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Irena Smith, Donna Stoneham, and Christy Warren

How to Get Out of Our Own Way and Make an Impact as Writers

January 18, 2024
4 PM PST | 5 PM MST | 6 PM CST | 7 PM EST


Christy Warren spent twenty-five years saving lives as a firefighter/paramedic until she had one last life to save: her own. To heal from trauma and inspire others to be open about their own challenges, Christy shares her brutally honest story of battling and recovering from PTSD.

Through poetry, letters, and posthumous conversations with her mother, Donna Stoneham’s poetic memoir captures her four-year journey of grief and forgiveness as she heals a challenging relationship with her mother and realizes our greatest teachers often come in the form we least expect.

After 15 years of working as a private college counselor to tightly wound and accomplished high school students while struggling to raise three neurodivergent children, Irena Smith tackles answering college application essay prompts to bridge the chasm between her personal and professional life.

These three memoirists took on difficult topics using unique approaches. Together, they will address how they learned to get out of their own way as writers, risked being authentic and vulnerable, and discovered the impact of sharing a deeply personal story.

During this discussion, they will address:

  • Finding the right form for your story
  • Striking a balance between honoring the stories that need to be told with the demands of   publicity and marketing
  • Discovering the importance of finding the right support
  • Maintaining a generous spirit as a writer
  • Identifying your area of expertise and sharing it with others

Author Bios:

Irena Smith is a college admissions counselor, former Stanford admissions officer, writer, and mother of three extraordinary children. She emigrated from the former Soviet Union with her parents when she was nine years old, and in spite of her fierce insistence that she would never, not ever, learn English, she went on to earn a PhD in Comparative Literature and taught literature and composition at UCLA and Stanford before transitioning to college admissions and writing. Her recently published memoir, The Golden Ticket: A Life in College Admissions Essays, explores the duality between the ambitions of the tightly wound students she counsels and her efforts to help her own children as they struggle with developmental delays, depression, and anxiety. The Golden Ticket is the creative nonfiction winner of the 2023 Best Book Awards and was described by Forbes as “captivating and smart… a potential antidote to the fevered belief that being admitted to an elite college will spell the difference between a successful life vs. a doomed future.”
Substack: https://irenasmith.substack.com?utm_source=navbar&utm_medium=web

Donna Stoneham, PhD, is an executive coach, transformational leadership expert, former hospice chaplain, and life-long poet. Donna is the recipient of the 2023 Best Book Award and Mom’s Choice Award for her latest book, Catch Me When I Fall: Poems of Mother Loss and Healing (She Writes Press, 2023) which chronicles her grief journey following the loss of her mother.  Her prior book, The Thriver’s Edge: Seven Keys to Transform the Way You Live, Love, and Lead (She Writes Press, 2015) was an Amazon top 100 best-seller, and she’s a featured poet in the anthology Art in the Time of Unbearable Crisis:  Women Writers Respond to the Call (She Writes Press, 2022). A popular speaker and media guest, Donna’s work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Women’s Day, The Huffington Post, TD Magazine, Woman’s World, First for Women Magazine, Chispa Magazine, Conscious Lifestyle Magazine, and Investor’s Business Daily. She was born and raised in the Texas Panhandle and for the past three decades has lived in Northern California with her wife and rescue pup in Point Richmond, CA. When she’s not writing, coaching, or traveling, she loves to hike, ski, sail, kayak and commune with spirit and nature. To learn more about Donna and her work, please visit: www.donnastoneham.com and www.positiveimpactllc.com.

Christy Warren is a retired fire captain from the Berkeley Fire Department in California. She has twenty-five years of service as a professional paramedic and eighteen years as a professional firefighter/paramedic. After being diagnosed with PTSD in 2014, she retired from the fire service; since then, she has become a triathlete, completed the Escape from Alcatraz swim six times, and earned a bachelor’s degree in business from Washington State University. She is a volunteer Peer at the West Coast Post-trauma Retreat and hosts the podcast, The Firefighter Deconstructed. She lives in Pleasant Hill with her wife, Lisa, and dog, Harriet.

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