Tori Franklin is an esteemed professional triple jumper representing Team USA. She made her Olympic debut at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. In 2022, Tori became the first American woman in history to earn a medal in the triple jump, securing bronze at the IAAF World Championships in Eugene, Oregon. Tori’s book, You Anthem, takes you on an immersive journey through the highs and lows of her life and career. The book facilitates an important conversation on mental health as she fights to reclaim her life after suffering from depression and trauma-related anxieties. Within the pages, Tori shares how readers can learn from her to take control of their own mental well-being. Beautifully written, her book will inspire you to be your absolute, authentic self.
Joe: I am joined by Tori Franklin, the author of You Anthem. Tori, I’m super excited to have you here. Thank you so much for taking the time.
Tori: Yes absolutely. Thank you for having me.
Joe: So, I read your book last week and I loved it. I recommend it to everybody. It’s interesting because as you know, when you write a book, you have to put it in a genre. It’s almost like you have to put a hat on it. And with your book it’s so difficult to do that because it’s so many things. It is part memoir, part help book, and part inspirational. It’s a challenge for me to even describe it. How would you describe your book to readers.
Tori: I completely agree with you. To be honest, when people ask me what it is, I’m like – it’s a little bit of this and a little bit of that. But I kind of love that since it really embodies me as a person. I wear so many different hats and am always doing so many different things. I love that I’m able to show that in my writing and give that to people in a way that can help them in different areas.
Joe: Definitely. So, the book is titled You Anthem and with that, the book is structured into 74 different anthems. How would you describe an anthem?
Tori: Let’s start with the definition of an anthem. An anthem is considered a song or a devotion of praise for something. I chose the word anthem because every single one that I write is a part of my story, and it praises that part of my story within my journey. The goal is for people to create their own anthem. Creating an anthem for you is how you celebrate your life.
Joe: I love that your story is so incredibly unique, but it also is very relatable in ways. It provides such a space for readers to be introspective and think about their own lives. I love many things about your book but one thing that stands out is how you are so vulnerable and willing to challenge the stigmas of mental health. You are brutally honest about your experience.
Lately the conversations surrounding mental health are getting better, but for many people it’s still so difficult to talk about it. As the author of this book, was it challenging for you to open up and talk about your experience in such a personal, vulnerable way?
Tori: Absolutely. Sometimes I’ll look back and I’m still like “oh gosh, this is going live soon and everybody is going to read this about me”.
So, there still are some moments when I get nervous. But as far as the writing process goes – most of these anthems are journal entries that I had already written specifically for myself. So, writing it really was me just putting it all out there. When I had to go back and edit it and structure it into a book, it was more difficult. A lot of it was knowing that other people were going to be reading my heart.
Joe: There has to be something very healing about it though – getting it out there almost has to be like a weight off your chest. As athlete, especially as an elite Olympic athlete, there is a sense that you are like a superhero. People have this perception of athletes that they are invincible but through your writing, we’re reminded that mental illness and trauma don’t pick and choose who they affect. So, in your mind as an athlete, how do you think we can improve the way we talk about mental health? How do we improve the conversation and make it more care more accessible for other athletes?
Tori: I honestly think that just creating a space for athletes to talk about it is important. In interviews, people rarely even consider to ask athletes those types of questions. Few people give athletes the platform to talk about mental health. And then when athletes do create their own platforms like on social media, you see people coming at them in the comments. There are people who are not empathetic to this part of the journey. So, I think that for the general public, it helps to remember that we are just people. And for the people asking these athletes questions, they need to dive a little deeper.
Joe: I also think that when someone like you writes a book and tells their story, it gives some confidence to others who also might have struggled but are hesitant to come out and talk about it. Also, people have to be asking questions. And some people have to be brave and just tell their stories. I know it’s hard to do that and that’s why it’s so nice to see a book like yours that gets the conversation going.
Tori: It is hard. You’re absolutely right. It takes a level of bravery and just wanting to be your absolute authentic self. And that’s not easy for everybody to do. That is something that I’m hoping my book will encourage others to do – to be their authentic selves.
Joe: There are so many athletes who can relate to your book but then there are so many people like me! Sure, I played sports but like I work a regular 9-5 desk job! I’m not a professional athlete. There are people who connect with your book while living completely different lives! Have you been able to connect with other people in different ways by getting your words out there and telling your story?
Tori: Yes. For me, it gives me more empathy towards other people. Having my experiences and then knowing that the words I write identify with people – it makes our connection so much deeper just right off the bat. It’s as if I already know these people.
Joe: Definitely. Going back to the process of writing a book… there are many ways for people to heal and grow. And writing is one of those outlets. How did the process of writing and publishing a book facilitate your own personal healing journey?
Tori: Well, writing the book was very therapeutic. It helped me look back at my experiences as an older, more mature, more experienced person and see how I’ve grown. I was able to see what lessons I’ve learned since then. For me, it’s been really eye-opening.
Regarding publishing, that was more encouraging in the sense that I realized I can do this. I can get this done. I went through the process of trying to find a traditional publisher and many of them didn’t believe I had a big enough of a following. So, I almost ended up not publishing the book. So, I’m very proud of myself for finishing the process.
Joe: Yes and that’s a huge benefit of remaining independent – you could tell your story exactly as you want and you don’t have to be influenced by publishing houses that want to rearrange your story in a way that they think will sell. It makes the book special.
Joe: Out of curiosity, have you been able to connect with any readers? How has life been as a published author?
Tori: Yes! I’m still in the presale but I’ve connected with some readers early through giveaways and early sales. They have come back with positive reviews and remarks. That really lit up my whole heart. I’m just really encouraged and happy to be getting such a positive response.
Joe: When did you realize that you wanted to get this book out there? Did you always know that you wanted to be an author and write a book?
Tori: I didn’t have the conviction to truly get it out there until the last few years. But when I was young, I always journaled. I always had a diary. I even went to school initially for communications because I wanted to write. But I didn’t have that belief in myself – that I could actually do it until maybe 2016 or 2017. That’s when I wrote my first book that never got published (and never will) because it’s awful! But you know, all writers have that journey when they write a book and think, “this isn’t it”. And then they write something else.
That was my journey. I was actually writing a fiction book about Cuba and everyone kept asking me – when is the book going to be done?!
I was just so annoyed by it and so I started writing You Anthem. Initially it was supposed to be just a little pamphlet of like 40 pages. But then my literary agent got a hold of it and was like – we need to write this. This needs to be something. And that’s how it all started in 2019 and it eventually became the book that it is today.
Joe: That’s a long journey! Sometimes when I ask authors this question, they talk about how they decided recently or within the past year. But for you, it seems like this is something that has been inside you and has been growing and building over time. Throughout all the writing, what have you learned about yourself?
Tori: Well, for one, my writing has gotten so much better. I feel like I’ve really matured as a writer and I think I’m still maturing as a writer. I’m still trying to find that real voice because there is so much more that I want to write outside of the memoir and self-help worlds. A lot of it has been experiencing growth as a writer.
Joe: You have a very strong voice. That’s something that I found to really stand out with your book. It makes it completely original and unlike any other. It’s so personal. That’s one of the many reasons why I enjoyed reading it. Although this is the first time we’ve met, I feel like I know you after reading the book.
So, what do you want readers to know about who you are?
Tori: I want them to know that my book has a lot of emotional depth to it and it goes into my spiritual journey – but I’m not all serious! I’m super goofy and super playful and sometimes that’s hard to come across in writing. I love to jump around and do silly things all the time. That’s an important part of my personality.
Joe: I love that. In writing it can be so difficult to balance the serious voice with the lighthearted voice. Your journey is serious, but no one is all business! Everyone has a goofy side.
I loved your book and I’m sure that a lot of other people are going to love it. I wish you the best with your publishing journey and I just want to give you a final moment to share anything that you want readers to know about yourself, where they can find and reach you on social media, really anything!
Tori: Of course. So right now I’m really passionate about my non-profit. It’s called Live Happii Retreats. You can learn more and follow the account on Instagram! Also, my regular Instagram account can be followed here @livehappii
Joe: Can you share some more about your non-profit? I’d love to hear.
Tori: Okay! So, I’m from Chicago and this is the city that I’m starting with. But there are a lot of inner-city kids who have never even had the opportunity to see Lake Michigan – which is like 3 miles to the north. They are so caught up in a life here that is not always good and it can be filled with negativity and harmful influences. I want to give these inner city youth an opportunity to travel the world and experience nature. Live Happii Retreats has a partnership with a resort in the Dominican Republic and we will take inner city youth there to develop their mental health habits and enhance their connection to their body and the world around them. We help them understand what to eat, how to move, and how to recognize that the world is so big and there is so much they can accomplish. It makes a massive difference to take these kids to another country and help them integrate with a different culture and nature.
Joe: That is amazing. I love that. It would be amazing if this can grow beyond Chicago because it can make a big difference in inner city kids’ lives in many different cities.
Tori: That’s the plan!
Joe: Well, thank you for everything. I look forward to seeing you grow as an author and achieve some amazing things in the future.
Tori: Thank you so much for this opportunity. I loved it!