Vanessa L. White Fernandes published author and creator of The Hugging Army: An Experience in Connection talks about why writing is so important and how it enhances connection and reminds readers of our universal nature. Ask Me Anything!

Vanessa Leigh White Fernandes
Aug 25, 2018

I am a writer, and what I write about most is my life experiences and connecting with other humans. I am hopelessly flawed and honest about it; and I am also honest about what works to keep me grounded, connected, happy and present. I have published my first book, and although it isn't a bestseller yet, it is a powerful way to help others who may be struggling, and remind all of us that we are not alone. My book is about offering free hugs to complete strangers, which I have done more than 3,000 times now. I can answer your questions about what are great topics to write about; how to tap into your creative energies; how to face your fears; how hugging strangers has changed the way that I interact with people in my life and with the world in general, AND how it has made me a better writer and human. 

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If you could to write yourself as a heroine, what kind of heroine would you be?
Aug 27, 9:05PM EDT0

Hi Coreita!  Wow; great question. If I could be a heroine in a story, it would be someone who leads a character back to themselves; teaching them something that they need to learn. The character would be part fantasy, part reality, and whimsical and caring. I actually am writing a book right now and the main character seems a lot like me!

Thanks!  Vanessa 

Aug 28, 6:49PM EDT0
Who are some of your favorite authors that you feel were influential in your work?
Aug 27, 5:02PM EDT0

Hi Maria:

Some of my favorite authors are J.K. Rowling; Eckhart Tolle; Thich Nhat Hanh; Don Miguel Ruiz; Deepak Chopra; Brene Brown. I also like Stephenie Meyer from The Twilight Series. I enjoy reading a lot of nonfiction, but enjoy my share of fiction as well. 

Thanks!  

Aug 27, 9:00PM EDT0
In your opinion, what makes The Hugging Army: An Experience in Connection stand out from the crowd?
Aug 27, 12:59PM EDT0

Hi there:  I think what makes The Hugging Army: An Experience in Connection stand out is because it tells my story of seeking connection, and it is raw and honest about my journey to there. I don't make myself out to be something I am not; and I am honest about where I have wanted to grow and change over the course of this process so far. It also stands out because it reminds us that connecting beyond the face of a computer screen, phone or social media is more need satisfying than anything else. Thank you!  Vanessa 

Aug 27, 4:08PM EDT0
As a writer, do you find the self-motivation and the discipline required to write difficult? If so, how do you sort this out?
Aug 27, 11:11AM EDT0

Hi there Rizza!  I used to find self motivation and discipline to write to be one of my biggest challenges. The reason it felt like a challenge is that I would wait to feel inspired to write. And, many days, and weeks, would go by when I would not write anything!  To sort it out, I set time aside every day (and sometimes miss a day here and there) to just write something. Some days, it is a journal entry; some days, it is a blog post or an editing of a book I am working on. By setting time aside every day, it helps me to remember how much I enjoy it and that it deserves my time and attention.

Thank you!  Vanessa 

Aug 27, 4:06PM EDT1
What message would you like readers to take from your book?
Aug 27, 8:09AM EDT0

Hi there!  The biggest message I would hope readers get from my book is to always be yourself in the world; and don't be afraid to be vulnerable and to connect with others. I believe that we all want to connect, but we are so afraid to do so!  Being myself first and foremost helps me to do just that.  Thank you!  Vanessa 

Aug 27, 4:04PM EDT0
When writing about your life experiences, do you ever come across feelings of liberation or healing? How does the writing experience affect you emotionally?
Aug 27, 3:04AM EDT0

Hello Marco: What a great question!  I have been blogging for about eleven years now, and my blog posts have always been pretty transparent and real about my life experiences. I always feel initially pretty scared to put myself out there so openly. However, once I do that, I feel completed liberated!  The healing comes through me realizing that to be myself in the world is all that I can ever do. When I feel I need to pretend to be someone that I am not, that takes more effort and I am never happy when I do that. WRiting is a celebration of the unique aspects of life and living, and also, a freeing up of my true self into the world, which I think also gives others permission to be themselves.

Thanks!  Vanessa 

Aug 27, 4:03PM EDT0
How did you feel after completing your first book and what was the greatest lesson you got from this experience?
Aug 27, 12:54AM EDT0

Hello there:  When I finished my book, I felt scared, and sad a little. Scared about what would happen next; and sad that my experience of putting it together was over. Then, I got SO excited to get my first copy in the mail; and then to have hundreds of copies shipped to my house in boxes for me to sell on my own!  It felt like one of the most exciting times of my life. The greatest lesson from publishing the book is that no matter if one person buys and reads it, or a million people do, that I found my voice and I expressed it to the world, in an authentic way. 

Be Well!  Vanessa 

Aug 27, 4:01PM EDT0
From where did you get the inspiration to write The Hugging Army: An Experience in Connection? How the idea came to you?
Aug 26, 4:52PM EDT0

Hi!  The inspiration came from the experiences of hugging strangers; I was traveling, hugging strangers in the cities that I visited over a period of ten days, and I kept a journal while I was on the road. I felt inspired to make that into a book when a really good deal came my way to self publish; it seemed like the perfect opportunity. Thank you!

Vanessa 

Aug 27, 3:59PM EDT0
Could you provide a detailed explanation about what The Hugging Army: An Experience in Connection is about?
Aug 26, 10:19AM EDT0

The Hugging Army: An Experience in Connection, the book that I wrote, is about my interest in beginning to hug strangers on the street. It started out as an experiment, and a desire to let other people know that they could trust me. It has become a deep learning experience in how to be vulnerable and myself in the world. The book talks about my journey in June of 2017, when I traveled more than 3000 miles in the southeastern United States, offering hugs and talking to people about it. It is a journal of my travels and those experiences, and the lessons I have learned through my experiences so far.

Thanks for asking!

Vanessa 

Aug 27, 3:58PM EDT0
Where can people find your book and learn more about you as an author?
Aug 25, 4:58PM EDT0

Hi!  My book is on my website, www.thehuggingarmy.org; also available in paper or electronic versions on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. My website also talks about me and my journey, and I have a blog as well, 

wordpress.com/view/vanessaleighsblog.wordpress.com

Thanks!

Aug 27, 3:47PM EDT0
Do you think that people in general are lacking in a true sense of connection in today’s hyper-connected world? If so, to what do you attribute this?
Aug 25, 6:16AM EDT0

Hi there Erik!

Yes, I believe that we are all lacking true connection in our lives. I think that the hyper-connected world that we live in (I love how you expressed that BTW) is not true connection. The fact that we can see what our friends and loved ones are doing, in a tweet, or instagram photo, or Facebook post, is not real connection. We are not touching one another, conversing with one another, enough in my mind to deeply connect. I think the loss of true, deep connection has occurred for many reasons, not all of them being technology. As I write about in my book, The Hugging Army: An Experience in Connection, I believe as human beings we get scared as we age and develop to connect with others. This happens because we learn to believe that in order to fit into this world, we have to be perfect at how we do that; and we become afraid of others discovering that we are not perfect, so then, we disconnect from others so they don't see that. It is subtle, and happens over time, but before we know it, we are afraid of deep, true relationship with other humans. Only when we realize that being vulnerable in the world is the only way to true connection will this change. You can find my book through my website: www.thehuggingarmy.org.

THanks for writing!  Vanessa 

Aug 25, 9:41AM EDT0
How much time on average do you write on a daily basis and how would you describe your process?
Aug 25, 1:26AM EDT0

Hello Estela:

Thanks for the question!  I spend about an hour or so a day writing, some days more if I am working on something. I work a full time job five days a week, and each morning I spend an hour reading, and writing, to start off my day. I also believe reading is an important part of becoming a better writer, so I read at least a little bit every day. I have a couple of writing processes; one process is that I write in a journal most days about something that I am currently struggling with, or a life lesson that is coming up for me. Another process is that I devote time almost daily to continue to work on a writing project, a book, that I am working on. I used to wait to write until I felt inspired to write about something; now, I dedicate time to write every day, and I write about whatever inspires me at the time. It helps me not to procrastinate.

Thank you!  Vanessa 

Aug 25, 9:36AM EDT0
In your opinion, what is our universal nature? Why is it that we've lost connection with it?
Aug 25, 12:07AM EDT0

Hi there Chelai:

Great question!  Our Universal nature, in my opinion, is that we all come from the same source, the same original energy. I don't know if I call that God, or Great Spirit, or just Source Energy. I believe that if we had the power of spoken language when we come out of the womb, we would be able to speak of it, because I believe newborn creatures, including human newborns, are the closest thing to that Universal nature. From my perspective, we have lost connection with it by being socialized into this human world, about who we are supposed to be, what we are supposed to do, and what is right and wrong. We then learn over years time to be afraid of our true nature, because it seems to go against what we are being taught; and then we become afraid to question what we are taught! I speak about this fully in my book, The Hugging Army: An Experience in Connection, if you would like to read more. Here is a link to my website if you are interested in ordering it.  Thanks so much for the question!  Hugs!  Vanessa 

www.thehuggingarmy.org

Aug 25, 9:33AM EDT0
What is so special about hugging?
Aug 24, 3:01PM EDT0

Hi there!  To me, what is so special about hugging, is that it connects us physically, heart to heart. I believe that when we connect physically in this way, it is easier for us to remember that we are all connected; that we have a universal nature. I also believe because it is such a simple gesture, that it is easy for people to receive and offer to others. Even though I have met many people that tell me that they don't like to hug, I believe that we all crave connection with one another. 

Thank you for posting!  Vanessa 

Aug 25, 9:28AM EDT0
How do you tap into your creative energies? What do you do for inspiration?
Aug 24, 2:05PM EDT0

Hello there Blegourd:  Thanks for the question!  Inspiration, to me, is every day life. I literally go to work, drive my car, have my coffee, pet my cats, love my wife- and I find inspiration in all and more of those things. I keep a journal with me most of the time to write down inspiring ideas, and I also use social media as a forum to post inspirational passages and sayings, and then write about them more fully on my blog. Check it out if you like:  

wordpress.com/view/vanessaleighsblog.wordpress.com

Thanks for checking in!  Vanessa 

Aug 25, 9:27AM EDT0
How many hours do you dedicate to offering hugs every day?
Aug 24, 10:46AM EDT0

Hi Vikas!

Thanks for the question. Although I often think about hugging others, and what areas I will travel to next to do so, I don't actually take the opportunity to hug strangers every single day; but I do usually spend a few hours each week standing on the street, in a park, or at a local event and hug people. I am actually taking 8 days in October to travel several hundred miles and hug every day for a week!  I am hoping for the best adventures yet. Thank you! 

Aug 25, 9:24AM EDT0
What is the most important quality an author should have if he/she wants to pursue a career in writing and how would you define yours?
Aug 24, 9:42AM EDT0

Hi Abigaille!  Great question. I think one important quality if you want a career in writing, is to not take others personally in terms of feedback and/or criticism. As a writer, I have learned to use my own voice, and although I am not writing bestsellers, or getting millions of readers on my blog, I write from my heart and that satisfies me. However, another important quality especially if you want a career, is to be flexible. I could make a lot of money as a writer if I was willing to write about anything that is being asked for; I don't tend to do that, but I am also not trying to make money at it. 

Thanks for writing!  Vanessa 

Aug 25, 9:22AM EDT0
Did you always want to become an author? Do you remember your first piece of writing, the one that made you think you should be a writer?
Aug 24, 4:07AM EDT0

Hello Emmanuel:  Thank you for asking; I have wanted to be a writer since I was really young; I remember an assignment that I had in grade school; I had to keep a handwritten journal of my experiences at an environmental camp that I went to for a week; and also around that time, had to write my autobiography. It got me thinking about how important words are, and how I love expressing myself through them. And, because being a writer lives in my soul, even if I never do it as an official career, I always want it to be part of my life. I love having a blog for that very reason. Check it out!  wordpress.com/view/vanessaleighsblog.wordpress.com

Thank you for asking!  Vanessa 

Aug 24, 8:10AM EDT0
What avenue did you choose to publish your book, self-publishing or traditional publishing and why?
Aug 23, 8:49PM EDT0

Hi Neil:  I chose self publishing; I decided to do that for my first published book so that I could have full editorial control. I felt confident that what I wanted to say in my book, and how I wanted to say it, was important not to be changed in any way. And, I wanted to include photographs from my journey as well. However, I would love to have my next book picked up by a traditional publisher so I may go that route. Thank you for asking!

Aug 24, 8:04AM EDT0

Did you really hug 3000 strangers? What was that experience like? What has changed in your life as a result of this experiment?

Aug 23, 3:19PM EDT0

Hi!  Yes, to my best accounts of keeping track of my hugs, my number is now over 3,000 in three years. At some events, I only get a couple of hugs; other times, I get dozens. Each experience is different than the other; but what I can tell you is that to hug strangers, simply as an act of shared love and connection, has been one of the most profound experiences of my life. My life changes more as a result of it every day. I don't take people as personally anymore; I let people be as they are and judge them less; I am able to stay in the present moment and return to my breath more consistently. My book tells all about what I have learned so far if you are interested; you can find it on my website, www.thehuggingarmy.org.  Thank you for asking!

Aug 24, 8:01AM EDT0
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