- HealthSouth: On Sundays, I have been privileged to offer a one-hour memoir class at this rehab hospital. I never know who is going to come, but it is always a pleasant surprise. Patients are rehabbing from a variety of conditions, accidents, and diseases. They come from all backgrounds, ages, and professions. They are usually feeling rather vulnerable and, at the same time, grateful to be there. (It's a positive place. The hospital takes the idea of restoring people to health pretty seriously.) It is a good setting to get stories, which can be fascinating, amusing, and inspiring. On this day, I talked to a 90-year-old woman who had been born in Paris and lived through the Nazi occupation—and then to a man who had been a teacher, a principal, and a school superintendent in New Mexico. An Olympic figure-skating coach, who had been there a week earlier, came back for more. The stories made my day. This little gig has been the primary driver in shifting the emphasis of my business from the mechanics of book publishing to the process of helping people detect their most important stories and to begin sharing them.
- Cottonwood Storytellers: This is the descendant of my regular author meetup group and is intended to get authors to focus as much on telling their stories out loud as in print. The idea is that written and oral stories are connected—and that authors need to connect personally with their readers if they intend to sell their books. We meet in the new David Lord Theater in Cottonwood Center for the Arts. The space is clearly built for performance, which is a little intimidating to our cadre of shy authors. We have struggled a bit to find our way, but I tried a couple of exercises that went particularly well for participants and they want more.
- Downtown Toastmasters: Toastmasters, however weird its name, changes lives. It turns people who are terrified of speaking in public into dynamic leaders. My home club is bursting at the seams. We seem to get a new member every week. To get everyone sufficiently involved, we've had to add bonus meetings. One of them is at the Cottonwood, in the same place I mentioned above. On this particular Thursday, I had worried about attendance. I had gotten regrets from some of the regular attendees and was fretting that there would be no meeting at all. Worse, I was wondering if the bonus meeting could even be continued. In the end, we had four attendees, less than half of the supposed ideal. As it turned out, the meeting was terrific, with plenty of time for individual attention. I had also received regrets from several new members who expressed an interest in coming the next time. The meeting will continue.
—The Publishing Pro