Features Week June 2019: Author Kelly “Nerdzilla” Mendenhall

If you listen to my podcast, you might have heard that I recently started promoting books alongside the podcasts I usually do. Kelly’s memoir was the first I ever recommended and set in motion the other book promos I’ve been playing. Since learning more about her, I’ve also started listening to her podcast, a Non-Mom Happy Hour in which she and her co-host chat about life with, without, and in between kids.

How long have you been writing?

Since I learned how to write, honestly. I begged for a typewriter for my 8th birthday and my mom actually got me one. I still miss the feeling of the keys and mechanics in there moving around as I pounded each key.

I began writing short stories and entering essay contests in elementary school. At age 15, I had a weekly editorial column in the Chelsea Standard; the local paper in the town we lived in, Chelsea, Michigan. I also start writing poetry in high school.

I got away from creative writing in my late twenties, as I started graduate school and working towards my Masters in Public Administration. I really missed it, but for more than a decade, I got really stuck in “survival mode” and was only writing professionally in the context of grant applications and reports, and foster parent home studies. i was just trying to make ends meet and cover payments toward the ever-oppressing student loan debt.

It wasn’t until June 2017 when I became suddenly medically disabled and debilitated by pain that I reconnected with my creative self and began writing a blog about my life experiences. I often refer to myself as a recovering nonprofit professional.


What inspired you to become a writer?

I’m not sure I was inspired so much as destined, honestly. As I said, I was drawn to writing from a very young age. The Universe kept finding ways to keep me writing in one form or another whether I was consciously aware of it or not.

When I became medically disabled I decided that I would start writing a blog that would turn my mess into a message — I wanted to show the world that a diagnosis or diagnoses don’t have to be the end of your story. We’re all of the heroes of our own story, and everyone loves a hero. (I heard that from a business coach at some point.)

After writing the blog for several months it dawned on me that I should write a book — I did just that. Skin in the Game, the Stories My Tattoos Tell is my debut as an author. It officially drops on June 1.

In the book, I tell of the significant events and pivotal moments of my life by way of recounting the stories behind my eclectic collection of tattoos. This includes the death of my father at age 4, the deaths of many friends who died too young, my abortion at age 28, and my health journey over the past two years. As for the intended audience, this book is written for anyone who has ever thought of giving up, anyone needing the inspiration to keep on fighting, and anyone who fears that they may be too far gone for redemption.

The CDC reports that 4.4% of adults ages 25-44 experience high-impact chronic pain in the United States. Further, women are more likely to experience high-impact chronic pain than men; approximately 8.9% of adult women experience acute chronic pain compared to approximately 7% of men. Furthermore, patients experiencing acute chronic pain are more likely to experience depression and anxiety, loss of mobility, and loss of quality of life. (Reference).

As I said before, I refer to myself as a recovering nonprofit professional and that is very much tied to the medical wellness journey I’ve been on for the past two years, which is highlighted in the book. There is a pain bias against women in Western medicine and that can make it incredibly difficult for us suffering to be diagnosed and treated expeditiously. If I can help even one person survive the demented carousel that is the American medical complex; help one person feel less alienated and hopeless, my book will have served its purpose.


Are you published anywhere?

Yes! As a freelance journalist.

blogger/author website

Editorial Review of my book


Which of your written pieces is your favorite?

Oh gosh that’s tough. Aside from my book, probably:

“Tony Robbins Mansplains Me Too” blastingnews.com


In what genre do you write?

Typically non-fiction, although I do have an idea in my mind for a children’s book series I would like to write next. The series would star my dog Rosebud, who passed away this last February. She was an incredibly special dog, a white boxer with one albino eye and one brown eye, born deaf. She was my Emotional Support Animal and just had an incredibly special personality. I’d like to use her as the star character in creating a children’s book series about loving people for their differences and not fearing “others” or “different” but embracing those things.


What is the most challenging part about being a writer in the genre you’ve chosen?

Sometime I think I took the easy way out by choosing to write an autobiographical book for my first book. But, in reality, it’s really fucking scary and hard. In the climate we are in today and the fight against women’s reproductive rights and health… what feels like an all-out war on women… it was fucking scary to go public with my abortion.

Additionally, I had to navigate concerns and worries over how some of my family members might react to my book, being that I’m honest about some of my family’s dirty laundry as well. At times it would cause a mental block, I’d put off writing chapters for weeks at a time and hide from the book. But, eventually, I realized that it doesn’t fucking matter what my family members think or feel about my story — it’s *my* story to tell.


What do you do in your free time?

I’m a Spoonie, so my health is a full-time job and everything else is icing on the cake; I call myself a self-care advocate. I’m also a podcast co-host.


Do you have any upcoming projects you’d like to share?

I would love for anyone reading this to check out my podcast, A Non Mom Happy Hour. We’re the podcast that celebrates real ass, human women, whether they use their baby box or not. Sometimes we interview everyday badass women and most weeks we tell each other about badass women in history. We also celebrate and talk about being survivors — mental health, trauma, disordered eating, all kinds of things.

We don’t apologize for these, we share our experiences authentically talk about these topics and the experiences of the women we interview or research for the show very honestly. We cuss a lot, so if you’re a mom, maybe listen on earbuds when the kids are napping or when you can take a break from momming for an hour. We also laugh a lot. I like to say we are equal parts sass and class.


Do you have any funny stories about your writing adventures?

The funniest thing is probably how I came to write the book. At the time, I was on dosages of nerve-blocking medications that could probably kill a horse in addition to muscle relaxers, anti-inflammatories, and my mental health medications. I was confused and out of it the for several months and actually don’t remember most of the time period.

My partner, Nathan, who has lovingly cared for me throughout all of this had come up to make me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for dinner. See, he works in the basement, so he would pop up throughout the day to feed me and make sure I was taking my meds, not taking too much, and generally ok. For about ten months I could hardly walk unassisted or stand on my own.

Anyway, so he makes me the peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and I’m sitting on the couch in a haze, and suddenly I exclaim: “I’m going to write a book! It’s going to be called The Stories My Tattoos Tell and I’m going to tell my life story through my tattoos!” He looked up, probably wondering if I had finally snapped, mentally, and just said, “Ok.” I don’t think he knew what to make of it. I was so out of it he probably thought it was a moment akin to a fever dream and that I’d forget about it the next day. But I didn’t — I woke up the next day and started writing. I wrote the whole damn thing laying on my back, on the couch.


Do you have any encouraging words for those that want to write?

Fuck. I wish I had something prolific to say. All I can think of is, just fucking rate. Take the risks and the chances and believe in yourself and do it. I put every bit of my design, editing, marketing, and publishing costs on fucking credit cards because if there’s one thing I’ve learned through these past two years it’s that there’s no such thing as a safe bet. I thought I was doing everything I was “supposed to do” while working a regular ass job and being a regular ass person and wishing that I could someday get back to my writing… then my body fell apart and showed me that my work was literally killing me. And when the corporate world bailed on me and left me high and dry financially I had to get really creative, fast, about finding ways to generate income from home and make dreams happen from the couch. Where there’s a will there’s a way. if I’m betting on anyone from here out, I’m betting on me. And I know that’s not going to be the right journey for everyone, but I may as well be honest about my own.


Is there anyone you’d like to promote?

Stefanie Davis! We actually interviewed her on the podcast, the episode entitled Chronic Migraine, Bouncy Boxers, and a Messy Wedding Dress. Stefanie is a badass Spoonie living with chronic migraine who ditched her corporate banking job because it wasn’t conducive to her healthcare needs and medidcations, and started her own film company. She’s just released Hot Mess in a Wedding Dress, her first feature-length indie film, today! Here’s the Prime Video link.


Where can we find you on social media?

Personal Instagram

Personal Twitter

Personal Facebook

Podcast Instagram

Podcast Twitter

Check out Kelly as an author, on her podcast, and on Twitter as an awesome creator!

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