Nancy Erickson

Author Archives: The Book Professor

  • 0
How to write a nonfiction book

Nonfiction is Life

Tags : 

… and Life is Nonfiction

Have you seen the movie Hidden Figures yet? I give this nonfiction movie 5 stars, and it exposed me to another angle of Black History Month. Until I saw this movie, I never knew that three female African–American mathematicians were instrumental in the early days of NASA. They weren’t just instrumental, they were crucial to John Glenn’s orbit around the earth! Why hadn’t I heard of this before?

This month gives us the opportunity to recognize and applaud the contributions that black men and women have made. From artists, to poets, to politicians, to religious leaders, to authors, to sports figures, to business men and women, to scientists, to everyday people, this is our appointed time learn more about these people and to celebrate their accomplishments.

black history nonfiction

Nonfiction sports history

My husband is a baseball fanatic, and we recently visited the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City. What a treat! Negro leagues were formed due How to write a nonfiction bookto segregation laws, and they ran strong from 1920 until they started their decline in 1945, when Jackie Robinson was recruited by the Brooklyn Dodgers. They produced strong players like Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks, Roy Campanella, LeRoy “Satchel” Paige, and—of course—Jackie Robinson. Think any of these athletes made history? You bet your boots they did! They were a strong force in the civil rights movement, although all they really wanted to do was play baseball.

As I think about our effort to find 117 solutions to our most pressing problems in 2017, I’m drawn to the racial divide that has plagued our nation almost since its inception. It’s a big problem, and we need to find solutions.

Nonfiction contemporary conversations

I like what is happening in St. Louis, particularly through an organization called Mother 2 Mother, where 11 black mothers share their stories with “thousands of mostly white attendees…” Their purpose is to expose other women to the “dangers and realities of raising Black sons in America regardless of the socio-economic status achieved.”(source)

How to write a nonfiction bookI attended one of these conversations and was dumbstruck by the things these black mothers endure that have never been part of my life. Their sons are consistently pulled over for no reason and, in some cases, have been handcuffed and taken to the police station. One woman’s daughter was told to go to the back of the school bus by some teenage boys, who were never punished, and it happened in the priciest zip code in the St. Louis area. As I heard these mothers – doctors, attorneys, scientists, and professors at Washington University – talk about what they and their kids battle on a daily basis, I shrunk in my seat and thought, “There has to be a solution to this.”

117 Solutions in 2017

We are looking for solutions to problems like white privilege and the racial divide. How about you? What do you know, what have you been through, what have you discovered or developed that can help others? What inspirational nonfiction book could you write that will bring hope to others? Please join us in our effort to find 117 Solutions in 2017!

The purpose of 117 Solutions in 2017 is:

  • To create a groundswell of solutions to problems that have, until now, seemed too big or impossible to resolve
  • To unleash the answers that are trapped inside of people
  • To change lives, save lives, and transform society
  • To use your life and your gifts and your resources to MAKE THINGS BETTER. Not because you must, but because YOU CAN!

 


  • 0

Nonfiction Writer Tool: Sensory Language

Tags : 

Human beings are wired to respond to stories, and we remember things that have an emotional impact on us. When you write your book, there’s a nonfiction writer tool you can use to impact the reader. It affects them on an emotional level, so they will remember what they read.

How do you do that? Well, it’s not so complicated. One way to impact your reader is to bring them in close, to make them feel like they’re right there in the room with you. You do that by creating scenes that use the nonfiction writer tool of sensory language.

Sensory language as a nonfiction writer tool

Sensory language is just what it sounds like – it’s the language of our five senses. When you use sensory language, you describe what you saw, felt, heard, tasted, and smelled. You don’t write, “I was sad when my girlfriend left me.” You write, “When she told me she was leaving, she smiled as she whispered the words, ‘I’m leaving you.’ My throat clamped tight. I blinked hard, so I wouldn’t cry, but one hot tear fell and salted my upper lip.”

In this passage, you find four of the five senses: She told me–hearing; throat clamped tight and hot tear–feeling; she smiled–sight; she whispered–hearing; salted my upper lip–taste. The only sense not included is the sense of smell.

Sensory language punches up your writing and engages the reader. It breaks up the monotony and helps the reader to visualize the scene, so they can experience it.

Before and After

Take a look at the two passages below, and notice how sensory language makes a difference.

1. Becky called me and said that something terrible had just happened. She wanted to talk about it, so I asked her to meet me at the grill on the ground floor of my building. It was almost noon, and I was hungry, so I asked her if she wanted something to eat.

Compare that to:

2. “The police just barged in my house,” Becky said. “It was raining, and their boots tracked bits of grass and mud all over my white carpet. Didn’t even bother to wipe their feet. It’s like they used my carpet as a door mat. There were six of them.”

A piece of red hair – I Love Lucy red hair – escaped from behind her ear, and she slicked it back without taking a breath. My watch beeped twelve o’clock, but she yammered on. The grilling onions made my stomach lurch. I hadn’t eaten breakfast.

“Wow,” I said. “I’m so sorry. Can I get you something to eat? I could use a bite myself, and maybe that would make you feel better.”

Her head banged down on the table, and she hiccuped massive sobs. “What do you think I am, a twelve-year-old?” she sputtered. “It’s not like a snack can make me all better!”

Sensory language is a nonfiction writer tool that is easy to incorporate. All you have to do is describe what you hear, what you smell, what you see, what you feel, and what you taste. Drop those elements in a scene and watch your writing come alive!


  • 0

How to Write a Nonfiction Book When It Hurts

Tags : 

This year, our focus is to find 117 Solutions to our most difficult problems, an effort we call 117 Solutions in 2017. I’m encouraged by the response we’ve had, but I also feel humbled when I’m asked how to write an inspirational nonfiction book when it hurts. Not all stories are pretty, especially those about child abuse.

Read More

  • 0

Vocabulary for Online Writing Classes

Tags : 

Your manuscript is comprised of words, and the ones you select are critical to how well you communicate with your audience. The vocabulary you select will either make or break your manuscript. A strong and varied vocabulary is an important writing tool that all writers should strive to have.

We use words to communicate ideas, thoughts, and emotions. Sometimes our communication is successful, and sometimes it’s not. Your job as a writer is to select the words that communicate exactly what you mean, without the possibility of misinterpretation. A wide vocabulary allows you to do that. Without a good working knowledge of words and their meanings, your written communication will be muddied or poorly understood.

If you don’t have a strong vocabulary, one way to develop it is to use a simple but effective writing tool: a thesaurus.

Say you wanted to describe how you felt on the day your first child was born. You might use the word “happy.” However, we use the same word to describe a wide range of pleasant feelings, don’t we? I’m happy when I have a cup of coffee in the morning, but that’s not the same happy I felt the day my daughter was born.

I highly recommend a writing tool called Visual Thesaurus. Simply type in the word you want to replace, and the results pop up in mindmap format. Click on any of the displayed word options, and they will expand to give further meaning. In essence, you drill down until you find the precise word that means exactly what you want to say.

I looked up the word happy because I wanted to describe how I felt when my daughter was born. Some of the selections included blissful, joyful, content, glad, bright, elated, euphoric, etc. The term that really struck me was blessed.writing tool

 

Next, I wanted to describe how I feel when I drink a cup of hot coffee in the morning. I don’t feel blessed, or euphoric, or bright, or gleeful, I feel content. I am content with my cup of coffee.

The words blessed and content are both variations on the word happy, and yet, they actually have different meanings.

A nimble working vocabulary allows you to say exactly what you mean and to be explicit, rather than vague. I caution you to choose words that your audience will understand. In other words, keep it simple. If the reader doesn’t understand your word choice, you may feel intelligent, but you will lose your audience, and that’s not good communication. A thesaurus is an excellent writing tool because it helps you brainstorm and then drill down to the perfect word, but you do not want your readers to need a dictionary just to get through a mess of overcomplicated words on each page. So when choosing your words, remember that you are writing to communicate your thoughts, ideas, and feelings.

 


  • 0
inspirational people

Making a Difference with His Nonfiction Book

Tags : 

I hope you are following our mission to find 117 Solutions in 2017 because you will meet many ordinary, yet inspirational people, who are working hard to make this world a better place. Tom Hofmeister is such a man.

Read More

  • 0

2017: The Year of Solutions!

Feeling disturbed by the chaos in our world? You are not alone.

 

 

Look around you. We’ve been bombarded with problems that appear unsolvable, and many are in deep distress.

We have so many problems that we don’t even know how to name them anymore, but we do know what doesn’t work. Top-down solutions don’t work. Government can’t fix anything, organized religion hasn’t solved our problems, and we’ve tried to medicate our problems away, but that hasn’t worked either. In many cases, these attempts have made things worse and have spawned new problems.

2017: The Year of Solutions!

I believe that our problems—all of them—can be solved, and that the answers are trapped inside people like you. When you share what you know and what you’ve learned, you become the solution. The answers are inside of you. You ARE the solution.

There are two things that people cannot live without: HOPE and HELP. People need hope that things can and will get better, and they need help to get from where they are to where they want to be. When you tell your story, Nonfiction writing coachwhen you share what you’ve been through, what you’ve learned, what you’ve overcome, what you’ve developed or the path you took, you become the voice of hope and help.

There are people like you who have the answers, the solutions. And there are other people who, in some cases, are literally dying, waiting for those answers. You have what they need, and you can offer the hope and help that they crave simply by telling your story. You are the solution.

Think about what you’ve learned and how you can be a force that changes lives, saves lives, and transforms society. Don’t waste your pain and struggles. Put them to work in the world and let the mess become the messenger — the messenger of hope and help.

Maybe you’ve been through a painful time and fell like you can reach back and give others a helping hand. What do you know? What have you learned? What have you discovered or developed that can help others?

 

The Answer: 117 Solutions in 2017

It’s time for us to take the reins and solve the problems that surround us. In 2017, we are going to find 117 solutions to the problems that plague us. Every week we will focus on 2 specific problems and ask for your help to solve them. Perhaps you have a solution of your own, or maybe you know someone else who does. Introduce us to one another.

You can share the problems you’ve encountered and the solutions you crafted to offer hope and help to this chaotic world. If not you, then who? If not now, then when?

When you  tell your story and what you’ve been through, what you’ve discovered, what you’ve overcome, or what you’ve developed, you become the voice of hope and help.

The purpose of 117 Solutions in 2017 is:

  • To create a groundswell of solutions to problems that have, until now, seemed too big or impossible to resolve
  • To unleash the answers that are trapped inside of people
  • To change lives, save lives, and transform society

 

Call to Action:

You can’t sit around and hope that things will change. If you want change, you must be the solution. Be the one who offers hope and help and write your high-impact nonfiction book that can save lives, change lives or transform society. Click the button to get involved:

Write a nonficiton book

 

The Problems:

We have a lot of problems, and here are a few to consider. What do you know or what have you learned about these problems that could help others?

Immigration Reform
Refugee Crisis
Church-State Separation Tension
Eroding Middle Class
Government restrictions on small business
Suicide
Drug Abuse
Capital Punishment
Misuse of social networking
Animal abuse
Homophobia
Poverty
Women’s Rights
Domestic Terrorism
Religion-based Discrimination
Organ & body donation
Human Rights Violations
Environmental Pollution
Children’s Rights
Corporate Downsizing
Defense Spending and Preparedness
Euthanasia & assisted suicide
Eating Disorders
Unemployment
Homelessness
Racial profiling
Welfare
Recycling and Conservation
HIV/AIDS
Civil Rights
Genetic Engineering
Consumer Debt and Bankruptcy
Obesity
Terrorism
Judicial Reform
Censorship
Violence
Academic Freedom
Gun Control
Gender issues
Environmental issues
Single Parenting
Child Labor
Tobacco
Nuclear Proliferation
Ageism
Stress
Cancer
Prostitution
Education
Health Care Reform
Embryonic Stem Cell Research
Child pornography
Sex Trafficking
Refugee Crisis
Data Security
Use of Drones
Violence through indoctrination
Child Neglect
Child Abuse
Juvenile Offenders
Child prostitution
Information Overload
Instability of the EU
Gender Wage Gap
Child care alternatives
Lack of human connection in over-connected world
Over-stressed parents
Under-served populations
Reliance on government programs rather than self
Effects of childhood traumas
Teen heroin use and overdose
Polarized political parties
Crippling anxiety
Traumatic brain injury
Living with chronic disease
Overcoming childhood abuse
Racial reconciliation
White privilege
Failure of the education system – elementary
Failure of the education system – secondary
Tort reform
Eroding middle class
Domestic poverty
Child-on-child crime
Polarized societies
Alcoholism
Eating disorders
Bullying
Date rape
Cyber bullying
Domestic violence
Gang violence
Classism
Climate Change
Cloning
Colorisim
Cloud Hacking
Computer Hacking
Corporal Punishment
Disaster Relief
Drinking and Driving
Identify Theft
Legalization of Marijuana
Hate Crimes

 

 


  • 0
how to start writing

How to Start Writing a Book

Tags : 

It’s almost time to make New Year’s Resolutions. Many people say that they they will finally write their book, but they get sidetracked because they don’t know how to start writing. The good news is that if you dedicate yourself to the task in 2017, you can finish your book within 1 year.

how to start writing

Some people are life-long learners and love the process of going from not knowing anything to becoming proficient in their area. That makes sense. We all want to be the best we can be, and I’m the same way. But along the way, we have to learn a lot of little things that can either make us the best at what we do or, if we choose not to learn them, will keep us in the pack of average Joes.

I’ve never aspired to be average, and I bet you haven’t either. So I have to continually learn my craft. I have to stay up to date on the industry, and consistently learn new tools of the trade that will either allow me to do things better or allow my clients to write in a more efficient manner. Here’s the deal with me: I only want to know as much as I need to know to use a tool for my intended purpose. I don’t want to learn all its features and functions or try to discover ways I could use the tool in new ways that I hadn’t considered. You know why? It’s because I’m not a natural life-long learner. I don’t like details, I like ideas. I don’t want to learn how to use something, I just want to use it.

I detest the learning curve. I generally try to find every possible way around it, so I can get on to the using stage. Learning frustrates me; knowing satisfies me. But that’s not the way the world works. In order to know something, I must go through the pain of learning, and I have to follow a process.

Make a Decision

Before I can follow a new process, I have to make a decision to do it. I have to say to myself, “Nancy, this is something you need to learn, and there’s no way around it. So make the decision, be committed, and get started.”
You know what the hardest part about writing a book is? It’s making the decision to do it. You’ve probably had the idea for your book for a long time. I bet it’s been percolating in your head, banging against the doors to come out. At times it probably drives you crazy, but books don’t write themselves, and the only way yours is going to get written is if you make the decision to do it. You have to decide to write your book then figure out how to start writing it. It’s your story. Only you can write it.

Whenever I travel, it seems I am seated next to chatty types, and it’s fun to get acquainted. On one particular flight, I sat next to Don, and when he asked me what I do for work, I explained that I help people who aren’t writers become authors of high-impact nonfiction books.

“Really?” he replied. “I’ve always wanted to write a book.”

I hear that a lot. A lot of people say they want to write a book. “Then why don’t you?” I asked.

“I’ve never really looked into it,” he said.

His answer spoke volumes. Don had flirted with the idea of writing a book, but he’d never taken it further than just that — the idea of writing a book. People tend to glamorize the writer’s life and don’t realize that it’s a lot of hard work and it takes a lot of time. Don never made the decision to write his book, so in all likelihood, it will never get done. If he cannot make the decision to write a book, he’ll never know how to start writing it.

Contrast that to Bryan. When I ask Bryan why he hadn’t written his book, he said, “Because I don’t know how to start writing. I have all these ideas, but I don’t know what to do with them. This is where I get lost.”

Make a Plan

That makes perfect sense to me. If you’ve never written a book, how would you know how to start writing one? Writing is hard work and the publishing industry is complicated. Some people sit down and start writing first, but they soon find that all those ideas that have been rattling around in their head have no form, no shape. What comes out is like a spaghetti mess — a bunch of threads that aren’t connected to one another. It’s frustrating. They know they have a message, but they don’t know how to get it down on paper. That’s not how to start writing; you need a plan before you put words on paper or on a screen.

The problem with the “write first” approach is that it’s like trying to build a house without any plans. You have no blueprint to follow, no foundation poured, and you have no idea what the house will look like when it’s finished.

I don’t know a lot about building, but I know you never put up the walls first. They have to be attached to something solid, so you pour the foundation first. But even before that, you need a comprehensive plan, or blueprint, that shows where each room will be and what features it will have. Before you pull out your hammer, you have to have a plan.

The same is true for your book. If you want to save time, energy, money, and frustration, you begin with the end in mind. You take the concept for your book and turn it into a concrete plan.

To do that, we start with the foundation. Perhaps you know the topic of your book, but do you know what you want your book to accomplish? The book must have a purpose, or there’s no reason to write it. Believe it or not, the purpose isn’t always easy to figure out, at least not without some concentrated effort.

I like to start with these Foundational Questions:

1.  Why do you want to write this book?  What is your motivation?
2.  What purpose will the book serve?
3.  How is it different from other books published on this same subject? What new information or angle does your story present that hasn’t already been heard?
4.  What is the main theme of the story, as you see it now? What are the secondary themes?
5.  Who is your audience? Be specific. Define your primary and secondary markets.
6.  How will this work impact that audience? What change do you want to invoke in the reader?
7.  Why will people want to read this story? Why would they recommend it to others?
8.  What is the pivotal moment in your story?
9.  Write a Purpose Statement for the book that begins with, “The purpose of this book is to …” and list the primary and secondary purposes that you have identified.
10. Write a two- to three-paragraph synopsis of the book.
11. Write the copy that you envision appearing on the back cover of the book.
12. Who do you want to endorse the book?

These questions will help you crystallize your message and figure out how to start writing. Beyond that, you need a process you can follow that will get you on the right track and keep you there. In my Group Coaching classes  we create a BookMAP, which is a visual representation of your entire book. We map out all the contents of your book before you write a single word. Then, when you are ready to write, you follow your BookMAP, and even if you only have 15 minutes, you can write something to contribute to your book.

Let me show you how to start writing and finish your book in just 1 year

A new year is upon us, and you can make 2017 the year you finally write your book that will establish you as an expert in your field, raise your credibility, and attract a following. I’m here to help! In fact, a new Group Coaching class begins in January, and you can join now. Make 2017 the year you finally write your book!


  • 0

Capture the Time

It often seems impossible to make time to write, or to even make time for anything outside of your normal schedule. I don’t exactly know what time is, but I know I’ve been a slave to it for much of my life. My life, like yours, is filled with so much: things I want to do, things I need to do, and a lot of things I don’t really want to do, but must. There’s always that race against the clock, which leaves me feeling scattered and torn, like a scarecrow with his stuffing pulled out. At the end of the day, there isn’t much left, and what’s left doesn’t feel like me.

Recently I’ve been learning that time is actually nothing — and I do mean nothing. They say it doesn’t actually exist, make time to writeand yet, I’ve not only given it great power in my life, but I’ve allowed it to be a tyrannical and unsympathetic ruler, never satisfied because no matter how much I do, I never have enough time. There’s always more–more to achieve, more to accomplish, more to attend to. Time is never satisfied.

When my husband and I went to the Grand Canyon for a ten day float trip, time changed. I can’t figure out if it stretched, shifted, or stopped altogether, but I do know that one day melted into the next, and the pressure of time was lost. Nothing to do, nowhere to go. All I had to do was to eat, drink, and be. After ten days of floating from day to day, I was fundamentally changed. I had found the wide open spaces inside of me, and I only felt the pressure of time as our trip was coming to a close. I dreaded going back to the calendar and clock that ruled my life.

Somewhere along the way, and I don’t know when, I made a decision. “I don’t want to do anything that I don’t want to do anymore,” I told Tom. He looked at me with a kind of quizzical look on his face, kind of like my daughters did when they were teenagers right before the word “duh” came out of their mouths.

“Then don’t,” he said.

Then don’t? Could it be that easy? Figure out what I don’t want to do and just stop?

It took no effort at all to make a list of the things I didn’t want to do anymore. The list wasn’t that long, but when I matched it up to my day-to-day activities, I saw that the “don’t like” stuff ruled my calendar and, thus, ruled my life. I spent most of my time doing things I didn’t like. All I had to do was stop doing these things—and that was the challenge.

The first thing I crossed off was going to meetings and gatherings that didn’t interest me. I often said “yes” to things like networking events that other people asked me to attend, and I quit doing that. There comes a point in time, especially when you’re a business owner, that you have to say “no” to the good opportunities, so you can focus on building a great business. It wasn’t so much that the events themselves took a lot of time, but when coupled with the travel time and the cost of not doing what I really needed to do, they were simply too expensive, too great a cost for the benefit.

Because I own my own business, there are countless behind-the-scenes responsibilities that must be handled, such as accounting, payroll, social media, and website maintenance. I used to do all these things myself because I had to, but in recent years I’ve gotten help with them. I fully delegated all the tasks in the financial arena to my CPA firm, because I hate that stuff! When I looked at the rest of the bits and bytes of running my business, I decided to hire an Operations Manager to run the daily show, but that was a scary step for me. How would I pay for her?

On the other hand, how could I afford NOT to hire her? Quite simply, I’d pay for her by directing my energies into doing the things that I love and that only I can do — like reaching more writers, developing more programs, and publishing more books by people like you that can change lives, save lives, or transform society out to the world.

Prioritize your time and make time to write

So what does this have to do with you and your book? I assume that you’re a busy professional, and you’re not looking for extra things to fill your time. Life is busy enough with work, but when you layer on the more important things like faith and family, there’s no wiggle room, no gaps where you can sneak in a major project like writing your book. And yet, it’s something you want to do. And you’re only one who can tell your story; you’re the only one who can do it. The reason why people want to write a book varies from writer to writer, but I’ve found that most people want to do it because they have found a solution and they want to help others. They want to make a difference.

You actually have time to do the things you want to do. You can make time to write your book if you learn how to prioritize your time.

When I was forty-eight years old, I went back to school to earn my Masters degree in writing (MFA) because I wanted to hone my skills to the point where I could not only make a living by writing, but because I wanted to help other people discover and unleash the critical messages that were trapped inside of them. At the time, both my daughters were not only grown, but one of them was married and had already earned her Masters degree, and the other one had just started medical school. I was old, and the first day I walked into class, I felt it!

It was hard. I hadn’t been in school for twenty-six years, and I’d forgotten about the rigors of academia. The program lasted two years—that’s twenty-four consecutive months without a summer break—and it seemed like an eternity. When I was in the thick of it, I couldn’t imagine what life would be like when I finally graduated. I mean that. I could not picture life after school. The work was hard, and I had to adopt the attitude that school was only for a season of my life, not its entirety. In order to be successful and earn my degree, I had to cut out everything else in order to get the work done. After all, it was only two years. That time was going to pass anyway. “I may as well have something to show for it,” I thought.

Writing your book is a lot like going to school. You have this major project that you work and work and work on, and you think you’ll never get finished, that you’ll never get out of school, then one day — voilà! It’s over! You have your book in hand, and you can have free time again. The year is going to pass anyway. Your might as well have something to show for it. Dedicate a year to it, and make the time to write.

Just like there’s a season for going to school, there’s a season for writing your book. But it’s only a season. It doesn’t last forever. You must adopt this mindset.

It would be ridiculous to think that someone like you is going to drop everything or possibly even quit your job to make time to write a book. That wouldn’t be healthy. But it’s not unreasonable to expect you to shift your schedule for the next year, in order to prioritize the project. You can’t create time, but you can capture pockets of it and re-purpose its use. Don’t get me wrong. It’s going to be busy, perhaps busier than you’d like, but if you simply get up an hour earlier each day, or commit your lunch hour to your book, or turn off the TV to write, you can absolutely accomplish this, step by step by step. One day at a time, one paragraph or page at a time, until the pages become chapters and the chapters become a book. By giving attention to the little details on a consistent basis, you will build your book brick by brick. The big thing comes forth from the little things, but the process has to be efficient.

You don’t have to do this alone. Work with me and I can help you make time to write your book. The year will pass no matter what, so make sure you have something to show for it.


  • 0

“I’m not a writer” – Why You Should Hire a Book Writing Coach

Tags : 

No one can be an expert in everything. I talk a lot about the value of establishing yourself as an expert in your field, and I happen to be an expert book writing coach who helps people who claim they aren’t writers to write and publish their nonfiction books. I am not, however, an expert in everything, which is why I’d like to share my experience working with a coach of my own in order to achieve an important goal.

My husband, Tom, is an outdoor enthusiast, and he has a special relationship with the Grand Canyon. Every year for the past decade he has taken a couple of weeks to float the Colorado River at the bottom of the Canyon, enjoying the white water, scaling the canyon walls on challenging hikes, and sleeping under the stars. He is also a darn good photographer and likes to get up in the wee hours to photograph the deep black sky that radiates light from the millions and millions of stars. The Grand Canyon restores Tom and ignites every fiber of his being with its beauty and majesty. He can’t get enough of it, and he wanted to share it with me.

im-not-a-writerI also love the outdoors, but the thought of spending two weeks on a raft and living outdoors without the basic comforts of a bed or bathroom was a bit daunting. And then there was the hike in. To get to the bottom of the canyon, we would hike 8.5 miles down Bright Angel Trail, which has an elevation drop of one mile. We had to carry in all of our belongings in packs that weighed about 25 pounds. The hike usually takes between 5.5 and 6.5 hours, and it’s not for the faint of heart. You might think that hiking down is easy but, in fact, the hike down is harder than the hike up. Your shins and calves bear the brunt of the pounding, and afterward hikers often lose their big toenails. They are also prone to suffering intense calf pain for days afterward, pain that is nearly crippling.

As you float down the river, other hikes are part of the trip, and I don’t mean a nice little stroll down a trail. At times you have to plant your hands and feet on opposite sides of the wall in a slot canyon and then scale upward. On some hikes there are thin ledges — only two feet wide — that you must traverse. You have to inch yourself sideways and hope that your hands have a firm grip on the rock wall. It’s a long way down, but when you get past these challenging portions, you reach amazing scenes of beauty that you never knew existed.

I knew I could deal with living outdoors, but I wasn’t sure I could endure the hike down with a 25-pound pack on my back. I also knew I didn’t have the skills to climb a slot canyon or scale ledges.

If I was going to do this, I needed to get help. I needed a coach.

I started training with Brent about five months before our trip. He planned a regimen where on Wednesdays we worked on building strength and on Fridays we worked on balance and agility. In between, I amped up my cardio so I would have the endurance I needed. When I went to my training sessions, I had no idea what we were going to do that day. I didn’t know how to get myself in shape, so I just did what Brent told me. All I did was show up and follow his instructions. When he told me to do twenty jump squats, I did them. When he told me to get on the stair climber and climb on my tiptoes, I did it. When he said to stand on the bosu ball on one leg and catch the ball he threw to me, I did it. No two sessions were the same, and week after week after week, I showed up and did whatever he said to do for that hour. Little by little, I built my strength and agility in those one-hour bite-sized chunks.

The day we hiked down the Grand Canyon, there was an excessive heat warning. Temperatures were expected to rise to 112 degrees on the canyon floor, which is exactly where we were going. We were fully prepared with energy snacks, plenty of water, and our hats and sunscreen, and there were water refill stations about every three miles. We were ready. I was ready.

It took us 5.5 hours to get to the bottom, and I felt pretty good until about the last half mile. It was my toes. They were screaming at me, and I was certain I would lose those toenails. The heat was exhausting, and by the time we reached the bottom it was 109 degrees, but we made it. I made it! Those small repeated increments of time I’d devoted to getting in shape for the trip carried me from the upper rim of the Grand Canyon to the Colorado river at the bottom. I never even had the deep muscle pain that some experience.

Get a Coach

So what does my trip to the Grand Canyon have to do with your book? You have a book-worthy idea inside you and might think, “I’m not a writer, I can’t do this,” but that’s not true. You may not be not a writer, but that doesn’t mean you can’t become an author. You can do anything you want to do if you get the proper help. You need a book writing coach who can take the idea for your book and help you crystallize your message, plan the contents, write the manuscript, edit it to perfection—and finally—publish and distribute your book. You need someone to take you the entire distance so that all you have to do is follow. A great book writing coach can turn a “liver” into a writer.

Here’s the thing: people who write nonfiction aren’t writers. They’re what I call “livers.” You’ve lived through something; you’ve been through something, you’ve learned something, discovered something, or developed something, and you’re busy living your life. You’re not a writer because you’re a doer. You’re out accomplishing things. You don’t need to learn the publishing industry or take any writing classes to write your book. You simply need to get your message out of your head and out into the world, and you need a comprehensive book writing coach to help you do that.

All you have to do is take the first step and get started. You have a message, and I have a process. Why don’t we work together?


  • 0

Prior Programming & Personal Growth

Tags : 

There’s a funny thing about childhood. It’s seems like we make it through only to spend the rest of our lives either denying it or trying to recover from it. I wasn’t always willing to examine my childhood and how it has affected me long into my adult life, but I now realize that stories of personal growth help others see that they are not alone in our struggles.

When I was growing up, I had a wonderful family, but we moved a lot. My dad worked for IBM, which at the time people joked about it meaning “I’ve Been Moved.” We moved a lot. The longest place we ever lived was three years, and the shortest was nine months. By the time I graduated high school, I’d been to nine different schools.

The culture shock was, at times, dizzying. When I was twelve, we moved from Tulsa, Oklahoma to the Chicago area. Itprior-programming-and-personal-growth was like moving to a foreign country. The people talked differently, and it wasn’t just their strange accent I had trouble understanding. They used odd phrases like, “Do you want to go with?” Go with what? With whom? I kept waiting for them to finish their sentence and they never did. They called the restrooms “washrooms,” and Coke, which, for me, was the proper name for every soft drink in the world, was called “pop.”

Even the solar system was different. It got dark around 4:00 when I was barely home from school, when in Tulsa—even in the dead of winter—the sun didn’t set until around 5:30. And then there was the cold. It wasn’t just cold in Chicago. It was bitter, bone chilling cold, and the real temperature, which plunged to 21 below zero, felt like 40 below with the wind chill. When I walked outside to go to the bus stop, my nostrils froze shut. I was cold to the bone, summer and winter, the entire three years we lived there.

It wasn’t easy always being the new girl. Every place we moved was so different. What were the rules here? Who could I trust? Who should I be? The trepidation of walking into a new school on the first day was crippling. My stomach tightened, my bowels loosened, and my neck got stiff. As all eyes bored into me when I stood in front of the room to be introduced, I fantasized about being lifted up onto a cloud and transported away. I didn’t want to start over. And over. And over.

It was important that I figure things out before I shared any of myself in any way. I needed to learn the rules and customs and behaviors in a new place, so I could mimic them and fit in. I became a completely different person every time we moved, and I adopted new personas to match what I saw in others. That’s when I developed my three most crippling self-defeating beliefs:
1. If people know who I really am, they won’t like me.
2. No one cares about me.
3. I don’t matter.

My personal growth process progressed slowly but surely

It’s been a long time since I was twelve years old, and I wish I could say that those internal messages disappeared with my youth, but they did not. To the contrary, these became my core beliefs about myself, and they kept me in chameleon mode for far too much of my life. These negative beliefs caused me to neglect myself and my own needs, to marry an abusive husband, to work in a career that I hated, to be under-developed as a human being, and to live a life of crippling anxiety — always trying to figure out what to do, who to be, how to act.

With the help of some good therapy, journaling, and a daily practice of meditation, I’ve worked through these issues, and they no longer cripple me. But I admit that, on certain days, I have to work really, really hard just to justify my existence. On those days I feel like I don’t matter, that no one cares about me, and if people knew who I really was, they wouldn’t like me.

When you’ve built your life on a lie, it’s hard to overcome that thinking. The lie becomes the truth, and the truth becomes a lie. I believe it’s the lies we tell ourselves that prevent us from doing the things we were meant to do and for which we are gifted. The lies we create become barriers that block us from personal growth.

I don’t know what lies you’ve been telling yourself, but I do know the truth.

You do matter. You are important. You can help other people.

You may feel that you don’t have anything to offer that’s worthy of writing a book, but I disagree. Take a look at your life, what you’ve learned, what you’ve been through, what you’ve developed, what you’ve gleaned, what you’ve endured. Take a moment to consider your story of personal growth and all you have done to get to where you are now. You may not know everything else in life, but you do know your own life. You know your own patch of ground, and you know it well. What do you know and what have you learned that can change lives, save lives, or transform society?

You can do that, can be that voice of hope and help to others, and I’m here to help.


  • 0

Who Am I To Write a Book?

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard the question, “who am I to write a book?” Most people don’t put much thought into writing a memoir because they don’t think they have an interesting story to tell. The problem is that most of us are so accustomed to living our lives that we can’t see how interesting and inspirational our struggles, accomplishments, and experiences might be to others.

Let me tell you about a remarkable man who had never considered writing a memoir

We were sitting at the tiny round table eating our $10 ice creams that had been blended with the candies of our choice. I had recently started dating Tom (now my husband), and Bill was his friend. They had worked together several years earlier, which was all I knew about Bill, except for the fact that he was blind.

I had never known a blind person, so I didn’t know what to expect. Although he got around remarkably well on his own, in certain situations like in shops and stores, he needed a guiding hand to help him go to the counter, place his order, and get to his seat. Once he sat down, you couldn’t really tell he was blind. He didn’t wear the dark glasses that some blind people do, and I was fascinated that he actually made eye contact and that his eyes tracked to whomever was speaking. If you hadn’t seen him come in and be seated, you’d never know he was blind.

I asked Bill about his time working with Tom.

“Yeah,” Bill said, “we worked together but we worked in different business units. I was a consultant, and he was a tax guy.”

“Consulting can be rough on the home life,” I said. “You probably traveled a lot. Out Monday mornings and home on Thursday nights, right?”

“I lived that way for years,” he said. “That is, until I got shot.”

“You what?” I asked.

Tom jumped in. “That’s why Bill is blind. He was in Atlanta, and when he came out of the MARTA station with his boss andwho-am-i-to-write-a-book their customer, some deranged guy jumped out and shot all three of them. Bill’s bullet entered and exited through his temples, and it severed his optic nerve. He’s been blind ever since. The other two guys died.

“It was weird.” Tom continued, “I was watching the news and a story came on about two St. Louis people who had been shot in Atlanta. Then they mentioned Bill Johnson and Tony Lake. I couldn’t believe it. I’d just seen Bill the day before he left.”

“Wow,” I said. “That’s terrible. I didn’t realize there were public shootings in 1991. I thought that was a recent thing. So, what happened next? Obviously you went back to work at some point.” Bill had recently retired, so I knew he had finished his career.

“It was an adjustment,” he said. “But it wasn’t really that big of a deal. I thought, ‘This is the way my life is now, so I may as well get on with it.’ And I did.”

“Wasn’t that big of a deal! How can you say that?” I asked.

“It just wasn’t. I made up my mind to get back to doing the things I loved as soon as I could. It didn’t make any sense to sit around feeling sorry for myself,” he said.

“Get this,” Tom interjected. “He really did get back to the things he loved. Six months later he was snow skiing.”

“What??” I asked. “How?”

“It wasn’t that complicated,” Bill said. “I just hired a guide and he talked me down the slopes. We communicated through a microphone, and it was really fun. I love to ski and didn’t want to give it up.”

“That’s amazing, Bill. Really inspirational. Have you ever thought about writing a book?” I asked.

“A book?” he snorted. “What would I write about? I wouldn’t have anything to say. I just took things one day at a time and got back to being me. That’s not very interesting. I can’t imagine that anybody would want to read about that.” He shook his head, rejecting the idea.

Who other than a blind skier should be writing a memoir?

I don’t know about you, but I think that Bill’s story is incredibly interesting. Amazing and inspiring and unusual. I wanted to learn how Bill was able to simply accept the fact that he was now blind. I wanted to know what he did to reenter life as a fully functional man, and I wanted to know what allowed him to even think that he could snow ski again. Surely he’d been faced with all the “can’ts”: You can’t drive, you can’t go out by yourself, you can’t travel, you can’t work, you can’t date, you can’t ever be a whole human being again. And you certainly can’t ever snow ski. That part of your life is over. You will be in the dark forever.

But Bill didn’t think those things. Instead, he put one foot in front of the other and lived what he thought was an unremarkable life. Which I think is remarkable — that he truly thought his life was unremarkable.

The point is, I was full of questions and hungry for more of his story. He already had me hooked. If I were to read a synopsis of his story, I would definitely buy that book.

Bill isn’t unusual. I’ve met hundreds of people who have been through things, have learned things, have discovered things, and have developed things that can truly change the world, if only the world knew about them. But there’s a nagging voice in their head that tells them they’re average, that they don’t have anything to say, that nobody cares about their story, that it’s not that big of a deal,  and that they have no business writing a memoir, when, in fact, the opposite is actually true. Fortunately Bill is writing his book, and it will be released in June of 2017.

So if you ever find yourself saying “Who am I to write a book?” remember that you, too, have a remarkable story. You don’t have to be a victim of a shooting or to be blind. You just have to be you, and there’s nothing average about that.


  • 0

A Prophet is Not a Prophet…

Mark 6:4 ”A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” (NIV)

 

I love my book club. We read a new book every month, meet for dinner and girl talk, and unlike many book clubs I’ve heard of, we actually discuss our books and the impact they have on us. It’s a great group of women who I consider to be great friends. At first I felt a little out of their league because so many of them were so accomplished. One had been a champion for working women and a leader in the WBE certification process at the federal level. She had actually met with two different Presidents at the White House during their respective terms. Another had a husband who was the CEO of a large coal company and was, on occasion, found in closed-door meetings with President Obama. A third member wabe-a-prophet-to-the-world-not-your-home-towns the founder and CEO of a $50 million global career transition and development firm. We also have a realtor, a couple of corporate wives, a highly successful commercial real estate broker, and little old me.

Except I wasn’t really little old me. I had recently published two books through my small press, Stonebrook Publishing, that we had read for our book club. One was called Storming the Tulips by Hannie J. Voyles, and it was about her life as a Holocaust survivor who went to school with Anne Frank. She had interviewed twenty of the students from their school and written about their lives during the war and what they endured in hiding, in concentrations camps, and how they survived the time when much of the population of Amsterdam either starved to death or froze to death. The other book, A Life in Parts by Vicki Bennington and Daniel Brannan, is the story of Loretta Goebel, a quadruple amputee. Loretta had been in her basement wrapping Christmas presents when the doorbell rang. As she flew up the stairs, she banged her hand on the door jamb, but thought nothing of it. As a result of that injury, she ended up having both her legs, her left hand, and all the fingers on her right hand amputated. During her recovery she got hooked up with Heather Mills and Paul McCartney, and they brought her to England to have her beautiful prosthetic legs designed at the same place Heather got hers. As a result of that relationship, we got back-cover endorsements from both Sir Paul McCartney and Cindy Crawford.

My book club knew the ins and outs of both these books because they had, in a sense, walked through the process with me as I edited and worked with the authors to write and rewrite the manuscripts until they were ready for final publication. After the books were published, as a group, we attended a conference where author Hannie Voyles spoke about the ravages of living during the Holocaust, and Loretta Goebel had attended our book club to talk about her faith and recovery the month we read A Life in Parts. They also knew that I had turned my attention away from signing authors and publishing their books and had developed a step-by-step program to help thousands and thousands of people write high-impact nonfiction books that would save lives, change lives, or transform society. And it worked. People were writing their books and impacting the world.

We talk about a lot of things at book club and always find out who’s doing what, whose kids are doing what, and in the past few years, we’ve begun to share pictures and stories of our grandchildren. I tried not to let my feelings be hurt when two of the women started writing their books — with the help of someone else. They both traveled to distant places and parked themselves in scenic locations to write their books, shelling out thousands and thousands of dollars for assistance to write and produce their books. I mentioned this to my friend, the realtor in our group.

“Can I ask you something?” I said, dipping my toe in the water.

“Anything,” she said. We’d been friends for a long time, and she’d helped me buy and sell several houses, always for the price I wanted within a two week period. She was good at what she did.

“Every time they start talking about their books, I get really embarrassed. I know they know that this is my profession and that I have clients all over the world. What do you make of that?” I asked.

“Beats me,” she replied. “They all know I’m a realtor and we’ve had group discussions about them selling their parents’ homes to move them into nursing care. And they use other realtors. It doesn’t seem to dawn on them that I am a real estate agent.”

The Real Reason

Of course, there could be a number of reasons why our book club friends chose to work with other professionals, but I don’t think it had anything to do with our competency or expertise. We’re both really good at what we do. Perhaps they don’t want to mix friends with business, or maybe they don’t want to complicate our book club relationships.

But I actually think there’s a different reason: I don’t think it ever even occurred to them. I don’t think it ever crossed their minds that they could use us, women that they knew, liked, and trusted. It’s because we were too familiar to them.

In his article “Why You Need To Move Away From Your Home Town,” Isaac Morehouse, Founder & CEO of Praxis says that in our own home town, people perceive us through the lens of our perceived past. They’re too familiar with our own humanity. “Introduce a speaker from next door, and no matter how much they know about the topic at hand, few will be moved and impressed. Fly someone in from the next city and they’ll get attention no matter what they say.”

I know that’s true because I’ve experienced it. Why else would my friends spend close to six figures (an exorbitant amount by any measure) to write and publish their books with someone else? Could it be that it’s because their contact was from New York, the Oz of the publishing perception?

Which brings us to your book

The people who know you best may not be the best measure for what you have to offer. And it doesn’t matter because they aren’t your audience! Your audience is the world, not your home town.

You know what you’ve been through, what you’ve learned, what you’ve developed, and you know how those things can benefit others. Don’t wait for the people you know to bless it. They may know you’re writing a book and never even ask you about it. And that’s okay because it’s not for them. It can actually be kind of freeing to know that you don’t have to be grilled about what you’re doing and why. You can be in your normal everyday situations, like my book club, and you don’t have to worry about getting anyone’s approval or wonder if they like it, which for many of us translates to “Do they like ME?”

So take your message, get it out of your head, get it down on paper, and get it out to the world where it can do its work to change lives, save lives, or transform society.

Be a prophet to the world, not your home town.

 


Learn How to Write a Book