Cyndi Hughes

Writing a New Story: Cyndi Hughes Creates the Next Chapter for her Family

“I never knew I could write. I never thought I could write a book,” recalls Cyndi Hughes. Now 65, she lives in Great Falls, Montana, with her two sons, Joshua and Trevor Hughes. Together, they have Attitudes Entertainment Company, a non profit called Ingenium, and Thrill Mountain Design, her jewelry company. They are a busy family with all of that going on.

In 2003, Trevor was diagnosed with kidney failure. His pediatrician told her she needed to quit her job to save her child’s life, and she did. In 2014, he came down with Guillain-Barre syndrome, a disease that ate his nerves and left him a quadriplegic. Hughes had to learn how to help him and stayed by his side. Unable to work or leave him, she decided to start writing and made that her job.

She always wanted to write self help books to help people and she started a fantasy book which she wrote with her sons. Hughes would read it to them at night and they would help her with continuity and co-create the story. What she wants to do is help kids and adults learn to create new coping skills through storytelling.

Her advice for starting a book is to write down everything you can think of, or record it if you are someone who processes out loud, so that all of your information is together on paper. With that groundwork complete, Hughes says that you can design and organize it however you like. “Inspiration wise, we all have it. We all have that ability to be able to create. Whatever your passion is, if it's riding horses or making jewelry, or teaching people about different cultural things, we all have it in us. So, you just start. Just take that first step and just start,” she urges.

“You're never going to stop learning, guys. Never.” 

The first book was The Messenger of Eshra, inspired by the time she spent on her porch listening to the chickadees.  Hughes created positive characters with humour and part way through the first book her kids told her she needed to kill off one of her characters. She went through a whole box of Kleenex writing that part of the story after fighting with them about it for weeks.

It was a move that raised the stakes in her story and Hughes learned that others might have good ideas about your stories, and you might not want to accept them, but they might be right. Another thing she learned is to balance being descriptive with getting to the point. Research can help make stories more real and reference books and the internet can help a lot to add authenticity to the story.

The hardest part of the process of writing a book, Hughes found, was sitting down and doing it. Taking that leap and believing in herself, not feeling foolish or stupid, and letting go of the criticism of others, was a challenge. She knows that there will always be people who think you’re chasing pipe dreams, but she urges youth to believe in themselves anyways.

Now, she’s completed four books and she’s learned another valuable lesson from a critic in her life. She was once told that she needed to redo a story and she ultimately agreed. “You can't be offended by other people's opinions. Learn to accept and move on,” Hughes suggests. “You're gonna make mistakes, that's part of life, that's part of being a human is making mistakes ... Look at your mistakes as a stepping stone. Each mistake is a stepping stone to get where you want to go. Just move on from it and learn from it,” she continues.

During her downtime, Hughes has been working on a flower garden and she put a pond in it. Later, she wants to add a waterfall. Recently, the family got a puppy to spend time with and they like to go out and visit, vacation and eat together.  “If something goes wrong, we just make an adventure and do it,” she laughs. With her son needing to be hospitalized at times, she’s learned to find ways to enjoy hard times, learning to cook while watching the Food Network in his room.

She’s also learned to embrace imperfection as beauty. One of the ways that has shown up is the way she has embraced her teeth which were yellowed by medication she was given as a baby to fight her high fever. For a long time she wouldn’t talk or smile, but she finally let go of being self conscious. It is something she hopes others can learn from, sharing, “Just show your personality and be you and just enjoy the moment of who you're with and what you can do and just realize that's part of life. You're not going to be able to be the perfect one."

“It takes conscious effort to say, I'm just gonna enjoy myself and have fun with me and people that are around me.”

Something the Hughes family really prioritizes is giving. “Giving is living,” she says. “Our family is a giving family and it truly is a spirit that you have that when you give you realize that you're uplifting another. That is just one of the most beautiful things you can do is uplift somebody else with a positive word, a positive action. It's just what we do,” she elaborates.

In closing, Cyndi Hughes wants to encourage youth by saying, “Take that first step, guys. You'll be so proud of yourself when you do.” She didn’t know that she could write or that she could write a book but now she’s written four. Helping her son heal and finding ways to create a life they love, she’s embraced imperfection and opened her arms wide to all the magic life can bring.

Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.

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Key Parts

  • Career
  • Identity
    First Nations
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  • Date
    November 6, 2023
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  • Discussion Guide
    create to learn discuss

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