You’re going to survive: An interview with Alexandra Franzen

As a society, I feel like we don’t talk about the “tough moments” enough. We’re happy to share our good hair days and our professional victories, which is lovely and exciting, but what about the messy, anxiety-soaked moments?

Little known fact about me: the first “professional” reading I ever did was for blogger and writer Alexandra Franzen.

She lived in St. Paul, MN, USA at the time and was looking for a quick reading. I lived in Minneapolis, had been reading for myself and my friends for literal years, and knew Alexandra through mutual friends, so I thought “why not?” My tarot reading for her was…not my best. I had a cheat sheet that I was too scared not to look at, and my voice kept cracking. Alex listened intently, and at the end looked me dead in the eyes and said “This is what you should be doing. You should do this, for real.” It was certainly not the sole moment that led to me following my current path, but it sticks out among a handful of other moments where I knew tarot was my future.

Now Alex and I are half a country apart but I’ve followed her writing career. As she announced and began marketing her latest book, You’re Going to Survive: True stories from people who’ve endured soul-crushing moments in their careers–failure, rejection, disappointment, public humiliation–and how they go through it, and how you will too, I was thrilled and wanted to hear more. As someone with PTSD, Avoidant Personality Disorder, and intense anxiety, it is the day-to-day career anxiety that absolutely crushes me. I can handle flashbacks and nightmares, but putting my work into the world often terrifies me to my core, and I’ve been known to hide until any potential opportunity for feedback has blown over. A book about surviving these circumstances is absolutely right up my alley.

Furthermore, Franzen included a number of other well-known writers and bloggers on the project to tell their story – including one of my tarot heroes, Theresa Reed (AKA The Tarot Lady). As the book release date got closer, I was excited to hear more about the project directly from the creator herself!

Hello!  Let’s start with an introduction for Little Red readers who might be new to you and your work.

Hello, beautiful Little Red Tarot readers! My name is Alexandra. Most people call me “Alex.” Pronouns: she, her.

I’m a writer based in Portland, Oregon. I’ve written a couple of books, both fiction and non-fiction. My newest book is called You’re Going to Survive.

It’s a book about how to handle stressful, icky, discouraging experiences in your career – everything from “dealing with an unhappy customer” to “not getting the job you wanted” to “handling online bullies who are mocking your latest project.”

With this book, my message is: You’re stronger than you think. You’re going to be OK. Most of all, you’re never alone. Everyone goes through ups and downs. Even the people who seem to ‘have it all together’ are often struggling with all kinds of difficult stuff. We’re all just human beings, muddling along, striving, creating, and doing our best!

What moved you to put this book together?

You’re Going to Survive was born from a very personal place.

Over the last ten years, I’ve done several things in my career. I’ve worked in public broadcasting. I’ve worked as a freelance writer. I’ve led writing classes and workshops. I’ve done quite a few side projects, like helping my partner to open a brunch restaurant.

There’s been a lot of joy and beauty along the way, but also plenty of tough moments. I’ve had days where I sobbed directly into my laptop, where my bank account balance was so low it made me want to vomit, and other painful and bizarre experiences, like seeing someone plagiarize my entire website and pretend to be me.

As a society, I feel like we don’t talk about the “tough moments” enough. We’re happy to share our good hair days and our professional victories, which is lovely and exciting, but what about the messy, anxiety-soaked moments?

What about when you launch ticket sales for an event and only five people sign up and you were hoping for fifty attendees? What about when your best friend gets the job that you really wanted? What then? How do we cope with those kinds of moments? I wrote You’re Going to Survive to try to tackle these kinds of questions – to find some answers for myself, and hopefully, to provide comfort and encouragement for readers, too.

What was your process for selecting people to contribute stories for the book?

The book includes true stories from my own career, plus stories contributed by quite a few other people.

To find those stories, basically, I just emailed a bunch of friends and colleagues and I asked, “Can you tell me about one of the worst moments in your career? What happened? What did you learn? How did you get through it? Also, can I put your worst-moment-ever story into a book for the entire world to see?” Haha! Everyone was incredibly generous and had so much to share.

I interviewed several people on the phone and Skype. Other people wrote out their responses and emailed me. I edited all of the stories to create a consistent vibe. Then I had each person review their story and give their stamp of approval before it ‘officially’ went into the book.

I definitely wanted a wide variety of perspectives. So in this book, we’ve got a story from a white woman in her 60s who’s a former attorney, and we’ve got a story from a black guy in his 30s who’s a Broadway performer. We’ve got stories from people who might be considered ‘famous’, and also from people who are doing amazing work but who are not necessarily ‘well known’.

I know it’s never possible to represent ‘every story’ and ‘every voice’ in a single book, but I tried to include a diverse array of voices because that’s important to me – and because it makes the book so much better than anything I could have possibly written all by myself.

How and when did you develop an interest in tarot?

I grew up in a family where all kinds of spirituality and mysticism were totally embraced. My parents had a favorite psychic and Tarot reader. We had a healer come and cleanse our home after my little sister complained about pesky spirits disturbing her sleep. Discussions about ‘unseen forces’ and ‘intuition’ were completely normal and accepted in our household. I grew up loving rune stones, tarot, crystals, sage sticks, all kinds of spiritual and mystical traditions…and I still do!

I was happy to hear that Theresa Reed, The Tarot Lady, was included in You’re Going to Survive. Are there other writers or artists the tarot community would be familiar with included?

Yeah! You’re Going to Survive includes a story contributed by Theresa Reed, who’s a friend of mine, and a seriously cool woman. She shares a story about a tarot client who turned out to be a violent gangster – thank goodness, she walked out of that session unharmed! But it was pretty dicey! She’s one tough cookie. I probably would have peed on myself in terror.

Another person the tarot community might know is L’Erin Alta. She’s a healer. In the book, she shares a story about feeling rejected by a friend who didn’t approve of her career path. I know that’s an all-too-common situation for people who’ve chosen unconventional careers, so L’Erin’s story may resonate with tarot lovers and professional readers.

Your love of tarot is only one of the reasons I wanted to interview for this particular outlet. I also think LRT readers get a lot of value out of any healing or self-care work, and I know I’m really excited for this book to come out in December. What’s something you can tell us in the meantime to help us cope on those days when it does feel like everything is falling apart?

When you’re feeling burnt out, panicked, stressed, or discouraged, please know that you are not alone – and help is abundantly available.

You can get free business mentoring from SCORE. You can attend a free or low-cost community yoga class to de-stress. You can stream free guided meditations on YouTube. You can reach out to the Crisis Text Line or the National Suicide Lifeline if your emotions are feeling unmanageable – compassionate people are standing by 24/7, ready to talk about anything and everything, ready to help.

Whether it’s a friend, a counselor, or an uplifting book or podcast, we all need support to get through this beautiful, messy journey called life. Reach out, take what you need, and get yourself some love.

Thanks so much, Alex! 


Alexandra Franzen is a writer, consultant, and entrepreneur based in Portland, Oregon. Alexandra’s newest book is called You’re Going to Survive. It’s a book about how to deal with discouraging situations in your career, and how to build more resilience and keep marching towards your goals. The book has been called “uplifting and encouraging” and “your new best friend on a bad day.” It’s available for pre-order now.

Alexandra has been a self-employed writer for about 8 years. She has written several books, including two non-fiction books and two novels. She leads writing classes and retreats, and she’s taught in 18 different cities around the world. She runs an online writing class. She also works 1-on-1 with clients to help them complete all kinds of exciting projects – from books to podcasts to TEDx talks, and beyond. You can find all of Alexandra’s current projects at AlexandraFranzen.com.

One comment

  1. Beth
    Beth says:

    Thank you both for this inspiring interview. Cassandra…I can’t believe Alex was your first ever tarot client! And her advice to you? Wow.

    I love Alex’s heartfelt, straight-to-what-matters writing and can’t wait to read this book :)

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