Interview with Elizabeth Stuart-Grimes

Who is Elizabeth Stuart-Grimes?
There are a lot of things I would like to say but the real me is a tall, imposing, outspoken female. I didn’t realize that I was smart (or maybe savvy is a better word) until I hit my late 40s. I exasperate a lot of people (bosses, co-workers …) with my charming ability to state the obvious; something a lot of people don’t have the courage to do. You know, there’s always someone in the crowd who asks the difficult questions? It’s usually me…
Other interesting or weird things: I grow Bonsai; I currently have 56 of them so my husband says it has officially become and obsession. I love to cook for lots of people but alone I will eat an apple and cheese and be very happy.
How did you come to write Priorities…?
A couple of things had been bothering me about our society and the constraints we were facing raising our children. This book had been rattling around in my head for a while but it wasn’t until I had a simple medical operation go bad in 2003 that I felt the need to write it down. I was suddenly faced with my own challenges and had to make want and need decisions. Since I was stuck at home convalescing, I started writing it all down.
Are the stories you wrote true?
Yes, they are. 40 years of collecting stories from my parents and their friends, my own family, our friends and their friends. All the names and places have been changed and mixed up. Some people will recognize their stories; some may not.
I wrote this in 2003/4. I was hunting for a literary agent and a publisher when – for financial reasons – I needed to go back to work. I really did shove the manuscript under my desk. When I needed a break from the corporate world in 2013/14, I pulled it back out and found that everything was still true a decade later.
Are there some of your stories in the book?
Oh yes! My kids are in there, my mom, and I’ve shared quite a few stories about myself. I am not ashamed to tell the stories that have made me the person I am today.
Do you call Priorities… a self-help book?
Well, I guess so. I do not call it an advice book; it's more like a personal development or inspirational book. It’s just a collection of stories about other people and how they coped with difficult situations. I hope that people who read will find things in it that help them see their lives more clearly. I am NOT an expert psychologist. I am simply describing the world I see and making suggestions. Some people may say this book is a waste of time. I hope those people don’t need a book like this. I do, however, think there are a lot of people who may find solutions.
Can you give us an example?
The last time I went to visit my son in Utah I was taken aback at some of the neighborhoods we drove through. In the middle of a nice middle-class neighborhood we saw a house that was literally falling apart. Through the big bay window we could see the GIANT flat screen TV and home cinema system inside. All the lights were on in the house. There were two huge, shiny pick-ups out front. All I could think was ‘where are their priorities?’ That place looked like the first storm would take the roof off, but they’ve got this mega huge flat screen that cost thousands of dollars… Those are the people I wrote this book for.
Do you practice what you preach?
Ha! Sometimes yes, sometimes no…I’m far from perfect. I’m a bit of a shop-aholic but not for the big name items. I’m a bargain hunter. I would rather find a nice old sofa at a tag sale and have it recovered than buy a new one. Most of my ‘work’ wardrobe was purchased at consignment shops (where I also sell things I don’t want anymore). I call it ‘sustainable shopping’.
I’m also very aware of what we spend on groceries. I read labels and price tags. This is my husband’s doing: a few years ago he started complaining about the monthly food bill. He did some research, and trial and error shopping. We were able to buy almost the same grocery cart at a good but giant discount store for $100 less a week than the shop in our town. That adds up!
Are there any other Priorities… books on the horizon?
In fact, yes, there are… I’ve almost finished one for young people with a lot of help from my kids and their friends, and some of the students I used to teach.
The third one will be a strange combination of good behavior and eating well – a sort of cookbook full of recipes for a happy life.
I’d also like to write one for business people – show both sides of the coin: the worker bees and the bosses. I know I practiced what I preach in that case. I had a great team at my last company. When I left, a lot of young people were unhappy because they said I was one of the few who truly encouraged them, explained and taught them things; let them ask questions, but let them run projects without hanging over them like vultures. I am far from being a micro-manager. My attitude is ‘You got this job, now show me what you can do.’
Did you always know you wanted to write?
There have been many things that have interested me but my life has always come back to writing. I think my reason for being here is to enlighten myself and others, to learn from my mistakes and progress, and to help other people do the same.
I religiously believe that we are each supposed to evolve and grow in our lives. Some call it attaining enlightenment. I call it attaining happiness. So that is what I am trying to do; to write down what I have learned along my own path to happiness so that other people can clear the weeds and thorns that block them on their path to happiness.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Meeting people who want to read the book or who have read the book. Everyone has stories to tell and it's so much fun to share stories! In addition, I have no ego attached to this book. I really appreciate it when people give me new ideas or tell me where they saw something in the book that I could improve. I love that contact with people. I wish more people would have the courage to write to me!
What do you read for pleasure?
I love biographies and historical fiction (based on real situations). I think we have a lot to learn from the past and from how other people have made their way through their lives and careers.
Published 2015-07-06.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.