Heart of an author
Co-author of Chicken Soup for the Soul to speak at Enloe wellness event
Most people associate the word “health” with physical condition: fitness, wellness or illness. But for Jennifer Read Hawthorne—a best-selling author, editor and motivational speaker—it has a broader meaning. She embraces a medical model that incorporates psychology and spirituality for a holistic take on well-being.
She’ll bring that perspective to the North State next Thursday, April 3, with her keynote address at Enloe Medical Center’s Heart of a Woman wellness event.
“For our keynote speaker, we were looking for someone who would inspire women, make us laugh and, more important, give encouragement to lead a healthy lifestyle,” said Nicole Johansson, director of the Enloe Marketing & Communications department. “Jennifer Read Hawthorne’s previous books, including Chicken Soup for the Woman’s Soul, and her most current book, Life Lessons for Loving the Way You Live, which she will be speaking about, give the perfect message for this event.”
Hawthorne will speak for about an hour, sharing stories from her books along with some of her own experiences, and then meet conference attendees.
“When we see how the human spirit can make a leap that not only gets us past an obstacle but on the other side of it shining, that’s really valuable,” Hawthorne said in a phone interview from her home in Florida. She travels extensively, delivering 10 keynote addresses a year, along with writing and editing books, such as her entries in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series.
“Mind-body-spirit is a very beautiful phrase to me,” she said. “This is an event that’s sponsored by a medical center, and in our society we so tend to think of health in terms of the physical alone; I go for my annual check-up, and that’s always a physical check-up—but who ever checks us mentally? Who ever checks us spiritually, on the level of the heart?
“Those are areas I think we sometimes forget we need to pay attention to and that we need to nourish.”
To that end, she’s worked with Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing since the mid-1990s. Hawthorne included early Chicken Soup material in her public speaking, then approached co-founder Jack Canfield with a book idea that blossomed into Chicken Soup for the Woman’s Soul—the 1996 best-seller she co-authored with Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen and Marci Shimoff.
The next year, she co-authored Chicken Soup for the Mother’s Soul, which also reached No. 1 on The New York Times best-seller list.
“To those of us involved with those books, it really showed us how hungry people were for inspiration,” Hawthorne said. “It just felt that the media was so filled with negativity so much of the time, and there seemed to be a hunger for things that were positive, things that were good, stories that really showed that everyone has obstacles to overcome.
“That’s really a huge theme with the Chicken Soup for the Soul books—I think there’s a chapter in almost every volume about overcoming obstacles—and I think that it’s really comforting when you see what those people go through,” she said. “Sometimes it puts your own situation in perspective.”
Hawthorne has authored and co-authored many entries in the series now, and her books have been translated into 30 languages and have sold more than 13 million copies.
A native of Baton Rouge, La., Hawthorne graduated from Louisiana State University, where she studied journalism, broadcasting and public speaking. She moved to Washington, D.C., to work for the President’s Aviation Advisory Commission, and subsequently joined the Peace Corps.
“It was just one of those things I call destiny points,” she said. “I was very, very happy with my life, but I’d walk to work every morning and ask the question, ‘Is this all there is?’ I’d walk by the Peace Corps building every day, and one day I just took a right, went in and picked up an application.”
The Peace Corps sent her to West Africa for two years. She then spent a year touring Asia. In India, she learned Transcendental Meditation, which she still practices and teaches.
Travel and family have both shaped her work. Hawthorne is divorced now, but she remains close with her ex-husband and his two children (her stepchildren) whom she helped raise: William, now a certified public accountant in Minneapolis, Minn., and Amy, a chiropractor in Singapore. She recently met her first grandchild when “the Singapore clan” attended William’s wedding.
She’s fond of a quote by Persian theologian and poet Rumi: “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” That’s one of the themes in her latest book, which she hopes to convey in Chico.
“The ability to get beyond ideas of right or wrong is a profound ability that really does lead to inner peace,” she said. “I don’t think that any of our beliefs are absolute … and the more we can accept others—know that nobody is ‘right’ or ‘wrong,’ we’re just different from one another—that is a very, very beautiful and peaceful place to live life from.”