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Stoddard releases new book of family wisdom

SHARMA HOWARD, Special to the Day

Publication: The Day

Published April 02. 2013 4:00AM
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Alexandra Stoddard will talk about her new book in Mystic on Friday

Stoddard releases new book of motherly wisdom

Finding balance, happiness and beauty has been a life-long quest for Alexandra Stoddard of Stonington, whose studied pursuit of the elusive triad has led the well-known author and retired designer to a pared-down lifestyle. Six years ago, Stoddard moved full-time to her Stonington home, closing her New York-based interior design business to focus on her writing.

The result is her 28th published book, "The Shared Wisdom of Mothers and Daughters," which has been released by Harper Collins. Stoddard will celebrate with a book launch at 6 p.m. Friday at the Mystic Arts Center.

"I realized I wanted to make a deeper commitment to my readers," said Stoddard, who described the end of her design business as an abrupt one that nonetheless allowed her to concentrate full time on a more serene, interior life.

"It was a great choice. It has brought me great happiness," said Stoddard.

"The Shared Wisdom of Mothers and Daughters" is a follow-up on her popular book "Things I Want My Daughters to Know." When she wrote "Things I Want My Daughters to Know," her two daughters were in their 30s and going through tough times, said Stoddard. Now both are mothers, secure in their lives and careers, and their relationship has evolved.

"They grew up and had children and figured everything out. They became successful and happy and didn't need me in a hierarchical relationship anymore. My children were adults, they inspired me to write about shared wisdom - they are helping me and my husband out as much as we are helping them," said Stoddard.

Addressing such issues as living a more ecologically sensitive life and carving out an uninterrupted hour a day, Stoddard's book is broken up into 24 easy-to-read, compelling essays that each focus on a single lifestyle tenet.

For Stoddard, each chapter helps distill the ways in which one can attain man's universal quest - happiness, something Stoddard has said she has studied for years - and the chapters, she said, "just poured out of her."

She seems to take great pride in being the recipient of some of her daughters' shared wisdoms, such as the importance of surrounding yourself with stimulating people and being environmentally sensitive, as well as the strength they've shown.

"They are strong. We all go through struggles, and I've observed how brave and strong they are, and it makes me so proud," she said.

Women comprise Stoddard's largest fan base, and although Stoddard will point to the relevance the book has to both sexes, she also readily acknowledges that women remain an enduring inspiration for her.

"I just feel the strength of women is phenomenal. Women do more than just take care of family; they care about the world at large and do many interesting things," said Stoddard.

Stoddard likes to get to know her readers and has a personable way of interacting with them, said Patience Bannister, who co-owns Bank Square Books with Annie Philbrick.

When Stoddard had a reading five years ago, she wasn't the "author in front of the room," said Bannister, who gets calls from around the country requesting autographed copies of Stoddard's books. Stoddard, she said, always takes time to pen personal messages when she signs them.

"I think she's very interested in who the people are who read her books and is very interested in making a connection with them, and I think that's what people like about her because they feel she is speaking to them, each one individually," said Bannister.

One of her fans became a friend - a military wife who ran her household for years, caring for her mother, as well as devoting herself to helping others in the community.

"Her main purpose in life was to help people," said Stoddard.

And one way for people to help others, notes Stoddard in her book, is to make carve out an hour of uninterrupted alone time every day - something she tells her readers even busy working mothers will benefit from, as they will return to their lives refreshed and focused.

Another key in maintaining a happy life is to unplug from technology - something Stoddard, who is now living without a car, a microwave, and even a computer keyboard (she writes her books with a fountain pen). While she's aware that email and smart phones aid people in their everyday lives, she asserts there is a time to disconnect.

"I live the life I choose, not the life chosen for me," said Stoddard on eschewing the 24/7 culture of accessibility.

Influenced by a range of thinkers from Buddha to Aristotle, Stoddard describes herself as a contemporary philosopher and ceaseless student of life, urging her readers to live in the moment.

"Life is a thrilling adventure if we keep ourselves in balance, in our breath. Don't worry about the past - you can't change it - and the future hasn't arrived yet, and may not be ours," she said.

Patience and love are the themes of her last essay, but Stoddard isn't retiring from life, despite her conscientious serenity. She still expresses a verve for life that is one of her assets as a lifestyle writer, and she said she is looking forward to her book launch in Mystic.

"I plan to have fun," said Stoddard of the event. "I'm just going to celebrate life. I love to write and I feel I have a message and something to communicate. I don't read fiction - a lot of people write out of angst, I write out of abundance. It's going to be a party, a celebration."

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