That's What She Said

Episode 29: Visiting with Lija Fisher of Boulder, CO and her story, “How Sasquatch Saved Me”

 
Lija Fisher

Lija Fisher The She Said Project

ANNOUNCER: Raising women’s voices—one story at a time.
Welcome to The She Said Project Podcast. 

MUSIC: intro music plays

JENETTE JURCZYK: Welcome back to our friends who are joining us on The She Said Project Podcast, where we come together each week to talk to a woman who has shared her story in one of our She Said shows. I’m your host, Jenette Jurczyk, National director of The She Said Project—and with me:

KERRY ROSSOW: I’m Kerry Rossow, founder.

JENETTE: We’re recording our podcast on the Zoom because of COVID restrictions we have not been able to get back to the studio yet. So Kerry, I don’t know her audience is watching or listening but she’s all business on top and pajama party on the bottom.

KERRY: Pajama pants down low. It’s the silver lining of this craziness is we are in a pandemic and we all have hashed over all the downsides of that, but the silver lining is that we can still get together and we’re getting ready to have a chat with an awesome person from Colorado. So there’s that… in our PJs no less.

JENETTE: That’s right. Although I’ve seen you come to live performances and rehearsals wearing PJs, but that’s a .. choice.

KERRY: Whatever.

JENETTE: In the Zoom Studio with us today from Boulder, Colorado, please welcome our guest, Lija Fisher.

LIJA FISHER: Hi, everybody. Thanks for having me!

JENETTE: Thank you so much for coming back and visiting us here in She Said Land, where you are in the She Said Family forever so we’re so grateful. When we decided to do a virtual show, we connected with you and you jumped on board. So tell us what that experience was like for you.

LIJA: Yeah! I mean it was, it ended up honestly being a lot more amazing than, than I was anticipating. I think that we recorded the show—and not because I thought it wasn’t going to be amazing, but it was just so early in the Zoom culture, you know, where everything had gone to Zoom and it was like, Let’s do a storytelling show on Zoom—and I was like, what is that going to be like? And I thought okay, I’ll just tell a story and and just see how it goes—what I was not expecting was how just through the few rehearsals that we had, how we actually did bond as a group over the internet and how listening to these other women’s stories… I mean, I think we just rehearsed it once or twice as a group and then did the whole show together as a group and just that little bit of connecting with these other women who I had never met before and hearing all of their stories—which were all so different and so powerful and so funny and so sad and they ran the gamut and by the end I felt like I had somehow virtually made a whole new group of friends and it was just delightful.

JENETTE: I am so happy to hear that because we were not sure how this would translate to the virtual world. We’ve created a beautiful universe where women come together and share stories live on stage most of the time, but thank you for jumping in and for, you know, for being a guinea pig—so to speak—it actually worked out for you personally. Kerry, did you get to see that show that we got to air back in August of 2020.

KERRY ROSSOW:  I did. It was the first show I had ever watched from my garage and as Jenette knows I was naysayer about this whole thing because I did not feel like it would translate. I felt like the women really needed to be together and I can tell—behind the scenes lurking—that I was wrong and that the women were connecting and all of the lead up to it. And then when I watched it, I was sort of just gut punched again by all of these women’s willingness to connect with each other and share your stories and I had to sort of crawl back to Jenette and be like, sorry you were right, but women’s stories, they’re powerful. It’s a powerful thing. We all want to connect and you guys—you did it.

JENETTE: Thank you, Kerry—and Lija certainly brought humor and charm and delight to our event with her story… I have say it, because it’s hilarious—“How Sasquatch Saved Me.” Because this is good for our audience to know that Lija, you are a fiction writer of young reader novels. Am I right?

LIJA: That is correct. Yeah, I am what is called a middle grade author, which is books for kids ages 8 through 12 and I write humorous adventure novels about cryptozoology, which is the search for legendary animals that might be real—like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster and the Chupacabra. So it’s a very fun world that’s very different than mythology because myths existed in ancient times. Whereas cryptids are animals that might exist today and we actually have discovered some, so it’s this fascinating field of science or pseudoscience, depending on where you fall on the Cryptid Spectrum.

JENETTE: I have to say, Kerry, I don’t know anyone else like Lija who shared their story in a She Said performance about cryptids and quasi-mythological creatures, I think this was new for us.
KERRY: I loved it and I think lots of people connected. One: I’m always in, maybe this is just misinformation, but my assumption that it’s a male-dominated sort of genre and area—so I was drawn to the fact that she was killing it in that field. But then also like my twelve year old self, I grew up in Indiana and on a lake and we would go hiking it like we were always having grand adventures that we would work out where Bigfoot was involved in all of those things so it gave me like great memories of that and then thinking that you’re sharing this platform with young people who are still willing to have that kind of exploration and thought and create these adventures and I just thought it was so cool.

LIJA: Thank you. Yeah.. cryptozoology is, I find, just a fascinating feel that can get kids imaginations really, really raring. Raring to go— just the idea that Bigfoot might be real and that kids might…

KERRY: He is real!

LIJA: He is real! I’m sorry. He is real! YES! I was on one podcast where I said ‘might be real’ and they very quickly corrected me and said Lija, he is real and I was like, okay, no you’re right!

KERRY: Thank you, Lija, for correcting that. Go ahead.

LIJA: Yes, I apologize. Yes, he’s real. No, he is. I do believe that there is enough science to make it a possibility. Even Jane Goodall, the famed primatologist, when asked on NPR if she thought Bigfoot was real—it was kind of a joke question—and she surprised the interview where it said that she absolutely believes that there are undiscovered ape species in North America. So the more over the past few years. I’ve definitely gone deep into the rabbit hole of Bigfoot and cryptozoology and the deeper I go, the more fascinating I find it and I just love sharing that imagination and fascination with kids.

JENETTE: That is so great and it’s fascinating to hear how you got into it. And you know, this wasn’t your passion your whole life. This was something that found you just a few years ago. And that’s exactly what you shared as your story in The She Said Showcase. So we’re going to go ahead and listen to the audio clip from your performance in The She Said Story Sharing Showcase from August 2020 where you shared a little bit about your journey and how you got to where you are today. So let’s take a listen—here is Lija Fisher on Zoom stage in the August 2020 showcase with her story, “How Sasquatch Saved Me.”

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LIJA: A few years ago, I was speaking at a Bigfoot Conference. Yes, they are a real thing. There are several that happen all over the country, where researchers come together to talk about the latest findings in the search for Bigfoot. So here I was, speaking to a hundred people about how the search for the big furry guy is a worthwhile educational topic to explore with kids. After my talk, I signed some books and realized that just a few years ago I had no idea Bigfoot Conferences even existed, nor did I ever picture myself speaking at one.

The journey to looking for Sasquatch, or ‘squatching,’ as it’s called, began when I was a kid. My mom went to the bookstore and asked the bookseller for something to read to me at bedtime.

Without hesitation, the woman handed my mom - not a book on cute elephants or cuddly penguins - but she handed her The Hobbit and told my mom to read it to me every night. Which my mom did, and those nights spent cuddling in bed, hearing about those epic battles and grand adventures, are some of my favorite childhood memories.

It also left a strong impression on me, because as I got older, I wanted to live a life that was full of fantasy and adventure. So in college I switched my degree from International Relations (that I was taking because I wanted to be a spy, even though I didn’t like the idea of getting tortured for information because I knew I’d crack immediately) to Theatre Performance Studies. I thought, well, if I can’t be an actual spy, at least I could maybe play one on TV.

After I graduated college, I lived in London, LA, and finally New York City, working my tail off. Which really meant that I was working hard at my day jobs and doing very little acting. I just couldn’t seem to get anywhere with it. Now, I knew that show business was a tough business and acting was nice work if you could get it, and I just couldn’t get it.

As I approached my 35th birthday, I realized that I was single, broke, and unsuccessful. I had developed a horrible case of stage fright because I had faced so much rejection that my body froze at the mere prospect of encountering more. I knew I had a creative voice, but I had no idea how to use it. I had tried commercials, improv, audiobooks, stage, tv and one ill-advised audition for a traveling acrobat show - even though I was not an acrobat. Needles to say, I didn’t get the job. I couldn’t gain traction anywhere and wondered constantly what I was doing wrong.

Then, one day I was sitting on set for a short film I was acting in—don’t worry, I wasn’t getting paid. It wasn’t fancy or anything—and started telling a fellow actor how lost I was feeling. He listened intently, and at the end of my story said, ‘You need to go traveling.’ I asked him why he thought that, and he said, ‘It sounds like you don’t like the life you’re living, so you need to change the channel, and the best way to change the channel on your life is through traveling. It gets you out of your funk, because woman, you are deep in the funk and you need to get out.’

As soon as I heard those words, I decided that he was right. I needed to get as far away from my funk as possible. So I took on extra hours at work and saved up enough money to go on a hiking tour through New Zealand where I’d visit the sets for the The Hobbit movies. My life had become so unadventurous that I really needed to do something epic. I was a little nervous traveling alone, so I asked my mom if she supported me in doing the trip. She said she thought
my money would be better spent on a therapist, but figured flying as far away from my problems as the Earth would allow might have some positive effect, too.

So I packed my bags, spent a week in Australia and then hopped over to New Zealand for my Hobbit tour. Some people say that there are moments in life that shift the trajectory of your life forever, and this was definitely one of those moments. I told a fellow hiker about my funk and he said that if I really wanted to make a change, the best way to do that was to look at the evidence of my life and shift it from there.

So I spent that night looking at the evidence of my life. I had a steady job as a pilates teacher that paid my bills fine. And when I wasn’t teaching or taking acting classes, I was sitting in Brooklyn coffee shops. Looking at that evidence, I thought, ‘so how can I be creative within that?’ And I realized that I could write. Everyone else in the Brooklyn coffee shops were writing novels, I might as well, too.

And the very next day, as we were hiking through the New Zealand mountains, an idea for a story popped right into my head. I began writing that night, not even sure I would like the process, and was tickled to discover that I adored writing. I felt happy, I didn’t have to worry about my stage fright, and best of all, I was creating again.

Within months, I had a book finished. It didn’t go anywhere, because I discovered in hindsight that I basically wrote The Hobbit. But it didn’t matter because I already had an idea for a new book. See, I had read an article in the paper about Charlie Sheen, who had put together a hunting party to go to Alaska to find The Otterman. I thought, ‘Who is the Otterman and what does Charlie Sheen want with him?’ After doing some research, I discovered that the Otterman was a cryptid, or a legendary animal that might be real, and that set me off on a whole new tangent for my writing. That book got me an agent and within months I had a book deal, which took me away from being a failed actor and turned me into a published author. I always knew that I wanted to live a life of fantasy and adventure, it just took me awhile to realize that there were many ways to do that.

And when I look at my life now, it makes so much sense that this is what I do, I just had to pivot my focus a bit to get here. I am an author of books for 8-12 year olds, filled with epic battles and high tailed adventures about legendary animals. I speak at Bigfoot Conferences about how exploring these animals gets kids interested in reading and science. And perhaps tonight a parent will be reading one of my books to their child, and that child will decide that they, too, want to live a life of exploration and adventure.

[applause]

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JENETTE: So Lija, thank you so much—I have in fact that and read one of your books to my eight year old, and I’m enjoying getting to know the world of Cryptids and Bigfoot. So thank you. You’ve brought a new layer of interest into our family and our reading—what a fun interesting journey that got you where you are today.

LIJA:  Yeah, you know, it’s so funny because I never imagined myself being an author of children’s books and I certainly never pictured that I would be a speaker at Bigfoot conferences

JENETTE: What up?

LIJA: A speaker at Bigfoot conferences.. because I didn’t start writing until I was thirty-five. I was a die hard actor. I will be on the stage. I will be an actor for life. But once I became an author it made me realize,  that when I was a kid, I was an avid reader. My mom got me reading when I was really young. She always read me stories. I always read books. So to look at how my life turned out it makes perfect sense even though I wasn’t on that path my whole life. I was on this totally different path. And as I mentioned in my story, I just had to change the channel at one point because things weren’t working for me and I changed the channel to live a life that I never anticipated but that makes total and perfect sense. So oftentimes I have friends who are really struggling to get where they want to go and sometimes I just gently ask them, ‘Are you really going in the right direction or do you just maybe need to pivot just a little bit and if there’s some possibility for you of something that you could be amazingly successful at but you just haven’t quite discovered it yet?’

KERRY: We often say, ‘It’s never too late to rewrite our script..’ and when I heard you talk about changing the channel, I thought wow, it’s just … it’s the same verbiage that I often hear from women, you know, we have this channel that we think we’re supposed to stay on that channel or the scripts that we wrote for ourselves when we were twenty or how or that someone else wrote for us. And then I think we get to a point hopefully, where we go, You know what? I’m going to rewrite that or I’m going to change the channel—so it really spoke to me when I heard you say that.

LIJA: Yeah, I didn’t mention this in my story, but when I got my book deal, I was in my early forties, when I got my book deal, and I was going through a break-up and I had moved back in with my mom into my childhood bedroom. So I was broke. I was living with my mom. I was forty-one and I was like, well, I guess this is where I go to die—like this it. This is the end of my story and I remember I was hiking in the mountains and I’m spiritual but I’m not religious but I somewhat prayed, you know, to the universe and I said, you know what… I said, I will be fine. I will get a job. I will work as a secretary. I’ll do whatever—I’ll write at night. Like I will be fine.
However, that being said—it would be really fantastic if I could get a book deal—like it would just be really great if that could happen. And by the time I got back to my car there was a phone call from my agent saying that I got I got the book deal so yes, it’s never too late to just change the channel and turn the corner and you never know when that moment going to hit even when you think that you’re at your lowest.

JENETTE: I can absolutely relate. I definitely had to change the channel on my life and never used that term but I think that’s such a great term because it doesn’t allude to giving up or failure or anything but switch of focus, you know, just change the direction. Do you ever think about that person, that actor on the set who gave you that advice that set you off into a whole new direction?

LIJA: And that’s the funny thing. I can’t even remember who told me that—I mean, I remember being on set, I remember sitting there. I remember talking to somebody. I can’t remember their face. I can’t remember their name—for all I know it was like an angel who just like happened to sit down next to me and was like, and was like, let me give you a little piece of advice and that was it. No, it was just literally this person who just came into my life for a day—even an hour—and just totally shifted my perceptions of what to do and I like the phrase, ‘change the channel’ because yeah, it doesn’t mean failure. It means, ‘Oh my gosh! My life is a horror show and I want to turn the channel to it being a comedy,’ you know, it’s like … it allows you a little more control in how you’re viewing your life.

JENETTE: I think that is so powerful of a tool to share with our audience. So thank you.

Yeah, I think the world is full of those magical moments and signs if we’re willing to pay attention and to listen. We’ve had so many of those moments with women who’ve been through That’s What She Said and shared stories and there’s always this nugget, this nugget that comes out from their story that someone needed to hear, someone in the audience can connect with—Kerry has had those moments. I’ve had those moments—where you just hear that phrase that turns something on in your brain that really gives you that focus that you were looking for. And I’m so glad that you found your calling and your purpose because you are so spectacular at what you do and the joy that you bring to your readers and now the joy that you get to bring to the women in our universe—so thank you, Lija, for joining us. I have some more reading to do. Kerry?

KERRY: Yeah.. I’m going to take her book and I’m going to go to the woods…

JENETTE: And see who you can find or who can find you? I’d be too scared. Be too scared for Bigfoot to find me…

KERRY: Maybe. Yeah.. You’re a city girl.

LIJA: I will be going on my first Bigfoot searching Adventure soon. I have yet to go into the woods and go ‘squatching’ or ‘bigfooting’ as they say it but I found somebody who’s going to take me into the woods this spring and do a little Bigfoot looking—do a little squatching.

JENETTE: Well, good luck with that. Sasquatch means a lot to you and hopefully will continue to—so.

That’s our show for today. We love love love connecting with women who share their stories in That’s What She Said live or in the Zoom and thanks for joining us on The She Said Project Podcast—real women, coming together, sharing stories.

LIJA: Thank you so much for having me.

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ANNOUNCER: Thank you for listening to The She Said Project Podcast, in partnership with Illinois Public Media. 

All materials contained in the podcast are the exclusive property of The She Said Project and That’s What She Said, LLC. For more information on our live shows go to shesaidproject (dot) com. 

This podcast was made possible with support from Carle and Health Alliance and presented by Sterling Wealth Management. Empowering women to live their best lives.

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In her story, "How Sasquatch Saved Me," Lija Fisher of Boulder, CO shares how she found her true calling to become an author of books for young readers. Can the search for a mythical creature change the course of your life? Tune in, with our hosts Kerry and Jenette to find out!   

This podcast is brought to you by Sterling Wealth ManagementCarle and Health Alliance, empowering women to live their best lives. 

The She Said Project Podcast is recorded in partnership with Illinois Public Media. All materials contained in this podcast are the exclusive property of The She Said Project and That's What She Said, LLC. Learn more at shesaidproject.com.