New podcast for freelance writers features longtime central Ohio journalist

New podcast for freelance writers features longtime central Ohio journalist

By Tami Kamin Meyer

When central Ohio journalist and author Sherry Paprocki first met New York-based writer Estelle Erasmus in 2016, Paprocki had a plan for tapping into Erasmus’s incredible organizational and networking skills. Paprocki had just been elected president of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, and she eyed Erasmus to chair the organization’s next annual writer’s conference in New York City.

Erasmus accepted the challenge, but not before checking Paprocki’s sun sign to ensure the pair could work well together. “I got a kick out of that,” said Paprocki.

Paprocki has enjoyed a varied and successful freelance life, as has Erasmus. On January 3, 2022, Paprocki released her 15th book, Freelance Fancy: Your Guide to Capturing Spiritual Health, Wealth and Happiness from Gig Work.

For her part, Erasmus’s non-fiction book tapping into her years of experience as a magazine editor, author, and freelance writer will be published in 2023. The book, Writing That Gets Noticed: Find Your Voice, Become a Better Storyteller, Get Published is aimed at writers at all levels of their writing career.

A podcast was born

Not only was Paprocki’s latest book released on January 3, but Erasmus also happened to call her that same day to discuss the possibility of the two experts and friends hosting a podcast about freelance writing. After months of planning, the pair released the first episode of ‘Freelance Writing Direct’ on October 6. New episodes drop every Thursday and can be found on Spotify and iTunes, to name a few.

Still in its infancy, Freelance Writing Direct is quickly proving its popularity. It has already earned honors to be among the top 15% of new downloads in the podcast world.

In describing the podcast, Erasmus said the pair combines their years of experience writing about the craft, creating and implementing writing strategies and assessing their own writing and suggestions for viable article ideas and even book topics.

“Our goal, in general, is to educate anyone interested in a freelance writing career,” said Paprocki. The podcast’s target audience ranges from listeners just considering freelancing, people newly embarking on a freelance career to even the full-time writer.

The news literally hot off the presses is that Paprocki lured the publisher of the Dispatch Magazines, owned by Gannett Co., to join her decade-old PR firm, R.S. Rock Media, on Oct. 31. In making his announcement that he is leaving that top post, Ray Paprocki wrote of his excitement to be joining his wife’s journalistic venture.

A parting piece of advice

If Erasmus could offer freelance writers one tidbit of advice, it would be “Never give up! Writing is a marathon, not a race.” Paprocki urged freelance writers to understand their financial worth. “Value yourself as a writer: set a price and stick to it. If you have three or four years of writing experience, eliminate any job that’s not paying you at least $60 an hour because you are worth at least that much, and probably more.”

A moment with Columbus author Robin Yocum

A moment with Columbus author Robin Yocum

A moment with Columbus author Robin Yocum

By Tami Kamin Meyer

Robin Yocum, an award-winning Columbus author, journalist and wordsmith attributes his ability to complete a variety of writing-related projects more to technology than old-school techniques.

Yocum says he wrote his latest novel, The Sacrifice of Lester Gates, “while I was driving, voice to text. Then I emailed it to myself. I will head down the road, put my earphones in and talk to the characters in my head.” The novel was released in 2021 by Arcade CrimeWise and was a finalist for the 2022 Dashiell Hammett Award for excellence in crime writing.

A journalism graduate of Bowling Green State University, the Brilliant, Ohio native is the author of ten novels. His book Favorite Sons was named the 2011 Book of the Year for Mystery/Suspense by USA Book News. Brilliant Death was a Barnes & Noble No. 1 bestseller and a finalist for both the 2017 Edgar Award and the Silver Falchion Award for best adult mystery. Yocum was a journalist with the Columbus Dispatch from 1980-1991, including six years as the senior reporter on the investigative desk. He has won more than 30 local, state and national journalism awards ranging from investigative reporting to feature writing. Prior to that, he was the associate sports editor at the Times Leader in Martins Ferry, Ohio, and a reporter for the Eagle-Gazette in Lancaster, Ohio. He is also the principal at Yocum Communications, a public relations and marketing consulting firm in Galena, Ohio, which he founded in 2001.

The Sacrifice of Lester Gates is the sequel for Favorite Sons.

“I always have something going on and try to write (at least) 500 words a day,” says Yocum. He recently completed his 11th novel and is in the process of finding an agent for the work.

“I’m excited about it,” he says of the fiction work about a mob hitman.

According to Yocum, writing novels has been a lifelong passion.

“In my heart of hearts, I always wanted to write fiction. I wanted to create uniquely and mine my own ideas, from my imagination, in my own words,” he says.

Yocum’s favorite aspect of being a writer is “the creativity.”

He explains that when he was younger, he needed a “creative outlet and the Dispatch was that. The writing was laborious, but never hard. No heavy lifting. I enjoy when I think I’ve created something pretty good. It doesn’t get old when my new books arrive in the mail and I rip the box open.”

His advice to would-be authors?

“If you’re not excited about a book, the reader will know.”

He also relies heavily on an old adage taught in journalism school. “Write about what you know. I’m going to stick to that,” he sums.

Discover more about Yocum at robinyocum.net.

Author Profile: Nita Sweeney

Author Profile: Nita Sweeney

Author Profile: Nita Sweeney, Write Now Columbus publisher and award-winning author of best-selling books

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Nita Sweeney is a lot of things to a lot of people. On top of the important and varied hats she wears, including wife, writer, author, coach, mentor, mental health advocate, marathoner, devoted dog ma, (decaf) coffee addict, and one-time attorney, she is also a meditator.

As it happens, she met the love of her life before she realized her love of meditation. It is endearingly sweet how Ed Sweeney, her husband of 29 years, not only stole Nita’s heart but also introduced her to an ancient ritual that has become central to her life, both personally and professionally.

“There was this guy,” she recalls, a slight blush rising on her cheeks nearly three decades later, of her early days with Ed. One day, her then-boyfriend asked if she would like to “sit.” He was actually inviting her to meditate. Because she liked the guy, she went along with his request. He set the microwave timer for five minutes.

“Try not to fidget,” he instructed.

But Nita is a fidgeter, and simply could not sit still the entire five minutes.

While he may not have been impressed with her meditation skills at the time, Ed both married that writer and introduced her to an activity that served as a mental lifeline for decades to come.

Her newest book, Make Every Move a Meditation, is aimed at readers both new to meditation and those with experience in the exercise. “While I give specific, detailed instructions a beginner can follow, some of the techniques might also be unfamiliar to people who have practiced before,” says Nita. While most meditation techniques suggest sitting or walking while practicing, Nita focuses on movement meditation.

Book - Make Every Move a Meditation

Although movement meditation is not new, it is not commonly taught, says Nita. “There is an assumption you must sit still in order to develop the calm and concentration necessary for effective meditation practice. I agree that a still body can create conditions to help the mind calm on its own, but stillness is not necessary.”

While she had been exposed to the concept of meditation prior to meeting Ed, Nita admits she viewed it as “bold” and “exotic.” However, as she continued to practice meditation alongside “that guy,” Nita eventually experienced the calm and concentration that can result from meditation.

Nita’s interest in mental health grew as she became more endeared to meditation and the soothing benefits she enjoyed from it. Penning Make Every Move a Meditation is a culmination of her years pursuing mental and physical health for herself coupled with her desire to share with others what she has learned along with way.

Writing about mental health “helps me process my life,” says Nita.

She says, “I enjoy writing about mental health and meditation based on my own experience because putting words on a page is a way to digest what happens to me. It helps me understand life on a deeper level.” She says writing a book combining her loves of meditation, exercise, and mental health has been a long-term goal, but it took years for the idea to percolate in her mind.

 

Nita Sweeney speaking at Garcia Street Books in Santa Fe, NMNita is excited to embark on an abbreviated book tour that will take her to several locations in the coming months including Columbus and Cincinnati. She will participate in virtual events around the book, too. Check our calendar for further information.

Beyond promoting her book, blogging, running, meditating, and sharing adventures with Ed, Nita is also looking ahead. “I’m nagged by an unfinished novel about a unicorn barista who unknowingly joins a troop of homeless forest people trying to save some ancient trees. There are also memoirs about some family members. And, poetry beckons.”

“I want to write it all.”

 

 

 

(c)Tami Kamin Meyer, 2022, all rights reserved

Author Interview: Brenda Knight

Author Interview: Brenda Knight

 

I interview wellness authors to find out what makes them tick and why they write the books they do. 

I call Brenda Knight my “Fairy Godmother.” And I’m not really joking. After the years of rejection I experienced, when Brenda told me that Mango Publishing Group wanted to publish my first book, Depression Hates a Moving Target, it felt as if she had flown down from the sky, swooped me up, and made my wildest dreams come true.

As the Associate Publisher at Mango, Brenda is a gifted powerhouse, wrangling authors and juggling publishing details with a firm, but gentle touch.

Brenda also writes.

A prolific, successful author, she is published under her own name and several pseudonyms. Mango recently updated and released one of Brenda’s best-selling books, Random Acts of Kindness: 365 Days of Good Deeds, Inspired Ideas and Acts of Goodness.

Selfishly, I wanted an excuse to spend some time with her. I knew you would want to learn about her as well. I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did.

Nita Sweeney (NS): What prompted you to write Random Acts of Kindness?

Brenda Knight (BK): My inspiration for the book starts with childhood. I was raised in my mom’s religion, First Day Adventist, which is very different from Seventh Day Adventist. I remember being jealous of Catholic, Baptist, and Jewish people, and people of all other faiths because their beliefs seemed so much more interesting. They had angels in heaven. They had hell and all that. First day of Adventist is very plain. The bottom line is “Be a good person.” Then, when Jesus Christ comes back at the Advent, if you’ve been a good person you get to stay in Heaven which is actually here on Earth.

I remember thinking “That is so not exciting.” I wondered why all my friends’ religions were more interesting and had more bells and whistles. But those early teachings of “be patient,” “be generous, “be kind with no expectation,” “be a good person, and “that’s just what it is to be a human on Earth,” worked their way in there. They got on the hard drive.

Those early teachings worked their way in there. They got on the hard drive.

When I worked at Canari Press, and Random Acts of Kindness was first published back in 1996, it went on to become a two-million copy bestseller. That was quite thrilling. I especially loved it because I love book publishing. I love working with creative people, writers, and designers—every step of the process.

But when you combine publishing with a purpose where you’re helping people, to me that’s the ultimate. I wanted to return to that purposeful publishing feeling. I wanted to share acts of kindness that I recommend, but I’ve also included some new stories where I don’t necessarily come off that well. But in those, I’ve learned a lesson and I share those lessons.

When you combine publishing with a purpose, that’s the ultimate.

NS: What a wonderful backstory to that book!

NS: In one sentence, what do you hope the reader will take away from Random Acts of Kindness?

BK: Be mindfully kind. Have that as part of your being. I do think people are inherently good. You could argue the opposite, that the jails are full to bursting, and there’s all that bad news I see on cable news channels which might make me think we are not inherently good. But there are studies and documentaries about toddlers that show that as soon as they can crawl, their inclination is to give, to help. That’s been proven.

We start off kind. And all of us, including me, get beat up by the world.

Over the years, that innate kind helpfulness can get stripped away. You start to think I just need to get through my day. I just have to survive today. But if we just take a breath and reorient, open our eyes, there are still opportunities to be kind every day in ways big and small, even in pandemic America.

Maybe it’s something like adopting an elder cat which I recently did because it never occurred to me that no one wants to adopt really old cats so they get moved out for the kittens that are highly adoptable. And the old cats are herded into old cat homes which is quite sad. I don’t know why I didn’t know that before but when I discovered it, I thought “Oh! I’ll adopt an old cat.” I sort of feel like an old cat myself. We can keep each other company. And we do.

Be mindfully kind. Have that as part of your being.

Adopting an elder cat is one example of taking action. I learned something and immediately wondered “How can I help?” Then, I took direct action. Of course, not everyone can. Perhaps your landlord doesn’t allow pets. But there are just ways to be kind. Ask the barista at your coffee place how they are doing. Really stop to listen. Then you’ve created a relationship. As we go through our day, try not to let the spinning of this old world wear you down. Be mindfully kind. It really becomes effortless.

Brenda Knight

NS: With practice it certainly does. And that leads me to the next question.

NS: Writing and life can be stressful. How you take care of yourself?

For me, writing is a kind of self-care, and I bet that is not too foreign an idea for a certain Nita Sweeney. This week, I don’t have anything that I’m writing personally, but I’m probably going to start a new project next month. I reserve writing time usually during the time the Rachel Maddow show is on. But I don’t watch Rachel Maddow when she comes on. I have it DVR’d. It could be 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. or 7:15 to 8 p.m. I reserve that time.

And it’s very meditative. My writing desk is by my garden window. I can look out right now and see the azaleas having their second bloom of the year. The beautiful fuchsia of those, the green of the newly rained upon lawn, the plantings and the apple tree are very peaceful. I look at that and drink in that peaceful, natural beauty.

Even if it’s raining, I will run out and do a little wedding. Wedding is my therapy. It brings me so much restoration and respite. It may come down to a little bit of Feng Shui, but I oriented my writing desk by something that I love to look upon, just gaze upon it. Because it’s in such a beloved peaceful spot that feels like a retreat, my heart feels writing is something I look forward to.

Weeding is my therapy.

Then I’ll light a scented candle and a stick of incense and then plop myself in front of my writing desk, and I usually know what I’m going to cover, so I have my section planned. I’ll also do some free writing. The way I’ve set up my writing area brings me a soulful sustenance. I hold onto that and don’t let anything get in the way of that.

There are two desks in the front of the house for my day job with Mango Publishing Group. I have a separation of church and state. This writing is just for creative self-care.

NS: That’s so helpful! I love the separation of church and state. Thank you.

NS: Let’s change gears a bit and talk about your business path. I once heard you say that when you were a little girl, if someone asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up, you said “an international business woman.” Will you tell us more about that and how that led you into publishing?

BK: Oh yes. I grew up up a holler on a dirt road on a farm in West Virginia on a farm which was lovely and tranquil. I had awesome access to Nature 24/7 and took full advantage of that. But I was a voracious reader from the minute I could read. And I knew there was a big bustling world out there. I wanted to get out there and see as much of the world as possible. Especially as a teen, I spent a lot of time thinking about how I could get a job where I can get paid to travel. I pondered that because those options weren’t exactly in my neck of the world, in southern Ohio and western West Virginia.

I was a voracious reader from the minute I could read.

When I moved to San Francisco, I actually got a job the first week with an import-export company. It thrilled me because I was surrounded by people from all over the world, people from Taiwan, mainland China, Brazil, Mexico, Malta, and the Philippines. The lunchroom was full of people speaking all these different languages. I would try to learn how to say “Good morning” and “How are you?” and “How’s your lunch?” in different languages. I can’t begin to tell you how exciting that was.

I did whatever it took: answered the phone, took orders, even drove a forklift in the warehouse.

But I knew in order to become a buyer which is that job where you go around the world stop on somebody else’s dime, I needed to take an executive path. So, I asked to be mentored by the executives. I was, and I did well. As I’m talking to you, I’m looking around my home. I see objects like from that time. Some of the nicest things I own, imported from Italy and India, are real treasures from that job. I hold onto that memory in that way.

I was super excited to finally be tapped to be a buyer by the founder of the company. He was a Merchant Marine who bootstrapped the company up from nothing. He said “Tomorrow we’re going to look at the factories. We’ll visit India, Mainland China, Taiwan, and, if we can, we’ll work in a trip to Italy.” I was on fire and couldn’t sleep, champing at the bit to get out there. I was in my early 20s and had not traveled at all, had never been outside of the United States. This was my dream job.

I was on fire and couldn’t sleep, champing at the bit to get out there.

Then he brought in photo albums of the factories in India and Mainland China. My chin dropped to the floor. The photos showed children making the products. That’s how I learned that, unbeknownst to me, I had been exploiting children for the five years I’d had that job. I was horrified. I said, “Those are children.” And he said “Uh huh” like it was no big deal. He’d visited those factories billions of times.

Unbeknownst to me, I had been exploiting children for five years.

As I looked at the photos, I remembered my summer job in high-school. I worked for a car dealership. I was one of the only females who worked there and I drove cars and worked in the parts department. The mechanics who repaired the cars and worked in the body shop were my lunchtime buddies. They were like artists. They took great pride in how they painted the cars.

One of them, the oldest guy, closest to retiring, didn’t want to wear the masks and protective equipment they had to wear when spray painting the cars. I always checked to see if he had on his mask.

When I caught him spray painting a car without his mask, I scolded him in a caring way because I wanted him to live. But one day he started coughing and he coughed up blood.

Because of this, I knew firsthand what would happen if you were lacquering products without ventilation and masks. It would harm your lungs very severely. And I knew the kids in the plant in India lacquered the silver tea sets and all of the other things that was lacquered. I asked my boss, the owner of the company “Where are the fans? Where’s the ventilation? Where are the masks? They are lacquering those product.” He said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” And I said, “Well I do. Without ventilation and masks, they’ll be coughing up their lungs before they’re twelve.”

It was like an out-of-body experience.

Some aspect of me was watching me engage with my boss, the founder of the company, in shock about like how he was exploiting children and harming them. And I said “So you’re telling me like there’s no masks, no fans, no ventilation system to protect these children?” And he said, “They’re happy to have a job, and you should be too.”

I said, “I will not exploit children and you shouldn’t either. I quit.”

All these years later, I still can hardly believe I did that. I didn’t have very much money. Every month when the rent came due it was a big stressful deal. I didn’t make much money. Maybe I was being exploited too. I went home and called my best friend Maria, and cried and cried and cried. She was a great shoulder to lean on. Then she said, “All you want to do is read and talk about the books you’re reading. Why don’t you get a job in publishing?”

Then she helped me research local publishers one of which was Harper Collins in San Francisco.

After two informational interviews, I talked my way into a job in publishing and I have never looked back!

Publishing was so exciting to me. I couldn’t believe I got free books!

But thanks for asking about that experience. It’s important. Even in the face of hunger or total impoverishment, I made a value choice. It was instantaneous. There was no question. I was not going to exploit children. And I brought that sensibility with me because once I got a job at the executive level at Harper Collins, I formed a committee where we made sure that no children were working on the books especially in China and India. And on the rare occasion where we’re having books manufactured overseas, I always make sure of that too. It’s important because it’s still happening.

NS: Thank you for standing up, and for that reminder.

NS: Today, do you have a motto or a slogan that you find helpful in your day-to-day life or business?

BK: The title of the writing journal you and I collaborated on “You Should Be Writing” is my motto. Even if you work in tech or you have an organic farm, you should be writing for many reasons. First, it’s a form of self-care, at least in my life and it is for many other people. Also, you can pass down things to your children and your children’s children.

Let’s say you run an organic farm. You could write in a journal about the experience, the pleasure, and the difficulties and how you face them. People hunger for those real stories. And that’s what we are. We are our stories. We’re like vessels filled with stories. No matter who you are or what kind of work you do, you should be writing. You should be should be telling your story. Record it whether by journaling or something more deliberate like memoir. Or perhaps poetry is how you express.

“You should be writing” is my motto.

I have had people come back and tell me, even relatives in my family say, “I didn’t believe you about the writing. I didn’t think I had any anything important to say, but I found the process very enjoyable.” And, almost invariably, something else happens. As people write their story and retell it, more details come through. They are helping themselves remember. They put together pieces of stories and aspects of life. That’s important too. Writing can help you actually land on a more complete picture, a more complete story of your life. And that’s important too.

NS: I love that advice as well. Thanks.

NS: So, what’s the worst wellness or mental health advice you’ve ever been given?

BK: I have ups and downs with weight. I think it’s part of my DNA combined with having a job that requires me to be pretty sedentary where you’re locked at the laptop for zoom meetings and writing. The most recent horrific advice I got was “Don’t drink coffee. You’re poisoning yourself.”

I have to tell you, if I didn’t drink coffee, which I greatly enjoy—I’m enjoying an oat milk latte right now—I would not have a job. I’d be living in a homeless shelter. Coffee is enjoyable to me. And whether it’s just an idea in my head or if it really is caffeine power, it makes me feel like a “can do” person. Now that I have a latte, I can totally handle the five more hours of stuff I have to do. So, no. I cannot accept that advice. I have to have my coffee!

If I didn’t drink coffee, I would not have a job. I’d be living in a homeless shelter.

NS: Oh goodness. I couldn’t take that advice either.

NS: What is one wellness practice you wish you had learned earlier?

BK: Walking. From growing up on a farm, I associated walking with work. Of course, I took all kinds of little walks when I was a kid. I gathered pretty rocks I found in a creek. I had a rock tumbler and made some sad looking bits of jewelry for my sisters and mom. You’re allowed to do that for a certain number of years and then walking had to be purposeful.

My dad walked the fence line to make sure there were no holes. Walking always had to have a task attached to it. Walking didn’t have pleasure, fun, or relaxation associated with it. I had to rediscover it. And I think a lot of other people did too, especially during the pandemic. Just walking. Walking for no reason other than walking. To just blow the cobwebs out of your head. Or run a little errand. I reembraced walking and let go of the idea that it had to be chore-related. Now, I enjoy walking for no other reason than walking!

I had to rediscover walking just for walking.

NS: I can’t love that enough.

NS: How about a writing tip or a bit of advice for the writer types?

BK: I hope this isn’t too stale, but assign yourself a word count. It doesn’t have to be 2000 words a night. I’ve done that to myself and it can be stultifying. Maybe it is 250 words which is pretty doable. Then, if you go over, you’re ahead for the next day. Whether you’re writing your November novel, or a self-help book or memoir, have that very achievable daily word count and stick to it.

Brenda Knight reading in a pink room in pink light

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by a writing project, especially if you’re a little bit of a newbie. Writing a 55,000-word personal growth book sounds unachievable. You think “Oh my goodness. I can’t do that.” But whatever you’re doing—I find this applicable to all kinds of projects—map it out into small doable chunks. When you meet your word count or exceed it every day, mentally reward yourself. Take a moment to feel proud of yourself. Acknowledge that, and that will give you momentum to keep going.

Assign yourself a very achievable daily word count and stick to it.

And here’s another thing. There’s a lot of bad advice out there. Don’t try everything you’re told. There’s more bad writing advice out there than there is good, especially at writers’ conferences. And I feel a little naughty saying that because I’m usually at writers conferences every year except for the pandemic time.

But I have heard some atrocities being hurtled out at writers. And they’re so earnestly like drinking it all in. Sometimes I think “Oh my God, No! Please don’t do that.” And I can’t scream out and say that, but I can tell you to listen to what resonates with you and then even double check that with somebody you really trust.

And just don’t listen to everything you’re told.

NS: Can you give us an example, maybe the worst piece of writing advice you’ve ever heard?

BK: Some writing conference presenters tell writers to just get a list of editors and send them all the same email. Well, we can tell! And you wasted your time. We can tell instantaneously. That time you spent cutting and pasting the names of fifty editors would have been better spent going to Publishers Lunch, and looking at the top five editors and publishers who publish in your category, and querying them, and doing a little research about them.

When you reach out, you say:
“Jane Doe, I noticed that you were the acquiring editor of the book Wild. I love that book and found it life-changing. Because you work with non-fiction women’s narratives and do it very well, I’m contacting you. I have one I think you might be interested in.”

Take time to research the people you want to query. It makes such a difference. Taking ten minutes to do that research will actually get your query looked at. We can all tell and we appreciate when you’ve done your due diligence. You will be seen if you just take the time to do that research.

That’s what you did, Nita Sweeney, when you knocked on the Mango door.

NS: Thank you. And yes, I did my due diligence.

NS: We’ve covered a lot. Is there anything you would change about your journey?

BK: It was definitely important for me to have had that experience being an “international business woman” which took me down the road not taken and into publishing.

I’m even glad I worked for Rupert Murdoch, since News Corp owns Harper Collins. At the time I worked there, in the 90s, nobody knew who Rupert Murdoch was. He was just an Australian newspaper man, the mysterious global figure we didn’t have to pay any attention to. Then when he started Fox News, I began to wonder “Who is Rupert Murdoch?” so I left at exactly the right time. I joke that I went from working for the worst man in publishing to working with the kindest people in publishing with Canari Press, especially with them publishing Random Acts of Kindness.

At the time I worked at Canari, nobody knew who Rupert Murdoch was.

But there is one thing I might have changed. As that farm girl who as going to be an international business woman, I had the idea that I needed to have a high title. I thought I needed to be vice president and then president. I had this trajectory in my mind that I somehow developed while living on a farm!

Eventually, I did get a job where I was vice-president of an international publishing company. I don’t even have it on my resume because it was a nightmarish experience for me. I’m sure other people had a very different experience, and I wish them all the best. But it was very male-oriented. There was even a little bit of a “bro” mentality, and I do not mix well with the “bro” mentality. I don’t think most women in business do well with the “bro” mentality. It was miserable for me.

And once I achieved that vice president level, all I did was put out fires and deal with really boring paperwork. I didn’t get to do what I really like which is acquiring books, developing books and book programs, working with authors and creative people. I just shoveled paper from my desk to others’ desks.

While I wish I hadn’t had that job, at the same time, I learned an important lesson. Titles don’t matter, not in the least. When I left that job, I became publisher which is also a nice title, even though I had gotten over my obsession with needing a fancy title. On my business card, I had them put publisher and office composter. And I was more proud of “office composter.” I worked out a whole system, and got all the tenants in the building involved. I even got the Berkeley trash and compost people to come over and meet with us. I took it very seriously.

Titles don’t matter, not in the least.

NS: I can absolutely see you as the office composter. Brava!

NS: So, the last serious question. “What’s next?” You hinted at the next writing project. Do you want to tell us about that?

BK: All I will say is that it is Tolkien related. It goes right back to the farm.

When I was nine, someone gave me The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. I started with The Hobbit and there was no turning back. My mom drove me all over, including many trips to Columbus, Ohio, for books. Once I got into it, I had to read every biography of him ever written, and stories he had written that weren’t nearly as popular. I was a Tolkien completist starting at the age of ten. My love for his writing and the world he created, Middle Earth, only grows. So, I’ve got something up my sleeve that’s a little Middle-Earthy.

NS: And finally:

NS: Mermaids or goddesses?

BK: Mermaids. Double Pisces.

NS: Of course!

NS: Toast or bagels?

BK: Toast.

NS: Ocean, mountains, or forests?

BK: Forests, preferably Middle-Earthy ones.

NS: Leggings or jeans?

BK: Leggings.

NS: Dogs, cats, fish, guinea pigs, or horses?

BK: And you can’t say all?

NS: You can say all.

BK: I’m going to say “all” because when I lived on a farm, we had all of those, and more!

About Brenda Knight:

Brenda Knight Random Acts of KindnessBrenda Knight began her career at HarperCollins, working with luminaries Paolo Coelho, Marianne Williamson, and Huston Smith. Knight was awarded IndieFab’s Publisher of the Year in 2014 at the American Library Association. She is the author of Wild Women and BooksThe Grateful TableBe a Good in the World, and Women of the Beat Generation, which won an American Book Award. Knight is a poet, writer, and editor. She also served as President of the Women’s National Book Association, San Francisco Chapter, and is an instructor at the annual San Francisco Writers Conference, Central Coast Writers Conference and wherever she can be with fellow writers. A scholar of medieval literature and modern poetry, she lives in San Francisco, California.

Follow Brenda’s blog, “Lower Haight Holler.”



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Author Interview with Laura Davis

Author Interview with Laura Davis

 

I interview wellness authors to find out what makes them tick and why they write the books they do. 

I met best-selling author Laura Davis in Taos, New Mexico at a writing and meditation retreat she cotaught with Natalie Goldberg where I served as Natalie’s assistant. Laura’s genuine, helpful, and powerful teaching about family relationships and abuse touched us all deeply. Laura is best known for The Courage to Heal, but her new book comes out soon! I knew you would want to meet her as well.

Nita Sweeney (NS): Please tell us about your new book:

Laura Davis (LSD): The Burning Light of Two Stars is a memoir—and my first book in 19 years. It tells the story of my embattled relationship with my mother, our determination to love one another, and the dramatic and surprising collision course we ended up on at the end of her life. For the millions of readers of my first book, The Courage to Heal, the new book serves as both prequel and sequel, revealing in intimate, page turning detail how I reconciled with the mother who betrayed me, and came to care for her during her final days.

NS: What prompted you to write this book?

LSD: I wrote it because it was burning inside me and had to come out. I tried to walk away from it multiple times and it always came back and insisted on being told. We all have certain core stories that live inside us—and this just happens to be one of mine.

The Burning Light of Two Stars is about an intense mother-daughter relationship where we both needed and loved each other, but there was a betrayal that got in the way of us trusting each other.

Book with flowers around it

Although it’s the story of one mother and daughter, one relationship that went from an impossible state of estrangement to a surprising state of reconciliation, it’s a story that will resonate with anyone who has someone in their life that they struggle with but wish, more than anything, that they could come to terms with.

Besides, my mother is the best dramatic character I’ve ever come across and her story–and mine–and the fireworks we created together makes for great storytelling.

There were also several core questions I had to answer through the writing process:
  • Is it possible to caretake a parent who has betrayed you in the past?
  • Is it possible to open a heart that’s learned it’s safer and easier to stay closed?
  • What does healing from trauma look, truly look like, over the course of a lifetime?

NS: What message do you hope readers take away?

LSD: The Burning Light of Two Stars comes out November 9th and I’ve posted the first five chapters on my website and I invite you to come read them for free. Since I posted them, I hear from women every day.

“Your book makes me think about my mother—or my daughter—in a whole new way.”

“I’m going to have to take care of my mother, and I’ve been dreading it, and now I’m looking forward to it as an opportunity.”

One woman reported calling her mother for the first time in 18 years. I loved hearing that. More than anything, I wrote this story because I wanted to demonstrate that transformation is possible in even the toughest relationships. That caregiving can be a pathway to healing.

Woman standing in front of waterfall

 

NS: Writing (and life) can be stressful. How do you take care of yourself?

LSD: Swimming—I love being in the water. I’m saved every time I dive into the pool.

Being out in nature. Hiking. Walking by the ocean with our yellow pandemic lab puppy, Luna.

 

 

NS: Tell us about your other work.

LSD: In addition to writing books that inspire, the work of my heart is to teach. For more than twenty years, I’ve helped my students find their voices, tell their stories, and hone their craft as writers. I love creating supportive, intimate writing communities online, in person, and internationally. Writing can be a powerful pathway to healing, connection, integration, and wholeness. That’s what I love to teach.

NS: What led you to this path?

LSD: It’s a natural extension of who I am and who I was meant to be in the world. I’ve used words to express, to vent, to educate, to inform, to disrupt, to teach, and to inspire since I was a teenager. And I’ve been committed to—and fascinated by—how human beings heal and grow across the life cycle.

The tag line on my website is: “Healing Words That Change Lives.” That’s a pretty good summation of everything I’ve been manifesting as a communicator for the past forty years, whether as a talk show host in Alaska, a seven-time author, a public speaker, a teacher or as a retreat leader.

NS: Do you have a motto or slogan you find helpful? If so, how did you arrive at that?

LSD: As my father once said, “A family is a dictatorship run by its sickest member.” My dad was full of great slogans, but that one has really stayed with me.

“A family is a dictatorship run by its sickest member.”

NS: What’s the worst wellness (mental health, self-care) advice you’ve ever heard?

LSD: Take Ivermectin. Unfortunately, I have family members who believe it.

NS: Oh. That’s sad and painful. I’m so sorry. What is one thing about well-being you wish you’d learned earlier?

LSD: That worrying is practice for failure. And I wish I’d learned to apologize a lot sooner. I’m still working on that one.

NS: Do you have a go-to wellness practice you would like to share?

LSD: Walk or sit in nature with your palms open. Pet a dog.

NS: Do you have a writing tip for the writers out there?

LSD: Write and edit in layers. If you read a powerful, well-developed fully rendered scene, you might think that it was “just written that way,” but it wasn’t. The writer started with raw material. They did a free write or a writing practice. They dove deep into the maw and the gut and brought back an image, an emotion, or a moment and put it on the page.

Or perhaps they started with a character or a single dramatic moment, an object or an image, and the story evolved from there. On a later pass, they focused on characterization or on building tension, on creating an emotional flip in a scene so it didn’t remain static. They took the words, “He was angry,” and found a way to show anger on the page without using the word “angry” or any of its synonyms: “enraged,” “furious,” incensed,” and the like.

And they didn’t worry about diction!

On another pass, they worked on creating vivid dialogue or adding rich sensory detail. But they didn’t add all these layers at once. They focused on them one at a time with each rewrite of that scene. And they didn’t worry about diction—the mechanics of writing–till the very end—the length and rhythm of their sentences, their word usage, the sharpness of their verbs, ridding their work of cliches.

Each time a seasoned writer comes back to a piece, they hone in on a different element of storytelling. Each rewrite, each new draft, moves the piece forward. Eventually when the scene or story or book has been completed, the writer has seamlessly integrated all the elements of story and made it look easy—but it isn’t.

woman hiking with journal

NS: What’s the worst piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?

LSD: Any advice that proclaims, “This is the only way to be a writer.” There are as many ways to be a writer as there are writers.

NS: And the best?

LSD: Start by letting what’s in your body and your heart pour out on the page without editing. Don’t edit and write your first draft at the same time.

And I’ve always loved Natalie Goldberg’s line: “Feel free to write the worst shit in America.”

NS: Me too! Such freedom. Has your life turned out differently than you expected? If so, how?

LSD: In my twenties, when I was first facing the sexual abuse I’d experienced as a child, I believed I was too damaged to have children. But then I healed and got involved with a wonderful woman who showed me that I was capable of love and loving. We’ve been together more than thirty years and have three children and three grandchildren. I’m so grateful that I’ve been able to have a family and a fulfilling career.

Author Laura Davis

NS: Is there anything you would change about your journey?

LSD: No, every step, even the really painful ones—and the worst mistakes I’ve made, have led me to where I am today.

NS: What are you currently reading for inspiration?

LSD: To Bless the Space Between Us by John O’Donohue. It’s always on my bedside table.

NS: Is there a wellness or inspirational book you couldn’t finish? Why?

LSD: Many, I’m opposed to dogma.

NS: What wellness book could you not put down?

LSD: Liberating Masturbation by Betty Dodson, back in the 1974. She was such a trailblazer and a feminist idol of mine.

NS: What’s next for you?

LSD: Launching a book, like birthing a baby, is all-consuming. Hopefully once the new book gets kicked out of the nest and starts making its own way in the world, I’ll rest. Deep rest is a critical part of the creative cycle—every field needs a fallow season—but it’s always a challenge for me.

I’m such a doer.

I’m going to be taking a group of writers to Tuscany next June. That trip had to be canceled twice and I’m hoping the third time’s the charm! Late at night, I just love drooling over pictures of the Italian countryside and all the fabulous meals we’re going to eat.

AND FINALLY:

NS: Mermaids or Goddesses? (Superheroes or Gods?)

LSD: Mermaids. I love everything to do with water.

NS: Toast or bagels?

LSD: I’m not a big bread person. But I’m partial to ginger lemon scones and fresh handmade corn tortillas.

NS: Ocean, mountains, or forest?

LSD: Ocean. I grew up a 15 minute walk from the Atlantic and now I live a 15 minute walk from the Pacific.

NS: Leggings or jeans? (Jeans or slacks or sweatpants?)

LSD: Jeans.

NS: Dogs, cats, fish, guinea pigs, or horses?

Dogs, and I never thought I’d say that until I got a puppy at age 64. I’ve never liked dogs before, and now I’ve fallen in love with all of them—how amazing to intimately observe how another species moves through the world.

About Laura Davis

Laura Davis is the author of The Burning Light of Two Stars, the story of her loving yet tumultuous relationship with her mother, and six other non-fiction books. The Courage to Heal and The Courage to Heal Workbook paved the way for hundreds of thousands of women and men to heal from the trauma of sexual abuse. Becoming the Parent You Want to Be, a rich resource guide co-authored with parenting expert Janis Keyser, helped parents develop a vision for the families they want to create. And I Thought We’d Never Speak Again: The Road from Estrangement to Reconciliation teaches the skills of reconciliation and peace building to the world, one relationship at a time.

Laura’s groundbreaking books have been translated into 11 languages and sold two million copies.

You can learn about her books and writing workshops, read the first five chapters of her new memoir, and receive a free ebook: Writing Through Courage: A 30-Day Practice at www.lauradavis.net.

Facebook: @LauraDavis&TheWritersJourney

Facebook personal page.

Instagram: @laurasaridavis

Pinterest: laurasaridavis



If you purchase something through the affiliate links on this page, Write Now Columbus, a collection of resources for central Ohio writers and readers, will receive a small percentage of the sale.

Author Interview with G. Brian Benson

Author Interview with G. Brian Benson

 

I interview wellness authors to find out what makes them tick, and why they write the books they do. 

I met G. Brian Benson a month before our publisher, Mango Publishing, released my first book, Depression Hates a Moving Target. He and I shared a booth with several other authors, at the L.A. Times Festival of Books. Like the other authors, he was friendly and welcoming to me, a newbie author, just getting her feet wet. The author of several books, he has a lot of experience and insight to share. I wanted you to hear it from him.

Nita Sweeney (NS): Tell us about your most recent book.

Brian Benson (GBB): My latest book was Habits for Success: Inspired Ideas to Help You Soar, which was published with Mango. And which was how we met! I’m so proud of how the book turned out.

I tried to write it creatively, consciously, and with heart. My goal was to guide the reader to their own personal version of success and happiness, while giving them permission to take their own journey and build a foundation of strength for the long run. So, I tried to be authentic and vulnerable. I shared my own relationship with the habits I talk about, and used ideas and stories to entertain and inspire the reader along the way. I was so pleased that the book was a Grand Prize winner in the 2019 Book Excellence Awards.

NS: What made you want to write this book?

GBB: It just wanted to come out. I have always honored what needs to come out–whether it’s a book, spoken word piece or short film–I don’t sit around and try and come up with an idea for a project. I don’t really have a choice! It comes to me and I look at it as a way to grow, be creative and hopefully help others all at the same time.

NS: What message do you hope readers take away?

GBB: Ultimately with everything that I create, I want folks to come away feeling better about themselves and the world. I know how important self-acceptance and self-love is and if I can empower someone to feel inspired to step out of their comfort zone and begin to see what they are capable of, I have done my job. The beautiful thing is I am gaining so much from it personally as well.  I feel like I am a conduit and the words I am writing and sharing, are for me also.

NS: Writing (and life) can be stressful. How do you take care of yourself?

GBB: Lots of things! I don’t think it was an accident that my first book was on a whole bunch of different ways to stay in life balance. It really gave me the opportunity to become more self-aware in this department. I love to move/exercise and it is one of the main ways that helps me stay grounded. Meditation, clean food, boundaries, self-awareness, hiking, plenty of sleep and movies also help.

NS: Do you have a writing tip for the writers out there?

GBB: Sure!  Be true to yourself when writing. Write honestly and truthful. Write what wants to come out, not what you think you should write or what you think people want. Folks inherently want authenticity. They may not know this on the surface, but they do. It gives us permission to be authentic ourselves. We all subconsciously crave authenticity, because deep down trying to fight through all of the false modeling that we have been presented via society, advertising, social media, it is our true nature.

NS: What’s the worst piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?

GBB: To be honest, I can’t think of anything. I am kind of a self-taught/intuitive writer and haven’t really garnered much advice since I started writing by accident 13 years ago. I think I may have tripped myself up in a variety of ways as I learned how to become a better writer as I progressed though. Expectations, perfectionism are a few that come to mind.

NS: And the best?

GBB: I learned this the hard way. The book or project is for you first and foremost. Let the growth that comes from the journey of creativity be the gift and anything else that happens with it, just be icing on the cake.

NS: Tell us more about your wellness work.

GBB: Sure…thanks!  In addition to the 3 self-improvement books I have written, I am also a project and clarity coach and love to help folks realize their goals and dreams. Whether it’s writing a book, creating a presentation, starting a podcast or what have you. I have learned a lot (sometimes the hard way), from all of the projects I have birthed over the course of the last 13 years.

NS: What led you to this path?

GBB: Intuition. I mentioned earlier that I accidentally wrote my first book. In the process of leaving my family business in 2008, I headed into the unknown. I felt out of balance. I sat down one day and wrote 5 things that I knew would help me…and they did. My intuition screamed expand the list and write a book. So, I did!

It won a few awards, which shocked me and I realized that if I wanted to share its message, I needed to overcome my fear of speaking. One thing lead to another as I stepped out of my comfort zone. Before I knew it, I was writing more, moved to LA to act, and began to create a lot of positive media (books, short films, spoken word videos and TEDx presentations).  It’s been exciting and surreal.  I never would have imagined any of this would happen. I just kept following my gut.

NS: Do you have a motto or slogan you find helpful? If so, how did you arrive at that?

“Be yourself to free yourself!”

GBB: Definitely!  “Be yourself to free yourself!” I started using that a long time ago in my work and it consistently reminds myself to live this way.  I even have the domain!

NS: What’s the worst wellness (mental health, self-care) advice you’ve ever heard?

G. Brian Benson

GBB: Folks give other people’s advice way too much credence. While some advice is warranted and great, a lot of time people are just sharing their own fears and passing them on to their friends and family. I see it on social media all of the time. Very co-enabling with little chance of really breaking through.

I believe we have most of the answers already inside of us. We just need to get quiet and listen and trust. The more you do it, the easier it gets.

 

NS: Is there something about coping you wish you’d learned earlier?

GBB: That life is like a big rollercoaster. There are always going to be peaks and valleys. In the past when I would hit a valley, I would try to scratch and claw my way out of it, instead of just sitting with whatever was happening, learn from it and trust that I would move out of it.  We always do.

NS: Has your life turned out differently than you expected? If so, how?

GBB: Yes.  I never planned on being a writer, creative or actor. And it still is evolving.

NS: Is there anything you would change about your journey?

GBB: As easy as it would be to say yes, I don’t think I would. Everything that I have gone through has made me the person that I am and instilled the spirit and creativity that comes through in my work.

NS: What are you currently reading for inspiration?

GBB: I love history and biographies. I am currently reading a book about George Washington called His Excellency.  Very interesting!

NS: Is there a wellness or inspirational book you couldn’t finish? Why?

GBB: Hmmm…there have been some that I didn’t finish. Can’t really think of them right now.

NS: What wellness book could you not put down?

GBB: I read Seat of the Soul, by Gary Zukav about 30 years ago. It felt intuitively spot on for me. Reading that book opened up my thinking and helped me re-remember things that I felt like I knew prior to this incarnation.

NS: What’s next for you?

GBB: Lots!  In addition to project coaching, I am working on a new book that is a road trip memoir and using a 5 ½ month RV trip across the USA that I just finished as a container for it. I am also getting my podcast going again, as well as some other creative video projects.  Thanks for asking.

AND FINALLY:

NS: Mermaids or Goddesses? (Superheroes or Gods?)

GBB: Neither (?) Give me Babe Ruth, Eleanor Roosevelt or Teddy Roosevelt any day. They’re interesting and larger than life in their own ways.

NS: Toast or bagels?

GBB: Both

NS: Ocean, mountains, or forest?

GBB: Forests

NS: Jeans or slacks or sweatpants?

GBB: Blue jeans and boots

NS: Dogs, cats, fish, guinea pigs, or horses?

GBB: Dogs

About G. Brian BensonHabits for Success

G. Brian Benson is an award-winning and #1 best-selling self-improvement and children’s book author, actor, filmmaker, project coach, podcast host and TEDx speaker. As a 4x Ironman triathlete and cross-country bicyclist, Brian knows the value of hard work and never giving up on his dreams, a message he shares with audiences through each of his creative expressions. Brian’s latest book Habits for Success: Inspired Ideas to Help You Soar was an Amazon #1 Best-Seller and was selected as a 2019 Book Excellence Award Winner in the Motivational book category.

Websites:

www.gbrianbenson.com
www.habitsforsuccessbook.com

Social Media:

Twitter – gbrianbenson
Facebook – gbrianbensonmedia
Instagram – gbrianbenson
YouTube – gbrianbenson
LinkedIn – gbrianbenson

Giveaway:

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If you purchase something through the affiliate links on this page, Write Now Columbus, a collection of resources for central Ohio writers and readers, will receive a small percentage of the sale.