REVIEW and INTERVIEW
When All Balls Drop:
The Upside of Losing Everything
The Upside of Losing Everything
by Heidi Siefkas
Author and adventurer Heidi Siefkas joins me today for an interview about her debut book, the inspirational memoir When All Balls Drop: The Upside of Losing Everything, which is currently transitioning from book to film. You can also read an excerpt from the book, as well as my review. The sequel, With New Eyes, is due out this September.
Heidi Siefkas was a happily married, globetrotting professional who seemingly had it all - until a tree limb in New York's Hudson River Valley struck her down, breaking her neck and leaving her unconscious. Suddenly, life as she knew it stopped. She lost her independence. She lost her career. She watched her marriage disintegrate as she confronted a trail of devastating lies about her husband's double life.
She had lost all that mattered, but she was a survivor. She fought to restore her health, repair her broken heart, and rebuild herself. Along the way, she gained clarity about her core values, ultimately coming to a deeper understanding of what it means to have it all.
Through down-to-earth, short vignettes, When All Balls Drop shows us how it's possible to look up in spite of pain, deceit, and loss. Heidi's memoir - rich with hope and humor - inspires anyone who's had to confront tragedy and reassess their life in the wake of life-altering events.
I awoke feeling cold in a stark, square hospital room. I tried to look around as I heard familiar voices. I was lying in a bed covered with a flimsy, white herringbone blanket. Both my mother and my husband were sitting to my right. I heard the beeping of a monitor and several unfamiliar voices. Why was I here? How did I get here?
A nurse with a long, blond ponytail, glasses, and blue scrubs came in and approached my bed to check my vitals and IV bag. Looking up from her clipboard, she asked, “How’s your pain?”
I tried to nod, but I couldn’t. My neck was in a brace. Scared, I said, “I’m okay. I think?” I looked at my mother’s face. She was crying. I passed my hand over my face, which was tender and swollen. I was in a hospital gown with tubes coming out of my arms and plastic cups around my calves. Every few minutes the cups would inflate and deflate. Combined with the dissonant mixture of rhythmic beeps from my monitor, the buzzing of the overhead fluorescent lights, telephones ringing, intercom crackling, and staff talking, my already-high levels of anxiety and fear rose.
Although I do not remember the few days prior to my waking up, my mother and my husband, AJ, had been by my side continually. My mother came closer to my bed, carefully touched my hand, and said, “Heidi, you arrived at the emergency room via ambulance after being struck by a tree limb outside your apartment.”
While transitioning from morphine to pain pills, I became acquainted with the nurses on the fifth floor. Every four hours one of them would come, which meant more pain pills and a little company to break up my counting the holes in the ceiling tiles. Granted, some nurses were better than others; I noted a dramatic difference between the demeanors of the daytime nurses versus the graveyard shifters. Maybe the daytime shift conversations were all an act—“Honey, darling, sweetie, I know”—because I had visitors, witnesses to their behaviors. However, the night crew came in like ghosts: pop in, give meds, check vitals, and pop out to go back to texting or watching the TV until passing the patient baton to the relieving nurse.
Regardless of shift, not one of them exuded the compassion I expected from a nurse. Between the equipment provider with his in-your-face butt crack and the revolving door of nurses and specialists who failed to respond promptly to my call button due to gossiping or texting, I began to believe the term health care professional was an oxymoron.
Praise for the Book
"When All Balls Drop is a powerful chronicle of ultimate change and recovery. This is its strength: pointing out the light at the end of the tunnel." ~ Midwest Book Review
"There are certainly many books written about overcoming adversity. Heidi’s is unique in one important respect. It involves an act of God that quite frankly could happen to any one of us. Here’s is a compelling story of faith, tenacity, humor and accomplishment. You’ll certainly cheer for the author as she heads to the finish line!" ~ Jordan Rich, WBZ CBS Radio Boston
"I recommend When All Balls Drop for anyone who feels a kinship to a story that may enable a search for a way forward on their fateful life path." ~ Self Publishing Review
"What a great life lesson!" ~ Crafty Mom Zen
"Siefkas shows us how to handle adversity with humor, candor, and most importantly resilience. I highly recommend this book for anyone who enjoys uplifting and honest memoirs." ~ BookSpin|@BookDude
"When All Balls Drop is refreshing … 5 stars." ~ feedmeinbooks
By Lynda Dickson
Imagine taking the garbage one day and getting struck by a falling tree limb. That's exactly what happens to Heidi Siefkas. The result - she ends up in hospital, unconscious for five days, and with the possibility of being paralyzed or severely handicapped. However, luck is on her side, and she is discharged after nine days, with a broken neck and a full body brace. What follows is an account of the harrowing physical and mental therapy Heidi undergoes on her road to recovery, with the support of her mother, father, and her "clan" of childhood friends and workmates.
With dry humor, Heidi recounts having to deal with unhelpful technicians, less-than-friendly nursing staff, unsympathetic doctors, incompetent doctors' assistants - and a cheating husband. We follow Heidi on her road to both physical and mental recovery, the loss of her job, her divorce proceedings, the creation of Look Up Day, and learning to drive again. However, this is not only a narrative of her accident and recovery, but also a series of short essays on a variety of topics, including the role of trashy television as therapy, marriage and divorce, doctors and nurses, insurance companies, the Registry of Motor Vehicles, and the Chardonnay lunch. As the author herself states in an interview with me, "I'm from the Midwest, which is known for being 'what you see is what you get'. My writing is similar: straight forward, not too flowery, with an authentic voice and humor." This is a perfect description of Heidi's writing style. And, with its near-perfect editing, this book is a pleasure to read.
Heidi's accident is a "life change", not just because it changes the life she had, but because it changes the life she chooses to live from then on. It is also referred to as a "psychic slap" or, as the author herself describes it, as "when all balls drop". This is an ultimately uplifting tale of how, when everything goes wrong, the resulting experience might actually be the best thing that ever happens to you.
Interview With the Author
Hi Heidi Siefkas, thanks for joining me today to discuss your new book, When All Balls Drop.
For what age group do you recommend your book?
What sparked the idea for this book?
It's a true story that happened to me five years ago. The idea of writing the book came well after my experience. I decided to write my story in 2011 while I was on a solo journey in South America. I released When All Balls Drop in September 2014.
What was the hardest part about writing this book?
The hardest part was reliving my experience: pain, uncertainty, and loss on various levels. It was a true emotional roller coaster.
How do you hope this book affects its readers?
I hope that When All Balls Drop inspires others to triumph through life's hurdles, health scares, bad relationships, or even full-blown life catastrophes like mine. The take-away is a concept called Look Up, which stems from the power of perspective. It has two major components: 1) Be aware of your surroundings, both appreciating the beauty as well as hazards. In essence, be in the moment, mindful. 2) Spin each situation positively. Although some situations appear negative at first, there are no wasted experiences. Every hurdle, hiccup, or wound turns into wisdom.
What a great concept, Heidi! How long did it take you to write this book?
I wrote during my recovery, a period of nine months. The rereading, polishing, and editing process took another nine months.
What is your writing routine?
I typically write in the morning for two to four hours. I then break for a reality check (gym, hike, or walk). I try to sit for another hour in the afternoon to write again. I do some of my best writing after these walks or hikes. Also, I have been known to write while I'm traveling. Yes, I'm the one with the laptop on the plane, train, or bus.
How did you get your book published?
I published with Wheatmark in Tucson, Arizona for a number of reasons. Firstly because I was writing my book from Kauai; so, I needed a publisher that would be close to my time zone. Second, they could complete my aggressive timeline of manuscript to release in nine months. My goal was to release When All Balls Drop on the anniversary of the life-altering accident (27 September 2009) that sparked the story and my life change.
What advice do you have for someone who would like to become a published writer?
My advice is to write often. Write whatever comes at that time. You don't have to write in a chronological order or in an exact story line. You can piece it together afterwards. Also, with the technology we have today, I use my iPhone and its notes function to write down or even dictate writing themes and titles while I'm doing daily tasks such as shopping, cooking, etc. Don't let those brilliant moments escape you.
Great advice! What do you like to do when you're not writing?
When I'm not writing, I love to travel and do outdoor activities. My next major trip is to Greece. I will also have a repeat trip to New Zealand and Australia in fall of 2015.
What does your family think of your writing?
My family fully supports my writing. I include them in my editing process as both are very well read.
Please tell us a bit about your childhood.
I grew up on a hobby farm in rural Wisconsin (Midwest of the US). My name comes from the children's story Heidi. We had a flock of sheep at the time. My parents thought that a little girl playing around the farm named Heidi was perfect. I know in the Heidi book, it is goats not sheep, but potato, pa-TAH-to.
Did you like reading when you were a child?
When I was a child, I loved story time. I loved more than anything to be read to by my parents.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I realized I wanted to be a writer in 2008 when I started my travel blog, Ms Traveling Pants.
Did your childhood experiences influence your writing?
Of course, my childhood and surroundings influence my writing. As I mentioned, I'm from the Midwest, which is known for being "what you see is what you get". My writing is similar: straight forward, not too flowery, with an authentic voice and humor.
It certainly is that! Which writers have influenced you the most?
I feel that three major female authors have helped pave the way for me: Cheryl Strayed, Lisa Genova, and Elizabeth Gilbert.
Great company! Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
I receive messages from many of my readers as well as pictures of where they are reading When All Balls Drop (Fiji, Cuba, NYC, Florida, and more). I love getting their feedback about how my story inspires them to continue on and Look Up.
Blue Mountains, Australia
What can we look forward to from you in the future?
I will be releasing the sequel, With New Eyes, this September. It picks up where When All Balls Drop left off. Additionally, I'm transitioning When All Balls Drop to film. The screen play is currently being written in L.A. I'm expecting the film to be released in 2016.
Fantastic! Thank you for taking the time to stop by today, Heidi. Best of luck with your future projects.
Mahalo, Lynda. Thanks for this opportunity!
About the Author
Heidi Siefkas is an author and adventurer. Originally from small-town Wisconsin, she lives in Kauai and also calls the Midwest and South Florida home. Heidi's books include When All Balls Drop (September 2014) and With New Eyes (September 2015). She is currently writing her third book in this series, Cubicle to Cuba, which features a humorous collection of stories about her travels to Cuba, Peru, New Zealand, Italy, and more.