#GiftIdeas Mastering The Art of Self-Expression & More


Mastering The Art of Self-Expression by Laura Thoma (WildmooBooks.com)

If the name Laura Thoma rings a bell, it’s because she’s my wife and Mastering the Art of Self-Expression: A Creative Journaling Workbook is her book. She calls it “our” book, because I helped with some of the drafting, layout, and editing, but, all the ideas and underpinning philosophy are hers.

The book was released this summer and I’m writing about it now because so many people ask me how I manage to do everything that I do like move across the country, start a business, write a blog, host a podcast, go to events, read dozens of books, take care of two dogs, attempt to write creative fiction, etc.

It struck me that I’ve been able to do all of these things because I’ve been living with Laura’s philosophy for as long as I’ve known her. (We’ll celebrate seventeen years together come February.)

Nothing happens overnight (except sleeping and overnighters), but the exercises in Mastering the Art of Self-Expression have led to huge breakthroughs and leaps of confidence in myself and I think everyone should give it a try.

The exercises are what Laura calls self-leveling, which means they meet the person where they are at the time they’re doing a particular exercise. And I’ve done all of them multiple times. Sometimes it’s just fun. Other times I’m blown away by some insight or connection that I make during the exercise. I’ve come to understand how I think and more clearly see the repetitive loops of negative thinking that used to keep me from pursuing my dreams. Doing these exercises over the years has helped me get clear about what I truly want in my life and given me the self-confidence to step up for myself.

Laura is a certified coach. She understands the power of both self-help and therapy and strives for her work to be a bridge between the two. I’m proud to have learned that at least two therapists are now using Mastering the Art of Self-Expression as a tool with their clients.

I hope you consider getting the book for yourself or for the seeker in your life. It is full-color with two examples of each exercise so you can see how different people approach the work.

The best online price is directly through Lulu ($19.80)

It is also available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble.com ($24.75)

If you prefer to shop independent, these two fine independent bookstores in Connecticut carry it for $19.99 and would be happy to ship:

Book Club Bookstore & More
869 Sullivan Avenue
South Windsor, CT
(860) 432-7411

Breakwater Books
81 Whitfield Street
Guilford, CT (203) 453-4141

More Holiday Gift Recommendations – Favorite Reads Released in 2017

Links go to my blog post reviews or Goodreads.


  • The Dry by Jane Harper. A crackling good mystery from Australia. Film rights purchased by Reese Witherspoon so read it or get it in the hands of your mystery reading gift recipient before it hits the big screen. I don’t always try to guess whodunit when reading a mystery but tried with this one and failed miserably which made the book that much better.
  • And Fire Came Down by Emma Viskic. Another excellent mystery from the Land Down Under. This is entry #2 in the Caleb Zelic series. Caleb is a deaf investigator which makes for some interesting situations in an already fascinating world of this novel. Get Resurrection Bay, the first in this series, while you’re at it. You’ll probably only find these online if you’re in the US. I got them via Book Depository.
  • New Haven Noir, edited by Amy Bloom. I’m not a big reader of anthologies, but this one is full of nothing but page-turning stories that really show the diversity that’s possible within the noir tradition. This anthology shows many different sides of and experiences in New Haven over a variety of time periods.

General Fiction:

  • Pachinko by Min Jin Lee. A family saga about ethnic Koreans living in Japan. A great story with wonderful characters. One of those books that takes you to different cultures and times. I haven’t been drawn to read many multiple generation family sagas but this one intrigued me. I had no idea about the history and plight of ethnic Koreans living in Japan. The novel has much to teach about their history (the novel spans the years 1910-1989). It also speaks to the cruelties that immigrants face around the globe. I was fortunate to read this book and meet Lee at an event back in March, just weeks after the book was released, and have been a proud groupie ever since. It was a runner up for the National Book Award (and should have won, dammit!) Now available in paperback.
  • The Leavers by Lisa Ko. Another book I read and author I had the pleasure of meeting just as her book was released in May. An ambitious first novel about a Chinese immigrant mother and her son struggling to make it in New York City. Another finalist for the National Book Award.
  • The Gypsy Moth Summer by Julia Fierro. The author that got away! I came close to meeting Fierro as she was in the area for a book event, but we were out-of-town when she was in town. A powerful story about the summer of 1992 when gypsy moths descended upon the land. Inter-generational family strife, marital politics, coming of age woes, racial tensions, socio-economic changes, and the military-industrial-complex converge into one really good read.


  • OSS Operation Black Mail: One Woman’s Covert War Against the Imperial Japanese Army by Ann Todd. The story of Elizabeth “Betty” McIntosh and her World War II experience as an OSS agent in India and China specializing in the ground-breaking work of black propaganda against the Japanese.
  • The Going and Goodbye: A Memoir by Shuly Cawood. A calm and compassionate exploration into how Cawood has moved through her love life and what she’s learned as an adult. One of the most honest, patient, and non-dramatic memoirs I’ve read. Beautifully written.
  • Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay. I listened to this one on audio and still want to read a physical copy. Gay has a way of stripping her prose down to the essentials in a way that makes her writing go directly to the center of your head, heart, and/or gut. I listened while driving on a road trip and found myself nodding along, crying, and/or gripping the steering wheel until my fingers grew numb. Sometimes all three at once.

Young Adult-ish:

  • Queer, There, and Everywhere: 23 People Who Changed the World by Sarah Prager. An outstanding collection of short biographies that I highly recommend for readers of all ages although it was written with teens in mind. A great addition to every home, school, and public library. Prager aims for diversity in this collection of biographies of queer folk who have made a difference in the world and, as a result, it is not a grouping of the names you often see. I, for one, was thrilled to see the woman I was named after, Queen Christina of Sweden, included. I was also excited when the owner of the Book Club Bookstore & More asked me to moderate Prager’s book signing at her store. We had a conversation before an enthusiastic audience.
  • The Other F-Word by Natasha Friend. A story about a group of kids who were conceived in vitro fertilization, their quest to find their biological father, and what they find along the way.
  • How to Be Everything: A Guide for Those Who (Still) Don’t Know What They Want to Be When They Grow Up by Emily Wapnick. This book was not written for teens, but I think it offers great advice for older teens on how to embrace all of their passions and start thinking of the future. It drives me nuts when I see a parent pushing their kid toward conveyor belt thinking. We don’t live in a one job or one career world anymore. And even if your kid chooses a highly specialized field, their “extracurricular” passions will help their work and their mental wellbeing. Rant over.

Emily and I also offer holiday gift ideas for the bookish person in your life (or yourself!) on Episode 34 of the Book Cougars.

Happy Holidays!


  1. Chris:

    This is such a belated thank you–THANK YOU–for listing my book here as a gift idea and for listing my book as one of your top NF books of 2017. I can’t tell you how much this meant to me. HUGE. I’m sorry it’s taken me this long to realize it–I’m JUST catching up on posts since I was traveling in December, and I just finished your BC podcast this morning on my run in which you all talked about your 2017 favorite books. Your opinion of my book means a LOT.

    Can’t wait to listen to your latest podcast, of course. I’m behind!

    And I gotta sign up for Laura’s newsletter! I need inspiration.


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