Interview with Manon Rinsma
There is so much power in sharing our stories. We can learn from others that we are not alone in difficult times, we can find strength in listening and being listened to, and we can find hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Do you want to make people laugh, cry, feel, or teach something about life? Or do you just have an amazing story to tell that can inspire people all over the world?
Hi Manon! Could you please tell us a bit more about STRONGER BY SHARING and what led to your founding the initiative?
Hi, my name is Manon Rinsma and I am the founder of an organization STRONGER BY SHARING which is an organization that is trying to change the world one story at a time. Our mission is to create hope in difficult times by sharing stories and creating an inspirational environment for all in need of one and what led me to founding STRONGER BY SHARING actually was with me writing a personal memoir about losing my mother to brain cancer when I was twelve years old. It was published in February of 2018 and it's called '13 Diamonds: Life Before Death From A Child's Perspective'. And then my short story initiatives started by leaving some pages at the end of the book empty for other people to write their stories as well. So when they would pass along my book after reading and it would not just be my story but it would be a small story of somebody else as well. And I found there was so much power in sharing stories so I was still thinking too small. First a book that was great to put it out there. But then I thought what can I do to help others? What can I do to take my story and make it positive for other people and that's when I came up with stronger by sharing which right now runs a writing contest, Share Your Story In Short awards and submissions are open and I'm really excited to see what the power of sharing can do.
What kind of stories have users submitted? What's been the most rewarding aspect of launching STRONGER BY SHARING?
Yes. Like I said before STRONGER BY SHARING is running nonfiction short story writing contest called 2018 Share Your Story In Short awards. Submissions are open and the stories that are being submitted. Honestly, it can be about anything as long as it's non-fiction. Whether you want to make people laugh or cry or teach something about life or just share something you've been through that you've been struggling with. Or maybe you just have an amazing story to tell that can impact people all over the world. All those stories are very welcome. It doesn't always have to be negative. It can be super positive too just to make few people feel like you're not alone. In certain circumstances and we're all in this together. And honestly that's the most rewarding aspect of it too. Once people realize that they're not alone and that they're feeling comfortable enough to share their experiences and then they come to me and they say "thank you for initiating this" and then the most the most rewarding moment for me probably was when I shared my own story about losing my mother and then his mother in Australia contacted me and she was sick, she had brain cancer as well and she said "while I didn't have that conversation with my son yet and because you're pushing me to share I feel like I can finally be honest with him" and that's really really special for me and I just hope everybody can be an ambassador of their circumstance, instead of a victim.
From idea to launch, how long did it take to establish STRONGER BY SHARING? When did you decide to take the leap and launch your own company?
From idea to launch STRONGER BY SHARING. Honestly 24 hours. I leapt but it had been brewing very deep inside me over a very long time. When I am originally from the Netherlands and when I left my country in 2015 I travelled the world for about a year to kind to find peace of mind and trying to see where I was at and where I wanted to go. And I think that's when I decided I really wanted to write a book. I wanted to put my experiences out there. I just never really knew how to. I never really knew where it would go. If somebody asks you "What do you want to do?" part of me always thought I wanted to be working for a big corporation and part of me always said you know I want to do what people like Oprah do. You know I want to be that person that if a hurricane comes by I want to be there and rebuild, I want to do something good. I want to give back. And I think when I finally had this little epiphany of realizing that I could take my book and take my story and build it to something bigger and motivate others to share too I think I've finally realized that that was something I wanted to do. So after a few nights of brainstorming with my husband I one day just knew STRONGER BY SHARING was going to happen. And a day later it was born and I couldn't be more excited.
What has been the response to STRONGER BY SHARING? How many people have submitted stories since you launched the company this year?
Yes. Their response has been overwhelmingly positive. But I do notice that a lot of people are still very hesitant about wanting to share their stories specially if it is a difficult one to tell. For example some people came to me like oh my gosh I love your initiative. Amazing what you're doing and it's so much needed. But my story? My story is too bad like I can't it's too negative or it's too depressing or it's too awful and people are not waiting for my story. I'm like If you say that then you should share your story because you can find so much strength from the reactions of others or just putting it out there can already give you so much peace of mind. So I do see that people are still very in debate. It's very much of an internal conflict for them to start sharing more stories. Submissions we are still working on that. We need a lot more stories but then again we just launched this summer, summer 2018. So there are still plenty of months left to collect stories but I do see that there's a little bit of a speed bump for people to get into that mindset of wanting to gain that strength by sharing and seeing that not only can they help themselves they can help others too.
We saw that you also wrote 13 DIAMONDS. What led to your writing the book and what has been the feedback from readers?
In February 2018 I published my first memoir called '13 Diamonds: Life Before Death From A Child's Perspective' is about losing my mother to glioblastoma which is a brain cancer when I was 12 years old. It was published 13 years after she passed away and I was almost 13 years old when she did. It took me half my life basically to get my story out there, find my voice and find my kind of comfort zone outside my comfort zone to start sharing. I started writing 13 Diamonds the day my mother passed away, before she passed away. Actually, when I was 12 years old I made a little title page and I wrote down a life without a mother. How would that be. And to me, that was the start of everything and I rewrote and rewrote, rewrote initially in Dutch because that is my mother language. And then a few years ago I started to rebuild it in English and somehow that worked better for me so I decided to publish it in English as well. I also think that would impact a lot more people overall. And so far the response has been very incredible. People are really having my back and sending me all these positive notes and such a positive vibe about it that people say it really is a story about love and cancer changed my life but it helped others a lot too and I helped others understand the child's perspective.
What's next for STRONGER BY SHARING, as well as your other projects and initiatives? Where do you see your career in five years?
So STRONGER BY SHARING currently is running short story writing contest but for next year I think we're really hoping to get a book award out there too. If people really want to go through that memoir rollercoaster, like I did. Really exciting news. But my book '13 Diamonds: Life Before Death From a Child's Perspective', just won this really cool award. And it just makes me feel so awesome that people are appreciating that I basically poured my heart out on them and shared my diary. Basically, that's what you're doing when you're writing a memoir. It's very raw emotions, it's very real. And I felt so good to feel the love. I do hope to also run a Book Award and not just that we're creating an online course to also help people overcome the challenges of writing a book or writing a story and get into that mindset and followed the steps and create your timeline and your goals and see what's out there for you to share. And that's that's really on the writing part. I really hope that in the next five years STRONGER BY SHARING will grow into this organization that is there for people and is able to give back to the people that are willing to share their stories to help others as well. Maybe in the form of a wishing well that hopefully we can make some wishes come true.