Local woman publishes “inspirational” book

By day, Dawn Hafner works as the senior vice president and chief operations officer for Kidder Benefits Consultants, a retirement plan and investment firm in West Des Moines.
But now, thanks to a hobby done in her spare time, the Lake Panorama resident can add a new title to her job description: published author.
Writing, and more specifically journaling, has long been a passion for Hafner. Jotting down her thoughts and feelings provides an outlet to help relieve stress and work through problems. Her combined love for writing and interest in helping people came together in her new book, “The Mapmaker, Your 33 Day Journey Towards Daily Presence,” which was released at the beginning of April.
The book is 33 chapters long, and is filled with “inspirational life lessons.” It covers topics like terminal illnesses, friendship and marriage, and has interactive writing assignments for the reader after each section.
“It has 33 different chapters, so you’re supposed to do a 33 day journey,” Hafner said. “Each is either a story or an essay that has a life lesson. And following each story is a journal prompt, for the reader to follow along with. I have practiced journaling for a couple years, and felt like it is a great tool for self exploration and stress management, emotional management. I thought that would be helpful to introduce part of that in the (book), to make it more personal for the reader.”
Hafner started working on her book in 2014, and spent the last three years writing, editing and designing it. Her purpose in writing it was to help inspire people to know their worth, realize they are stronger than they think and teach them to be more connected in their daily lives. Every story in the book is based on something that happened to Hafner, or someone close to her.
“I just think it might be helpful to other people,” Hafner said. “I feel like part of my purpose in writing is to inspire people to realize that their life matters, maybe more than they think. And all the people they touch every day really makes a difference in the world. Some of the big themes of the book are just non-judgment of others, overcoming fears, ‘you’re more important than you think in this world’ and really being present in your everyday moments.”
The book is designed to be nondenominational. For Hafner, the title The Mapmaker, and the driving force throughout the book refers to God, who she said speaks to people through life events and lessons. But for readers of other walks of life, the word “God” can be replaced by words from any other belief system, such as “the universe.”
Hafner opted to self-publish the book through Amazon.com, as opposed to finding a publishing house, because she did not want to delay its release with waiting to find an agent and a publisher who would represent it.
“It was pretty easy,” Hafner said about putting the book together. “To me, sometimes when I have moments in my life, writing is a natural way for me to process it, so that was easy. Things like formatting the document, getting somebody to do a cover I like, those things were new to me.”
Half of the profits from book sales will be donated to Dress For Success Des Moines, a non-profit organization that provides women in need with free professional clothing, and interview/job preparation help. Hafner has worked as a volunteer with the group for about a year.
Although The Mapmaker has only been circulating for around a month, Hafner said it has already been met with success. She has sold more than 100 copies, and it reached several best seller lists on Amazon.com. In addition to online, the book is currently being sold at Crafty’s Coffee and Gifts — located at 102 W. Main St. in Panora — Beaverdale Books in Des Moines and Plot Twist Bookstore in Ankeny.
With one book already under her belt, Hafner’s journey into the literary world is not over. She is already working on a second book, this time a fictional piece. Inspired by a true story, it will tell the tale of a boy growing up without parents. He will encounter a life of crime and eventually find something bigger reaching for him, and find the strength to transcend his circumstances, Hafner said. At its core, it will be a book about the human spirit, and overcoming adversity. Like The Mapmaker, she hopes to find another non-profit to donate proceeds from the second book to.
It is the first time Hafner has worked in fiction, and she expects to publish the still untitled book in 2018.
“The fiction is a lot harder for me, it feels so messy to me right now, like I don’t exactly know where all the pieces are going to come together,” Hafner said. “It’s going to take more effort and critique and those kind of things.”
Hafner also has an idea for a third book in the works. Based on how much she has enjoyed writing and publishing, and all of the ideas she has, Hafner said she could see herself turning writing into a part-time job, or even a segue into retirement.
“It’s not so much about a job and an income,” Hafner said. “It’s a job and a passion, and I want to do it to help others.”
 

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