What Story Is Worth Saving From the Fire?

On July l, a little before 2 a.m., I was still scribbling in bed and declaring to the universe in no uncertain terms that I was ready to move to my new home (wherever that may be); when I heard what sounded like a car bomb go off in my driveway.

I got up, looked out my kitchen window and saw the house two doors down burst into a ball of flames.

Living in L.A., we’re not unfamiliar with fires, smoke and smoke but this was like nothing I had ever seen except on the news in some other person’s  story.

We were now banging on doors, waking people up.  People were screaming and running from the power line.

The house two doors down burned quickly to the ground.  The house beside it went up next before the fire leapt around the corner and jumped back over bushes into our backyard.

A fleet of firetrucks packed our small street, (God Bless our fire heroes, truly). A local news truck was struggling to get an interview from a street full of neighbors holding their cell phones high all videoing the same shot of a fire and reporting the story directly to their followers as they saw it.

A story I fearfully told myself I couldn’t repeat as I stood there in my Homer Simpson slippers, was that I had told the Universe I was ready to move now. But I didn’t mean right now!  Yes, words and  I are more powerful than I want to admit. We all are.   But don’t be afraid that will make you Carrie at The Prom.

For the next week and counting 600 surrounding homes were affected, utilities burned, our street being torn up, one house and parts of others being torn down and plenty of gratitude that nobody died. It’s been non top noise, investigators, firecrackers, trucks and semis unloading thousands of pounds of Astroturf  onto the high school football field across the street.  (You can’t make this stuff up.)  It was a hot mess.

Until suddenly I saw something that changed everything for me.

In the duplex next door, two sisters, the older who can’t be more than 7, were setting  a folding table out on the sidewalk.  On the table was a single pitcher and a stack of cups.

“Lemonade!”  the big sister called out.

Nobody could hear or seemed to notice her.  But she wasn’t letting up.

“Only a dollar a glass!”

I was enchanted. I walked over as a phone repair man  arrived.  I offered to buy cups for all the  working crew.  He thanked me but he had just  bought for those guys  so he bought me one and I bought two for the next person who might walk up who then passed on one on to the next.

We were paying it forward in lemonade.  And the girls were cleaning up.

This is the story I personally will take away from the fire.  Two little girls who saw what was immediately needed and provided it like no one else possibly could.  Not with heavy equipment but Dixie cups.  Simple genius.

Yes, the story wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t first for the excitement of the fire that started it.

I hear businesses and authors struggles  to tell what they hope will be their most exciting stories and offers to attract clients. And it’s understandable.  But an excitement is just a beginning.

The most powerful brand and book stories tell stories that matter and keep the sparks going after the fire has gone out.

Do you need some help with yours?

Please let me hear from you.


And thank you for reading and sharing.







Don’t Stop Writing Or the Terror Lists Win

I’m working with a successful entrepreneur with a good book idea.  An agent even approached her about this book she hasn’t yet written.  The agent only saw one stumbling block between this big idea, a buyer and a bestseller. The writer needed a bigger list.  And so, she froze.

Like countless others.  From list terror.  Because how big is big enough? What’s too small?    She wanted to know if she shouldn’t first be building her list.

I still don’t completely understand the whole “which came first, the chicken or the egg” thing.  But I do know this:

When “Your List” first came onto the publishing marketing radar along with the advent of blogs, a list of 3,000 followers could help you seal a deal.  Then it went up to 6,000.  Then 10,000  Not too long ago, I heard 50,000.  Today someone told me 200,000 will do it.

You can have a list of 250 thousand or even 2 million which could be amazing.  Off the charts.

But when it comes to what people are actually buying and talking about because you  made an impact on their lives, all you’ve got is 26 letters.  No matter how big your list. 

And unlike list numbers that publishers are  clear don’t often convert to big sales, those 26 letters have got to convert into clear, understandable, insightful prose. Words and the heart behind them that communicates a writer’s unique vision and message.

And that’s a very rare find.

Publishers get so many submissions for books they are just looking for some polite enough reasons to reject them. Today, it’s Your List.  Before it was “Their List.”  Sorry, your book just doesn’t “fit into it.”


But here’s what Your List can represent and what  they really want – evidence of your commitment.  Evidence you’ve bothered to learn something about the industry.

I help a small handful of authors who believe their books are born to go beyond the binding.  Books that are brand worthy.  That’s not first about the number of followers who will like you.  That’s first about the number of people whose stories you are telling.

Books and brands are two different things:

A book is about readership.  A brand is about leadership.

Do you need a list?  Yes.


And yes, the business is different today.  But published authors for the past 60 years have been asked to show how their name, their efforts but most of all their great product can help a publisher sell a book.

Just before Your List hit in full form,  I got a big book deal although I didn’t have what was  needed most at the time. a track record.  I had never written a non-fiction book (never mind all my books had been for kids).  I got an  agent to represent me who sold two of the biggest books in publishing history.  And when the book came out I got myself into many national publications,  two morning shows and other outlets that didn’t seem possible. I got a film deal for the book in Hollywood.

I’m not Shakespeare.  I was just on fire.

If you don’t want to write, that’s reason enough without fearing the List.

But if you do, please take the deep dive. Be on fire.

Not just because you think you have to have a book.  But because you have a book you have to write.  And you believe others have to read it.

Then watch that List grow.   That is what my client is doing now.  She is writing and quickly growing a bigger list.  Her business and brand is building.   She has more of what they really wanted from her than she knew.

Most of us do.

How can I help you?  I’m happy to hear from you.

Thanks for reading.













What if Being Unique Isn’t as Good As It Gets?

Trying to figure out what makes us unique can be brutal. Trust me. I’ve tried.

Could be because the word “unique” literally means “to stand alone.”  In the cosmos, cool!   No commodities there.  Meanwhile, back in the “real world”  not so much.

History shows if you happen to be the  first to uncover a brilliant innovation but you don’t also have a galaxy of resources and good timing on your side you can end up for example, like Gary Kildall.  Mr. Kildall was the creator of the first operating system for PC’s a decade before Bill Gates made his deal with IBM. We know about Bill.  Kildall’s journey ended in a ballroom brawl and he died close to poor.

Few truly unique innovators break this pattern in any business category. (Thomas Edison was one.)  if you’re looking to earn more than the satisfaction of discovery,  being a pioneer isn’t an easy money making proposition.

So next we may tell people we’re different. But different, if you look up the synonyms, makes the word sound like what it is -“strange” or just “weird.”

Different won’t convert unless you’re doing what’s even rarer – making a difference. Lady Gaga was/still is masterful at both.

Making a difference takes deep listening  and then giving full attention to what your audience cares about most. Themselves.

Which is why in my experience what’s best is to be memorable.

I like this Maya Angelou quote:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

A  good description of why we choose the brands we choose.  We remember “that feeling”  and buy it over and over.  (or not).

How you make us feel first  stays in the memory of our unique cells.  Memorable converts.

Not from a manipulation or a well thought out strategy. But it comes from an emotional and even spiritual intention.  How deep will yours go?

Because I’m first the author of many successful books for kids; I’m ever  intrigued by what makes a child pull down the same one book over and over to be read at bedtime when she’s got the choice of 50 others busting off the shelf..

I love discovering it’s that same magic “thing “that makes us choose today – all these many years later when you’ve  got 100 choices  on your shelf and you pick your one.

Sound too simple or corny?

If  you can unlock that “thing”  in your business or book DNA you can have what may be your only chance of being more than a commodity.

If you’re struggling with your key, you’re not unique.

But you probably  have something far more valuable behind that door than you know.

Revealing that is how I help people.

Want to set up a time to talk?


Thank you for reading and if you’ll  share, a double gratitude.














There are Easier Things to Do than Write – Like Eat!


If you’re struggling to give voice to your most powerful story, you may have a glitch in your structure.  Whether your story is 3 lines or 300 pages.  You’ve got to have the right structure.

And it’s no small potato. If you’re selling a book proposal, structure is 60% of what publishers are looking for. I recently evaluated 3 minute start-up pitches for an interested venture capital firm. But no deal was done because the stories couldn’t engage. A business story is not an elevator pitch with a cherry on top.

Great story is a seduction. It moves people from one place to another.  It creates passion, drives conversation and delivers results beyond what can be premeditated.  Line by line, in steps and moments and rhythms.

You need to know before you start how and where you want to move me.  From what beginning point to what conclusion?  You can’t control it, but you can care about me enough to intend it.

Structuring is a real skill.  Not so easy. So to make it more edible try thinking of it like you are planning to host a dinner party.

A dinner, like a story has got a beginning, middle and end. And all the stuff in between. Your story is in process from the moment you decide you’ve got one worth sharing.  It begins before the doorbell rings.

You can’t just slop a steak in the middle of a table and expect guests you haven’t invited, ( readers or customers) to come to your door sizzling.

A steak is not a party.

In story, like in your house, you make us  feel welcomed or not.  We know it in a heartbeat and we don’t forget it.

You are the host and at the helm but without “us”, “them”  there’s no story.  It’s you with a lot of inventory and leftovers.

Ask yourself some questions: What’s the intent/the experience you’d like to create for people?  What’s the occasion?  A theme party perhaps?

Who are the characters you want to be there?  How many will be the right number?  Will they make a good mix?  Is there someone better to omit from this time’s list?

What’s to eat?  Personal chef tonight?  Costco?  Drinks?  Appetizers?   Paper plates?  Cracking open the Waterford?   Detail by detail.  Step by step.  That’s what carries us to dessert and beyond.

Your guests arrived. Do you give them a second to get settled?   Can you stay calm enough to enjoy your guests?  Are you putting us to work?  Please take off your shoes?  Can you help me set the table? What works for your story?

A beautiful seduction is not a manipulation.  Manipulation is predictable.  Same old story.  Same old voice.

All of this is structure.   All of this moves us.  To an action or to the door.

If you are sense you are wasting  time and the real genius of what you’ve got, maybe I can help you.

My door (or at least first my e-mail) is open to you.

You are cordially invited.

What should you bring?   Just your real Self.


Thanks for reading and sharing if you feel so moved.  I appreciate it.


















Are You Afraid of a Little Nonsense?

There’s different kinds of nonsense. One kind can be a portal to genius. Another can spark chaos and frighten the bejesus out of you. All it takes for me to get there is to keep the news on for 90 seconds. I know I’m not alone.

And I keep thinking of what Dr. Seuss said about his work: “I like nonsense. It rewires the brain.”

There’s rewiring and there’s short circuiting. I’m for the kind of nonsense that opens loving, new worlds. And I’m privileged to help smart, already successful people who know they have something still greater to offer. Then we uncover it.

They aren’t well wired for short changing the so-called nonsense of their imaginations for what may be good enough results.  You may suspect this about yourself, too.

How much nonsense did it first take for someone to come up with the IPhone or Spanx, or The Grinch?  What impulse does it take to conceive and complete a bestseller?  To get your fresh business idea generating purpose, profits, and enthusiasm from yourself and  clients who are grateful to have found you and pay you what you’re worth?

Seuss’s brand of nonsense delights and makes us laugh because he got what young children have not yet completely forgotten – that the world as grown-ups know it is all made up.  It’s okay and fun to see through its silliness.

Unless you can see through the silliness it’s really tough to see the genius and big  ideas hidden just slightly in the corners. Ir takes looking through the telescope from the wrong end with the certain head of a grown-up who knows better.

Don’t be afraid of a little rewiring.  It just begins with Story -the most powerful, least expensive misunderstood and underutilized tool in the kit of so many stuck businesses and authors.

And that’s what I’m here for.

Want to talk some good nonsense?

Please contact me and lets set that up.

Thank you for reading and if you feel moved, sharing this with others.

I appreciate it.












What Mary Tyler Moore Taught Me About Brand Story

Several years ago, I wrote a memoir. Four days after my agent sent it out to sell, when it was still just a proposal, six New York publishers were in a bidding auction that started at over $100,000. Meanwhile, I sat cross-country in my pajamas stunned and stuck to the tube watching old Jerry Springer reruns and waiting for the next higher offer to come in.  And the next.  (And BTW, for all book writers reading this, the right authors still do get those deals today!)

I didn’t know Mary Tyler Moore personally before this and wasn’t aware my editor sent her the finished galley to read.  She loved it and asked to write an endorsement for me.  I was pajamas stunned, star struck, gobsmacked and probably as moved by the few sentences she wrote  she was by my whole book. Something like I had never experienced seemed to seep out from the ink of this actress. It was her  kindness. Sounds like such simple stuff, doesn’t it?  Genius is simple. Her genius was the inherent  hope of kindness.  The same kindness I always felt when I watched her on TV.  That ‘thing’ about her I had not identified before that kept a nation ‘turned on by her smile.’

Above the fact she was beautiful and had terrific comedic  timing and great writers.  Above and beyond the parts she played as Laura Petrie or Mary Richards, rising up for equal pay to Mr. Grant.  Whether she was dancing free in her apartment or tossing her hat high into the air for generations  to catch, we got it!  “We’re going to make it after all.”  Indeed.

We were inspired.  We trusted her. We wanted to be like her.   We were her tribe, her fans and pulled in by that thing that lay beneath every story line, word she spoke and every gesture unspoken. Great kindness.  No other woman in television history could compete with her story.  Goodness!!  Even Oprah decided she wanted to have own show after seeing Mary’s. As Oprah said yesterday in tears, “I still can’t believe Mary Tyler Moore touched my face. I will love her forever.”

Me too.

A brand as I see it is built first on the foundation of a great story. And the hallmark of the ones we love that last is an intangible human quality that somehow we all resonate with.  The eternal verities.  What’s true.

No script, brand line, tag tweet or ton of money thrown at showing your story can sell qualities that aren’t there for long.

Everyone has a story.  In the past twenty- five plus years helping people, I have come to see that most authors and businesses, the biggest and the smallest at first don’t realize they are short changing  theirs, it’s invisible power and accordingly their profits.

One of the lines Mary wrote in my endorsement was “vitality of mind and spirit is built on the bonds of love.”

Rest in Peace, Beautiful One.


Thank you for reading.

Want to talk?












Good Reasons To Keep on Writing

Happy Holidays to All.

To wrap 2016, a client of mine got a 3 book deal with Random House.

Look! Man (and Woman) can’t live by Tweets alone.

I’m not an agent, but I know there have been between  40 and 61 reported new deals made each day so far in December in traditional publishing between the big gate keepers and smaller houses.

Including my client, who retells American history with her contemporary and one-of-a-kind vision we revealed together and positioned first as a brand before we looked to her writing.  And she got a nice six figure deal.

She wasn’t famous but she has a brand in place and Random House is rolling with it.  This is more than a platform.

But this isn’t a blog about traditional publishing vs. self-publishing. Either way, you’re at the helm.

It’s about not giving up on your possibility to have a book to your name, your legacy and even a bestseller to brand.

I know for myself, an author of many books who has  helped  other writers build brands and New York Times bestsellers around theirs, that  writing is easy!

But it’s not simple.

Yes, book sales (particularly fiction, except kids’ books) are down in 2016.

As is virtually every area of retail.

Yes, Amazon is opening new and more brick and mortar bookstores across the country.

True, few authors get 3 book deals and not many writers make the great big money as do competitors in many fields.

But then, many people remain true to their visions either. We all know this.

I’ve seen many incredibly talented people blast out of the starting gate impatient and okay with not knowing what their true vision is. Then they  get tired, frustrated and lose heart. Their dream is weak and breaks so close to what for some has been ridiculously close to a victory. They don’t  have the talent.  They don’t have the support.  All really understandable reasons that they themselves often don’t really understand.

That all begin with a false start.

The trick is, can you  first do the not always comfortable part of identifying  and being true to your story?

If you aren’t repeatedly and solely swayed by rumors of market preferences in what you think you can or should sell,you have your chance to get to the guts of your real idea. This stands equally true for your first book or those expecting to ride solely off the success of their last one.  You have to keep looking off-center. It’s how you get to stand among the few who see above the rules long enough to recognize the rules you’re here to break.   Seeing this you can create what is original and valuable.

After digging deep into story for more than 25 years, it’s the only way I know that works.

I have seen this consistently with entrepreneurs, authors  and a few of the biggest brands in the world I have had the opportunity to work with.  We overlook the easiest part, head straight into the struggle and miss out on the simple.

Which is where the great results are.

And the story only you can tell.

Maybe I can help you.

I’d love to hear from you.

And thank you for reading.










Is Sugar Your Best Sales Strategy? And a Prayer, Please

With Halloween, the World Series and the final countdown to this election who needs sugar?

Being hyped up higher and higher – half the time I can’t tell the difference between excitement and terror.

Either way, for an overnight camp or a President, sugar as a marketing and sales strategy is hopefully reaching its inevitable crash.

Here’s a sugar story:

I met a man with a l0 day  overnight camp that was booked solid by the end of each session for the following year.  How did he do it?

“Simple.”  Three days before camp ended they shifted to their sugar strategy.  First day sugar was added to the meal menus. Second day they bumped the white stuff even higher. The third day was basically an open bar of sugar with a late night party featuring chocolate cakes that kids were almost jumping out of at this point.  And for the frosting -sleep deprivation.

By morning, when excited parents came for their kids, the kids were so strung out they were sobbing. “We don’t want to go home!”

Parents took that as sign their kids shouldn’t miss this opportunity again next year and to not miss a spot, they signed up on the spot.

That’s what this election cycle has felt  like for me – A gigantic sleep away camp for adults who as citizens signed on for the history and got addicted to the hysterics and the sugar.

Now the final days before both political camps go home we’re in the spin cycle -a fireworks of sugar, exhaustion, terror and anger and we’re waiting for an adult to come to take us home.  Here we all are.

But I don’t think we’ll be so fast to sign up again for this the next election.  Ultimately, we will only take so much poison.  (That summer camp, btw, I heard was sued and went bankrupt.)

And now a personal request please for prayer for a dearest friend of mine.  While she didn’t get candy Halloween night, she did get an hour organ transplant. You can’t make this stuff up.

Miraculous to think that in one day, a young man who lost his life suddenly and  had donated his organs. unknowingly  left the one perfect right match to be flown on an ER flight plane across the country to hopefully save hers.  While meanwhile, live inflight video of the organ was being seen simultaneously by my friend in the hospital room. That loving doctors dedicated their lives to trained to do this miraculous  ll hour surgery on Halloween night while their kids were out looking for candy.

Because of this, I am very much  aware of how extraordinary it is to be alive.  I mean, what are even our odds?  (Never mind the candidates.)

I am so grateful to be blown not so much away but awake to a remembrance of our real powers and possibilities for good beyond imagination.  Nothing feels sweeter.

So whatever the outcome of this election, whatever the odds, I stand for our possibilities.

And thank you sincerely for your quick prayer for Molly. Who may be just an anonymous soul to you.  But you will love her.

Thank you for reading!


And please e-mail me  if your brand needs an expert to  stand for your possibilities with you.

Do You Know Your Brand’s Ubuntu?

I finally caught up on my “Daily Shows” and watched Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz,  cheered on set for his interview like he’s  a rock star.  And he sure is to me even though I’ve never even liked coffee. Maybe they were handing out free Frappuccinos but I suspect the love for him has more to do with his Ubuntu and how that goes before him and leads his brand.

Schultz was excited to have found the word Ubuntu in South Africa where they opened the first Starbucks in Capetown.

You may know the software server, Ubuntu, but before they went into business, Ubuntu was first uttered  300 years ago in South Africa.

Nelson Mandela popularized it under his leadership to become a guiding principle of life meaning as Schultz quoted,“I am what I am because of who we all are.”

And it struck me, that is what a great brand knows and is.

Existing to reveal and share in our talents, products and services real, eternal  human qualities and all the other gooey stuff you’ve heard over and over that may sound not valuable for your business or too simplistic for “reality.”  It’s exciting for me to see Ubuntu is at its very core what defines loved brands that stick from Starbucks to Lady Gaga (a master of understanding her humanity and connection to audience)– to Valle Cleaners (down the street from me, where I wouldn’t go elsewhere.)

It’s what people want to have and buy and what you can’t fabricate. You’ve either got Ubuntu or you don’t. Most businesses don’t choose activate theirs. Fair enough.

Still it’s at the foundation of good story whether you’re a business or an author. It’s the place authenticity actually comes from.

So how can we get started activating this stuff so our business becomes and stays an actual brand?

Here’s a few essentials –  maybe all you need to know:

(l) Your business starts with you.

(2) Your brand is all about them.

(3) You are the author of your story.  And if You’re looking to be read, seen and told to others, know that They are the hero.

(4) Beyond anything we buy hoping for results, change or the onset of our world dominance, people are looking for a surprise experience of being more and never less than who they truly are. Now more than ever.

It is as Desmond Tutu wrote, what Ubuntu is, “our humanity inextricably connected.”

It is not simplistic and it is simple. That is once you get past the not so easy part.

Perhaps you won’t see world peace –but you can see some actual joy, real profits and purpose in doing what you are here to do day after day.

That’s your art.

Your Ubuntu.

When you get to simple, everything else gets easier.

Making it easier is what I help people do.

Are you ready for that?

Have a question?

Lets set up a time.  E-mail me and I’ll get back to you quickly.

Thanks for reading




















What I Learned From My Olympic Medalist Client



Have you seen this Bill Murray quote?   “Every Olympic event should include one average person competing for reference.”   When we met, my client  had competed  in five Olympics, medaled  twice and  was one of  a handful in history to compete in  both the Winter and Summer games.  Basically,  I walk.  I was clearly “the one included for reference.”

But I was hired  for branding; a reference to help shine a  flashlight on her unique story and why others would care.

I was now looking into the face of the  most focused person I have ever met.

And that’s the first thing I learned. It begins with the  face.

  1. What’s Your Race Face?

Race face is code for what athletes call your look at the start line.  It’s when the camera zooms in (should you be televised), we try to imagine what’s going on in their head and they’re laser focusing on staying out of it.  It’s that face that’s ready to go no matter what  happened the moment before or what may come after.  You can’t make that face up. That face tells the story of your heart and intention in that  moment before the gun goes off.  Olympians know it most often predicts your outcome. Win or lose it’s that face that gets you up and back in the game.

  1. It’s Not About “Your Why”  It’s Your “Why Not?”

Reason for doing this?  Why not?   She loves the way it makes her feel.  After all your training and skill why not love your game enough to give each race, each client everything you’ve got?  Why not give it like you’ve got nothing to lose?

Over a few  years we worked to design a new corporate presentation, products and her give back cycling program and company. (  And  here are a few things she learned from me in getting there:

  1. What You Do And How That Makes Your Audience Feel Are Two Different Things.

We  don’t care so much  about what we see you do until we are moved by how you make us feel about ourselves.

  1. Let Us Have a Taste:

Tell us your real stories (like  being at the start line worrying if  your panty line is showing or filling the legs of a male team member’s suit with molasses before a race (not the Olympics) and watching him show with his race face on anyway because he was the master of that.

5.   What’s The Big Picture You See and Offer?

What’s universal? What we want to let go of or aspire to have we haven’t recognized before?

For this client that  big picture is “The Love of The Challenge.”

We learned your dedicated  expertise makes you an Olympian in your  field.  Regardless of your game.The problem is most  businesses don’t know the real story of theirs.

Thank you for reading and if you share I will appreciate it as well.

I’m here to help and (generally)  pumped!