A Chat With Steph Young

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In the sort of “perfect” world the mothers of an earlier generation envisioned for their daughters, every “meet cute” that transpired in a laundromat would magically end up in a fairy tale wedding, every blind date set up by well intentioned friends would be Hugh Grant and not Eddie Munster, and every man who ever whispered all the right words would actually fulfill them. In the wackily imperfect world of the 21st century, however, finding “Mr. Right” has more likely become a quest for “Mr. Right For Now” or a reluctant acceptance that maybe matrimony just isn’t in the cards one has been dealt.

In her new book, No One Plus One: What To Do When Life Isn’t a Romantic Comedy, author Steph Young embraces a mirthful message of female empowerment – that instead of lamenting you’re seated at a table for one, you should be happy that you neither have to share your dessert nor be chided about whether you’re cheating on your diet.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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Q: Why do you feel the message of your book is important, especially in an era where we’re constantly bombarded with messaging that we’re not meant to live our lives as singletons?

A: My friend Jill Dickman and I dated a lot and we were single all the time. Though we were still working through our own disappointments, our friends would always come to us for advice when they were newly single. The common themes were boredom and loneliness. The loneliness seemed to stem from a lack of self-confidence. They wanted reassurance that they were desirable – don’t we all?

Predominately media makes a fairytale ending seem like the norm, which becomes the ultimate success for women. Try to think of a movie – even those with strong female lead characters – that doesn’t end with a love connection. So when your life isn’t turning out like the movies, women tend to assume something is wrong with us. Jill and I recognized this and set out to tell women that it’s okay to be single. And while we are single, whether for 2 weeks or 10 years, we should still enjoy life, not pine away for a perfect relationship, which seems to be up to chance or luck anyway. We promote the idea of feeling complete as is.

Q: If you could time-travel, what would you most like to go back and tell your younger self about romance, sex and happily ever after?

A: I probably did tell myself this, or somebody did…But really, just stop worrying, analyzing, fretting. Time will take care of everything. We are all on the right path to where we need to go. Single or taken, life is to be lived so don’t waste time analyzing if somebody likes you back or not. Just keep it moving and do what makes you happiest. Another huge piece of advice that finally clicked for me recently is to stop beating myself up. So much energy is spent feeling bad for what’s not going right. This is the biggest time waste/energy suck there is. It has absolutely no positive value. It doesn’t make you feel better; it doesn’t motivate or inspire. It just makes you feel like shit. It was a hard shift to stop doing this, but once I got some mastery of it, my life changed.

Q: What’s the stupidest thing you ever did in the name of love?

A: I haven’t done many stupid things in the name of love, but when you fall sometimes insecurity seeps in and gets the best of us. One time I was fearful that a guy I was dating was sleeping with other girls, so one night I waited outside his house in my car to see if I could catch a girl coming in or out of his place. Now as an older, wiser me, I would handle this insecurity with good communication and getting up the guts to talk to him about it. Or if I felt he wasn’t showing me the kind of love that made me feel secure, I’d probably just stop seeing him. I really admire a friend of mine who moved to Europe in the name of love. She left her whole life and started over for a really, really nice guy. It’s been working out so far. They are now married and have lived together for four years. We all have different paths; we can’t judge our own life on somebody else’s. I don’t know if I would be able to take a leap like that but I love that she did. It’s all part of the adventure.

Q: What inspired you to put pen to paper (or rather, fingers to keyboard) and turn your perspectives about living an unapologetic single life into a book?

A: The book started on a whim. It happened one day when Jill and I were sitting in our living room (we were roommates at the time) and going through old journals and cracking up at our ridiculous dating stories. Then we said out loud, “We should write a book” and so it was. We put together an outline and some ideas that afternoon and picked it up every so often. The slow process lasted for years until we got serious about it last year and set the goal to complete and publish No Plus One.

I had no idea what writing a book would entail, and I really didn’t think it was going to be so hard. I don’t think all messages make for good books, but we agreed the story + “how-to” nature along with the homework would warrant a short and snackable book.

Q: What governed the decision to write a book from two people as one?

A: We initially started writing the book as a fictional story from one character’s point of view, however it wasn’t really coming together, so we decided to switch to a non-fiction, how-to / self-help style. Our stories were so similar, we felt it would be less confusing to the reader for us to seam our stories together rather than following two separate narratives. We also wanted to get to the heart of the issues rather than drag the reader through backstory and set up.

Q: Tell us a bit about how the day-to-day development process worked for both of you.

A: We worked really well over Google docs. When one of us would get stuck, we would hit the other up and say, “Can you pick this up?”  Since we knew each other so well, we could essentially fill in the missing pieces. We were friends for a long time and we had both lived through a lot of the stories together.

Another tactic that worked was when we’d jump on the phone while both of us were in the live Google doc and talk and write. That was really efficient because by working together we didn’t let writers block settle in for too long. Either the other person would pick up and write, or we could talk through what we were really trying to say. Talking out loud often helped us find the right words to write down.

Q: How do you manage to stay away from envy, ego or jealousy from getting in the way of your friendship/partnership?

A; It can be an easy to fall into the trap of wanting individual success or feeling resentful if you feel like you’re contributing more than another person. When we decided to finish the book, Jill and I clearly outlined our individual goals, desires, and expectations on how we wanted to contribute to the project and what we wanted to get out of it. We agreed that our number one goal was to get our message out. We weren’t using this platform to turn a huge profit or grow our personal platforms, though either of those would be an added bonus. We really believed in our message and wanted to help women. We also outlined a partnership contract that identified how we would split everything should we turn a huge profit. The important part of that process wasn’t necessarily having a signed contract, but rather working through the contract together. It gave us a forum to communicate. It can be awkward approaching a friend about a contract. It can seem insulting, like you don’t trust the other person, but I’ve been on the loosing end of a friendship agreement before, so I was happy to go through any awkwardness if it meant saving our friendship in the end.

Q: What was the greatest challenge during the creative process?

A: The biggest challenge was writer’s block. It’s really hard to make a streamlined and cohesive story, especially sustained over nine chapters. Getting the words on the page was difficult, editing and re-writing parts that didn’t make sense was even more painful. Being persistent was also really hard. It took over a year of intense and consistent writing and editing. I have a full time job so the time I would write was at five o’clock in the morning. Getting up and doing this everyday was a challenge but it soon became habit.

Q: What do you know now that you didn’t know when this journey toward publication began?

A: I didn’t know how long the marketing process would be. Books are different than other products because the word of mouth is much slower. People need to read the book before they pass it along. So after a year of marketing we are still gaining interest and audience, we haven’t reached a tipping point yet, but I know with consistency of messaging we will find the right fans. With a traditional publisher, they will typically do a big marketing/PR push for you at the beginning. I talked to people who had gone the traditional route and still were not satisfied even though they had a big publisher behind them. They also had less control of the outcome. The decision to self-publish meant we had to do all the work, but we also control all the profit as well. We also can continue hitting new audiences and trying new marketing tactics long after the launch.

Q: Did you ever encounter writer’s block along the way? If so, how did you get past it?

A: All the time. Writer’s block, frankly, sucks. One tactic we used was to talk through it. I would call Jill or she me, and we’d say what we were trying to say. By the time we had talked for five minutes, we had formulated the words and could continue writing. Another tactic is free-form writing. When you can’t find the right words, sometimes just writing any words, even if they don’t make any sense, can get you past writer’s block. The last part is to read. When I run out of inspiration I remember to look outward. Sometimes I’d find the nugget I was missing while exploring other articles, books, artwork, etc. Also, the same goes for getting out of your house to experience the real world. Our life experiences give us insights that we use, so it’s important to take time out to go get some new material and perspective.

Q: Tell us about the decisions you made regarding a publisher once the book was done.

A: We made the decision to self-publish before we completed the book. Often when pitching to a traditional publisher, you don’t need the final manuscript, you need a pitch. Early on we pitched our project to literary agents and got a few bites, but after a year of this we grew impatient of the process. We decided that getting the message out was far more important than signing with a publisher so we set on self-publishing. It’s a much more involved process, and I wouldn’t recommend it to anybody who doesn’t have an interest in anything business minded. If you only enjoy the writing process, I would suggest trying to find a publisher (even a small one) who can help with the publishing details. I personally love business and new projects, so it was something I wanted to dive into. There is a huge learning curve, so it was important to give myself time and do a ton of research throughout the process.

Q: What has been the response by your readers?

A: The response has been more fulfilling than either of us imagined. While I feared scrutiny, mostly I just wanted to make sure people “got it.”  It was really important to have the message land. We wanted women, and especially single women, to feel good. We designed the book from the format to the length to do just that. When I see comments or reviews and women say that single or not, they’ve gained a sense of empowerment or self-confidence, it fills my heart. It means a lot that our message and experiences can directly connect with somebody and impact their life. I believe in paying it forward and in the power of positivity, so I feel good knowing that I’m spreading positive messaging around in the world.

Q: What are you doing to promote this title and which methods have yielded the most success for you?

A: We’ve run the gamut to promote No Plus One. The biggest goal is awareness, so all marketing is done with that in mind. I’ve got a great PR person who continuously reaches out to get placements and features. I worked on an influencer seeding strategy using my personal relationships. I also write articles to promote my book along with other articles that are a cut down of the book to help find and hook potential new readers. The most effective network I have are my Facebook friends and family. They are the most supportive and engaged audience. I’ve also tried paid tactics like FB and Twitter ads as well as iAds, but these aren’t my favorite methods. All the tactics should be done in tandem to be really effective. Writing for platforms, like Thought Catalog or Mogul, plus PR and influencer seeding have been the most effective.

Q: What do you feel sets your book apart from similar self-help titles about relationships?

A: Most other self-help focused was on how to change your behavior to remedy being single (i.e. find a relationship). Our book focuses on discovering the beauty in being single and feeling confident in yourself so that you are comfortable being single. It neither promotes finding a relationship or being single, it just recognizes that being single is a special phase that we can all benefit from.

Q: Are you currently writing full-time or does another career absorb a lot of your waking hours?

A: I have a full-time, well, more than full-time job in marketing. All my writing happens early in the morning. It was a huge commitment to get this book done while working the hours my day job requires. I bordered on the verge of obsession. I needed to set a really aggressive goal in order to finish. For about a year I woke up at 5 a.m. to write for as long as I could before I needed to get ready for work. Other times, I’d spend all weekend writing. I don’t write the best at night, but even sometimes, I pined over chapters just to stay on my self-imposed schedule.

Q: When and where do you do your best and most energizing creative thinking?

A: I love writing first thing in the morning. I pour some coffee and sit in front of my windows and just write. The Internet is a really distracting place, though, so I do my best not to get sucked into mindless surfing while on my computer. I also found that putting on vibey, calming music was really effective. I loved the idea of working before the rest of the world was up.

Q: What would our readers be the most surprised to learn about you?

A: That I am actually quite good at my day job in marketing, which has little to do with writing self-help. I’ve become somewhat of an industry expert in digital marketing based on the portfolio I’ve built with the brand I work for.

Also, I didn’t really start writing before I wrote my book. The extent of my writing was journaling or the occasional blog post. Writing the book made me feel comfortable enough to call myself a writer.

Q: What’s next on your plate?

A: I’m starting a new job in brand marketing in a few weeks. I’ll be heading up a team so that will be an entirely new challenge in leadership. I’ve been taking a breather from writing so I hope to start up again in a really authentic, no-filter style for a new project. I am also working on a screenplay – which I have no idea how to do.

Q: Where can readers learn more about you?

A: Following me on Twitter or Snapchat (@StephYoungMC) is a really quick and unfiltered look at who I am as a person. I also write a lot of articles on onMogul.com; I can be reached on any of those platforms if anybody has questions. I’m always happy to help other writers / entrepreneurs.

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: Don’t ever be afraid to go after your dreams.

 

 

Business and Baby at Home!

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I’m really pleased to introduce and welcome Australia’s Sarah O’Bryan, author of Business & Baby at Home! More than just an author, Sarah walks the walk of a savvy “mumpreneur”, as she juggles three young children at home while continuing to build her home based business, Lasso Creative, as a Graphic Designer. As if that weren’t enough, Sarah is also comfortable in the media, engages audiences during her public speaking talks, and writes insightful, helpful articles in various publications, websites, and blogs. In today’s interview, we get the chance to know a little more about this fascinating woman.

Interviewer: Debbie A. McClure

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 Q Sarah, could you please tell us a little bit about yourself and what lead you to write for and about work-from-home entrepreneurial mothers?

I’ve always been a firm believer in creating your own blueprint and leading with passion in life. I guess that’s why my husband and I were knee-deep in a gigantic dream-home reno at the same time I moved Lasso Creative into my home studio, and gave birth to my first child. Similarly, my third babe was born on the cusp of my book launch. I juggle the latest design project alongside the world that is Business & Baby at Home (Finch Publishing, 2013). This includes an appearance on the Today Show, contributing to numerous magazine features on the topic, and writing articles for Australia’s biggest women’s network, Business Chicks. Business and Baby at Home (Finch Publishing) is an extension on the way I run my business. It’s my way of passing on inspiration, innovation and the business acumen that I use to build my brand on a daily basis. The book is a set-up and survival guide for work-from-home parents, with a positive and engaging message that I believe is vital in today’s society.

Q What would you say has been your most difficult personal or professional lesson to learn?

I’m very ethical in everything I do, whether personal or professional and I’ve always had the natural assumption that others will behave the same way. It’s tough when you have to work with people who don’t share the same values. You’re left feeling let down and disappointed. I’ve learnt that it comes down to being mindful, and accepting jobs where values align for both parties.

Q If you could invite any two people to dinner, who would you choose, and why?

Frida Kahlo was a game-changer and has always fascinated me. She lived by her own set of rules, was a true artist and an amazingly resilient human being. I really admire resilience in a person. I would also invite Oprah Winfrey, because she’s such a wealth of information on life and business, has amazing connections, and is a true beacon of success. We share a common trait… she also loves food, so the table would be abundant, the music playing and the drinks flowing.

Q We all have aspects to our lives or our selves that aren’t well known. Could you share something about yourself that not many people know?

Most people tell me that I’m really relaxed and laid back, but it’s really the opposite. My mind is constantly ticking over, brainstorming new ideas and dreaming up my next goal in life.

Q As a woman on the move, I’m sure you have many, but what would you consider is/was your greatest WOW moment, and why?

Seeing the words of how my life works in print which lead to chatting to the stunning Lisa Wilkinson on the Today show, one of our national breakfast programs here in Australia. Being on set with the cameras, lights and crew was such a buzz! I was called on as an advocate for working from home and having that all-too-frightening discussion with your boss negotiating the move. It was new, challenging, and I felt completely in my element.

Q We seem to be seeing a global trend in this area, but why do you think so many women are choosing to work from home?

I think there are a few factors at play regardless of where you live. The first is the rise in the cost of living, real estate prices are sitting at an all-time high, and the weekly family food shop is an expensive exercise. For many, it’s just not an option to be a stay-at-home mum. Secondly, I think women want to retain some independence, and have an interest beyond motherhood. A lot of us enjoy our chosen professions, and want to stay connected with it. Others find becoming a mum is the inspiration for starting a new business. Plus, the world is changing, it’s now more acceptable to work from home, or create more unique work practices. Technology is continually evolving to support flexible work arrangements.

Q Working from home can seem like the ideal dream job, but what do you think are the biggest obstacles new “mumpreneurs” face and aren’t prepared for?

A lot of mums tell me they don’t feel supported by their partners or family and friends. In some cases, there’s an attitude that what they’re doing is not a proper job; particularly in the early days, when the business may not be making a huge profit. Support is very important. I talk in the book about adopting an equal-parenting approach, but also an equal approach to all the responsibilities of running the household. The other factor I’ve found is having the determination to persevere, even when you feel disillusioned. You can often hit roadblocks or speed-bumps, and it can be tougher than you think to get the business moving.

Q Time management and scheduling have to be the cornerstones for any successful entrepreneur. Could you give us an example of what a regular day for you looks like, and how you juggle all the various demands?

My day always starts with a cappuccino! I then get the older kids ready for school, and all the other usual family demands in the morning. Once the school run is done, and the baby is settled, I check my current work-in-progress schedule to figure out my priorities for the day. Then it’s all about ticking off the to-do list! I may design a new logo or brochure for a client, respond to a journalist or pop some material on Facebook or Instagram. I use my little one’s sleep schedule as blocks of work time. It’s great for client phone calls and is a really productive way to work, as you know you have a deadline the moment the baby wakes. By the afternoon, I’ve made progress. I always make time for some afternoon tea, park or play time with the kids. If my husband is home on time, he’ll make dinner and do a few household chores while I play tag and head back into the studio to finish any major projects off. It took a while for us to get the balance right, and while every day is different, we always end the day with dinner at the family table.

Q What do you think are some of the mistakes people make when starting out, and why?

The old saying, ‘do what you love, love what you do’ is a huge factor in finding success. Do something you’re passionate about because this is what will keep you motivated when you lack enthusiasm or are feeling exhausted. People often forget that whilst they may look like it on the surface, not many businesses are over-night success stories. Years are spent planning, working, networking and building businesses, and hopefully it’s done with joy in people’s hearts because they are doing what they love to do.

Q Really making any new business a long-term success is tough. What do you think is the secret to success for those who choose to work from home while raising a family?

I’ve found one of the biggest issues is knowing when to switch off. I know for me, a huge amount of self-discipline is required to not constantly check my phone, or think about the design project I’m working on. It’s really important on many levels to know when to take the work hat off, or vice versa, take the parent hat off when you’re working. It’s about being present, living in the moment, when your children are telling you about their day, or being completely on task when you’re working to meet a deadline. Work/life balance is never achieved, it’s just maintained.

Q Everyone wants to know; what are some of your best tips for mothers who want to successfully run their business from home, while still being a hands-on parent?

Keep a work-in-progress (WIP) list at all times so you have a record of your jobs. Update this throughout the day so that nothing slips through the cracks. Go over it at the end of your workday to help you switch off and relax, knowing that everything is in place. This also means you start your day with a clear direction of what needs to be done first.

Set reasonable lead times for yourself so that when you’re particularly busy you’re not overly stressed trying to deliver on time. It’s better to surprise a client by getting a job done early rather than it being late. If it’s taking longer than you expected, retain clear communication with the customer, assuring them you’re doing the best you can and that they’re a top priority.

Set short and long-term goals for both personal and professional achievements. These may be setting financial benchmarks, acquiring a number of new clients, or getting to Pilates once a week. It’s a huge encouragement and as you tick them off they give direction to keep you on track for where you want to go.

Maintain a strong routine that enables you to get your work done. A lack of routine can result in shapeless and unproductive days with no progress. We all know as a parent, you can get to the end of a day and think where did the time go? So create and stick to a routine that works for you and allows blocks of time that you’re working through your WIP.

Q How can we connect with you in social media?

Website: www.businessandbabyathome.com.au

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/businessbabyathome

Instagram: SarahOBryan_

Twitter: @SarahOBryan_

Thank you so much for your time today, Sarah! You’ve given us some great insights, tips, and encouragement on women/mothers working from home. Congratulations on the success of your book, Business & Baby at Home, and we wish you all the best in your future endeavours!

 

Editorial Note: Sarah O’Bryan is also one of over thirty experts featured in the newly released Office for One: The Sole Proprietor’s Survival Guide. (https://www.createspace.com/5029312)

 

 

The Seven Things Your Team Needs to Hear You Say

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“The best executive,” wrote Theodore Roosevelt, “is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” Suffice it to say during all of the years I was employed by someone else, there was only one boss I ever had who fit T.R.’s definition of quality leadership. Woefully, the rest were either manic control freaks and paranoid blame-gamers or women that were gung-ho about teamwork and upward mobility…until, that is, they crossed over into managerial positions and promptly pulled the drawbridge up behind them.

Such are the individuals who could benefit mightily from David M. Dye’s new book, The Seven Things Your Team Needs to Hear You Say. Targeted to leaders and managers, this how-to guide is packed with practical and encouraging tools for cultivating energized, responsible, and results-oriented teams.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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Q: With 20+ years of experience in multiple business sectors – including nonprofits – who would you say had the greatest influence in honing your professional skills (and passion!) for leadership and employee engagement?

A: I’ve always believed that the very best life-textbooks we have are when things don’t go well. I’ve had some excellent leadership mentors, but often the people who weren’t very good taught me the most and helped me honed my own professional skills. My passion often came from realizing what would be possible if only the leadership was more effective.

Q: How has your mindset changed and evolved from how you originally approached leadership issues and how you address them now in consultations with your clients?

A: When I was young, I went searching for the secret to changing people (naïve, I know!). Of course, as I matured, I came to understand that the only person you are responsible for is you. Consequently, my approach to leadership shifted from fear, power, and control to real engagement based on taking responsibility for myself and the environment I create for the people I lead.

Q: Once upon a time, individuals fresh out of college (or even high school) would go to work for the very first company that hired them, climb the promotional ladder, and remain there until the day they retired. Nowadays, many students are not as wedded to the idea of corporate loyalty and, accordingly, view every job as a revolving door to somewhere else. How then, can today’s employers create an environment that will not only engage the members of their team but also provide incentives that will make them want to stay?

A: No team can thrive without trust. The tension you’ve described is a lack of trust between employers and employees. When neither group feels that the other cares about them, it is tough to build high performance organizations. The answer begins with something Stephen Chbosky, Writer and Director of Perks of Being a Wallflower, said: “The generation gap is nothing more than a conversation we haven’t had yet.”

People want similar things, but they want them in different ways. They want meaningful contribution, purpose, recognition, a feeling of growth, a sense of power over their own destiny, the opportunity to use their strengths in meaningful ways. These express themselves in different ways in different people…so start with conversation. What is important to you? What is important to them? Why are you both here?

Q: How do these principles of engagement and esprit de corps extend to the external teams with whom a company does business, especially, for instance, if their management practices are radically different?

A: It depends on the nature of the interactions. If an external group is going to be closely related to day-to-day operations, you want to be very careful about doing business with someone whose values are very different from your own. More generally, however, treat those individuals and their teams consistently with your own values and practices without judgment or criticism. You may even change how they do things.

Q: What are some of the most common mistakes that managers make under the umbrella of “Motivation”?

A: Band-Aids!

What I mean by Band-Aids is when manager becomes aware that there is a motivation or morale problem and they respond with a team bowling day or a pizza party. The team collectively rolls its eyes and now feels even worse. Why?

They feel worse because now the manager is essentially telling them, “I’m not going to address the real issue. In fact, you must now feel better because we did something ‘fun’.”

This is so demotivating. Fun is only fun when fundamentals are sound. If there are broken systems undermining productivity, having a pizza party is like slapping a Band Aid on an infected wound without first cleaning it, disinfecting, and getting stitches.

Q: Is leadership a natural born talent or one that can only be learned through hands-on experience?

A:  It’s not an either/or, it’s a both/and. Leadership has many components and most everyone is born with strengths in one or two areas. Effective leaders learn their skills and acquire ability through study, mentors, and experience.

Q: There are lots of leadership books on the market but you’ve approached the topic very differently. How did you come upon the idea of the ‘things your team needs to hear you say’ as a structure for your message/book?

A: Above all, I want the tools I share to be practical – something you can read during lunch and apply as soon as you return to your team. I focused on what leaders say because words are an easily modified behavior, because words work, and because what we say is often the start of further behavior change.

Q: You’ve included a number of individuals and stories in your book. Was there one in particular that profoundly touched your heart and made you say, “Wow”?

A: I share a story about a time my daughter asked why nothing she does is good enough. It is difficult to share, even now, how impactful that was. It goes back to why I focused on what leaders say: our words have incredible power, either to create or devastate.

Q: What’s the first thing you hope your readers do after finishing your book?

A: I hope the first thing readers do is tell themselves, “You can do this!”  The second thing would be to pick a phrase and share it with their team.

Q: What prompted you to launch Trailblaze and what are its core objectives?

A:  We have thousands of years of leadership wisdom available to us and yet 2/3 of Americans say they’d prefer a better boss to a raise in pay.

Clearly, there are so many leaders in need of practical wisdom they can apply in a fast-paced, pressure-filled environment. I launched Trailblaze to provide leaders, managers, and supervisors with practical tools they can use to get more done, build teams that care, and meet their goals.

Our core objective is to help leaders be effective at what they do. I think of my work as a “force-multiplier” for all the wonderful vision, passions, and energy people bring to their jobs.

Q: If you had to summarize your message on a billboard, bumper sticker or tweet, what would it say?

A:

Everyone’s a volunteer.

Lead to bring out the best, not wring out the worst.

Be the leader you want your boss to be.

Q: Where can readers learn more about you and your book?

A: My website is http://trailblazeinc.com.

For more about the book, check it out on Amazon or get more information at http://trailblazeinc.com/7things

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: Imagine what can happen when people take responsibility for their corner of the world and work with those around them to make a better tomorrow. I invite you to be one of those people!

 

The Seven Things Your Team Needs to Hear You Say is available on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback formats.

 

 

How to Prepare Your Young Child for Success in School

How to Prepare Your Young Child for Success in School

I often consider myself fortunate to have been a toddler in a pre-technology age. Yes, there was radio and television but they figured only minimally in terms of educating me or keeping me mindlessly entertained. I also seem to recall that my favorite toys were sans batteries and that I could be mesmerized for hours with “talking” sock puppets, blowing bubbles, making hand-shadows on the walls, collecting fallen flower petals, and turning the pages of a colorful book as the nearest available parental read out loud to me.

As a result of these experiences – all of which were “free” – I knew how to read, write, talk up a storm, color pictures and do simple math before I ever started school. Margaret Welwood’s book (available through SmashWords) may be small in terms of page count but it packs a pleasant punch of happy memories and serves as a reminder to today’s parents, grandparents and guardians that the very best thing they can spend on the little ones in their lives is Time. It’s a message that can’t be repeated often enough, especially the concept of carrying on conversations with toddlers even though logic might otherwise tell you that they haven’t a clue about, oh say, what the national deficit, global warming, or supply side economics even means.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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Q: Let’s start with your background as an educator and ESL instructor. During the 25+ years you worked with immigrant families, were there any differences you observed between the passion they exhibited to give their children the best learning opportunities versus the mindset and expectations of non-immigrant parents?

A:  An interesting question. I would say that in my experience most parents want the best for their children and will sacrifice to provide for them. However, some of the refugees I worked with had suffered so terribly in their home countries that I believe they had a heightened appreciation of what it means to be Canadian. They were truly grateful for the opportunities their children would have here.

Others, whom we would term “economic refugees,” gave up good positions in their home countries so their children could have a better life here. One young woman told me that in her country she didn’t have choices. “Here,” she said, “I have choices.”

Q: What attracted you to the topic of early learning?

A: I’d worked with children off and on for years. When I wanted to promote our college’s English as a Second Language program for adults, a freebie on the website on how parents could help their children learn seemed like a good idea.

Q: What are some of the most significant changes you’ve seen in this field?

A: My early work with children consisted of teaching nursery school, Sunday School and English as a Second Language. In later years I worked as a teacher aide with Canadian students who had special needs. Thus I can’t really speak to how curriculum and delivery have changed, but I will note another important facet.

That is the emphasis on safety and security. There were no peanut-free schools when I started out. Fire drills yes, lockdown procedures no. And no signing in and out at the day care. I was so impressed with the director of Tommy’s after school care. I used to pick him up about once a week. Once I picked him up two days in a row, and the director asked, “Is he staying with you now?” They don’t miss much!

Q: What do you feel distinguishes your approach to early learning tools and techniques?

A: I believe that’s what is in the book is simply common sense, based on shared experience and solid research.

Q: Define the desired takeaway value of this book for your readers.

A: I think that for conscientious and aware parents and caregivers much of the value may be in being able to say, “I’m doing most of these things. I’ve got it right!” But there may be a couple of surprises. I’m really intrigued by the link between learning a second language and delaying Alzheimer’s symptoms, and the possible link between excessive screen time and autism.

Other parents, particularly young ones, may find a lot of new information that they can use from day one.

Q: Throughout the text you’ve incorporated wonderful pictures rather than using stock photos. Why?

A: None of the pictures except the cover one were taken with the book in mind. I looked through some very attractive—and free—stock photos, but they all looked so posed. They didn’t fit with my theme of using everyday experiences and no-cost or low-cost activities.

Q: Tell us about your prior writing/editing experience.

A: I started writing freelance newspaper and magazine articles, then edited a business magazine and a Writer’s Digest award-winning book on diabetes education.

Q: How did you get into writing picture books for children?

A: My grandchildren, Tommy and Tina, were the impetus. They like me to read them stories, but there’s something special about making up our own. Tina even missed her school bus one day while she and I were engrossed in our story about a bug hotel! And once Tommy called, very sad, and said, “I think what would help me is a really funny story.” I did a take on Jack and the Beanstalk using his house, and it helped to distract him from his sorrow.

Q: The best writers were often voracious readers growing up and have simply carried that thirst for reading into adulthood. Would that apply to you?

A: Yes. I really liked science fiction. My mother used to park me in the book section of The Bay while she did her shopping, and I worked my way down a series of SF books.

Q: What and who were some of the books and authors that especially resonated with you?

A: Marooned on Mars by Lester del Rey and French-Canadian fairytales. I also read non-fiction books about astronomy. The Stars Are Yours by James S. Pickering was an inspiration. I bought a telescope, and my friends and I had a space club.

Q: I’m assuming you read aloud to your children when they were toddlers?

A: Oh yes, and years after they were toddlers, too.

Q: As crucial as this bonding experience is between a parent and child, a lot of today’s moms and dads who are dual wage earners or are single heads of households lament that they just don’t have enough time to read aloud, much less play games. What impact does this have on a child when s/he starts school?

A: Some older teachers say that kids aren’t as smart as they used to be. I think part of that is the need for faster and flashier stimulation than a book affords. Yet, earlier this year as a volunteer story reader at a day care, I found that the children were, in general, very good at listening to stories. I also never saw a TV on there.

Reading and playing with children is important, but I believe that a lot is also accomplished through solitary and group play with generic toys that encourage creativity.

Q: Every year there seems to be a strong push to get technology into the hands of children at a younger and younger age. In your view, what are the pros and cons of this approach to early learning?

A: Pro—it’s the way our world is, and children need to be ready for it. Also, some learning technology is highly interactive. I’m attempting to learn French with a free online program and a set of DVDs I’ve borrowed from the library, and I think they’re pretty effective.

Con—I think some children are less able to entertain themselves or to pay attention to what’s going on around them. And they are losing the ability to interact with others through play. I see these as real losses, and I’m always encouraged when parents limit screen time.

Q: Writing is a solitary pursuit. Do you allow anyone to read your work while it’s in progress or do you make everyone wait until it’s completely done?

A: Allow?? I insist! I love getting feedback.

Q: You’re giving your book away for free and yet this still requires marketing efforts on your part to let parents, grandparents and guardians know that it’s available. What steps are you taking to accomplish this?

A: I’ve posted a link on my website. There are several links to the book on my g+ page because I’ve posted it on several communities. I offer it to people I meet who show interest in the topic—and I ask people like you and The Edimath for reviews!

Q: What’s next on your plate?

A: The artist is coloring the pictures for Scissortown and then the marketing will begin in earnest, hopefully this month. (I have a reading at the Christian school booked for Jan. 27.) I’m also doing a course on Google AdWords.

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: The e-book, Scissortown, and other books to follow are expressions of my love for my grandchildren and our enthusiasm for stories.

Q: Where can readers learn more about you?

A: Please visit Writing Books for Children to learn about my writing journey, Grandma’s Treasures to learn about Tommy and Tina, the inspiration for my stories, and Grandma’s Bookshelf for a video about Scissortown, a link to my free e-book, and reviews of books I like.

 

The Secret Blueprint to More_______* (fill in the blank)

Chris_M._Sprague_headshotWhat if you were empowered to have more free time and energy, get important things done quickly and more efficiently, and eliminate the barriers to success?  In his new book, The Secret Blueprint to More_____* (fill in the blank), author and motivational speaker Chris M. Sprague reveals that you already possess the tools to move mountains, pursue your dreams, and positively impact the lives of others. It all gets down to understanding how, exactly, you’re uniquely wired.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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Q: Let’s start with an overview of the academic and professional journey that got you to where you are today.

A: My journey (like many others) has been full of twists and turns.  Going beyond the academic, I started out with dreams of being a professional bowler with a back-up plan of working in radio, television and film.  I began both acting and bowing at the age of 5 and by the time I was 16, I had already been accepted to the #1 bowling college in the nation which also happened to have a great mass communications program.   I ultimately decided not to attend college right out of high school to continue my disc jockey/entertaining career.  Over the next few years, I moved around from job to job trying to make ends meet and eventually made my way into a corporate job with an Information Technology company.  In total, I took a 15-year detour from my passion and purpose of inspiring and empowering people’s lives.  At the end of my corporate career, I went through two layoffs in two years.  I then spent 12 months of trying unsuccessfully to get back into the workforce.

That’s when I made the commitment to start my own business.  A few months before I started my business, I had joined John C. Maxwell as a Founding Partner in his coaching, teaching and public speaking certification program.  At first, I attempted to use the training as a way to show prospective employers that I was pursuing personal growth and not just sitting around all day waiting for things to happen.  However, it didn’t help.  What I have figured out now is that going back to Corporate America was never what I was meant to do and that God had bigger plans for me.  Over the course of the past 2 ½ years, I have begun to bring together all of my life experiences (the best teacher) and realize that many people out there are in situations similar to what I’ve been through and they can benefit from my mistakes.  The biggest part of my journey that I feel can help people is the discovery of how people are wired.  I say this because, discovering how I am wired – and discovering that everyone can and should understand their own wiring – was the seminal moment in my life and business that changed everything.

Q: Who were some of the people that inspired you when you were growing up and what lessons did they impart which became incorporated in your personal blueprint for success?

A: This is a tough one.  Before the age of 18, I don’t remember too many people (other than Jesus) inspiring me.  The things I incorporated from Him into my life were, being a man of my word, always trying to help others and standing up for what I believed in even if the world doesn’t think I’m right.  When I think of someone inspiring, I think of someone that I say, “I want to be like” or, “This person is a great example”.  I believe part of my challenge growing up was that I never let anyone inspire me.  As I moved into adulthood, the first real inspiration I can remember was Anthony Robbins.  Granted, this inspiration was also coupled with some skepticism (let’s face it, I only knew him through his late night infomercials).  However, I felt that if his story was true and he did what he said he did, then there was hope for me!  The biggest lesson I learned from Tony is that we all have a great power within us and we just need to understand how to harness and unleash it.  If I (and the people around me) would have understood how I was wired earlier on in my life, I believe I would have had more inspiring people around me and I would have been more open to inspiration.

Q: Who do you most admire today for the way they in which live their lives, run their businesses, and/or take risks to push the envelope?

A: It would be a three-way tie among Jesus, Steve Jobs and Richard Branson.  Each of these people were/are calculated risk takers and quick decision makers.  The best thing to do if you’re going to fail is fail quickly and then move on to the next challenge.  I can also identify with the way each of them is wired.  Jesus was wired to be a servant leader (and so am I).  Steve Jobs was wired to push the envelope (and so am I).  He was also wired to know when people needed a push to get things done (and so am I).  Richard Branson is wired to be the ultimate risk-taker (and so am I.  However, my risk-taking side is still being un-pasted.)   This concept of removing the paste covering your wiring is something for another article.

Q: When did you first know that becoming a published author was a goal you wanted to pursue?

A: Until 2012, I didn’t think I was wired to be an author.  However, once I uncovered a way to unleash my creativity in written form, I realized that I was always wired to write.  However, my wiring had been pasted over (covered-up) by negativity though out my childhood/school years.

Q: Tell us about the inspiration behind your book.

A: There were two inspirations behind The Secret Blueprint to More (_____*).  The first was that I have always wanted to help people.  Since people learn in different ways, a book was a great way to reach people who love to read vs. people who love to learn by watching.  The second what that I knew I needed my own platform as a public speaker and that I needed to begin to set myself apart as an expert.

Q: How did you go about defining your target audience, developing chapter content, and organizing the requisite research?

A: Given that this book was meant to be applicable to everyone, I never really did nail down a specific target audience.  This is also an extension of how I am wired.  I (like many other people) don’t want to limit the people who this book will help.  I also feel that if I completely ‘niche’ a book, it will limit the audience the book will appeal to.  The good news is that, I am also wired to understand that now that the general book is written, niching it down is that next logical step.  As for developing chapter content, I just sat down and started writing.  I say this not to diminish the efforts of other authors who spend months and years writing their books.  I only say this to illustrate that, once you understand how you’re wired and match what you’re doing to your wiring, your roadblocks melt away.  As for the requisite research, all of the material from the book came from personal experiences.  So, it was just a matter of organizing my previous experiences into something readable.  I’ve also always been a people watcher and an investigator.  This led me to accumulate thousands upon thousands of hours of anecdotal research and findings.

Q: There’s certainly no shortage of books on today’s market about personal growth and empowerment. What do you feel distinguishes your own approach?

A: My current book is a collection of things I’ve used personally to get ‘more’.  These are not theories or ‘Gee I hope this will work’ types of things.  These are concrete steps that will produce results.  I have also kept these general and broad enough so that at least one thing in the book should match the way most people are wired.

Q: I love your fill-in-the-blank title! How did you come up with it?

A: Thanks!  It was based on a number of focus groups.  I had a few different titles.  All of my original titles were based around changing one’s mindset.  The people in the focus groups liked the original titles.  However, their feedback was that the general public wouldn’t be looking for things on shifting mindset.  They felt the general public would be looking for something more concrete.  Then, after Charlie McDermott wrote the forward for my book, the idea of The Secret Blueprint hit me.  Finally, I added in the More (____) when I realized that the topic in the book would lead people to more free time, more success, more happiness and a whole bunch of other ‘mores’.  Had I started off by niching down to one particular segment, it would have gone against my wiring and there would have been mental roadblocks stopping me from succeeding.  In fact, this is exactly what happened when I first started my business and everyone kept telling me I needed to niche to a particular group before I created my content.

Q: So what’s your own word to fill in that blank?

A: Peace.  Using the tips I laid out in the book, I have been able to reduce stress, frustration and have more time for doing the things I love.  To me, that brings me peace.  This is also an extension of how I am wired.  I am wired to look at things in detail, be able to explain them in detail and then bring them up to a very high-level and go from the 1-foot view to the 100,000-foot view.  The challenge for me (and people like me) is to not make things so board that they go from appealing to everyone to appealing to no one.

Q: Just as teachers often learn new things from their students, authors are often provided new insights about themselves in the course of penning a book. Was this the case with you as well?

A: Yes!  For me, it was the fact I could be an author.  I spent many years believing I didn’t have that ability.  Every time I tried to write a book, I would write a few paragraphs and then say, “Ok, I’ve told them everything.  No need to write anymore.”  What I didn’t realize until last year was that, if I just pretended to be speaking rather than writing and let the words come out of my fingers rather than my mouth, I had a lot to say!  Before this book, every time I started to write, I merely thought about writing.  Now, when I start to write, I imagine myself doing an interview or a stage performance and the words just flow.

Q: So many people in today’s society – but especially women – feel as if they have to “have it all” in order to say they have successful lives. When they fall short of that objective, they immediately label themselves as failures. What’s your response to this?

A: While we all fail sometimes, no person is a failure.  Every time you have a challenge and things don’t go as planned, you should use it as a learning experience.  If your challenges come early in your career or life, be thankful and remember – it’s much better to make your mistakes when nobody’s watching.  Each time you have a challenge or fail at something, it’s preparing you for future successes.  Much of how people react to failure either has to do with how they are wired or the paste they have let the world use to cover their wiring.  This is especially true for people whose wiring has been pasted over with the belief that they must ‘have it all’ to be a success.  This is where it gets interesting.  There are those who are wired to believe they must ‘have it all’ to be a success.  Those are those who make it look easy when they try to ‘have it all’.  For those people who struggle to ‘have it all’, most likely they’re doing things against how they are wired.  They have also bought into what the world says they need to do to be successful.  If they just went back and found out how they were wired, they would be able to have what they truly want and deserve.

Q: What are three things that people can do to adjust their mindsets and start improving themselves from the inside out?

A: The overarching thing is to uncover how you are wired.  This involves going back, way back to a time before the world began to paste over your wiring, cover it up and change you from who you were meant to be to who you are today.  To do that, here are three things people can do today to start moving down the path to uncovering your wiring.

1) Realize that it all starts with attitude.  Attitude is the only thing you have complete control over every day.  Establishing an attitude of success and making it a habit will help you get through the trying times.

2) Reflect and plan on a daily basis.  Each night, about 15 minutes before you go to bed, you should be reflecting on the day and planning for the next day.  That way, your subconscious gets all night to work on the best solution possible for the challenges you know you will face the following day.

3) Live in forgiveness.  People get too caught up in anger and in judging themselves and other people.  Living in forgiveness (forgiving yourself and others) is a happier and more peaceful way to live.  Waking up every morning and repeating the following affirmations will help put you in the right state of mind:

I am able to forgive myself.

I am able to forgive others.

I am able to forgive life.

I am able to forgive God.

I am one who lives in forgiveness.

Q: What part does timing play in the equation for personal growth?

A:  I believe that personal growth must be intentional and not accidental.  Therefore, in the strictest sense, timing has very little to do with personal growth.  However, the timing of events in your life can play a role in stunting your personal growth – if you let them.  That’s why intentionally growing and sticking to a personal growth plan is so important.

Q: How do you define your own purpose and passion in life?

A: I believe that we’re all endowed with a purpose and passion from God.  It manifests itself in our gifts and what we are naturally drawn to do.  My purpose and passion is to positively affect the lives of 10,000,000 people each year.  While I can see this clearly now, it took me many years to understand my wiring and to get back to living to my purpose and passion.  That is one of the reasons I’m on a mission to help people better understand themselves.

Q: If you had only one thing in the world to do, what would it be?

A: Be on stage speaking.  I love being on stage and speaking.  I love the interaction with people, how the energy flows and how, when things all line up, you and the audience become one.  Being on stage (or holding court as some of my friends call it) is where I’m at home, at peace, and doing what I was born to do.  From the time I was a small child, I was wired to share.  While many people chalked it up to me being talkative, what they didn’t realize is that it was more than merely being talkative.  It was a deep rooted desire to share.  It also brings about the biggest joy in my life, inspiring and empowering people to transform their lives.

Q: Are there any new book projects up your sleeve?

A: I am currently working on my next three books.  One is a follow-up to The Secret Blueprint to More, the second one is tied more closely to my research on how people are wired and the third is a deeply personal one about a journey I’ve taken in 2013.

Q: Where can readers learn more about you?

A: The best place is my website, http://chrismsprague.com

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: When you look at people who are succeeding and people who are struggling, one thing separates them.  The ones who succeed understand and utilize how they are wired.  The ones who struggle, don’t.   It’s that simple.  Understanding and utilizing your wiring is what took people like Oprah Winfrey and Loretta Lynn from poverty to the heights of their profession.  It’s what takes someone who cannot survive doing a technical job and makes them a great manager.  It’s what top-notch CEOs understand when they build their inner-circle.  It’s what allows incredible authors like Stephen King, Patricia Cornwell, John C. Maxwell and others to churn out new books year after year.  It’s what takes people from relative obscurity to fame.  To make this happen for you, I invite you to check out The Wired to Thrive Project.  The core of this project comes from material that has helped thousands and thousands of people from over 40 different countries around the world.  The Wired to Thrive Project will kick into high-gear in January 2014 with the goal of inspiring and empowering people to understand how they are wired and thrive.  The goal is to have 47 people preregistered for The Wired to Thrive Project by December 31st, 2013.  More information can be found at http://WiredToThriveProject.com

Master Shots, Volume 3

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Back when I was 10 and forced to endure a week of Girl Scout camp in the Pacific Northwest (for parental reasons that, frankly, still escape me), I recall a gaggle of us trekking into the woods on a quest for blackberries. “Do you think we’ll get lost?” one of my friends nervously asked. “No way!” I replied, proudly informing them that, “I have a compass!” It was new. It was shiny. It even had the official Girl Scout trefoil stamped on the back as testament to its authenticity.

The fact I had absolutely no clue how it was supposed to work – never having read the instructions which came in the box – was a moot point. Somehow, I thought, if (1) darkness fell in the forest, (2) bears started chasing us or (3) we came upon a strange village where no one spoke English, all I had to do was flip open the lid and it would magically tell me what turns to take in order to get us safely back to camp.

Technology, of course, has given us tools far more advanced than the humble compass. Movie cameras, for instance. Yet how often do the uninitiated fall into the trap of thinking that if they just point it at something, it will always yield picture-perfect results worthy of the finest cinematography?  For aspiring filmmakers of any age, Master Shots, Volume 3 by Christopher Kenworthy is a must-have title for their resource library. Here’s what he has to say on the subject.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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Q: You’ve had quite a “storied” career as a writer, director and producer. How did each of these roles in your creative journey come about and what would you have done differently if any of them were subject to a rewrite?

A: There’s story in everything I do. Whether I’m creating a tutorial, running a workshop or shooting a music video, there is story, and that’s what keeps it interesting.

I made films and wrote stories as a kid, but it’s difficult to know which came first. When I was 17 I decided I wanted to be a novelist, and spent the next 15 years working on that. While writing my second novel, I kept picturing the shots I’d use if I ever had the chance to direct. So I bought a camera and made a film based on my novel. Within a year I was making a living at film.

I did an OK job as a producer, but it wasn’t my calling. I can’t say that I regret it, because it’s made me a better screenwriter and director. Producing my own feature was a mistake. It was probably the only way to raise the budget, but it meant that by the first day of shooting I was already exhausted from 18 months of intense work. My directing wasn’t as good as it could have been, and I swore never to produce a large project again.

Q: Should wannabe cinematographers go to film school to learn their craft or just get a camera and start experimenting by trial and error on their own?

A: The only way to learn is to shoot. If people read the Master Shots books, and then hardly ever shoot, they won’t be able to put the ideas into practice. You need to get hold of a camera and shoot. If you find a film school that’s going to give you a lot of shooting time along with the theory, that’s a good thing. If you go it alone, make sure you read every book that’s relevant, and get onto as many film sets as you can. A good mentor is as good as any film school.

Be careful of being too precious. If you wait for the perfect time or the perfect budget or the perfect script, you’ll wait too long. Shoot something, anything, and shoot it well. So long as you have access to a camera and a handful of lenses you can learn a lot.

Q: What are the three most common mistakes in composition that beginners tend to make?

A: 1. Forgetting that good shots make the most of space by having a foreground, background and middle ground.

2. Over-focusing on the subject. The subject exists within a world, at a time and a place, in relation to other people, and the shot should show that.

3. Assuming that shooting handheld will give it a naturalistic look. It doesn’t. Handheld shots can work, but I get very tired of seeing camera operators hosepipe all over a scene, while claiming that this somehow reflects how we see the world. The same is true of bad lighting. Many newcomers think that underexposed is meaningful, when in fact it’s just dark.

Q: Can great work behind the lens make a mediocre actor look better and, conversely, can a poor job be to the detriment of a stellar performance?

A: When you’re working with weak actors, you can try to hide their lack of strength. By hiding their flaws you can make them look better, but only within certain limits. A wooden performance will still look wooden. You can do a lot in the editing room, but on set it’s difficult.

Ideally, you should rely on your relationship with the actor, rather than on a camera setup. Sometimes, though, no matter how good you are, the actors come up against the limit of their talent, and then your job is to shoot in a way that makes the scene work. To explain how to do this would require a whole book, but in essence you find the weakest point in their performance – whether it’s eyes, mouth, body language – and shoot in a way that emphasizes something else.

Brilliant performances are often lost due to poor camera setups, and because of traditional film-making approaches. Most of the time people shoot a wide master, then some medium shots and some coverage. By the time you get to the close-ups the actors have burned out or got bored. It depends on the actor, because some warm up over time, but many lose their energy. When that’s the case, you need to start with close-ups.

The best shots capture the space, the person within it, and let us see their entire performance. This is really what the Master Shots books are trying to show. How to shoot actors in a way that reveals the meaning and emotion of the scene.

Q: Alfred Hitchcock is credited as saying that the test of a good film is if you can watch it with the sound off and still be able to figure out the plot and the relationships. Can turning down the volume and, thus, not having the distraction of voices and music be instrumental in focusing on angles, distance, lighting and background/foreground elements?

A: This is something I’ve been recommending for years, but I never knew it was Hitchcock who first came up with the idea. It’s not always true, but I’ve found that most of my favorite films work without sound. A great example is Children of Men. The visuals are simple, but so strong, you can tell what’s going on from watching. When they’re hiding, you can see it. When they’re scared, escaping, doubting, or discovering a great secret, you see it all, without a word needing to be spoken. The same is probably true of Gravity, by the same director. It’s worth trying this with any film, though. Just about anything that Spielberg’s directed works without sound, so even if you don’t like his films they’re worth watching without the audio, to see how well he directs attention and lets the visuals do half the work.

Q: Which do you personally consider more of a challenge: to shoot a commercial, a music video or a full-length film?

A: There are always restrictions and there are always opportunities. The challenge with a feature film is holding an overall image in mind for months.

Commercials are generally easy because you’re working to such a tight template. The downside of that is there’s very little room for creativity.

Music videos tend to be quite easy, because you’re left to your own devices.

Q: What was the inspiration behind the Master Shots concept and how did it go from one book to a trio?

A: I’d always sensed that there was a hidden language that directors were using. Consciously or not, they were using setups and moves to create feelings. For years I wanted somebody to read a book that decodes these techniques so I could use them. When nobody wrote the book I wanted, I started watching three films a day until I was able to write Master Shots Vol 1.

It was so successful that it was published as a 2nd Edition. That’s the same book reprinted with enhanced images and a few revisions to the text. Then came Master Shots Vol 2, which looks at dialogue. I really wanted to write that book, because there is so much you can do to make dialogue interesting, to really tell the story and catch the performance. That book was a passion of mine. I loathe those scenes where actors look at each other and talk their lines out. I wanted to cure directors of that.

The popularity of those two books made me wonder if we could create a third, but only if it really went beyond the first two books. So I created The Director’s Vision, which looks at the more advanced setups, so you can learn to create your own signature style. Without style, you don’t get hired, so this is a book that can help directors to make a real breakthrough.

Q: Tell us about the transition you made to an ebook format and how the latter expands on what is already some very comprehensive content.

A: The first two books were made available on the Kindle, but that was just a way of reading the same books on a tablet. We wanted to do something much more inventive, using video to illustrate the shots.

So we took the best 75 shots from the print books, filmed them, and made three enhanced eBooks: Master Shots: Action, Suspense and Story.

The eBooks aren’t meant to replace the print books, but they give you a deep insight into the workings of the shots. Even if you’ve read the books, they can help you decode the shots. If you’ve never read the books, it gives you the core techniques in a much more immediate way.

Q: Despite the fact that movie cameras continue to come down in price, what would you say to a struggling young filmmaker who laments that you can only craft kick-ass images if you have the most high-tech and expensive equipment?

A: The best thing I ever made was a music video I shot on a Canon 7D. I used available light and shot it for $400. We always want more money and better equipment, because it can help, but unless you interpret the story in a creative way, no amount of equipment can save you.

Q: In what ways do you envision aspiring screenwriters using the Master Shots books when there’s such emphasis to not “direct on paper” as they’re writing a script?

A: The better you understand storytelling, the better you will be at screenwriting. Every scene tells a story, every shot tells a story. The better you understand how filmmakers work, the better you will be at crafting scenes for them. It’s not your job as a writer to picture every shot, but if you understand the scale of a scene – whether it’s vast and airy, or close and intimate, you can communicate that without ever directing on paper. When you do, you’ll fire up the director’s imagination and possibly have a hit on your hands.

Q: What’s the difference between a fourth wall and a fake wall?

A: The fourth wall is the imaginary wall that the audience sits behind. In film, that’s the camera lens, which is why – most of the time – you don’t want the actors to look into the camera. It breaks the illusion. We fall out of the story and remember we’re watching people pretend. Fake walls have many purposes. Often they’re used to tighten up a location and make it feel more claustrophobic, or simply as set dressing. In studios, all the walls are fake, and they can be rolled out of the way to make room for the camera. It’s worth remembering this when you’re shooting on location. You can ask yourself, if this was a studio, and you could swing that wall out of the way to allow the use of a longer lens, would you? If so, is there any way you can reposition the actors and camera on location, to get that result?

Q: What’s your favorite opening scene in a movie and what should readers be looking for in order to enhance their understanding of the cinematographer’s craft?

A: The first few minutes of Juno are stunning. They are extremely simple setups, but every one is carefully thought out to tell the story. Within seconds you know everything you need to know, and you care. It would have been so easy to kill this film quickly, but the opening is a wonderful mixture of familiar, strange, mundane and beautiful, which is the perfect setup for the story.

Q: Your books feature squillions of compelling frame grabs for study. Do you have a favorite image and, if so, what is it that particularly resonates with you?

A: There is no single image, because these stills are there to suggest the motion and emotion inherent in the shot. I like images that remind me of the story, and make me remember the feelings associated with the film.

Q: In order to have an effective collaboration, how much should a director know about cinematography techniques and how much should the person behind the camera know about directing the action? (I can’t help but picture the two sides getting into a shouting match of, “No, no, I think it looks better my way!”)

A: Directors can get away with knowing very little, but they are then carried by the cinematographer. If you want to work with the actors and don’t care how the shot looks, that’s one approach. But I think that if you really care about performance, you need a full understanding of how the camera relates to the actors. That’s the only way to capture performance. And if you want your film to look beautiful, why leave that to the cinematographer?

It should never be a competition and the best way to avoid that is to establish how you like to work in early meetings, before you hire anybody. Both people need to be clear on who calls the shots.

A good cinematographer will constantly suggest ideas, but should not shout you down unless you’re so tired you’re missing something obvious. Equally, a good cinematographer should be happy to let you choose the lens, say where the camera goes and even set the frame. If you can show that you’re competent, they should respect your choices and make sure they light the scene in a way that captures what you’re trying to get across.

If you are prescriptive about camera moves and lens choice, give the cinematographer as much scope to work with lighting as possible, or they feel like a hired hand rather than a creative collaborator.

It’s also vital to listen. If there’s a better idea, use it, no matter who suggests it to you.

Q: Thanks to the magic of technology, there’s no question that the look and texture of movies –especially with the incorporation of CGI and 3D – have come a long way in the past century. The question is, where do you see the filmmaking industry going next?

A: I find that advances in technology are usually pushed for commercial reasons, rather than because they help storytelling. 3D was pushed in the last decade, not because it was new – it was ancient – but to force people out of their homes and into the theatres again. High Frame Rate was introduced on The Hobbit supposedly to make 3D easier to watch, but to me it made everything look really fake, so my suspicion is that it was one more way to convince people that going to the theaters was more important than waiting for the DVD. And CG is becoming tiresome. It can be used well, but if I have to watch one more city being destroyed by giant monsters I am going to walk out of the cinema.

The real challenge, however, is dealing with changes to the way movies are consumed. As David Lynch pointed out a while back, art house is now dead, but internet distribution hasn’t really settled into something that’s working for anybody, and blockbusters feel like they’re running out of steam.  Most people are more excited by the latest HBO series than the next big feature film.

It’s impossible to say what will happen, but my hope is that the focus will return to storytelling rather than more spectacle.

Q: So what’s next on your plate?

A: Purely for pleasure, I’m going to make a short film called Catching Sight. It’s about a young girl who catches a disease that gives her great talent, but at the cost of her happiness. She has to decide whether to take the cure and lose her talent, or remain a depressed genius.

Q: Where can readers learn more about you and your work?

A: Just about everything you could need to know is summarized at www.christopherkenworthy.com

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: These are difficult times for people who want to be directors. It used to be the case that if you made a film, you were one in a million. Now, everybody is a film-maker. There is so much material being produced that you have to look brilliant to stand out, so I hope filmmakers do everything they can to learn the craft behind their art, and create a signature style.

Fired At Fifty

Christine Till

A Conversation with Christine Till

As if the stress of worrying whether you’ve saved enough for a comfortable retirement weren’t enough to keep you awake at night, consider an even more daunting scenario: that you’re suddenly let go from your job 5-15 years earlier than you anticipated. The employment pool is quite a different one from that which you originally splashed into as a new grad ready to take on the world. Is it too late to reinvent yourself, to take a leap of faith, to finally discover what you were meant to do?

Not only has author Christine Till (aka The Marketing Mentress) been there/done that but she has also written a timely self-help book to help the over-50 crowd rise from the ranks of society’s new wave of unemployables.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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Q: Tell us about the inspiration behind writing Fired at Fifty.

A: January 4th of 2011 I walked into my office, where I had been working as director of sales and marketing for the previous two and a half years, all excited and ready with my marketing plan for the new year. An hour later I walked out of that office, fired, with no prospects.

After “the dust settled” I started applying for another job, but to no avail. It seemed that nobody wanted me, except one company that offered me $10.00 an hour. That wasn’t enough to even pay the mortgage! I would have to be working three jobs at that rate! It was at this point that I decided to dig for my strengths and discover what I had in my tool chest that society would need, want, and be willing to pay for. This now meant that I needed to “sell myself”.

As I attended networking meetings, I looked around those tables and discovered that most of the people sitting there had grey hair, or they were bald! Most of those people were in the same position as me! I watched many people with huge degrees of education fall all over themselves trying to express to their audience what they had to offer. I wanted to help them somehow, but you cannot just go up to someone and tell them, “You need to lose the wrinkly polo shirt.” That would shatter their self-esteem. I knew I could help these people, so I decided to write my story in a self-help fashion; they could learn from what I went through.  

Q: Who is the target market for your book and what’s the takeaway message you’d like them to glean from its content?

A: By the time I decided to write my book, I had discovered that sixty-four percent of my followers online were male. The age range was 45-65+. They were five to fifteen years short of their financial goals for retirement. They still had mortgages to pay and children in college. They did not have loads of cash on hand to invest in a business. They were desperate to find a way to bring in a good income. I knew I had the answer for them. I could show them how to discover “what they were meant to do”.

Q: What are the “tsunamis” you refer to?

A: There are two tsunamis rising ever so silently. We all know they are there, but we choose to ignore them for the most part…especially the grey hair’d generation. The first one is social media. If we do not get on this wave and ride it for all it’s worth, we will be left in its wake! The second one is the boomer generation. This generation is a formidable force like no other before it. It is creating a whole new economy of trade. Thirty percent of the new businesses started in Canada alone last year were by people over fifty. Almost forty percent of those startups were service types of business.

Q: I understand that you’re donating to a local seniors’ organization. Can you explain more about this?

A: When I was working with the senior care industry, I put on a seniors fair at a local seniors center. They bent over backwards to help the fair be a success. I could see that they were struggling to find ways they could generate funds for facilitating their activities in the center. So, when I published my book, I decided that I would donate one dollar from the sale of every book to them. I have also donated ten books to them, to get them started.

Q: Tell us about your toolchest and what’s in it.

A: When I was “fired”, I had a podcast show called “Eldercare 911” and I called myself the eldercare specialist. So it was a natural transition to start “The Marketing Mentress” show. LinkedIn and helping people get their social media organized is my specialty. This uses my skills of public speaking and sales and marketing. In the past, I have taught workshops on the topics of “Enhancing Your Personal Marketability” & “The Ten Commandments of Business Management”. I have also put together a workshop for new immigrants who are starting a business in this country to help them learn how business gets done here.

Q: What are some ways to turn your age into an asset, monetize your skill sets, and stay afloat in an unsettled economy?

A: Be proud of who you are and how old you are. Age is only a number. Realize that you don’t have all the answers and be willing to work with others to help you monetize yourself. You are a commodity that is available with many strengths to offer society. You need to understand exactly what you have that will be needed and wanted in our society today. You need to understand exactly what your niche market is and market to that niche on a regular basis. You also need to be different, or you are dead in the water.

Q: Podcasting is on the rise these days as more and more people embrace the idea of becoming an armchair producer. How did you happen to foray into this dynamic new media tool and how is it working for you?

A: Everyone in business needs to have a blog. Your blog needs to be the center of your marketing plan. My podcast blog is the center of my marketing plan.

What a blast podcasting is! I love having people on my show to chat about their business and what makes them unique in the marketplace. I had been podcasting for two years before I was “fired”. So it was a natural transition to my new show. My gift of public speaking and song are able to shine through this medium. I have used it to position myself in the marketplace through bartering for “stuff”.

People want to be on The Marketing Mentress show. They will trade and pay for the opportunity to be featured. That is a huge way I was able to pay for coaching and help for my business.

Q: A recent article on The Exchange, a finance blog (http://finance.yahoo.com/blogs/the-exchange/baby-boomers-jobs-younger-workers-214210886.html?.tsrc=sun?date=90390905), sets forth the idea that one of the reasons college grads are struggling to find employment is because the baby boomers are postponing retirement and staying in the workforce longer than previous generations. What’s your response to that?

A: One day these college grads will be in the same position as the boomers. They will be changing their tune in a big hurry. What everyone needs to realize is that “the day of the job is gone”! We all need to have something on the side that we do to earn income for ourselves, even if we do have a job. We all need to be thinking entrepreneurially.

What these young people need to understand is that it is their boomer parents who have put most of them through school and helped pay for their tuition. These same parents have had to pay for their parents’ retirement assistance because their parents were not financially prepared. Now these parents need to replace those funds and pay off their mortgages, so they will have money for their own retirement.

You see, according to Statistics Canada, 85% of boomers are not financially prepared for retirement. Where does that put our pension plan? The longer they can work, the better off the whole country will be.

My question to these young college grads is, “Are you ready to pay for your boomer parents’ retirement?” Your boomer parents are going to live much longer than their parents and are going to require much more financial preparation because of that.

Q: According to research published in 2012 by the Urban Institute, workers who are 50+ are 20 percent less likely to get re-hired following layoffs than candidates who are half their age. Has the phrase, “You’re overqualified for the needs of this position” become the new euphemism for “We think you’re way too old”?

A: Personally, I don’t think this is the case at all. Businesses are simply making a financial decision. It has nothing to do with age per se. What is being said here is that they cannot afford to pay the kind of salary the candidates have been accustomed to. This statement is not unique to the older generation. I have had prospective employers tell me this when I was in my twenties and thirties. It has nothing to do with age and everything to do with budgets.

Having been in the position of managing the finances of a company, I have seen firsthand what happens to a company’s bottom line when the employees use the extended health plan a lot. The costs to the company increase. The older employees tend to use the extended medical more than their younger cohorts. That’s a fact.

Companies are opting to eliminate pension plans. They are letting people go from their jobs when they are in their fifties, so the company cannot be accused of letting them go just to avoid paying the pensions.

There are companies now who make it a policy not to hire anyone over fifty.

Q: People oftentimes stay in a job they hate – even if they know it’s only a matter of time before the ax falls – rather than take a leap of faith, reinvent themselves and launch their own dreams. In your opinion, what are the pros and cons of waiting until they’re actually pink-slipped?

A: Great wisdom is learning from the experience of others. Just having a job is not enough in this day. We all need to have something on the side that we are using to generate income for ourselves. If we wait until we are pink-slipped, it will be too late to start something. We need to establish our niche now! I can help you with that.

Q: What would people be the most surprised to learn about you?

A: As a classically trained vocalist, I perform for seniors living communities. I usually have at least a couple of gigs a month. It fills my heart with joy to see smiles on the faces in my audience as we sing together the songs of Doris Day, Patti Page, Dean Martin, etc.

Q: What’s next on your plate?

A: Now that Fired at Fifty has been published, I have noticed that it is stirring up great interest. So my next step is working the speaking circuit travelling locally and abroad to share my story and help this second tsunami with ideas and solutions to their dilemma of being “Fired at Fifty”.

Q: Anything else you’d like readers to know?

A: The big key I’ve learned from my experience is to be willing to “ask for help”. So many of us boomers are proud and feel like we should have all the answers and that we are smart, educated, full of wisdom. We are! But we don’t have all the answers and we do need to humble ourselves and ask for help. If we insist on being lone wolves, we will struggle much longer before we find out “what we were meant to do”.

Readers can learn more about Christine at marketingmentress.com.