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Written by JJ Barnes

www.jjbarnes.co.uk

I interviewed author Dr Susan Maples about her career, what inspires her, and the work that went into her new book, Brave Parent.

Tell me a bit about who you are.

 I’m passionate health educator for individual patients and health professionals. As a dentist I lead a successful, Total Health, dental practice in HoltMichigan. As a leader I serves as President of the American Academy for Oral Systemic Health.  As an innovator have created numerous tools to help other health professionals improve patients’ health span.    (Total Health Academy, a complete online solution for dental teams to integrate all aspects of Total Health Dentistry, and developer of the Hands-On Learning Lab™ and SelfScreen.net.)

Dr Susan Maples, author of Brave Parent, interview on The Table Read
Susan Maples DDS

As an author I’ve written two books: BlabberMouth! 77 Secrets Only Your Mouth Can Tell You To Live a Healthier, Happier, Sexier Life and my new book, Brave Parent! Raising Healthy, Happy Kids (against all odds) in Today’s World; to be released March 2022. 

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When did you first WANT to write a book?

Over 36 years of building intimate relationships with patients, and watching the steady decline of our population health, I grew more and more determined to help make a difference.  

I began to formulate my first book about 20 years into my career.  By then there had been a shift toward emphasis on “evidence-based” practices, meaning all health care professionals were supposed to be paying attention to the current published science literature and adapting practices around it.  That clearly wasn’t happening. 

So, I wanted to alert the public about what they should know to navigate health for themselves as well as what to expect of their health care team.

When did you take a step to start writing?

My parents were both writers and met in a newsroom.  They went on to other professions but continued to write.   They insisted I seek strong writing teachers throughout high school and college, even though I was pursuing a career in health sciences (which places a notoriously low emphasis on writing.)  Then I never really stopped writing: articles, newsletters, and stories. 

I began to formulate the concepts in these evidence-based books decades ago through and lots of research and teaching in front of professional audiences.  At the same time, I recorded lots of patient anecdotal stories and personal experiences. 

How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?

About five years.  I collected the data, but at that time I didn’t have the confidence to write the book by myself, so I invited a professional writer to help me.  That relationship ended mid-project and I ventured on with some heaviness.   The BlabberMouth book didn’t pass the tipping point for the public, but it was gobbled up by dental health care professionals.

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How long did it take you to complete your latest book from the first idea to release?

I wanted to write a book on children’s health right after BlabberMouth (which was solely for adult health).   I lost steam and so I waited. Lucky me because Brave Parent is a very different book than it would have been had I continued.   It’s still an evidence-based health book but deals with all the contemporary issues that threaten children’s health in today’s complicated world, not just oral-systemic health.  

I researched and wrote it by myself this time and had a BLAST doing it.  I owe a lot to my book coach (and publisher) Lauren Eckhardt, CEO of Burning Soul Press! As a mom of two young children, she was on fire with the concepts and eagerly awaited my weekly contributions.  

Her enthusiasm further convinced me that it was chalked full of messages every parent needed to have.  Lauren told me she could see this book becoming one of the first books pregnant mothers wanted to purchase.  It’s amazing what power a single supporter has in helping another person unfurl their could-be-brilliant ideas in the form of a book.  

Focusing on your latest release. What made you want to write Brave Parent?

I am, and always have been, a child advocate.  I was born of two two-pack-a-day smokers with some very serious health challenges.   I spent three months in an oxygen tent and battled with life threatening pneumonia, allergies and asthmatic bronchitis during childhood.  

As an adolescent I was aided by a gifted (and passionate) physician who helped me champion my health and change the trajectory of my life.   In turn, I became a pediatric health advocate from day one in practice.  

Sadly though, over 36 years of treating kids I saw the steady decline in population health.  “We” grew more tired, wired, fat, sedentary, anxious, depressed and addicted. I knew if this was ever going to change it would have to start with a crop of kids who ‘get it’.    

I became a consummate student and incorporated the research into my Total Health dental practice.  I boosted health literacy for kids by setting them up with hands-on science experiences at each and every visit. 

Dr Susan Maples, author of Brave Parent, interview on The Table Read

Over 20 years, the Hands-On Learning Lab ™ has fostered indelible changes in kids’ abilities to put themselves in the driver’s seat for a long, happy and healthy life. And I raised a son with health principles that stuck.   Then I wanted to tell their stories and help parents do the same with their kids. 

What were your biggest challenges with writing Brave Parent?

Time!  Time is perhaps our most precious commodity.  Once I got rolling Brave Parent was all-consuming.  Fitting additional research and writing in in with my dental practice, speaking schedule and self-care was a balancing act.  But I loved every minute of it.  Burning Soul Press was a top-notch, turn-key publishing company that took so much of the back-scene stress off me and helped me uncover my vision.

The other significant challenge was wanting to maintain my voice without offending people and discrediting the rest of the book with my opinions.  We are polarized around issues of political agendas, gender neutrality, pronoun usage, racial justice, religious freedom, environmental responsibility, vaccination, and pronoun usage to name a few.   

I struggled with all of these and in the end, I left out chapters on sexual health and financial health.  These too deserve attention, but I will save for when the Brave Parent Movement has a following.  I would like to write another book on Brave Parenting the Emancipating Child, with a focus on the 16- to 30-year-old age group. 

What was your research process for Brave Parent?

Thank you for asking this question.  As a advocate of evidence-based practice I wanted every statement to be backed by the most current and reliable scientific studies.  

As a health educator I am always engaged in research around all oral health issues including diet (both food and drink), airway health (all of cranio-facial growth and development) and sleep-related breathing disorders of all kinds.   But this book goes far beyond these subjects with chapters on Digest (gut microbial diversity), Feel and Think (social, emotional and cognitive health), Move (exercise science and psychology).    So, I recounted delightful antidotal stories and dove into the literature, weaving it in as I went along.   It’s amazing what you get to learn as a result of writing a book.

How did you plan the structure of Brave Parent?

Lauren Eckhardt, my book coach is a structure expert.  She kept telling me not to worry about that until later….just to write the book.  That was excellent advice.  I organized many ideas under big, broad chapter headings that I felt encompassed (almost) all aspects of children’s health challenges in today’s world:  Eat, Drink, Digest, Breathe, Sleep, Feel and Think, Chew and Smile, and Move.   With Lauren’s help, the rest fell into place.

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Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did Brave Parent need?

I think every book needs editing.  I love writing but it’s hard to see your own flaws as you go.  It was nice not having to worry about that.   Burning Soul Press gave me line editing, book design and more line editing.   I have many “pull quotes”, powerful messages that are blown up for busy parents to learn even as they thumb through the book).  Lauren and my other editors helped me prioritize what should be highlighted.  As parents themselves, they were in my target demographic and I trusted them.

We also circulated the book, in its earliest stage, to “beta readers” and incorporated invaluable feedback throughout the chapters.  

What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a book?

Start writing a little bit every day and don’t worry about structure.   You will be able to revise it many times over.  Just get the words on the page.  

Next, I would highly recommend a good book coach, who has experienced start-to-finish success.  If not that, then at least one person who will read along with you to encourage (and challenge) you along the way. 

Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?

I’d like to craft a non-recipe cookbook for healthy eating at home.   This would focus on one, how to stock your fridge, freezer, spice cabinmate and pantry for sustainable whole foods and two, how to efficiently prepare nutritious, delicious meals from what you have at home.

And I want to write the book I would like to write another book on Brave Parenting the Emancipating Child, with a focus on the 16- to 30-year-old age group.  This is perhaps the most challenging age, as parents struggle with letting go and transferring control, especially when ‘kids’ this age are not of the mindset to see potential dangers. 

Someday I would like to write a novel, focused on some of my life’s lessons.  It seems like this would be so much easier than an evidence-based book.  All the stories, without the research.  I can’t wait.

And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?

Yes, I’m very happy to offer this to the world.  The disease burden is killing us, financially, spiritually and literally.  It’s high time we get spread the word….There IS a way out!

It’s already been worth the effort when I receive feedback from the beta readers.  The young physician (not yet a parent) who organized the research citations said she felt like she was parenting herself as she read the book.  She said it was a project that changed her life.   That feels great to me.

Pop all your book, website and social media links here so the readers can find you:

www.beabraveparent.com

@beabraveparent – Facebook and Instagram

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