The COVID-19 pandemic changed everything. Making sense of it is no easy task. Dr. Sara Coffey hopes to help.

With a rich background in studying and understanding people, Dr. Sara Coffey created Unpacked as a tool for those struggling to make sense of the pandemic’s global and personal effects. Keep reading to learn about her writing process and how community powered her through the publication process.

Before we get into your book, tell us about you. Who is Dr. Sara Coffey? 

I’m a child and adolescent and adult psychiatrist who has had a strong interest in trauma-informed care since the start of my career. Prior to medical school, I worked in child welfare, where I served youth and families struggling with multi-generational trauma, mental health disorders, and substance use disorders. I went to medical school to become a child and adolescent psychiatrist and recognize the importance of holistic care that involves the individual, family, and community. I’m an associate professor who trains medical students and residents to provide a humanistic and compassionate approach to care to the individuals they serve. In my line of work, I’ve provided education and training on the impact of trauma on individuals and communities to medical professionals, mental health professionals, educators, child welfare workers, and law enforcement. 

Tell us a bit about Unpacked. What is it about, what inspired the story, and how long did it take for you to move toward publication? 

I am a firm believer in the healing aspect of writing, whether that be a personal journal or the endeavor of writing a book or collections of poetry. During the COVID-19 pandemic, I wrote down my thoughts and feelings almost daily. It was helpful for me to make sense of all that was going on during that time. I knew I needed to organize and explore it in a way that would aid in my healing process.

On my forty-first birthday I was given a Smith Corona typewriter. I set to work on a piece of literature that I wasn’t quite sure where it would go. During my hours, days, and weeks of writing, I found peace and meaning through the process and felt strongly that this piece of work might do the same for others, so I set out with the intention to publish.

It was a several-year process and one I am so thankful I had the support and resources to do. It is a book I am proud of, and I hope others will find some support with it too! 

Now that Unpacked is published, how will you measure whether it’s a success? What is your goal for the book?

Obviously, there are metrics for success—looking at how many books sell, the rank on Amazon’s list, etc. But honestly, a colleague I respect and appreciate let me know how much he liked the book and how appreciative he was of my authenticity, and that to me meant so much.

This project was a labor of love and healing for me, and I just hope that it provides some healing or support for those who read it. If readers gain a bit of peace or hope through this writing journey, that is success for me. 

What are you doing to market your book and let folks know it is available? 

I have had the opportunity to sell the book at national conferences. I am speaking around the country about the work of the book and letting our audience know that it is available. I am also using social media, which honestly seems very foreign as a way to promote the book. 

What feedback have you received so far on your book?

It has been well received. Many have commented on my ability to take complex topics and present them in a way that makes sense. Others have been appreciative that I didn’t shy away from uncomfortable topics. Many have spoken to me about the pain they still feel around the COVID pandemic, including many of whom lost family members and friends. 

What do you now know about book publishing that you wish you knew before getting started? 

Oh goodness, I still think there is a lot I don’t know! I feel really lucky that I have friends and colleagues whom I asked for advice on what to do and how to do it. As an author, you can feel very alone in your writing, and I would encourage and remind inspiring authors to seek out support, editing, and the wisdom of the community to help along your journey. I spoke with everyone from publishers to authors to lawyers to get a better handle on what I didn’t know I didn’t know. There was A LOT I did not know! 

What would you say to other authors who have a memoir or other nonfiction book they want to publish but aren’t sure they should? 

Go for it! In the wise words of the poet Mary Oliver, “Tell me, what else should I have done? Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

Now that Unpacked is released, do you have plans for another book? If so, can you give us the inside scoop on what it’s about? 

So, I know the title: Everything Works, Some of the Time. It will detail all I have learned about working with children and adolescents as a child and adolescent psychiatrist. As parents, there is so much information on “best practices” for raising healthy, whole humans. As a parent myself and someone who works with families and schools, I feel confident that every intervention doesn’t work for every child, all the time. This book will explore this with lighthearted examples and realistic tools and tips for caregivers.

Where can readers find you online?

I can be found on Instagram.

Is there anything else the world should know about you or your writing? I appreciate the reader’s thoughts and comments, so don’t hesitate to reach out and let me know what you think!

Thanks so much, and here’s to success!