Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Marcia Talley: Murder, She Wrote

It was a breezy, fall afternoon back in 2003 when I first interviewed librarian-turned-award-winning mystery writer Marcia Talley. We sat on the patio of her suburban Annapolis home, sipping hot coffee and talking about murder. Sixty-something Talley is not a serial killer, of course. Far from it. She has spent much of her adult life working as a librarian for the federal government, raising two daughters, and caring for Barry Talley, her college sweetheart, who recently retired after serving for 36 years as the Director of Musical Activities at the U.S. Naval Academy.

In 1999, her life changed when she landed a book contract with Dell Publishing, a division of Random House. The New York publisher commissioned her to write a three-book series about the capers of Hannah Ives, a smart, sassy, breast cancer-surviving sleuth. The first book, “Sing it to her Bones,” won Talley awards and accolades. The second, “Unbreathed Memories,” came out in 2000, winning more awards and more accolades. Part three, “Occasion of Revenge,” was published in August 200l.

This Christmas, she published book number seven in the Hannah Ives series, Dead Man Dancing her first hardback — this one published by Severn House Publishers — that will keep the royalty checks rolling and the fabulously brave and funny Ives alive and well.

A ROAD LESS TRAVELED Talley has not always been on the literary fast track. In 1993, Talley's life took a dramatic turn when she was diagnosed with cancer of the appendix. She had previously overcome b bout with breast cancer in 1983. This second illness made her realize it was time to make a change. A big one. "I was under tremendous stress at work, and the commute was terrible," she explains. "Barry and I had always talked about the fact that stress can contribute to illness, and I was walking proof. I figured I could die at any minute, so why go on living a life that wasn't making me totally happy?"

What would make her happy, she knew, was writing. At first, she thought she'd create literary pieces, stories that were elegant, traditional, and a tad highbrow. She tried it for a while but found these stories didn't sell easily. Friends at her writers group in Annapolis convinced her to write in a style she loved. For Talley, that was the mystery novel.

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT Despite her penchant for mystery novels, Talley wasn't convinced she could write one herself. At least, not one that a publisher would buy. She wrote anyway, coming up with plots and characters, clues and twists whenever she could—while making that long commute, baking bread and folding laundry.

She fleshed out her stories in a 9-1/2 x 6-inch yellow executive notebook she always carries in her briefcase. Once the story line was complete, Talley headed to a makeshift office she assembled in the corner of her daughter's old bedroom. There, she transcribed her notes onto an old laptop so worn that some of the letters were gone from the keycaps. Her writer’s group friends got the first glimpse at the story, made suggestions, and she incorporated those suggestions before sending out the story to editors. It is a process she still follows today.

Back then, many of the stories met with rejection letters and were tucked away in her daughter's antique dresser that doubles as Talley's filing cabinet. But she didn't give up. Instead, Talley took to writing long, fantastic letters about her life and sending them via e-mail to long-time friends—including the late Sara Ann Freed, then executive editor for Mysterious Press, an imprint of Warner Books (now Grand Central, a division of Hachette Books).

"She'd send me these wonderful, hilarious vignettes about her life," recalls Freed, who met Talley at an American Library Association conference in 1980. “I told her she had to write a novel. She said she didn't have time, and I said stop writing e-mails to your friends, you'll have time. I think I bullied her into it." Figuring she had nothing to lose, Talley started writing her first book the next day. (Talley shares: "Sara Ann died tragically young, at 57, of leukemia. I miss her every day.")

GOING FOR BROKE Even before those words of encouragement, Talley had been kicking around an idea for a novel. Based on a real murder in 1970 in her husband's hometown in western Kentucky, the plot centered in the death of a high school student who had gotten pregnant by a farmer. He didn't want the baby and didn't want anyone to find that he was having an affair with a minor, so he sent the girl to see a friend who tried to give her an abortion. He botched the procedure and the girl bled to death.

Events went from bad to worse: the farmer tied cement blocks to the girl's legs and tossed her into a cistern on a nearby farm. She wasn't found for years. "The story made the front page of the local newspaper," recalls Talley. "I'll never forget seeing the photograph that ran in the paper of the girl's parents walking hunched over along the dirt path away from the cistern after identifying the body. The look on their faces always haunted me, and I never could get it out of my head."

She figured readers would be mesmerized, too. Wanting to get her hands on those old newspaper clips, Talley traveled to Kentucky and went straight to the local library to search through old records. She came up empty—until she asked the librarian for help. "The librarian told me she thought that someday someone might want to look at those old newspaper stories, so she clipped the articles and tucked them away in a filing cabinet," Talley explains, pulling copies from her own files. "I couldn't believe my good luck. I will forever be indebted to that woman."

SNEAK PEEK: DEAD MAN DANCING Driving a wedge between sister Ruth and her fiance Hutch is not what Hannah intends when she recommends J & K Dance Studios to her sister. Ruth is determined to shine on her wedding day, but when Kay Giannotti, the svelte, stunning half of J & K floats across the floor to greet Hutch with a kiss, it's clear this isn't the first time they've met. Setting jealousy aside, Ruth dazzles the instructors with her footwork, and Jay Giannotti charms the couple into auditioning for "Shall We Dance?," a TV talent show. Then Ruth is sidelined by a brutal attack, and Hutch is partnered with Melanie, whose deafness is no bar to success. The couple is waltzing to a win, until a ruthless killer turns the competition into a blood sport. Hannah steps in, and the dancing gets down and dirty. Jealous partners, pushy mothers, brats in rhinestones, hired thugs ... Will Hannah discover who is capable of murder before the final tango? Buy the book.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Episcopal Leader Urges Focus on Issues of Hunger, Disease, Poverty

I was honored to meet Bishop Katharine Schori yesterday at a National Press Club (NPC) luncheon that I was hired to write about for the club’s newsletter, The Record. Talk about a truly amazing woman. In addition to having a PhD in oceanography and being a semi-professional pilot, since November 2006 she has been the 26th Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church — the first woman to lead a national church in the 520-year history of Anglicanism.

She serves as chief pastor to the Episcopal Church's 2.4 million members in 16 countries and 10 dioceses, as well as the American representative to the worldwide Anglican Communion, a body of 38 provinces and 77 million worshippers. And like any truly amazing woman — she isn’t afraid to stand up for what she believes in. In fact, Schori took over just a few years after the General Convention of the Episcopal Church consecrated openly gay Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire. After the affirmation was announced, 20 Episcopal bishops rose in protest.

"I will stand against the actions of the Convention with everything I have and everything I am," declared Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh. "I have not left, and will not leave, the Episcopal Church...it is this 74th General Convention that has left us, betrayed us, undone us."

Schori’s liberal ideas on homosexuality, same-sex partnerships, and other social issues have continued to frustrate some of the conservative members of the Episcopal Church. In her first national interview after being elected, she told CNN that she does not believe homosexuality is a sin:

"I believe that God creates us with different gifts. Each one of us comes into this world with a different collection of things that challenge us and things that give us joy and allow us to bless the world around us. And some people come into this world with affections ordered toward other people of the same gender and some people come into this world with affections directed at people of the other gender."

Just weeks ago — on December 3, 2008 — theological conservatives from the Episcopal Church announced they were founding their own rival denomination. Schori told large crowd that had gathered at the NPC yesterday that she and like-minded colleagues “tried hard to negotiate for a long time. But finally, when we couldn’t come to a consensus, we asked the courts to act.”
Throughout her speech, entitled “Religion in the Public Square,” Schori maintained that it is important for everyone be hopeful and fearless in their convictions.

“Perhaps the first role of religion in such times is to be a messenger, like one of those biblical angels, who starts out by saying, fear not,” Bishop Schori said. “Don’t be afraid; this whole thing is a lot bigger than you are. Yes, change is coming, and it will drive some people crazy, and at the same time not go far enough for others. In more secular language, we might say, don’t sweat the small stuff. And more of it is small stuff than you might expect. At the same time, the religious voice will remind you that how you deal with the small stuff does not affect you alone – your actions may have consequences beyond your wildest imagining.”
She concluded her speech, saying: “On two occasions in the last few days, leaders in my own church have said to me that the church only makes the front page if it’s about schism or sex – and in the current era, preferably both. The reality experienced by most Episcopalians, and indeed most faithful people, is of their congregations gathering for weekly worship, saying their prayers, and serving their neighbors, nearby and far away.”

“That service happens in remarkable and profound ways, building schools in Africa, clinics in Haiti, digging wells in the Philippines, as well as prodding our legislators to attend to issues of climate change, access to health care, and funding AIDS work in Africa. It is the rare few who are consumed by conflict, and they tend not to last, for intense and prolonged conflict is not life giving. “

“Help us tell the stories of transformation, of moving toward that hopeful future, for which the world hungers,” Bishop Schori said. “Help us tell the world that fear is not the answer.”

For the final question of the day, NPC President Sylvia Smith asked Jefferts Schori what she prays about privately that would surprise us. Jefferts Schori answered: “I pray for people who consider me their enemy. I believe that whenever we face an obstacle in our lives, praying for those who challenge us is a necessary part of our journey." As for whether that's a hard task: "No, not when it becomes a discipline.”

Friday, December 5, 2008

Traci Bisson, The Savvy Businesswoman Behind The Mom Entrepreneur

You just never know who you are going to be lucky enough to meet online. While surfing through the hundreds of reporter queries that I daily field for my clients at Inkandescent Public Relations, I saw a request for stories for a blog called "Lemons to Lemonade" for The Mom Entrepreneur. Its founder, Traci Bisson, posted my response as Feature #8. During the course of our conversation I got to know this Truly Amazing Woman.

Turns out Traci founded The Mom Entrepreneur last April — more as a hobby than a business venture. She's owned her own PR company, Bisson Barcelona, since 2000 when just a few weeks after having her first child Jacob (now 8, pictured above with Traci and her second son Lucas, 3) the company she'd worked for the past five years went out of business. "I tried doing my own thing and failed miserably," she shares. "After another year of working for two different companies I decided to try entrepreneurship again."

Although her husband Raymond is very supportive, Traci admits that raising two sons and growing her company has been challenging. "When you are heading up your own company and taking care of kids, the problems are much different than they are when you are a mom who works for someone else's company."

Traci figured she wasn't alone, and did a little research. "Statistics show there are about 10 million mom entrepreneurs in the U.S.," she says. "My guess is that we all feel the same way: stressed, alone, and looking for others to connect with who are in the same boat." So she started blogging about her thoughts and feelings and birthed The Mom Entrepreneur, an organization dedicated to offering tips, advice, and resources for balancing motherhood and running a company.

Following is some of her useful advice. And for more terrific insights, join her network of Mom Entrepreneurs.

Top 6 Tips for Being a Successful Mom Entrepreneur

1. Remember family comes first. In the saying mom entrepreneur, mom comes first. In order to make sure mom comes first, try not to mix family time and work time. Ensure that time spent with family is quality time. You will attract clients with the same philosophy enabling you to stay focused on the reasons why you became a mom entrepreneur in the first place.

2. Make time for mom. Me-time or mom-time is critical. So many women tell me how difficult it is for them to find quality time for themselves. This is just as important as eating, drinking and sleeping. No excuses – take 15-20 minutes if that is all you have and go for a walk, read, listen to music, exercise, etc.

3. Stay connected. The world is changing so fast and mom entrepreneurs need to stay connected to the pulse of their industry. Get connected through Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Blogs or other social outlets that reach your target market.

4. Get a Blackberry. This tool is truly the best one I have found for allowing mom entrepreneurs to stay connected whenever and wherever. Being a mom means that you cannot always be readily available if clients need you. Without taking time away from your family, a Blackberry allows you to keep in touch as needed.

5. Ask for help. My family is a great support system and everyone lives close. My mom frequently watches the kids as does my brother. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Mom entrepreneurs can do it all just not all at once.

6. Join a Support Group. The Mom Entrepreneur Online, for instance is a network with hundreds of women everyday. We share tips, advice and resources and discuss everything from potty training to how to use Twitter. For more information visit http://tinyurl.com/MomEntSG.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Suzanne Carbone Gives Thanks, Advocates for a Cure to Alzheimer's Disease

In support of Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month (November) and in celebration of what it truly means to give thanks for your loved ones this Thanksgiving Day — we honor Suzanne Carbone, a caregiver and advocate for research into the prevention and cure of Alzheimer's disease. Last May 14 she testified before the U.S. Senate’s Special Committee on Aging on behalf of Bob Carbone, her husband of nearly 40 years who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2000.

Suzanne (pictured above with her husband Bob and their grandchildren Tessa and Sophie Sontheimer) told the Committee: “In many ways, his story is a classic American success story. He was born in Plentywood, Montana, where his immigrant father was a section foreman for the Great Northern Railroad and his mother was a homemaker. Relying on his sharp mind and love of learning, Bob earned a Masters degree from Emory University and PhD from the University of Chicago. He was the Special Assistant to President Fred Harrington at the University of Wisconsin, and before his diagnosis, was the Dean of the College of Education at the University of Maryland. Always interested in the political process, he ran for the Maryland State Legislature in 1982.”

“In January 2007 my husband moved into assisted living, when caring for him at home was no longer an option. I am just one of millions of caregivers who are faced with such a difficult decision. Every day, I meet another caregiver who needs help and doesn't know where to turn. Our country is not prepared for the emotional, physical, and financial impact of this disease.”

A LOVE STORY Suzanne admits her decision to move Bob into assisted living was one of the most difficult decisions she has ever made. She recalls the day, in the late 1960s, when she was studying to be a librarian at the University of Wisconsin and literally bumped into her future husband.

“It was pouring outside and we both happened to dash into the dry cleaners to get out of the rain and I bumped right into him,” she says. “I apologized and ran out, but he asked the owners what my name was. They gave him my number, and he called me every day until I agreed to go out on a date with him.”

The couple married in 1968. “It was a very memorable year, but also a time of great turmoil in the country. Bobby Kennedy was shot, and the Vietnam War was finally at an end. I feel that I was a product of that war. I had been dating a fighter pilot when I bumped in Bob, but I think our marriage was meant to be.”

In 1972, Suzanne and Bob moved to Washington, DC so he could take the deanship at the University of Maryland. Their first child, Angela, was born in December of 1968, and their son, Chris, in 1972.

THE ODYSSEY It was in the late 1990s that Bob started exhibiting signs of Alzheimer’s — although no one could pinpoint what the symptoms meant early on. “He had always been marvelous at giving speeches and never failed to tell the perfect joke. But one day he forgot the punch line. Other times he had difficulty finding the right words. Eventually, he couldn’t remember a neighbor’s name, and sometimes would pay the same bill twice.”

It was a dramatic contrast to the gregarious husband she’d loved for all those years, Suzanne explains. “When he ran the education department at the University of Maryland, he could recite the resume of everyone on his faculty. He was fun loving, and adored his children. He even ran for the state legislature in 1982. Bob was always an exciting person to be with. But these new lapses confused and frustrated Bob, and sometimes he’d lash out in anger.”

Initially, Suzanne says she thought there was something wrong in her marriage. “He’d get so mad at me, but eventually I realized that he was really frustrated with himself and couldn’t figure out what was happening.”

Thanks to the insight, advice and support her children provided, Suzanne began to suspect her husband was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. So when the diagnosis finally came, she admits it was a relief for everyone. “One of the first things that Bob did was to tell all his friends and colleagues that he had it,” she says. “I think he was grateful to at last give the problem a name.”

Bob resigned his position as an educator and filled his days delivering food to the needy for Meals On Wheels. Within a few years, however, that also proved to be too difficult. “He had trouble finding the places to deliver the food, but it made it easier to tell people that what was happening was a problem going on inside his brain,” Suzanne notes, and says soon after she began looking for the best assisted living home she could find to care for her husband.

Today, Suzanne visits Bob almost daily and although he now remembers little about their life together, in her heart Suzanne knows that he still knows how special she was to him. “He may not be able to say my name, but he smiles when he sees me. I sit down next to him on the sofa and especially after I’ve had a hard day, he’ll put his arm around me. Even though the details may have faded, I believe our love still lives on.”

LESSONS LEARNED In addition to working as a librarian in Maryland, Suzanne provides regular support for anyone who suspects a loved one is suffering through the beginning phases of Alzheimer’s disease. She always suggests the following:

Keep a journal. “This has been a very strange, spiritual journey and I'm so glad that I started keeping a journal when Bob began exhibiting signs of Alzheimer’s. I looked at it last night, and what struck me most is how far we have all come. It is sometimes hard to remember just how terrible those early stages were, and I’m glad I have kept this journal because it helps me track my growth.”

Be resilient. “Gather your resources and develop circles of support. You’ll be inspired by others who managed what has happened to their lives, and in time you will become an inspiration for others, as well.”

Keep love at the center of everything you do. “People with Alzheimer’s live in the moment. And what’s so amazing is that when you really observe that, you realize it’s a beautiful way to be.”

For more information:
• Learn more about Alzheimer’s disease and please contribute to this worthwhile cause on the official website: www.alz.org.
• Read Suzanne Carbone’s May 14, 2008 testimony to the U.S. Senate’s Special Committee on Aging here.
• View the entire hearing here.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Gooseberry Patch Founders Jo Ann Martin and Vickie Hutchins are Cooking

Hot off the presses is the November issue of Costco Connection featuring (on pages 33-35) a profile of Jo Ann Martin and Vickie Hutchins, owners of Gooseberry Patch, a multimillion-dollar company with a country flair that publishes catalogs, comfort food-friendly cookbooks, calendars, and organizers.

Last year, the company published its 100th cookbook and shipped out more than 350,000 packages from its catalog of more than 500 items under $20—which includes a selection of wall and pocket-size calendars, night lights, mason jars, bowls, kitchen accessories, food items and kits, Christmas ornaments and soap pumps.

The company’s 100 employees are like family, say Hutchins and Martin—two entrepreneurs who didn’t expect to build an empire back in 1984. They were both stay-at-home moms looking for something to do after the kids went off to school. One morning the neighbors were chatting over their shared backyard fence in picturesque Delaware, Ohio and decided to start a catalog company.

Their concept was simple: They wanted to put the things they loved about the country into “a store that arrived in your mailbox.” They invested $5,000 each, and promised not to take a salary until they turned a profit. Within months, orders came pouring in. Into that first 96-page catalog went a few of their favorite country cooking recipes, “because everyone loves to try a good new recipe,” Hutchins says. She was right. By 1992, Hutchins and Martin received so much positive feedback from readers about those recipes that Gooseberry Patch began publishing its own line of cookbooks.

“Most of our good ideas come from our customers,” Martin says, proudly noting that today the company has more than 8 million cookbooks in print. A perennial hit, “Christmas All Through The House,” features dozens of holiday recipes and simple craft ideas and is for sale now at most Coscto stores. Other popular titles include, “Church Suppers,” “Harvest Country Cookbook,” and “Super Fast Slow Cooking.” Additional titles are in the works.

The co-founders share that there have been tough times. In 1998 their business grew dramatically, and they hadn’t quite mastered how to handle the demand.

“We were still working out of our homes and our products were here, there, and everywhere, so that was a logistical nightmare,” Martin shares. “Finally, we moved into a 53,000-square-foot building and put everything under one roof.” Then came the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The Anthrax scare made people afraid to use the post office, and their mail order business took a hit. It rebounded, but now in 2008 the nature of their business has changed once again due to the increased efficiency of the Internet. “We are feeling like we need to cut back on our space,” Hutchins tells The Costco Connection. “But it’s all part of the juggling act of running a business. We try to stay flexible.”

Through it all, Hutchins and Martin have managed to keep their friendship strong. “Our offices are still right next to each other,” Martin explains. “I’m in charge of the back end of operations, and Vickie works more on the creative side of things, so we don’t step on each other’s toes. We also escape now and then and do the one thing we both adore: going to antique flea markets. It’s a girlfriend type of thing.”

The ladies say the most important lesson they have learned is to stay true to who you are. “After you’ve had some success, it’s easy to go off your path and get into things you shouldn’t,” concludes Hutchins. “But it’s important to remember what brought you to the dance. We try to give our customers a little more than they expect, and if we can continue to build a company that provides nice surprises and gives people a little comfort when they need it, I think we’ll have succeeded.”

For more information visit: http://www2.gooseberrypatch.com.

Costco article by Hope Katz Gibbs, a freelance writer in Northern Virginia who received rave reviews from her family when she whipped up Hot Chicken Salad—a recipe by Lynne Davisson of Cable, OH, on page 343 of “Christmas All Through The House.”

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Nardos King: 2008 Outstanding First-Year Principal Award

Earlier this year, beloved Fairfax County Public School educator Nardos King, the principal of Mount Vernon High School in Alexandria VA, took home one of the most prestigious FCPS awards: the 2008 Outstanding First-Year Principal Award.

Praised for her ability to motivate students, she set several goals when she became principal. The first was to have Mount Vernon become a positive focal point in the community. She also wanted to reach out to Hispanic parents who were underrepresented at the school.

And King was determined to improve instruction — and find a way to forge relationships among students and staff members. So she met with community members and parents and challenged them to become ambassadors for the school. Then she reached out to Hispanic parents, with the help of a neighborhood church, and ultimately established Hispanic Parent Council.

She also adjusted the bell schedule to facilitate student enrichment, mediation, and mentoring — and carved out a special 30-minute class period during which all students and teachers read silently. Students can also use part of the period to consult teachers for extra help, make up tests, or complete assignments.

Where no educator has gone before?

Then last year she did what few other educators might be willing to do: She promised to cut her hair into a Mohawk if students raised their SOL scores to 80% or higher in each of the four core areas. Not only did they accomplish that, but 28 students in the class of 2007 earned the International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma—the highest number in the school’s history.

Last November 20, King headed to the hairdresser to make good on her promise.

“I have a passion for finding ways to address and close the achievement gap between white and minority students,” says King, who grew up in Mount Holly, NJ. “My mom is from Ethiopia and my father is American, so I had a taste of what it meant to merge two cultures when I was a child.”

She deepened that understanding after graduating from Virginia University where she got a degree in Business Information Systems in 1986. Her husband — as a second lieutenant in the US Army — whisked her off to Germany soon after the wedding. King wanted to get her teaching degree, but worked as a substitute teacher and a bank teller instead.

In 1990, the couple moved again to Lawton, Oklahoma. “My dream to teach was still there but I had a baby and no time to go back to school,” she explains. “I was hired by the school system to be an instructional assistant, but the position ended after a year and I was transferred to a library assistant position in another school. I enjoyed that position, too, but soon after was transferred to a local high schools to become the finance secretary.”

When there’s a will there’s a way

In 1995, when her husband was transferred back to the Washington, DC area, King wasn't going to let anything keep her from finding work in the classroom. First, she found a job as the secretary to an elementary school principal. Six months later she was hired at Mount Vernon to be the school's finance officer.

“As luck would have it, the principal told me about a program at George Washington University which allowed me to get my Master's in Special Education,” she shares. “I entered the program and left my finance position to take an Instructional Assistant in the Special Education Department at Mount Vernon. After a year of school, I was eligible to teach on a provisional license and was hired to teach at Mount Vernon, where I taught math to the special education students for the next four years.”

King worked her way up the system, eventually becoming a sub-school Principal at Mount Vernon. In the summer of 2006, she landed her dream job. The awards that have come since — and there are several of them — are wonderful, King says, but what is most important to her is helping at-risk kids.

“Four adult volunteers, and myself are currently working with a group of students in a program we call the 30/30 club,” she explains. “Prior to entering the program, these students were all low performing and unmotivated, but we have been successful in getting the majority of them to turn around their grades, behavior and attendance ion school. I strongly believe that building relationships with at risk students in key to the success of the program.”

King is determined to continue to be a positive role model in the years to come. She is currently studying for her PhD in Education Leadership and Policy at Virginia Tech, and hopes to one day become Assistant Superintendent — and then Superintendent — of a large school district.

“I know that if I am truly running the show, I can make a difference on hundreds of thousands of children’s lives,” she says.

We’ll let you know when King lands that job.

To learn more about the work Nardos King is doing at her high school, visit http://www.fcps.edu/MtVernonHS.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Stephanie Cohen Hosts First Annual DC Health Summit: Oct. 29 at the Mandarin Hotel

Mark your calendar for Oct. 29 when award-winning entrepreneur Stephanie Cohen hosts the first annual DC Health Summit, a meeting that is bringing together 100 of the top minds in the health care industry on Oct. 29 from 11 am to 1 pm at the Mandarin Hotel in Washington, DC www.dchealthsummit.com.

This free, groundbreaking event is open to business leaders and health care professionals who want to learn more about workplace wellness and how it can not only potentially lower health insurance rates. Wellness expert Steven Aldana, CEO of Wellsteps, Inc. and author of "The Culprit and the Cure," will give the keynote speech: “The Truth About Return on Investment and Worksite Health Promotion Programs."

Representatives from the Barack Obama and John McCain campaigns will also be on hand to talk about each candidate's health care plans.

The moderator for the event is futurist Andy Hines of the global research and consulting firm Social Technologies, who will continue the discussion with a panel of leading-edge health care industry professionals: Virginia Senator George Barker, Kaiser Permanente's Director of Population Care Dr. Amy Compton-Phillips, UnitedHealthcare COO Dr. Sandford Cohen, Neurosurgeon Dr. James Melisi, the National Rehabilitation Hospital's VP Dr. Paul Rao, and Maryland's former Insurance Commissioner Al Redmer,

“The goal of the Summit is to get all of the players in the health care industry one room — from futurists like Andy Hines to insurance company executives, doctors, hospital administrators, pharmaceutical companies, and politicians,” says Cohen. “All these people have their own ideas, war stories, and agendas about what needs to be done to get health care insurance rates back in check — but never before have they sat down together and talked it through. The Summit is the first step to get this important conversation going.”

Since co-founding the Gaithersburg, MD health care benefits firm Golden & Cohen in 1992, CEO Stephanie Cohen has helped it grow into one of the largest among female-owned companies in the Washington metropolitan region with $70 million in sales last year.

With more than 15 years of experience in small group health insurance, disability programs and life insurance, she recently qualified to be a finalist for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award. Stephanie also serves on the prestigious United HealthCare, Coventry, Aetna and Kaiser Broker Council, and is a member of the Womens’ President Organization, the District of Colombia Insurance Commissioner Advisory Council and The Greater Washington Health Underwriters.

Stephanie believes in giving back to her community, and has served on the board of Rebuilding Together, a non-profit group that rebuilds low-income homes. A native of Maryland, Stephanie received her BS in Marketing from University of Maryland in 1986. She has been married to Golden & Cohen co-founder and COO Scott for 15 years. They have two children.

For more information about this groundbreaking Summit, visit www.dchealthsummit.com. For details about Stephanie Cohen's firm, Golen & Cohen, log on to: www.golden-cohen.com.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Two Time Emmy Award Winning Producer Janet Shalestik

When it comes time to make that incredibly challenging decision to be a stay-at-home-mom or follow your career, two time Emmy Award winning TV producer Janet Shalestik didn't hesitate.

"It wasn't a choice," she says. "I simply knew that my kids were the most important people in the world to me. That made giving up the glamour and the world of TV a lot easier."

For years, she spent her days attending with great joy to the needs of her kids and husband. And nearly two decades later, the mom of Alison (17) and Sam (14) says motherhood is still her most important achievement. But now that the kids are a teens, Janet has embarked on a new career working as a representative for an international health and wellness company that helps people with physical, environmental and financial wellness.

"After many years of being a stay at home mom, I looked for a job that was flexible," she explains. "Even though they don't admit it, my teenagers still need their mom at home as much as younger children. That's how I define modern motherhood. Having a flexible job that allows you the time to be with your kids, attend their events, volunteer at their schools, and having the knowledge that you’re making a difference in their lives — all the while knowing you love your job and are getting paid to help people live healthier lives."

Janet says her life is different than her own mom, who is "87 years young, and the closest thing to an angel on this Earth. I’m not that angelic," she admits, noting that the traits she admires in other moms include compassion, intelligence and a sense of humor. "I detest closed-mindedness and people who say they’re going to do something, and then don’t."

Her biggest challenge these days is getting all the things done that I need to do, and not beating myself up for falling short much of the time. That's a far cry from her life a few decades ago.

"When I was in my 20s, I thought my greatest accomplishment was winning two Emmy Awards as a producer for 'Capital Edition' on WUSA-TV, Channel 9, and getting nominated for a national Emmy for an 'America’s Most Wanted' story against producers for Nightline, 60 Minutes and 20/20. In fact, when my son Sam was little, he used to think they were my basketball trophies! I’m 5’2” so I thought that was pretty funny. And as nice as those statues look in my family room, they can’t give me hugs, so they greatly pale in comparison to raising Alison and Sam, and seeing them grow up to be incredible human beings."

Janet admits she has faced some tough times recently.

"My husband and I are separated after 21 years of marriage, and that’s been tough on all of us," she shares. "My goal now is to show my children that if life sometimes throws you curve balls. But if your life doesn’t turn out like you once planned – you can pick yourself up, and make the best of it. I want my kids to know the importance of being resilient, because they'll be stronger for it. My goal is to stay open-minded and always live life with a glass half-full attitude."

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Hope Justman Travels China's Old Roads

Hope Justman is one of those women who younger broads look up to and say, "If only we can grow up to be her." As a retiree, she penned a "Guide to Hiking China's Old Road to Shu." So not only has she written a great book, which was published in December by Universe Press — this academic adventure, who as a 60-something grandmother, has hiked some of the toughest paths in China. And she wants us to, too!

"I first became interested in China as an art history major at Mount Holyoke College," she writes on her website, http://www.chinasgreatroads.com. "I also first heard of the Road to Shu at this time as we studied the painting Emperor Ming Huang's Journey to Shu. I was particularly intrigued by the plank road skirting the sheer mountain peaks in the background (lower right), although I was convinced that the artist had taken a few liberties in perching it so precariously on the side of a cliff."

After receiving her B.A. in Art History, she took graduate courses at the East-West Center and the University of Chicago, and during this period became interested in China as depicted in the accounts of 19th century travelers.

"On my third trip to China in 1999, discouraged by the unattractive modern buildings that had intrusively penetrated the most accessible sites, I decided to see how much of old China was actually still around off the beaten track," she notes, explaining she retraced the route of an Englishman who had traveled through northeastern Yunnan in 1910 along a route quite far away from any current tourist destinations

Although she had originally just planned on taking local buses to visit each of the towns he passed through, when she reached a third stopover she learned there was no bus to the next town. "I would have to return to the town I had just left and proceed from there. Not wanting to deviate from the original route, I decided to walk, and my landlord sent along a local boy so I wouldn't get lost."

She walked two hours along a dirt road and then "there suddenly appeared before us out of nowhere a single line of flagstones winding its way through the terraced fields ahead. I realized, with amazement, that I had stumbled upon a fragment of an old imperial road. I soon discovered that walking its well-worn flags was much more fun than hiking on a dirt trail."

Justman liked the fact that she was walking in the footsteps of all the 19th century travelers and, indeed, all the Chinese travelers that had traveled the 600-mile road for the last 2,000 years — and felt compelled to share it with others. After spending 31 months hiking and photographing the old roads, she returned to her home outside of Philadelphia and began writing the 435-page paperback. It features 19 hikes, details about local attractions, lists of transportation, hotels and restaurants, and maps and useful phrases in English and Chinese.

To buy this Truly Amazing Woman's book, visit http://www.chinasgreatroads.com.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Young Entrepreneur: Chef Kim Alvarez

Entrepreneur and chef Kim Alvarez was featured with her husband Edgar in a front-page article in the Philadelphia Business on Sept. 19, 2008 entitled “To market, to market, to buy a dinner to remember,” by reporter Adam Stone. “As business plans go, it’s perhaps not the most sophisticated. But it sure is straightforward,” Stone wrote. “Kim and Edgar Alvarez have a catering business to run, they’ve got a retail shop to manage, and they have ambitions for growth. Their strategy: Make the best food they can.”

If you are a fan of tasty international fare, they accomplished their mission. The menu — developed Philadelphia native Kim and Guatemalan-born Edgar — features hors d’oeuvres including chicken satay, spanakopita and vegetarian potstickers. Entrees range from orange ginger sesame chicken to short ribs to cranberry almond-crusted salmon.

The menu also reflects the couple’s experience working in some of the best kitchens in Philadelphia. They met more than a decade ago working at the four-star Philadelphia hotspot the Striped Bass (which was the backdrop to the anniversary scene in movie, The Sixth Sense) and married in 1999. Prior to that, Kim worked at Brad Ogden’s One Market in San Francisco and the Lark Creek Inn in Larkspur, CA. She also worked as a chef at several gourmet markets in Philadelphia, including Gerard’s and Patina. Edgar has been chef at such notable Philadelphia bistros as Phillippe Chin, Dock Street and the Black Sheep Pub.

“At those establishments we learned not only how to prepare four-star meals, and lead other chefs so they enjoy coming to work each day," Kim adds. "We also came to master what it means to truly take care of your guests, Edgar and I have brought our passion and skills to the Delaware Market House, and this experience has been a highlight of our careers.”

Another highlight is sharing their passion for cooking with their children, Emma and Alejandro.

“I clearly remember the day my mom enrolled me in a cooking class at Bloomingdales in Jenkintown, PA,” Kim recalls. “I was 7 and it was Thanksgiving time, so our first assignment was to make homemade stuffing. My cousin Brandi was also in the class, and she also liked all the tearing of the bread and combining it with the wet ingredients using her fingers. But I loved it.”

Every Thanksgiving, she still whips up the recipe for the family—with a little help from her kids who look forward to tearing the bread and helping her sautĂ© vegetables and mix it all together with their hands. Kim concludes: “Good cooking is about bringing joy to family and friends through combining the best ingredients with some skill and a little magic."

To read the entire Philadelphia Business Journal article visit: www.delawaremarket.com/to-market-to-market-to-buy-a-dinner-to-remember-philadelphia-business-journal.

About the Delaware Market House

Originally built in the early 1900s, the Delaware Market House long been a go-to-spot in Gladwyne, PA. Hungry residents came looking for a hearty meal, a hot cup of coffee, and good conversation. Award-winning Philadelphia Chefs Kim and Edgar Alvarez bought the Market in 2004 and continue the tradition by catering luncheons, parties and holiday meals, and serving up gourmet meals, fresh produce, baked goods, the finest cuts of meat, and providing customers with all the supermarket necessities of life—from cartons of fresh milk and bread to laundry detergent and diapers. For details call 610-642-7120 or visit http://www.delawaremarket.com.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The next president of the United States must put the full of weight of his office behind an energy plan, says Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson

When energy expert Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson addressed the National Press Club on Tuesday, Sept. 9, the ballroom packed with politicians, energy industry professionals and journalists took note as she described the plan she and her colleagues insist that the 44th president of the United States consider when it comes to energy policy.

“The priorities and legacy of a new administration are often defined and judged by the actions that are taken within its first 100 days,” said Jackson, a MIT-trained physicist and current president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, who is the vice chairman of the Competitiveness Council — a group of corporate CEOs, university presidents, and labor leaders committed to enhancing U.S. competitiveness in the global economy through the creation of high-value economic activity.

“The future economic competitiveness, national security, and prosperity of our nation will be determined by how we obtain and use energy, protect our environment, and address global climate change,” insisted Jackson, who was the chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission; a theoretical physicist conducting basic research at the former AT&T Bell Laboratories; and a professor of theoretical physics at Rutgers University.

Talk about a truly amazing woman.

Jackson went on to explain that America is caught as never before in a double grip: the need for national and global energy security, and legitimate alarm over our planet’s climate change.

“Issues that ensue from these twin realities—complex geopolitical and geostrategic challenges, unprecedented wealth transfer from one group of nations to another, the profusion of investment choices before us—require vision, careful analysis, coherent thinking, and finally, action,” Jackson explained.

As co-chairwoman of the Council’s Energy Security, Innovation & Sustainability Initiative—whose members include Caterpiller Inc.’s CEO James Owens and the national president of the AFL-CIO, Michael Langford—Jackson said her organization has put forth six priorities for the 44th president’s first 100 days:

* Set the global bar for energy efficiency. The next president must issue an executive order mandating that the federal government use the procurement process to lead the market toward efficient energy standards for goods and services, as well as in the construction and retrofitting of facilities.

* Assure access to clean and competitive energy.Immediately develop and utilize all sources of energy in America, including oil, gas, coal, nuclear, hydro, wind, solar, biofuels, geothermal, laser fusion-fission and other advanced energy sources.

* Jumpstart energy infrastructure investments. As our government has set aside loans for American to afford homes and start small businesses, today our country requires a $200 billion national energy bank to provide debt financing and drive private investment in the development of sustainable energy solutions and supporting infrastructure.

* Spawn technological breakthroughs and entrepreneurship by increasing investment in research and development, and market commercialization to deliver secure and sustainable energy.

* Mobilize a world-class energy workforce. As computer scientists and aerospace engineers were crucial to winning the space race in the 1960s, we will win the clean energy race by educating the next generation of science and technology researchers and game-changing innovators, thereby filling the workforce pipeline with a new generation of skilled talent.

* Clear obstacles to a national transmission superhighway. As with the interstate highway system and the information superhighway, our leaders must knit together the patchwork of regulations and oversight into a seamlessly connected electrical power highway that is technologically capable of allowing both on and off ramps for all energy sources.

“Energy security is the greatest challenge and greatest opportunity of our time,” Jackson concluded. “A national call to action will ignite our collective imagination, spark a new era of innovation, stimulate our economy, open new markets, unleash our national potential, and enhance our economic and national security. But, we must begin. The next president must send a clear signal—in the first 100 days—that will move us from rhetoric to reality.”

Hope Katz Gibbs is a National Press Club member and freelance writer in Northern Virginia. View this and other articles at the National Press Club blog.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Teaching the Tricks of the HR trade: Barbara Mitchell and Sharon Armstrong

In 14th-century England, masons, carpenters, leather workers, and other skilled craftsmen organized themselves into guilds—the first unions that were used to improve their work conditions. With the Industrial Revolution came divisions of labor, negotiable wages and hours, and challenging work conditions, and the owner was replaced by a new character, the boss, who was solely focused on getting the job done fast and right.

Conflict ensued—and so the human resources industry was born to help set things straight, explain authors Sharon Armstrong and Barbara Mitchell in their new book, The Essential HR Handbook: A Quick and Handy Resource for Any Manager or HR Professional.

This quick-reference guide, published in the fall of 2008 by Career Press, sheds light on the issues that keep managers up at night, says Mitchell, who for a decade worked for Marriott Corporation and several technology firms in the Washington DC area before launching her own company—The Millennium Group International—in 1998.

“Human resource professionals are not only charged with resolving labor issues,” Mitchell explains. “We also help acquire, train, appraise, and make sure employees are fairly compensated, while attending to their concerns about labor relations, health and safety, and fairness.”

“It’s a big job, but we make it easier by outlining guidelines and best practice recommendations in the 12 chapters of our book,” adds Armstrong, who began her career in human resources in 1985 as a recruiter/trainer in a large Manhattan law firm before launching her own company, Armstrong and Associates, in 1997. “Whether you are a newly promoted manager, a seasoned business owner, or a human resources professional, knowing the ins and outs of dealing with HR issues is critical to your success.”

With this easy-to-read 250-page paperback, you'll learn how to effectively and efficiently:

• Individually manage each employee, starting on his or her first day.
• Manage a multi-generational workforce.
• Appraise job performance.
• Coach and counsel.
• Provide equitable pay, benefits, and total rewards strategies.
• Minimize legal risk.

HR professionals have raved about this 250-page paperback—mostly because it gives sound ideas that are simple to put into practice, says Stephen J. O’Connor, senior director of staffing, ESPN Inc. “This book is easy to use, and full of solid advice and information from diversity to interviews to legal issues. If you are HR professional, you should have this book at the ready every day.”

Joe Calloway, author of Work Like You’re Showing Off adds: “Finally, a complete, clear, and concise book that covers every essential element of that mix of art and science we call HR,” “It’s 100% applicable to the real-world challenges faced by today’s HR manager or business owner.”

About the Authors

Sharon Armstrong began her career in human resources in 1985 as a recruiter/trainer in a large Manhattan law firm. She took over as Director of HR at the DC firm Shaw, Pittman, Potts & Trowbridge in 1991, and in 1994 became the Director of HR and Administration at the Association of Trial Lawyers of America.

In 2000, she opened her own firm, Sharon Armstrong & Associates, and since has provided training and completed HR projects for hundreds of clients. Her firm also serves as a brokerage house for other HR professionals. In 1998 she co-wrote her first book, “Healing the Canine Within: A Dog’s Self-Help Companion,” a humor book about her dog Scooter, and in 2003 she penned, “Stress-free Performance Appraisals,” with co-author Madelyn Appelbaum.

Barbara Mitchell is a human resources and organization development consultant who is widely known as an expert in the areas of recruitment and retention. She has experience in both for-profit and not-for-profit sectors and has consulted to a variety of organizations around the world.

She served in senior human resources leadership positions with Marriott International and several technology firms in the Washington DC area before co-founding the Millennium Group International, LLC (TMG) in 1998. She recently served on the Society of Human Resource Management’s Special Expert Panel on Consulting and Outsourcing in recognition of her expertise and long service to the HR profession. Barbara is a graduate of North Park University, Chicago, IL, with a degree in history and political science and has taken graduate level courses at UCLA.

Both authors live in the Washington, D.C. area.

Visit their website http://www.theessentialhrhandbook.com.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Karaoke for charity

Mark your calendar for Thursday, Aug. 21, 2008 when the life of Bobby de Lorenzi will be celebrated in grand karaoke style. The event is a fundraiser for the beloved brother of Success in the City founder Cynthia de Lorenzi, who has started a foundation in Bobby’s name.

“When Bobby died suddenly in 2002 it was completely devastating to the entire family and all of the people who worked for him at his company, Patriot.Net,” explains Cynthia today. “Bobby was one of those people who lit up a room the second he walked into it—who changed people just because he knew them. This foundation is our way of honoring his life and bringing joy to the people who never got to meet him.”

The goal is to annually provide $1000 or more to a needy woman or man to help them go back to school, manage their lives after leaving a relationship, or buy the wardrobe they need to land a great job, Cynthia explains. That mission also dovetails with the goals of her organization, Success in the City, a support network for women entrepreneurs.

“We know that with a little humor and love from your sister-friends, anything is possible,” Cynthia shares. “The grants given by the Bobby de Lorenzi Foundation will provide some money to make transitions into the workforce easier, as well."

And since singing at the top of his lungs was something Bobby prided himself on, the Thursday, Aug. 21 fundraiser is entitled: Chari-oke (Karaoke for charity). We invite you to support this good cause. (Details follow.)

Fundraiser to benefit the Bobby de Lorenzi Foundation
DATE: Thurs., Aug. 21, 2008
TIME: 6:30 p.m. - 10:30 pm

LOCATION: Velocity Five Sports Bar & Restaurant, located at the corner of Lee Highway and Gallows Road in the Merrifield section of Falls Church, Virginia

DETAILS:"Chari-oke" will feature food, fun, special entertainers as well as folks like you. It's an opportunity to show your musical or comic talent at the open mic or karaoke machine. Enjoy whoops and hollers and maybe even a valuable door prize, like concert tickets!

SIGN UP:Fees are $45 for Success In The City members; $55 for non-members. This is a co-ed event. Find information and registration link on the Events page at www.SuccessInTheCity.org or call Sheri Fulton at 703-309-5502.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Handbag entrepreneur Laura Lee Williams

Beautiful beads from Tokyo—more than 30,000 of them—grace the most elaborate offering by Laura Lee Designs, an international handbag firm founded in 2005 by California native Laura Lee Williams. Other designs—such as her trademark M bag—feature fewer beads, but the focus here is on the three-inch wrap of Australian snakeskin in the middle. “The white version is perfect for weddings, and pink version is a personal favorite because we contribute a portion of the proceeds from each purchase to Breast Cancer Research,” says the soft-spoken brunette, who shares the tale of how she got started in the handbag business as she sips chamomile tea at a cafĂ© not far from her current base of operations in Tyson’s Corner, VA.

Although her father and siblings all work in the TV and movie industry, Laura Lee didn't opt for a career in Hollywood but graduated with a degree in economics from UCLA, and later got a master’s degree in international studies from Harvard University. She spent most of her career working on strategic initiatives and marketing programs for Fortune 500 firms such as Nike, American Express, and Apple Computer. But when she accepted a job as VP of global business with Hong Kong’s Pacific Century CyberWorks (PCCW) in 1999, her time spent in China inspired her to look at the world in a new way.

“I helped PCCW transform itself from an old guard telecom company into a cutting-edge high-tech organization that provides Wi-Fi in airports, developed call centers and established broadband services,” she explains. “In doing so, I worked closely with Chinese executives and watched as they planned strategies that took a long-term view of business. It was a very different approach from what I experienced earlier in my career when I worked for U.S. executives. Too often, we Americans focus only on short-term profits and as a result, some very good ideas never got the chance to take root.”

In early 2003, Laura Lee decided to meld the best of both cultures into a company of her own. Her mission: To manufacture elegant hand-beaded handbags and sell them to a sophisticated clientele in the U.S. and abroad. Her timing was good. The total value of imports of women's handbags or purses had recently hit $1 billion, according to the Gale Encyclopedia of American Industries. And Laura Lee’s bags, which range from $250 to $700, started snapping up a nice portion of it from retail shops in Spain, Australia and the U.K. In the U.S. they can be found at Bloomingdale’s, Fred Segal, the Ritz-Carlton gift shops, and tony boutiques from Los Angeles to Miami.

Her bags hit prime time when one was featured on a 2006 episode of Desperate Housewives. Actress Eva Longoria’s character Gabrielle Solis carried a Laura Lee handbag—and the show’s costume designers made an outfit to match. Organizers of the March 2007 Oscar Wilde pre-Oscar party saw the episode and called Laura Lee to order six of her purses to auction off to celebrities, and invited Williams to the gala.

“Being at the Oscars was amazing,” admits Laura Lee. “My bags are popular with women who pride themselves on being fashionable, original, and standing out in a crowd. I like that in a woman, and want to encourage more ladies to make a statement and be recognized.”

For more information, visit www.lauraleedesigns.com.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Pam Skillings says “Escape from Corporate America!”

In her new book, Escape from Corporate America, reformed corporate ladder-climber, Pam Skillings (pictured here at her very hip New York City book launch party) offers advice to wannabe escapees. "If your corporate career is leaving you stressed out, burned out, or just plain bummed out, you’re not alone,” she writes. “You don’t have to choose between paying the bills and enjoying a fulfilling career.”

With humor and personal accounts, she offers a seven-step approach to breaking free:

1. Assess your job’s “suck” factor.
2. Identify your true calling
3. Develop your escape plan
4. Find jobs that don’t bite.
5. Be your own boss.
6. Follow your creative dreams.
7. Overcome any obstacle.

Skillings, a career coach that made the leap in 2005, estimates that 80% of the working population fantasizes about leaving their jobs for something better. And, she admits that making the leap isn’t easy, but it is worthwhile. “It took me years of trial and error to escape corporate America. Once I left, I was amazed at how many people were dying to know how I did it and whether they could do it, too.”

How miserable are you? Skillings helps you find out with a short 11-question quiz that has you rate your general job satisfaction and identify long-term career goals. At the end, you’ll know if you are ridiculously satisfied, on the fence, disgruntled, or “need an intervention. Stat.”

The journey then begins in Part I of the book offers advice on how to Plan Your Escape. “This is not your father’s job market, she insists, and makes anyone on the fence, disgruntled, or in need of an intervention feel oh so much better; and she helps readers distinguish between “Bad Corporate and Good Corporate.”

And Skillings insists, “we are all entrepreneurs now.” “The age of the employee is over. No matter whom you work for or how many stock options you own, the future of your career is ultimately up to you.” She then offers help on how to “break up with your job.”

In Part II, Skillings gets down to the nitty-gritty of “Exploring Escape Routes.”Ideas include taking a break, swimming in a smaller pond, going solo, and building your own business. And the most importantly thing to remember, she says, is to follow your creative dreams. “The good news is that it’s possible to make the transition from corporate suit to artist. The change just takes creativity, hard work, and guts.”

Are you ready to “go over the wall?” Then you’ll find great comfort in Part III of the book where Skillings helps readers confront the fear factor, their identity crisis, and the boomerang effect. “When you encounter a particularly bumpy stretch on the road to freedom, try to remember that goals worth achieving are rarely easy.”

Have a nice escape. “Only you can decide if you’re really ready to escape from Corporate America,” Skillings concedes. “The most important thing to remember is that you always have options.”

For more, visit http://blog.escapefromcorporate.com.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Kimberly Maxwell on the Future of American Men

When it comes to knowing what men want, Kimberly Maxwell is the gal to ask. As Senior Director of Brand & Consumer Research for Spike TV, she recently commissioned a study on the "Future of Men" from the Washington, DC-based research and consulting firm Social Technologies.

"We wanted to check the pulse of American guys to be better able to understand their lifestyles, their daily habits, and values," she says, noting that the research builds upon Spike’s 2004 "Guy's State of the Union," which delivered a wide-ranging overview of guy's lives.

Maxwell worked with Social Technologies' senior analyst Chris Carbone to investigate how men aged 18 to 49 feel about fatherhood and family, politics, relationships and women, role models, work and stress, technology, and more. They outlined five segments of American guys: young carefrees, above average joes, good ol' boys, mac daddies, and worry warriors. (See definitions, below.)

The CBS Early Show picked up on the fascinating study. The show's anchor Maggie Rodriquez interviewed a representative of each type of guy at the Black Sheep Pub in Philadelphia, along with Maxwell and Carbone, and the story aired on July 3. View that here: http://www.cbsnews.com/sections/i_video/main500251.shtml?id=4230616n&channel=/sections/earlyshow/videoplayer500202.shtml

This is but one of the interesting bits of research that Maxwell oversees every day as the head of consumer insights research for Spike’s linear and digital channels, focusing on men’s lifestyles and their use of technology and media. Within MTVN’s Entertainment Group, Maxwell also served as the Director of Brand & Consumer Research at TV Land, where she conducted research to understand how Boomer’s relate to and use technology, advertising and entertainment.

Before joining Spike, which is part of the MTV Networks, she was Senior Officer at the Academy for Educational Development (AED) in Washington, DC where she conducted consumer and communication research around public health issues for government and private agencies. All this good work comes from years of education, she admits. Maxwell received her BA in psychology from Wellesley College and PhD in Communications from the Annenberg School, University of Pennsylvania.

"I love my job," says the 40something resident of Brooklyn, New York. "I can't imagine working at cooler or more intresting place. Every day is interesting, and I really love learning new things — like I did through this study on men. It's not just great information for our advertisers and programmers, either. I think this study will be useful to men, and women, as they try to figure out who they are, who makes for the best mate, and what their futures may look like."

Here's more information on the five types of guys:

Young Carefrees (23% of guys). These guys are living out their post-college and early career years, and in many ways have yet to hit their stride. Seven in 10 are single, and they are the least likely to have kids. They are less successful than they thought they’d be at this point in life, but are optimistic about the future. Having grown up with technology, these guys are digital natives who often take advances like Facebook and iPhones for granted.

God Ol’ Boys (13%). These guys are likely to be single—though more than one-third have kids—and are the segment most likely to maintain traditional values of masculinity: rugged, stoic, and pragmatic. These values shape their relationships with their partners and kids, as well as the kind of leisure and entertainment they engage in. They have accepted that dual-income households are normal, but prefer that their wives don’t earn significantly more than they do.

Above Average Joes (29%). The Above Average Joes were the most progressive segment in terms of their views on masculinity and their roles in the family. They are more likely than any other group to be married, and many have children. They are thriving in their roles as modern husbands and fathers, and working hard to create a positive work/ life balance. This is reflected in their use of technology. They’re not tech junkies—but they do look to tech devices to help them stay connected to their families and be available to them anytime, anywhere.

Mac Daddies (20%). These guys lead busy lives, juggling work, home, and hobbies and activities—but they wouldn’t have it any other way. The Mac Daddies are modern men, comfortable with non-traditional "guy" behaviors: they enjoy shopping, carry few gender stereotypes and they care about their looks more than other guys. However, they haven’t abandoned traditional models completely. They have some of the longest working hours and highest incomes, with great passion for both sports and technology.

Worry Warriors (15%).Life is hard on these guys—or so they think. Even though they’re well-off and well-educated, they feel life is harder now than it was for their dads—whether in terms of achieving financial success, finding role models, or simply coping with daily stress. These guys have been in the workforce for a decade or more, and as time has gone by, many have become disillusioned with the system. Only about one-third of the Worry Warriors report being more successful than they thought they’d be at this stage in life.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Sharon Rockefeller on the importance of public broadcasting

The question came at the end of Sharon Rockefeller’s luncheon speech at the National Press Club on June 5: What is your response to critics who say that public broadcasting is too liberal? Rockefeller paused, looked out into the audience, and with a hint of a smile said: “No, it isn’t.”

With similar poise and style, the CEO of Washington’s flagship public TV and radio stations WETA spoke for 30 minutes about the role of public media on our democracy.

A champion for public broadcasting Rockefeller told the audience of 150 reporters, business leaders, and politicians gathered in the grand Press Club’s ballroom: “From the founding days of this nation, the U.S. has recognized that along with the right of the people to shape their own government comes the responsibility to have an informed, involved citizenry. In today’s era of global access, we are increasingly more aware of world events. Nonetheless, our society is becoming more polarized. Public broadcasting can and does counteract that trend. The concept of civil discourse is not a quaint ideal, but a very necessary tool for bonding a country together.”

Her personal discovery of public broadcasting came in the 1970s when her husband [Senator John D. “Jay” Rockefeller IV of West Virginia] was president of West Virginia Wesleyan College, and she was a young mother raising three children under the age of 5. She listened to All Things Considered while carpooling and Sesame Street while preparing meals. “Then standing in my kitchen one day, I had an epiphany,” she shared. “All this great programming came from a related source: Public radio and TV. It was at that moment I became a true believer in the power of those mediums to inform, educate, and inspire.”

Although being a good political wife was important to her, she knew her life’s work would be to advance public broadcasting. Soon after, Rockefeller began a 12-year term on the board of directors for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, including four-years as chairman. She has led WETA since 1989.

Her life has been fortunate, indeed. But not as free-spirited as she might have liked. She mentioned during her speech that then political wannabe Jay Rockefeller proposed with a particular wedding date in mind: April 1, 1967. "When I asked him why he said it was after the election, of course," she explained, adding with a wry tone: "and note, too, that our kids were born in off-election years, as well: 1969, 1971, 1973, and 1979."

In fact, the graduate of Stanford University has truly struggled personally. Her twin sister Valerie Percy was murdered in the family's home in 1966, during the time their father was campaigning for the Senate. The case remains unsolved. And in July 2005 Sharon was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. She is currently in remission.

Still, Rockefeller remains grateful for her life and her experiences. “Relatively few of us have the good fortune to devote our professional lives to the causes we hold most dear,” she believes. “I have been truly fortunate.”

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Success in the City's Cynthia de Lorenzi

Nearly 200 women clad in their diva best packed the AMC Theater in Tyson’s Corner VA on Friday, May 30 for the first public showing of Sex in the City, the best chick flick of the summer that is based on the popular HBO series.

“Not a single seat was available,” says Cynthia de Lorenzi (pictured right, being interviewed Jennifer Cortner, by president of EFX Media in Arlington) “and it was only 8 a.m. on a week day.” That’s just what Cynthia hoped for when she planned the event, the biggest yet for her 2-year-old Washington DC-based networking group Success in the City. “It was fabulous,” Cynthia said after the show, referring not only to the romantic comedy on the screen but to the hundreds of executive women who dressed up and headed to the theater instead of the office.

“I wouldn’t have missed this,” says Darcie Davis, Senior VP of Zephyr Strategy, Inc. and member of the Success in the City Board. The big event included a mid-morning spree at nearby Saks Fifth Avenue for a Saks in the City after-party where all sipped complimentary cosmopolitans, chatted with old and new girlfriends, and were treated to 15% coupons off nearly everything in the store. “Fun in big doses with other business women is what Success in the City is meant to be.”

Mixing friendship and business is the goal for Cynthia a fashionable Texas-born dame who is proud to conduct deal in heels. And when her beloved brother Bob unexpectedly died in 2002, she did the only thing she could. “My husband sold his business, packed up our house, and moved to Washington, DC to support my take over as CEO of Bob’s telecommunications company, Patriot Net [www.patriot.net]. “There was no other choice,” Cynthia says, admitting she suffered from tremendous culture shock. “Washington is not Texas. You may think we’re tough, but there is an impenetrable old boy’s network here. I found they were suspicious if you tried to talk to strangers in the elevator. And the women definitely didn’t wear pink. But they do now.”

Cynthia said hooey to the idea that she couldn’t beat ‘em. She founded Success in the City, a networking group for C-level businesswomen. “Quite simply, I needed girlfriends,” Cynthia confides. “In addition to dealing with some management team conflicts due to the fact that I was a Southern woman serving as CEO , and living in this new town, shortly after I arrived here I was diagnosed with a life threatening tumor. I had to find a support system — and fast.” Fortunately, she met a few women who were connected and approachable, and within a few months her pretty-in-pink networking idea created a buzz that led to a groundswell. The women who joined early on got their friends to participate. They liked it so much that the second tier told their friends, and they joined, too.

CEO Chick Chats, Breakfast at Tiffany’s for members, conventions at getaways like Virginia Beach and group trips to New York City followed, and then came the Big Event movie extravaganza in May. This summer, she’s launching a Success in the City TV network, and by the end of the year hopes to franchise the concept in other cities, beginning with Richmond, Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York. And the best part, Cynthia says, I found the mother lode of friends who are smart, successful women to befriend. “Isn’t that what the good life is all about?” she beams.

For more information, visit www.successinthecity.org.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Historically speaking with Rosalyn Schanzer

If American history has never tickled your fancy, you haven't read one of Rosalyn Schanzer's illustrated picture books.Take "John Smith Escapes Again!" which National Geographic Society in 2007 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown.

Setting the record straight Author and illustrator Rosalyn realizes her historically accurate version of Smith will raise a few eyebrows among fans of Disney's Pocahontas. "Many people don't know, for instance, that as a young man John Smith was tossed into the briny deep and became a pirate," she explains. "Later he became a wretched slave, and he didn't have that platinum blond hair—as he did in the Disney version—but a mane of dark brown locks and a thick brunette-colored beard."
Of course, a brave and beautiful Indian girl named Pocahontas did rescue Smith from certain death, though she was never his girlfriend.

Diving deep Rosalyn says she loves to discover little-known details about all of the historical figures she writes about — including King George III and George Washington (for her 2004 title, "George vs. George: The American Revolution as Seen from Both Sides," published by National Geographic) and Benjamin Franklin (in "How Ben Franklin Stole the Lightning," published in 2003 by HarperCollins). In her 1997 bestselling book, "How We Crossed the West: The Adventures of Lewis and Clark," a work that won a San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year—Rosalyn had to track down an exact replica of the keelboat used in the famous journey. To do this, she conferred with experts at Fort Clatsop in Oregon, the final western outpost of the Lewis and Clark expedition.

Getting it right "When I create the images, I want to get every shoe, every party dress, every uniform exactly right for the time period," Rosalyn says, noting that she gets frustrated when she glimpses inaccurate details in other historical books. "I think it is the job of a historical illustrator to exactly replicate all the little things. Otherwise, how will kids know what life really looked like all those years ago?" And Rosalyn is never one to pass on taking a great trip. Her thirst for a good adventure has taken her to Belize where she swam with sharks, to Alaska where she kayaked with whales and to the Amazonian jungles of Peru where she fished for piranhas.

Defending Darwin And in February 2007, Rosalyn and her husband Steve checked out volcanoes and gigantic marine iguanas in the Galapagos Islands. She currently turning his life into a new book, "What Darwin Saw: The Journey that Changed the World," due out from National Geographic next year.

History in the making Rosalyn's adventures provide a stark contrast to her early day jobs. In the start of her career she sat in a small cubicle illustrating cards for Hallmark. Then in 1972, shortly before following Steve to Northern Virginia for his job at a think tank, she began illustrating children's books. It proved to be the perfect thing to do while raising her two children (her son Adam is now 33 and daughter Kim is 28). In 1993, Rosalyn decided it was time to write her own stories.

The author / illustrator says "Ultimately, I just want to make the books so much fun and so interesting that my readers will get caught up in the story. I'd like to bring the past to life, and if I can, then I'll consider my work to be a success."

Rosalyn Schanzer is available to speak to students at schools, women's groups, and other gatherings about her books and what life is like as an author / illustrator. For more information visit www.rosalynschanzer.com..

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Driven to Succeed: Reston Limousine's Kristina Bouweiri

When Kristina Bouweiri co-founded Virginia-based Reston Limousine 17 years ago with her husband William (pictured here), she didn’t have much leadership experience. She had worked for five years in sales, but had never built or groomed a staff. In the beginning, she concentrated on being a positive, easy-going boss and didn’t worry much about boosting her team’s morale. During the booming 1990s, that approach worked brilliantly. “Sure we had some turnover,” she admits. “But the phone was ringing off the hook, so I didn’t focus on motivating employees.” Then came Sept. 11, and business came to a screeching halt.

Turning lemons into lemonade “Americans were afraid to travel, and that meant they didn’t need limos to take them around Washington,” she explains. “It was very scary.” The business downturn proved to be the perfect time to turn around her leadership approach. Kristina began reading management books, joined several professional business groups and attended luncheons where successful business people described how they led their firms. “I heard them talk about playing games to team build, and a light bulb went off,” she recalls. “It’s not that I didn’t know about the benefits of team building**dozens of companies used our limos and vans to transport their own employees to nights out on the town or other adventures. It just never dawned on me that it was so critical.”

The solution She decided to give it a whirl and organized a scavenger hunt. “We divided the staff into six teams and each group took a limousine into Washington, D.C. They had to fill a small bottle with water from the Reflecting Pool and buy a gift from Ford’s Theater, among other tasks.” Then she treated employees to a company picnic near the Washington Monument. The experience did wonders**and not just for the staff. “The outing made me realize that having fun was truly the key to success,” says the CEO who now plays on the company softball team and sponsors Survivor parties for her staff. “I learned that if you invest in making your employees happy, it comes back 100 times.” This year, in fact, her company is projecting gross revenues of $15 million.

Awards and accolades Kristina has won many awards for her business acumen, including being named one of the Top Women Business Owners in the DC area by the Washington Business Journal. Her clients range from George Mason University to Fannie Mae and the MCI Center, and often her limos carry some of the most rich and famous who come to Washington, DC for business and pleasure.

But it is Kristina's kindness, warm heart and generosity that puts her on the "Truly Amazing" list. "I cannot think of a better friend than Kristina," says Cynthia De Lorenzi, a businesswoman who in 2006 founded the networking group Success in the City. "She is one of those people who is always there when you need her, someone who goes beyond friendship and is truly a sister. I watch her share her money, her time, and her laughter with people and it always makes me smile. Even when things get a little rocky, she always has a smile on her face and a kind word to say. She's a straight shooter, but is also someone who never ceases to see the bright side of things. Kristina is one of those women you are honored to call your friend."

For more information, visit www.restonlimo.com.