Debut author Linda Hoff weaves an intricate story of trauma, healing, and hope for suffering mothers.

Linda Hoff didn’t expect to go from owning a spa to authoring a book. She also has no formal psychiatric training; what she does possess is lived experience.

Twelve years ago, Linda’s adult son was diagnosed with severe paranoid schizophrenia. The disease is incurable, and her once thriving son fell victim to horrifying delusions. He believed strangers and family were trying to kill him and that chips existed in his head. As if such heartbreak weren’t enough, Linda’s dependable life spiraled into the daily struggle of protecting her child from himself while navigating “prison”-like care facilities, unsympathetic medical professionals, and financial hurdles. Seven different times she had no choice for her son except the last resort: hospitalization—an impossibly painful decision.

With no end in sight to this all-consuming hardship, Linda knew she must escape the cycle of living her son’s pain for him. She could help him within her finances, but she also had to help herself and the other mothers of mentally ill adult children (MIAC).

So Linda began her journey as an advocate for mental illness. As she worked with personal coaches and connected with fellow mothers online, her life’s purpose slowly – if not always neatly – fell into place. There would always be overlooked women who desperately needed a message of hope. No resources were available to take care of the caretakers.

Linda needed to fill that void. She needed to write a book.

“I didn’t even realize how to start,” she says. Then her former business coach suggested she work with his acquaintance, The Book Professor®.  Without Nancy Erickson’s guidance and empathy, Linda wouldn’t have been able to write her book, let alone publish it. A professional writing coach made all the difference in bringing Linda’s story of sisterhood, recovery, and hope to the world.

Clarifying Intent

For the first module of The Book Professor®’s curriculum, Linda didn’t write; she outlined. Although nothing in her previous years as a designer and an entrepreneur had taught her how to craft a manuscript, she possessed abundant life skills for managing time, patience, and balance. She knew in her heart this book was one of a kind and that she was called to give it the strongest possible voice. But where to begin?

Ultimately, everything was distilled into a purpose statement: “What can you do when you can’t help your child? How do you work through the trauma and be in a better place?”

The BookMAP structure proved integral to organizing the puzzle of Linda’s feelings, goals, and history into a coherent narrative. She focused on the problems she aimed to address and the solutions her experiences provided, long before she put a metaphorical pen to paper. In addition to raising awareness about the gendered burden of parental caregiving, many dangerous stigmas surround mental illness. Paranoid schizophrenia, in particular, is woefully misunderstood by professionals and laymen alike. Linda knew the most beneficial advocacy meant combatting bias with truth as well as reassuring parents that they were not alone in their stymied grief.

“I feel like this book was very much needed for these moms to figure out how to work their way out,” she says.

A fully fleshed-out guide clarified the book’s structure as well, something especially necessary for a 400-page manuscript. The answer turned out to be simple yet profound: mirror her journey from grief to healing. If Linda began by introducing her readers to the myriad of heartbreaks she’d faced, then the rest of her book needed to show the valuable lessons she learned from enduring.

Once the framework was strong, true healing could occur.

The Process is Personal

With clear goals in mind, Linda spent the next several months transforming the bones of her story into words. She knew what she wanted to convey, but it took an unavoidable emotional toll.

“The first time I had to write it and read it, I cried through all of it,” shares Linda.

Her memories felt as raw as if reliving the trauma a second time – in effect, she did exactly that. Nevertheless, she remained steadfast in her commitment to her vision and Nancy. She already knew why the universe made her survive such nightmares, and Nancy was the right coach to nurture her hard-won objective to fruition.

Throughout the three modules, The Book Professor® kept her accountable with weekly goals as much as Nancy boosted Linda’s self-confidence by reminding her both of her story’s importance and her growing capabilities. Linda learned to recognize what constituted quality writing and watched her authorial improvement unfold in real time. If she took on a second book, she would work with Nancy again; The Book Professor®’s resources were invaluable.

“I could not have written this book without Nancy’s help,” she says.

The acute pain also became easier. Linda found genuine catharsis, chapter by chapter, by coming to terms with the fact her son would never be truly well again. The immediate intensity of her memories faded from the foreground of her mind to where they exist now: manageable. Today she prioritizes her needs by practicing meaningful, intentional self-care, and she cherishes her close network of supportive friends. She keeps her established boundaries firm and lives her own life rather than her son’s illness subsuming her identity.

If Linda can overcome such devastating obstacles, so can her readers. This is what the back half of her memoir demonstrates.

Correcting the Stigma

Although mental illness is more commonly discussed in modern media compared to past decades, depression and anxiety dominate the conversation. Empathy is rarely extended to those with schizophrenia. Most associate the disease with serial killers, when the mentally ill are actually far more likely to become a victim of violence than a perpetrator.

This same lack of understanding reveals itself in doctors who dismiss complex conditions as patients “not trying hard enough,” and also in the residential facilities they recommend. Linda witnessed a facility firsthand that was created from an old barracks structure with three patients to a cramped room. They lacked closets, only community bathrooms were provided, and the carpets smelled rancid. Even taking her son’s compromised cognition into account, he preferred to live homeless over the inhumane conditions.

In Linda’s words, “Society suffers when the whole isn’t well.” She couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity Nancy provided for her to carve out a space for active discussion.

A Sisterhood is Born

The Book Professor®’s last module teaches the craft of prose and proofreading. Linda found herself “so enmeshed” in transposing anecdotes from thoughts to words during the previous phase, she didn’t have the chance to step back and examine her work from a distance.

Nancy provided the time for Linda to develop her critical eye, and Linda trusted Nancy’s keen judgment to make her writing succinct. Was this word needed? This descriptor? Cutting out the extraneous made the final product more impactful. These days when Linda reads for pleasure, she observes the stark quality difference between self-publishing and professional assistance.

Linda also benefitted from the insights of her writing cohorts in The Book Professor®’s Executive Group MASTERMIND program. Even though their subject matters differed, each author’s perspective enriched the yearlong feedback process. If one of them had a bad day, there was never a doubt about the group’s support. The title of Linda’s memoir, Sisters in the Storm, proved relevant in more ways than one.

Gaining Insight from Illness

Linda’s book took a year and a half from beginning to publication. That wasn’t the plan.

During the editing process, Linda contracted the COVID-19 virus. She spent a month hospitalized on an oxygen machine and another five at home recuperating. Soon after she developed sepsis, a condition where the body’s immune system attacks itself rather than the infection. Barely able to brush her teeth or stand, Linda’s stagnating thoughts crystallized into a revelation: how she felt echoed her son’s fallout after a psychotic episode. For example, people with severe brain disorders don’t interpret basic hygiene as necessary; it might not even occur to them. This is why responsibility so often falls to mothers like Linda to keep a child alive.

Linda is still recovering but has improved at the time of this article. Looking back, she admits the time experiencing incapacity from the other side was “a good lesson.”

Out of the Storm

Sisters in the Storm: For Moms of Mentally Ill Adult Children was released on May 1, 2022. Linda can’t help but view the moment as surreal. The novel has already earned multiple 5-star reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, and upon its debut, it trended at #1 in the Kindle Books “schizophrenia” topic. The latter is almost ironic given how Linda couldn’t so simply categorize her work.

“What other books out there are comparable?” she asks. The answer? “None.”

The lingering effects of her illness delayed a launch party and additional website content, but Linda believes she’s moving at the speed she’s meant to. The twisting roads of her life prove as much. She hopes Sisters will affect enough mothers’ lives to become a New York Times bestseller; any fame or money from success doesn’t matter.

As for her future otherwise, she may pursue another book about mental health when the time is right. The creative process with Nancy was as rewarding as it could be, and Linda knows she has more yet to give. Until then, she allows herself to feel peace in the moment and live the happy life everyone deserves and anyone can have.

Whom Can You Help?

Writing a powerful book is always possible. Is there a deeply personal story only you can tell? Do you want to use your expertise to affect individual or social change? Start your journey today by contacting The Book Professor® for more information.