Athens, Greece, for Five Days

June 22nd, 2013

by Allan D. Kissam

Athens for Five Days with top dining, life altering views, and general fun. This is what you learned about in 8th grade World History class. See the Athens Riviera with beachfront and relaxing resorts; within one hour of Athens. Rooftop dining at top hotels, all with astounding nighttime view of the Parthenon temple on the Athenian Acropolis. Day trip to the nearby islands for food and shopping, plus a great meal aboard ship and authentic Greek entertainment. Local foods served with history in the Plaka District of Athens, close to all attractions. Museums full of art and treasures from antiquity. Athens is a friendly and attractively priced vacation stop for those touring in Europe.

Charlie Gilkey Author of The Small Business Lifecycle

June 21st, 2013

Charlie Gilkey is the founder and CEO of Productive Flourishing, a company and website that helps professional creatives, leaders, executives, and changemakers take meaningful action on the stuff that matters. Productive Flourishing is one of the top websites on the topics of planning, productivity, creativity, and team development. His most recent book, The Small Business Lifecycle, helps people navigate the unique lifecycles of small and microbusinesses so they can make better, more aligned choices about how to take meaningful action and drive their businesses forward.

The Small Business Lifecycle: A Guide for Taking the Right Steps at the Right Time to Grow Your Small Business Book Synopsis

The Small Business Lifecycle: A Guide for Taking the Right Steps at the Right Time to Grow Your Small Business helps entrepreneurs and small business owner-executives navigate the unique stages of growth that small businesses go through. Rather than attempting to rush people through the different stages of growth, this book assesses the unique strengths, challenges, catalytic moments, and ways forward associated with each stage of business. Armed with these insights, entrepreneurs and owner-executives can make better, more aligned choices about how to take meaningful action and drive their businesses forward.

How did your book come to life?

The Small Business Lifecycle is really the culmination of a framework I’ve been developing over the years as I’ve coached my clients and fellow business owners through many different business growth challenges. Originally, the book was a series of blog posts that I then brought together and expanded upon to create this book.

Why do you think your readers are going to enjoy your book?

Readers are going to enjoy The Small Business Lifecycle because it’s short and to the point. Small Business owners and entrepreneurs are busy and don’t have time to read fat business books. My book is practical and actionable and it doesn’t require you have an MBA to understand. It will read differently for everyone depending on the level of knowledge you have about business but at the same time it will offer insight to everyone at the level you need it most.

How long did it take you to write your book?

It took me a couple months, but since I was evolving the material from blog posts that I’d already written, I didn’t have to start from scratch.

What are you doing to market the book? Are you using social media?

To market the book, we’re using a variety of marketing tools, including content marketing, public relations, social media and word of mouth.

In two sentences or less can you tell readers something unique about your book?

I actually got caught off-guard and before I was ready to publicly announce the book it got leaked. This was a good thing because it went on to become an Amazon #1 best-seller in all its categories before I even was able to assemble a solid launch strategy!

Where do you find your ideas? Does something trigger them? Do you carry around a notebook in case inspiration strikes?

My ideas come from working with my amazing clients and working through my own business challenges and successes. My own life experiences provide plenty of opportunities to learn, grow, create and transform.

What is your work in progress? Tell us about it.

cover4My work in progress is currently being debated. I have a lot of book ideas and am considering different opportunities and formats to get those out into the world. I will probably continue to write shorter books about specific business topics similar to The Small Business Lifecycle but I have also been working on a book proposal for traditional publishing about how to start finishing the stuff that matters. My work is all about taking action.

What are your thoughts on self-publishing verses traditional publishing?

Both have their advantages, it just really depends where you are as an author. If you have a loyal audience and a robust platform as an author, there are a lot of advantages to self-publishing. If you’re really interested in becoming a thought leader and writing something that will serve as a definitive marker of your work, a traditionally published book could be a good option. It really just depends these days on what you’re writing, why you’re writing, what your goals are and what resources you have available that will determine your success. And I think that’s very exciting.

Where did you grow up? How did your hometown (or other places you have lived) inspire your writing?

I grew up in Arkansas. Starting from a young age I was lucky to have incredible mentors in my life that helped me make the right decisions and they are the reason I am where I am today. The people in my life inspire my writing more than the places.

How many books in a month do you read?

A lot. I may go through 5-10 books in a weekend. I have a very specific reading process that I’ve developed over the years that helps me read and absorb information very quickly. So I guess that means that depending on what I have going on, it’s safe to say I probably read at least 15 books a month at a minimum. And that’s a conservative estimate.

State 5 random facts about yourself.

1) I was a multi-functional logistics officer in the Army National Guard. That means I (theoretically) know how to count, store, and move stuff from here to there.
2) I deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in ’04-’05. I was a transportation platoon leader for part of the tour and a plans officer for the other part. It was one of the best and worst times of my life.
3) Strengths from Strengths Finder: Strategic, Relator, Connectedness, Individualization, and Learner.
4) We have three cats. Like most cat stewards, I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out how I can love them but hate having them at the same time.
5) I have a really good memory about some things. I often remember passages and facts from books I read 15 years ago.

When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?

I spend a lot of time coaching clients, growing my own small business, reading and spending time with my amazing wife.

Connect with Charlie:

Website     Facebook     Twitter     Blog     LinkedIn

View The Small Business Lifecycle on Amazon.

Trials of an Entrepreneurial Virgin Book Excerpt

June 20th, 2013

Sonja Hegman was born and raised in what she loving calls “Minnesconsin.” A graduate of the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, she received a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism with a minor in psychology in 2001.

After graduation, she began her career as a newspaper reporter. Working in the world of small town news for the better part of a decade, she covered community news for several newspapers across Minnesota before moving to The Big Apple.

As the world of newspapers imploded and jobs in her field became scarcer than gold, she let her dream of winning a Pulitzer while working at The New York Times die. When she did, she discovered a new dream: to continue earning her living at the thing she loves best by starting her own writing business. She is now the Chief Wordsmith at Hegman Editorial where she utilizes her journalistic edge and quick wit as an editorial consultant, helping business owners and other writers with social media, website content, and all of their writing needs.

Follow her on Twitter @ChiefWordsmith to learn even more about how to treat writing as a business.

She and her partner, Sean, currently reside in St. Paul, Minnesota, until they decide to move somewhere warmer with an ocean view.


“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
- Ernest Hemingway

Being a writer isn’t easy. It’s not supposed to be, and if you say it is, you just haven’t been doing it long enough. Pouring out your soul into something, “bleeding” as Hemingway so elegantly put it, is terrifying. You’re bombarded with constant thoughts of, Will people like this? Am I coming from the right angle? Am I sharing too much? My story of how I became a writer is probably pretty typical to most of you, with only a few of these twists along the way.

Why did you start writing? Did you keep a journal? Did you write short stories? Did you just have a natural ability? At age 13 I decided I would be an author. But if it weren’t for a certain series of events, I doubt I’d be where I am today.

As eighth graders we were charged with writing a monthly newsletter that was sent out to the entire school. It was February, and our English teacher wanted a love story written. I was assigned to write this story.

Other than the five-paragraph essays so beloved by English teachers everywhere, at that point in my life I’d barely written much more than a homework assignment, particularly not in one sitting. But I liked the idea of writing a love story, and as I wrote, I became more and more interested in the project. My story was a hit, and I wanted to write more. It had been easy, after all. After this auspicious “best-selling beginning,” I never looked back. Sadly, I would learn several years later how harsh the life of an artist can be.

Writers aren’t taken seriously. We’re constantly bombarded with questions about when we’ll find “real” jobs or if we’re making any money at our “hobby.” The only writers who are taken seriously are the ones who find fame. Those of us in the trenches, working harder than most day-today, don’t count. So, how do you get people to take you seriously? You bought this book, so you’re going to find out.

I worked in news for the better part of 10 years — part as a staff writer and reporter, part as a freelance writer. I love the news. My work as a reporter made me a pseudo-expert on a little bit of everything, and I can now spurt out random facts about the most obscure things. But the reporting world was nothing like I expected.

I wanted to write real stories about things that mattered to people. Instead, I was forced to cater to the advertisers. I once had my head practically ripped off by a salesperson for writing a story about a local businessman charged with sexual assault. She was pissed because his business pulled its advertising due to the story. It was her account so she lost money. Total bullshit, and even worse is that my editor didn’t even come to my defense. I left that paper shortly after that incident. It was time to get out of the news business.

With my integrity intact, I walked away from the one thing I thought I’d do for the rest of my life. My dream of winning a Pulitzer while working for The New York Times died. I was totally lost.

Writing is what I know. I wasn’t going to get a job doing retail or work as an assistant in an office. (I would eventually do these things to survive, but at that time I was determined to make it without a cubicle job.) I landed a few freelance gigs with magazines, but it still wasn’t satisfying. I wanted to write about life. I started thinking about my life.

A memoir had been lurking in the back of my mind for some time. My mother had died of earlyonset Alzheimer’s disease when I was a teen. I’d written things periodically in my journal about her, growing up without her and coming to terms
with how she was taken. It wasn’t enough to become a book, but I knew I had a lot more to say.

I seriously entertained the idea of writing a memoir about my mother and her death for seven years, but every time I sat down to write about it I burst into tears. Writing the memoir meant that I re-lived the worst part of my life on an almost daily basis. It wasn’t until I received some wise advice before starting this book that I scrapped the memoir altogether.

It was pointed out that I wouldn’t be able to just write the memoir and be done with it. I’d have to promote it, and that meant constantly talking about it and hearing the stories of others touched by Alzheimer’s. Was that something I could do? No. Every time I thought about my pain, I cried. How could I listen to the stories of others without completely losing it? It didn’t seem like a smart career path.

You are about to learn how to find your own path as a professional writer and take your writing seriously as a business. Many people have told me this can’t be done, but I also know many others who are successfully earning livings as writers. I know you take your writing seriously; now I want you to take your money seriously.

This book is a culmination of my life (so far) as a writer, but more importantly, it’s about how I changed my thinking to become a business owner whose product is the written word.

My writing sustains my life. This doesn’t mean that I’m rich, but it means that I can pay for the necessities of life. I don’t have to be a waitress or work in a cubicle to survive.

Is writing for a living something you want for your life? Then keep reading. You just might learn something.

Sonja H., July 2012


Trials of an Entrepreneurial Virgin
Chapter One

Freelance Is Just Another
Term for Unemployed

“The freelance writer is a man who is paid per piece or per word or perhaps.”
- Robert Benchley

When I first began to write, it really never mattered to me if I made money at it. I never thought about it because as a teenager, of course, I didn’t care. It wasn’t until I started looking at colleges that it mattered.

“What do you want to do with your life, Sonja?” my guidance counselor asked during one of our meetings.

“I guess I want to be a writer. I like it,” I said, even though I thought that everything I’d written at that point was not Pulitzer-winning material. “I’d like to move to New York City after high school.”

“New York City? Why on earth would you want to move there?” he asked. The better question, I thought, was why wouldn’t I want to move there? Had he looked around? We were sitting in Tony, Wisconsin, after all, and I thought that it sucked.

“It’s away from here,” I said and stared blankly at the wall, wondering if he was even listening.

“A writer, huh? That’s not much of a career,” he said. “And New York isn’t the place for a young girl like you. What can you do with writing? Be a journalist, I suppose. You’re on the school paper, right?”

I nodded. “Then journalism it is.” And he handed me pamphlets for the University of Wisconsin in River Falls, Wisconsin, an agriculture-focused school.

I looked at the pamphlets, then at him. “Um, isn’t River Falls an ag-focused school?” I asked. “Why would I go there?”

“Oh, well, they have a journalism program,” he said.

“OK, but I told you I want to go to New York City for college. Can you help me research colleges out there?” He wasn’t even paying attention anymore as he handed me a book filled with information on schools all over the country.

“You can look through this and then request information from the ones you are interested in, but I still think River Falls is a good choice for you,” he said.

I stared at the book, then at him. “Are we done here?” he asked. I nodded and walked out of his office.

At another meeting I told him that I wanted to be like Hunter S. Thompson. I wanted to travel the world and be known for my literary mind. I wanted to be somebody. How the hell could I do that here? Why was everyone determined to keep me in Wisconsin? Cows and cheese curds and deer shinin’ and cow tipping – this would not be my life. I couldn’t believe it was my life.

I wondered what Hunter would write after experiencing Wisconsin. “The land is open with the horrific smell of something recently deceased. I learned that the putrid smell is that of the cow feces the farmers use to fertilize the food that we eventually eat.” It wasn’t all bad, of course. Some of my best memories happened there. It just wasn’t the place for me to spend the rest of my life.

I couldn’t get enough of Hunter. And yes, we were on a first name basis. Sometimes I was able to sneak Rolling Stone into the house without my father finding it. While the rock stars gracing the cover mesmerized others, I was foaming at the mouth over Hunter’s political words of wit. He’s the real reason I finally decided to become a journalist.

In my English class we were researching careers. During our junior year we were able to take days off to shadow someone in what we thought, at age 17, would become our chosen profession.

“So, what is Hunter S. Thompson’s job? Is he a journalist? ‘Cause that’s what I want to be,” I said to my English teacher.

“Well, he’s a freelance writer,” he replied. I’d never heard the word “freelance” before and asked him what it meant.

“He writes for many publications and gets paid per story,” he said. That sounded great to me.

“OK, that’s what I want to be,” I said. “How do I do that?”

He said it wasn’t easy and that I might be better off getting a job on staff at a newspaper, or becoming an editor. Now, I realize that he was just looking out for me, but at the time I was all kinds of annoyed.

It’s because I’m a girl, I thought. Then to him I said, “OK, can I follow around an editor or maybe a photographer at a newspaper?”

And so, my professional writing journey began. I hung out with a photographer for a day at the Leader-Telegram in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. He asked me what my parents did for a living. “My dad’s retired/disabled. My mother died a month
ago.” He didn’t know what to say after that – I’ve always had a way with people.

“Uh, so you want to be a photographer?” he asked.

“I’m not sure. I like taking pictures a lot, but I think I might do writing or editing. Do you like your job?”

“I do. Something new every day,” he said. “But I would advise you not to get into the newspaper business.” I looked at him, kind of stunned. I asked him why. He said he had a feeling it wasn’t going to last. It was 1996, and we had no idea how right he would turn out to be.

Regardless of his sincere warning, I received a degree in journalism from the University of St. Thomas, a small liberal arts college in St. Paul, Minnesota. Then I was off to the real world working at a newspaper, determined to change the world.

Continue reading and view Trials of an Entrepreneurial Virgin on Amazon.

Connect with Sonja at her website

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