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What is the favorite book you remember as a child?
Hands down, this would be Anne of Green Gables. This book is a tradition in the family. I have my original copy—printed in Toronto by The Ryerson Press—that was given to me as a Christmas present in 1960 from my Aunt Patricia.
What is your favorite book today?
This is a hard one! I would categorize my favorite book as a story about a woman who faces challenges and makes hard choices but who achieves self-awareness and a fulfilled life through it all. One that stands out is the historical fiction My Dear Hamilton about the life of Eliza Hamilton. For me, the most powerful aspect of this novel is Eliza’s awareness, in the end, of what makes a fulfilled life—a life of meaning.
Tell us about your current book in 10 words.
Blackhorse Road is a story of choices and consequences.
What are you reading right now?
I’m reading three books now. I try to mix it up with known and less known and independent authors. The first is The Pathfinder Diaries by Cory Belyea, who was a creative writing professor of mine. This is a compilation of stories about human connection, adventure, and friendship. If readers enjoy stories about friendship combined with a love of the sea, this is the book for them. The second is Early Warning by Jane Smiley, and the third is Murder in Mariposa Beach by less-known author Theresa Michael.
E-Reader or print? and why?
For several decades, my professional career involved computer information systems—so you’d guess that I’d like e-readers, and you’d be wrong. I love the print book in my hand. I like the feel and smell of the paper and details like a smooth or ragged trim. I like being able to put these treasures on my bookshelves—they are my companions that inspire me every day.
Dog-ear or bookmark? (don’t worry—Librarian Judith won’t hold it against you—much)
Oh, it is bookmarks! I have hundreds of bookmarks scattered through the house and in the books I’m reading. I like bookmarks with quotes on them and from places that I have visited so that when I open a book to read, I’m doubly inspired. (Of course, I have bookmarks for Blackhorse Road too.)
Favorite book you’ve read this year?
One book that continues to haunt me is The Home for Unwanted Girls by Joanna Goodman. This is a powerful historical fiction that delves into many cultural biases and the tragic story of Quebec’s impoverished orphanage system in the 1950s.
My favorite is women’s fiction and nonfiction. I love women’s diaries and letters, published and unpublished. This is a sampling of some on my bookshelf: Letters of a Woman Homesteader by Elinor Pruitt Stewart, Army Letters from an Officer’s Wife 1871-1881 by Frances M.A. Roe, Covered Wagon Women, Diaries and Letters from the Western Trails, 1850, and Women’s Diaries of the Westward Journey by Lillian Schlissel.
It’s the turbulent mid-1960s, and Luci, an eighteen-year-old Southern California girl, is on the quest for self-determination and new beginnings. Three powerful forces influence her values: the grit of her Irish great-grandmother, Lucinda McCormick; the philosophy of choice of her father, Sam; and the 1960s ideals of equity and altruism. But potent foes thwart Luci at every turn. Her budding romance with a handsome United States Air Force Academy cadet sets the stage for conflict and deception that last for two decades. When Luci discovers how her autonomy and love affair were hijacked, she struggles with anger and bitterness. But from a surprising source, she finds a forgiveness path that restores her well-being and hope and, in the end, faith in herself.
Uncertain what to make of Luci’s stillness, Barry brought his head close to hers and asked, “What are you thinking?”
Luci held back, still gazing ahead. She turned and drilled into Barry’s blue eyes. “I guess, using an Irish term, I could say, ‘What a bunch of malarkey!’” She drew back her lips in a saucy grin and weighed his reaction.
Luci’s response was unarming but charming. Barry laughed. “No one has ever told me in such a nice way that I’m full of bullshit.”
“Well, I guess there’s that!” Luci chuckled, then turned thoughtful. “Putting the ‘BS’ aside, I’d say the story is about choices, not a lovestruck fairy tale. It’s about risks and consequences and being true to your values. It’s about living who you are and not how someone else expects you to live.”
* * *
Barry put his arm around Luci’s shoulder, pulling her closer. He felt like beating his chest and announcing to the world he had the most beautiful girl in his arms. The lengths of their bodies touched each other, and Barry took in Luci’s scent. No girl had ever had such a powerful effect over him. In the past, emotion and sex had fueled his excitement. Now, those feelings mingled with wanting mutual fulfillment and creating an enduring relationship filled with love, joy, hope, amusement, inspiration, and even awe.
But a decade ago, informed by my experience in a male-dominated area, I started my practice as a leadership coach to help women break the glass ceiling and fulfill their leadership and economic potential. Consequently, during the past ten years, I transitioned from writing textbooks to motivational books on creating environments where people flourish through better leadership.
About a year ago, I was on a conference call discussing concepts of what makes a fulfilling life with fellow life coaches. Bang! Like a thunderclap, I had an insight. What would it be like to help people understand the concepts of a flourishing life in a story instead of through a motivational book or text? After all, I thought, storytelling has been the most compelling form of communication for thousands of years. As far as I could recall, none of the great prophets fed up learning objectives and multiple-choice questions to their followers. No! They got their message across through stories.
Motivational books and textbooks give frameworks, theories, and ideas, but they don’t immerse us in the human experience. They don’t show us how others face challenges, embrace their passions, overcome sorrow, celebrate achievement, quash self-doubts, develop positive emotions and relationships, handle betrayal, or act on aspirations.
Storytelling ignites our imagination and emotion. We experience being part of the story rather than being served up a platter of facts, exercises, and information.
This eye-opener was enough for me to take on the challenge of novel writing. My passion is to help people catapult beyond concepts and theories and jump into the wonderment of imagination in designing a flourishing life for themselves. Storytelling does this best.
Happily, as a fiction writer, I have jettisoned learning objectives and test questions. Ah…the freedom makes me feel as light as a balloon on a summer breeze.
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