Professional writers and published authors are experts at the work-from-home game; they have spent weeks, months and even years at their home computers in pursuit of their chosen profession. Their dedication results in finished manuscripts and published books, so they’re a great resource for those new to working remotely.
Maybe your boss has closed the office doors for COVID-19, and now you’re home in front of your laptop, still in your PJ’s, ready (or not) to embrace work-from-home life. Your morning commute now consists of the walk from your bed to your computer, and there’s no need for office attire (out of the video conference’s camera view, anyway). That part sounds pretty nice—right?
The truth is that working from home is like being an author: it sounds almost universally appealing in theory, but in practice it’s a lot more challenging than most people realize. Now unsupervised, those little social media breaks, furtive Netflix episodes and other distractions can really pile up. Keeping a consistent schedule may seem easy at first, but over time your discipline starts to slide and you become less organized. Perhaps most surprisingly, it can be lonely. You may not miss your coworkers, but as the days go on, that absent human interaction might make you go a little stir crazy.
And if your kids are home as well due to school closures, well: that’s a whole different ball game.
Here are some helpful tips from career writers on successfully working from home:
- Determine your strengths and weaknesses.
“I would suggest that people new to working from home figure out their strengths and weaknesses—strengths so that you can lean into them, and weaknesses so you can try to rein yourself in. I have to be on social media for #authorlife, but it’s hard to know when to stop. So I use an app to keep myself off social media when I need to be focused. I also use noise-cancelling headphones and a soundtrack that I put together for each book. My strength is that I can get a lot done when I’m focused, but I do have to make sure I am scheduled for it, or the day quickly falls away. Oh, and I try to block off days from meetings and calls so that I have some days dedicated to whatever nearest deadline I have.” — Lori Rader Day, Edgar Award-nominated and Anthony and Mary Higgins Clark award-winning author of multiple thrillers, including most recently The Lucky One
- Schedule out your breaks.
“The biggest advantage for me when I work from home is the ability to get started earlier in the day. I find that I’m most creative in the morning, but typically mornings are spent getting myself ready for work and the kids ready for school, then sitting in traffic for 45 minutes. So, when I have the opportunity to work from home I love waking up early and sitting down to write. Everything I accomplish before 10 a.m. seems like gravy. Given all the distractions at home, I try to just acknowledge them rather than fight them. I’ll schedule time to look at my phone, do the laundry, clean my closet, go for a walk, or just take a snack break. Having that time set aside helps keep me from taking a million mini-breaks.” — Andrew Maraniss, New York Times bestselling author of Strong Inside: Perry Wallace and the Collision of Race and Sports in the South
- Create an inspiring designated workspace, and find a comfortable position.
“A great technique for enhancing creativity at home is to bring elements of Nature into your workspace, whether by means of outdoor views, desk plants, scents, abundant daylight, colors, decorative motifs, or artwork. Best of all, these same environmental cues also reduce stress—a welcome salve for these trying times. Try writing while reclining rather than sitting. Research shows that the part of our brain responsible for raising alertness deactivates when we assume this posture, which in turn makes us more relaxed and open to taking creative risks. It certainly seems to have worked for people like Michael Chabon, Truman Capote, and Virginia Woolf! If you’re feeling a bit cooped up, try looking at pictures and objects from the past, like personal memorabilia and souvenirs from trips taken. Besides mentally releasing you from your physical confines, psychologists say it can also boost idea output by putting you in a more abstract, big-picture state of mind.” — Donald M. Rattner, My Creative Space: How to Design Your Home to Stimulate Ideas and Spark Innovation
- Stay in contact with others—but also set some boundaries.
“Working from home can be isolating, so it’s important to reach out to others as part of your work day (or after your work day for fun!). As humans we need connection with other people. You can connect with others even while at home through phone, email, video chat, private messaging, texting…there are so many options. I’ve found that when I’m working long, hard hours alone that video chat, even just a five minute call, feels the most connected to me because I see the other person’s face as well as hear their voice. Skype, WhatsApp, and even Facebook Messenger are great, easy-to-use video chat options…I’ve also found that in working from home it’s important to have boundaries. Boundaries for other people, to let them know when you are working and don’t want to be disturbed. And boundaries for yourself, to make sure that you don’t work yourself too hard (I’ve been known to still be editing or writing at 10pm), or too little (social media is a huge distraction, especially when we need to be on it as authors). I think it’s also important to build in little pockets of relaxation, play, and reward.” — Cheryl Rainfield, author of Scars, the No. 1 American Library Association’s “Top 10 Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers”
- Use the tools available to you to increase your productivity and focus.
“Whether you are quarantined because you have come in contact with someone who was exposed to the coronavirus, or you are limiting social contact voluntarily, turn the reduced level of activity into a positive for your work-in-progress. Set clear identifiable goals such as writing to plot point X or finishing chapter Y or set specific word count goals, and resist the temptation to look at the news until you have finished. Use an app such as Freedom or even write longhand to stay off the internet and keep yourself from constantly checking updates. Rely on social media to stay connected with other writers, or start a private email chain between writers you know. Share daily progress, talk over the scary current reality, and cheer each other on. Despite the scary time we are living in, you may find this an especially productive time.” — Jenny Milchman, USA Today bestselling author of Cover of Snow and forthcoming The Second Mother
- Put together a playlist that helps you focus, and only listen when you work.
“When I write from home, I curl up in an overstuffed reading chair with my laptop. Though those writing sessions are not easy for me, I get through them by playing classical music, which I don’t listen to at any other time, but which works well for my writing because it seems to focus my brain on the writing task.” — Katie Burke, author of the family-focused conversation starter Urban Playground
- Remember to enjoy your life regardless of circumstances.
“Take advantage of this restrictive time to clear clutter out of your basement, pull weeds in the garden, or get caught up on projects you’ve neglected for a while. It helps to have water-tight boundaries so you can focus on your job. Treat your work space as if it’s miles away. If possible, only go there to work. Keep it at arm’s-length after hours. Don’t allow intrusions to cause you to lose your focus or procrastinate: doing laundry, vacuuming, or organizing your spice rack. When not working enjoy other areas of your home: gardening, watching a good movie, reading a book, or cooking a fun meal. And lead as much of a full social life as possible such as having non-symptomatic friends over for dinner. Be creative and don’t let your circumstances dwarf your tranquility, happiness, or productivity. Your greatest power is your perspective. It can victimize you or empower you when you look for the upside in a downside situation and figure out what you can control and what you can’t and accept the things you can’t. That’s survival of the fittest.” — Bryan Robinson, author of #CHILL and more than 40 other nonfiction books and novels
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.
CELEBRATING 20 YEARS
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.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 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 RifkaKreiter.com.
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
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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: https://www.fuzzjunket.com/.
About the Book
St John Karp • January 24, 2017
ISBN: 978-0989263061 (Hardback) • $21.95
PRAISE FOR SKUNKS DANCE
“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
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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 www.marklefko.com.
Global 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. Salesforce.com, 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
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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
When fitness instructor Jane Schmidt moved from the city to rural Wisconsin, stories of her “single-girl-gone-country” adventures helped her become an award-winning columnist for the Crawford County Independent and Kickapoo Scout—and now she’s taking readers on a candid, insightful, and hilarious trip into her world with her new book, Not a Perfect Fit: Stories From Jane’s World (She Writes Press, April 11, 2017).
Not a Perfect Fit: Laugh-out-loud funny one minute and thought-provoking the next, Not a Perfect Fit includes stories detailing everything from Jane Schmidt’s experience living off-grid as the only English woman in an Amish neighborhood to family trips that are remarkably similar to National Lampoon’s Vacation. Through it all, Schmidt manages to rise above the many challenges she faces, inspiring and entertaining her audience along the way.
Filled with animal antics, gratitude, mishaps, and madcap adventures, Not a Perfect Fit’s tell-all, single-girl-gone-country, down-home stories give readers permission to laugh and cry—and, most important, to carry on.
Sheila Sherman (RealSmallTowns.com) celebrated the collection, saying “With humor, grace, and tenderness, Jane Schmidt gives her readers an entertaining peek into the layered life of a single mother, animal hoarder, and kick-ass fitness instructor—living a rustic life but still searching for the perfect wand of mascara and a respectable pair of jeans.”
JANE A. SCHMIDT is a columnist and the owner of two businesses, Fitness Choices and Turtle Adventures. When not teaching her fitness classes or encouraging women to get outside, she spends her time backpacking in places like the Grand Canyon, Superior Hiking Trail, and Isle Royale National Park; biking across Wisconsin; hiking and kayaking in the Kickapoo Valley Reserve; or just hanging out with her animal family in rural Viola, Wisconsin.
An interview with Jane A. Schmidt
1. When did you make the move from the city to rural Wisconsin? Why?
I moved to the Driftless area of Wisconsin after the hype of the millennium in 2000. I spent a lot of time driving in the country when my daughter was small. I’d see an old cabin or a house that was falling apart and I’d think, if only I could buy that place. My dreams were of land, out-buildings, animals, and a quiet country life. I longed to get out of the city and live closer to the land, where I felt I’d have more room for living.
2. How did moving to rural Wisconsin impact your life?
The impact was huge. I had to start all over. I had no friends here, no job, and after a couple of months I was living off-grid. The learning curve was not only steep but sometimes dangerous. I cooked with a head-lamp on in order to see. The “hot plate” was connected to a propane tank under my cabin. I lived in fear every time I lit a match. I thought I’d blow myself and the cabin up. Every day I learn something new. Like don’t use the John Deere mower to blaze a hiking trail through your Amish neighbor’s hay field. Before moving here I spent all my free time getting away. I’d drive to the parks, small country towns, lakes, and rivers. I was camping out every chance I had. Now I live in the kind of areas I was always running too. I can finally slow down and walk!
3. What is your favorite part about living in the country? Is there anything you miss about city life?
I lived in apartments before moving to this area. I love the freedom of living alone, surrounded by trees and my animal family. Coming from apartment city living to my own home in the country is liberating. I feel I can live-out-loud better here. I miss ethnic restaurants, my family, and the many lakes I lived near when in the Milwaukee area.
4. How does your passion for fitness and wellness influence your stories?
My passion for a life lived outside has influenced my interest in fitness and wellness. I knew from the get-go that I needed to stay fit and healthy to live the life I wanted to. My stories revolve around my life. My passion for fitness and wellness is reflected in them.
5. Why do you think readers connect with your stories?
My stories are real. I talk about everyday happenings that some people would never admit to. Reading about walking through an airport with toilet paper hanging off my rear end or mixing up the words circumcise and circumnavigate allows people to relax and find the humor in their own lives. In the end, we’re all just people trying to do the best that we can. Not a Perfect Fit reeks of humanness.
Former Tennessee Titans linebacker Tim Shaw’s unexpected diagnosis of a life-altering disease did not stop him from finding hope and advocating on behalf of those faced with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease. From participating in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge to living life to the fullest, Shaw’s story is one of hope not only for people battling ALS but for anyone aspiring to be more. “Blitz Your Life” (Jan. 3, 2017) is a story of overcoming fear and living life with a purpose.
Written with Belmont University associate professor Richard Sowienski, “Blitz Your Life” shares the way Shaw and the people in his life have changed each other for the better, challenging readers at the end of each chapter with a call for self-evaluation. With interviews ranging from leading entrepreneurs and business leaders, to musicians, to athletes, Shaw’s book shows how each and every person affects the people around them and calls each reader to set their bar a little higher and push a little harder to pursue their purpose—even when it seems impossible.
Whether you’re a football fan, battling difficult times or simply seeking inspiration, “Blitz Your Life” reaches into the hearts and minds of readers to tell them they’re made of more than their circumstances.
Former linebacker TIM SHAW’s seven years in the NFL included seasons with the Carolina Panthers, Jacksonville Jaguars, the Chicago Bears, and the Tennessee Titans. A graduate of Penn State, he also holds an MBA from George Washington University. Now an entrepreneur, Tim is a frequent speaker and supporter of ALS awareness. Blitz Your Life is his first book.
RICHARD SOWIENSKI is associate professor at Belmont University and directs the first undergraduate Publishing Program in the U.S. He’s held a variety of writing and editorial jobs, working for Better Homes & Gardens, Raising Teens, Country America, Successful Farming, and The Missouri Review. He and his wife Rola call Nashville home.
If you’ve ever dreamed of something more in life, this book is for you. Blitz Your Life is a collection of reflections and challenges from a former NFL linebacker who is living life fearlessly.
These powerful stories range from Tim’s time on the football field to the radically different life and goals that resulted from his diagnosis with ALS in 2014. Tim also shares stories of ordinary people who have faced everyday challenges and accomplished extraordinary things. Through his “whiteboard challenges,” he provides practical help takes readers on a road to success. From his NFL days to his support of ALS awareness, this fighter’s message is a courageous call to find and enjoy a life with purpose.
An Interview with Tim Shaw
What inspired you to write “Blitz Your Life”?
I knew that my life experiences were unique and I wanted to use those experiences to impact people in a positive way. I’ve actually known I was going to write a book for about 10 years, and I’ve always enjoyed writing. And I also wanted to do something that would last for a long time, not just be relevant in today’s day and age.
What message do you want people who read your book to receive?
I want people to embrace who they were made to be, as well as their unique gifts and talents. And with that, I want them to pursue a life that is full of passion. I want them to know that life is meant to be lived on purpose. Through this, I believe every reader can reach their maximum potential.
How has your ALS diagnosis changed your perspective on life? What would you say to others going through the same challenge?
ALS has really brought my focus to the things in life that matter the most, and more so eliminate those that don’t matter as much. Because of that I have been able to enjoy every day and make choices based upon what is most important right now, each and every day. To those experiencing similar challenges, I would tell them to focus on what’s most important. If they could choose the most important action all the time, then they will have no regrets.
How has your faith shaped your journey as a football player and ALS advocate?
My faith is my foundation and the thing that I can always count on to be there in good times or bad. With that, I was able to pursue football with all my heart. And now, with ALS, my faith has allowed me to utilize my diagnosis in a positive way, as I see this as an opportunity to reach and impact even more people than before.
Why did you include challenge sections at the end of chapters? What do you hope people will learn about themselves from them?
I don’t want people just to think about what I’ve written. I want to inspire action. The challenge sections will hopefully allow readers to ask themselves the hard questions and then transform their answers into meaningful change. By taking a closer look at who they truly are, I hope these questions lead them to the strength, courage, and clarity needed to live their life of purpose.
This is unlike a typical memoir in that you include interviews from Nashville-area business people and entrepreneurs. Why did you decide to include those?
I don’t consider this a memoir. My life has been blessed by others, so I feel it’s more impactful to share lessons from various walks of life. We all have a purpose to live. Your life is shaped by the people around more than you realize.
For people wanting to inspire and encourage others, what advice would you give them?
Be yourself. The most impactful people are authentic people.
Nationally-acclaimed author Donna Levin (Extraordinary Means and California Street) has been hailed as “a novelist to keep high on your reading list” by the Los Angeles Times, and her extraordinary reputation proves true yet again with the release of her newest novel, There’s More Than One Way Home ($15.99, Paperback, Chickadee Prince Books, May 1, 2017). The novel has already been praised by Kirkus, Foreword, and more, and follows a mother who faces increasing hostility and an uncertain future when her son Jack, a young boy with Asperger’s syndrome, is accused of killing a classmate.
Levin’s first novel, Extraordinary Means (William Morrow), was celebrated by Kirkus as a “a witty, clear-eyed debut,” and the San Francisco Chronicle described it as “an extraordinarily lively, funny novel.” The Los Angeles Times called her second novel, California Street (Simon & Schuster) “inventive…thought-provoking and fun to read,” and The San Francisco Examiner called it “a lifeboat in a sea of featureless fiction.” Both of Donna’s novels were optioned for film.
Donna taught fiction writing for two decades, most notably at the University of California Extension at Berkeley. In addition to her novels, she has published two books about writing, Get that Novel Started! and Get that Novel Written! (Writer’s Digest Books). Her work is included in the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center at Boston University and in the California State Library’s collection of California novels.
There’s More Than One Way Home: Anna Kagen seems to have it all: She’s young, beautiful, and married to a wealthy, prominent man. But within the walls of her San Francisco mansion, she spends her time dodging her husband’s barbs and hunting down potential friends for her son, Jack, a 10-year-old on the autistic spectrum. That old life suddenly seems idyllic when, on a school field trip, she makes the small error in judgment that sets in motion a chain of events that leads to another boy’s death. Suddenly Jack is a suspect, her husband’s career is in jeopardy, and Anna has to choose between loyalty to her son…and what may be her one chance at happiness.
A novel that Kirkus hails as “reminiscent of Liane Moriarty,” this compelling, challenging, and beautifully written story “deals substantively with issues like autism, and stands to appeal to a broad audience,” (Foreword Reviews, 4 Stars).
About the Publisher: Chickadee Prince Books is a young Brooklyn small publisher of acclaimed fiction and non-fiction. CPB publishes the Watt O’Hugh literary science fiction series, and in 2016 published the critical hit, Max’s Diamonds by Jay Greenfield. CPB will publish five new titles in Spring 2017.