On November 4, 2021, I hosted a book launch party for Strong Words and Simple Truths in Phoenix, Arizona. The venue was a fun, independent coffee shop called The Buzzed Goat and Ernie the hedgehog fit right in.
Our spirited gathering included over 30 friends, coworkers, toastmasters and veterans. The energy in the room was electric and I was thrilled to be able to speak in front of a live audience.
Below is a video of my short presentation and tribute to military veterans.
For more information on my book Strong Words and Simple Truths click here.
Earlier this year I embarked on a journey to write and publish my first book, Strong Words and Simple Truths. After eight years of writing this blog, I knew I had enough content (102 Posts with over 50,000 words). The trick was figuring out how to knit together so many seemingly disparate topics into a cohesive and interesting story.
I had a mountain of ideas and knew I had to focus, organize and categorize.
The first thing I did was put on my Scrum Master hat and break out the pink and yellow sticky notes! For a definition of what a Scrum Master is click here.
With an Agile mindset, I set about the task of visualizing every blog post. I did this by writing the title of every blog with a black marker on square sticky notes. The pink notes covered the majority of the wall in my home office. For more information on Agile click here.
The next step involved organizing and grouping the blog titles into themes or categories. I ended up with eight themes that I wrote on larger, rectangular sticky notes. I moved the smaller titles around on the wall so they were under the appropriate theme. I let this display sit on my wall for many weeks and I spent hours staring at them to see how they looked together. I moved some titles around and I removed over 20 blogs entirely. This editing process was difficult but very important to the integrity and flow of the book.
The eight themes became the chapters of the book which are: Communication, Toastmasters, Creativity, Veterans, the 1980s, Gratitude, Science and Health, and Agile.
I built a storyboard of the eight chapters to help visualize the order and flow of the themes. I evolved and iterated on this multiple times and landed on this display which includes the custom drawn illustrations by Alex Delit Garcia.
The creation of the Table of Contents was quite simple as I ordered the blog titles chronologically under each chapter/theme.
To tie all of the chapters together, I chose a fun and symbolic circus theme. Each chapter was represented by a character or element from the circus and I spun a tale about a curious girl named Elizabeth and her hedgehog friend, Ernie. The story took us on a “run away and join the circus” journey and wove together all of the chapters’ topics with the Ringleader kicking things off.
The use of a creative and symbolic fiction story to tie together 80 non-fiction articles was a fun and effective way to compile and build a book in a short amount of time. From the start of my sticky note wall display to the publication of the book was five months (including the creation of the chapter illustrations and the editing/formatting).
I often call my book a patchwork quilt of lifelong learnings, dreams and ideas and I hope you enjoyed my sharing of the stitching process!
For more information on Strong Words and Simple Truths: The Courage to Communicate, click here.
I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the headline and photo on the front page of my local newspaper the Ahwatukee Foothills News yesterday. There I was, standing in front of The Buzzed Goat Cafe wearing my Post 64 American Legion hat. The picture was taken after a speech I gave at my book launch party. One of the main focuses of my short talk was to share my experience in the US military and pay tribute to the veterans and honor their service and sacrifice.
I read aloud the excerpt below from my book Strong Words and Simple Truths: The Courage to Communicate.
Here is the introduction summary of Chapter 6: Veterans and Remembrance.
“Heroes are people who put themselves at risk for the benefit of others.”
The first veterans I admired were my father, uncles, and cousins that served in the U.S. Military. Most of them, my dad included, were deployed across the globe to fight for freedoms during World War II. Their strength and resolve inspired me to become a leader and a servant to others. They were my Strong Man role models.
The idea of selfless service was instilled in me at an early age as I watched my parents and my dear cousins Joey, Patty, and Richie, volunteer for countless events at the local Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW). Although my small hometown was only a few square miles, it was home to not one but two veteran organizations—The American Legion and the VFW. Every year when I was growing up, our town would have a Memorial Day parade that concluded at one of these two posts. In my family, Memorial Day was a special day marked by a solemn remembrance ceremony in the local cemetery.
My time on active duty in the U.S. Army in the early 1990s was relatively short and painless, but it left a lasting imprint on my perspective, leadership style, and values.
After college, I learned of the “Duty, Honor, Country” mantra of the U.S. Military Academy. I never forgot the crucial importance of remembrance and respect for those who have sacrificed in service to their nation.
The veterans I have encountered have a strong sense of integrity and commitment to their families, friends, and community. They are a tough and resilient lot who are some of the most kind, generous, and boisterous people I know.
The Strong Man is my tribute to all people who have served their countries and communities. Please join me as I share some of my thoughts on this important topic.