Yesterday I sat down for a chat with one of my role models. I don’t use that term lightly. Jeanette Bennett, co-founder and Editor-in-Chief at Utah Valley, BusinessQ, Prosper, and Utah Valley Bride magazines graciously gave me time Friday at her booth at CVX Live, the only YouTube conference in Utah. I came away enlightened, amazed at her energy, and wanting to share her wisdom in a Saturday Spotlight.
“There are not very many people like me,” said Bennett, referring to all the roles she plays. “The Lord has different plans for us; I’ve had to learn to accept that.”
Jeanette’s a wife, mother of five, business owner, editor of magazines, mentor to young women, and half marathoner – from my standpoint, she does it all. Well, almost.
“I’m not a good cook,” she laughed. She mentioned a church activity where women were each asked to bring a loaf of homemade bread.
“I tried. I really did. It looked so bad, I went out and bought bread at the store and sliced it up. That’s when I knew: I can’t pretend anymore.”
Helping in Her Own Way
While she might not be known for homemade meals, Jeanette’s unique media talents bless others. For example, rather than adding to the counter-full piles of meals for her friends, the Wells family, during the week their son Mason was injured in the recent Belgium bombing attacks, she’s helped them manage national media.
“I’ve been trying to keep ‘Good Morning America’ off their door,” said Bennett.
During our time together, I watched as she checked text messages from the Wells family, attentive to those who need her. Insatiable media means an around-the-clock job.
Taking the Leap into the Magazine Business
Jeanette and her husband invested in their first “Utah Valley Magazine” issue in September 2000. Coming from Idaho, they moved their two young children into a Utah Valley apartment, gearing up for “lean years” ahead.
“We thought we had this brilliant idea. What we didn’t know was that two other magazines had started and failed in the area,” said Bennett. “It’s probably good we didn’t know that.”
Nearly 16 years later, Bennett Communications is an award-winning media agency, producing several publications.
It’s a family business, with both parents leading the company, and all five kids have been involved; everything from delivering magazines to proofreading to posing for photo shoots.
“Part of me is a workaholic – kids force me not to be,” said Bennett. “It’s tricky to know how to spend my time,” said Bennett. “Sometimes it’s really hard. I realize I can’t do everything.”
Granted a ‘Wrinkle in Time’
I’ve felt like God’s given me a ‘wrinkle in time’ before – when I’ve looked at the clock and said, ‘that’s the time it was two hours ago.’ He’s really helped me when I’ve needed it.
For example, recently she’d been trying to decide whether to attend a UN parallel event hosted by the Feminist Task Force. She had so much to do, it didn’t make sense to accept the invitation to go, but felt prompted to buy plane tickets the night before. Attending opened doors for Bennett to meet with leaders and influencers who have expanded a vision of good she can do.
“I’ve found as you take steps, the dots start to connect a bit.”
On Being a Gardner and Saying ‘No’
“I’ve planted all these seeds over the years, and it’s like now I have this out-of-control garden,” she laughed. “That includes my kids.”
Beyond heavenly help, I wondered about how she could manage all she does. Is this deadline-driven mom good at saying ‘no’?
“No,” she smiled. “It’d be hard to be married to me and the whirlwind I create. I see life as a game of Tetris; I want to fit it all in.”
For example, she’s constantly asked to sit on boards, speak at events – all while still keeping up with her own publication deadlines. Recently she told her husband she would take six months off if she wasn’t self-employed. She decided to say ‘no’ to any invitations in the coming weeks.
“Then KSL called a couple days later and wanted to interview me on the news. How could I say ‘no’ to that?”
She has learned a principle she tries to remember: “Saying ‘yes’ to something is saying ‘no’ to something else.”
Every now and then you come across young talent and think, “This kid’s really GOT IT.” Say hello to this month’s Saturday Spotlight, a writer of the musical variety. Sammy Brue is a 12-year-old songwriting, Sundance-performing folk singer. He’s been catching the eye of the media (Esquire magazine interviewed him recently) and is the star of a documentary in the making. Sammy’s lyrics hold maturity beyond his seventh-grade years and his tunes carry a unique, down-to-earth realness that sticks, long after hearing him. Big record label, here he comes. (Don’t miss his video below. Dare you to watch without getting the tune in your head!)
Q. Sammy, you’re 12 now. When did you start writing songs?
I got my first guitar when I was 10 and about two weeks later I wrote my first song. My dad taught me like three chords, and all my life I’ve grown up listening to Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash – that’s where I got my folk scene, and I guess I taught myself.
Q. How many songs would you say you’ve written, and do the words or tune come first?
I’ve been writing a lot lately. I think I’ve written like 15-18 songs. I do a lot of short songs, and that’s when I put my songwriting to the test. I usually write the first two verses and then I get stuck until two weeks later. Sometimes I do the tunes first, and sometimes with the words first.
Q. Where do you get your inspiration?
Q. This was your second year performing at Sundance in Park City. How’d it go?
I saw a whole bunch of movie stars and stuff like that. I usually busk on the street. In the main place I play at, HP Lounge, where I’m most popular, and Indie Lounge. Sylvester Stallone’s brother Frank loved me so much he told his manager about me, and his manager is pretty legit.
Q. What’s the best part – writing a song or performing it?
Performing it because I love watching the faces of the people, the look like, “Oh my gosh.” I love being center of attention.
Q. Where do you see yourself in five years?
I see myself on the road a lot and in school probably. Living a good life, playing music.
Without further ado, here’s a Sammy Brue original, titled, “I Don’t Wanna Die.”
Connect with Sammy Brue
Still holding true to your new year’s resolutions on day four? For some inspiration, welcome to the first Spotlight Saturday of the year, which also happens to be my birthday. As my present to YOU, I’m excited to introduce goal-setting, social-savvy Cassie Nielsen with her fresh take on conquering 2014 goals. Cassie calls her brilliant, year-long movement #HashtagResolution. She shares her journey of monthly goals through social media, each dubbed with a hashtag, like #meatless January. Her drive to improve inspires me. Meet Cassie, and join the resolution revolution.
Q. Why the #hashtag?
#hashtagresolution is about accomplishing one resolution each month during 2014 (and hopefully beyond!). By using a hashtag for each month, we’ll create documentation of our journey and, more importantly, a community for support.
Q. By becoming socially accountable, you’re allowing others to witness your resolutions experience. How does that feel?
I have a long list of Instagram role models, and I have watched them put themselves out there on social media. I have watched their successes, their challenges, their failures and sadly, I have watched the criticism they have endured by haters. But I have also witnessed the uplifting and supportive communities created by their bravery, and know we are all better off for it. In so many ways, I am terrified by this project. I am afraid to let myself down. I am afraid of criticism. I am afraid to fail. But I have a mantra that pushes me forward: “feel the fear and do it anyway.” I have so much more to gain than I do to lose.
Q. Have you always been big on goal-setting? What prompted this year’s efforts?
Yes, goal setting has always been important to me; however, I have been more formal about my approach in the recent years. I’m still trying to identify methods that work best, and I have had plenty of failures. Like so many others, often my goals are focused on health and fitness. Sometimes I’ll try abstaining from sweets until a certain vacation, never missing a workout for a period of time, or following a strict training regimen to prep for a half marathon. But I had the idea that maybe I didn’t always find success with my goals because I was missing the component of fun. Shouldn’t goals be fun? This past year I embarked on a journey to video record one second of my life every day – a visual journal, if you will. The project helped me look for the good in each day, and (goal accomplished) it was fun! Feel free to check out my finished product at www.vimeo.com/cassienielsen.
For 2014, I wanted a way to improve my overall well-being in a fun, goal-focused way. I have never successfully completed a new year’s resolution and challenged myself to find a way to be one of the few (very few) who can make claim to accomplishing this clichéd goal. I chose the monthly format for two reasons: 1) I just couldn’t settle on one resolution, and 2) Let’s be real…I’d be setting myself up for failure trying to make everything in my life picture perfect. I also want to give credit to a very innovative author Gretchen Rubin who wrote The Happiness Project, among many other books. She pioneered the idea of focusing on one goal each month for an entire year, with the added difficulty of combining her goals month after month. Mad props to her!
Q. Which month will be hardest for you?
Actually, as funny as it might sound, I think I will struggle most during #sevenhoursanight in December. It’s not that I don’t love sleep. But my days can get so busy, my mind doesn’t want to turn off. December will be a reminder I do not always need to multi-task a million things at once. I believe I will actually accomplish more by cramming less into my day and rewarding my mind and body with rest. Truth be told, I also think it will be more difficult to maintain an interesting Instagram feed during this month but that’s also why I gave myself 11 months to brainstorm.
Q. How do you see hashtags changing the way society communicates? What’s your take on the future of the #hashtag?
I believe hashtags will monumentally change how we search and find information, much like Twitter has done for current events. In its current form, hashtags are an amazing way to categorize information and find like-minded communities. Social media, Instagram in particular, has allowed us to forge very real bonds with people who previously would have been strangers. I am most curious to see how companies will leverage hashtags for marketing. Traditional advertising no longer has the impact it used to. Instead, successful brands are directly engaging with consumers through social media. It is only a matter of time before we create sophisticated tools which will allow both individuals and companies to capitalize on the value of hashtags, and in some ways there are already pioneers who are testing the market. What new innovations will be created to optimize search and engage capabilities? How will the clever few find opportunities to monetize hashtags? How will “big data” extract new hypotheses about culture, trends, consumerism, and almost any other topic using the wealth of data created by hashtags? I am excited by the horizon of opportunity and thankful to play a very small role in its evolution.
Connect with Cassie
Video (Watch my One Second Everyday project): www.vimeo.com/cassienielsen
A housekeeping item:
Updated page! For more Saturday Spotlights, go here. In 2014, I’ll be posting a new featured professional who has a way with words on the first Saturday of the month. #myownresolution
With Halloween around the corner, what’s better than a good ghost story (or ten)? I’ve known author Paul Rimmasch for a couple years here in Ogden, Utah. This Saturday Spotlight features his current project: a series of ghost stories, based on his experience as a local CSI investigator. Turns out, they don’t call late nights the “witching hour” for nothing and “tales of the paranormal” find their way into CSI fieldwork. Spooked yet?
Q. As a CSI investigator, you have the unique role of deciphering fact from fiction. How does that play into your current writing project?
My concept for the book I am writing is to not only spin a spooky yarn, but to place the story in the law enforcement context in which it was experienced. For example, when I paint the picture of the truly horrifying thing an officer saw in the Ogden City Cemetery one night, I will also explain why cops park in such secluded places in the first place. Or, why was it that when I was stuck in an elevator in a haunted hotel, the people I was stuck with were looking at me funny.
At first I was unsure of how this concept would play, but advance readers have been fairly positive, so I guess it is working. I love folklore, whether in written form or told around the campfire. When you think about it, campfire stories were the first form of literature, and even in this digital age, there is nothing quite as magical. This is my attempt to add to this wonderful genre.
Q. Do the ghost stories you’re sharing come from real-life experiences?
One might expect a career in the forensic sciences and an interest in ghost stories to be diametrically opposed. After all, one deals with verifiable evidence and the other delves into a realm where proof has proved to be more elusive.
The reality, however, is that CSI fieldwork and tales of the paranormal fit together like a hand and a glove. In this business, you spend a lot of time hanging around dead people and the places they died. And not just any dead people; we’re talking suicides and homicides. These violent acts, and the strong emotions associated with them, have traditionally been the genesis for many a haunted house. Spend enough time in these places and you feel and experience things that lead you to believe that there are things in this universe that can’t be measured scientifically.
Remember, law enforcement personnel are awake and about when honest people are home in bed. They don’t call the interval between midnight and 4:00 “the witching hours” for nothing, you know. One also finds oneself alone after dark in cemeteries, mausoleums, lonely country roads, and old abandoned buildings. Everyone has seen enough scary movies to know what happens in those places. When something happens to a cop or CSI that they can’t explain, most accept it at face value and don’t try to make it fit into a preconceived intellectual compartment.
Q. Tell us about your first published book.
My first book is entitled “The Lost Stones.” Quite a departure from what I am working on now, it is a fictional adventure story with a heavy dose of real-life archaeology mixed in. “The Lost Stones” is in the same spirit as “Raiders of the Lost Ark” or “National Treasure,” but with LDS themes. I thoroughly enjoyed doing the extensive research that went into writing the book and it is very gratifying to get feedback from readers saying they learned something new by spending time with my characters.
Q. What did the publication process look like? Did it take longer than you expected?
Compared to a lot of authors I have met since “The Lost Stones” came out, I think I had it pretty easy for a first timer. The publisher, Cedar Fort, was only the second publisher that I sent my manuscript to. As a first time author, I didn’t really know what to expect, but the time between acceptance and publication did seem to drag on forever. When you get that acceptance letter, you are about as excited as you’ve been in your whole life. You want stuff to start happening. You want to see your book in print… in your hand… yesterday. The trouble is, it takes time to get a book edited and put together. Not to mention the fact that the publishing company has a certain release schedule planned well out in advance. So all in all, you end up waiting. Needless to say, the 11 months between acceptance and release were the longest 11 months of my life.
Q. What led you to writing your first book?
Basically I wasn’t smart enough to know I shouldn’t try. I am by no means a strong writer, but the story for “The Lost Stones” so preoccupied my thoughts I figured the only way to get it out of my head was to write it down. Let me be a lesson to you would-be writers out there. Don’t let anyone (especially yourself) tell you that you can’t do it.
Connect with Paul Rimmasch
Last year I heard distinction expert Scott McKain give a keynote address. His vivacious and mesmerizing presentation hooked me into fandom. You see, Scott not only gives sound advice for business and life – he’s the living example of it. Besides being a best-selling author and well-known speaker, he sets himself apart by truly caring about people. I love that. You’ll soon see why I respect Scott so much: He’s as distinct as they come. And lucky you, he’s giving away a signed copy of his brand new book. Read on to see how you can win it!
Q. Congrats on your book, Create Distinction (2013) launched this month in nationwide airport bookstores, from LAX to JFK. What’s it like seeing your own idea become a tangible reality?
Thank you! You’ve really touched upon the most gratifying — and surreal — aspects of being an author. When I’m speaking, I love the instantaneous response of the audience, yet wonder if there is any tangible impact. When I see the book on a shelf in the bookstore, or see someone reading the book on a plane, I’m thrilled because there is a sense of both accomplishment and completion. At the same time, it does seem quite extraordinary that something beginning as thoughts jotted on a legal pad in Starbucks can become a tangible product — one I’m fortunate that some people find of value.
Q. You’ve written three Amazon.com No. 1 business bestsellers – what makes the latest book stand out from your others?
This is the first time I’ve followed up on a previous book. “Create Distinction” is an expanded and updated version of my previous book, “Collapse of Distinction.” I wanted to do this for a couple of reasons; first, after the original was named to the “Top Ten Business Books of the Year” list by the Miami Herald and other major newspapers, I felt the previous publisher — and this author — didn’t quite do enough to maximize its potential in the marketplace. A “re-launch” would give the material the opportunity to find a wider audience.
However, I also wanted to validate the points of the earlier book by showing how the distinctive organizations I mentioned had performed since the original work. Any author can create a theory of how a business should approach the marketplace, or how customers should be served. The critical question I hear from corporate leaders and entrepreneurs, however, is, “Will this work in the real world?” “Create Distinction” provided me the opportunity to deliver the evidence that the answer is a resounding “yes!”
Q. In addition to being a celebrated author, you’re an energetic storyteller. I know, having experienced your powerful keynote speech in 2012. Which do you believe creates more distinction and why: writing or speaking?
The best answer is not new or original to me, however, it’s the best one: The magic is in the mix.
We all are aware of speakers with a compelling presentation style who have nothing of significance to say — they’re all style and no substance. On the other hand, there are authors who have deep content, but their presentation style doesn’t create audience engagement.
In today’s media-centric culture, it’s not about the “or” — it’s about “and.” The most distinctive content providers will be able to both write powerful stories and deliver compelling presentations. That’s a level to which I aspire.
Q. You learned a lot about pleasing customers when working at your parent’s small town grocery store as a kid. Back then, did you ever imagine yourself being an international expert on distinction?
NO! It never crossed my mind in Crothersville, Indiana that I would ever become an “international” anything! While I don’t like referring to myself as “lucky” — because that seems to imply mere random circumstance — I constantly see myself as extremely fortunate. I have been blessed with extraordinary mentors and colleagues, and have been encouraged by my family and friends to travel the “road not taken.” And, as the classic Frost poem proclaims, for me, too, it has made all the difference.
Q. Getting theoretical here, but if everyone avoided stifling sameness, would anyone be distinct?
It’s a great question. And, unfortunately, because of all the cliches we hear as kids, I don’t think we are in danger of it occurring. We are warned against standing out and attracting attention — and we have such a strong desire to “fit in” with our peers — that I believe we are predisposed to similarity.
Theoretically, yes, you’re right — if everyone was distinctive, then it would be common to do so. For some reason, that reminds me of the scene in Monty Python’s classic film, “Life of Brian,” where the throng is awaiting any words from the man they erroneously presume is holy. In his irritation to get them to stop following him, Brian shouts, “You are ALL individuals.” And, they respond in unison, “Yes! We are all individuals!”
My point is that uniformity and conformity have become so common, the sameness is — as you suggest — stifling. While it probably wouldn’t work for us ALL to become unique, my research and experience has taught me that YOUR business will profit and YOUR career will benefit if you create distinction.
WIN your own SIGNED COPY of “Create Distinction!”
To enter, “Like” this post and answer one of these questions in the comments: What makes you distinct? OR Why does creating distinction matter? I’ll pick the most distinct answer as the winner! Be sure to comment soon – I’ll announce the winner Friday, April 5, 2013.
Connect with Scott McKain
See his site: createdistinction.com
Send him a tweet: @scottmckain
Check out his blog: mckainviewpoint.com
The Energizer Bunny has nothing on Seattle freelancer Carol Tice. She seems to be everywhere at once, writing for big name publishers like Forbes, Entrepreneur, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, and more. Carol keeps up with Fortune 500 client demands, authors books, and in her spare time(!), serves as Den Mother of the 700+ member writers’ community Freelance Writers Den. I’ve spent many hours reading her words of wisdom at Make a Living Writing and I’m thrilled to introduce her to you.
Q. As a six-figure freelancer (wow!) you’ve definitely made it big time as a freelancer. What do you want to be your legacy as a writer?
A. I want my legacy to be that I was a good mom. I work hard to make time with my kids.
As far as writing, I think I’m creating it now on my blog. Helping other people earn more money is incredibly fulfilling work, and I love that those tips just keep on helping people.
Aside from my own blog, I’m hoping my legacy will be in writing nonfiction books, and maybe fiction ones, too. I love all the how-to, helpful business writing I’ve done over the years, and now I’m focused on doing that at the book level. I love big projects!
My first business book, How They Started, came out last year, and I have another one, The Pocket Small Business Guide to Starting on a Shoestring, coming in July.
I love telling great business stories…hope I get to do more of it.
Q. With so many deadlines, what does a typical day look like for you?
A. I don’t know if there is one, but here’s what I try to make the day like: I get up at 6:30 and get my daughter and son off to school, then try to work out — often walk the hills around my house for about an hour, or hit the NordicTrak. By about 9 I want to be at my desk. Or I’ll do a quick email/Den check and then work out.
Once I’m in, I usually try to dive-bomb through email, blog comments, Freelance Writers Den forum comments, and social media. I keep trying to shift this later in the day, but it’s hard — living on Pacific time, there’s already so much going on by 9 am my time!
From there, it’s time to send out requests for interviews, write queries, or write blog posts or articles. Or if I’m presenting, that’s usually from 12-1 pm — I try to inhale my lunch during the sound check right before we start! Or eat right after. It’s always something quick…leftovers and some raw veggies and fruit to snack on, usually.
I tend to write and report in batches — so one day I might write several posts for Freelance Switch, or research several Entrepreneur feature stories, or write a week’s worth of my blog posts. I find this way more efficient than doing a bit for each client every day.
I always take a break from 5-8 pm to be with my family.
Then I’ll do a few hours at night if there’s more to catch up on, which there usually is! This is when I might work on Den bootcamps or write ebooks or work on other long-term projects.
But I’m trying to cut the night shift back these days. It’s not easy though since I basically have two full-time jobs, my freelance writing AND then my own blog and work helping other freelancers. I keep trying to find more Den tasks I can pay someone else to do.
Obviously, this is a day in the office, not when I’m out at a conference or interviewing sources.
I always am completely off from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset, and usually through to Sunday morning, when I’ll do a quick email/Den/comments check just to make sure there are no emergencies and nothing’s broken.
I strongly recommend everyone take at least one full day off from the computer. Your productivity will explode, I promise.
Q. How do you keep from being distracted by social media?
A. It’s not a big addiction for me. I play Bejeweled with my Facebook friends about once or twice a week for maybe a half-hour. I get on Twitter usually once or twice each weekday, share my stuff, post my blog post to Facebook, engage in a few conversations and I’m done. I might come back once in the afternoon.
Q. Recently you tweeted you were doing “3 days’ work all at once” so you could spend time with your family. With so many deadlines, do you ever really get to take a break?
A. Now that I have a laptop and an online community to serve, it’s harder and harder to be totally off of all work!
But when I’m traveling, I rarely do any of my freelance work — I plan my deadlines around the vacation. I just try to keep email from backing up too far and keep Den Members’ questions answered. My tip: Set your email bouncer to say you’re gone for 1 day before you leave, and an extra day when you get back. Give yourself breathing space.
But to answer your question — my goal is to take 6 weeks off a year. One of the big reasons to be a freelancer vs an employee is more vacation time! The standard 2-3 weeks we get in America is appalling. I haven’t done well on this the last couple years while I was building the blog and launching the Den, but I am getting back to it. I want to take all my kids’ school breaks and long weekends – winter, spring, etc, and then several weeks in summer. That’s my goal…not always easy to get there!
It is hard with the Den to be totally gone. But I enjoy helping the other writers so much, it doesn’t really feel like work to spend 15-20 minutes answering a few questions. I don’t consider that as ruining my vacation! And at this point my kids get what I do — my younger son who’s 11 is actually learning from me now and building his own Apple fan blog, which I think is awesome.
Connect with Carol Tice
See her site: caroltice.com
Check out her blog: makealivingwriting.com
Join her community: The Freelance Writers Den
Like learning from Carol? Me too. Let her know in the comments!
Surprised to see boogers in this post title? I'd say it's well-picked, considering today's featured writer has no problem dishing the sometimes-not-so-pleasant details of parenting. She's not your typical "mommy blogger." With a professional journalism background, Natalie Clemens knew a few years into motherhood she needed an outlet. From wiping "meticulously placed" boogers off the wall, to aching for her stillborn baby, she shares intimate aspects of motherhood on her blog. I'm delighted to introduce you to a mama with a heart as big as her massive writing talent.Read More Post a comment (4)
One word you surely haven't missed during the U.S. Presidential campaigns with Mitt Romney involved: Mormon. As a Mormon, it's been intriguing to see Newsweek and TIME declare the past couple years as the “Mormon Moment.” Today’s writer/editor is a talented friend of mine and fellow Mormon who works for LDS Living magazine. (LDS stands for “Latter-day Saint,” another way to refer to Mormons.) The publication shares “ideas for family, home, relationships, and more.” Kate writes with a beautiful perspective on the world, broadened by her studies of humanities and communication disorders. I hope to be a loving mother like her someday, one who see motherhood to be glorious (see her tender essay below) while contributing professionally. Meet the talented editor, Kate Ensign-Lewis.Read More Post a comment (1)
Cheers, all! Here's the first international feature on delighted to write - my new friend Jude Ellery from Dorset, a city on the south coast of England. On the editorial staff for strangebOUnce.com, Jude's both a writing fan and sports devotee. Not only that, he has a sweet name. (Insert moment of silence for the Beatles.) Na na na na na ,na na na, meet Jude...Read More Post a comment (0)
Wordologist Amy Taylor writes and lives with creative zest. Her deep love for connecting with people is reflected in everything she does, including her “Joy of Dirty Dishes” essay below. She recently launched an inspiring interview blog called Good People of Earth, with the tagline: “The world is full of good people. We’re introducing you to them one interview at a time.” As a long-time Amy fan, I’m honored to share this larger-than-life writer with you.
Q. You caught my eye on the Brains on Fire blog, where you’re “busy rocking the mic(rosoft Word)” as a Lead Copywriter. What’s a favorite Brains on Fire project and why?
A. That is such a difficult question! One of my recent (and really fun) projects was writing scripts for Wonderopolis’ “Camp What-a-Wonder” podcasts. Camp What-a-Wonder inspires kids and families to keep wondering and learning together throughout the school-free summer months. This year we decided to create Camp What-a-Wonder podcasts that would guide kids on weekly offline wonder adventures.
I think this project was particularly meaningful as it gave me an opportunity to relive my happy childhood. As a child, my parents read to us constantly, and we always had art projects going on somewhere in the house. All of this allowed my creative side to flourish from a young age. I think technology has really changed the childhood experience for modern kids, and not necessarily in a good way. I love that the podcasts allowed us to leverage technology to inspire children to get active, go outside, explore, daydream, create, and use their imaginations.
Q. On your site, wordology.org, you share a brilliant ideology: “Your message should be as remarkable as your mark on the world.” How did you come to this thought?
A. I think a lot of brands get so caught up in the business of business that they lose touch with their humanity. A business is made up of people—and made by people. Every brand, business, and organization begins as a passion and a dream, whatever that may be. People are exposed to thousands of marketing messages per day. Your customers (and potential customers) don’t want you to assault them with a bunch of marketing mumbo jumbo, they want to hear about the passion and dream that get you out of bed each morning.
Q. As a “wordologist,” where do you want to take your writing in, say, 10 years?
A. After years and years of encouragement (and borderline badgering) from friends and family, I just finished writing my first children’s book—and am embarking on the quest to find a publisher. My dream is to see my story in the hands of children around the world, and nestled between beloved bookshelf classics like “Goodnight Moon,” “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,” and “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.”
On a more universal scale, I want to be able to give back. I have been very blessed to have amazing mentors guiding me throughout my career and life. I want to help other young writers however I can. I believe the more connected and supportive we are as a creative community, the more empowered we are to use our gifts to inspire positive change in the world.
Q. Is your passion for animal advocacy behind your @NoMeatballs Twitter identity? Or do you really have story behind meatball loathing? Tell, tell.
A. I always get a kick out of all the speculation about my Twitter handle. In retrospect, it probably wasn’t the best choice, but it has turned out to be quite the conversational piece.
While it’s true that I am an incredibly passionate animal advocate, the real backstory is far less exciting. I was about 10 years old, sitting down to dinner the day after Halloween. Like most kids, I had no interest in the spaghetti and meatballs placed before me when I could be chowing down on candy. My mother, however, was unwavering in her demands that I eat real food before Halloween candy. I tried to choke down a meatball in a fit of anger, which only resulted in my body instantly rejecting the effort. The meatball came right back up. I have held it against meatballs ever since.
Q. Share three of your writing heroes – and why they inspire you.
A. James Reeves: I don’t remember how I discovered James Reeves, but I am thankful I did. “The Road to Somewhere” is beyond amazing. As soon as I finished reading it, I got up from my sofa and wrote him a letter.
Anthony Bourdain: Even if snarky charm isn’t your cup of tea, there’s no denying the man has a way with words. His poetic reflection on the human spirit is beautiful and inspiring. We may not all be able to travel the world 333 days out of every year, but Bourdain finds a way to bring the world to us through his writing.
Bukowski, Kerouac, Nin, Hemingway and Cummings: I’m counting this bunch as one entity, as I like to think of them as my spirit-side sensei. They all lived beautifully broken lives, but somehow found a way to channel their experiences, adventures, and heartbreaks into some of the most marvelous literary works in the world.
“The Joy of Dirty Dishes”
I hate it when people leave, but I love the silent hum and hush that fills the house after a happy evening with people you love. I spent my childhood sneaking peeks at my parents’ parties, trying to uncover where that magic comes from. To this day, I still haven’t been able to find the right word for it, but I know what it looks like. Empty wine bottles, spent corks scatted about. Layers of plates stacked on top of one another. Plate, wadded up cocktail napkin, utensil, plate, wadded up cocktail napkin, utensil. Stacks and stacks of dirty dishes in the sink—but for just one night, nobody cares.
It leaves the empty spaces between walls and floors, foundation and ceiling radiating with the energy of life.
It’s hard for me to imagine many other moments in life when I feel more acutely aware of the passing of time than in the hum and hush. These moments leave me feeling deeply blessed, wishing for a bigger dinner table…and more minutes, more years, more dinners, more cheers, more refills and popped corks and cups of coffee (I won’t drink) with dessert.
If I ever write a cookbook, I’m going to call it “The Joy of Dirty Dishes.”
And I will mean it.
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