book? 

MR: So much of the story still makes me laugh, and sometimes sigh, sometimes at the same time. I reflect on moments from the story with different colored glasses each time. The other day a radio station interviewer brought up a paragraph in the end, where I share my insights on life from the experiences I had, she called it “my manifesto of sorts.” I went back and reread and it was so in love with the girl who wrote that. I thought, if those words inspire no one but myself, I will have accomplished something, at the end of the day that was why I wrote Teetering, to heal myself, and so it made me so proud.

What writing advice do you have for other indie authors? 

MR: Just write. Don’t talk about writing, don’t think about writing, just write. If I feel inspired, I sit down and type a couple thousand words and sometimes it lives there in a word document in a folder labeled “writing” until the time is right for me to continue. I also don’t put pressure on myself to write a thesis every time I pick up the pen (or the keyboard). Sometimes I’ll just jot quotes I’ve made up, or funny things that have happened, a dream I had or journal out an experience that unfolded that day. Many of my children’s books started as night time stories I told my son and then went and scribbled ideas on a stick-it note.

The future only happens forward, so picking up a pen and writing is action toward your goal, that’s all that matters, the who/what/when/why/where/how will work itself out.

What are you working on next? 

MR: I am over the moon about my next book, a narrative non-fiction that takes the same brutally honest (and humorous) tone as Teetering to inspire people to live a courageous life of authenticity, speak their truth with grace and find happiness. If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that happiness is a constant reset, and I can’t wait to share some insights as a psychotherapist into the truths about living your best life.

Teetering On Disaster

by Michaela Renee 

Excerpt from Teetering on Disaster

All you really need to know is, sub-40-degree-irrigation-ditch water, goosebumps and a disposable blue razor don’t play well together, period. The first time I shaved my legs I was fifteen years old, squatting on the edge of a riverbank wearing a pair of jean cutoffs, without any soap and using a ten cent disposable razor I borrowed from my dad. This was not by preference, but because it was the only running water I had access to. To some, this little episode could be deemed poetic, an idealistic event granted only to those who have had the pleasure of growing up in the Pacific Northwest. 

So let me be clear, it definitely wasn’t by choice and it really isn’t much of a river either, because it’s only six foot wide by four foot deep, making it more like a creek. Because it’s man-made, the official County term for this body of water is “irrigation ditch.” It begins at the base of the Tahoe National Forest and carries snow melt from the Sierra Nevada mountain range to my podunk little town each year.

Excerpt from Teetering on Disaster

SETTLING for a short while is not bad, as long as you still follow your dreams, BOUNDARIES and ENTITLEMENT are basic fundamentals to creating inner strength, EXPECTATIONS should be set, but it’s only when you let them go that they are met, DISAPPOINTMENT is the only way to see value in your blessings, COURAGE is being able to spend some time at rock bottom, FRIENDSHIP is everywhere but only found when you quit looking for it, STRENGTH cannot be measured by anything less than your ability to stand up when you fall regardless of how long it takes you to get back on your feet, JUDGMENT is necessary for one person to realize their own faults, FORGIVENESS is the gift we are afforded to share grace with one another, CLOSURE can only be created by the one needing it, otherwise it’s not closure at all, CIRCUMSTANCE is fate and having faith when the direction of the road isn’t clear, CONFUSION is required to gain a better understanding of the depths of your soul because sometimes your mind and your heart disagree, LOVE allows the heart ease from the greatest of all pains, TRUST is deserved and earned and should be considered a reward, CLARITY comes when all of those pieces arrive together in synchronistic harmony.

If not, there’s always Write Off Day…so then there’s that.

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Article originally Published in the December/January 2020 Issue “2019 Indie Best Award Winners”

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