How a dream while en route to Utah inspired an Arizona woman to become an author

SALT LAKE CITY — Heidi Tucker, an Arizona mom whose children and grandchildren all live in Utah, has made countless trips from Phoenix to Salt Lake City. But she still clearly remembers one experience she had while en route to Utah four years ago: a realistic dream in which she was shown a book.

“I remember thumbing through the pages,” Tucker said. “I remember looking back at the chapter headings, and I knew that it was a book about trials and about hope, and that I had written it.”

When Tucker woke up, she recalls having two thoughts. The first was that the dream was incredibly real. The second? “There’s no way I could ever write that.”

Four years later, Tucker hasn’t just written one book — she’s risen from adversity to self-publish two award-winning books about hope and to travel the West as an inspirational speaker.

Making a dream come true

2014 was not an easy year for Tucker, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

She had just turned 50. Her youngest child left for college and she officially became an empty nester. She was finishing up her fourth year of teaching an early morning seminary class to high school students, and felt exhausted from years of early mornings and daily lessons. On top of that, her son had returned early from an LDS mission, a difficult trial for both of them.

“I’m in this position where I’m physically and emotionally and spiritually beat up,” Tucker said of the time period.

For months, Tucker prayed and fasted every single day to find her purpose and path in life. It seemed like the prayer went unanswered, until she had the dream that eventually led her to write her first book, “Finding Hope in the Journey.”

Even then, Tucker didn’t recognize the dream as an answer to her prayers. Initially, she fought the idea of writing a book. Only after Tucker faced rejection after rejection from other job opportunities did she realize God was steering her to write a book.

“I just thought, ‘This is not me. I don’t know why anything that I have to say would matter to anybody else,’” said Tucker, who graduated from Arizona State University with a business degree. “Fortunately, Heavenly Father was really, really patient with me, and he continued to encourage me, and I just received promptings daily. I couldn’t get away from it.”

According to Tucker, “Finding Hope in the Journey” was published in direct response to her dream. The book teaches through Tucker’s personal experiences, including her most difficult trials, but focuses on how she was able to feel hope and recognize God’s hand.

“With so much distraction and commotion and darkness in the world, there are still so many glimmers of hope out there that we’re missing in our own lives,” Tucker said. “I’ve learned to recognize those in my own life, and the fact that I can talk about that and tell those in the way that I can, somehow, it resonates with people.”

Aubreigh Parks Photography

Heidi Tucker, an Arizona mother, grandmother and author, stands in a field of sunflowers, her favorite flower.

“Finding Hope in the Journey” resonated with readers all around the world, including a panel of judges for Illumination Book Awards, which annually recognizes exemplary Christian books.

Tucker submitted her book to the contest because she felt God prompted her to do so, not expecting to hear anything back and even forgetting she submitted it in the first place.

“I was so honored to be considered and to be recognized in the Christian world,” Tucker said.

Closed doors

The success of “Finding Hope in the Journey” didn’t come easy. Even though Tucker felt that God put her on the path to write a book, she faced closed door after closed door. It took Tucker only four months to write the book, but publishing it was a different story.

“It can be really tricky when you feel like you’re on the path to doing something that you’re supposed to be doing, then you try to get into something, and you hear ‘no,’” Tucker said. “That’s really hard. You’ve got to knock on that door over and over and over again.”

Tucker felt she needed to publish her book for people to read besides her family, but it was difficult to find a publisher. Eventually, after receiving multiple rejection letters (which are now framed in her office), Tucker decided to self-publish. She hired a copy editor and put her own team together.

“I didn’t know anything about the publishing world. Not anything,” Tucker said. “I had to find all these people that I could hire to do this to put this book out, and I was feeling like, ‘What am I doing?’”

When it finally came time for the book to be printed, Tucker was not excited. More than anything, she was terrified at the prospect of sharing her personal journal with the world. However, she found comfort in trusting God.

“I had to go back to my trust with Heavenly Father and say, ‘I’m trusting that this is going to be OK,’” Tucker said.

Once “Finding Hope in the Journey” was complete, the publishing companies that once rejected the book openly welcomed it to their shelves.

How Tucker’s next book ‘found her’

Fast forward to January 2016. “Finding Hope in the Journey” was finally published and widely available. Tucker was busy marketing the book and getting caught up after traveling for the holidays when one Sunday, a woman named Servie from Zimbabwe approached Tucker at church. She told Tucker she had a question for her, and asked if she could come to her home that Tuesday at 10 am.

Tucker made the 30-minute drive to Servie’s home. After small talk about the weather, Servie asked Tucker to write a book about her life. According to Tucker, Servie felt she needed to write down her life story, but never received formal education to write. After praying and fasting, Servie felt that God told her to ask Tucker to write the book.

“My head is saying, ‘Don’t you go there,’ but my heart is screaming ‘Yes,’” Tucker said about the experience. “Finally, I looked at her and I said, ‘Servie, if you’re telling me that God has asked you to ask me to write this book, the answer is yes.’”

Austin Tucker Media

Award-winning LDS author Heidi Tucker hugs her friend Servie. Tucker’s latest book, “Servie’s Song,” is about Servie’s life and how she found hope in trials.

Over the next year, Tucker spent hours recording conversations with Servie and transcribing them herself. She learned Servie led an unimaginably difficult life, which included moving to the U.S. following her husband’s death so she could work and provide for her children in Zimbabwe.

The result was a book called “Servie’s Song,” which details Servie’s most painful trials, but ultimately teaches a lesson of hope. It tells the story of Servie’s conversion to the LDS Church and how the gospel of Jesus Christ helped her find hope in her trials.

“I don’t want this to be a story of tragedy; I want this to be a story of hope and how she’s overcome,” Tucker said to herself as she began to write the book. “I want it to be triumphant, that we see her go to the bottom of the ditch and pull herself out.”

“Servie’s Song” was awarded the Illumination Award in 2018. Now, Tucker focuses on marketing “Servie’s Song” and travels around the West speaking to conferences, book clubs and firesides about the lessons she learned from writing the book.

Life is a hike

In her books, Tucker, an ardent hiker, often compares life to a hike. According to Tucker, relaxed hikes with wildflowers are the easy, smooth-sailing periods of our lives. Moderate hikes, perhaps when a rock is stuck in our shoe, are the times we struggle. And the steep, impossible hikes are when nothing is going right and it’s difficult to see the end.

She said the journey of becoming an author and speaker has been a combination of all three “hikes.”

Austin Tucker Media

Author Heidi Tucker looks out on Rock Canyon in Provo during a hike. Tucker loves to hike and often uses hiking as a metaphor for life in her books.

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“It’s glorious in the blessings that I have received back. It’s moderately hard in the doubts and the endurance that I need to find to continue to pound up that steep trail,” Tucker said. “But it’s the really difficult hikes. Those have been the shut doors. That’s been the courage that it took to put myself out there and be so personal in my books.”

Despite the difficulties, Tucker said, she’d do it all again in a heartbeat. She plans to begin working on her third book this summer. She isn’t ready to talk about the details yet, but did mention that hope will always be a theme in her books.

“I’m not ready to stop writing,” Tucker said. “As long as I can feel that there’s more that needs to come out, I won’t stop.”

Home Again: Dream a little dream… | Commentary

Each year during graduation season, stories surface about special graduates. I heard one the other day on a radio broadcast. A 92-year old woman was to receive a business degree from a community college. When asked what prompted

her to go back to school, she said, “I felt I still had something to learn.”

Don’t we all?

Last weekend, my sister-in-law and I attended a scholarship event in Michigan where we gave out the Gordy Wuethrich Memorial Scholarship. The auditorium was filled with students eager to begin continuing their education and embark on new careers.

In the essays, many shared their dreams. This part always encourages me. I confess, sometimes it brings a little stab of envy as well — a wish to be young again, to have another chance to chase a dream or two. But then I hear about one of those graduates in their senior years and realize it’s never too late to pursue a dream.

Practically, of course, I know it’s too late for some things. As seniors, we aren’t going to become Navy SEALS, for instance. Some dreams or goals that might have been possible when we were younger may be limited by physical ability and other factors.

But dreams are about more than pursuing a career. Maybe you’ve always dreamed of taking a trip somewhere. Of moving to a specific location or owning a certain kind of house. Is it really too late?

To achieve things we want, we have to first dream. The writer Anatole France said, “To accomplish great things, we must dream as well as act.”

Henry David Thoreau reminds us we need both: “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” He also said, “It’s not enough to be busy…the question is, what are you busy about?”

Many of us are busy, planning, going, doing for ourselves and others. But sometimes in all that busyness, we feel we are missing something. Maybe it is the pursuit of a dream we’ve set aside or let go, thinking it’s probably impossible anyway.

If we think so, it probably is — unless we revive it and make an effort. Even Mohandas K. Gandhi said, “It is for us to make the effort. The result is always in God’s hands.”

Several years ago, I read a couple books by Henriette Anne Klauser, PhD. One was “Write it Down, Make It Happen,” and the other, “Put Your Heart On Paper.” At the time, we were spending weekends on Keuka Lake. I had a dream about

making the area our full-time residence. I took Klauser’s advice and assembled a booklet where I pasted in photos of the region and family members having fun at our lake camp.

About a year later, we took advantage of an opportunity to make that move. While it didn’t work out long term for reasons too complicated to explain in a brief column, I was stunned when I later found my dream book. I could see that visualizing what we wanted (or thought we did) helped us put feet on a dream. It may have not been completely thought through or the timing wasn’t right, but the words and pictures, in visual form, helped us take positive steps.

Journaling is another way to get your dreams on paper. As you write, you may not realize that you are penning your innermost thoughts. Rereading them later might just help you see what you want and give clues as to how to go after your dreams.

A year or so ago when I was extremely busy — and stressed out — I took a large fluorescent green poster board and did something mentioned in one of Klauser’s books, along with other sources. She called it “branching.” In the center is a key theme.Mine was “Dreams and Plans Still In My Heart.” With branches of related themes, I listed everything I was currently doing as well as what I still wanted

to accomplish.

This process allowed me to visualize, one, why I was feeling so stressed, and two, that some activities had to go in order to pursue some dreams. My large

board is all words, but some do this and call them, “Vision boards.” I saw that once on a Hallmark movie as a bride wanted to have everything perfectly planned out for her wedding. The thing is, these are guides, not set in stone.

A senior friend from my writer’s group always wanted to attend a writer’s retreat. She decided to finally take the plunge and is driving, all alone, to a beachside resort for several days of concentrated work on her book. She just came to a place where she realized, if not now, when?

In one of her books, Klauser says, “Think Big — It Works,” as it did with my Keuka adventure. She also said something I really like: “Life is a narrative that you have a hand in writing.” What’s your dream?

(Contact contributor Deb Wuethrich at [email protected].)

Triple H as Beta Ray Bill and 15 WWE Dream Castings for Future Marvel Films | Bleacher Report

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    Dave Bautista successfully transitioned from the WWE ring to the MCU.

    Dave Bautista successfully transitioned from the WWE ring to the MCU.Jordan Strauss/Associated Press

    With Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War lighting up the box office in 2018, superhero fatigue doesn’t seem to be anywhere close to setting in for the majority of the film-going public. 

    According to, the third installment of the Avengers series has already taken in upward of $1.7 billion at the worldwide box office, and it has only been in theaters since April 27. The same site reports the MCU has a worldwide gross of more than $16.5 billion. 

    This means Dave Bautista is part of the cast of one of the 10 highest-grossing movies of all time, according to IMDb, which is an accolade even The Rock doesn’t have on his extensive resume. 

    The former WWE champion is not the first pro wrestler to portray a character from the comics on the silver screen, but his role as Drax in Guardians of the Galaxy and other MCU films is easily the most recognizable.

    It’s always fun to do a little fantasy casting for future superhero films, so this article will look at 15 pro wrestlers and the comic book characters they could play in future Marvel films. All Marvel characters will be considered, not just those Disney owns the rights to.

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    Adam Warlock has been teased in the Marvel Cinematic Universe during both Guardians of the Galaxy films, but he has yet to make an appearance, so casting is still up in the air.

    Warlock is an interesting character with some unique cosmic powers, but his look is what makes him memorable.

    Anyone who has seen him during his long-hair phase will agree Dolph Ziggler would be the only WWE Superstar who fits the bill. His blond may come from a bottle, but he has other qualities which make him a good fit.

    The Showoff has just as much ego and charisma as Warlock does in the comics, so maybe his friend, Batista, can give James Gunn a call about casting Ziggler in Guardians 3.

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    X-Men has a large roster of characters with rich backstories, but few are as interesting or important as Jean Grey, AKA Phoenix. 

    The Phoenix Force is an immortal entity, and it can even be argued Grey is the most powerful character in the Marvel universe thanks to her bond with it.

    Famke Janssen portrayed the role in three X-Men films, the first Wolverine solo movie and briefly in X-Men Days of Future Past, but if she ever comes to the MCU, Disney will have to find someone new.

    Out of all the women on the WWE roster, Becky Lynch is the closest to resembling the character with her bright reddish-orange hair and love of fire. 

    She might have to learn how to hide her Irish accent, but the writers could always give Grey the backstory of an Irish immigrant to make it work. The MCU changes small details about characters all the time, and nobody seems to mind.

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    If the X-Men joins the rest of the MCU, hundreds of heroes and villains will need to be cast. When the role of Juggernaut comes up, Brock Lesnar should go for it.

    Vinnie Jones was fine in the role, but X-Men: The Last Stand did not do the character justice. Jones had the height, but most of the physique we saw in the movie was CGI.

    Lesnar has the size and power to play this character with minimal special effects to make him look as massive as he needs to be.

    The Beast Incarnate has never expressed any interest in pursuing a career in Hollywood, but he is a businessman. If the right offer came in, there is a good chance he would take it.

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    The way Fox portrayed Galactus in Fantastic 4: Rise of The Silver Surfer was nothing like the character fans of the comics have known and loved for more than 50 years.

    He is not some cloud monster. He is a cosmic being who loves the color purple and likes to eat planets for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

    A character with his kind of power needs to be played by someone who can be more physically imposing than the muscular actors playing superheroes in the MCU.

    Braun Strowman is not only intimidating, but he makes most men look tiny by comparison. Imagine seeing Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, who is 5’7″, according to Celebrity Heights, standing next to The Monster Among Men. 

    He even has the perfect voice to play a planet-devouring cosmic entity. This not the kind of character who requires a Shakespearean-level actor to play him, so there would be no downside to casting Strowman in the role.

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    She-Hulk is a popular character in the comics, but there has been no attempt to portray her in a live-action movie.

    The great thing about Jennifer Walters is there wouldn’t be the need for as much CGI, as Disney is forced to use to make Mark Ruffalo into The Hulk.

    She-Hulk is much closer in size to a muscular woman, so all the casting agents would need to find is someone with the right physique to play the part.

    Not only is Dana Brooke an accomplished bodybuilder with the right look, but she is also a gymnast who could make the fight scenes more entertaining with her agility.

    Brooke is a little on the short side, but her muscular build makes her one of the more intimidating women on the WWE roster despite the fact she is being booked as a statistician for Titus Worldwide. 

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    Union Jack is a character who might not be as well-known as Thor and Captain America, but if Marvel can make a talking raccoon and sentient tree work, a British Spy should be a piece of cake.

    Jack Gallagher is British and has the same name as Union Jack, but those are not the only reasons why he would work in this role.

    He is also a gifted athlete who can tackle the physical aspects of being a superhero in the movies, and his stature would give him an underdog quality the crowd can get behind.

    The alias has been used by three different characters in the comics, so Gallagher could portray whichever one best matches his personality.

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    The Silver Surfer was voiced by Laurence Fishburne, but his physical portrayal in the Fantastic 4 sequel was done by Doug Jones.

    The character is incredibly interesting, but he is basically a shiny bald guy with a surfboard. Finding someone to play him is not going to be difficult.

    As far as the baldness and physique are concerned, Cesaro is a perfect match. He is tall, but he won’t tower over his co-stars. He is muscular, but he isn’t an Arnold Schwarzenegger-sized bodybuilder.

    Cesaro’s voice would likely be dubbed because of his thick accent, and WWE has another great candidate for that role in Big Show. He has the deep voice needed to play someone with as much power as Norrin Radd.

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    Developing Moon Knight for a live-action film is going to be a challenge, but with other unconventional characters like Deadpool and Drax being received so well, it’s a possibility.

    Moon Knight is a vigilante whose real name is Marc Spector. His history is somewhat complicated, but it involves his possession by an Egyptian god named Khonshu. Since Khonshu is the Egyptian god of the moon, Spector’s new-found powers only work under the glow of the moonlight. 

    Having another mind inside his head affected Spector, and Matt Hardy’s experience with the Seven Deities and purging Bray Wyatt of Sister Abigail make him a great choice for the role.

    Spector was a boxer before joining the military, but that could easily be changed to make him a wrestler so Hardy can show off his skills in a flashback scene.

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    Milana Vayntrub has been cast to play Squirrel Girl in a live-action series based on The New Warriors, according to Lesley Goldberg of The Hollywood Reporter, but the show has yet to land a network.

    If this ends up falling through, Marvel may decide to use her in one of its movies. The character was started as a joke, but she quickly became one of the most endearing superheroes of all Marvel’s comics.

    Her upbeat personality and friendly demeanor should be portrayed by someone who has those traits in real life, and nobody fits this description better than Bayley.

    The Hugger remains popular despite uneven booking from management. She has the likability needed to play Squirrel Girl and the athleticism to embody one of Marvel’s most unconventional and beloved characters. 

    If the MCU can make Ant-Man into a hit, it can do the same thing for a girl whose main power is the ability to communicate with squirrels.

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    Blade was brought to life by Wesley Snipes in the movies 20 years before Chadwick Boseman headlined his own superhero movie as Black Panther.

    He broke new ground for black superheroes and proved they could lead a franchise, but Snipes might be a little long in the tooth to play the vampire hunter anymore.

    He is still in great shape, but Disney would likely want to cast someone who could play the role for 10 more years if it decided to bring him into the MCU or give him his own separate movie.

    The WWE roster has several Superstars who could play Blade, but Bobby Lashley is the best option because of his size and power.

    His MMA and wrestling training would make filming the fight scenes much easier than it would be with an untrained actor. He may already be 41, but he looks 10 years younger, so he could play the character for at least a decade.

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    Namor The Submariner predates Aquaman by two years, but he isn’t as recognizable as the DC Comics character.

    He is more antihero than good guy, so he has come into conflict with several Marvel heroes over the years. If a WWE Superstar is going to play him, it has to be somebody who could play a hero or villain without changing anything about their character.

    Dean Ambrose would be a great Namor because his gimmick didn’t need to be changed when he went from heel to babyface. All he did was start focusing his attacks on bad guys.

    Ambrose is also one of the only WWE Superstars other than John Cena and The Miz to have starred in his own movie. He was the lead in 12 Rounds 3: Lockdown, so he already has some experience as an actor to give him a leg up over his fellow wrestlers.

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    This selection comes courtesy of @OrieMG on Twitter. 

    Finn Balor hasn’t used his Demon King entrance in quite some time, but the look he has used since his days in NXT has drawn comparisons to Marvel character Venom.

    Tom Hardy will play Eddie Brock in the upcoming Venom film, and if it’s a success, it may spawn its own franchise. If that happens, Carnage needs to be included at some point.

    As another spawn of the same alien symbiote used to create Venom, Carnage is a dangerous character with a demonic look and an interesting array of powers.

    Balor could easily transform into the villain for a Venom or Spider-Man sequel thanks to his athletic build and Hollywood good looks.

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    Lady Deadpool may not have the mainstream recognition of her male counterpart, but it would be hilarious to see a female version of the character interact with Ryan Reynolds in the movies, even for one scene.

    Her history is somewhat complicated, as she hails from Earth-3010 in the comics, which is an alternate reality version of the planet we most associate with our favorite comic book characters.

    Like the male Deadpool, two of Lady Deadpool’s trademarks are her offbeat sense of humor and deteriorating mental condition as a result of the experiments she underwent to bring her powers to the surface.

    The only woman on the roster who could pull off this state of mind would be Alicia Fox. We have seen her fly off the handle numerous times, and she always makes it funny.

    Foxy has the look, athleticism and wacky personality to be perfect for a role like this, but the character of Lady Deadpool may be too obscure to be featured in a live-action film.

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    This selection comes courtesy of @EricDexVee on Twitter, and seeing as how he also recommended Bayley for Squirrel Girl, he clearly has a good eye for these things.

    During the Cold War, Marvel and other comic book publishers came up with several Russian villains, and one of them was Kraven the Hunter.

    Unlike most supervillains, his goal is not world domination. He simply wants to hunt Spider-Man to prove he is the greatest hunter in the world.

    Rusev would be a great choice to play Kraven on film because he can already do a Russian accent, and his size fits most portrayals of the characters in the comics.

    Kraven takes a potion to give himself superhuman abilities, but Rusev is already talented enough to have earned himself the nickname The Super Athlete.

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    When the Marvel Cinematic Universe was first getting going, one of the people many WWE fans thought should portray Thor was Triple H.

    Chris Hemsworth is doing an amazing job as The God of Thunder, but there is no denying Trips would have made an awesome Thor.

    At the time, Triple H still had his long hair and was renowned for using a sledgehammer in many of his matches. He basically had his own Mjolnir before the movies were even in development.

    Since he can’t play Thor anymore, Beta Ray Bill is the next best option. Not only is he a hugely popular character from the comics, but he also wields his own special hammer forged by Odin.

    Triple H might not be keen on the idea of playing a guy with a horse head, but it would be so satisfying to see him get the chance to fight Thor just one time.

    The fact Trips has already appeared in a Marvel movie as a vampire in Blade: Trinity is just icing on the cake.


    Which WWE Superstars would you like to portray Marvel characters in future films?

DisneyLife: living the Disney dream 24/7 | Film

This week sees the home entertainment release of Coco (Disney, PG), Pixar’s sweet-souled, lantern-lit melange of Mexican lore with Hollywood hero’s-journey corn. It’s the animation superpower’s most purely charming film in several years: not as concept-y and clever-clever as Inside Out, not as clattering and flagrantly product-hawking as the ongoing Cars franchise. If I didn’t find its characters quite distinct or resonant enough to earn it a place in the cartoon pantheon, it passes as prettily and melodiously as the songs that carry it.

Thinking of that pantheon, however, reminded me that I’ve yet to really investigate Disney streaming options in this column. The biggest entertainment brand in the world may seem oppressively ubiquitous, spinning yet more money by remaking their already entrenched back catalogue, while a millennial generation reared on the Mouse House’s early-1990s golden age assert the Lion Kings and Little Mermaids of their childhood as standard cultural currency. (Just spend a minute browsing BuzzFeed these days and you’ll get the idea.) But if you or your child have a yen to stream one of those universally familiar Disney classics, they’re not all as ever-present as you might think.

Over at Netflix, for example, you can stream Jon Favreau’s slickly CGI-lacquered, soul-deprived update of The Jungle Book, but not the infinitely more spirited, witty 1967 animation on which it is so slavishly based. For a tenner or so, you can download the latter – and other standards of its ilk, from Bambi to Mary Poppins – for keeps through the usual avenues of Amazon, Apple or Sky, which obviously isn’t the worst investment for parents of children at the “tireless rewatcher” stage of Disney fandom.

If you’re looking for more flexible access to the corporation’s library, however, DisneyLife is really your only option – and at five quid a month for a subscription (half the price it was at its launch), it’s a pretty fair one. I’ve been slow to explore this peppily designed, all-Disney-all-the-time streaming service since it debuted in late 2015 – largely because, impeccably useful as it is, it doesn’t offer much scope for discovery. At DisneyLife, depending on how deep you’re willing to go into the bottomless pit of bonus Frozen content, you pretty much know what you’re going to get.

DisneyLife – video

And that’s a lot: nearly 500 films, including all the gilded favourites alongside junkier throwaways and sidelined stragglers (sorry, The Black Cauldron, though you’re better than I remembered), plus a candy-coloured morass of TV series, cartoon shorts and all the related spinoffs and making-of content your heart could questionably desire. (And I’m only focusing on video streaming here: soundtracks and ebooks also fall under the DisneyLife umbrella.) This withered millennial found it all somewhat overwhelming, though I’ve observed pre-school kids navigating it with zippy authority.

It’s also, somewhat unusually, a streaming goldmine that was granted to the UK before the US. Quite how the comparatively modest DisneyLife model will accordingly shift when the company launches its planned, reportedly Netflix-rivalling mega-service stateside next year remains to be seen, but “less is more” has never exactly been the Disney ethos. A bevy of original streaming-only content, ranging from live-action remakes of Lady and the Tramp and The Sword in the Stone to a televisual extension of the Star Wars universe, are all on the cards. Some might find that prospect more ominous than exciting: it’s a Disney world, and we just live in it.

New to streaming & DVD this week

Frances McDormand in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

Frances McDormand in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Photograph: Allstar/Fox Searchlight Pictures

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
(Fox, 15)
Now that the Oscar-season political debates have died down, Martin McDonagh’s spikily acted midwestern barn-burner remains obnoxiously entertaining.

A Fantastic Woman
(Curzon Artificial Eye, 15)
A worthy best foreign film Oscar winner, Sebastián Lelio’s vibrant, compassionate portrait of a transgender woman battling grief and prejudice just about earns those lofty Almodóvar comparisons.

The Post
(eOne, 12)
If you expect comfily grownup, flannel-textured film-making from the combination of Steven Spielberg, Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, you’d be right: all are smartly cruising in this pre-Watergate thriller.

The Commuter
(Studiocanal, 15)
We know by now that when Liam Neeson and nifty Spanish genre stylist Jaume Collet-Serra get together, grunty derring-do and bananas plotting ensue. This literal trainwreck of an action flick is a bit muted by their standards, but still agreeably ludicrous.

Black Venus

(Arrow, 15)
Never picked up for distribution in the UK until now, Blue Is the Warmest Colour director Abdellatif Kechiche’s 2010 biopic of racially exploited novelty performer Saartjie Baartman is a divisive, fascinatingly self-reflexive exercise in spectatorship.

3 books about planets –

When Edgar Rice Burroughs in 1911 first began chronicling the adventures of Confederate captain John Carter on the far-flung world of Mars, it was still just possible for people – especially untrained enthusiasts like Burroughs himself – to believe that every planet in the solar system was teeming with life – just like Earth. Not only does Carter encounter dozens of advanced civilizations on the world its inhabitants call Barsoom, but he faces interplanetary invaders from Jupiter. For good measure, Burroughs later recounted for readers the exploits of Carson Napier on an equally-teeming planet Venus.

Twentieth-century astronomy gradually, inexorably, sucked the life-blood out of such fantastic tales. Telescopes constantly improved, planetary probes were launched with increasing frequency, and eventually it became clear that the solar system harbors no complex life – certainly no civilizations – anywhere except on Earth. The Mars where John Carter had so many thrilling adventures turned out to be a frozen, lifeless place that hasn’t held surface water or ample atmosphere in billions of years. The Venus that was Carson’s second home is a hellscape of crushing, superheated atmospheric pressure. Hardy microbes may live deep underground in such places, but there were no monsters, no maidens in need of saving, no masterminds devising evil plans.

It was a disappointment for the ever-fertile human imagination, but what scientific inquiry takes away with one hand it often gives back with the other: The more astronomy has learned about our solar system, the more fascinating these lifeless worlds have become.

This is certainly true of Earth’s nearest neighbor and very nearly sister planet, the moon. It’s in every way the most familiar of all our celestial neighbors, and yet, as Bill Leatherbarrow’s beautifully illustrated new book makes clear, the moon still holds surprises. Wonderfully produced by Reaktion Books, The Moon takes readers through the various stages of humanity’s curiosity about the moon, including the first rudimentary attempts to understand what this luminous object in the sky actually was. Leatherbarrow’s energetic narrative tells the familiar story of the leaps science has made in seeing this next-door neighbor clearly.

The moon remains the only other world in the solar system that humans have visited in person, but for over 30 years, there’s been a persistent dream – both inside and outside the halls of NASA – to add an obvious candidate to that list. Venus would crush and broil any human visitors, but Mars? Mars is forbiddingly cold, but otherwise it’s almost refreshingly Earthlike. Its thin atmosphere makes its sere rock landscapes look like something a well-provisioned hiker might find in the Mojave Desert, and at the right latitudes, there appears to be ample ice for provisioning.

These and other factors are the fuel for the optimism of David Weintraub’s new book, Life on Mars: What to Know Before We Go, which opens with the age-old question: “Does life exist on Mars? … Could primitive microoganisms survive on Mars, living in subsurface reservoirs of liquid water? Yes. Long ago, could spores have been transferred via a large impact event from Mars to Earth or from Earth to Mars? Very possibly.”

Even so, the “life” on Mars he envisions in these terrific pages isn’t romantic civilizations of green warriors: It’s humans, moving first to set foot on the red planet and then to explore it and then to colonize it. Weintraub tackles every aspect of how humans could set up shop, all of it based on the successive space probes that have been launched over the decades. Weintraub tells the stories of this amazing exploration-tale with the authority of an astronomy professor and the verve of a true believer.

Colonization will never be the dream of Chasing New Horizons, the new book by Alan Stern and David Grinspoon. Pluto, now downgraded to the status of a dwarf planet, is billions of miles away from Earth, a fraction of Earth’s mass, receives a sliver of Earth’s sunlight, and is almost inconceivably cold. The chances that humans will ever establish a base there are correspondingly minuscule.

Instead, much like Leatherbarrow and Weintraub, Stern and Grinspoon concentrate on the heroism of learning, specifically the dogged, day-to-day heroism of the men and women behind the New Horizons spacecraft that in July of 2015 made the first-ever close fly-by of tiny frozen Pluto and sent back large amounts of invaluable data to the specialists who had nervously watched the crafts progress for years.

“The people who created this amazing mission of exploration chased their new horizons hard; they never let go of their dreams; they put everything they had into it; and eventually they chased it down and accomplished what they set out to do,” our authors write, allowing themselves a moment of the kind of jubilation that runs through all these books. “We did it. We really did. We were there.” 

Diane Keaton Kisses Jimmy Kimmel While Recreating Her Favorite ‘Book Club’ Scene

A dream came true for Jimmy Kimmel in the form of an intense kiss from Diane Keaton.

The 72-year-old actress is busy promoting her new movie, Book Club, and appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live on Wednesday night. Keaton was quick to gush over her co-star and love interest in the film, Andy Garcia, quipping to Kimmel, “I like him better than you.”

After Kimmel praised the 62-year-old actor for being “a very dashing man,” Keaton was eager to discuss her final steamy scene with Garcia in Book Club.

“At the end of the movie, I have this extremely fun moment for me,” she began. “I’m seeing Andy and we’re together and I’m going to kiss him goodbye.” 

Keaton then got a nervous Kimmel out of his seat, but before she could proceed, the 50-year-old host had some questions.

“What’s Andy’s character’s name in the movie? What’s my motivation here?” he quipped. “I need something!”

“Nothing, you’re just the man,” Keaton assured Kimmel as the studio audience laughed. 

After a slow start thanks to Keaton’s hat getting in the way, the movie star planted a huge kiss right on the stunned Kimmel’s lips.

“Oh my goodness. Well, a dream has come true for Jimmy Kimmel here,” he said in awe. “Why can’t I be Andy Garcia?”

The delight didn’t end there, as Keaton had some notes for the host. “Andy’s so great in the movie and he’s so much fun to act with because he’s very loose,” she praised. “Unlike you. You were stiff!”

The love Keaton has for Garcia is clearly mutual. At the Book Club premiere on last week, Garcia sang his co-star’s praises.

“I love Diane Keaton, you know we’re old friends. To me, she was on my bucket list to work with,” he told ET’s Kevin Frazier. “I’ve known her since the Godfather days. We’ve never really worked together, but we got to know each other, hanging out and stuff. She’s one of those sublime actresses that we all want to work with. It was great when I heard this was happening. I threw my hat in the ring right away.”

Check out the hilarity that ensued when ET caught up with Keaton and the rest of the Book Club ladies at CinemaCon:

A ‘Prophetic and Witchy’ Dream Led to Paula McLain’s ‘Love and Ruin’

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Liz Taylor gets a lot of flack for having seven husbands, but Ernest Hemingway was no slouch—he had four wives over the course of his life.

Hardly anyone knows this better than Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife, which follows Hemingway’s first wife Hadley Richardson. Her newest book, Love and Ruin, follows Hemingway’s third wife, Martha Gellhorn, the trailblazing journalist and war correspondent. Gellhorn was as much of a force as Hemingway himself and, as McLain said, refused to be “a footnote in someone else’s life.”

McLain will speak at Brazos Bookstore about Love and Ruin on May 18. We caught up with McLain to talk about what brought her back to Hemingway, spinning fiction out of history, and which of Hemingway’s wives she’d want to get a drink with.

Many readers know you from The Paris Wife, which focused on Hadley Richardson. What made you want to dive back into Hemingway’s world and explore the character of Martha Gellhorn?

I hadn’t thought about Hemingway in years, and I certainly never thought about exploring him as a subject again. But I had this crazy dream where we were fishing on his boat, the Pilar, and there’s a woman on board. And in this weird, eerie moment, a fish leaps up out of the water, and she reaches out, and she puts a piece of bait in the fish’s mouth. In the dream, I think, “Oh my God, what kind of woman hand-feeds a marlin?” And she turns around to face me, and it was Martha Gellhorn, who I recognized from photographs and from my earlier research. It just felt so odd and prophetic and witchy.

The next morning, the dream was still with me, so I googled her and was embarrassed and horrified that I’d only glanced over her life and thought of her as Hemingway’s third wife. I didn’t know about her accomplishments, I just knew that she had a nearly 60-year career as a journalist and covered virtually every major conflict of the 20th century. But she published 14 books, she lived in almost 60 countries. She was a badass. And I didn’t know her. It was just too good, and I immediately recognized her as somebody formidable with a story that deserved to be told.

What did your research process look like for Love and Ruin? Was there anything that you found that surprised you?

Initially I had a lot of resistance, internally. I called up my agent and said, “I had this crazy dream; do you think I could do another Hemingway book? Or would I just be that crazy writer who can only write about Ernest Hemingway?” So a lot of the process was just resistance.

Caroline Moorehead is Martha’s best-known biographer, but she’s also collected her letters. So I thought I’d just take a look and see what her voice is like. And at that point, it was kind of a done deal. She is electrifying on the page. She really just lunges right out of there: Her voice is fierce and it’s funny, it’s raw, and it’s innovative. I just had too much fun reading her letters, and I started to hear her voice in my head. Then I began to read biographies and think about where her story would begin. How much of a part of it is the relationship? In The Paris Wife, the story begins when Hadley meets Ernest at this party in Chicago in 1920, and it obviously ends when they split. But with Martha, what I needed to show was how she became herself. I wrote hundreds and hundreds of pages that didn’t make it into the book as I was exploring the arc of her path and how she found her voice as a writer in a man’s world, especially alongside one of the most virile and celebrated writers who ever lived. So it was just a process of finding her and winnowing down the story.

Love and Ruin is a novel, but you’re working with characters based on real people. Was there any part of the narrative that was particularly difficult for you in terms of balancing reality and fiction?

I think the trickiest part was finding compassion for Hemingway again. The Paris Wife is—I think—a really balanced portraiture of him. You meet him when he’s 20, and he hasn’t published anything yet. He has this wild ambition, and he’s full of self-doubt and insecurity, so it’s easy to find compassion for him. Even when he turns into a dirty rat or betrays Hadley. But this is a much darker and more grown-up love story, and it’s turbulent. He’s troubled and plagued by demons. So that part was tricky.

And I did kind of what I did in The Paris Wife, too, which is project myself into his consciousness by writing some passages from his point of view. That was really emotional for me, too. I knew as I was writing that this really was the last time I was going to take him up as a subject, so it was a final encounter with him, at least imaginatively.

Martha was a woman ahead of her time, and she changed the game when it came to war reporting. Has learning about her and writing about her inspired you in any way?

Oh, definitely. There was so much about her life that I didn’t know. She was such a trailblazer. But it was really her raw, physical courage that I found so inspiring. She flung herself at her first war when she was 28 years old. She had a letter—a fraudulent letter—saying she was a special correspondent for Collier’s magazine. But the way she bluffed her way forward, flung herself into ditches, lived in a hotel that was being shelled constantly, the way she used her wits—like when Hemingway steals her credentials for D-Day, she stows herself away on a hospital barge and locks herself in the john. And she ends up with a front-row seat of the battle history would never forget. And when all of the other journalists, including Hemingway, are sort of off in these battleships looking through binoculars, she goes ashore in a water ambulance as a stretcher bearer, helping recover the wounded. She’s the only woman on Omaha Beach out of 150,000 men. Okay, how could you not be inspired by that woman?

You get to have dinner and drinks with one of Hemingway’s wives. Who are you inviting and why?

(Laughs.) That’s mean! That’s really mean! I’ve essentially impersonated two of his wives and taken them into my heart and soul, and I love them both. But honestly, I think Marty would be more fun. If I was going to have drinks, it would probably be with Marty, for sure. Someplace grand—Monaco or Barcelona.

Paula McLain, May 18 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $28 (includes book). Brazos Bookstore, 2421 Bissonnet Street. More information at

Harry and Meghan are the diplomatic dream team the world needs

The marriage of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle is being marketed as a love story for the ages.

The news media’s around-the-clock wedding coverage is fixated on all the tiny romantic details, like how Meghan Markle wears a necklace with H and M pendants on it, or how Harry proposed over a dinner of homemade roast chicken. It’s almost as if the two of them are like any other millennial couple  scrambling to write their vows and nail their signature cocktail before the big day.

Except they’re not. While there’s no reason to doubt that Markle and Harry are in love, it’s worth noting that their wedding is only partially about romance. Billions of people around the world are expected to tune in to this wedding, so there’s no question that it will be a carefully orchestrated branding exercise for the royal family and, by extension, the United Kingdom.

The stakes are high: Given that Markle and Harry are from opposite sides of the pond, their marriage could be strategically deployed for soft diplomacy between the United States and the United Kingdom.

“The marriage between Harry and Meghan is an American alliance,” says royal historian Anna Whitelock. “It gives a very human face to the relationship between England and America, and creates a common, relatively uncontroversial bond between the two countries.”

The timing couldn’t be better: Things aren’t going so well between the elected leaders of the United Kingdom and the United States right now.

President Donald Trump had been slated to make his first official visit to the U.K. in January this year to open the a new U.S. embassy in London, but he cancelled the trip at the last minute. In a tweet, he explained that he was upset at Barack Obama for selling the existing American embassy for too little and building a replacement for $1 billion. (Trump was misinformed: The embassy’s sale had actually happened under George W. Bush.) Michael Wolff, a journalist who recently published an explosive book about life inside the Trump White House, said that the more likely reason Trump skipped the trip was that he was worried he would not receive “the love he believes he deserves,” from the British people.

If that was Trump’s real explanation, it would have made sense. By many accounts, Trump is not a well-liked figure in the U.K. Last year, Prime Minister Theresa May rebuked Trump for sharing propaganda videos from the far right group Britain First. London mayor Sadiq Khan said that many Londoners oppose Trump’s policies and actions, and would likely protest should he show up in their city.

None of this bears much resemblance to the “special relationship” between the U.K. and the U.S. that Winston Churchill famously described in a 1946 speech. The former Prime Minister described how the two nations were intertwined because of their centuries-long history of military cooperation and trade. Six decades later, it’s harder to see evidence of this intimate relationship at work. This has been particularly true over the last two years as both countries have moved toward isolationism, which became clear with last year’s Brexit vote and President Donald Trump’s America First agenda.

Enter Markle and Harry. For the past two years, the world has been watching their relationship play out. Markle has made frequent trips to Harry’s cozy Nottingham Cottage home in Kensington Palace, while Harry has flitted around the world from Jamaica to Toronto to Botswana to be with her. Their courtship has had an international flair, and there’s good reason to think that the couple will continue to travel frequently–particularly since Markle’s friends and family are based largely in North America.

The British government and royal family are likely to strategically use Markle and Harry’s marriage to send a message to the world. Their relationship could be a way to suggest that the two countries are more open and globally minded than they seem right now.

Allow me to put it in the language of our times: Markle and Harry will be deployed as “brand influencers” on behalf of the United Kingdom. Their goals will include generating positive feelings among the British population toward their own country, and representing British values throughout the world. The pageantry around the royal wedding, the British people coming out to greet an American bride, and Prince Harry suddenly being related to American–could go a long way toward reigniting Churchill’s vision of the “special relationship” between the two nations.

The British royal family has taken decades to figure out how to best manage its image in the media. Things have changed a lot over the course of William and Harry’s own lifetime. When their mother, Princess Diana, died in a tragic car accident, the royal family didn’t immediately offer a public statement. To a British population grieving the loss of “the people’s princess,” this seemed like a cold, unfeeling response. “The media is a hungry beast that constantly needs feeding,” says Whitelock. “In a 24/7 media age, the royal family has got to be responsive. They realized to their detriment when Diana died.”

The monarchy has gotten much better at understanding how the media cycle works and how to use it to their own advantage. Royal weddings, for instance, have been an important way to focus the world’s attention on the most positive and uplifting aspects of the royal family. Prince William and Kate Middleton, for instance, have been tasked with making the monarchy seem more fun and relatable by doing down-to-earth things like, say, poking fun at each other during media events.

“Although royal marriages aren’t needed to consolidate political and diplomatic power, they consolidate the power of the brand,” Whitelock says. “The royal wedding is a perfect opportunity for the monarchy to get a massive platform to tell a visual story which can enhance their brand around the world.”

Markle is, in fact, perfectly poised to do the work of managing her new family’s image in the media. She has spent her entire career doing this, first as an up- and-coming actress, then as a fully fledged celebrity with a popular blog and Instagram account. Unlike Harry’s ex-girlfriends, who didn’t seem to want to face the nonstop paparazzi and scrutiny, Markle seems to be both willing and able to manage this attention. This is another reason why it is a relationship that the royal family can use to their advantage to strengthen the power they have over the media.

Whitelock points out that the concept of a love marriage within the British royal family is a very modern one. For much of history, royal weddings were anything but romantic. They were theatrical events that showcased the power of the crown. Often, they also forged alliances between foreign powers. Take Edward  II, who was married in 1307 to a 12-year-old French princess called Isabella–or Henry VIII who married Catherine of Aragon in 1509 at the age of 17 to solidify England’s bond with Spain. As recently as 1840, Queen Victoria married her first cousin, Albert, because his family was connected to many European monarchs: Their children went on to marry into other royal dynasties, earning her the title, “Grandmother of Europe.”

There’s no doubt that Harry’s marriage will be different from those of his forebears. He and Markle reportedly met and fell in love in a thoroughly modern way: over drinks, on a blind date. But the monarchy still serves as an important figurehead of the state, even though its formal powers have waned over the last century.

Markle and Harry have the opportunity to tell an even wider-reaching story  about the U.K.’s place in the world. Markle is older, biracial, and divorced–qualities that would certainly have been problematic in the past. Today the royal family appears to be using Markle to express how open and welcoming they are.

“The Brits will see this as a signal that the royals and the British monarchy are inclusive and represent a more diverse society,” Whitelock says. “As politics become so divisive, the relatively apolitical figures of the royals are a strong brand for Britain. They have quite a lot of power to generate tourism and positive news stories.”

Speaking of tourism, all of this wedding brouhaha should come in handy in July when President Trump plans to finally visit London. During his trip, Trump is scheduled to meet the queen and sit down for bilateral talks with May. While Downing Street has invited Trump for a full state visit, during which he would be honored with an official banquet at Buckingham Palace or a carriage procession up the mall, Trump has declined, choosing to downgrade the visit to a one-day “work trip.”

Trump turning down pomp and circumstance in his honor? Clearly, relations are still frosty between Trump and May. But perhaps they will warm up when Trump tunes in to watch the nuptials this weekend and sees the affection between Harry and Meghan. It might be a stretch, but then again, it seems like almost everybody loves a royal wedding.

The Favorite Sister author Jessica Knoll on her New York Times essay, fame, more

Jessica Knoll knows how to sell a book. She knows how to write a book, too, as her legions of fans will reiterate. They’ll tell you that Luckiest Girl Alive shook them to their core. They’ll tell you it was the ultimate page-turner, that it was dark and deliciously twisted. They’ll tell you that the big reveal made for one of their favorite crimes.

But really, she knows how to sell a book.

Luckiest Girl Alive sold more than 450,000 copies. It spent four months on the New York Times‘ best-seller list. It printed in dozens and dozens of countries. Reese Witherspoon bought the movie rights. It was the most successful debut of 2015.

And unlike what may be the norm in the publishing industry — and, well, the world — she’s not afraid to tell you about that success. At the end of April, Knoll wrote an op-ed in The New York Times that went viral, thanks in part to its eye-catching headline, “I Want to Be Rich and I’m Not Sorry.” In it, she wrote about her childhood dream to become both successful and financially independent (one conjurs the image of a tiny Jessica Knoll dressing up in pantsuits, holding pretend meetings, instead of the stereotypical fake-wedding-dress scenario), of her current-day desire for gasp-worthy advances and royalty checks that settle the nervous mind, of how she admires her fictional characters for their drive for money and power in a way normally reserved for men.

Richard Perry/The New York Times/Redux

The article drew the author even more fans, both of the anonymous Internet variety and the famous actress variety. Amy Schumer and Lena Dunham shouted her praise. Reese Witherspoon chimed in with, “It’s okay to be an ambitious woman. It’s actually more than okay…it’s goals.”

The public’s hunger for female bravado is something that surprised even Knoll herself.

“I never thought it would strike a nerve the way it did,” Knoll tells EW. “I was really galvanized by the response and just so surprised by the number of women who are saying they feel the same way.

“It’s crazy because you go around thinking things like this but you never really vocalize them,” she continues. “You think there’s something wrong with you because no one talks about it, and then as soon as you put it out there you just realize how many millions of people share your dreams and aspirations. There’s something really comforting in that.”

All of this buzz isn’t happening in a vacuum, of course — Knoll is far too adept for that. The author is on the precipice of her highly-anticipated sophomore novel, The Favorite Sister, which she hopes will have the same commercial and anecdotal success as her debut novel. The tome follows on the suspenseful lead of Luckiest Girl Alive — it opens on the scene of a tell-all interview, in which the star of an all-female reality show (Goal Diggers) is addressing the scandalous death of her sister and fellow costar. It then jumps back in time to weave the tales of several (fictional) reality stars together before we finally arrive at the highly-unexpected twist ending.

The Favorite Sister, which hits bookstores on May 15, also comes at a time when female creators the world over are taking charge of their own destinies. This wave has been slow to hit the publishing industry, a place where male creative egos have long dominated the conversation, far more than they have the actual bookshelves. For decades, the most famous novelists have been men, and the authors who were given permission to boast about their contributions were men. Knoll has noticed. She’s noticed how male authors don’t hesitate to talk about their record-breaking sales, how every novel they write is The Next Great Novel.

“In some ways, I wasn’t even angry at them for being like that,” she muses. “I was angry at myself that I couldn’t be more like that.”

Knoll has also noticed that her books, written by a woman and about women, are considered only women’s books; whereas books by men and about men are considered…just books.

“It’s a legitimate question, why books by men swing both ways whereas if it’s a book about a woman’s life it’s going to be marketed almost entirely to women,” says Knoll. “Part of me is like, well the way we did it worked, and women are the consumer. More women read than men and more women go to movies than men. I still think that there is this really archaic notion that women’s everyday lives aren’t interesting to anyone but other women and it’s just not true.”

This perspective — and the sheer number of people hanging on her every word — puts Knoll in a unique position to shift the power dynamics in the industry. The way she came into her success is not only unique but presents fascinating guidance for the next crop of authors. She knew she wanted to be a writer at a very young age (as she puts it, “I wanted to have my name attached to a major work in some way”), but instead of writing a book straight out of college she set off to pay her dues.

She did stints at magazines, including serving as the books editor at Cosmopolitan. She had bylines, she had established a clear writing voice, she had contacts in publishing and people who were willing to support her novel — all of which she says gave her a distinct advantage and went a long way in nabbing her the book deal. Her time at Cosmo also inspired her to take the success of Luckiest Girl Alive.

“I saw the sheer number of books that landed on my desk every single day and they just kind of disappeared,” she says. “It is so much work to write a book and I can’t think of anything more heartbreaking than putting that amount of effort and labor into a project, just to have it come out and not catch fire.”

She explains that her drive to get the book in front of as many people as possible was motivated partly out of fear. She sent Luckiest Girl Alive to every influential person she knew and credits the buzz created by social media for moving the needle in terms of book sales — she realized that people were using Instagram to talk about books and, more importantly, to find and buy books. All of that perseverance led to her New York Times tenure, to the adaptation, to her fame. Or, at least, what some people would call fame.

“I’m not famous and I would never call myself famous,” she cautions. “But I’m definitely more exposed than I was several years ago, and it’s an adjustment.”

An adjustment that, thanks to Knoll’s fearlessness, many more female authors will be making in the future.

Jennifer Fulwiler’s ‘One Beautiful Dream’ Interview

Jennifer Fulwiler

Jennifer Fulwiler on becoming what you are

‘Jen is a constant reminder to me that God has dreams for all of us that go so far beyond what we can imagine and most certainly take our lives in a direction that we never planned, but following him would be never boring,” is how a fellow admiring mom describes Jennifer Fulwiler in the foreward to Fulwiler’s new book One Beautiful Dream: The Rollicking Tale of Family Chaos, Personal Passions, and Saying Yes to Them Both. “She’s a picture of what God can do with a woman who will say yes even when it looks messy, even when it looks hard, and even when it’s so different from the picture you had in your head.”

The radio talk-show host (who you will enjoy following on Twitter) talks about life, motherhood, faith, and the book.

Kathryn Jean Lopez: Is there just one “beautiful dream”?

Jennifer Fulwiler: Absolutely not. In fact, that’s why I wrote a memoir instead of a how-to book. I can’t tell you what your “one beautiful dream” is; but I hope that by sharing mine you might be inspired.

: How do you know what to say yes to? Especially when we’re talking yes to God on big things and small.

Fulwiler: One key to discerning these things is to make these decisions with your family (or whoever your main support system is) — to value your personal passions, but to see them as just one part of something bigger that you and your family will create together. The other key is to make these decisions without fear, shame, or comparison. Too often we put limits on ourselves that really don’t need to be there. It’s important to ask these big questions with full permission to follow whatever path is right for you.

: To what extent is your book about motherhood in America circa 2018?

Fulwiler: That’s the key thing it explores. Motherhood today is so different from what it was even 15 years ago, let alone 50 years ago. When we ask questions about balance and “having it all,” too often we’re stuck in old paradigms that were more applicable in the 1980s than they are today. With the proliferation of opportunities for creativity and work that the Internet age has brought, it’s time to have a fresh discussion about motherhood and fulfillment.

: What do you hear most often from other mothers? Does our politics and culture ever seem to “get” what you’re hearing — and living?

Fulwiler: I’m hearing from so many women that they struggle with guilt and shame. They want to follow their own dreams, but they feel guilty doing so. They think they have to follow a million rules in order to be perfect parents. They love their families, but often don’t look forward to getting out of bed the next day. I don’t think there is currently a conversation in our culture that really addresses what the average mother is lying awake at night stressing out about.

: Why is humor so important to you as a writer and a mother?

Fulwiler: Humor breaks down barriers. It reminds you not to take yourself too seriously, and therefore fosters connection with others.

: You previously wrote a book on your journey from atheism to Catholicism. What kind of feedback strikes you the most from that book? Anything that would be helpful to the atheist who might be wondering if there is more to consider or for Christians who might want to do a better job not just being evangelists but friends?

Fulwiler: Honestly, I’m surprised by how many people enjoyed Something Other than God. My journey from atheism to faith was a very intellectual one. Basically, I read a lot of books and thought about a lot of deep questions. As I was writing it, I kept thinking, “Does anyone want to read a book that’s basically about a woman reading books in her house and thinking about them?” But so many people have said that they can connect with someone who has more of a cerebral, skeptical approach to faith.

In terms of being evangelists, I think it all comes down to one word: love. Love your life, love God, and love others, and you will be an effective evangelist.

: How does a self-described introvert actually handle having a radio show, manage a household, and do a book tour?

Fulwiler: I have lots and lots of help. One of the biggest lessons I share in One Beautiful Dream is that we’re not meant to do this alone — “this” meaning almost anything in life, whether it’s raising kids or pursuing a goal. My husband and I spent years working on building a great support system for our family, and it is what makes all of this possible.

: Going from “careerist atheist who never wanted a family” to “having six babies in eight years” is a pretty significant part of your story. Is there something about big families that you’d suggest people consider? Or, at least, openness to life? Some people worry pro-lifers want everyone to have six babies in eight years and that’s both terrifying and not financially — or medically — possible in some people’s cases. What is it about your dreams and realities and God’s will that you hope to convey with this book?

Fulwiler: I definitely don’t think that there is one right family size. I’m an only child married to another only child, so I’ve seen wonderful families of all sizes. The message I hope people take away from this book is that it’s good to be “open to life” — and by that I mean being flexible and welcoming of others. For us, that’s our children and various friends and neighbors. For someone else, being open to life might look completely different. The important thing is not to let pride or fear or perfectionism block you from forming intimate connections with others.

: What’s your favorite part of Mother’s Day?

Fulwiler: Both of our mothers do so much for our family, and it is wonderful to have a chance to thank them in a tangible way.

: What do you say to women who are not mothers — or have lost children to miscarriage or abortion or death — and find themselves hurting on Mother’s Day?

Fulwiler: I will pray for you. I’m afraid that any attempts at words of wisdom would sound platitudinous, so I would simply say that I do regularly pray for women in these situations, as well as for all people who have a desire that has not been fulfilled in their lives.

: What’s the hardest part of speaking about some of the most intimate realities of life?

Fulwiler: These are hot-button topics, and people can sometimes get very angry when discussing them. The criticism often gets personal, and that’s never fun.

: What is it that you have come to most appreciate about women and the Catholic Church once you became Catholic?

Fulwiler: Being Catholic led me to experience an inner freedom as a woman that I never had before. I used to have all sorts of insecurities and struggles that related to my role in the world, particularly as a woman, and reading the rich Catholic thinking on the dignity of women brought me tremendous healing in that department.

: What’s your key advice to moms who feel overwhelmed right now?

Fulwiler: Carve out time for a conversation with your spouse, and get really honest about what you need. And don’t feel guilty about it! You’re not selfish for wanting some time for yourself to pursue your own dreams or just binge watch a dumb show. Your desire to recharge your own batteries is actually a sign of your commitment to your family — and when you take that time you need to fill yourself up, you’ll find that you have even more love and energy to give back to those you love.

: Are you surprised by any of the feedback this book seems to be prompting?

Fulwiler: I’ve been surprised by what a great response I’ve gotten from single women. So many of them are telling me that they feared setting their passions aside if they end up getting married. It’s encouraging to see this message of dreaming big and dreaming fearlessly resonating with folks whose stories are different from mine.