Creating Art Through Service
Have you ever met someone and thought, “Where's your book?” They're the kind of person who looks like they could tell a good story. Jenn Grace is that kind of person. As a marketing consultant for LGBT businesses, Jenn worked with a lot of different characters. Nearly all of them just assumed she had a book. For a long time, she didn't— Not until she started her blog. What began as a Dear Abby-type column turned into her first book, then her second, and then her third.
Creating a Business Through Service
From there, the questions didn't stop—They just changed shape. “Where's your book?” became “How did you publish your book?” Jenn regularly received what she describes as a “litany of questions.” Ever the entrepreneur, Jenn decided to transform these conversations into a scalable service. Her Publish Your Purpose (PYP) Academy teaches its students how to publish, edit, and market their books. But while her graduates possessed the tools to self-publish, she found that some people wanted to hire her to publish their book for them anyway.
At first, Jenn was reluctant. She had a good thing going with PYP Academy, and publishing felt like a step back into an arena where she traded her time for dollars. But through PYP, Jenn met people from underrepresented groups, including those who shared her identity as a member of the LGBTQ community. She built a level of trust and respect with them that led her to fear that if she weren't their publisher, they'd never tell their story.
She created Publish Your Purpose Press in just one weekend. The work was tough and didn’t pay as much as consulting, but she feels fulfilled by helping people from underrepresented groups get their stories out there.
Challenging Herself Through Service
Part of Jenn’s job at PYP Press is to challenge her clients. As her authors begin the grueling process of writing a book, Jenn pushes them—To dig deep, to be honest, and to write with their hearts on their sleeves. The more clients she worked with, the more Jenn got to thinking about her own work. Jenn’s books are raw in their own right, but at the time, she didn’t have a memoir.
As a publisher of nonfiction, Jenn knows that everyone has a story. Hers, however, is especially fraught. Throughout her life, Jenn struggled with shame and belonging. She’s made choices that she had to learn to forgive herself for making. The idea of laying it all out in a book was terrifying. Not only did she have to revisit some of the most challenging moments of her life, had to confront how her trauma disrupted her memory. To Jenn, writing her memoir felt like cobbling together a group of fractured half-recollections. It was painful, but she did it anyway.
She also had to push through her fear of retribution. She anticipated a major fallout after friends and family read her story. Ultimately, however, Jenn came to a realization—If the people in her life who hurt her didn't want to read about how they hurt her, they shouldn't have hurt her in the first place. She published her memoir and braced herself for the blowback.
The Hidden Joy of Vulnerability
Rather than judge, shame, or even contest Jenn's account of her trauma, her friends and family embraced her. They reached out to her with empathy and love. Jenn was shocked. More than anything, the process of publishing her book taught Jenn to trust that people would show up for her.
The Problem With Courage
When Jenn looks at her life, she doesn’t describe herself as a brave person. To her, people who call themselves brave are often people who don’t acknowledge their fear. Above all, Jenn’s journey taught her to acknowledge her fear and then do the scary thing anyway. It’s for this reason that she prefers to describe herself as vulnerable. Here at The Brave Files, we understand that people often misconceive bravery as the absence of fear. They think to be brave, one must be fearless. As Host, Heather Vickery is fond of saying “Fuck Fearless! Brave is way greater than fearless!”
We honor Jenn’s choice of words. But whether you call it vulnerability or bravery, the point stands: We will experience fear. All of us, at some point or another, will feel afraid. It’s possible to be afraid and do the brave (or vulnerable) thing anyway. You probably do it every day and don’t even realize it! We kinda hope that Jenn thinks of bravery in a new light after our conversation.
Learn more about Jenn
Jenn Grace is a business strategist, speaker, publisher, and author. Her memoir, House on Fire, is the most recent book to join her six-title body of work. She is the founder of Publish Your Purpose Press, a company dedicated to publishing work by underrepresented voices. Her program, PYP Academy, teaches aspiring authors how to publish their books. Check out her latest podcast, Invisible Stories: Write to be Seen, wherever you listen to podcasts. You can read her blog here. You can follow PYP on Facebook, and be sure to follow Jenn on Instagram and Twitter.