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.”



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.

Books Make Great Holiday Gifts


Books make great gifts!

If you’re looking for holiday presents (for yourself or others,) I’d adore it if you gave one or both of my books, Depression Hates a Moving Target or You Should Be Writing.

But here are some other ideas as well:

POETRY

How to See the World: Poems – by Paula J. Lambert

In How to See the World, Lambert takes us deftly along as she examines the new reality in which we’ve all awakened in 2020. She peels back its complicated layers with adept use of metaphor, as well as a revelatory tone that will have readers doubling back to unfold new meanings in a line, a verse, or a poem. Real moments of brilliance sparkle calling us to look beyond surface and pattern to recognize something beyond ourselves, even while we languish in a groundswell of change.

Tell me moonlight can’t speak…she writes, then convinces us that it can. While pandemic is here and unavoidable, do not approach this collection as an outgassing of that reality. It is about much more–how interconnected we all are while teetering at the brink of change and that we must witness the miracle, not turn away.—Rose M. Smith, author of Unearthing Ida

MEMOIR, RELIGION & FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS

Nothing Bad Between Us: A Mennonite Missionary’s Daughter Finds Healing in Her Brokenness by Marlena Fiol

After being publicly humiliated in front of her entire close-knit Mennonite community, Marlena Fiol didn’t know how she would recover. Follow her journey from an abusive upbringing in Paraguay to escape, love, and loss in the United States and finally on to forgiveness and reconciliation.

Discover a story of healing and personal transformation. Marlena’s childhood was full of contradictions. Her father was both a heroic doctor for people with leprosy and an abusive parent. Her Mennonite missionary community was both a devoted tribe and a controlling society. And Marlena longed to both be accepted in Paraguay and escape to somewhere new. In Nothing Bad Between Us, follow Marlena’s journey as she takes control of her life and learns to be her authentic self, scars and imperfections included.

Read my interview with Marlena.

MEDITATION FOR FINANCIAL HEALING

The Gift of Crisis: How I Used Meditation to Go from Financial Failure to a Life of Purpose by Bridgitte Jackson-Buckley

Approach Crisis with Self-Love, Assertiveness and Courage—You are not alone: Since the start of the recession, 8.8 million jobs have been lost, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Bridgitte Jackson-Buckley was one of those 8.8 million people who lost their jobs. Between 2007 and 2014, she was also one of 7.3 million homeowners who lost their homes to foreclosure. Some affected by job loss and foreclosure, due to the economic downturn, were able to bounce back relatively emotionally unscathed. Many, however, internalized the outer events as a negative reflection of their personal capacities without taking a deeper look at the crisis as a potential underlying catalyst. In The Gift of Crisis, Bridgitte shows you how to explore crisis as a tool for courageous change, regaining your self-esteem with self-love and self-compassion.

Read my interview with Bridgitte.

ECO-MINDFULNESS

Love Earth Now: The Power of Doing One Thing Every Day by Cheryl Leutjen

Silver Nautilus Book Award Winner! What can you do for the environment? Do you find yourself wondering what on Earth you can do about the serious environmental challenges we face today? Do you worry there’s nothing any one person can do that will make a difference? Most people say they would like to do something to make the world a better place, but they just don’t believe they have the time, energy, money or power to do anything that will make a real difference. Are you willing to devote 20 minutes a week to find out? Environmental activist Cheryl Leutjen has the planet’s back and is betting you do too. Her powerful book of inspired ideas and eco-mindfulness calls upon us all to Love Earth Now.

Read my interview with Cheryl.

SPIRITUAL LIVING

The Rules of Creation by Lynda Allen

The Rules of Creation is a handbook for living life from the pure essence of divinity from which we each sprang. They not only share wisdom, but encourage each of us to explore the depths of our own innate wisdom as well. It offers eight simple rules to live by, which help us not only remember our own divinity, but to live from there with joy and certainty.

GRIEF & SUDDEN LOSS

The Sudden Loss Survival Guide: Seven Essential Practices for Healing Grief by Chelsea Hanson

Restore Your Spirit after Sudden Loss—Healing after loss. When a loved one passes unexpectedly, the person left behind can lose their bearings. After the sudden loss of her mother, Chelsea Hanson, a nationally-recognized grief educator and founder of With Sympathy Gifts and Keepsakes, didn’t know where to turn for help, what to do next, or how to put the pieces of her life back together. Hanson’s The Sudden Loss Survival Guide gathers everything that she learned during her own recovery process and provides an indispensable road map to aid those who’ve experienced a life-changing loss.

AFFIRMATIONS

Your Life Is Your Prayer: Wake Up to the Spiritual Power in Everything You Do by Sam Beasley & B.J. Gallagher
Everything you do is prayer: You may not realize it–many people don’t–but the decisions you make throughout the day, the attitudes you adopt, the conversations you have, the way you respond to other people, and the thoughts you think are all prayers. The food you choose to eat is a prayer, the way you spend your money is a prayer–even the way you drive is a prayer! We are constantly communing with the Divine, even in our most mundane activities. And our prayers are always answered in the affirmative: “Yes.”

SELF-ESTEEM

Letters from a Better Me: How Becoming an Empowered Woman Transforms the World by Rachael Wolff

Self-esteem for empowerment. By practicing affirmations each day, you will become stronger emotionally and psychologically. Writing letters to yourself can be a powerful affirming process that will give you the courage to face adversity and help you develop resilience that can get you through anything. Become the very best and strongest you can be with the unique tools and practices in Letters from a Better Me.

GOAL-SETTING

Your Goal Guide: A Roadmap for Setting, Planning and Achieving Your Goals by Debra Eckerling

Start with a plan. One of the biggest reasons goals fail is that we often don’t put enough thought into what we really want before diving in. Your Goal Guide by Debra Eckerling starts with that first, crucial step: figuring out your goals and putting a plan in place. As a professional writer, communications specialist, and project catalyst with more than 20 years of experience, Eckerling is prepared to help you achieve success.

Read my interview with Debra.

SUCCESS

Habits for Success: Inspired Ideas to Help You Soar by G. Brian Benson

A self-help book for an authentic life: Habits for Success was written creatively, consciously and with heart. Using his own growth process, triumphs and hero’s journey, the author weaves authenticity and vulnerability into his habits, ideas and stories to entertain and inspire the reader.

STORYTELLING

Story Power: Secrets to Creating, Crafting, and Telling Memorable Stories by Kate Farrell

Stories are everywhere. The art of storytelling has been around as long as humans have. And in today’s noisy, techy, automated world, storytelling is not only prevalent–it’s vital. Whether you’re interested in enlivening conversation, building your business brand, sharing family wisdom, or performing on stage, Story Power will show you how to make use of a good story. Learn from the experts and become an engaging storyteller.

Read my interview with Kate.

JOURNALING

Heart, Sass & Soul: Journal Your Way to Inspiration and Happiness by Greta Solomon

Discover the Life-Changing Power of Freewriting and Journaling—Discover who you are: Writing for yourself is an incredible way to heal your heart, find happiness, and reconnect with the things that matter most. Journaling and freewriting can bring you a deeper level of self-awareness, allowing you to truly know who you are. Heart, Sass & Soul will show you how to develop a writing practice that nurtures inner strength and promotes a rich, fulfilled life.

Read my interview with Greta.

LOVE & KINDNESS

Say It Now: 33 Ways to Say I Love You to the Most Important People in Your Life by Sherry Ricart Belul

Sometimes it’s difficult to find the right way to say “I love you” to the people you appreciate the most in life. The emotions are there, but the words don’t come. Say It Now shows you how to put your feelings into words–and actions, too. From activities that take just a minute, to love letters, joy jars, tribute videos, surprise parties, and more, this book helps you celebrate the most important people in your life.

Random Acts of Kindness: 365 Days of Good Deeds, Inspired Ideas and Acts of Goodness by Brenda Knight & Becca Anderson

The Random Acts of Kindness movement is born. In 1995, a small group of people at Conari Press came together around the idea that small gestures and simple acts can make a difference in people’s lives. Thus, Random Acts of Kindness was born. But they had no idea how big this little idea would become.

POWERFUL WOMEN

The Book of Awesome Women: Boundary Breakers, Freedom Fighters, Sheroes and Female Firsts by Becca Anderson

Sheroes. Women hold up half the sky and, most days, do even more of the heavy lifting including childbearing and child-rearing. All after a long day at the office. Women have always been strong, true sheroes, oftentimes unacknowledged. As we shake off the last traces of a major patriarchal hangover, women are coming into their own. In the 21st Century, all women can fully embrace their fiery fempower and celebrate their no-holds-barred individuality. It is time to acknowledge the successful women of the world.

THRILLING FICTION

Extreme by Joan Gelfand

Hope Ellson is from the wrong side of the tracks, but her genius transcends class. When Hope joins FearToShred, a Silicon Valley extreme gaming startup, Hope’s mission is to groom the scrappy company for prime time. Enter Doug Wiser, her very married ex. While the two work in tandem, nefarious forces are at work behind the scenes. Adding to the excitement of this thriller are the stars and heroes of surfing and skateboarding. With a keen eye on women in tech, business ethics and dangerous stunts, “Extreme” will leave you breathless.

Read my interview with Joan.

QUIRKY MYSTERY

Dead Pelican by Lisa Haneberg

Honeymooners hoping to find a quiet spot for a romantic picnic instead discover the dead body of Forrest Yates, a top birding guide and bottom dweller human. The murder rattles the local birding association as they prepare for the yearly influx of Sandhill Cranes and the wanna-be ornithologists who flock to the island to watch them. With Ned “The Pelican Man” Quinn as their sidekick, Xena and her team explore the dark side of birding and the tenuous relationship between commerce and nature to solve the case.

HORROR

Rose by Rami Ungar

Rose Taggert awakens in a greenhouse with no clear memory of the past two years and, to her horror, finds her body transformed into an unrecognizable form. Paris Kuyper has convinced Rose that they are lovers and as Paris could not bear for her to die, he has used an ancient and dark magic to save her from certain death. But the dark magic Paris has used comes at a price. A price which a terrible demon is determined to extract from Rose.

HISTORICAL FICTION

Glorious Boy by Aimee Liu

What will it take to save Ty? This is the question that haunts Claire and Shep Durant in the wake of their four-year-old’s disappearance. Until this moment, Port Blair’s British surgeon and his young wife, a promising anthropologist, have led a charmed life in the colonial backwaters of India’s Andaman Islands–thanks in part to Naila, a local girl who shares their mysteriously mute son’s silent language.

But with the war closing in and mandatory evacuation underway, the Durants don’t realize until too late that Naila and Ty have vanished. While Claire sails for Calcutta, Shep stays to search for the children. Days later, the Japanese invade the Andamans, cutting off all communication. Fueled by guilt and anguish, Claire uses her unique knowledge of the islands’ tribes to make herself indispensable to an all-male reconnaissance team headed back behind enemy lines. Her secret plan: rescue Shep and Ty. Through the brutal odyssey that follows, she’ll discover truths about sacrifice that both shatter and transcend her understanding of devotion.


For wellness tips and twice-monthly updates, subscribe to Nita’s news.


If you purchase anything from the affiliate links on this page or in this email, Write Now Columbus will receive a portion of the proceeds. This helps us keep the website up and the internet on.

Everything Actual is an Advantage


Everything Actual is an Advantage

Sensory detail grounds writing. In memoir, detail forms the shape of a lived experience. In a novel, the choice of which details to leave in and which to leave out shape the story as much or sometimes more than the plot.

One story set in New Orleans might feature an ornate Garden District house with a painted porch. Flamingo pink roses spill from baskets. Plum morning glory climbs a lattice frame. Mid-morning, an elderly woman patiently trims blossoms, gathering them into a bouquet.

A different story might portray the dark night of the French Quarter. At 2am, on a Sunday, an elderly woman in a shiny purple lycra bodysuit slithers out of a hotel room into the street. She passes a man in tattered clothes who can barely stand long enough to piss against the stone hotel foundation.

Same city. Two very different stories.

Better yet, combine them in the same story.

Show the contrast, the underbelly. And don’t assume the underbelly is the French Quarter. Choose the details of what goes on behind the doors of one of the fancy painted houses.

Show it all.

As novelist Toni Morrison said, “Everything actual is an advantage.” Put the light against the dark to see the full perspective.


For more writing wisdom, please check out You Should Be Writing, the writing journal from Mango Publishing by Brenda Knight and Nita Sweeney.

A Love Note to My Running Tribe

A Love Note to My Running Tribe

 

A Love Note to My Running Tribe

My running group, Marathoner in Training (MIT), asked members to write a “Good Thing” that happened during the ever-so-odd and nearly cancelled 2020 spring season. I contributed this love note to my running tribe.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This week’s “Good Thing” comes from Nita Sweeney who refuses to choose between the 13:00 Run/Walk group and the 14:00 Run/Walk group, and who often finds herself finishing after the Walker group.

This MIT season has been filled with both “good” and difficult things.

In February, while my husband Ed and I were on book tour in California, for Depression Hates a Moving Target, Ed, had a heart attack. He also had pneumonia twice, and open-heart surgery in March that left him on a gastric feeding tube for two months. Gratefully, he continues to heal and is returning to good health.

 

Ed and Nita Sweeney on Plane

Ed and Nita Sweeney returning from California in February 2020

Meanwhile, with bookstores and libraries closed, and book festivals cancelled or postponed, I launched a second book. This, a writing journal, You Should Be Writing, I co-authored with Mango Associate Publisher Brenda Knight.

For my sanity, I returned to running after everything I just mentioned (combined with a pandemic and a civil rights revolution) had derailed my training.

Nita and Scarlet

Nita and Scarlet the #ninetyninepercentgooddog

But those aren’t the “good things” I want to share.

When Ed came home from the hospital, and his care transformed me from “award-winning author” to “accidental home health aide” overnight, I feared I wasn’t up to the task. My MIT friends saw my distress. Food, supplies, cards, and stuffed animals flooded in and have not stopped even now that Ed is recovering.

All You Need is Love and a Unicorn

All You Need is Love and a Unicorn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But their real gift came one Saturday when I got a text that said:

“Look out your front door.”

After a few of them had met for a socially distanced run, they had each driven separately to our house. When Ed and I looked out, we saw them, standing six feet apart, holding motivational signs like those normally seen at races. It brought Ed and I to tears. We both felt as if Ed was in a race for his life.

MIT Folks at the Door

MIT Folks at the Door

That brings me to the “good thing.”

Whether you’re struggling to get in the miles, having a bad day, or feeling so low you’re not sure you want to stay on the planet, please reach out to me or any other member of the MIT family. We will stand with you and cheer you on the same way these MIT members have done for Ed and me. MIT is family, nothing less.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Even if you don’t live in central Ohio and can’t join our MIT family, if you run, you’re part of the tribe. That makes you family! The offer I made to the MIT members stands for you as well.

Write Now Columbus – August 2020

 

Write Now Columbus – August 2020

Still here, still in the middle of the pandemic, still writing. Most things are virtual, while zoom fatigue is very real. Harvard Business Review offers some tips. Who knew we would learn to love plain old phone calls again?

One of my sanity techniques is to change things up.

On Bum Glue Blog, I’ve begun two new post series.

For the first, Mango Publishing’s lovely and talented intern, Ashlee, created some fabulous graphics using excerpts from You Should Be Writing, the writing journal I co-authored with Associate Publisher, and award-winning author, Brenda Knight. In the first series of new posts, I riff about what each excerpt brings to mind. Here’s a sample.

In the second series, I interview authors. I’m fascinated by each author’s process and hope the answers inform your work or at least entertain.

As for my zooming, my next Writing from the Inside Out class will be on zoom this Sunday. Two weeks later I’ll be zooming to talk about Depression Hates a Moving Target at the Run Pain Free Marathon Training Summit. It’s a star-studded lineup and I’m so honored to be included. I’ll round out the month with our very own Ohioana Book Festival, another huge honor.

Did I mention zoom fatigue? No complaints here.

So far, there are 16 writing-related events on the Write Now Columbus – August 2020 calendar. With increased competition now that everything has gone virtual, I hope you will continue to support our local bookstores, groups, and agencies with your attention and dollars. They continue to provide so much for our vibrant writing community.

As always, if you hear of events, groups, workshops, please let me know. I appreciate your help!

Thank you and may you and yours be well.