Friday, May 5, 2023

Virtual Book Tour + #Giveaway: Unwillable by Jackie M. Stebbins @jmstebbs @GoddessFish

Unwillable: A Journey to Reclaim My Brain

by Jackie M. Stebbins

GENRE: Memoir


Jackie Stebbins’ UNWILLABLE is an inspiring story of a brilliant woman’s battle with autoimmune encephalitis and the circle of support--from loving family members to dedicated physicians--who helped guide her through a hard-won recovery. Her story is as moving as it is important and is destined to help so many others facing this condition.”

Susannah Cahalan author of NYT #1 Bestseller Brain on Fire

Purchase Unwillable: A Journey to Reclaim My Brain on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

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While my complete stay isn’t embedded in my memory, because of what the illness was doing to my brain, my time there will never be forgotten because of its place in my life’s story. That experience definitively marks where I’m right at the edge between a well-educated, successful, driven, independent, and thriving woman and an incapacitated person, powerless and relegated to the care of those around her, on the brink of brain damage or death without the intervention of the correct diagnosis. And a small part of me now believes I then understood that I was teetering on a life-altering and explosive line. But that same small part of me can’t say whether, for the first time in my life, I believed my situation to be unwillable. Perhaps my own will would not be enough.

I will always remember crawling into bed the first night, ragged with emotion, and the racing thoughts my mind was still able to conjure up. The questions pulsed through my silent tears. What the hell happened to me? . . . I cannot possibly belong here. I haven’t led a life that would lead me to this dysfunction. I was doing so well. . . . I’m the senior partner at my law firm. I’ve never before had a problem with mental health. . . . Why am I at rock bottom? How the hell did I end up in a psychiatric ward?

Interview with Jackie M. Stebbins

    What is your schedule like when you’re writing a book?

    When I first began writing Unwillable, I wrote constantly for days and months on end. I was breathless and processing trauma. I had a manic desire to get my story onto paper all at once. Once the skeleton of the story was written a year after I began, my life changed a lot: I had my third baby at the onset of the pandemic. From there, my husband and I turned to home school and constant full-time parenting. After all that, my morning writing schedule never really recovered. I still prefer to work on my larger writing projects in the early hours in my home office, but with chronic health conditions and a busy family, I end up writing whenever I can, including late afternoons at my office space. I mix my writing in with a lot of reading (memoirs), marketing Unwillable, blogging, podcasting, speaking, and content creation on social media to raise awareness about my rare brain illness, autoimmune encephalitis.

    Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?

    I never considered it because I knew I’d commit my journey with autoimmune encephalitis to a memoir. And in the words of Mary Karr, “Who needs fiction when nonfiction is this good?”

    Have you ever gotten reader’s block?

    I don’t usually get writer’s or reader’s block. I have a gift to gab that began when I was about nine-months-old and I started speaking. My ability to see or read something, think it through, and commit it to writing or the spoken word was invaluable to me as a trial lawyer. I still have the ability to write (and talk) a lot. But it’s not always good when it falls onto paper. I spend a lot of time editing and polishing. I had to completely rewrite Unwillable many times to get it to shine.

    Does your family support your career as a writer?

    My family near and far are all very supportive of my new life’s endeavors. When I was diagnosed with autoimmune encephalitis and my brain was turned back on, I woke up to realize that my career as a self-employed lawyer was over. In time, I pivoted to writing and an old dream of becoming a motivational speaker. Early in my illness and recovery, I began writing about my health on CaringBridge and that turned into my blog, which helped me become a better writer for Unwillabe. My family is proud of all I’ve accomplished and I’m grateful for their support. My kids don’t know me as a ragged, preoccupied, and stressed-out lawyer. They are proud that their mom is an author.

    How many hours a day do you write?

    If I could, I’d write for four hours each morning. Realistically, it varies and sometimes it varies drastically. Between my health, my family, and all the projects I keep going to raise autoimmune encephalitis awareness, I’m lucky to write an hour per day. But I never compromise writing in my daily journal each evening. That’s my therapy.

    If you could invite any three people for dinner, whom would you invite?

    First and foremost, I’d invite my Grandpa Allen. He died when I was a senior in high school. He was my hero. He commanded a room, told great stories and jokes, was politically active, and the life of every party. I want him to see me now. Along with Grandpa, I’d invite my super-love-favorite Elton John and a hero of mine, Pres. Barack Obama. The four of us would have a lot of political and social ground to cover.

    Would you share something about yourself that your readers don’t know (yet)?

    I was reared on a farm in a rural town in the small state of North Dakota. Sometimes I’m the most unique person in the room by virtue of where I grew up and live now (Bismarck, North Dakota). Many times while traveling, people will tell me I’m the first person they’ve ever met from North Dakota, and they think I have a midwestern accent.

    Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?

    I think it’s a bit of both. I’m always authentic and true to myself, but I know sometimes I frame situations or deliver conclusions based upon what I know my readers want (truth, hope, happiness, optimism, inspiration, resilience, and strength).

    How do you celebrate when you finish your book?

    My book was published on May the Fourth be with you in 2022, which I thought was a great omen. We had a huge launch party with family and friends, and I toured around the state signing books and doing media all summer. Truly, I don’t think I’ve quit celebrating Unwillable and maybe never will. It’s my baby. Until I finish my upcoming memoir/guidebook on law school and Unwillable’s sequel ...

    If you could be mentored by a famous author, who would it be?

    As a fully recovered trial lawyer, I’d love to spend some time with John Grisham (whose books inspired me to become a lawyer: I read The Client in 5th grade) to work on my fictional skills. As a person with chronic health conditions who tries hard to be realistic about health and life, I’d want to spend a lot of time absorbing knowledge from Kate Bowler. And to be more funny and less practical, I’d like to write with Tina Fey.

AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Jackie M. Stebbins was living her dream as a nationally recognized family law, criminal defense, and civil litigator. But Stebbins’s career as a lawyer abruptly ended in May, 2018, when she was diagnosed with a rare brain illness, autoimmune encephalitis. Stebbins persevered to make a remarkable recovery and turned herself into an author and motivational speaker. Stebbins is the author of the JM Stebbins blog and host of the Brain Fever podcast. Stebbins’s side hustle includes raising three lovely children with her wonderful husband, Sean, in Bismarck, North Dakota, and in her leisure time she can be found reading, trying to be funny, and aqua jogging.


Author ~ Blog ~ Book

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A custom #StebbinsStrong t-shirt (US only)

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