In 2006, Jamie Tworkowski began an effort to help a friend in crisis. That effort grew into a movement far greater than he realized it would become. In January, Tworkowski announced that Penguin Publishing would be publishing his first book, If You Feel Too Much, a collection of musings and stories that frame his life. Now, with the release just days away, Planet Stereo wants to bring you our exclusive interview with the man behind the movement, and behind the words. [E/N: This interview was conducted in April 2015.]
Planet Stereo: Thanks so much for doing the interview. How are you?
Jamie Tworkowski: I’m doing well, thanks. It’s a busy time, but there’s a lot to be thankful for.
PS: Your new book, If You Feel Too Much, is getting ready to be released. How are you gearing up for that?
JT: I was in NYC last week recording the audio book. That experience meant a lot to me; to get to read my stories out loud, and to get to do it at Penguin in New York. I’m certainly looking forward to hitting the road for the book tour. In between, it’s all about getting the word out about the book, encouraging folks to preorder. The preorder supports To Write Love on Her Arms in a unique way, with the publisher donating an extra dollar to TWLOHA for every book presold.
PS: You call this the book before “the book everyone expects.” What do you mean by that?
JT: For years, I thought I would write a memoir. But, I realized there was a book’s worth of stories that I was really proud of; stories representing a decade of writing and life. I started to get excited about the idea of all of that writing having a proper home. So this book is that: 44 stories that I’m happy to share. As far as books go, I think this is the right place for me to start. There will be others down the road.
PS: The more I read through the book, the more intrigued I was. Would you say this is a closer look at the man behind the curtain?
JT: It’s definitely honest. I feel like I’m handing people my heart with this book. There’s a lot about love and loss, and my own journey with depression, and certainly hope as well.
PS: Would you mind walking me through the creative process? Why the title “If You Feel Too Much”?
JT: The writing represents the relationships and moments that have mattered most to me over the last 10 years, going back to when I was working as a sales rep for Hurley, before TWLOHA started. I’ve always written in response to situations and experiences, so, for me, the process definitely depends on inspiration.
The title is taken from something I wrote when I found out that Robin Williams had died. I wanted to write something to people who could relate; to people who maybe felt how he felt. I really love the title, because I think it represents a lot of people, and so much of the book is about being honest about how we really feel.
PS: Was it difficult to get more personal with readers?
JT: It’s the only way I know how to write. The same goes for my (public) speaking. i want to be the same person on and off stage. I believe that honesty is contagious, that me being honest hopefully gives someone else permission to do the same.
PS: How do you manage to find time to write new material between all of the work that you do?
JT: We have a great team. I basically write when I feel like I have to, and thankfully, everyone understands that. If I need to stay up half the night writing, I have the freedom to do that. Our team is amazing, and everyone plays their part to keep things moving forward. The organization started with something that I wrote, so writing feels like something I’m supposed to continue to invest in.
PS: What would you like people to come away with when they read your book?
JT: The dream is for people to believe that it’s okay to be honest, and that it’s okay to ask for help. Certainly with that, the hope is that people will choose to keep going, to keep fighting for their stories, for the idea that things can turn around, that life is worth living.
PS: TWLOHA is such a huge movement that has taken on so many different meanings to so many different people. But what does TWLOHA mean to you?
JT: It means I get to be part of something way bigger than me. It means I get to bring my heart to work. It means I get to participate in a conversation I truly believe in; one that has the power to change and save lives.
PS: I have to ask this, and I sincerely hope you don’t mind, but it is truly inspiring the way you all seemed to step up to help Renee Yohe, who you’d never really known. What made you feel like you could help her?
JT: It wasn’t complicated. It was the right thing to do. Our role was honestly simple. She needed a place to stay for the five days leading up to entering treatment. We needed to keep her safe and make her laugh. It was honestly a privilege.
PS: Speaking of Renee and TWLOHA, the new film is about to be released. Have you seen it yet? If so, what was it like to see Chad Michael Murray portray you?
JT: I’ve seen it about 20 times : ) It’s certainly an interesting experience to watch someone pretend to be you, especially day after day for five weeks. Chad was very kind and respectful. He really made an effort to get to know me, and to understand the true story he was representing.
PS: If you could say something to every person in the world right now, everyone who is struggling with something, the people who have finally reached their dreams, and even those who don’t know what’s next, what would you say?
JT: No matter what your life looks like at the moment, please know you’re not alone. Please don’t give up on your story. Please know your story matters. There is still some time to be surprised.
If You Feel Too Much will hit shelves on May 26th, 2015. Be sure to pick up a copy.
For more on TWLOHA, please click HERE.