“Dancing With The Stars” winner J.R. Martinez received the American Red Cross Spirit of Inspiration Award the other night in Santa Monica, adding to the military man-turned-actor-speaker-dancer-author’s many accolades. Between traveling to speaking engagements and putting the finishing touches on his November-release Hyperion book – Full of Heart: My Story of Survival, Strength and Spirit – J.R. hasn’t had much time for dancing. And, considering he and his beloved Diana Jones are expecting their baby daughter’s arrival next month, he’ll soon have even less time. J.R. gives a moving account of how faith and love brought him through his harrowing Iraq war experience and journey to stardom as the May cover subject of Guideposts magazine.
A harrowing story that reached the depths of alcoholism — complete with lost jobs, lost weeks, flophouse living, smoking other people’s abandoned cigarette butts, and inflicting untold misery upon his loved ones — is not what Edward Grinnan’s followers would have expected of him. The highly-regarded editor-in-chief of Guideposts Magazine admits he worried about that. “I wondered, ‘How is my readership going to respond to this story when they have no idea of my background? I knew that I was really going to puncture my own persona.”
However, since publication of his The Promise of Hope: Nine Keys to Powerful Personal Change book, Grinnan’s been swamped with thank-you mail from readers saying that they or their family members, or others in their lives, are dealing with alcohol or drug problems, and that they’re finding help and inspiration in his honest, brilliantly-told story.
“They feel a connection. Now I don’t know why I was so nervous about it,” he says. “We get hundreds of thousands of letters a year…They’re great letters and some are funny and some are heartbreaking. They’re all asking for prayer. I should have know from the number of letters we get from people who are dealing with compulsive-addictive behavior — whether it’s drugs or alcohol, sex or money — they struggle with that.”
Grinnan, who is also VP of the inspirational publication founded by the late, great Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, was in town from his New York City home base to tape a guest visit on this Sunday’s (7/17) “Hour of Power” telecast.
He’s also been talking to film/TV industry types about prospects for a screen
adaptation of “The Promise of Hope.” And, he reports, with its treasure trove of stories and huge readership, Guideposts is considering making more of a move into video — whether that means a television series, a web series, or even a Guideposts channel.
“That would represent a tremendous investment, of course, and the
core business that supports Guideposts is going through the struggles that
everybody in publishing is going through,” notes Grinnan, a regular blogger for The Washington Post.
Nevertheless, “We are in talks with a couple of people,” he says. “We
can’t do anything that would alienate or offend or disappoint our core audience. What it always comes down to — aside from money, because everything always comes down to money — is creative control. And we always have insisted that we need final control of all content, and that’s hard for producers to give out.”
Michigan-born, Yale-educated Grinnan seems to enjoy himself as much out in the Heartland, among the everyday people who tell their stories to the magazine, as he does among the New York media elite. His wife, songstress Julee Cruise, has her music crowd, of course, and, clearly, Grinnan gets a big kick out of that scene as well.
Early on after joining the magazine’s staff, “I spent a lot of time on the road, going across the country, talking to people and hearing their stories. People
would find out a Guideposts writer was going to be in town, and they’d invite you to stay at their house, have dinner with them, go to church with them,” he relates, smiling and shaking his head in wonder. “This magazine started out with Peale’s idea that these are stories people tell over the back fence, and it’s true, and it’s how they create community in their lives.”
And the Guideposts team is part of the community. Grinnan recalls that after the 9/11 terror attacks on the World Trade Center, he picked up a ringing phone to find “a reader from Kansas. She said, ‘I know that Guideposts is in New York and I’m calling to see if everybody at Guideposts is okay.’ You think Graydon Carter got a call like that, or Anna Wintour?” he asks.
According to Grinnan, the years of hearing personal tales of faith and inspiration (he includes favorites in his book) have transformed him. As he tells his story, “When I came to Guideposts I was just looking for a job at the time. I had no real opinion, or, the opinion I did have was that if God existed, he had no interest in me. I had a hard time understanding personal spiritual connections with a higher being,. People didn’t know this when they were telling me these stories and working with me to get these stories in the magazine — that each and every one was beginning to make me think more and more about my own story. The effect of these stories on me opened me up to the idea that there was a God, a higher power, who actually loved me and when that revelation hit, it was like a slow rolling wave, not a bolt of lightning,” he says. “I started seeing my life changing.”