Mindful authors: Five local writers focusing on mental health and wellness

The ever-evolving discussion of mental health and mindfulness is a growing conversation. While the issue gets highlighted during the month of May, many metro Detroit authors, ranging from poets, autobiographical storytellers, and children’s book authors are contributing a lot more time to the issue. Here, they share their thoughts, insights, and voices. 

Words by Mairee: “ready. set. bloom.:expanded edition | a book of poetry + mindfulness” (Self-Published; Available on Amazon)

Released this March, comes the expanded edition of ‘ready. set. bloom.,’ an exploration of Mairee’s diagnosis with bipolar disorder amidst her mental health journey. The new release includes six new poems, additional mindfulness, and interactive journaling pages. 

The author and advocate aims to openly share her story with others, to create a safe space for mental health discussion. Mairee says her expanded book shows personal and professional growth, and she hopes to encourage the same for readers. “I wanted to create a space for people to not only receive my words, but also take time to reflect and create their own written art,” she says. “To really put those thoughts on paper, and set aside space for people to do that. I wanted this to double as a book of poetry, but also a journal as well.”

“The book is broken down into a page of mindfulness, three poems, and there’s a page for reflection,” she says. “I hope that readers feel inspired to write their own thoughts, take the time to be mindful, and put their own thoughts down to create their own written art.”

Meme Green: “Beauty from Ashes: Detroit Raised Me,” (Meme Green Publishing; Available for purchase on her website)

This Eastside Detroit native considers helping readers overcome childhood trauma, and rewriting the narrative of their lives her calling. Although she currently resides in Las Vegas, Nevada, growing up in Detroit impacted this Michigander, who is a licensed marriage and family therapist in both states. She began journaling on her trauma and early life in "the 313", and was encouraged to publish her words, after a co-worker stumbled upon her journal. “I couldn’t fathom the thought of releasing my secrets to the world,” Green admits. 

Green found herself encouraging women through therapy and empowerment brunches, but admitted to holding back a bit. “I needed to be fully transparent about my struggles and my success,” she says. “In 2014, I finally released the journal, which is now known as ‘Beauty From Ashes: Detroit Raised Me, God Saved Me.’”

Growing up at 7 Mile and Van Dyke, Green’s neighborhood is now dilapidated. “Detroit has diamonds but they are stuck in the trenches, and that makes it hard to discover them at times,” she says. “Detroit taught me so much. These skills I have allow me to survive in any atmosphere.”

The author hopes readers can become encouraged by her reflective journey on the pages. “No matter your background or upbringing, you can re-author your own story,” she says. “You can decide the outcome of your story. I’m a true example of beauty from ashes.”

Tara Michener: Who I Am Not What I Am Series;” “I’m Just O.K.” (Authorhouse; Available for purchase on Amazon, Target, Barnes & Noble)

Tara Michener is a licensed professional counselor, nationally-certified counselor, registered yoga teacher, and DEI speaker. The Novi professional added published children’s book author to her resume a few years ago, and in 2020, released her new book, “I’m Just O.K” in the midst of the pandemic. 

The book walks children through their emotions, and how to process what they’re feeling, even if they are feeling two things at once. The male main character, works through his emotions in his mind while he’s physically playing with building blocks.

Michener says she’s heard from multiple parents that “I’m Just O.K.” has helped families navigate their emotions throughout the trying times we’re in.

“There are so many things children are going through that we never had to go through,” Michener says. “Our kids are navigating very grownup decisions at a young age, and that’s a lot of grownup responsibility.”

While mental health is an important topic discussed with adults, Michener says it’s crucial kids are also given helpful tools. “I hear often that kids are resilient, and they are, but a lot of kids grow up to be people who also need therapy. We want to make sure we don’t wait until they’re adults to give them therapy, or to make sure they get books that encourage them.”

Though she works as a counselor, Michener realizes there are still barriers to therapy. “Everybody can’t afford a therapist, or a good developmental group,” she says. “Teachers are slammed right now, so they can’t always meet with every individual child to figure out what they’re feeling either. A children’s book that can help a kid work through things is great.”

Her six books, ranging from early-reader to young-adult, aim to prevent bullying, empower children, and provide educational tools to assist with their mental health. “I need kids to read a book that makes them feel like they’re not the only one, that nothing is wrong with them, and they can feel this way, feel discouraged, find someone to talk about it, and get some answers.”

Also inspired by her son, who is of mixed race, “I’m Just O.K.” features illustrated images (done by her husband) of a young boy with curly hair.  Showcasing diversity is something that’s not always present in children’s books, but something Michener aims to include as a mirror for readers to relate to the main characters’ journeys. 

Marietta Mills Jones: Married 2 an Addiction(Self-Published; Available for purchase on her website)

Born and raised on the Eastside of Detroit, Marietta Mills Jones never struggled with depression or suicidal thoughts. Until she did. After her husband died in a drug-deal-gone-bad, Marietta realized she had lost who she was. “I realized it wasn’t just him who had an addiction, but I had my own addiction. Once he passed, I realized my identity had been so consumed with his, that I had no idea who I was,” she said.

In “Married 2 an Addiction,” Mills Jones hopes to help people see how damaging it can be for giving up yourself to other people. “My book tells a story as a reminder that it’s okay to help, it’s okay to support, but not at the expense of losing who you are,” she says. She describes the work as autobiographical. “It has tips on where I saw I went wrong, and the areas I could have done differently,” she says. 

Mindfulness and self-love are important themes throughout the story, as Mills Jones encourages readers to love themselves as much, if not more, than the people you love and are trying to help. Through her Christian faith and counseling, Mills Jones believes in the power of another set of eyes to help one through personal problems. Her upcoming book, “The Pen That Writes Your Story,” is set to be released July 2022. 

“This book will be more of a self-help book, and talks about the fact that we have the ability to take charge of our lives, and not allow circumstances or people to do it. It all starts in our minds, what we think about ourselves, and what we think about situations.”

Katelyn Rivas: Radical Self-Care for Black Women(Flower Press; Available for purchase online)

Grosse Pointe Park resident Katelyn Rivas began writing poetry and song lyrics while she was a high school student. She didn’t know at the time, but it was her way of communicating and coping with her depression and anxiety. Now, 15 years later, she has degrees in creative writing and community arts, with a specialization in trauma-informed art. She also started the Free Black Women’s Library - Detroit, a pop-up book bike highlighting Black women and femme authors.

In 2019, she released “Radical Self-Care for Black Women,” via Flower Press, a local Detroit independent press. Flower Press prioritizes submissions by and resources for queer, trans, black, brown, indigenous, people of color, disabled, neurodivergent, and low-income artists. It’s that very representation that Rivas hopes to see more of, especially in the mental health and self-care genre.

Her book of poetry reflects the work she did in graduate school, including a deep-dive into the word ‘radical.’ 

“The word radical comes from the Latin term, radix, and it’s the same word that the vegetable radish is coming from,” Rivas says. “It’s very much about getting to the root of something. To be radical is not to be extreme, it’s just to simply grab something from the root. That’s the foundation of radical self-care, it is grasping at the root of your original.”

Rivas' written words aim to share her belief with readers that we are all formed out of love, and ways to reinforce that within our lives. She hopes readers can seek out beauty and the things they enjoy doing, using those as a foundation for self-care.

“It doesn’t have to be extreme, or something you pay lots of money for,” she says. “It’s just something that can help you be reminded of who you really are, which is more than any mental health issue you might face.”
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Sarah Spohn is a Lansing native, but every day finds a new interesting person, place, or thing in towns all over Michigan, leaving her truly smitten with the mitten. She received her degrees in journalism and professional communications and provides coverage for various publications locally, regionally, and nationally — writing stories on small businesses, arts and culture, dining, community, and anything Michigan-made. You can find her in a record shop, a local concert, or eating one too many desserts at a bakery. If by chance, she’s not at any of those places, you can contact her at [email protected].