I have witnessed a most remarkable journey over the last couple of years. In the fall of 2014, Cathy Byrd walked into the Unlocking Your Story workshop. She was hesitant, if not terrified, to share her story. But she showed up. And there was no doubt, she had a story to tell. Over the next two-and-a-half years, Cathy summoned her courage and blazed an unshakeable trail to bring her debut memoir The Boy Who Knew Too Much to life. It was released by Hay House on March 21st and is now a bestseller -- and the subject matter is causing a quite a stir! Read our conversation below to see why.
CATHY BYRD is a residential real estate broker and mother of two young children who never had aspirations of becoming a writer until her two-year-old son, Christian, began sharing memories of being a baseball player in the 1920s and '30s. He described historical facts about Lou Gehrig that he could not have possibly known at the time. Distraught by his uncanny revelations, Cathy embarked on a sacred journey of discovery that shook her beliefs to the core and forever changed her views on life and death. Cathy's powerful and inspirational story landed a publishing deal with Hay House and is now the bestselling memoir The Boy Who Knew Too Much.
A Southern California native, Cathy received her B.A. from UCLA and her M.B.A. from Pepperdine University. Prior to becoming a realtor, Cathy had an exciting 10-year career in sports marketing, working for the World Cup and Olympic Torch Relay Organizing Committees and serving as vice president of the Magic Johnson Foundation.
The most likely place to find Cathy in her free time is at a youth baseball field.
Karin: So, for those who are not familiar with the story of you and your son Christian, why don't you talk a little bit about what happened?
Cathy: At the age of two Christian began insisting that he used to be a “tall baseball player.” I didn't pay much attention to it until one day when he stomped his foot to get my attention and said, “No! I was a tall baseball player-tall like daddy!” From then on he began telling us things about being a baseball player in the 1920's and 30's that he couldn't have possibly known at the time. He told us that he stayed in hotels nearly every night and travelled on trains. This was at a time when he did not watch television and I was sure that he couldn't have learned these things through normal means. Over the next three years he continued to share all sorts of things about a past-life as a baseball player that all turned out to be historically accurate.
Were you a fan of baseball before Christian's obsession started?
Neither my husband nor I were fans of baseball before Christian was born. Christian's father was born and raised in Germany where baseball is basically non-existent. He made his best effort to get Christian interested in playing tennis instead of baseball, but Christian's passion for baseball since the time he could walk was undeniable. By the age of two he insisted on wearing a baseball uniform every day and begged us to play baseball with him for eight to ten hours per day. It was incredibly exhausting!
Then in September 2014, you walked into the Unlocking Your Story workshop. How would you describe yourself - the person who walked into that first group meeting?
When I first joined your writing workshop I was scared to death to share our very unconventional story with complete strangers. It was feedback from you and the workshop participants that gave me the courage to write a book about our experiences. This was my first time writing since college and the drudgery of putting 1,500 words on paper often took me weeks in the beginning. As I found my voice as a writer, the words began to flow and I can honestly say that I now enjoy the writing process. I've realized that the joy lies in the creative process, not in the accomplishment of finishing a book.
How did the workshop help you?
The workshop provided a safe environment where I could stumble and fall without getting hurt. My first attempts at writing felt much like a toddler learning to walk. I started with baby steps and before I knew it I was skipping. The workshop taught me that the nuggets in our writing come when we bare our souls. Never before in my life had I been in a room with people who were so transparent, authentic, and open. It taught me that being true to yourself and your story is more important than worrying about what other people will think.
I know you initially hired a ghostwriter. How did you make the shift to write it yourself?
Hiring a ghostwriter is much like getting married. I knew after just a few days that it wasn't a good fit and I was thankfully able to void the contract. I played with the idea of hiring a ghostwriter right up until my final rewrite because I always questioned my abilities as a writer. What I learned through the process is that nobody can tell your story better than you can. If you can talk, you can write.
Given that much of the story was still unfolding as you wrote the book, how would you describe your creative writing process?
The events in the second half of my book actually took place while I was participating in the Unlocking Your Story workshop. As they were happening, I had no idea what structure the book would take and when it would finally end. I found it helpful to just keep writing the 1,500-2,500 pieces and they eventually formed the chapters of my book. It wasn't until I had to create a book proposal for the writing contest I entered with Hay House that the structure of the book began to take shape. Once I had the proposal and the short pieces I had written in the workshop it was just a matter of putting the pieces of the puzzle into place. In the fall of 2015, I attended a 30-day writing retreat in Bali and came home with a 180-page first draft. Exactly one year later I submitted my final draft to Hay House and on the same day received the call that 20th Century Fox wanted to purchase the movie rights. I realized in that moment that I was nothing more than a vessel for a story that needed to be told.
What was the hardest part about cracking the story?
Coming from a Christian background and being very skeptical about the idea of reincarnation provided an extra burden of proof that left me never feeling quite satisfied. It wasn't until the only living people who knew Lou and Christina Gehrig were able to confirm details of our story that I was finally convinced. Cracking the story was definitely the driving force behind my tireless and somewhat obsessive quest for information. The hardest part was not giving up!
What are the three words that you would choose to describe how you wrote a book and landed a publishing deal in less than two years?
Lucky, guided, and blessed.
Now that the book is out, how does it feel to share your story with the world? Be honest!
It took me two years to get up the courage to share our story with the world because I worried endlessly about the negative impact it could have on my kids. What ultimately motivated me to take the leap and let go of my fears was seeing people in the workshop be touched, moved, and inspired by our story. Since releasing the book on March 21st, I've been inundated with reporters asking me, “So, do you really think your son is Lou Gehrig?” People who have read the book realize that it is about much more than that and this gives me solace. The one thing I know for sure as a result of this journey is that our souls survive this earthly existence and love can surpass one lifetime. If people can see each other as souls rather than these bodies that we inhabit, we will begin to see that we are much more alike than different. It is the message of unity and hope that keeps me invested in sharing our story with the world.
To me it is so clear that other, greater forces are at work to bring this story to light. Do you feel that way, too? Why do you think it is so critically important?
Last week I sent a text message to Jack Canfield who wrote the foreword for my book with the news that it had become an Amazon Best Seller and his response was, “It is a divinely supported project.” Both you and Jack have been privy to all of the miracles that have unfolded behind the scenes regarding the book and movie deals. There is no doubt to those of us who know the stories that I've had help from above. I've realized how important it is to listen to our intuition and the divine wisdom that can come from the most unexpected places and people. If you hadn't encouraged me to attend the Hay House Writer's Workshop in June 2015, we wouldn't be having this conversation. For that, I thank you and I thank God.