A new kind of book has been birthed. The love child of the self-help and craft genres is a book titled The Declaration of You (Northlight Press, 2013). It includes activities, interviews, crafty projects and a frenchman host named Pierre François Frédéric that help readers uncover who they are and build a life they love living. One part imaginative play, one part soul searching guide, and one part unabashed call to action, The Declaration of You will help you claim your you-ness and take the next step toward your dreams.
When I talked to the authors, Michelle Ward and Jessica Swift, I found myself smiling and laughing through our interview. Their light-hearted nature and core message flowed easily in response to my questions. They know their stuff and they know each other. They both believe in the power of having fun and have each relentlessly pursued their passions by following their intuitions and been rewarded with successful independent careers. And they have a brilliant creative collaboration.
Jessica Swift is an acrylic painting and surface design artist whose work, she says, "are reminders to myself about how I want to live my life." Her art and designs can be found on cell phone cases, stationery, rugs, rain boots and on Etsy. Michelle Ward is a certified life coach with a theatre background who helps women escape their soul-sucking jobs and do what they really want. Neither shy away from asking big questions about how to experience the joy in life and find the freedom to be themselves.
As is possible in the digital age, Jessica and Michelle started working together before they ever met in person and have always collaborated with thousands of miles between them. They can't quite remember where they met online but however it happened a friendship quickly grew and then easily transitioned into a working relationship. Michelle and Jessica found they were writing about similar things on their blogs and both wanted to help others dig deep and ask important questions. When they did meet months into their collaboration it only fueled them forward.
The product of their collective wisdom has evolved over time. Starting as a workbook the project quickly morphed into an ecourse in 2010, called The Declaration of You, which they ran three times. Michelle and Jessica were pursuing transforming the ecourse into a live workshop series in 2011 when Michelle began a fight with breast cancer (which she announced to her blog readers via a video song featuring her ukulele playing). While this put workshop plans on hold this was also when Michelle and Jessica were offered a book deal for the content which has led to the just released title, The Declaration of You (and the one year anniversary of Michelle being cancer-free).
Many people might think that since Michelle is the life coach and Jessica is the artist, Michelle did the writing and Jessica did the illustrations for the project, but this is not so. Michelle and Jessica are united in their values, perspectives, and missions and have always worked together to teach, write and guide their audience. Their complementary skills do mean that Jessica did all the design work, but Michelle picked up other marketing tasks to counterbalance rather than taking the lead on the content. They say it has been the ultimate collaboration.
I must add that if their mission seems lofty, they have the testimonials to prove the effectiveness of their process. The participants of the original ecourse took steps both massive and simple in pursuit of their best lives. They quit day jobs, launched online stores, started painting, established important boundaries in their relationships, achieved a greater sense of clarity in their lives, and started blogging. Now the initial ecourse content is fleshed out with even more activities and is reaching an even wider audience in its book form.
Their own creativity is still urging them forward. In an act of genius digital marketing, Jessica and Michelle are currently running a BlogLovin' Tour to promote the book with 300+ bloggers posting their "declarations" on topics like compassion, self care, success and enthusiasm over the next several weeks. (My contribution to the tour is here.) This massive number of contributors is a beautiful testament to the magnetism that they have created over the last few years. Each week they are also hosting Facebook parties where they invite people to live chat about the topic of the week. They also hosted a live book launch party in Portland, Oregon in conjunction with the World Domination Summit. In short, it's a summer-long declaration-celebrating party when Michelle and Jessica are around.
Jessica and Michelle aren't sure what will come next but they do know that they will always want to work together. Chatting with them was a pleasure and I can attest that their collaboration and friendship would be inspiring even without the amazing wisdom that they impart on their audience. The Declaration of You is a must-read for the creative seeker who desires clarity and a swift kick forward into a fun-filled, fulfilling future.