Imagine: A World of Diverse Books

I’m on a journey. A journey to become a young adult novelist.

On the surface, this appears to be a unique journey for someone who has spent her career as a journalist, marketing communications manager, and public relations and marketing firm entrepreneur. Open further examination, one will find all is in perfect alignment. Many of us would-be creatives, land in traditional careers where we are able to exercise our love of writing and discovery, a bit. All too often, we were discouraged from the creative path after being told we couldn’t make a living that way. For those who believed it to be so, the starving artist moniker became real.

After writing screenplays for years and pounding the pavement in Hollywood, I’ve now completed a young adult novel. I believe it has movie potential. My protagonist is an African-American teen with superhero powers, a love of all things spy-related and a science enthusiast. His friends mirror our multi-cultural world.

My love of books began early with my parents reading to me. Once I discovered my local public and school libraries, I visited daily, devouring books like candy. I faced a conundrum: I wanted to read about characters who looked like me, a young African-American girl. I enlisted librarians to help me in this quest.

I was immersing myself in worlds unlike my own small Wisconsin town. Reading biographies and fiction featuring characters of color was helping me imagine the heights I could reach in my life.

Once I birthed my own child, I wanted this beloved African-American child to see his own gorgeous round brown face reflected in the books we read together and those he would later read on his own. I wanted him to understand that his heritage afforded him riches he could adorn himself in.

The 1,000 Books before Kindergarten program is notable. Libraries across the country have adopted this program to prepare kids for formal schooling. What will children of color think as they realize these books rarely contain a face looking back that mirrors them?

As an African-American writer, I am poised to make my contribution and produce books for and about people of color. I want to write books to help children of all colors find themselves and their own voices. As noted, my young adult novel introduces a teen with a love of science and spy gadgetry, combined with superhero powers. He also has a kind heart. In our multi-cultural world, I want a world of diverse books. Our future generation can teach our current generation a thing or two.

 

 

 

Sabbatical Reflections

I’ve completed a two week writers’ residency at the Noepe Center for Literary Arts in Edgartown, Martha’s Vineyard, Mass. In a sense, my departure from my normal corporate routine was a sabbatical. As I sit on the island 24 hours away from returning to Wisconsin, here are my reflections. Hopefully, this will resound with anyone considering a change in their work.

I walked past a storefront yesterday in Oak Bluffs, where I’m spending my final two days on the East Coast. A sign about following one’s passion caught my eye. It’s a known fact that many professional writers: journalists, publicists, corporate communicators are frustrated artists. Somewhere along the way we’ve been told that writing fiction is not a very promising way to make a living.

So, we begin making concessions. We read other authors, promote other authors, and write creatively during those rare moments when we aren’t busy servicing every other area of our lives. The truth is we push off our true passions to pursue during the ever elusive ‘someday.’ For many of us, someday never comes. The more we put off our passion, our true calling, the harder it is to connect to what we should truly live and breathe each day.

We all have a sense of what we are called to do in life. Some of us learn our truth early and some of us take a while to figure it out. You’re getting closer by stopping to think about what makes you lose track of time. What feeds your soul?

I’ve unplugged for two weeks. No television. Just writing creatively. On the island, I am known as a novelist. I’ve had a reading for my fellow authors at Noepe, and community members. As I reflect, I pledge to follow my passion, without wavering. There’s a few novels in me awaiting their debut.

I’d like to share that Claudia Miller, owner of the Noepe Center, is a fellow artist whose vision makes the residencies and workshops possible. She’s literally donated her property to support dreams of her fellow artists. Along with Justen Ahern, Noepe’s founder and director, they are impacting lives by giving breath to creative writers and enriching readers.

You don’t need to ask permission. Follow your passion.

 

Kandinsky and Munter, a love story

I loved the book from the first reading. Now that I’ve re-read it, I appreciate it even more. Saving Kandinsky, a brilliant first novel by Milwaukee author, Mary Basson is about the connection between leading German Expressionist artist Wassily Kandinsky and his student and long-time lover, Gabriele Munter. The book is set in the 20th century.

Kandinsky is recognized as the main artist of the Dar Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) group. His tumultuous love affair with Munter, a great artist in her own right, caused her much grief. She took the name Kandinsky as she interacted with townspeople, sure that marriage was near. Yet, all her hopes proved to be in vain as he took another for his wife. Munter had an emotional breakdown, interrupting  her art for years.

In its simplest form, it’s an amazing story of a scorned woman who put ego aside and instead chose to do the right thing for the greater good: preserving historic art and culture. Yet, underlying it all is the complexity of talented artists caught up in a time not of their making and forced to make difficult choices for their art and their lives.

As they painted, Adolf Hitler rose to power. His regime threated to confiscate and destroy works of art deemed to be subversive to his racist dogma. Kandinsky’s work was among them. Though he had been gone for years, the bulk of his work remained in Murnau, Germany where he had shared a home with Munter. With the help of an art critic who knew the work of both artists, and who had become Munter’s new lover and confidante, she mustered the courage to shield Kandinsky’s paintings from the Nazis. She risked imprisonment, and even death. So, why did she do it? We have to wonder.

I’ve been approached by a friend who knows of my national publicity work and thought I could help bring the amazingly written story of these two seminal artists to light. My initial reaction: am I interested in these two German artists?

So, I did what I’ve done all my life when my curiosity is piqued. I researched. I’ve come to understand more about artists and how they approach their work, how even the most talented among us are still human, and share with us our universal stories of love and loss. Some of these lessons I’ve learned over the last 12 days as I’ve worked full-time as a fiction writer, along with fellow artists, at the Noepe Center for Literary Arts on Martha’s Vineyard. Despite one’s interest in art, the love story of Kandinsky and Munter rings timeless.

I’d like to share this book with a special demographic: reading humans. I’ll let you know how this works out.

 

A Writer’s live reading: both a humbling and gratifying experience

Do you hear that sound? That’s a sigh of relief.

I’m very grateful to Swedish author Astrid Lindgren and British author Roald Dahl.

Tonight, I had a reading of my young adult novel to a live audience of my fellow writers attending the Martha’s Vineyard Writers’ Residency, and many members of the community who generously gave of their time to venture to the Noepe Center to encourage writers.

It was my first reading of this creative work. I read excerpts from my now 126 pages of The Stupendous Adventures of Mighty Marty Hayes. The young adult novel combines elements of love of all things spy, a coming of age for a teen who discovers he has superhero powers, and pride in family legacy when the teen learns that his superhero powers come from his granny. She aided the civil rights movement of the 1960s, using her own superpowers.

Reading to a live audience of one’s creative works is not for the faint of heart. I had prepared. I had cut and pasted the original edited novel until I felt I had a solid 10 minutes to share the bones of the story and writing for an audience’s digestion.

I must say reading aloud a creative work is a humbling experience. I saw generous smiles of delight, smiles of pride from kindred writing souls who have only known me for a week, heard laughter in all the right places, and received generous platitudes afterwards from audience members who expressed their enjoyment with reflections on their own youth, and their love of all things spy and superhero-ish.

So, the night was a great success. I basked in all the glory, took care to hear the suggestions to improve or on how to market the work (TV series? Sure, why not), and most of all embraced the feeling that I truly belonged here in this community of creative writers striving to be published to be heard, and to entertain.

Justen Ahren, executive director of Noepe Center for Literary Arts introduced me as a writer who began as a young girl reading and writing for my own enjoyment. I felt as if I had truly come full circle now that I had written a young adult novel following in the footsteps of the authors I enjoyed as a child. Pippi Longstocking by Swedish author Astrid Lindgren, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl are still two of my favorites that I can trace back to childhood. Heavy childhood readers are destined to try their hands as authors themselves, some day.

Like Lorraine Hansberry, I would often repeat, “I am a writer and I am going to write.” Well, I am and I will.

Justen Ahern and The Noepe Center for Literary Arts in Edgartown, Martha’s Vineyard, my generous-hearted fellow writers of the residency, and the community here are all aiding in this journey. I’m earning some stripes here. And for that, I will be forever grateful.

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Creative writing is hard work, a joy, and a gift

I’ve reached the end of week one in my Writer’s Residency at the Noepe Center for Literary Arts in Edgartown, Martha’s Vineyard, Mass. I plan to join several of the ten writers, who ventured from various parts of the world to work on their creative writing, in a community reading tomorrow night.

Over meals and laughter, we find that we’re all kindred souls with unique life experiences, all leading to this place: Noepe. Among the accomplishments, insecurities and glorious flavors of writing, I see commonalities among creatives who have learned to shut down the naysayers and even their own internal flare ups of doubt to face a blank sheet of paper or flickering computer screen.

It’s easy to compare one’s self to the great writers of our time, or those who came well before. Shakespeare and Maya Angelou didn’t have Noepe, so who’s to say what will result? I haven’t seen a television in seven days, nor have I missed it much. Instead, I’ve written in my journal, taken long walks and bike rides to the beach, and become reacquainted with my own stories.

I’ve written three full-length screenplays, one adult novel, and am here on Martha’s Vineyard working on my first young adult novel. As I’ve read through what I’ve written to date, more than 120 pages, I see The Stupendous Adventures of Mighty Marty Hayes taking shape. The world truly needs a teen of color who loves science, spy gadgetry, has a strong sense of family, and kindness in his heart, and has the ability to show the bad guys a thing or two about resilience. And, oh yeah, he has superpowers.

There’s been a resurgence in Hollywood of black and brown adult superheroes. Not many kids. As I sit in the Edgartown Free Public Library, I recall hearing a little girl of seven or so read aloud. Clearly, she was totally into the story as she read to her mom. Suddenly, I heard laughter as her mom asked, “did it really say that?” The little girl had just added her own flourish to the author’s text. I smiled at the thought of witnessing a writer in the making. I hope to create a literary work that fires the imagination of little boys and girls of all colors, that provides an escape from the rigors of the world, and leads them to believe that they can become anything in the real world that they can imagine. That’s why I enjoy writing.

How my creative writing fuels me

I’m writing this from a lovely sun-filled room in a massive Bed and Breakfast, turned inspirational writer’s retreat, on a bright, sunny day in Edgartown, Mass. on Martha’s Vineyard. I’m an entrepreneur and I’ve just completed a six month project at Northwestern Mutual, a global leader in life insurance, annuities, and more. So, why am I stepping away for two weeks to participate in a Writers’ Residency to write a young adult novel? First, I was selected. I’m a writer in residence occupying one of ten rooms at the Noepe Center for Literary Arts.

Secondly, I’m a goal setter. I can’t stand procrastination and to voice a goal out loud, and then fail to pursue it…wholeheartedly. Third, I realize that the Universe opens up and rallies around those of us who pursue their passion. And lastly, my creativity fuels my business, my work and makes for a meaningful life. Why not go all out?

I get up in the mornings, traverse the island on my rented bicycle, and sit down to write for hours each day to bring The Stupendous Adventures of Mighty Marty Hayes to life. My first young adult novel has been stewing for several years now, and it’s not an elephant. It’s time that it’s birthed and delivered to the world.

I will rely on the bones of this place, the setting of this historic island, to feed me and enable me to realize this dream of becoming a published author. As a former journalist, corporate writer and freelance magazine writer, I’ve been published in the non-fiction world many times over the decades. It’s not the same. I need to see my name on a book of fiction. I hope to produce a work that will be a fun read for young adults and old adults, alike. All the while, I will bask in the hard work, longing for the satisfaction of completion, and sharing a work of art with the world.

When I return to Wisconsin and pick up my corporate writing hat, I expect I’ll be just a bit more centered and satisfied.

Why successful businesswomen should use the power of storytelling

Share secrets of your corporate or entrepreneurship climb to inspire women

Lora Hyler as moderator of the E-Commerce workshop at 24th annual Dynamic Women in Business conference at Harvard Business School.

Lora Hyler as moderator of the E-Commerce workshop at 24th annual Dynamic Women in Business conference at Harvard Business School.

On a cold winter day last weekend, 1,000 women and maybe 20 men, made their way to a conference in Cambridge, Mass.  They willingly made the trek in the aftermath of perhaps the worst winter storms in the history of weather record-keeping. The occasion was the 24th annual Dynamic Women in Business conference at Harvard Business School, coordinated by the Women’s Student Association.

The annual Saturday conference allows young women and a few brave men to receive sustenance from the uplifting success stories of accomplished women willing to share their stories.  I was an invited facilitator for the E-Commerce workshop featuring founders and speakers of companies thriving in this digital era.  The companies ranged from E-Commerce pioneer, Amazon; to the Alibaba-invested retail portal Shoprunner; to natural skin care line for girls company, Willa; to Bikyni, a swimwear company launching this Spring.

Rest assured, entrepreneurship is alive and well.  Though several of my workshop speakers were Harvard Business School graduates, their stories are being played out at women-led conferences across the country.  Just as women entered the workforce 50+ years ago and changed the dynamics of the workplace, from autocratic to collaborative, women are assuming the reins of companies and re-shaping corporate values.  Women, with both innate and societal-imposed collaborative instincts, are maximizing these skills to lead teams and create companies poised to respond to the needs of today’s consumers.

Research reveals that women in senior roles have a positive bottom-line impact on a company’s bottom line.  And it’s no surprise that women serving on corporate boards also help boost company revenues.  Women who model success leads to more women achieving success.  And a powerful means to do so is through storytelling.  Women who see the humanity, perseverance, risk taking, and indeed, failures of other women are encouraged to take necessary risks to advance their own careers.

As I chatted with CEOs, managers, and students at the Friday night dinner and Saturday workshops, I realized I was bearing witness to a wonderful phenomenon.  Women are seeking out opportunities to reach back and help the young women who are coming behind them.  Young women are listening and learning, looking for ways to succeed in business, while achieving balance in their own lives.  While they are not necessarily seeking shortcuts, they are listening intently to ways to remain true to themselves and their own vision of success. They want to enjoy life on their own terms.  They are the next generation to re-shape the workplace, likely for the better.

We all appreciated keynote addresses from an incredible lineup of successful women, including Jan Singer, CEO of Spanx, Sallie Krawcheck of Ellevate, and Kathy Giusiti, founder of Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation and the MM Research Consortium.  I certainly appreciated the free-flowing conversation of the women attending my lunch table discussion on public relations and marketing, as well as my E-Commerce session.  My guess is years later, what will resound most loudly with me will be the sense of camaraderie and sisterhood that women share as we shape our careers.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright famously said, “There should be a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”  Agreed.  Madeleine Albright also stated, “Women are really good at making friends, and not good at networking.”  That may have been true years ago.  The fact is, the women who attended the 24th annual Harvard Business School Dynamic Women in Business conference, know the value of networking.  We are learning from powerful women executives and lending a helping hand to those coming after us.  I look forward to furthering connections made and joining the sisterhood at Harvard again next year.

Marshawn Lynch: Is it simply a fear of public speaking?

Public speaking is still the No. 1 fear of North Americans. No. 2 is fear of death. While watching the Green Bay Packers defeat the Dallas Cowboys to advance to the NFC Title Game, my friend and neighbor began joking about Seattle Seahawks’ Marshawn Lynch and his approach to media interviews. It’s clear from Lynch’s one or two word responses to EVERY question posed by a reporter that he despises interviews. “Yeah,” Thank you” and “I’m thankful” are as effusive as he gets.

What’s really going on here? I have to wonder whether Lynch is less than confident in his speaking abilities and is fearful of getting tripped up by his own tongue. Sure, after being fined $100,000 earlier this season for refusing to do interviews, he’s now meeting the National Football League requirement to grant media interviews. Apparently, there’s no requirement to make sense.

Lynch’s preferred avoidance of reporters isn’t any different from a company employee who always declines the presentation opportunity, or fails to speak up for his or her position in a meeting.

Anyone who’s ever felt scalding shame from losing their train of thought in front of company higher ups, or losing their nerve during the big meeting with the boss to ask for a raise, knows the feeling. Yet, there’s more to be gained than lost. Seeking professional training to take on one’s fear of public speaking head on, rather than running away, has lots of benefits.

Just a few great benefits from public speaking and media interview skills training:

  1. Gain confidence. Let’s face it. We’d all prefer to conquer our fears rather than meekly submit for the rest of our lives.
  2. Learn what the audience is thinking. Many people are surprised to learn that in most situations, your listening audience is pulling for you. OK, so fans of your opposing team won’t be. But, they don’t count. They have an agenda.
  3. Learn what the reporter is thinking. Despite the cries of those who feel they were misquoted at some point in their lives, reporters are not “out to get you.” They have a job to do and the better the interviewee is at expressing themselves, the less room for error.
  4. Learn techniques of successful speakers. Great speakers are not born. They’ve worked at it. Many, through training, learned to organize their thoughts, summarize, and repeat their most important points. These same techniques work for media interviews, with allowances for brevity, and type of media outlet.
  5. 50-50 control. Rookie speakers and interviewees often see themselves as lacking control. In a media interview, the fear is that the reporter is going to lead them down a dark path, and cause them to say the unspeakable, leading to ridicule. The truth is the control ratio is 50/50. There’s only one person who can control what comes out of an individual’s mouth: the individual. It’s all about preparation.
  6. A confident speaker gains unforeseen opportunities. Our fears keep us in the now. Our confidence in speaking opens up countless future opportunities. Someday, Marshawn Lynch will need to seek a new job, or if he starts his own company, attract clients. I can’t think of a single business where “yeah,” “thank you” and “thankful” will suffice in everyday business conversations.

Similarly, an employee viewed as too introverted, and unable to express his or her ideas when it counts the most will soon find someone else getting the big raise or big promotion. So, don’t be afraid to take the leap and seek out public speaking or media interview skills training. There’s too much at risk not to.

Lora Hyler of Hyler Communications has worked as a journalist, and now as founder of a public relations and marketing company, provides training in public speaking and media relations. If this former self-professed introvert and bookworm can transform herself to prepare for opportunities, so can you. Remember, there’s no such thing as luck. It’s all preparation meets opportunity.    

 

Secret to Conflict Resolution in Business: Remember, it’s NOT personal

After several decades of business, I was recently reminded that the maxim of treating people the way you wish to be treated, rings eternally true. I sent an email to a fairly new client (with whom I had entered into a contract with plans for a long term relationship), enquiring about the status of our contract extension and initial payment. I received an explosive, snarky reply to which I immediately took offense. Read more

Hello world!

Welcome to my Blog page. I look forward to sharing information with you from the world of public relations and marketing. Feel free to comment and to send any questions my way. Let’s interact!

 

Lora Hyler