My story begins the same way everyone else’s does: Once upon a time

I was born in the urban forest of Los Angeles County, where the freeways twist in elaborate labyrinths. As often as possible, we spent our weekends in the San Bernardino Mountains where my siblings and I spent hours climbing over boulders, running up and down hills, and lying on our backs so we could look at the pattern of pine tree branches against the blue sky.

It was there that I developed a deep love for the wild woods. And there that I decided I wanted to be a writer.

Inspired by my experiences in nature, I spent hours in my teen years filling up spiral-bound notebooks with stories that stretched into novels – all written longhand. I got my first computer at the age of 19 and immediately used it exclusively to write my very first full-length novel – a book that (many, many drafts later) became The Poison Box.

My love for creating magical worlds led me to open an organic, all-natural bath and beauty shop in 2010, called Five Seed. I struggled with skin problems most of my life and spent a decade listening to the stories the plant world was telling me about natural healing. I wanted to share those stories – and all of those magical elixirs – with others who were dealing with similar challenges. When my shop closed in 2013, I wrote Soulful Skincare, an encyclopedic guide outlining all my natural skincare secrets.

A year later, my journey into the dark forest of radical self-acceptance became the ultimate story-telling journey: She Came Into Focus. That is the safe haven I’ve created for all those dealing with negative body image and low self-esteem. In that haven, we are free to face to the stories we’ve told about ourselves and write new ones – both through words and photographs.

Today, I live in Oregon, right where the desert meets the forest, that magical in-between land. Each day, I examine, revise, and rewrite my story. I grow stronger. More courageous. I’m willing to travel further and further into these dark woods with my spirit companion, a beautiful red fox. They say there are wolves out here, but I’m not afraid, and nor should you be. We were meant to run with them, remember?   

All photos copyright 2015 Yancy Lael & Chance Martin