Master of Ceremonies – Steve Piacente
By Sarah Baker
What’s the connection between life coaching and writing?
Mark Twain said, “Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.” No writer will tell you his craft is easy. And most probably agree that making a living writing only what they like to write – be it crime novels, memoirs or literary fiction – is brutally hard. So a lot comes into play, from writer’s block to self-compromise, from self-doubt to time management and financial problems. A professional coach can help a writer sort through these kinds of issues and tap back into the energy that will enable his or her best writing. Sometimes an outside perspective, especially from someone who’s traveled the same obstacle course, can be extremely helpful.
What is “Fighting Stance” about, and what will readers learn?
The stories in the book come from interviews with professionals from different parts of the communications industry, including journalists, PR pros, and authors. Each of the stories is told by individuals who lived through a turbulent turn in the workplace and, in the end, came out stronger. They have graciously shared their tales and takeaways in hopes of contributing clarity and guidance for others further back in life’s journey.
The strategies and skills on display were forged in times of trouble. This is often when we see people at their most creative and resilient. One note – actual names and businesses have been omitted so that readers can hone in on what’s most important: the challenge, the resolution, and the lessons learned. In the end, the takeaways are key, the trigger that will ignite new ways of thinking and a broader perspective. Not everyone has to go the way of Thomas Edison, who said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
What excites you about the project?
I’m excited, but I’m also grateful to everyone who was so willing to talk about a time when they were not exactly at their best. The stories range from cautionary to inspiring. They reveal missteps and a path forward. They show how people who are struggling can shift away from the neutral, negative or downright angry toward a new, energetic fighting stance.
Do you share any personal experiences?
Indeed. In 2001, my newspaper downsized and eliminated its one-man Washington bureau. I was the one man. I suddenly found myself jobless after 25 successful years as a print journalist. I was also a husband and father of three, with all the food, school, car, electric, mortgage and pet food bills that typically accompany suburban living. If I’d had a life coach at the time, reinventing myself would have been a lot easier. I’d developed lots of skills during my time as a reporter that transferred nicely to other disciplines. But I didn’t see it right away. I stumbled around for several months hamstrung by the limiting belief that all I knew how to do was be a reporter. I eventually landed as a speechwriter and communications manager at a federal agency, stayed 10 years, and then moved to the private sector as a media and presentation coach.
And what excites you most about this year’s festival?
The Day of the Book Festival has grown from a neighborhood event to an international celebration that draws thousands of visitors and truly offers something for everyone. We have an amazing array of literary, musical and artistic talent lined up for this year. I love seeing kids and adults wander up and down the closed-off streets of Kensington as they talk with authors, enjoy the bands, and meet the artists. Most exciting to me is that in our increasingly digitized world, the festival demonstrates that writing and reading are alive and well!