Thursday, December 29, 2011

Put A Big Red Ribbon Around The Year...Or Not

I’ve always been one who likes to put things in boxes. Seal them up with a ribbon and put them on a shelf. From projects to relationships that have run their course.  My friend Moon refers to it as cleaning things up. Others call it closure or ending cycle. So as the last days of 2011 are upon us that is what I am drawn to do with this year. Put it in a box, tie a big red ribbon around it and because I am that organized, label it. 2011: Evolving.

That was the word I chose back in January. It was what I wanted this year to be about. Evolving. And that has held true. I evolved from writer to published author. I learned how to take a manuscript to book form, both electronically and in print. In that process I rediscovered the parts of my corporate career I still enjoyed, like selling and marketing. I could still experience the thrill of looking for markets that might buy what I have to peddle and the rush when the right ones are linked.  I evolved enough to be able to go back and take a look inside the box I had been refusing to, the one labeled corporate life and see what was inside I still could use. I discovered there were still aspects of that I had not lost my passion for and I was good at. 

I realized that in addition to being a writer and a business coach, I am a connector of people, and a wealth of information. I am an agent of change who loves to share what she knows and help others to create their own change. I evolved to a new version of myself, hopefully combining the best of what was with what has changed.

Some of you may have known all this  already. Some of you may have been on to my shift for a while.  But part of my evolution in 2011, was me owning it. 

So the question, with just a few days left of the year of evolving becomes, do I pack it all away in a box, tie another ribbon  and shelve this year as I have done so many times before ? 

I think not.

I think it is time to evolve my thought process on that as well. Instead I will sort through the events and the lessons, the ups and the downs, the successes and the blips of 2011 and decide what needs to be  put in the shredder, what needs to be saved and what I take with me moving forward.   

Among the many lessons I have learned this year is that while we can bring closure and “clean things up” on  chapters of our lives, those boxes that house those scenes can never be completely sealed shut. They hold lessons that  we need to remember and parts of us that we will build upon moving forward. Even information we can use again on another day in another year. Or people we might at some point want to or need to invite back in. 

Perhaps the thing is not to put a ribbon on the year and store it away but to organize the box that is 2011. 
Ask ourselves questions.
What did you learn? 
What will you take moving forward? 
What parts are you letting go of freely and completely? 
Did the year live up to your word? 
And what will your new word be for 2012?

I have a preference for verbs here. Mostly because they imply action. And as a change catalyst I know words are not enough without steps. My word for 2012 is being seen, which technically is two words. But perhaps that is what I have evolved to. Perhaps one word is just not enough anymore.

Happy New Year!

What is your word for 2012?     Is one enough?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Plans. Big Plans. A Sneak Preview

It’s that time in December, midway through the month and close enough to New Year's, when I start to reflect back over the year. 
At first glance 2011 is one big blur.  But then, that is why I take the time to do this. So I can get into focus, remember, acknowledge and hopefully get some idea of where I want to go next.
My big mark in 2011, by far, was publishing my novel. As a writer, I am an observer. You can't write very well when you are not taking notice of the world around you and people's reactions to it. And so I've watched the responses to my achievement. I've listened to questions which range from Are the characters in The Secret They Kept true? to How did you do that? 

My answer to the first question is no. The characters are fictional and yes I grew up Greek but no one character is anybody I ever knew. The second question has proven much harder. My response is I just did, like I've done everything else in my life from leaving teaching in 1983 to take that first radio sales job to baking Greek sweet  bread for Christmas. I’m organized, driven, and really good at self-imposing deadlines and sticking to it. I like research and discovery and figuring out parts of the puzzle. I have a vast network of resources and connections that I have curated over time.  I read and can follow directions and make up the parts that don't make sense. And I’m really good at figuring out how to maintain my sense of humor and thus insert some fun into the process, even at the most stressful of times. And when someone says no, I say why not?
I assume that's what everyone does.
But of course that is not true. That's why people stand in awe that I published my story in much the same way they do when they recognize that three years after forsaking that supposedly "safe, secure corporate world" I am not rummaging through the trash looking for recyclables to turn into cash. That's why I hear over and over again how inspiring I am. That's why it took until now for me finally to get it.

Which brings me to a sneak preview of my plans. Big plans. On my docket for 2012.

Yes, yes there will be another novel. But that's not all.

I want to share my knowledge, experiences and wisdom with more of you. I want to show you how the skills and perspective I learned selling and working with large and small businesses will help you whether you are a start-up greeting card company, ready to publish your own work or plotting your next career move within your current industry. I want to inspire, guide you, connect you and give you direct access to the wealth of information I hold. 
So I will be opening 12 new slots for coaching, of which at least one will be a group opportunity.
12 slots. 12-week programs. In 2012. 

According to the Mayan calendar this is a big year that will bring planetary changes. Are you ready to create yours? Because if you are I want to help!

More details will be forthcoming. So stay tuned. And if you are not already signed up for my newsletter, click here to do so now! 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Birthdays and Smiles

Today would have been my father's 90th birthday. And as I write this I am thinking of him and smiling. Because that is what my father would have wanted. He liked to make people laugh. Frowns were not allowed in his presence and if you dared to offer one, he would do his best to figure out a way to make it go away.

Yet even as I smile, it is hard to fight off the tears. One would think 25 years after someone has died the tears would have run out. There would be no more to cry. But there always seems to be one more, hidden away, just waiting for it's moment to appear.

His birthday is hardly the only time I think of him. He intersects my thoughts at some point, if only for a minute, every day. And while his physical form has passed, I still feel his presence.

Like last week when I was putting the lights on the tree. I tested the two sets and they both worked. Yet somehow, once up, only one was working. My mother gave me an extra set she had, which I added on, never taking down the broken one. And suddenly, as if by a miracle, when  all three were in place, that middle set started working. I felt him right then and there, his big smile, hearty laugh and mischievous nature, letting me know he didn't think there were enough lights to start out with and this was his way of interceding.

I wonder sometimes what he would look like now, if he had been given the gift my mother has, of getting to live a long and healthy life. Would he have kept his sense of humor through it all or would he have become a curmudgeonly old man watching Fox News all day and getting angry? Would he be proud I have become a writer and published author or would he have fallen into that camp of people who think I am crazy to try something new at this point in my life?

The world has changed so much since he left it. And as people we change too. But the one thing I am sure he never would have forsaken was his big smile, his hearty laugh, and the way he would fill a room with his energy when he walked in.

Dad in 1964 with the only two things he loved more than his family, cigarettes and a beer.
I'm not sure where he was, but being the Brooklyn boy he was,
I'll guess Coney Island or Sheepshead Bay.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Books Make Great Gifts

'Twas the week before Christmas and the last thing you feel like doing is shopping for gifts. So here is my list of suggestions that in most cases with free shipping and expedited delivery you can order from the comfort of your home while sipping a glass of wine, baking cookies and watching your favorite holiday movie classic. (note: these gifts also work if your holiday season is Hanukkah or Kwanzaa)

You'll notice that they are all books. Yes, books make great gifts. You can give the good old fashioned kind printed on paper or gift an e-version to the person in your life who reads electronically. Note that the option for e-gifting on Amazon works for iPad readers as well that have a Kindle app. You'll also notice that this is not as self-serving as it might seem. Yes, I suggest The Secrets They Kept for the fiction lover in your life,  but I also have others to share. I really do believe books make great gifts. These are a few of my favorites, all of which I am proud to say have a spot on my bookshelf. 

Shoe Are You
for the shoe lover 
This delightful book, complete with illustration, is the first of its kind, offering  advice for your life, your wardrobe and career -- all based on your footwear. If you are a stiletto girl, ballet flat girl, cowboy boot girl or even a barefoot girl, you will find out what your shoes say about you. Written by shoe expert and TV personality Meghan Cleary.

Using the Power of Pleasure To Have Your Way in the World
for the woman who is looking for more pleasure, every day, every where
Relationship expert Regena Thomashauer teaches the "womanly arts" of identifying your desires, having fun no matter where you are, owning sensual pleasure, befriending your inner bitch, and flirting. It's no secret that this book changed my life.

No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power
for the woman who wants to know not just how to make change, but why it is needed
More on women and power, this time from feminist icon Gloria Feldt. What I love about this is not just the very useful tools she shares but the historical perspective and anecdotes that point to the elephant in the room that too many pretend doesn't exist anymore, that as far as we have come, inequality for women still exists.

Secrets of Six-Figure Women
for the woman who is looking to create a new world order around her finances
Yes, I seem a bit obsessed with secrets. I also have a bit of an obsession for the wisdom of financial expert  Barbara Stanny. This is is just one of her many books in which she helps women develop a better relationship with their money. This one gives you the skinny on what the high earning women she interviewed know that you don't.

The Secret Pleasures of Menopause
for the woman who is near or at "that age" and is looking for the rainbow
There is that secret thing again, not to mention pleasure. Mmm. Is there a theme here? I digress.  I realize that for some of you the idea that menopause might bring anything more than hot flashes seems like a very cruel joke. But joke it is not. Dr. Christiane Northrup will show you that this can indeed be the best time of your life. Also by the enlightened and brilliant Dr. Northrup, Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom, and The Wisdom of Menopause.

Testing for Kindergarten
for the mother of young children in your life
First, let's set the record straight. This is not just a book that will help you get your child into private school. Karen Quinn has written a primer that every parent should read on how to make learning fun for your kids. And when learning is fun, those school applications, from kindergarten to college will be a lot easier to take.

The Secrets They Kept
for the fiction lover looking to discover new writing voices
Can you blame me for inserting one more self-serving plug here before I wrap this up? This engaging story about the long kept secrets of a Greek-American family has been called "a true page turner", "an excellent debut novel", "a telling lesson in honesty, or how the lack of it can disrupt our entire lives", " a roller coaster ride of intrigue" and a  story in which "Women-strong women- take center stage....distinguishing it from your run of mill novel." 

In closing and in full disclosure I have the distinct honor and yes, pleasure of knowing each of these authors on a first name basis. Each has contributed to my personal journey over the last several years. Their wisdom has added to my wisdom. And that is the greatest gift of all. 

What's your favorite book to give as a gift?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Silent Epidemic

The Dali Lama has said that it is Western women who will heal the world. Judging from the group of women I had the good fortune to meet and talk with last week, he is on to something.

My reason for being there was a bit circuitous. It started several weeks prior when I met Marcella Goheen and heard her tell her story of The Maria Projecta solo theatre performance in which she tells the story of her family's experience with domestic violence. There were parallels to her true to life story of family secrets and my made up one. Not to mention both of us had grandmothers named Maria. While my novel does not address domestic violence, it does tackle secrecy, the reasons we withhold our truths, what it does to individuals and their relationships and the shame the secrets are enshrouded in, all subjects that  revolve around this bigger issue. I was intrigued.

Just a few days later I received an invitation from Liz Claiborne to attend the 8th Annual, It's Time To Talk, a national day of dialogue and awareness on domestic violence, sexual assault and teen dating abuse.

Mmm. There was that issue again, the one that until that week I had not been paying much attention to.

And then I discovered that the VP of Global Issues at Ruder Finn, the PR firm who coordinates this event was not only a former client from my corporate life but one who I held a great deal of respect for.

And that is how it happened that  last Thursday I sat in the NYC showroom headquarters of Liz Claiborne talking with a handful of the many impassioned women who work towards reversing this trend; Stephanie Piston of the LINA(love is not abuse) Coalition, a survivor who uses her story in an effort to educate our youth to the potential warning signs of a violent relationship as well as what a healthy relationship looks like; Alison Hall of PARR( Pittsburgh Action Against Rape), a recipient of the Gail-Burns Smith Award for being the driving force behind establishing the first Sex Offender Court in Pennsylvania;  Binta Vann-Joseph of the Verizon Foundation, who supports HopeLine which donates pre-paid phones to victims trying to reclaim their life and is now partnering with the NFL Players Association in a program called Training Camps for Life, where teens are educated as to what a healthy relationship looks like; and Karen Cheeks-Lomax, the executive director of My Sister's Place which works to end violence in intimate relationships and combat the effects of domestic violence and human trafficking on individuals throughout Westchester County and the surrounding areas. One of their initiatives is The Next Generation, designed to educate our youth and create a new paradigm of what respect and dignity is supposed to look like.

My head started to spin as I tried to get some clarity about what I was going to write, what I was supposed to write. There was so much to tell. So much that isn't being said. I wasn't sure I could do justice to it. But if I didn't write something  I would only contribute to the silence.

There it was. The silence. That is what I needed to address. No one wants to talk enough about this. The victims are reticent to come forth. There is shame and stigma attached, and that lingering thought that maybe they did something to cause it. The abusers harbor such low levels of self-respect they think there is no other way for them to gain power and control than to exercise it over someone else. We try and pretend this is not really the epidemic in our society it has become and we think if we don't talk about it the issue might disappear. Like eating doughnuts at night when no one is watching and thinking you will still lose weight.

But that is not how disease works. It needs a cure. In this case it needs conversation, like the ones that occurred last Thursday. It needs education. Victims need to know there are safe place for them to go. Our youth needs to be taught self-esteem, respect for themselves and others and what a healthy relationship looks like. We need to model healthy behavior in how we treat each other, publicly and in private. And that can't be done in silence.

While there is no doubt that women are more often the victims than men, this is a social issue, one that transcends gender, race and economic levels. Victims are as likely to be affluent as they are to be poor.  This is not something limited to third world countries but something that happens in this country as well.  And at its core is a lack of respect for how we treat each other.

Those of us who are neither victims or abusers take part in this issue. We perpetuate this lack of respect  by offering no role models or poor role models of what is an acceptable way to treat one another. We see it in our national leaders who have forgotten how to engage in honest discourse,  can barely have a conversation with each other, stretch the truth to fit their aim, publicly calling each other names, sending the message it  is okay to be disrespectful. In essence we are accomplices to the crime.

The rooms at Liz Claiborne last week were full of women engaged in healing this epidemic. I asked each of the women I spoke to what the ordinary citizen can do to help. And they all said the same thing. Take a stand against violence. Every day. It can be as simple as being a role model for our youth. Demonstrate self-respect by knowing and stating your boundaries. Treat others the way you want to be treated. Show respect for the person sitting next to you. Learn what a healthy relationship is supposed to look like and then model it. Get men involved in the process. Women can heal the world but we need men to help.  Make it clear that violence is never appropriate. 

How you modeling respectful behavior?

Want to get more involved? Donate time or money? Check out these websites!
Love is Not Abuse
My Sister's Place
Training Camps for Life
Pittsburgh Action Against Rape
Violence Unsilenced
The Maria Project
Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE or 1-800-787-3224

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Elixir of Youth

I'm over at Endless Beauty today,  writing about the elixir of youth according to moi. 

Here's a little preview....

Endless Beauty - A Healthier Approach to Beauty
The search for the great elixir of youth runs rampant. And the older you get the more desperate it seems people are in their quest to find it. Face creams professing to erase wrinkles, vitamins promising to restore the vitality of youth, serums that just might reverse the aging process. Lasers for every body part including those designed for vaginal rejuvenation. And for those who think this pursuit is a female obsession, think again and think Viagra. 
But the one elixir that doesn’t get talked about so much, the one that goes overlooked by so many and yet is so very easy to get your hands on is ......

To keep on reading click here...

Thursday, December 8, 2011

All I Want For Christmas

Okay, so maybe this isn't all I want for Christmas. My list is long and among other things includes falling in love again and Oprah reading and recommending my book. But high on Santa's list are reviews for The Secrets They Kept. Lots of them. Preferably with 4 or more stars. On Amazon although Barnes and Noble and Goodreads work well. But Amazon is definitely the first stop.

As an Indie author I am hot in pursuit of reviews from Santa or anyone else interested in reading and reviewing my work.

I know it may not sound like it means a lot, but Indie authors are like small businesses, without large marketing budgets and reliant on word of mouth advertising and recommendations. Which in today's world of social media and algorithms that I won't pretend to fully understand, the more often someone takes the time to write and post a few words about how much they enjoyed my novel the greater my chances are of someone who didn't know about the book finding out. And for the record, this is true of any of your favorite writers or artists you want to do well. You can consider a review an act of kindness contributing to supporting small business everywhere.

If you want clarity on how to do this and more on how it all  works I suggest you check out Anne R. Allen's terrific post, A Reader's Guide to Amazon Reviewing.

And if you read my book and told me you liked it, it made you cry, you loved my characters, or whatever else moved you about the story and you want to help see an Indie author like me rise to an Amazon pick,  write a review. Or you can buy a copy for a friend. They make great holiday gifts. You can even gift a Kindle edition!

What's on your wish list this holiday season?

The Secrets They Kept is now available for sale on: 
Barnes and Noble

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

What Good Salespeople Know.....

Jane Friedman was one of the first people I discovered in the blogosphere when I started blogging over  three years ago. Her blog had a different name at the time and was housed over at Writer's Digest. Over the years her following has grown for very simple reasons. She has incredible insight and knowledge of the marketplace and consistently delivers good content. She is what I consider, a daily must read.  Which is why it is such an honor for me to be guest blogging there today!

My topic: What Good Salespeople Know That Writers Should.

Click here to read what I have to say.  Writer or not, everyone looking to earn a living can benefit from what good salespeople already know.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

I Really Am An Author !

I am really an author! I realize that for those of you who follow this blog regularly you are already bored because you know that. I have written about my journey. You have seen my book for sale on Amazon or Barnes and Noble, perhaps even bought it. But you see the person that doesn't always get it is me. And lately that has been more true than not.

I can't quite pinpoint the reason for not feeling it. Perhaps it has something to what my friend Agapi Stassinopoulos discussed in her blog today, comparing oneself to others instead of focusing on yourself. I have been so consumed with seeking out reviewers, pitching different publications to write about me or my book and wondering why it seems so easy for others,  that the fact I am an author has gotten a bit lost on me.

And then there was the day after Thanksgiving when I decided I had already I had enough of the holiday season. With December 1 looming ahead, my already congested head was trying to make sense of the year about to close. Just what exactly had I accomplished? I avoided taking out that list of 101 intentions I had trumpeted here last January for fear there was too little to check off.

Yes, I know you are thinking....WTF*#!!* is she talking about it? She published a novel. She found a fabulous editor, a talented cover designer and a genius interior designer. She learned about KDP, Smashwords and Create Space and hit the publish button. She IS an author AND a publisher. That's a lot to check off!

But you see, I still wasn't feeling it.
Until last night when I drove to Denville, New Jersey to attend my first book club event.

As I navigated roads of the Garden State I don't usually travel, I felt a small panic unleash. I had never done this before. Just what exactly was I going to say? What if the thirteen women who had read my book, of which I only knew one, had no questions for me? What if they hated it?  Why did I say I would do this? Oh, yes, my old college buddy Sandy had been so excited when the book came out, she had purchased 13 copies and given them to her book club and asked me if I would attend their next event. I had been so moved that I said yes, of course I would.

The panic quelled when I remembered I used to sell radio and television commercials. I never met a question I couldn't come up with an answer to.  I had been trained to think on my feet. Besides, my fear was better left for how I would ever find my way back to Manhattan in the dark.

And then a funny thing happened. I sat down in the circle of chairs that had been set up in the kind of family room with a fireplace that is not to be found on the Upper West Side and I got my first question. Don't ask me what it was. My memory span doesn't last that long, but I know I answered it easily. As I did the next and the next. And in that room with this group of bright, engaged and might I add well prepared with their questions women, I got it. I really was an author. This is what authors do when not begging for publicity. They interact with their readers, the ones most important to the process. The people they are writing for. They learn things about their story they didn't even know was in there. They get excited when someone tells them their book made them cry and they never cry. They feel joy when they are told their readers loved the characters they created.  They know they have done their job when they are told the family dynamics transcend ethnicity, in essence, you don't have to be Greek to like the book.

I remembered I really was an author and this time I felt it.