I first met Dr. Randy Kamen at Harvard Medical School’s CME healthcare leadership and publishing course and knew I’d met a soul sister. Over the course of several years of conferences, we’ve traipsed through Boston neighborhoods together, teeth chattering while waiting to get into a tiny North End restaurant, staying up late into the night catching up on each other’s lives and families.
One of my favorite accessories–a turquoise and orange pashmina–was discovered by Randy at Faneuil Hall during a colder than expected April sojourn.
I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing Randy’s evolution as a writer, author, speaker and creator of spectacular retreats. I knew she’d be the perfect person to kick off this new bi-monthly series of author spotlights. Randy is wise, bold, smart, compassionate, outspoken and creative.
If you take nothing else form this interview–though you will find many takeaways and brilliant advice–allow Randy’s boldness to nudge you to take risks–big or small–in your book writing, publishing, platform building, speaking…whatever it is you do or want to do.
Lisa: What was your vision for Behind the Therapy Door: Simple Strategies to Transform Your Life in terms of what it would do for your readers and also for your career (and anything else)?
Randy: To write a book that embodied my three plus decades of experience: to teach the basic strategies that, when practiced regularly, can truly transform a person’s life. I also thought that writing a book would be a stepping stone to engaging with a larger audience. It would take me outside of the therapy room to run retreats and participate in speaking engagements around the country and beyond.
Lisa: You self-published Behind the Therapy Door. Can you say a bit about the advantages of self-publishing?
Randy: At first I thought a self-published book would be less valued than a traditionally published book, so I explored that route. I was blessed with having a wonderful agent and several publishing houses expressed interest.
Ultimately, I felt the process was taking too long and I wanted to get on with other facets of my career. I thought the book was nearly ready to be launched. I found the process of self-publication to be quite empowering, once I came to terms with the idea that I was taking matters into my own hands.
I learned that when you do something well and are willing to put yourself out there and promote yourself—most people don’t care or even know the difference. My book indeed became valued in the very circles I thought might be rejecting.
I also held total artistic control over the cover, the fonts, the images, the content (though my book is entirely based in the research). I even got to name “my” publishing house, Blueberry Fields Press. Blueberry Fields MV is also the name of my newly launched retreat center on Martha’s Vineyard so I got some synergy going with the name.
Lisa: I love the name Blueberry Fields. It’s evocative of some of my favorite memories! What are some of the biggest opportunities that came out of publishing Behind the Therapy Door?
Randy: I’ve been invited to give lots of speaking engagements at places like Omega Institute, Kripalu Yoga and Health, Red Mountain Spa and Resort, Harvard Medical School, Boston University and so many others. I write frequently for online and traditional publications—especially the Huffington Post where I also do live TV via Skype or in person.
I’m often invited to speak on the radio and television on a wide variety of topics, most of which I touched upon in my book. Tomorrow night I’ll be doing a show for Exaholics—which will be about my take as a psychologist on healing after a painful breakup. The radio and television appearances I don’t get paid for, but they help build my list and platform and I love doing this kind of teaching.
Lisa: I remember when you first told me that Arianna Huffington had emailed you personally after reading a post of yours on gratitude and she invited you to be on a panel she was putting together for an event in NYC. It must have been thrilling to be on that panel with Arianna, Deepak Chopra, Gabrielle Bernstein and other luminaries. What was it like?
Randy: It was a wonderful panel discussion about the “Power of Gratitude” at The New Museum in NYC. Press representing every venue imaginable was there writing articles, posts, taking pics and videos.
Arianna Huffington is a brilliant, warm, and highly engaging woman. I felt a deep sense of connection with her from the moment she asked me to be on the panel. She’s got it all going on. Deepak I had met before at another venue. He’s a lovely, authentic, and very wise teacher. It was an honor to be part of this amazing team. I very much felt that I brought my own knowledge base to the panel and immediately felt part of the team.
Lisa: I’m not surprised you felt that you belonged and had something fresh and important to contribute among those luminaries. You bring such experience and know how to bring it to life, both when you’re speaking and in your writing. Behind the Therapy Door is such a powerful read because of the transformational stories you share from your therapy practice.
Randy: The stories are compilations of real people’s stories—heavily disguised. Everyone has a story to tell. When anyone of us taps into our truths we find a richness there. And when we have the opportunity to learn ways to minimize the suffering we encounter, and celebrate the sweetness, there is inevitably an experience of transformation.
Lisa: Tell us more about leading retreats for women on Martha’s Vineyard. How has being a published author contributed to this venture?
Randy: Publishing a book certainly added to my credibility and the perception of my being an expert. The truth is, you do become an expert after years of doing your work and then it does heighten your thought process to write about your subject. It comes with the territory.
I continue to write every day and I now have a weekly television show on MVTV (Martha’s Vineyard Television) called “Strategies to Spark Your Week.” People are beginning to recognize me in the grocery store and on the beach. I love writing the scripts and then bringing this information to my community on the vineyard and beyond. I also turn these scripts into articles I submit to various online sites as well as my own.
To me it’s a very exhilarating process choosing what lessons to teach, then doing the necessary research and creating the content around a particular theme like: friendships and living longer and better, what to do after an affair, how to build your tribe, best strategies for self-care, learning to forgive, how to be authentically grateful, what’s the fastest way to true happiness etc.
Lisa: One thing that has always struck me about you is the depth and breadth of your expertise. It’s unusual. I wonder if it’s partly because you practiced and taught mindfulness for so many years.
Randy: My earliest training was in the area of stress and pain management in the early 70’s. I worked at the Pain Unit at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital where I ran the biofeedback department. That work led me to the Mind-Body Department at Beth Israel Hospital where I learned from a scientific perspective the benefits of meditation and relaxation. I also led some workshops back then with Jon Kabat-Zinn, Herbert Benson, Joan Borysenko and other leaders in the field.
Perhaps the biggest turning point for me was studying Vipassana meditation at The Insight Meditation Society. That was a life-changing experience for me. But I must say meditation, relaxation training, breathwork, and mindfulness always made complete sense to me, especially given the work I was doing with stress and pain management.
I discovered that calming the sympathetic nervous system was the lynch pin behind resiliency and managing all kinds of challenges and transitions. Over the years I always found a way to integrate these teachings and practices into my work.
Lisa: What advice do you have for someone who is just working on his or her book, just getting started?
Randy: I learned early on to ‘write fast; edit slow’ and I pretty much followed that rule throughout my writing process and still do. Get clear about the message you wish to convey and then after it’s sketched out take the time to edit thoroughly. Editing has lots of layers and each time you go through the editorial process your thoughts get more refined.
Lisa: Great adivce. Anything else?
Randy: Develop an outline for your book any way that feels meaningful to you. Click To Tweet Draw diagrams if that is helpful rather than keeping it all linear.
Write every day possible. Make it such an ingrained habit that if you miss a day it feels like something is missing. Train your brain early on that this is part of your daily rhythm. Then it becomes inevitable that you will finish your book.
Lisa: I can tell you’re putting your neuropsychology knowledge to work here! How about publishing–any publishing advice for new authors?
Randy: Become familiar with internet marketing and the different ways that you can reach your target audience. Also, become clear about who exactly is your target audience.
Lisa: I can remember a few late night discussions with you about that very topic!
Randy: Also, continue to build your list as you go. Don’t wait until the book is done to start thinking about your marketing plan. If working with your computer doesn’t come naturally, know that it’s never too late to learn. You might even enjoy the process once you start reaping the rewards.
And don’t wish your book away or settle for less than your best. You’ll finish your book eventually—just keep moving it forward day by day.
Lisa: And how about promoting the book–getting it into the hands of readers and also creating new opportunities? Any advice you have for aspiring or new authors in this arena?
Randy: I mention my book on all my media platforms. I sell it or include in the price of talks and retreats. I’ve told all my friends who are in book groups about my book and I discuss themes from my book on articles I write for the Huffington Post, Mind Body Green, and many other platforms. It’s my calling card and much more powerful than a business card! I also have an office copy in my waiting room and on the table wherever I speak. I try to make it ubiquitous.
I would say that my greatest tip is to move your platform and book forward every day. This does not have to be a huge time commitment—it’s a practice like any other. It’s like brushing your teeth: build it into your daily life. This will put you on the path to self-discovery, building your readership and career path, and of course finishing your book.
Lisa: This is all great advice. Can you tell us the name and a bit about your upcoming retreat?
Randy: Strategies to Retrain Your Brain for Positivity and Success. It’s all about learning self-compassion, self-care, optimal communication, savoring positive experiences and internalizing a heightened sense of joy and connectedness—all the while savoring the beauty of the island. Combining the tastes, sights, sounds and smells of this magnificent island is a great backdrop from which to learn and potentially transform.
We have a fabulous chef who prepares the lunches and dinners in a beautiful demo kitchen. Whenever possible, the foods are locally sourced and as pure and delicious as possible. Stephanie takes into consideration people’s individual needs, too.
And a seasoned and wise yoga teacher leads us in gentle yoga. I teach the meditation and all of the psychological modules. And a fabulous salt water/mineral springs pool on the property soothes the skin.
Our guest teachers work with oils for healing and crystals, and a third leads a fire ceremony on the beach to prepare us for the teaching ahead.
We hike through trails that lead to obscure beaches. As someone who spent most of my life exploring the vineyard, I can tell you that anyone who attends will discover some of the hidden gems of Martha’s Vineyard.
Lisa: It seems to me a perfect way to nurture the author within.
Randy: Yes, and the whole experience is put together in such a way that learning is optimized, transformational, and a mind-body-spirit journey—all in an idyllic setting.
Lisa: Wow. I want to do that!
CLICK HERE to read more about Dr. Kamen’s Blueberry Fields Martha’s Vineyard Retreat.
Randy Kamen, Ed.D., psychologist, educator, and speaker has pioneered new territory in mind-body medicine at Boston University’s School of Medicine and Harvard’s Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. She is the author of the Amazon Bestseller, Behind the Therapy Door: Simple Strategies to Transform Your Life. Her book teaches women how to thrive by developing inner strength, self-compassion, and successful relationships.
Dr. Kamen presents at universities, women’s conferences, corporations, and health spas on breathwork, resilience, relationships, gratitude, work-life balance, leadership, aging, and transformation. She appears on TV, radio, and in major print and online publications and is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post. Dr. Kamen recently launched Blueberry Fields MV, a facility for women’s workshops and retreats on Martha’s Vineyard. She also has her own weekly show “Strategies to Spark Your Week” on MVTV.