Person of Influence- Meet Tola Doll Fisher!
Photo credit: Dimitra Sardi
Guys, I can't tell you how excited I am for this edition’s Person of Influence. Tola Doll Fisher is a writer, author and the editor of the UK's only national monthly Christian magazine aimed at women- Woman Alive Magazine. Tola has written numerous articles for mainstream newspapers and magazines and is the author of a brand-new book, 'Still standing- 100 lessons from an unsuccessful life'. She is also a TEDx speaker.
Enjoy the interview!
Reach and Inspire Mag: Hi Tola, first of all, congratulations on your book! Has this always been a dream of yours, and what does it feel like- being the author of a whole book?!
Tola: Thank you! I think many writers dream of writing a book one day but I think mine was born out of the frustration of not finding one to support me when I was going through my own difficult journey of bereavement and divorce one after the other. Mum taught me to read and write and wouldn’t let us have a television in the house – she famously stated “television is the enemy of progress”! so our entertainment lay in books, music, and play. I read pretty much everything we had in the house, from Western classics to Greek tragedies to real life narratives. I remember going on a date a few years ago and telling this guy I was writing a book. He scoffed and said, “yeah, everyone’s writing a book!” and it really annoyed me! (first and last date obvs!) And it was a real struggle so I do feel proud of myself for getting it done.
Reach and Inspire Mag: What's the best feedback / review you've gotten so far?
Tola: The book is based on lessons God taught me and I couple them with scripture to help people see that the words in the Bible are alive and valid as much today as they ever were. It’s not an outdated publication but a book full of God’s wisdom and knowledge. I have a lot of friends who don’t have the same Christian faith but they have supported me in buying it and nearly all of them have said it actually really helped them to know what the Bible actually said without having to step inside a church to be taught. One friend who is half Jewish said it was like an introduction to the Bible she had been looking for. Another review from someone who calls themselves agnostic is that it’s a book about living with Christian faith for non-Christians. And that makes me really happy to hear! UPDATE: Just had a quick look at the reviews on Amazon and I saw this review which perfectly encapsulates the above.
“I have never studied the bible and always wanted to know more than I do but have had no idea where to even start and making the learnings so accessible by putting them into a modern context was perfect for me.”
Reach and Inspire Mag: You mentioned at the beginning of the book that a friend told you that your experiences would one day benefit others. You didn't like that at the time, but would you say you've finally come round to the idea? Was this (the benefit of others) one of the reasons you wrote the book?
Tola: I hated being told that because it didn’t seem fair for that to be the reason I had to suffer so much. But I realise in hindsight that it’s more about having what I call a Romans 8:28 thinking. We live in a very broken world and we have free will so horrible and terrible things can and do happen. But what we have assurance in with God is that He does work things out for our good. So, for me, a writer from a young age, to now have a book traditionally published – I see this in practice and I’m very grateful! When I was going through what I call the “wilderness period”, where I was still very much missing my ex-husband and feeling utterly depressed at the loss of my daughter who died at a few hours old, I felt so lost and broken. People were trying to encourage me by saying that when God restored a new family, like Job, everything would be alright! And that’s what I saw all around me- Christians giving testimonies in church that sounded like; “I was in this horrible, sh*t place and I felt stuck but now I have everything I wanted and I’m happy again – isn’t God good!” And I just thought 'hold on, is that really how we are supposed to live our lives?' I’m generally a very happy and upbeat person and I didn’t want to have a period where I was not expected to enjoy my life. So, I wrote the book to show how much joy you can still have, even when life isn’t going to plan. There are many, many Christians, and I find women especially (although that might just be because women are in my network) who have been waiting for God’s promises for years! And these, “I had nothing but now I have everything” testimonies aren’t always what we need to hear. Yes they are important, of course, but sometimes you just need to hear the reality of this journey called life and all its seasons. And God is absolutely still involved and working in us so we can have the John 10:10 life Jesus came to give.
Reach and Inspire Mag: Engaged, married and divorced by 30. I imagine that was not how you envisaged your life to turn out, especially as a Christian. Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to your 24-year-old self?
Tola: I was engaged at 24 and while I don’t regret marrying my ex at all, I would tell myself not to rush. Once we were engaged, I was in a hurry to get married. And it may have been this impatience that cost me my marriage – all in the book!
Reach and Inspire Mag: One of my favourite things about the book is the fact that you were so open and honest and dare I say it, vulnerable, with some of the stuff that you shared, for example, losing your virginity at University, as well as the impact that losing your baby had on your marriage. Is this just your personality (very open), or was there a conscious decision to do this (or both?) If so, why did you think this was important?
Tola: Oh I am without a doubt a very open person! Sometimes to my detriment! But I love that you’ve said this is one of your favourite elements of Still Standing so thank you :). However I am also a very sensitive person and one thing I find really difficult with Christians – although this is changing now – is the thinking that you have to present a polished persona to everyone. It’s as though we think Christians have to be perfect. But we’re not and we struggle like everyone else so I don’t think it’s helpful to Christians who are struggling to pretend that we don’t. I don’t want to be a hard act to follow so I make a point of being open to allow others to be too. I believe in facing our flaws and turning to God with them. Not pretending, when He knows it all anyway!
Reach and Inspire Mag: When I read the book, I really felt like you captured so much of what many young women, are going through today- the need for acceptance, the struggle to be and do it all, drama with friendships, and the impact of social media on our sense of worth and validation. As a Christian, how do you handle all these different issues on a daily basis?
Tola: Well the lessons on these are all in the book itself! But one important thing I try and do every day is spend time with God in the morning. I’ll drink some hot water and either listen to worship music, read the Bible, journal my thoughts, just pray – or complain to God haha. Most days I do a mix of all of these. It’s just a way of being intentional with how I want my day to go and reminding myself that Jesus is right there alongside me. When I don’t do this or rush through it, I usually notice that I find things just a little bit more difficult.
Reach and Inspire Mag: You're the editor of a national women's magazine. I read somewhere that you were headhunted for this role. What attracted you to the role and what made you decide to go for it?
Tola: I actually left another job to work on my book. I did that for a few months and then when that was towards the final stages I started looking for a new job. I was open to so many things but I felt God say that no matter what job I took next, I was going to get a job I hadn’t even had to apply for. Which felt very exciting but also a bit cryptic! I’m a journalist so I want to know all the answers! I started a great job working in tech and met some amazing people I’m still really close to but I had only been there a couple of months when I had a call from my current employers. All I knew was that it was a women’s magazine and I instantly knew I would take it! I love magazines, supporting women and had previously worked in publishing for 10 years. I also had messages from several friends asking if I had seen the advert for the role – I hadn’t, but it turned out they had all recommended me for the job. I see now that it has been a very strategic place for me and if it hadn’t been for those confirmations, the COVID-19 situation would make me doubt why I left my old place – tech is obviously a fast-growing industry and magazines? Not so much! But I know I am meant to be here.
Reach and Inspire Magazine: Did being an editor of a magazine make writing a book any easier?
Tola: Not at all! If anything I would say it made it harder because I was trying to edit while I was writing! The best thing to do is get it all out on paper first and not obsess over each draft being perfect. The point of the draft stages is to hone it at each stage, it’s not a process you can rush.
Reach and Inspire Mag: 'Black lives matter' is trending at the moment. Is this a conversation that Christians should be getting involved in, and what do you think are some of the ways we can navigate these sometimes-polarising issues in the Church today? What do you think of the argument that we shouldn't see ourselves as black or white or any other race or colour, but just a Christians?
Tola: Is it a conversation Christians should be getting involved in? Yes, absolutely. How can we navigate them? I would say I’m not the person to speak into that as I often find the Church as a body quite difficult and divisive. I definitely see myself as ‘just Christian’ but to deny what’s before the eyes is a bit ridiculous. It’s one thing to say that the colour of someone’s skin doesn’t matter, it’s a quite another to say “I don’t see colour”.
Reach and Inspire Mag: Our theme for this month’s edition of the magazine is ‘Preparing for a new chapter’. Now the book is done, what is next for Tola?
Tola: Enjoying the moment and satisfaction of accomplishing this dream and goal! It’s very tempting for me to move on to what’s next and there will – God willing – be more books and more stories because I am always doing something new, but I’ve had a really hard few years and the day after my book launch I felt God tell me this is time for me to rest in Him.
Reach and Inspire Mag: Last (but not least), where can people buy your book / make contact with you?
Tola: My book is live on Amazon, Waterstones and other retail outlets in the UK. If it’s not in your local bookshop you can just ask for it: Still Standing – 100 Lessons From An 'Unsuccessful' Life by Tola Doll Fisher.* The US Amazon release is 18 August – yay! You can find my IG Lives, stories and posts on Instagram @ChristCoutureGirl and very occasionally tweeting @ChristCouture
*When I started my new job there were three Tolas so I added my nickname which is “Doll” to differentiate! My close friends and colleagues call me Doll : )
You can listen to an extended version of this interview with Tola on the Reach and Inspire podcast here.