Have you ever had a dream that you wanted so badly that you worked tirelessly to make it happen? Has it ever not worked out the way you hoped? What did you do then?
This episode’s guest, Carrie Severson, has one of those dreams. You’ll be inspired to learn what she’s doing because her dream has not happened as planned.
Four years. 80 rejections. How would you handle that?
As a journalist and author, rejection comes with the territory, but 80? How do you not lose your motivation to make your dream come true?
Carrie shares her story and what keeps her dream alive—she just has to allow it to happen differently. I encourage you to watch as she unveils her story, the emotional roller coaster ride and the gems she has learned from the journey.
This is another inspiring conversation in our series with women learning what it means to thrive. Don’t miss it. I invite you to watch our video conversation on RHGTV Network—the Empowered Connections Channel…
or read the transcript of our conversation below:
from Upside Down to Right Side Up: Tips for the Transition
Carrie Severson: Dare to Dream a New Dream
Part 1: Carrie’s Story
~María: Hello and welcome to from Upside Down to Right Side Up: Tips for the Transition. I’m María Tomás-Keegan, your host. This is my continuing interview series with brilliant, resilient, women who have stories of transformation to tell, and to inspire us. And they are courageous enough to come here and tell it to us now.
Today, I am thrilled to introduce you to my next guest: Carrie Severson. Her story is about a big dream. One she’s held and nurtured and pursued for a long time. And through that journey, she just couldn’t get the right doors to open for her. We call this episode: Dare to Dream a New Dream. Hello Carrie.
~M: I’m so excited to have you here, to share your story with us, because so many of us have dreams that seem to shatter and we don’t know what to do with ourselves when that happens. So, would you share your story with us?
~C: Yes, absolutely. So I’ve always been in the publishing business. I started writing for magazines when I was 19 in college at Arizona State, and I came out of college really wanting to make an impact in female stories.
I took an anthology class in college. And we focused on female literature from the early 19th century to modern-day. And I fell in love with so many stories, and the storytellers. And it was at that point … I was 19, I realized I wanted to not only just be inundated with this business, I wanted to one day be one of those authors that impacts other women 20 years later.
So I got involved in journalism. Started writing for magazines, newspapers, and figured out a way to make a business sharing stories. For those of you who do know, I started a non-profit in 2011. It caught on fire. We had, a non-profit after school program for girls, that was sold to other non-profits and we trained facilitators around the country.
I couldn’t have the tools at that time, to manage the expansiveness that took place in my life snd in the business at that point, so I hit burn out pretty hard.
And to heal, I went back to my roots of storytelling, so I started writing for the Huffington Post and sharing entrepreneurship experience. And I went back to that dream of being involved in the book business. That I wanna write something that inspires women who are in their teens. So I spent the last four years writing a book called “The Unapologetic Voice.” I changed my brand. I launched a podcast. I started a Facebook group. And really, it’s the story of finding success and self-love on our own terms.
So I started pitching literary agents in 2015, and was turned-down consistently. I was told things like: “You have to have a bigger platform. You have to have more followers.” So I spend a year doing that and went back and pitched more agents. And then it was, “You’re in a very saturated industry. You wanna write something in the self-health category, in the spiritual category, which unless you were coming in with 100,000 followers, no one’s gonna take a risk on you.”
So I recently within the last six months, decided if no one is gonna take a risk on me, I’m gonna take a risk on me. I want to be that person that actually brings in projects and acts as the publisher in the agent for other women.
So that’s what I’m doing. I’m launching my own publishing brand. And it really came because I couldn’t find the right person to take a risk on my dream, of having a book published in the traditional sense. And after a self-reflection, I was like, alright, here we go. I’m gonna do this.
~M: That’s just amazing, and so inspiring, Carrie, that you were able to take all of that rejection.
~M: And we’re gonna get into the meat of those emotions that you went through in our next segment. But I’m just so inspired that you were rejected so many times, and when you heard the reason you went and did something about that to kind of correct that for yourself. And then you’ve got more reasons why they wouldn’t take the risk on you. And I love that you stepped up to it, and said, “Well, if nobody else out there is gonna do it, I’m gonna dare to dream a new dream.” And are deciding to do it for yourself. I’m very inspired by that.
~C: Thank you.
~M: I believe that, you know, I’m sorry?
~C: Me too, as you are saying, that feels really good.
~M: I can tell by the smile on your face that it feels good.
~M: I believe that dreams and our visions for a brighter future are what helps us to put one foot in front of the other each and every day. But the feelings that you must have gone through, Carrie, when you dealt with that rejection. And I know when we’ve talked in the past we also talked about abandonment.
~M: I would love for you to take a deeper dive into those emotions that part of your journey, so that we can understand how we can move through them with more ease and grace. Would you do that in the next segment with us?
~M: Perfect, thank you. So, everyone stay tuned for our next segment with Carrie.
Part 2: Rejected Again!
~M: It’s my pleasure to share inspiring stories like Carrie’s. These are stories of figuring out how to move through life’s inevitable trials and tribulations. And come out on top in triumph.
They help us to know that we’re not alone, when our own world turns upside down. So, in our first segment, Carrie told us about her long-time dream of having her book published by a traditional publisher. And how none of those doors opened for her. That journey, I’m sure was wrought with emotion. And we’re gonna dig into those now. Hi Carrie!
~M: Thanks so much sharing your story, really appreciate it. So let’s get into those emotions and dig a little deep. What came up for you and how did you get through them?
~C: Well, so being in the journalism industry for so long, I’ve been aware of conferences happening, and I remember being timid at first (going and trying to pitch myself to agents at big mass of conferences). And so right away, this industry is sort of a little icy Because of that very act of having to present something to somebody.
So even before you begin, there’s this uphill surge of energy that’s required of putting all your stuff away and trusting yourself. And more than anything else, to put yourself out there. And so, I can even hear it in my voice now, the baseline emotion of this whole thing. Overcoming your own fear, getting in your own way, believing in yourself more than anybody else. Just in the very act of pitching, putting yourself out there receiving the rejection. And I’m talking like 80 — I’ve received 80 at this point — from agents. It’s feeling like you have to accept it, process it, put it aside and pitch yourself right again before the negative sort of feeling hits your mindset.
This whole thing is just one big onion, right? Different flavors of emotions consistently coming out. So the writing process in itself is an emotional journey. Constant healing is happening. The pitching process is its own onion, its emotional flavor roller coaster, and you never really know what you’re gonna get on the day you do this.
So … rejection. The concept of abandonment is like being so highly intuitive knowing I’m supposed to do this… There’s always the conversation with myself or with God, “If you want me to do this, why aren’t you opening? Or let me do this?” And so there’s always that sort of emotion that you have to pull back and unravel.
And then finally getting to the endpoint, where I’m like, “if no one else is gonna do this, accept this.” And I got far on conversations with agents, and that in itself is like all this excitement and then this huge letdown. And having to do it all again and it really feels like a roller coaster, it really does.
I finally get to the end, though, here in October of 2018, walking away from — I actually had a deal presented but it was a bad run. I didn’t wanna be associated with the founder, because his energy and arrogance … I’ve spent so long doing this and don’t to put my project in his hands, the bottom sort of fell out.
And rather than giving up the dream altogether, I decided to start with researching: What do you need to be literary agent? What do you need to have to be a publisher?
And you just need to have courage, you need to have confidence, you need to have trust and faith in yourself. And I’d like to think that this whole journey I’ve been on… those are the flavors of emotions that have had to pull out and present more than anything else. Does that make sense?
~M: Oh it makes such perfect sense. A word comes to my mind, Carrie, when I hear you telling that story of 80 rejections. I can’t imagine it myself, but the word that comes to me is “resilience.” So you as a journalist, as a writer, as a one who has pitched her work for years, you gotta develop a bit of a thick skin, right?
~M: So that resilience, it has to come from somewhere deep inside for you. And that’s one of the things I love about this story. That you’ve learned how to take all that rejection and that feeling of abandonment. Like nobody wants what you’ve written and yet you know that this is what you’re supposed to do. And “Come on God how come you have it made this a little easier for me,” right?
~C: Right. It is fascinating too because… I think the hardest part about this whole thing was getting far in conversations with the agents. And then literally saying, “It’s too much of a risk,” Because of the powerhouses that are in the spiritual self-help category, dominate the category.
And so many people like me, who have a strong following, who have a strong business, who have a really strong proposal in a phenomenal project, we can’t get ahead because that market and that sector of the market place is all set right there.
So when do you talk about like “Alright God, I’m not gonna here, no doors opening”. I’m intuitively hearing this idea of, you’re just not looking in the right place.
~C: The door is open. I’ve just been, I still focused on the traditional that I was like, “Oh I guess this is just my next chapter. He wants me to watch my own thing. And help women who are in my position, who can’t get picked up and take them with me. So the whole thing is that one gigantic roller coaster, really.
~M: I am so certain of that. I love what you’re doing because what you’re sharing with us is that we can dare to dream a new dream. Even when — and I go through this with my clients a lot — when they’re going through major life changes from their norm. Their dreams are shattered and they think there’s no other choice, that there’s no other option. And we focus on that closed door so much that we don’t like you just said — we don’t even see but there’s a window over here.
~C: Yep, a different color.
~M: A different colored door, it’s a window, it’s some other opening and it doesn’t look like anything we imagined before. So I love that you are pursuing something new, and I love what you said. I’m gonna take all those other women who are having the same problem. I am taking them with me.
Congratulations for doing that, Carrie. I’m so inspired by you, I really am. And I know that although the journey that many in our audience are going through may not be the same as yours. They may not be writers, they may not be pitching, and they may not have had that kind of rejection, but I know that they felt those emotions. So they will resonate with that, I am sure. The other thing I’m certain of is that this journey has taught you a lot of lessons and there’s a lot of wisdom for you to share, so I would love for you to do that with us in our next segment, would you?
~C: I will.
~M: Great, so please join us everyone in our next segment with Carrie Severson: Dare to Dream a New Dream.
Part 3: Give Yourself Permission
~M: Today, we’re gonna learn the lessons that she learned along her journey. Carrie is an author. She’s a speaker, and a storyteller, trainer. She teaches her clients to uncover their own heartfelt stories. They learn how to express their stories in a way that allows them to feel seen, understood, and heard. I’m María Tomás-Keegan, and this is part of my continuing series of conversations with brilliant, resilient women like Carrie, who have inspiring stories to tell and who are role models for the rest of us when it comes to learning to thrive. Hi, Carrie! Thanks so much for telling your story.
~C: Oh, thank you for giving you the opportunity.
~M: And we also talked about the emotional ride it took you on. And I feel like you have given us permission to look at our own closed doors in a new way, and I expect you’ve garnered a lot of wisdom on this journey of yours, and I would love it if you would share some of those lessons you’ve learned.
~C: Sure. Well the first thing is as an entrepreneur, we have to believe in our foundation, our business more than anybody else. When I got to the point where I had my 80th no. And I spent years building my platform, gaining followers, trying out different agencies. And finally got to the point where I was like, “This isn’t working.” My very first lesson was really “Do I still believe this project is meant to be out in the masses?”
And the answer was yes. I know it in myself. I was put here to share this story. I was put here to share a lot of stories. This is just one. And so, I held the vision, despite the fact that rejection, after rejection, after ejection would happen. I held the vision of my end result, but I realized I was holding it like this. That I was so certain I was gonna get picked up by an agent this was gonna go out into the traditional channel. So excited to hold the vision with an open hand
The end result is still the same. I’m 100% clear. This story is going to make an impact. I just needed to let go of “how” that was gonna happen. And that’s a lesson that I learned over and over again. And you would think that has to be one like, my hardcore lesson that clearly I wasn’t getting, but this is one of those ways I was gonna learn it. I can’t control how it’s gonna happen, I can just hold the vision of the end result. So that’s a big lesson.
~M: Yeah, it is a big lesson. I love how you said that. That you were holding it like this, it was like you were so certain it was gonna happen this way, right?
~M: But when we let go of the how and we just take inspired action to keep moving our vision forward, then magic can happen, can’t it?
~C: Yeah, it happens all the time for me. And that concept of inspired action, something I talked to my clients about everyday too. Storytelling doesn’t happen usually by someone coming to you and saying “Share my story.” You and I have known each other for a long time. You have to get out there. You have to share your story. You have to make a move and starting action. It’s just one of those things that if you want your story to be told, you have to take inspired action. So yeah, magic. It’s something that I learn all the time.
~M: Yeah that’s so cool, I really love how you said that. So alright, so give us another lesson, what else?
~C: So as recovering burnout or recovered burnout, I flip flop between the two. Sometimes I’m fully recovered. I feel great. Sometimes I’m still in the process of recovering. In that space alone, I’ve learned that to manifest my biggest desires, I have to lean back. I have to take a space. I have to find a way to let the universe send me what it is I’m working at. So I’m constantly in this line-up inspired action, leaning back, inspired action, leaning back.
And when I go again the end of the road, were I was like, “This isn’t working, pitching traditional isn’t working.” I spent years building my platform, I spent years working on this book, I rewrote it three times in the course of four years, and this isn’t working.
I gave myself the space to put the project down, while still holding the vision of it being there. I had to lean back. And again that’s a lesson I learned all the time. As entrepreneurs, we’re constantly in that network. Go, go, go.
I find that I’m best if I’m in slow. For me allows my mind to settle, allows my breath to expand, where light comes in to shine on the pieces that I didn’t see before. And that helps me all the time, and that is one of the biggest lessons I find in the strict.
~M: Creating space for yourself to just breathe. I love that… that’s so important. I talk about that too a lot. When we’re so close to it, we are sometimes paralyzed by whatever it is that just happened. And we need some time, and we need some space so that we can gain a new perspective.
~M: And I love the way you put it, to just let the light shine ’cause it does feel like a dark place, sometimes, when we are in the throws of major change in our lives or disappointment when things have not worked out for us the way we expected them to.
So creating that space and allowing ourselves to breathe and let some new light shine, and maybe from a new window that’s opening up that we hadn’t noticed before.
~M: That’s great, I love that. Okay, do you have another one?
~C: I do just one more. When I finally give myself that space, it gives me permission to do that very thing: dream a new dream, get creative.
So, I asking myself and God, “This clearly didn’t work. Show me how else is it this project land in the hands of people it’s supposed to?” And whenever I do that, lean back in my self-space, breath and ask permission to find a new angle. I get creative and I come up with really cool things, really cool concepts like a publishing house.
So, in the very idea of allowing yourself to dream something new, given your self-permission to get creative to find a new answer, play always helps me. Creativity helps me what I feel uninspired, nothing works. So, getting creative, asking permission, giving yourself permission, ask for new perspective or ask for a new avenue. It always helps me.
~M: That’s so insightful, the word “courageous” comes up for me when I hear you explain that. As well as allowing yourself. So these all go together, right? Giving yourself that space.
~M: And the permission to lean back, to breathe into it, and let the light shine in, and to be courageous enough to allow your creativity to bubble up again.
~C: Yeah, it happened. It works every time I do it, and I’m consistently forgetting to do it. But this last one was a big one. Coming up with the concept of launching a publishing house. I went to thought about that four years ago.
~M: I’m thrilled for you. I’m so excited for you. I can’t wait to see what happens. And now I understand what you mean: we forget. We go through many changes, in our lives and each time something turns us upside down. We forget we have tools in our treasure chest that we have learned from previous experiences that can help us in this one. And that I think, another lesson, is just to look back at what you’ve done before that has worked, and pull that tool out of your treasure chest and apply it here. So that you can go through this change, adapt to this change with a bit more ease and grace.
~C: That’s perfect, beautifully said.
~M: Thank you so much, Carrie, for sharing that wisdom. I really appreciate you so much and you sharing your story with us. This has been a thrill for me to have you on.
~C: Thank you so much for the opportunity.
~M: And thank you all for watching our episode with Carrie Severson. This series of interviews is inspired by my latest book Upside Down to Right Side Up: Turning Transition into Triumph. My book, my writing, its companion journal and these conversations are intended to share stories from the heart, and life strategies that help can others. So I invite you to share them with women in your life so none of us will ever again feel alone.
~M: Many of us have gone through similar experiences, and we’re here to help. Thank you so much Carrie.
~C: Thank you again.
~M: Thank you, everyone, for joining us and I’m sure that this is gonna be an episode that resonates with many. I’m María Tomás-Keegan till next time.