Interview with BJJ Author Elena Stowell

Interview with BJJ Author Elena Stowell

Elena Stowell wrote Flowing with the Go available at Barnes and Noble and Amazon. With thanks to her publisher I was able to obtain an advance copy. I was moved by her story, impressed by her writing and awed by her struggle. After reading her book, I asked Elena for an interview. Here’s a few things she shared with BJJ Legends.

What have you been doing since you wrote the last page? Specifically are there any more stripes or tournaments? Have you competed as a blue belt?

I have gotten a stripe on my blue belt … and I competed once in our local Revolution tournament. I backed off for a while because my 5 months preparing for Worlds was intense and took a lot of time away from my family… and like I said in the book …I sort of thought maybe not again. What I had subconsciously decided was that I just didn’t want to compete again until I went down a weight class. I was 190 when I competed at Worlds … smallish for the heavyweights it seemed, (to me) but getting to 162 seemed daunting.

Of course, once you write a book about achievement your coach will say, “I believe there is nothing you can’t do.” From my heaviest depression-fatitude I’ve lost 35 pounds… about 10 more to go until the next weight class. I have US Open in my sights now that I’ve been told there is a master’s category for women and my Brazilian buddy Jean (Jean Carlos Freitas) was coaching me on training to compete vs. training to learn new skills. I don’t think I ever appreciated the difference. But he’s back in Brazil … I have to practice what he’s taught me.

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[social][/social]Also I’m going to Brazil! I am going to attend an International book festival, Bienal Internacional do Livro de Sao Paulo. ( We had the book translated into Portuguese. I leave on August 3rd. I’m flying into Rio (because who goes to Brazil and doesn’t go to Rio?) and we are going to train BJJ (so cool) before going to Sao Paulo. I’m very excited about the trip. Tell all your Brazilian [Paulista] friends to stop by my booth. It’s in the Travessa Literaria which is the area for independent authors.

People ask when my next book will be written and I just chuckle. I’m probably writing it in my head right now … haha … and when the time is right I’ll just plug in my laptop and pour it out.

[bjjad][/bjjad]I was worried about the boys as I read your book. It wasn’t until I “met” your husband so to speak that I breathed a little easier. BTW, he sounds charming! How old are the boys now? Have they shown any interest in training? Do they brag about their ass whoop’n mom?

The boys are 18, Eason, and 15.5, Carson. Eason graduated from high school this year and will attend Linfield College in OR in the fall. Carson will be a sophomore at Kentlake.

This year was special in that they both played varsity basketball for KL. They created some nice memories that way. They play together now for a Jammin’ team (Our foundation sports program). They have not shown any interest in BJJ, other than to support me.

Carson is very proud of me and lets people know it. And they do tell their friends I can beat them up – haha. It’s funny, we used to work out together until I had to stop weight lifting and in an indirect way, I motivated them because it isn’t cool when your mom picks up a heavier kettlebell than you do.

From your descriptions in the book, your support team seemed to fall into place. My first visit with a nutritionist didn’t go as good as yours did. I was placed on a diabetic diet that really didn’t help me build lean muscle mass like I wanted. I should have checked what kind of nutritionist she was but at the time, I didn’t know to ask for a sports nutritionist. What advice would you give for finding and vetting professionals who are so important and yet so vastly different?

Yes, I feel very fortunate about my support group. I return to “right people, right time, right reason.” I hang on to instances that are unusual or that reach me in a symbolic way …like James saying, “Stay connected to the earth.” Most people don’t pay him “no never mind,” but I was profoundly struck by his words.

[After writing about 60 pages] …I figured I’d have the grammar cleaned up so I Googled “freelance editors.” And that’s when I started to believe in the “right people, right time, right reason” way that things happen. One of the editors in the Google list was Jan Green and her business is called “thewordverve.” And I thought immediately, that’s the one. I always described Carly as a girl with verve (it’s in the book too) and not too many people use that word, so I knew she was the one.

Chuck [my husband] and I had decided to start a non-profit foundation in Carly’s name. If you have time, there are some nice articles on the website I have to tell you this, the name of Carly’s team? The Legends. See what I mean about the universe? BJJ Legends?

I know so many people who go see a counselor once, or a dietician or naturopath and decide after one visit that the person isn’t right for them, or it’s not going to help. When you are whacked out nothing feels right for a long time …so you have to go a couple of times before you make a decision to abort or accept the mission. Look for a specialist. Specialists are passionate about their specialty and therefore more knowledgeable. You are paying them … so shop around …. And yes, that is much easier to do if you are not grieving. My other piece of advice is that your specialist has to be in it for YOU, not themselves.

There are eight million stories in the naked city… 1000 reverse naked stories? You describe yourself as an accidental writer and yet here’s your book. For people with their own stories to tell how would you steer them? Who should they reach out to?

So, for all those people out there who have a story I would ask them to reflect first on their goal. Is writing a book on their bucket list? Do they have a skill they want to teach? Does their story interest others? Do they like writing or does it feel forced – like hard work. And I would send them to an editor, like Jan, for help.

I knew that I would be OK if I didn’t sell a single book because the writing had served its purpose for me.

Jan encouraged me to publish and introduced me to “hybrid” publishing. First time authors used to have two choices, self-publish (your own money, own marketing, lots of time and work but you retain all of the control) or hire an agent and hope to get picked up by a publishing house (difficult and expensive and the author relinquishes control of their work for the most part). In hybrid publishing, an author shares in some of the expenses, but they retain a lot of control. I was involved in the layout design, cover design etc. and had final say on everything. The publisher does a lot of marketing as well and they educate you in how to contribute to that.

Thanks Elena. I can’t wait to see you on the mat in Middle Heavy at the US Open!

Thanks Kris. Oh and lastly, I just want to point out some of my goals for the book’s success. Like it says in the book, proceeds will go to the Carly Stowell Foundation. I’d like to open a new branch in our sports education mission by establishing a scholarship-like program for BJJ in our area and at Fosters; to assist people to train, bring in masters for seminars, help people go to tournaments, hire coaches … things like that. The foundation mission is to make things affordable and accessible. I really want to give back to the sport that saved my life.

[social][/social]Link to the book on Amazon.
Visit Elena’s website at and order her book, Flowing with the Go, here.

~~ Anybody stopping by Elena’s booth will receive a ~free~ tote!


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