“Sometimes things are just about being in the right place at the right time.”
That’s how Boulder author Jessie Hilb describes her success in publishing her first novel, “The Calculus of Change” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018). She also appreciates the dedication, focus and effort required to nurture creativity. Jessie gives kudos to yoga and meditation as essential to her writing practice.
“I worked on the manuscript for a long time in a writing community here in Boulder and edited it several times before I submitted the book to my agent. I am involved with the Boulder Writing Studio where I take workshops and classes and I absolutely love it. I am able to connect with others, receive and hold accountability, and hone my craft on an ongoing basis.
Before submitting to publishers, my agent and I spent another nine months editing together. From there, the book landed in the right editor’s hands and moved forward,” says Jessie.
“The Calculus of Change” is a striking debut novel about unrequited love, the complexities of faith and the challenges that come with self-acceptance. Officially, it was published in the young adult/teen genre (ages 14 up), but it speaks to broader issues and relevant themes for adults, too.
“I had never read a book that dealt with a certain type of unrequited love that I had experienced as a teenager, and I wanted to capture the pain and joy of loving someone with whom you are intimate, but maybe doesn’t return those “types” of feelings. I also wanted to address body image issues and how they relate to self-love. I think developing a sense of self and love and navigating complex and challenging relationships aren’t specific to teens but to all of us as human beings.
I hope that my readers will take away that it’s okay to love yourself even, and especially, when you make mistakes. That we all are inherently worthy. That we can be okay even in the face of tremendous challenges. Or even, that it’s okay not to be okay.
The Kundalini mantra Sat Nam or ‘I Am’ has also been translated as ‘the truth is my identity,’ or ‘true vibration.’ Everyone has a unique and beautiful vibration,” she explains.
Jessie describes her book as having “Yoga Heart!” Indeed, it must, because yoga and its principles are central to her life and reflected in her focus. She adds:
“Yoga and meditation remind me to continue deepening my self-love, which, again, is a central theme in ‘The Calculus of Change.’ Through my practice, I grow my ability to take risks and make mistakes (which takes self kindness) and to center, enabling my words and stories to flow.
For me, it has been a process…I started my mediation practice at the age of 18 when I was lucky enough to attend a two-week retreat at the Shambhala Center by Red Feather Lakes in Colorado. My heart resonated with the Shambhala Buddhist tradition and meditation. I first tried a ‘power’ style Vinyasa yoga in my mid-20s and I approached it as a way to stretch and diversify my running and exercise routines. During my first pregnancy, I deepened my practice in a prenatal yoga community and learned how to approach yoga and my body with more mindfulness, grace and gentleness.
It wasn’t until my mid-30s that I would return to meditation and fully appreciate the practice of sitting. Now I have a regular and more complete practice, and I see yoga as a beautiful reflection of life’s lessons and way to practice moment-to-moment how I want to show up in life for myself and others.
I am also a CrossFit nut for almost five years now. I’ve learned how to push myself to my edge without surpassing it. CrossFit brings me into my body and the present moment with intensity, and I love the community. I rarely let my fitness routine go —most important to me is consistency and showing up.
I rely on yoga as a way to drop into my heart and get away from it all, and I find myself dropping into ‘emergency’ classes from time to time. I also love the sound of rivers and streams, so if I can sneak it in, you’ll find me sitting by a stream journaling, or sometimes just being with myself.”
Each of us must find ways to juggle busy schedules and daily demands with seeking balance to sustain effective work. Jessie offers a few more tricks for her trade…
“When I’m up against a tight deadline, I breathe! I always write with music playing. My current favorite musician is Boulder local, Lucas Wolf.
My favorite off-writing day would be to start the morning with a sunrise hike, meet friends for breakfast, take my kids for a picnic by Boulder Creek with our Aussie, Bella, and go to the farmer’s market. I love ice cream and can totally crush a pint by myself, particularly chocolate peanut butter. I also have a fondness for a glass of deep red wine. The end of a perfect day would be to find a spot outside to watch the sun set with my loved ones. When my children feel joy, it brings out the best in me.
I’m a sixth generation Colorado native. The big skies and the mountains here speak to my soul and I feel a deep sense of belonging when I take a minute to appreciate the beauty around me.”
Jessie is writing her next novel, another contemporary young adult book about a passionate dancer who deals with sexual assault, and her own emerging sexuality and eating disorder. She describes it as a little darker than “The Calculus of Change,” but ultimately explores similar themes of self-love, breathing, and finding a way to be present.