A Light in the Darkness by Lisa A. Sniderman Genre: Inspirational Memoir
What can we do when we struggle with an illness that doesn't go away?
An inspirational story of the healing power of music, creativity, following your dreams and finding your true purpose.
In 2008, singer-songwriter Lisa Sniderman was living the dream in California. As Aoede, the Muse of Song, her star as a gifted recording artist was rising fast. Lisa’s quirky folk-pop performance style electrified audiences up and down the West Coast, and the albums just kept flowing. But just when her career was rocketing skyward, a health crisis brought all of her dreams crashing to the ground. Diagnosed with a rare, debilitating immune disorder called dermatomyositis (DM), Lisa struggled to maintain a normal life with a body in revolt and, eventually, to accept a new normal. Living with a chronic illness challenged Lisa to see DM as a gift in disguise that has opened the door to new dreams, new songs, and new opportunities. Lisa’s story is for you if you seek strength, new inspiration, hope, joy, healing, and if you or someone you love struggle with a chronic illness, disability, or unexpected life events. Her insights and reflections on her journey inspire hope and the courage to keep dreaming and living to the fullest no matter what life hurls at you.
"Of all the ways I put myself out there, sharing my personal struggles is perhaps the most daunting. At times, especially because I’m almost always home, I feel like I’m hiding from the world, playing it safe indoors. Maybe that’s why I create light characters, focus on fantasy, and want to connect with my inner child. As I’ve taken on Aoede the Muse’s identity, inspiring others, I’m disinclined to share the scary, icky, fearful, sad, negative feelings—the secret spaces where I’ve stuffed my skeletons. I tell myself I have to put on a smile and be upbeat, not show weakness or have self-doubt. It’s much easier to tell the world that all is beautiful than to admit that living with a chronic illness is harder than anything I’ve ever faced; that some days it’s exhausting to get out of bed, despite my positive attitude and optimism; that I get tired of thinking and talking about being sick, and just plain being sick; that the endless therapies, drug cocktails, and unwanted side effects keep me on a roller coaster; that I resent having precious moments of my life replaced with 156 doctors’ appointments; that I wish I had more stamina for being in the world; that I wonder where David’s and my relationship would be had I never gotten
sick--if he didn’t have to do all the shopping, cleaning, cooking, and driving, and we had an equal partnership instead of a caretaker-patient relationship. This is the stuff I used to keep to myself, choosing instead to share the positive accomplishments, the milestones, and the fulfillment of dreams I’ve decided others want to hear about.”
Lisa Sniderman, aka Aoede, is an award-winning, quirky, folk-pop artist, playwright, filmmaker, and author from San Francisco who creates to heal. She creates and records unique, original full-length fantasy musicals on audiobooks that she adapts to musical theater stage plays. She’s been honored with more than 80 awards for songwriting, audiobooks, films, stage plays and books since 2012 all while suffering from a rare autoimmune disease: dermatomyositis, a progressive muscle weakness disease. Lisa’s mission is to be a light and a muse by inspiring, engaging, empowering, connecting with, encouraging, and supporting young adults and kids at heart of all ages, challenges, and abilities through original art and music. She fosters healing by “giving your creative spirit wings and inspiring you to share your story.”
Lisa’s new memoir, A Light in the Darkness: Transcending Chronic Illness through the Power of Art and Attitude, chronicles 10 years living with chronic illness while creating to heal. Through confessions and life lessons, Lisa offers support, compassion, strength, connection, encouragement, motivation, and hope-a light in the darkness-to those battling chronic illness, disability and unexpected life challenges.
Lisa founded an online community of artists creating to heal and collaborated with more than 50 artists who are also creating to heal, culminating in an online video showcase and live multi-media performances in December 2018.
Can you tell us a little about your book? When did it come out and where can we get it?
My new memoir, “A Light in the Darkness: Transcending Chronic Illness through the Power of Art and Attitude,” is an inspirational story of the healing power of music and creativity, following your dreams and finding your true purpose. It chronicles 10 years of my battling and coming to peace with a rare chronic illness-a progressive muscle weakness disease called dermatomyositis (DM)- while obsessively creating to heal, and offers support, compassion, inspiration, connection, and encouragement to those who need it most-especially those experiencing transformations: illness, disability, or unexpected life challenges. In it, I share my journey of plunging into and through the darkness, my reflections, confessions, insights, and life lessons, to inspire hope and the courage to keep dreaming and living life to the fullest no matter what life hurls at you.
You can find it on Amazon and through my website, and it is now also available as an Audiobook, which includes some bonus tracks, like a new Epilogue and song “Keep Shining” I recorded earlier this year in collaboration with 20+ other artists as a reminder to never give up.
2) So, what inspired you to write your book? How did you get into writing memoirs?
In 2016, when I had been living with DM for more than eight years, it hit me that I had never really processed my illness; never let myself feel deeply the loss of independence from being hospitalized and rendered unable to move my muscles; never allowed myself to delve into the darkness, my twisting spiral staircase of a journey into chronic illness, and the vulnerability of sharing my weaknesses, that became my reality. Instead for years, I donned my artist persona, Aoede, the Muse of Song in Greek mythology, and created bright, light, happy, uplifting, positive, feel good, childlike, quirky pop songs and full-length fantasy musicals melding mythology, magic and music, to counter the darkness I was experiencing and living with daily. I discovered music and art are my lifelines, and I cannot stop creating! But creating and expressing, donning my “Aoede” artist hat, doesn’t go far enough. I’ve discovered a yearning to be part of something bigger than myself and to affect change. Helping others navigate their own personal darkness continues to be an important part of my own recovery. I’m learning that the acts of creating and sharing my story, music or art and allowing myself to be vulnerable can also inspire you to live your dreams, open your heart, empower you to share your story and help you heal. I was inspired to write my memoir to speak to and inspire those struggling with chronic illness, disability, and unexpected life challenges (and those who love them).
I wanted to write to inspire my readers, which led to me selecting memoir as my genre. I had struggled with the tone of the story, initially sharing it with my editor as a diary and inviting the reader in to my secrets and confessions, but revised the structure to be more universal and to share coping strategies and life lessons via each of my chapters (e.g., Redefining Success, Facing Your Fears, Putting Yourself Out There). This also allowed me to plunge deeper than just relaying an account of my day-to day experiences allowed me, and to share more personal thoughts and reflections on my journey.
3) What, do you feel, sets this book apart from other books in the genre?
My honesty, personal qualities (e.g., I include quotes, many color photos along the way, inviting the reader in to see the people and places I describe and spend a chapter sharing about the beautiful family and friends that served as role models and cheerleaders); it isn’t a cookbook self-help approach, but rather stories, life lessons, reflections I gained and share from my journey will illness. I also include as back matter, questions for reflection, resources, and many life lessons, to inspire and encourage someone else along their way. By sharing my story in a way that the reader can relate, by showing them that whatever life hurls at them, they can still have hope and follow their dreams,
In a review, one reader reflected and shared:
“The details of her journey to continue her abundant life despite her health challenges is like no other I've ever known or read about. The joy that she lives, and her many accomplishments, are so far beyond what most completely healthy people I know have ever dreamed of. The book is packed with beautiful and inspiring quotes, many engaging photos of Lisa's life, and wonderful anecdotes of how she has not just been coping with her illness, but thriving, stretching, growing, becoming, and being a true light in the darkness despite it.”
4) I’m sure readers are curious about your next writing project. Can you tell us what you’ve got cooking up now or is that a secret?
When I considered how best to share my story, I realized I wanted most to collaborate with other artists who were creating to heal. In May 2018, I put out a call to passionate musicians and artists who have also turned to creativity to help them heal to collaborate on a special “Lights in the Darkness” event in December 2018, focused on shining our lights and the art of healing. I was so overwhelmed by interest and offers to participate that I started an online Facebook community: "Lights in the Darkness-Creating to Heal," which has grown to 200+ artists. Between August and November, I interviewed via video 45 artists, musicians and authors from around the world who use creativity to heal. In December, I produced two related ‘Lights in the Darkness’ events in collaboration with more than 50 artists: “Lights in the Darkness-Conversations on Creating to Heal” an online video showcase featuring interviews and stories with 45 artists, and “Lights in the Darkness-Creating to Heal,” a live/streaming online multi-media event where artists and musicians shared personal stories, songs, their art and their hearts.
My vision is to share how we’ve become lights for others through our stories, music and art. We all battle our own darkness, life challenges and illnesses. Many of us have turned to arts and music as a healing path. We create, record, and perform our music; write our stories; make and share our art to express But we are part of something much bigger than ourselves. Through doing what we do, we help others who may be battling something similar. When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, it opens the door for others to share their stories.
As I struggle with living with chronic illness, I realize my remaining challenges are continuing to create, connect, and be part of community while at home on limited energy. This realization has helped me get to the next part of my journey to foster healing: I want to bring people together virtually to help others struggling with chronic illness and limited energy thrive through creating, connecting and community. I plan to create a virtual summit: How to Thrive With Chronic Illnessand Limited Energy in July 2020, and am spending time this year recording video interviews from 60 expert speakers: thriving artists who also battle illness, medical experts, thought leaders, spiritual teachers and healers, alternative practitioners, online support networks, creative (music, art, drama) therapists, to share effective coping strategies, practices, resources, tips, life lessons and more helping people to thrive.
This has also sparked my next musical project-a spoken word album on the stages of grief and thriving that I am writing and recording now, and will also be inspiration for my next book!
Lastly, I recently collaborated with 20+ “lights in the darkness” artists who contributed vocals for a new recording for a song I wrote called “Keep Shining,” a powerful anthem reminding us to never give up. Themusic videoshares my story and struggle with rare illness, disability and recovery. It has been selected for multiple film festivals and awards of recognition, and is being considered for Grammy Awards :)