Kelly Mendenhall, Author Spotlight

Skin in the Game: The Stories My Tattoos Tell is Kelly Mendenhall’s autobiographical debut as an author. In the book, Kelly tells of the significant events and pivotal moments of her life by way of recounting the stories behind her eclectic collection of tattoos. Those moments include the death of her father as a young girl, surviving the physical and sexual abuse she endured as an adolescent, the gut-wrenching loss of friends who died too young, and so much more. The reader witnesses the author surviving, growing, and thriving throughout each chapter, until her legs fall out from under her, literally and figuratively, at the age of 35. Suddenly, everything changes all over again and she must reinvent herself and overcome once more. Each chapter is accompanied by photographs of the tattoos described therein, bringing to life the images painted in the reader’s imagination through carefully crafted storytelling. Skin in the Game is a must-read ― a narrative of honesty and authenticity rarely observed in a world in which so many of us merely share the highlight reels of our lives. This book is written for anyone who has ever thought of giving up, anyone needing inspiration to keep on fighting, and anyone who fears that they are too far gone for redemption. This book is Kelly’s way of turning her mess into a message that inspires others to survive and thrive.

Hello book lovers! Today is a day where I will be writing another author spotlight for a well-accomplished author whose work I have loved. As you know book lovers I love learning about authors and the inspiration behind their work, it fascinates me and adds to the depth of the book because the reader will be able to better understand it. That is how the author spotlights were created because I soon discovered that you lovely readers ALSO love learning about author’s, so I am excited to tell you a little bit more about author Kelly Mendenhall whose book Skin in the Game  from beginning to end. I personally would recommend this book to all of those that love memoirs but really the book can be read by anybody as it is flawlessly written and highly enjoyable. With today’s author spotlight, a biography of the author and an interview between me and Kelly Mendenhall will be shared, and I hope that you book lovers enjoy reading it! To kick this off here is an author bio about the wonderful Kelly Mendenhall!

Kelly Mendenhall is recovering nonprofit professional living in Middle Tennessee. A Southeast Michigan native, Kelly received her Bachelor’s of Science and Master’s in Public Administration from Eastern Michigan University, determined to change the world for the better by working in the nonprofit sector.

Kelly relocated to Nashville, Tennessee in 2013 in pursuit of life, liberty, and gainful employment. In 2017, Kelly became medically disabled and unable to work outside the home. It was then that she became reacquainted with her former, creative self, and dreamt again of becoming of a published writer.

Kelly is a Spoonie, author, Podcast co-host, virtual entrepreneur, and self- care advocate living with chronic pain and invisible illness(es.) Her mission is to show the world that a medical diagnosis/diagnoses do not have to mark the end of one’s story.

Kelly is freelance writer, a virtual entrepreneur in network marketing, and co-host of the podcast A Non Mom Happy Hour.  To learn more about Kelly and her various ventures, or to inquire about booking Kelly to speak at your next event or host a book reading, visit You may also email her at

Now, how wonderful does Kelly Mendenhall sound?! Kelly Mendenhall is a truly exceptional writer and I hope that you lovely readers have a read of the author’s work because you will not regret it! Please see below an interview between me and the author and I hope that you enjoy Kelly Mendenhall’s answers to my questions, they are incredible and provide some great advice too!

Thank you for joining us today at Red Headed Book Lover! Please tell us more about yourself

Thank you so much for having me, and for taking the time to read my book and review it so thoughtfully; it’s really been a great experience working with you!

I like to refer to myself as a recovering nonprofit professional, which usually gets more than a few chuckles in the crowd. I say that, because I’d actually spent my adult life working as a professional in the nonprofit sector from college, on, until my body essentially fell out from under me in June of 2017. Working in the nonprofit sector is not for the faint of heart; generally, you’re doing the work of about 2-3 people for the salary of approximately half a person. It’s really meaningful and rewarding work in a lot of ways, but it’s really hard on one’s body and, in some cases, spirit. There’s very little room for self-care in the nonprofit sector.

I spent my adult life chasing the American Dream and choosing the safest bets. I grew up blue-collar and went on to get a bachelor’s and master’s degree, believing that if I kept my head down, worked hard, and followed a traditional path, I would be rewarded with a well-paying job and a stable life. My only goal was to do well for myself while doing good for my community.

But that’s not how it worked out — I ended up at different points on food stamps, receiving subsidized health benefits, and I hit rock bottom more than once. When my body failed me, it didn’t just change one aspect of my life. It changed everything. It forced me to reevaluate what I wanted and how I wanted to live. I decided that I wanted to turn my mess into a message and live my life with intention and purpose. There were some twists and turns and there have been a few surprise endings and new beginnings these past two years, but if everything hadn’t happened exactly how it has, I wouldn’t have written and published my book, started my podcast, or began working as a freelance writer and editor. I’ve also learned a lot about myself these past two years, I proved myself wrong — I didn’t think I could make it through that ten months of my legs not working, my body betraying me. But, here I am.

Could you please tell us readers about your book and what inspired you to write your book?

Like I said before, I decided to live with intention and purpose and turn my mess into a message. The book is a big part of that. Honestly, for someone who has always been as driven and as busy as me, it was really difficult to surrender and accept that i simplycould not move. I couldn’t sustain a regular job or regular work hours anymore, my body had literally quit. I prayed one night, and didn’t know who or what might be listening. I said, “Please. I need a light at the end of the tunnel. I need some kind of sign or purpose. Otherwise, I give up.” It wasn’t but later that night or the next day as I was eating my nightly peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Most nights that’s all we had for dinner because my partner was so exhausted from working his full time job and caring for me all day. So, I’m on the couch eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, still unable to sit upright except for eating a few meals a day and using the restroom, and the thought strikes me: I’m going to write a book. It’s going to be called The Stories My Tattoos Tell, and its going to tell my life story.

That was it. I got up the next day and started writing.

What would your advice be for aspiring writers?

Don’t wait as long as I did to pursue your dream, if you’ve always dreamed of being a published writer. I started writing in elementary school; I begged my mom for a typewriter for my 8th birthday and she actually delivered. I had my first weekly editorial column in the local paper when I was just 15. But, I got so caught up in survival mode, so focused on what I thought I was “supposed to” be doing, that I let go of my dreams and damn near killed myself in a career that almost killed me anyway after earning three college degrees that left with me three times as much in student loan debt as my annual salary ever was. Don’t think that you have to go the traditional route of finding an agent and a publisher and getting published by a large publishing house — That simply isn’t true anymore. But don’t think that you can just write a book and publish it and hoards of people will come running, either. You have to be willing to invest the time and money into the things that a publishing house would normally take care of, such as reviews, publicity, events, etc. I didn’t write my book so that no one would read it, I’m out here trying to be a best seller. If you don’t have that mindset, all you’ve got is a really expensive hobby.

In your opinion, what is the most important thing about a book? 

That’s so hard for me to say. I feel like I cheated because I was born with an incredible gift for writing. I started entering contests when I was in grade school! And I was winning! It is something that has come naturally to me and even though I don’t write in a traditional style or voice it tends to resonate with most people. I think you have to be good at story telling — whether you’re telling your own story or the story of characters you’ve invented, if you can’t write it in a way that makes a reader want to devour it from page to page, you’re going to lose readers to the authors who can. It’s that simple and that complicated all at once, because here I am telling you what you have to do, but I’m not telling you how to do it. Go with your gut, your instincts. Don’t worry too much about the rules, just keep people reading.

What is your writing process like?

I’m such a freaking academic, I still write outlines for books like I did for papers. It helps me map out where I want to go, and not forget where I’ve been and how I want it all to flow. Skin in the Game’s format was easy to figure out because of the subject matter, the title, and the concept. And I told stories of tattoos in the orders of which I got them. So, unlike many memoirs or autobiographies that start at birth and go through each different phase of life in order, I hope around a lot and go back to different places, times, and people in my life, depending on when I got the tattoo done. I wasn’t sure it would work well for the reader, but it seems to have.

Do you have a set schedule for writing, or do you only write when you feel inspired?

When I’m on deadline or I am working on something like a book, I make myself write 30 minutes a day.  If it’s my blog, I try to write at least once a week. I have to admit that I neglected my blog quite a bit while I was working on the book. Self-care still has to be the No. 1 priority as I’ve been slowly putting my body back together and regaining strength and mobility now for two years — so, sometimes i couldn’t write (or read, or edit) as much as I felt I needed to in a day or week because I needed to be focused on physical therapy or rehab workouts, doctors appointments and things, instead. Not to mention, I also run a virtual skincare business. Come to think of it, for someone who is medically disabled and half of her body not working for two years, I get a lot done! *laugh* 30 minutes a day is a reasonable time to tell yourself to write every day, no matter what you’re working on and even if it feels like you don’t have anything to say. Once you get the first few words out, chances are the rest will pour out of you and you’ll be hitting snooze on your timer so that you can keep writing more.

Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors?

I have always loved reading, since I was a kid. I was the nerd who was always entering the summer reading contests each year, competing against herself for new records. Some of my favorite authors are Dave Eggers, Charles Bukowski, and Raymond Carver. I just realized that whole list was male and that feels somewhat anti-feminist of me, but it’s the truth! Those are the first three that always come to mind. I also really love Chelsea Handler, though, and her book Are You There Vodka, It’s Me, Chelsea inspired me to think that maybe could write a memoir, too. That was back in 2009, which means it took me entirely too long to finally do the thing!

Lastly, when can we readers expect to read more wonderful books from you?  

I’m shooting for late 2020 on my second book. This one will be on Medical Gaslighting, a term I came up with in an article I published about women battling with chronic pain. I also wrote a blog about Medical Gaslighting recently, and you can read that here. If you’d like to read the article I wrote, it’s here. The working title of the book is Medical Gaslighting: Tales of Women Surviving the Bias. I’ll share my story and medical journey in more detail than what was in Skin in the Game and also share the stories of other women who have come up against the bias in western medicine that prevents women from being treated for or taken seriously regarding chronic pain and illness. Additionally, I’ll include some of the clinical research and statistics that exists regarding the bias. It’s pretty crazy — once you see it you can’t unsee it and all that. I think it’s important for everyone to understand and for women, especially, to be armed with information needed to be there own best advocates and listen to their bodies and not take no for an answer. Too many women die every year because doctors don’t take us seriously — I was nearly one of them. So was Jeannie Gaffigan, the comedian and writer, and wife of Jim Gaffigan. If you haven’t read the piece in WebMD, How Bias Can Affect Your Health Care wherein Jim and Jeannie share the story of her brain tumor, I highly recommend it. Having them open up so publicly about their experiences is how I found the inspiration and determination to solve my own case, which remained a mystery from May 8, 2017 – June 26, 2019. I only just now finally have answers, and a plan. But you’ll have to wait for the next book!

Its official book lovers, I am obsessed with Kelly Mendenhall! If you have liked what you have read about the author and are interested in learning more, then please do have a browse of the links below and be sure to have a read of the preview too! You will not regret it.

Goodbye for now book lovers,

Amazon U.S. – Amazon U.K. – Goodreads

Author: Website – Barnes & Noble – Kobo – Facebook – Twitter – Instagram

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