Literary consultant Sharon C. Jenkins has helped hundreds of authors and writers get their messages out to the masses over the years. She has performed many tasks from hosting workshops and webinars to assisting new and established authors through the intricacies of self-publishing. Her reputation as The Master Communicator has qualified her as one of the most in-demand writing and media professionals in her hometown of Houston, Texas.
There was just one thing. Sharon is also an author and when it was time to market her own books, she found it difficult to rely on the tried and true advice she’d given to her clients. “It’s hard to switch from consultant to client. In order to practice what I preached to others, I had to change my mind about my work,” says Jenkins.
The first shift was glaring. Jenkins decided that it wasn’t enough to think like a creative, but she had to embrace what she did as a business. Recognizing that publishing required her to budget, research, strategize and execute in the same manner as traditional publishers, she began to embrace her efforts as entrepreneurial.
“It was amazing. The revelation that I could either be one more struggling author with a book or take ownership of my publishing and strategize was mind-blowing.”
Jenkins saw almost immediate results. Once she fully embraced herself as an entrepreneur, she also embraced the concept of being an “authorpreneur.” She studied publishing house business models as well as changed her mind about expenses, and viewed them as investments into herself, the business.
In 2014, she published Authorpreneurship: The Business Start-Up Manual for Authors as a way of evangelizing the good news of being an authorpreneur. She states, “I wanted to make it easier for others who wished to take their self-publishing efforts seriously. The manual provides both information and encouragement.”
This year Jenkins is launching another authorpreneurship book, Will the R.E.A.L. Authorpreneur Please Stand Up? A Collection of Inspirational Stories Celebrating R.E.A.L. Authorpreneurs, an anthology featuring publishing superstars. She will also be releasing a companion guide, Will the R.E.A.L. Authorpreneur Please Stand Up? 81 Tips for the R.E.A.L. Successful Authorpreneur.
Sharon C. Jenkins is a cheerleader for women seeking their second act in life. “Some of the stories in my latest book are absolutely riveting and inspirational. There are women just like me who didn’t have time or money to waste, and in some cases, they needed a lifeline. Publishing gave them that lifeline.”
Let me introduce you to, Casey Curry, wife, mother, and educator who has just published her first novel, Promises. Curry is a master at weaving together fragile family alliances and with four aspiring African American daughters growing up in a military family all over the world, Curry has tons of material to not disappoint her readers. Like her protagonist, Pamela Sloan, Curry is a woman over 50, and the wife of a naval officer who takes us on a thirty year journey full of family secrets and promises.
I mention that the daughters are African American because it was that one fact alone that piqued my interest enough to read the book. It made me realize how little I knew about Black families in our military. Truth is, I had not read much about military families in general, and must confess, had only seen films about families coping with war and death as a young adult – starting with WWII, Viet-Nam, and now Iraq. Films or TV series that stand out are: Coming Home (1978); MASH (the 70’s); even Hogan’s Heroes from the 60’s and all those had an all white cast – or at least that’s how I remember it. It wasn’t really until Glory (1989) and Red Tails in 2012 that Hollywood portrayed African American families in the military.
So, Curry’s book allowed me to enter a world I knew very little about. What did I find? Having grown up with two sisters, I found the relationship between the siblings to be not all that different from my own EXCEPT mine didn’t involve military espionage, family sacrifices, or vacationing on the Vineyard. Interwoven between the daughters’ stories is Pamela’s story, their mother whose past is nothing like her daughters. Raised by a father because her mother was either absent or should’ve been, Pam managed to marry well while her half-sister struggled as a poor single mother with an ungrateful and selfish daughter. The contrast between Pamela’s tight knit family and her sister’s rather sad existence with her spoiled daughter is significant and what stories are made of.
I think Casey’s story will resonate not only with readers who have struggled with an empty nest or who are military wives but with women of all ages who have struggled to protect their family. The whole time I was reading Promises, I kept thinking this would make the perfect Lifetime channel movie – one of my guilty late night pleasures.
Casey Curry is the Director of Creative Writing at a fine arts magnet school in Tampa, Florida where she teaches poetry and fiction to high school students. She holds a B.A. from Hood College in Frederick, Maryland, and M.Ed. from Norfolk State University in Virginia. She is a 2012-2013 National Arts Teachers Fellowship (NATF) winner. The novel, Promises is her second book, and was born out of the NATF project, formerly funded by The Surdna Foundation. Ms. Curry is married to a retired Naval Officer and is the mother of three adult daughters. Her youngest daughter, Tori Rose, was the inspiration for her first book, I Remember You Today, and died of a brainstem tumor at the age of three.
I never expected to finish the revision of 25 chapters in five days. Of course, I must admit I’ve been revising for ten years so I guess it’s not all that surprising. But who cares? It’s done – 311 pages. Now, all I have to do is make copies and give it to my devoted writer’s group for one last look. I can tell you they’re probably sick of it but they’ve never had all the chapters together to actually read it through like a real book. I know there will be changes, albeit minimal ones. I’m terrible with comas and sometimes I get mixed up when to use italics for newspaper quotes and when I should just use quotation marks. I used to know those things but have learned to rely on my group for that. As for commas, Peggy is the comma Queen so she’s got that covered.
If you recall, there was a dove nesting on a planter on the steps of the condo where I’m staying. Yesterday evening, when I was leaving, I was delighted to see the dove resting on its nest. I tried to be quiet when I closed the door behind me but apparently I scared her off, and she flew away leaving behind two perfect white eggs. I don’t know much about birds but prayed she wouldn’t view me as a predator and abandon the nest.
The next morning (Day 5) when I arrived, I was a little apprehensive about what I’d find. Thankfully, the dove was back on its nest incubating her eggs. While she still has a ways to go, I couldn’t help but see the symbolism in this bird’s nest and the finishing of my book. So, here’s to hatching birds or books or whatever else that needs hatching.
I must confess, when this book Not Done Yet: A Tale of Transformation Through Transplant Surgery was first brought to my attention, I felt a bit of trepidation, the trepidation that comes from social responsibility. After all, the writer was a neighbor, and reviewing it would be a neighborly thing to do. I thought, “Well, what’s the harm in a short read, a quick compliment, then back to the bedroom for a short nap?” Well, it didn’t turn out quite that way.
As sordid as the subject matter may appear on the surface (a tale of transformation through transplant surgery), the author, Sharon Lamhut Willen, handles it in amazing fashion. The book made me cry, but it also made me laugh: a hard thing to do when writing about our health care system in this country on a social level and about the incredible personal angst one must feel when dealing with the imminent failure of one’s vital organ.
So many rules and regulations, so many forms to file…a forest so thick there seemed no path through it. Yet the grace, strength, and most importantly, the spiritual faith Sharon brought to the battle won her the victory. The ease and eloquence of her writing turned this hard distasteful journey of hers (and her husband’s) into a triumphant mission from which we can all take solace and wonder.
Sharon’s story made me revisit my own story. It made me reflect on how I was handling my own distress, my own disease and dis-ease. Whether it be my Parkinson’s or just my own reflections on aging itself, I thought about how best to embrace it. What there is in this book, is validation. With dedication and diligence, my friend and author found equanimity, and with that tranquility, reaching a near Satori experience in some of her meditations.
And in the end, she proves once again that the love you take is equal to the love you make. And that love is the balm that eases the pain. She documents the process in a striking way in some very dramatic circumstances. She’s made it hard for me to give up, that’s for sure.
The book reveals a tear-filled wonder into what a truly loving couple can do even under the most dire of circumstances. In the end, the book is a story of journey, of discovery. It is not a journey of youthful exuberance about the world, but rather one of an older, wiser, more seasoned toughness. We travel with the author as she leads us along the way to her entrance of grace, in spite of its ineffable way. This is a book well worth your time. I will end by saying, I hope to go through the rest of my life with half as much dignity and grace as Sharon has.
For those open to breaking out of stereotypes, life beyond 50 holds many decades worth of surprises and adventure. I was 75 when one of my own greatest adventures began.
That year, I had an epiphany: more than anything, what I wanted to do at that point in my life was to write a book about Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, founder of the micro-credit movement that is now more than 100 million people strong worldwide. Yunus, whom I’d learned about and met while working as a consultant to UNICEF in the 1990s, was my hero. The micro-credit movement he founded provided loans to poor people around the world, helping them start small businesses and climb out of poverty. I wanted everyone everywhere to hear his story.
But no sooner had I hatched the idea, I felt foolish. “That’s ridiculous,” I heard a voice in my head say. “You are way too old. Writing a book like that takes years of hard work. Be more sensible.”
A few weeks later I managed to silence the voice. “Be quiet,” I told it. Then I joined a writing group of women serious about writing and publishing their work that lent well-needed encouragement and momentum.
For the book to have fresh material and new insights, I realized, I’d need to interview people. In Bangladesh. Again that negative voice chimed in, saying “That’s impossible. Nobody sets off for a solo trip to a chaotic place like Bangladesh at the age of 76. What if I get sick? What if my husband gets sick?” Everyone I mentioned the idea to agreed. They said it was far too dangerous, that I couldn’t go alone. That I couldn’t leave my husband home alone for two weeks.
But I’d been to Bangladesh a number of times before while consulting for UNICEF, so it was not altogether unfamiliar territory. It may be a country that’s difficult to negotiate, filled with choking smog, and lacking street maps, guide books and telephone books, but I knew how to take care of myself there. I could stay at a hotel I had been to before. With a driver, I knew, I could get around the city despite it’s endless, relentless traffic jams. I began making my plans.
The next obstacle to surmount came not from a voice in my head, but from the practical question of how to line up some interviews with Muhammad Yunus. I knew that he got over 1,000 emails a day — and had seen first-hand that he didn’t answer mine. I felt stymied. Then, in what seemed like a small miracle, I discovered that a man I know from my own hometown was working closely with Yunus through his Grameen America foundation, helping him in Bangladesh and around the world. He agreed to meet with me, and as we sipped coffee he promised to connect me to Yunus’ assistant. He was sure I could get some time with Yunus too.
So in January of 2010 I headed for Bangladesh with 4 interviews lined up with Yunus, and many others lined up with his family, bank employees and media staff. It wasn’t easy. The phone system had completely changed since I’d updated my address book, and I had trouble reaching many of the people on my list. I also had no cell phone. On top of that, Yunus was unable to make our first several appointments and I was left waiting, uncertain of whether I’d get to meet him at all. At one point a friend from my UNICEF days invited me to have dinner with his family. He picked me up in a rickshaw pedaled by a scrawny Bangladeshi, and we lurched out precariously into the black night dodging taxis, beggars and potholes. I felt unsafe. Luckily, it was the only time I did.
Upon returning home, I was faced with the enormous task of sifting through the tapes of my interviews and transcribing them. Next came the even bigger job of writing the book. But having written a couple of books in the past, it was a natural and familiar project for me, providing structure and goals that I thrive on and enjoy. The support of my writing group was invaluable.
Finally, having decided to self-publish, I was introduced to this entirely new and also potentially daunting world. There, too, I sought support — this time from a professional who walked me through the self-publishing process.