“Once You Go In” is enjoying a solid initial launch thanks to YOU and all your support and kindness for a new author. On the eve of its pub date, I got a call from my publisher saying we’ve sold through the initial print run and need to order a second print run ASAP. That was an exciting moment for me. My goal had always been to sell through my first print run of 1500 at some point in the first few months following launch, but I hadn’t expected to sell through them BEFORE the book’s official release! That’s one big win for me, my publisher, and this new exciting world of indie publishing.
My local launch party was well attended and a fun time (I hope) for all. It was pretty emotional for me to see so many faces in one room who have inspired, challenged, and supported me through the years in this project in one way or another. When addressing the crowd — former bosses, professors, colleagues, students, friends, and family — it finally hit me. I’m an author. And I wouldn’t be one without the people in that room. Writing is so far from the solitary experience people make it out to be. Sure, I typed out the sentences alone, but I wouldn’t have known the mechanics of a sharp sentence without the red edits from my boss at my first newspaper job, and I wouldn’t have captured the intricacies of a Pentecostal girlhood without the late night conversations with friends with shared experiences, and I wouldn’t have the bravery to share my story without a family who cheered me on. I get chills thinking about it still.
Abusive relationships come in many forms. They can be found in romantic relationships, parental relationships, friendships, the workplace, and for many of us, church. Breaking free is hard work and should be done with therapy and a solid support system. Also, the right playlist can be your best friend. This playlist, “Songs for Breaking Free,” includes songs that have empowered me in my journey to freedom.
1. Best Imitation of Myself, Ben Folds
This song is a fantastic anthem for anyone who has ever changed themselves for someone else (so basically, all of us). Specifically, it’s a song for those of us who have withheld parts of ourselves to belong. How many times have you made yourself smaller for someone else’s sake? Even though I’m strictly from California, I am Folds when his voice cracks with acerbity: Do you think I should take a class/to lose my Southern accent? No Ben Folds, you definitely should not. You be you.
2.Shake it Out, Florence and the Machine
Have you ever tried to dance with a devil on your back? It’s hard to be free when we are weighed down by the shame of our pasts, even after we’ve physically removed ourselves. This song is catchy and repetitive and invites us to truly leave the past in the past. You can’t help but dance when this song is blasting. Florence and the Machine remind us that it won’t be easy or simple, but that there is hope for the future—“It’s always darkest before the dawn.” So shake it off.
MILCK’s “Quiet” went viral in 2017 and became the official ballad of the #metoo movement, and for good reason. It’s all about a woman who finally won’t keep quiet. Part of leaving an abusive situation is this unspoken expectation that we won’t talk about our stories. It’s not nice to malign someone’s reputation, is the message we receive. Well you know what? We are done being nice. We are being loud about the things we have endured for too long. Turn this song up loud when you need some extra motivation to speak your truth.
4.I Try, Macy Gray
One of my first brushes with fundamentalism was the summer I was 13 and gleefully singing this now classic R&B song in the back of a church minivan. (Yes, this was back in 2000.) My youth pastor chastised me for singing a “secular song” and told me to stop singing. I had no idea what “secular” meant but I didn’t question the rules. I wish I had the gumption then to keep singing. No regrets though—I make up for it now by belting out this song with all I have. This song is for anyone who has struggled to leave a person or a group of people that has been all wrong for them.
5.Silver Springs, Fleetwood Mac
I basically became a woman to this song, sitting alone in a fogged up car the day after Christmas at age 16, waiting to meet up with the boy who would soon break my heart. I was knee-deep in fundamentalism and had nearly forgotten who I was underneath all the shame and repression and rules. This song is the perfect “get out of a rut” song because it begins sweet and warbling—just like the sweet and warbling mask women are expected to wear—and slowly builds to this angry crescendo, inviting listeners to right every wrong we’ve ever politely endured. By end of the song, Nicks unleashes the strong, fierce woman that is inside all of us. The boy she’s so sad about at the beginning of the song? By the end, she’s literally going to haunt him forever. If you are out of touch with that inner witch, put this one repeat.
6.Watching the Wheels, John Lennon
I’d be remiss to not include John Lennon, as the Beatles were probably the most crucial band for me in finding freedom from toxic religion. This song especially. I spent my teen years in fear of a metaphorical slippery slope. I was taught that all these bad things would happen to me if I no longer lived my life according to evangelicalism’s value set. Looking back, this was all about control—the mark of an abusive relationship. When I began to make choices that went against their grain, they came at me their prescribed advice and warnings—“to save me from ruin.” This line speaks to anyone leaving an abusive system: When I say that I’m OK, well they look at me kind of strange/Surely you’re not happy now, you no longer play the game?
I steal my response from Lennon: I just had to let it go.
7.One Wild Life, Gungor
It’s not always easy to break free from a toxic system or person. Once you leave, your work has only begun. Often the deluge of feelings can be overwhelming. After all, you’ve repressed them for so long—they’ve had all that time to build up. Sometimes the feelings can be so powerful they may leave you weak and willing to return to the abuse you worked so hard to leave. I love this song because it embraces the spectrum of human feelings as beautiful. Feelings are not to be feared, even the hard ones. With a frothy electronic background, Gungor asks: What will you do with your one wild life? Brave the rise and fall/Go on and feel it all/Love the rise and fall/I want to feel it all.
8.Holy War, Alicia Keys
When I was leaving fundamentalism, I listened to Alicia Keys nonstop because she cut through it all to speak to my soul in the way I needed. With a voice like medicine, Keys imagines a world where we put down our walls and live a life without fear. It’s easier and “safer” to build borders than it is to keep ourselves open, but the consequences of that life is being locked in. Locked in is exactly how I felt all those years, and breaking free was the hardest and best thing I’ve ever done. Sing along—Forgiveness is the only real revenge.
9.Break Free, Ariana Grande
At first listen you might think this is just a tune for getting everyone on the dance floor (because it does exactly that), but it’s so much more. This is an empowering song for anyone who is finally getting out. Ariana Grande sings with grit in only the way a woman who has had enough can. The chorus is unbelievably catchy: This is the part when I say I don’t want ya/I’m stronger than I’ve been before/This is the part when I break free/Cuz I can’t resist it no more. It’s important to listen to upbeat songs when breaking free—not just all sad ballads, though there is a place for those too—because we need reminders of how much better our lives are now.
10. Don’t Play That Song (You Lied), Aretha Franklin
A force for the women’s movement and civil rights movement in the 1960s and 70s, Aretha sings for anyone who needs R-E-S-P-E-C-T. I love this lesser-known song in particular because of the conflicting emotions it captures. Sometimes we have to walk away from someone we still love. Leaving may not stop us from loving them right away, and the voices that want to draw us back might continue for some time. In this song, the “voices” are literal background singers who follow up with Aretha’s cry “You lied!” with “Darling, I love you.” We can’t shut those voices up right away, but we can shout at the metaphorical DJ to not play the song that reminds us of our pain. In time, it will hurt less. Until then, sing along with Aretha because she gets it.
11.Teen for God, Dar Williams
I had never heard this song until I had a radio interview with a lovely local public radio host who told me that she had this song on repeat as she read my book. She played it for me in the studio that day and I felt it so hard. Since then, I’ve had it on repeat myself. Teen for God is about an adolescent girl at summer camp, desperately trying to fit in and tame her wild heart and follow all the rules. If you’ve ever been there, sing along with the rest of us.
There are just a few examples from “Songs for Breaking Free” playlist. Check out Spotify for the full song list. Do you have a song that has helped you break free? Tag @carlygelsinger on Instagram or Twitter to join in and get your “breaking free” song featured.
Join me on December 6 at 4:30 p.m. at the Colfax Public Library to discuss “Once You Go In” in the town the memoir takes place. Books will *not* be sold at this event, but I will be doing a giveaway as well as signing any copies you may already have. Also, the book is available through the Placer County Library system, so you reserve a copy through them if you are a library cardholder.
It’s now the final countdown for the release of “ONCE YOU GO IN: A Memoir of Radical Faith” and my nerves are on hyperdrive. Those of you who have pre-ordered through Amazon should be receiving your books in the next two weeks (yes, Amazon fulfills pre-orders early).
My official launch party is Oct. 25 at Bella Viva in Gilroy, Calif. Please RSVP if you plan on coming so I know how much wine to buy. If you plan on attending this party and have not purchased the book yet, I gratefully ask that you wait for the event to buy, as Barnes & Noble will be selling books for me and I want to make sure it is a satisfactory night for them so I can keep up the good relationship I’ve built with them.
I’ve been busy talking about the book in any spaces I can. I recently appeared on Your Atheist Pastor Podcast (Episode 319) and Heathen Podcast. It’s been super fun to have conversations with these clever and deep-thinking hosts, and I’ve got several more exciting podcast appearances that I can’t announce yet… but stay tuned!
Barnes & Noble Gilroy, November 24, 12 p.m-2 p.m. I’ll be signing books at the front of the store.
Colfax Library, December 6, 4:30 p.m. I’ll be speaking and signing books.
Thank you for all your help in pre-ordering, requesting the book from your local library, and sharing my posts on social media. All of these things help so much. The books are on their way from the printers so it won’t be long before I hold the real deal in my hands.
Excitement (see: Anxiety) is mounting as publication creeps closer. Publication is a long process and it’s been a challenge for me to stay the course all these months. I’ve been busy submitting final pages to my publisher, securing author events for the fall, and writing pieces for online magazines and journals. Whew!
ARCs, or advanced copies, are here! It is definitely fun to hold a real book and smell a real book. But if I’m being honest, it also triggered terror. I know for many authors, holding those advanced copies is a Hallmark moment, but holding my book freaked me out. All of these years I spent writing a book hoping people will read it and now that the day that people will read it is slowly approaching I’m frightened that people might actually read it. (Also frightened that nobody will read it.)
I love that so many of you have already pre-ordered your copy. I really appreciate that support! You have propelled me to Amazon’s bizarrely specific category of “#1 New Release in Religious Fundamentalism” several times, which gives my title a pretty, ego-boosting orange banner. And yes, I know that some guy took a picture of his foot and became an Amazon bestseller because two of his friends downloaded it. (Seriously, read that piece. It’s hilarious and sheds light on what it takes to be a “bestselling author” on Amazon.) I also don’t plan to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes and call myself a “#1 Bestselling Author” like that one lady you went to college with when you know her book sold like 12 copies. Anyhow, I appreciate you guys for giving me that orange banner for 48 hours. That’s all I meant to say.
My launch party will be at Bella Viva Ristorante e Caffe in Gilroy on the evening of October 25, and I encourage you all to come out for that. It’s going to be a party! Of course, I’m going to be very pregnant by then (whoops), so I won’t get to indulge in any of those rich California reds. But I hope you do for me.
I’ll also be speaking at my hometown library–SHUDDER. By hometown, I don’t mean the town I live in, but the town I grew up in and the town the book takes place in. Seriously, I don’t know what drug I was on the day I signed up for this gig. I’m speaking in my hometown, population 1,000, about my very raw memoir of an abusive church located in said hometown…a church that a dozen dear family friends STILL ATTEND. But I felt it was an important place to appear and that it could be healing for me and maybe some of the people who also were harmed all those years ago. That’s the whole point of all this, right? So if you’re in the area, I’ll be at the Colfax Library, December 6. I’ll be doing some giveaways and other fun stuff so I don’t spend the whole evening in tears.
I’m booking other events, so if your local bookstore or library or church is interested in topics such as leaving fundamentalism, finding faith outside the margins, or just want to talk about stories and writing and books, I’m happy to make a visit.
If you are looking for more ways to help, I’d love to put you on my official launch team. Indie authors need all the help we can get to give our little books momentum. You can help by buying the book (of course), leaving reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, posting about it on social media, recommending it to your friends, ordering it from your local bookstores (yes, support your indie bookstore!), selecting it for your book club, or pretty much anything else you can think of. Seriously, all of it helps. You don’t have to be on my launch team to do any of this, but if you are interested in helping in a more official capacity, shoot me an email and I’ll get you on the list.
Oh, I will also be teaching some writing workshops at the Central Coast Writers Conference Sept. 27-29. I will be selling books at this conference but that is OFF THE RECORD because my book doesn’t officially launch until Oct. 16. I won’t be selling copies before Oct. 16 anywhere else so if you are dying for an early copy (LOL the ego of first-time authors), that’s the place to be. Also, it’s an affordable writers conference on the central coast with lodging on Morro Bay. And my face will be there, so how could it not be awesome?
Thanks for reading, loyal readers. Have a wonderful summer, and as Leah Remini says, don’t be culty.