BFFs January 2021 Newsletter

Check out the latest newsletter for our Books Forward Friends. This issue features upcoming events, a special pre-order offer, highlights our BFFs, and much more!

Read the January 2021 newsletter here!

6 Amazing Book Art Sculptures for National Book Lovers Day

Well-told stories are works of art — and the books that house them can become literal, visual works of art too! In honor of National Book Lovers Day, we’re sharing some of the best examples of book art we’ve come across. From whimsical fairy tale book sculptures, to paper couture, to jaw-dropping literary landscapes, here’s a fresh way to feed your imagination and celebrate your love for literature today!

Did you ever read about Tolkein’s Middle Earth and feel like you were actually there? Well with the incredible book carvings of Guy Laramee, you can actually see the sweeping mountain ranges, dappled scrub, and secretive caves brought to life. Laramee sandblasts his books (sometimes using entire volume sets at once!) to create topographical marvels that look startlingly real and adventure-ready. We can scarcely believe this is paper!

If you’ve ever wished to be transported into a fairy tale, the art of Su Blackwell will whisk you away. From lonesome castles to cheerful tree houses to mysterious woodlands, we can’t stop marveling over Blackwell’s meticulous detail (just look at those leaves!). She also adds lights to her book sculptures, creating a warm welcoming glow (with the occasional sinister shadow) that makes every fairy tale scene come to life. She’s even created life-size set design versions of her book art for the stage–magical! 

Here’s another ultra-detailed book sculptor who is using his art to send a message. Thomas Wightman explores the experience of compulsive OCD within his carefully cut pages and tiny dye-cut letters. Whether it’s a ship spiraling into the papery depths or a book being eaten from the inside out by paper moths, Wightman tackles obsessive compulsive disorder and mental health with deep emotion and stunning craftsmanship. 

Brian Dettmer has found a brilliant way of recontextualizing book illustrations into fresh, multifaceted art pieces. Using scalpels, tweezers, and other surgical tools (thus earning himself the nickname “The Book Surgeon”) he cuts out illustrations and layers them on top of one another to create a three dimensional work of art. The result is contemporary, striking and tactile, inviting you to discover layers of meaning within layers of paper.

Sylvie Falcon is making all of our literary couture dreams come true. The French designer repurposes irreparably damaged books into stunning, wearable works of art. From her pink page tea dress to her stunning book spine ball gown, her fashions look straight out of a fairy tale book (and are probably crafted from their pages!). We’re ready to fall down a rabbit hole or dance the night away in these frolicsome frocks–can we order one to size??

Ready to give paper art or book sculpture a try? Our content creator Chelsea at Books Forward tried her hand at making a wearable paper dress thanks to prixprix’s fantastic Instructables tutorial found on this awesome DIY paper crafts list! She also sculpted a wig with paper mache, origami, paper towel rolls and book pages. Paper is pliable, inexpensive and easy to work with — perfect for crafting, and easier than you think! Ready to make your own book art? Tag us @booksforward to share your creations with us!

Happy National Book Lovers Day! 

Book recommendations for every dad this Father’s Day

We’re the kind of people who buy books for every occasion, and Father’s Day is no exception. We’ve compiled a list of book recommendations based on the type of dad you have in case you aren’t sure where to start looking!

  1. For the dad who loves police procedurals: Missions by Marc McGuire, Long Bright River by Liz Moore
  2. For the dad who likes to be kept on his toes: Gentlemen and Players by Joanne Harris, Know Where You Sleep by Alan Orloff
  3. For the dad who is fascinated by cults: Sins of the Mother by August Norman, The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon
  4. For the dad who has a great relationship with his daughter: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, The Price of Safety by Michael C. Bland
  5. For the dad who likes to read with his kids: Games of Deception by Andrew Maraniss, Ghost by Jason Reynolds
  6. For the dad who enjoys being out in nature: The Gyroscope of Life by David Parrish, H Is For Hawk by Helen MacDonald
  7. For the dad who does NOT enjoy being out in nature: The Ultimate Guide for the Avid Indoorsman by John Driver, The Revolution Was Televised by Alan Sepinwall
  8. For the sports-obsessed dad: The Last At-Bat of Shoeless Joe by Granville Wyche Burgess, Shoe Dog by Phil Knight
  9. For dads who are history buffs: The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson, Soldiers of Freedom by Samuel Marquis
  10. For the dad who loves a good revenge plot: The Unrepentant, E.A. Aymar, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

JKS Communications celebrates 20 years with launch of Books Forward publicity and Books Fluent publishing

Veteran book publicity firm JKS Communications has been moving books forward for 20 years, and the company is proud to celebrate this anniversary with the launch of two new companies under its brand. Books Forward will continue the signature creative, customized book marketing and author publicity campaigns, and a new indie publishing division, Books Fluent, will provide professional editorial, design and publishing services. 


JKS has promoted more than 700 authors, small presses, literary award programs and publishing houses since 2000. The Books Forward team will continue to represent both traditionally published authors and independently published books that meet high industry standards. Services include traditional publicity through mainstream and book-centric media, book tour development, author branding and digital marketing.

Books Forward has a particular passion for books that empower, inspire and move the world forward. Clients include New York Times bestselling author Andrew Maraniss, whose award-winning historical nonfiction examines race and social justice through sports; USA Today bestselling author Jenny Milchman, famous for the “world’s longest book tour”; YA author J. Elle, set to release her #ownvoices debut after garnering attention through a social media campaign; Mary Higgins Clark award winner and national president of Sisters in Crime Lori Rader-Day; indie published success story S.B. Alexander, who later helped Books Forward build its digital marketing division; “The World is Just a Book Away” anthology of stories from Nobel Peace Prize laureates, Academy Award and Golden Globe winning actresses and other world leaders; Chaithanya Sohan, who explores themes of home and belonging in the U.S. through immigrant stories; Holocaust survivor and scholar Laureen Nussbaum, who shines light on unsung heros; and #1 YALSA Top Ten Quick Pick author Cheryl Rainfield, an international child abuse and feminist advocate.

“Our foundation is built on veteran journalists, giving our team a unique strength. Through national media outlets, we share books to make the world a better and brighter place,” the company’s President Marissa DeCuir said. “And it’s that love of meaningful stories that powers our team to share authors’ important messages, and inspire readers with engaging fiction and nonfiction. The world needs some positivity, and readers crave books that matter — to them and to our world.”


JKS’ new indie publishing company, Books Fluent, transforms manuscripts into high-quality commercial books that equal or exceed industry standards. 

Having guided authors through the self-publishing process for years, Books Fluent’s team of industry experts expands upon these services. The company offers professional book editing, on-trend cover design and interior layout, savvy distribution plans, and management of ISBNs, copyrights, and other nitty gritty tasks.

Books Fluent’s expertise empowers authors to learn the unique language of this industry and become successful publishers, rising above the competition of more than 3 million books released every year.


Books Forward and Books Fluent will celebrate their launches throughout 2020 with prizes, special announcements and exclusive opportunities for authors and readers alike — including one grand prize of a free book publicity campaign for an author working to help move the world forward. To enter, submit an application here

As part of the company’s continued mission to elevate voices, Books Forward is also launching the #booksforward campaign to celebrate all the incredible ways stories have made the world a better place. Book lovers are encouraged to join the conversation by using the hashtag and sharing about literature that has impacted their lives.

Social media:

Happy Father’s Day!

Marissa DeCuir, President


Marissa and her Dad
My dad started a local newspaper when he was in college. So growing up in a newsroom, and eventually going into journalism myself, I’ve always had a love of stories – finding, hearing and sharing them. Transitioning into book publicity was easy because what I loved most about journalism is the same thing I love about books – to learn and experience new things. My dad’s curiosity and care for all things in this world made me the person and reader I am today.


Max Lopez, Publicist


My father is the hardest working person I’ve ever met, and looking back now it seems impossible that he was able to spend as much time with his family as he did. Yet, there he was every single night to tuck us in and read us a story when we requested it. My love of history and reading is a direct result of watching countless History Channel documentaries with him and being gifted a series of early reader biographies (all of which my brother and I read several times through.) His insatiable hunger to learn is something that I have always admired and attempted  to emulate. Thanks for everything Dad!


Julie Shoerke, Principal


Julie and her Dad
By the time I was in 5th grade, my father had read to my sisters and me all the classics that were assigned through my senior year of high school. His love of reading inspired all of us and informed who we would become – one sister works at a library, my other sister has worked at a bookstore for years, and I’m a book publicist. From Hornblower to the old English version of Robin Hood; from Edgar Allen Poe to Beowulf (yuck!);  from The Brother’s Grimm to Michael Crichton. Hundreds of books. He was an award-winning screenwriter who kept getting kicked upstairs until he ran the film company, but his true love was writing scripts and reading. My best memories are of him reading to us!


Hannah Robertson, Junior Publicist

My dad and I have very different tastes in reading. He tends to go for long non-fiction historical pieces or biographies, and I’m more drawn to anything fictional or fantastical. Even so, my dad always encouraged my love of reading with surprise trips to bookstores or libraries where he would let me roam to my heart’s content. He has always been supportive of my dreams, both literary and otherwise. I am so grateful and thankful for everything he has done for me!


Ellen Whitfield, Publicist


Ellen and her father
Many of my best memories growing up are of my dad reading to me at night. He did all the fun voices for some of my favorite books, including Narnia and Harry Potter. The best one was Bree the horse from The Horse and His Boy, accompanied by a lot of whinnies. And I still love to share book recommendations and swap copies with him today — it makes me so happy when we can chat about mutual love of a book.


Sara Wigal, Senior Manager


Sara with a recent book present with her dad and brother
Like so many other children, bedtime stories were part of the routine at our house! My dad would tuck us in and share “make up stories” as we called them. He didn’t read to us necessarily, but he scoured his (likely tired) mind for imaginative stories we would pick up where they left off every evening. I loved hearing these every night, and would whine and weedle for just a few more plot points. My dad has one of the most creative minds I know and he always encouraged all of us kids to use our own, for which I am so grateful. He encouraged me to read, read, read, and was one of my most patient editors for essays throughout school!

“Child of the Sixties” Rifka Kreiter Journeys Through Protests, Liberation, and Transformation in Compelling New Memoir


The 1960’s are one of the most fascinating and turbulent periods in America’s 20th century—and now, Rifka Kreiter sweeps readers into her life on the frontlines of the era’s most significant moments and movements, capturing her personal quest for liberation and self-discovery through her beautifully-written memoir, Home Free: Adventures of a Child of the Sixties (She Writes Press, May 16, 2017).

From Greenwich Village coffeehouses to a suicide attempt at age 18; from a face-to- face encounter with President Kennedy on the campaign trail and again as he lay in state after his assassination; Home Free is the incredible and inspiring true story of one woman’s journey to claim her freedom, heal her wounds, and find her voice during one of America’s most exciting, transformative eras.


About the Book

HOME FREE: After surviving a fraught childhood in New York and L.A., Rifka Kreiter revels in studying acting at the High School of Arts and dancing the Twist at the Peppermint Lounge. Her road leads through broken love affairs and virtually all the great
movements of the sixties, including civil rights marches in Mississippi, antiwar demonstrations in San Diego, and est seminars in Manhattan. On a deeper level, this is a profound quest to heal her psychic wounds and find spiritual meaning that she intuits lies beneath all the tumult of those times.

Here is an exploration of life’s deepest questions, as Rifka strives to bust free, be it with drugs, therapy or meditation. A triumphant story about a search for liberation on every level, Home Free ends with a
jaw-dropping discovery—one as unexpected as it is transformational.

An astrologer once told RIFKA KREITER that a certain planetary conjunction in her chart signifies “an unusual life, full of unexpected happenings,” and this has certainly proved true. She studied acting at New York’s High School of Performing Arts, philosophy at City College of New York, and clinical psychology at Adelphi University. She worked as a waitress, hat-check
girl, and hearing researcher. She was Continuity Director at a New York radio station and Assistant Convention

Manager at the Concord Resort Hotel. More recently, she tutored SAT Prep courses and was Assistant Director of Admissions at a rural community college. Since 1976, she has been following an ancient yogic path; she lived in a meditation ashram for ten years, and traveled to India three times. Rifka currently teaches meditation.

At age fifty-five she met her life partner, an Upper West Side psychotherapist. They live happily together in suburban New Jersey. Learn more at

Praise for Home Free

“This book is as bold, fearless, and brave as the young Riqui and as thoughtful and soulful as the adult, fully self-actualized Rifka. Raw at times, touching at others, and told with spirit, humor, and heart, Home Free holds nothing back as Kreiter takes the reader through a life that is as adventurous as it is remarkable.”— Leigh Gallagher, Assistant Managing Editor at Fortune, Co-chair of the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit, and author of The Airbnb Story

“Utterly fearless in its openness, honesty, and risk-taking. Not merely a joyride down the rabbit hole of the counterculture, this is a story about survival and transcendence, told in a voice that is entirely authentic and that skirts the twin dangers of sensationalism and sentimentality. A truly absorbing and moving read.”– Céline Keating, author of Layla and Play for Me

“Kreiter’s journey through the Boomer zeitgeist on her quest for self-knowledge and self-fulfillment is the real thing. It is reminiscent without being melancholy, which makes it even more fun to read. You’ll remember the good old days but won’t necessarily wish to relive them, and will be moved by how Kreiter does.”– Marc Eliot, New York Times best-selling author of To the Limit: The Untold Story of the Eagles and Death of a Rebel: The Life of Phil Ochs

An Interview With Rifka Kreiter

Home Free is a very personal story – why did you decide to share it?
For younger readers, I wanted to convey what it really felt like to live through those extraordinary times; for my peers, I wanted to share the fun of revisiting the adventures of our youth, when drugs, sex and rock ‘n’ roll ruled and everything seemed possible. On a deeper level, I hope readers find encouragement and hope from seeing how one person, who thought she was lost in immutable darkness, found her way to a path of boundless light.

Did you always aspire to be an author?
My first love was acting, but when I was in sixth grade, at Palms Elementary School in L.A., I used to spend spare time each day, when I’d finished a classroom assignment, writing a story about an Inca prince. (We were studying South American history.) During recess I’d read the story to classmates and was delighted when they’d pester me to read the next day’s installment. But, contrarian as I often was, my journals in adolescence and young adulthood are full of statements like “I’m not really a writer…” Turns out, this was a case of “The lady doth protest too much.

Out of all your experiences, which was the most fun to write about? Which was the most challenging?
Writing about July 1969, the summer of Woodstock, was the most fun. It was great to recall the mind-blowing cross-Canada trip when it felt like our whole generation was out on the road. As I wrote, memories surfaced. I had forgotten about that crash pad my boyfriend and I found in Winnipeg, when our VW bus broke down on a holiday weekend. There, incense burned all day and sequined Indian print cottons were spread to cover chairs, windows, and beds. At night, we sat around in a circle with maybe eight other people, some travelers, some who lived there or nearby, passing joints, talking, listening to music. Most challenging was trying to communicate the profound impact and sheer wonder of (what I was so fortunate to have) spiritual experiences that transformed my life.

Out of all your experiences, which do you feel was the most formative, or transformative, for you as a person?
Home Free recounts many powerful experiences, formative and transformative. One of these was an LSD trip, the second and last time I dropped acid, at age thirty. At one point that night, the entire landscape of my life appeared before me in high relief, like a topographical map. I saw that every minute detail had its place—there was a perfect order: each wild occurrence, every miserable “mistake” I’d made, fit precisely into a coherent whole. From this vantage point, not one of my choices could or should have been different. Witnessing the unique perfection of everything that happened, it was obvious that all the worrying I had done was utterly superfluous to this higher order. Since that moment, I’ve never been able to take my worrying quite so seriously.

How do you feel that being a “child of the sixties” shaped who you are today?
For one thing, I still feel part of a huge generation, a family of compadres who share humanistic values and boundary-busting tendencies, though of course many have gone their separate ways in life. I’m still a rebel, still resist living a life of bourgeois conventionality. Here is my subjective image of “my generation:” Cool, laid back, dope-smoking, but active and creative. Freedom loving – above all, freedom-loving. “Talkin’ Bout my Generation…” I love it: I love the music, I love the values, I love the spirit. Long live the spirit of the sixties!

What advice would you give to others who may be experiencing a personal, spiritual journey?
First and foremost: MEDITATE! Regular meditation (even for a few minutes, regularly practiced) opens pathways to your inner wisdom. Learn to recognize that inner voice and let it steer you toward the books, teachers, paths that are right for you. Sooner or later, your sincere efforts will bear fruit.

What is the number one thing you hope readers take away from your book?
That a mysterious and boundless consciousness, whose nature is absolute joy, is real and accessible to all who truly seek it.


For more information:

Anglle Barbazon, publicist

(615) 928-2462


The Wild West Meets Kurt Vonnegut in new YA novel “Skunks Dance” by St John Karp


SAN FRANCISCO – A classic treasure hunt story for the modern teen, St John Karp’s quirky YA novel “Skunks Dance” is a combination of the Wild West and Kurt Vonnegut-esque humor. Two present-day 17-year-olds go on a search for long-lost treasure, but an exploded car and an attack with a candy cake-topper lead them to make a gruesome discovery. Part murder mystery, part humor, “Skunks Dance” will keep you laughing to the finish with its unexpected twists and fast-paced wit.

Karp’s writing is quick, detailed and hilarious. His 2013 release “Radium Baby” was critically well-received, achieving a starred review from Kirkus.

“Throughout this adventure novel, Karp’s madcap imagination keeps readers hungering for the final outcome, and his prose sparkles with his flair for the absurd … A devilishly rich, satisfying scientific confection.”—Kirkus Reviews for “Radium Baby”

SKUNKS DANCE—Spivey Spillane’s grandmammy always said there were only two good reasons to kill a man — for cheating on a woman, and for serving drinks to a Yankee. She may have had a hand in winning the Revolutionary War, but even she never met the likes of Alabama Sam. Sam robs a bank under Spillane’s name, casts him in an obscene one-man play wearing only a pink tutu, and starts a betting pool on how many wieners he has. Despite the indignities Spillane suffers, he chases Sam across Gold-Rush-era California because Sam is the only one who knows the location of a hidden fortune buried somewhere in the hills.

Meanwhile in the present, 17-year-olds Amanda and Jet have rekindled an old childhood rivalry. Amanda is obsessed with finding the treasure of her infamous ancestor Spivey Spillane. Jet and Amanda’s feud comes to a head over an extended incident involving a broken window, an exploded car, and a charge of sexual assault with a candy Batman. Jet vows that he is going to find to Spillane’s gold before Amanda does, but it doesn’t take them long to realize that someone may have come this way already — someone who wants the past to stay buried.

San Francisco writer ST JOHN KARP is an ornamental hermit who likes to live near exciting things so he cannot go to them. He has an undying love for the unusual, the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band and toast. His debut novel, RADIUM BABY, released in 2013. SKUNKS DANCE, Karp’s second novel, releases Jan. 24, 2017. For more information, visit:


cSkunksDanceoverAbout the Book

St John Karp • January 24, 2017
ISBN: 978-0989263061 (Hardback) • $21.95
YA Adventure


“A colorful, exuberant romp with an appealing fortune-hunting duo.”—Kirkus Indie

“Karp has a skillful touch with vibrant phrasing, bigger-than-life characters and colorful description, such as: “Dreadnought Hospital loomed against the sky like the last rotting tooth in a mouth full of gums.”—Blueink Review

“Skunks Dance is solid, sarcastic, and bombastic young adult fare, certain to satisfy the appetites of all youngsters who have a taste for adventure.”—Foreword Clarion Reviews

“In St. John Karp’s novel SKUNKS DANCE, we follow two wild quests for hidden gold in two eras. Both timelines are populated with the cheerfully bizarre eccentrics of Skunks Dance, whether in the Gold Rush era and or in the present day.”—IndieReader Review

“Skunks Dance is an unusual beast, crossing classic Western stories with all sorts of other ideas. And best of all, it works beautifully. It’s difficult not to admire, really hooking you in from the get-go. The book develops a unique flavor that is really hard to put down. It’s an artfully quirky piece that riffs on a popular genre with infectious adoration and creative ingenuity to make a truly inspiring read.”—Self-Publishing Review

An Interview With St John Karp

What authors have influenced your writing the most and why?
People say I have a bit of Vonnegut in me, which is very flattering but only true in a figurative sense — I haven’t stolen his false teeth or anything. Of course I was addicted to Vonnegut growing up, but then I also love John Kennedy Toole, who wrote A Confederacy of Dunces. It’s one of the funniest novels of all time, and helpless indignation still cracks me up to this day. I’d also have to mention James Kennedy, whose novel The Order of Odd-Fish showed me that you can still write dazzling, hilarious, clever novels for teenagers. Somehow I’d got the idea that had gone out with hydrogen dirigibles and asbestos underpants.

Why did you choose to start writing YA novels? What about your voice really caters to that audience? 
I got into YA novels when I realized you can get away with pretty much anything except being boring. If you write for adults you instantly get shelved as one genre or another, but YA is kind of its own genre. No one bats an eyelid when you write about radium-obsessed teenagers in antique flying machines, or Old West vamps with guns that shoot round corners, or accidentally assaulting people with candy cake-toppers. The only thing you’re not allowed to do is be boring, which suits me fine. When a book spends ten pages telling me how the protagonist cooks dinner and how everyone’s hair smells, I’m halfway ready to drop-kick the thing into the street.

SKUNKS DANCE has very unique and endearing characters. Do those characters come to you first or do they just flow out of your writing?
I like to let them flow. Some people have fantastic brains and can see everything in advance, but I prefer to put a bunch of nascent characters in a room together and see how they interact. I’ll happily change the whole book to suit the characters. The entire Old West half of SKUNKS DANCE was never meant to happen — I just liked the characters so much I wanted to find out what happened to them next.

Writing effective humor is often difficult. What do you find to be the most effective way you create humor in your writing?
You’ll never make everyone laugh, and if you do then it won’t be interesting writing. There are never any hard rules for writing jokes, but I love wit and I think it’s important to take the reader by surprise. If the reader can guess the punch-line before it’s delivered, the joke is probably going to fall flat. Look at something like Rick and Morty — it refers heavily to popular science fiction, but even in plots we’ve seen before, we never know what the hell’s going to happen next. Or what Rick’s going to say. Or even the correct use of the dinglebop end of a plumbus.

1960s Westerns really inspired SKUNKS DANCE. What movies in particular most influenced your writing?
Well, 1960s British-made Westerns — the bad ones. I know nothing about the real Old West and I’m not especially interested in it. I don’t even like most Westerns. But comedy Westerns? Those things are brilliant, especially if it’s full of British actors who sound like they’ve never even heard an American accent. I can watch Carry On Cowboy (1965) or the Doctor Who serial The Gunfighters (1966) all day long. And have you seen the Hulu series Quick Draw (2013)? Amazing stuff. Let’s leave accuracy to the historians. Tell me a good joke and I’m anyone’s.

Who is your favorite character in SKUNKS DANCE? Who was the most fun to write?
My favorite character (and the most fun to write) is Spivey Spillane, our protagonist in the Old West. He wrote himself — I’d never intended to involve him in a complex plot, so for a long time I just let him fall into more and more elaborate and humiliating traps. He’s like us — not stupid or incompetent, but somehow surrounded by people who are either crazier or smarter than him so he can never win. Plus, he’s a cross-dressing cowboy, and if you saw him in that pink tutu I think you’d understand.

Both RADIUM BABY and SKUNKS DANCE involve an adventurous search. What is it that you love about the classic adventure search with a twist?
You have to be able to bring together characters who don’t like each other — that’s where you get your drama. There are lots of ways of doing that, but I like a search because it lets you take your characters to the moon and back, as long as you bring it round to the MacGuffin in the end. It also gives the novel a clear goal, even if you never get there or if the goal was illusory all along. Having done two of them now I’ll probably do something different for the next novel. A torrid love story between an ostrich and a potato. Or something.


For more information:

Anglle Barbazon, publicist

(615) 928-2462


Business leadership strategist Mark Lefko outlines path to global sustainability in new book releasing in January 2017


LOS ANGELES – Mark Lefko is a renowned business leadership strategist who coaches the world’s top corporate CEOs, presidents and executives on working with their teams and creating long-term value. In his new book, Global Sustainability: 21 CEOs Show How to Do Well by Doing Good (Jan. 24, 2017) Lefko seeks to inspire business executives to leverage sustainability leadership practices, teaching them how to do well while doing good.

“Global sustainability means ensuring that everyone on Earth has what he or she needs to survive and thrive,” Lefko says. “But in order for this to be feasible – and sustainable – businesses also need to be able to turn a profit.”

Smart businesses care about global sustainability, says Lefko, not because it’s good PR, but because it’s good business. That is why a growing number of leading CEOs are embracing it. Lefko’s book features insights from many top global executives gleaned from his one-on-one interviews with a range of leaders. Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson, Whole Foods Market co-CEO Walter Robb as well as other notable CEOs of global multinationals, Fortune 500 giants and visionary entrepreneurs share how they have embraced best practices related to leadership and sustainability designed to achieve the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit. “Global sustainability is about more than just doing good,” says Lefko, “it’s about doing well by doing good.”

“After reading this book you’ll understand how your company’s well-being is inextricably linked to that of your customers, your suppliers, your employees and the communities they live in. You’ll also gain an appreciation of how these matters are interconnected and how you can benefit from working at those intersections.” —Andrew Liveris, chairman & CEO of the Dow Chemical Company

MARK LEFKO has coached and mentored more than 100 CEOs and company presidents, bringing with him 35 years of real-world C-level business experience. A thought leader in the fields of leadership and sustainability, Lefko serves on several advisory boards and is known for his high-energy, insightful speaking engagements. As the Founder and CEO of Lefko Group, one of the nation’s leading facilitation firms, he has led countless strategic planning retreats, corporate think tanks, roundtables and peer groups. “Global Sustainability,” Mark’s second book, aims to inspire executives to rally around the concept of doing well while doing good.  He lives in Los Angeles, California. Learn more at


GlobalcoverGlobal Sustainability: 21 Leading CEOs Show How to Do Well By Doing Good

Mark Lefko • January 24, 2017
ISBN: 978-1683501763 (paperback) • $17.25 (paperback)

An Interview with Mark Lefko

 What is global sustainability?
Lefko: For me, global sustainability means that everyone on our planet not only has the resources they need to survive but also to thrive over the long run. And if we want to do that, we need to tackle a range of issues that include extreme poverty, inequality and injustice. That’s why global sustainability is more than just an environmental issue: it includes other critical aspects such as financial and social sustainability as well.

Why is it important for businesses to incorporate global sustainability practices?
Lefko: Businesses have access to abilities and resources to make things happen – fast – in ways that governments and nonprofits sometimes cannot. Entrepreneurs and business people are skilled in using innovation and creativity to solve complex and costly problems, which is what we need on a global scale. And many businesses, especially those that believe in the power of a triple bottom line, are already making a positive difference in the world.

Who are some of the people you interviewed for your book, and why did you choose them?
Lefko: I am humbled by the all-star roster of people who were willing to invest their valuable time in talking to me about the critical importance of global sustainability. Inside my book, you will find insight from executives from a range of leading global companies including: Sir Richard Branson of Virgin; Ann Sherry, Carnival Australia; Paul Polman, Unilever; Andrew Liveris, Dow Chemical; Blake Mycoskie, Toms Shoes; Francois-Henri Pinault, Kering; Mark Benioff, Salesforce; Dave MacLennan, Cargill; Walter Robb, Whole Foods; and Cyrus Mistry, Tata Group. I chose these leaders because of their passion for global sustainability, as many of them are involved in the World Economic Forum and B Team.

If global sustainability is such an important and positive aspect for business, why do you think people are reluctant to make steps to change?
Lefko: I think that part of the answer is that there has historically been a lot of pressure on CEOs, especially those who run public companies, to satisfy Wall Street’s craving for short-term profits. It takes a courageous CEO, like many of those I interviewed, who is willing to aim higher than the short-term to achieve long-term sustainability and success. Unilever, for example, has stopped reporting its short-term earning as a way to widen its focus on sustainable business practices that will help it compete over the long term. There is also a movement emerging that is helping bring sustainable thinking into the mainstream, which will help drive more change in time.

Can you share another example of someone who is using sustainable business practices to improve their company?
Lefko: Every company I feature in the book has seen a positive impact on their business by embracing sustainable practices of all kinds., for example, began paying women equal to men last year – even though it cost them some $3 million. The result? They are now attracting more top talent among both men and women. Then there’s the Aspen Ski Company, which converts methane gas from a local coal mine into electricity they use to power their resort. Another example would be how Toms Shoes, which famously helps combat poverty through its buy-one, give-one program, has moved its production facilities to its destinations as a way to reduce both shipping costs and its carbon footprint at the same time.

What do you think is the biggest mistake companies make when trying to be sustainable?
Lefko: A few common mistakes I have seen are that many companies fail to include all of their stakeholders into the process of implementing sustainable practices. They also tend to get overwhelmed with the scope of making that change; they overthink the opportunities in front of them, which causes them to think they have to sacrifice profits to become sustainable. That’s why I encourage companies to start with smaller-scale projects first, such as pursuing financial sustainability by using, say, sustainable packaging, recycled materials and cutting back on waste.

What experiences lead to your passion for global sustainability in business?
Lefko: A big influence on me was that I want to see a future for my two kids, Nathan, 26, and Allegra, 23, in which they and their families can thrive and find happiness. But there are challenges we have to overcome to help make that happen. We know, for example, that we are pushing our planet’s resources to the brink, and population growth is only going to add to that pressure. I am a passionate supporter of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals Project. The people side of sustainability also inspires me: to help end poverty, inequality, and injustice around the world. And I think we can if we can get businesses around the world, those powerful agents of change, to become conscious leaders in driving toward global sustainability.

Why did you write your new book – Global Sustainability – 21 Leading CEOs Show How to Do Well By Doing Good?
Lefko: I was inspired to write my book as a way to raise greater awareness about the topic of global sustainability – particularly in the business world. I hope this book helps get CEOs from companies around the world to get involved and to do more in the communities they serve.

How are you hoping to change business people’s minds?
Lefko: My goal is to use my book to help inspire executives to rally around the theme of doing well by doing good. That’s a message I will also help spread through my keynote speaking, peer groups, coaching, facilitating and retreats. It’s a mission I am excited to get out of bed every morning to pursue.


For more information:

Anglle Barbazon, publicist

(615) 928-2462


‘Kept in the Dark’ by J. Ronald M. York dives into a secret crime his father held with him until his death


Nashville, Tenn. – What if your family had been hiding a dark secret that changed their lives and, unknowingly, yours? That’s exactly the kind of secret J. Ronald M. York discovered when he found a box of letters and news clippings in a shed after his father’s death. Piecing together the bits of information he found in the box and from the living family members who knew about the crime, York uncovered his father’s sexual abuse toward children, a secret he carried to the grave and for which York’s father spent the rest of his life trying to make amends.

Releasing Jan. 24, 2017, “Kept in the Dark” is the story of a shocking crime that occurred before York could remember, but more importantly, it is a tale of unwavering love between York’s parents and the ability to forgive, a tale shared to create dialogue about the pain of child molestation and the victims who silently endure it. Though it is a story about the past, “Kept in the Dark” is a story that resonates today and shares both love and pain that is often kept hidden.

KEPT IN THE DARK: The jail was located on the top nine floors of the Dade County Courthouse in downtown Miami. The young father could look down from the 21st floor, to the street below. His wife and child would come each night, stand on the sidewalk and wave to him. They would flash the car lights to signal they were there and he, in return, would strike a match from his window to let them know he was watching. Although separated by just a few miles, they were only able to see each other each Sunday, for two hours, through glass and wire. Writing letters became their way of communicating and 100 letters were exchanged during an eight-week period. This was a secret my parents, family and a few close friends took to their graves. No one ever told me and I was too young to remember. And yet, a box containing the letters, yellowed newspaper clippings, faded photographs and cards of encouragement from friends was left for me after everyone was gone. Although the crime took place more than 60 years ago, it is still as current as today’s headlines. After much thought and reflection, I am ready to share this story. Controversial and uncomfortable, it is still deeply rooted in unwavering love. A horrific mistake was made leaving a family to heal, rebuild their lives and hopefully, forgive.

J. RONALD M. YORK graduated from Belmont University and spent the next two decades in the field of interior design before opening his first art gallery. When not at the gallery, York can be found in his studio painting, at his piano composing or assisting numerous nonprofit agencies with fundraising. He lives in Nashville.



About the Book “Kept in the Dark”

“Kept in the Dark”
J.Ronald M. York • January 24, 2017
Nonfiction • Memoir


An Interview with J. Ronald M. York

How did you find the box of letters your father kept hidden?
I knew I would not be keeping the family home after he passed away. We had lived there for 40 years and from attic to basement were things that I needed to go through and decide what to keep and what to put in the estate sale. It had been suggested to sell the items in the detached tool shed as a whole but still, I felt I needed to take a closer look. There was a trunk stored there and inside of the trunk, I found the box of letters.

Why do you think your parents kept the letters and newspaper clippings?
I honestly believe they were meant for me to find one day. That box had moved with us from Miami, to Chattanooga and three homes in Nashville. You don’t keep something like that and think no one will ever find it. Plus, I had always questioned why we had no contact with one set of relatives and the contents of the box offers the explanation.

How long did it take you to piece together your father’s story?
The letters and newspaper articles told the story, but I wanted to be able to fill in a few blanks with more detail. With the event happening 60 years earlier, everyone directly involved and mentioned in the letters had passed away. Plus there were a few things in the letters that were done in code to figure out. I lived with the story for two months before I could distance myself from it enough to begin research. It took several more months to bring it to this point. I would often find little nuggets that didn’t offer much insight and then later on find another that would tie them together.

Family secrets and child abuse are not easy issues to come to terms with, so it must have taken a lot of courage to tell this story. What made you decide to write a book?
The letters exchanged between my parents, as my dad was in jail awaiting trial, are such a time capsule of the 1950s that I felt they were a story on their own. But because of the subject of child abuse and the fact that I was sexually abused as a child, I felt it was important to come forward and share in hopes of helping others.

When sharing this story with people, what sort of response have you gotten?
I had kept this story close, sharing with only a handful of friends until the book was completed. But in that small circle, nearly half had their own stories to tell of it happening within their families.

Growing up, did you ever have any idea anything was out of the ordinary?
Honestly, I would have never guessed this. The only thing that never quite made sense was the separation between my mother and her older sister.

Your book discusses your mother’s undying love for your father. How do you think this crime affected her life and their marriage?
My mother stood by my father and as I read her letters and learned just a small bit of what she endured at the time, I realize she was much stronger than I would have imagined. As far as their marriage, I never saw conflict, but I have to believe she always lived with the fear of the possibility of it happening again.

If you could say something to your father today, what would you tell him?
At my age, there would be no hysterics. I had a wonderful childhood and an amazing relationship with my father in my adult life. So I can’t blame him for something I knew nothing about. But I would want him to know about my own childhood abuse, something I never shared with my parents as well as ask him if he had been abused as a child.

What do you hope readers will take away from “Kept in the Dark”?
I hope the reader will not focus solely on the crime to the point that they can’t see the strength in my parents’ marriage and how my father made amends. I also hope they can see by my example that abuse does not have to define you. And maybe be open to dialogue if it is something that they have endured and kept within.


For more information:

Anglle Barbazon, publicist

(615) 928-2462


‘The Craving Brain’ shows the way out of addiction, following the path of one recovering addict and a physician’s 40-year walk beside 1,000 others

Dr. Anderson Spickard, Jr., who has more than 40 years of professional addiction treatment experience, and James B., a recovering addict, have teamed up to write an honest and insightful book on the pathology and treatment of addiction.

Blending firsthand accounts, medical science and spiritual reflection, “The Craving Brain: Science, Spirituality and the Road to Recovery” dives deep into the dark and often complex world of addiction from the perspective of doctor and patient. This guide answers questions about addiction from how college binge drinking affects the brain and long-term uncontrollable craving, to whether interventions serve a productive purpose, to the role of community in rewiring the brain hijacked by addiction.

Unapologetically realistic, yet hopeful, “The Craving Brain” is an incredible resource for people with a substance use or abuse disorder, their family members, physicians and anyone interested in how addiction affects the brain and what can be done to remedy it.

“The Craving Brain” answers some of the most compelling mysteries of addiction:

  • Why are some people at higher risk?
  • Is addiction a moral failing or a brain injury?
  • Why can’t addicts see their problem and just quit?
  • Are interventions helpful or dangerous?
  • How effective are twelve-step programs?
  • How can brain science and spiritual practices, together, improve treatment outcomes?

Dr. Anderson Spickard, Jr. is an emeritus professor of medicine and psychiatry at Vanderbilt University Medical Center who has been active in the practice and teaching of internal medicine for more than 45 years. Dr. Spickard is a nationally recognized expert in the areas of substance abuse and addiction having served as a certified addictionologist, founding director of the Vanderbilt Institute for Treatment of Addiction, founder of the Center for Professional Health at Vanderbilt, national program director of the Robert Wood Johnson “Fighting Back” program and leader in the Association for Medical Education and Research in Substance Abuse. His books include, “Dying for a Drink: What You and Your Family Should Know About Alcoholism,” “Stay With Me,” and “The Craving Brain: Science, Spirituality and the Road to Recovery.”


An Interview with Dr. Anderson Spickard, Jr.

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Over your 45 years working in addiction treatment, what has changed the most about the approach physicians take in working with people struggling with substance abuse?

 Protocols for detoxification from alcohol addiction provide medications to help the individual become symptom free in about five days. Other medications like naltrexone help to control alcohol craving and suboxone used in the treatment of opioid dependence can be lifesaving.

The most important discovery has been the research that has defined addiction as a disease of the brain and the hijacking of the brain’s reward system by dopamine, the neurotransmitter of the addictive process that produces negative behaviors in all addicts (craving, denial, anger, minimization, etc.).

The most impressive result of treatment (80%-85% recovery) is seen in addicted physicians who are treated in a program for four months or more and who are under a five-year contract not to use their substances of addiction and are monitored by regular observed urine screens. If their contract is broken by using, they are at risk of losing their license to practice medicine and their professional position in a hospital or clinic. This close observation and monitoring of addicted prisoners on parole has also been reported as effective.

Barbara Thompson and I began this journey of writing about addiction after I founded the Vanderbilt Institute for Treatment of Addiction in 1984. She and I co-authored our first book, “Dying for a Drink – What You and Your Family Should Know about Alcoholism” published by Word Books. The revision in 2005 was published by Thomas Nelson. There are seven foreign translations. The Russian translation has been distributed to the treatment centers in Moscow.

What role does spirituality play in substance abuse and recovery?

The underlying spiritual issues of the addict are the guilt and shame of their addiction- guilt, about what they have done while addicted and shame about who they are and have become. The power and love of God as the individual knows Him in the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous will lead the addict to a spiritual awakening that will sustain the person as they “work the steps” daily with a sponsor and a home group of other addicts who are working to break the bonds of addiction. The family members who attend Alanon and Naranon and work the steps also can have amazing peace and understanding of their loved ones illness. The Serenity Prayer prayed by all the addicts and their families is a spiritual healing prayer.

How has the opioid crisis influenced your work?

The tragedy of the opioid crisis has reinforced the urgency I feel to distribute “The Craving Brain” to everyone who will read it. In addition to that commitment, I have reactivated my membership in the Association for Medical Education and Research in Substance Abuse so that my colleagues and I, who teach in our nation’s medical and nursing schools, will expand and accelerate teaching of the early diagnosis and referral for treatment protocols for patients with abuse and addiction to all addictive substances.

 Tell us about your connection to James B. and his role in writing this book with you.

James B. was an acquaintance of Barbara Thompson, the writer of the book, and she asked him if we could use his story in the book. His detailed description for us about the importance of the addict working each of the 12 Steps, having a sponsor and home group was critical for me since in our treatment unit at Vanderbilt we could only finish the first three steps. I have used James’ method of the addicted person working each step thoroughly to make a new questionnaire for all the steps. This has become the document I use in teaching addicts in a homeless shelter, Matthew 25, in Nashville. The spiritual awakening in about half of the men is wonderful to see. I am hopeful that this process will reinforce their commitment to sobriety when they are discharged to a job and drug- and alcohol-free housing. James’ testimony about his illness, the recovery process and his present state of continued sobriety is a wonderful story.

How has writing a book with a recovering addict influenced your perspective in conveying ideas to the public?

I believe that working and writing with James B. has reinforced my excitement about the disease of addiction and its effect on individuals. I know from our joint presentation at the Southern Festival of Books this fall that being on the podium together was a profound experience for both of us. If we had more opportunities to be together in a teaching environment, we could present an impressive program. Both of us are Christians and we could be very helpful to a group of Christians struggling with addiction issues in themselves or their families.

What has surprised you most about working in addiction, either scientifically or emotionally?

The most wonderful surprise has been the understanding of the brain changes that defines addiction as a disease of the brain. Everyone who deals with addicted persons just couldn’t understand why they couldn’t stop drinking, snorting cocaine, taking opioids, etc. When the research uncovered the presence of dopamine as the neurotransmitter in the brain’s reward system that hijacked this system and kept it moving on its own and causing these strange uncontrolled behaviors seen in the addict, it became clear that the addict wouldn’t stop because they couldn’t stop using. This is the most “AHA!” moment in my professional life.

The other part of this story is that the neurons participating in this brain injury by the substances begin to repair themselves once the use of the substance stops and recovery begins. Those neurons that are not destroyed start to regenerate themselves and in some cases restore the damaged brain.

Finally, it has been shown that parts of the neuron involved in the addictive process can remain poised to become stimulated again if the person starts to use again even years after they completed their recovery program years before. There may be similar processes in the person’s brain who has a father or grandfather who is an addict and the person inherits that susceptibility to become an addict too. These principles of addiction make teaching about addiction more scientifically established and exciting. Medications that block the neurotransmitter process in the reward system could lead to blocking craving completely. Even now naltrexone given by mouth daily and by injection (Vivatrol) once a month controls much of the craving seen in alcoholics.

What aspect of addiction recovery do you find the most interesting to study?

At Vanderbilt, we have researchers who are experts in studying the reward system, and I will keep up to date by observing their work. My particular interest now is using the 12 Step questionnaire I created to teach homeless addicted men about their addiction and the way out of it.

What new research have you seen lately on addiction, and how do you think the future of substance abuse recovery seems to be unfolding?

The research on the effect of medications on craving, denial, etc. from the reward system hijacked by dopamine will be the most exciting result of present day research labs. The importance of detailed and comprehensive reviews of the 12 Steps in homeless populations will be another fertile field of study. I haven’t mentioned yet the value of a comprehensive program of prevention in communities and especially on our college campuses. We are hoping to begin such a program at Vanderbilt. 

What led you to become so involved in working with people battling problems with alcohol and drugs?

I was trained in the usual complications of alcoholism in medical school but was totally surprised when a physician colleague who was my patient committed suicide during a drinking binge. This event became the wake-up call for me to learn what addiction is and what I could have known to prevent this tragic event and the other behaviors of alcoholics that I should have learned in medical school and residency. Absolutely no training in medical school and residency at Vanderbilt and Johns Hopkins prepared me for this moment. I tell people this was God’s call to me to learn as much as I could and teach the medical students under my leadership that this disease can be treated and we can know what to do when confronted with this strange behavior. The leader of the psychiatry department at Vanderbilt at the time, believed alcoholism was a “bad habit.” I knew that wasn’t right so I started the journey, beginning at St. Mary’s rehabilitation center in Minneapolis, MN, to learn what alcoholism and drug addiction is and what can be done about it. The books “Dying for a Drink-What You and Your Family Should Know about Alcoholism” and “The Craving Brain-Science, Spirituality and the Road to Recovery” contain all that I have learned in the last 40 years about addiction.

What is on the horizon that gives you hope?

Medications for treating addiction to alcohol, opioids and tobacco have been available now for some time. Naltrexone is one of them and has demonstrated effects on reducing craving in severe alcoholics. Naloxone is a rapid acting medication that reverses the effects of opioid overdoses. The pressure of craving that drives the compulsion to drink alcohol or take addictive drugs is being intensely studied by researchers. An emerging molecular imaging technique using PET scans and (CT) computerized tomography of the brain have allowed researchers to study the craving of alcoholics and perhaps develop new medications to block their compulsive desire to continue taking the addictive substance.

What kinds of collaborations would you like to see among those in this field to better serve those with addictions?

Programs to prevent use, abuse and addiction to alcohol and drugs in high school students are in place now that demonstrate effective strategies. The program STARS (Students Taking a Right Stand) that is in place in many high schools and middle schools of Tennessee that has shown positive results. The principles of STARS translated into colleges and universities provides ideal approaches to reducing the tragic consequences of binge drinking experienced now on our college and university campuses. Also, community organizations in most of our states, organized by the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA), have successfully approached the abuse and addiction problems in each community and provide blueprints for successful prevention strategies.

What has your work with men experiencing both homelessness and addiction taught you?

The addicted homeless men that I have taught at Matthew 25, a local homeless shelter, are a group of addicted men that respond as well to the usual detoxification procedures and medications as other patients in treatment centers. The problem of relapse prevention though is complicated by their lack of resources that would enable them to live in a drug and alcohol free environment, being provided medications for co-occuring medical illness and having a good paying job at discharge. I have added to the relapse prevention program for the Matthew 25 men a detailed questionnaire about each of the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. The men review each Step, write out their answers and discuss their answers with their group members. We urge them to attend AA and NA meetings, have a sponsor and continue their spiritual program after discharge. We hope they will finish the questionnaire and build a strong spiritual backup for their recovery program.

What do we as a society need to be doing that we are not?

The most effective strategy that I think is important for our country is strong leadership about the issue of addiction as a public health problem underlying many of our social ills. The issues of addiction prevention and treatment are becoming clearer as each day passes. The work by the researchers at the National Institutes of Drug Abuse (NIDA) and other federal facilities uncover additional medications for preventing craving.

The recent publication of the Surgeon General’s Report is an excellent document to use as a blueprint for action. Leadership by our elected officials will be required to put the recommendations into action.