Saturday, August 29, 2009

12 Brazilian Self-Empowered Woman

Dear Followers,

Do you know what Gymboree founder Joan Barnes, Nobel Prize-Winning author Doris Lessing, entertainer Dolly Parton, and actress Meg Ryan, have in common?

You'll get the answer in the next post, but in the meantime I want to share with you the story of an amazing Brazilian woman named Marina Silva. Silva was her country's environmental minister after Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (no relation) was elected in 2002. But she resigned her position with da Silva's Worker's Party and joined the Green Party, where rumor has it that she may be a condidate in next year's Presidential election. If she runs and wins, she will be the country's first female president and the country's first black president.

These days the idea of a woman who is running for a poilitical position is no longer earth shattering, but Silva's story is an amazing tale of a Self-Empowered Woman at her best. Hard as it is to imagine, Marina was one of eleven children born to parents living in Seringal Bagaco, a community of rubber tree tappers. Her mother died when she was eleven and two younger sisters later died from measles and maleria. As a child, Marina walked nine miles each day to help her father collect rubber from trees. Seriously ill from hepatitis and illiterate, she left home at sixteen and took a bus to Rio Branco where she hoped to receive both an education and medical attention. She worked as a maid, enrolled in a course for illiterate adults, and finished primary school. During school vacations she returned home to help her father collect rubber, and ultimately graduated from university at age 26 with a degree in history.

The governor of her home state of Acre, when asked about the fact that she had switched political parties answered "Marina is a person that earned her own wings, and it is not surprising to discover that those who have wings can fly."

Good news- THE BOOK is scheduled to go on sale from on Sept. 15th. Looking forward to your comments...

Thursday, August 27, 2009

11. Title IX

Lisa Ling
(Photo: Amshelleys 20's)

Dear Followers,

Did you know what U.S. Army General Ann Dunwoody, jockey Julie Krone, TV journalist Lisa Ling, and writer Anna Quindlen have in common? These amazing women, like the others in Chapter 11, were comfortable (rather than frightened by) taking risks.

The major news story of the week is the death of Senator Ted Kennedy, and whether Republican or Democrat, today's women all owe him a big Thank You for his work as a key supporter of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. This bill helped balance the amount of money spent on men's and women's sports.

Mary Jo Kane, director of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sports at the University of Minnesota said "...he always argued for ...making sure that young girls and women had equal opportunities on the sports field...He understood that the world of sports is not just about who wins and loses, but the kinds of experiences that young girls had been denied for centuries."

Female stars like Sue Bird, Crystal Bustos, Mary Decker, Lisa Leslie, Michelle McGann, Dara Torras and Venus and Serena Williams could not have enjoyed the success they did 50 years ago.

Exciting news! Today I received the first bound copy of The Self-Empowered Woman. Finally, both Tony and I can exhale - hope you'll think it's as impressive as we do...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

10. Men and The Self-Empowered Woman

Dear Followers,

I received a very interesting comment from a male "bleader" who wondered why a man would be interested in a book that profiled high-achieving women. Not surprisingly, I have a few answers to that question.

First of all, it's important to remember that every male has been influenced by females--grandmothers, mothers, aunts, sisters, teachers, etc. The more accomplished these females are the more likely it is that boys can grow up to be sensitive, productive members of society. In the NY Times magazine article I referred to (number 9), Kristof reported that one of the reasons rape and other crimes against women were so prevalent in Africa was because so many boys had escaped the socializing influence of family bonds.

Secondly, most men coexist as adults with females in the workplace, and whether the interaction is with a secretary, an account executive, an attorney or a concierge it can only help matters to have an understanding of (and, preferably, an appreciation for) the different aspects of women's lives.

Thirdly, when it comes to emotional attachments a father, husband, brother or son will interact better with female family members once he learns to respect differences and applaud accomplishments. The impact of a father (grandfather, uncle, brother, etc.) on a girl's life in absolutely profound, yet all too many males simply don't know how to be a positive influence. Why? Usually because they're not aware of what a girl really needs in order to become a fulfilled adult female. Any man who genuinely cares about helping a little girl grow up to be all that she can be needs to read this book.

The days when fathers urged their daughters to "hide their light under a bushel" are (blessedly) over, and The Self-Empowered Woman can serve as an eye-opening introduction to the amazing things that little girls can grow up to do.

Finally, the five exercises at the end of each chapter are relatively gender free. Before the manuscript was sent to the printer I had three men read it carefully, and they each confessed that the questions touched areas of their own lives that needed to be reexamined. As to the question of how to persuade men to actually BUY the book, I only wish I were wise enough to know the answer. Perhaps untold numbers of wise women will give the book as a gift to the men in their lives...

Today's quiz is what do U.S. Army General Ann Dunwoody, jockey Julie Krone, TV journalist Lisa Ling, and writer Anna Quindlen have in common?

Still looking forward to your comments...

Sunday, August 23, 2009

9. Self-Empowered Rant

Dear Followers,

The book jacket is finally in a frame and Tony will place it near my other book jackets this afternoon. Seeing it on the wall makes it all the more real...

Started this morning (like every Sunday) with the NY Times and was very disturbed by the magazine cover story, which was titled "Why Women's Rights Are The Cause of Our Time." NYT columnist Nicholas Kristof and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn have been at the forefront of calling attention to women's issues, particularly in other cultures. The magazine was full of statistics and articles about the problems that women (particularly in Africa and the Middle East) endure. For example, did you know that the United Nations has estimated that there are 5,000 "honor killings" a year, and the majority take place in the Muslim world?

There was also a moving article about a hero of mine, Shamsia (an eleven year old girl in Afganistan) who was walking to the Mirwais Mena School for Girls on the outskirts of Kandahar when she was attacked with acid by Taliban men who disapprove of education for females. Today, she has raised scars on her face and her eyes are too damaged for her to be able to read, but her illiterate mother and father supported her. In Shamsia's words, "My parents told me to keep coming to school even if I am killed." No wonder I never take a woman's accomplishments for granted!

Were you able to guess what model Janice Dickenson, recording artist Fergie, writer Jacqueline Mitchard and artist Louise Nevelson have in common? They, like so many high-achieving women, endured "Hard Times." Of course, the difficult situations most women face don't hold a candle to the challenges chronicled by Kristof in his new book "Half the Sky," they are still character building and mettle-testing.
Thanks for the comments...

Friday, August 21, 2009

8. Self-Empowered Woman Progress

Dear Followers,

Julie Powell referred to her blog readers as "bleaders" and acknowedged that their interest and support helped "Julie and Julia" become a success. Believe me, it really does make a difference (especially for someone accustomed to seeing her words on paper instead of a screen) to know that you are out there reading my words.

Here's today's quiz: do you know what model Janice Dickenson, recording artist Fergie, writer Jacqueline Mitchard and artist Louise Nevelson have in common?
I've got a long "to do" list for the weekend, and I'm looking forward to getting my hands on the new issue of Forbes Magazine to see whom they've chosen as the world's 100 most powerful women. Next on my list is getting a cover of THE BOOK framed and placed near my other book jackets.

Looking forward to hearing from you...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

7. Nancy Drew

Dear Followers,

All the necessary changes have been made to the manuscript and within days I should have a firm publishing date to share with you. Needless to say, I'm psyched!

A few months ago The New York Times ran an article about the importance of Nancy Drew books on Sandra Day O'Connor (Chapter Five of my book), Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Sonia Sotomayor. Did you know that the Nancy Drew books were actually written by several different authors, but published under the collective name of Carolyn Keene? Were you a fan of Nancy Drew? Bookworm that I am, I must admit that I've never read a single Nancy Drew mystery because I was too interested in the real-life stories of non-fiction characters.
Were you able to figure out what Beyonce, cartoonist Cathy Guisewite, ballerina Darci Kistler and golfer Michelle McGann have in common? Each of these women were lucky enough to have someone in their life who believed in them, and we all need a mentor, a role model or (as I label it Chapter Four) "A Supportive Someone."
I'd love to hear your thoughts on Nancy Drew or on whoever in your life believed in you...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

6. Numbers and The Self-Empowered Woman

Dear Followers,

Today's question is: what do Beyonce, cartoonist Cathy Guisewite, ballerina Darci Kistler and golfer Michelle McGann have in common?

Everyone who knows me is well aware of my math phobia, but in spite of that shortcoming I found myself focusing on the numbers involved with this book project. They include:
  • Four amazing women profiled in each chapter
  • Five thought provoking exercises in each chapter
  • Ten amazing women (and their achievements) listed at the end of each chapter
  • 16 months from first dictating session till finished product
  • 17 traits and 17 chapters
  • 30+ years of paying really close attention
  • 137 books cited in bibliography
  • 238 women mentioned in the book
  • 297 manuscript pages

Just wanted to share with you a lovely email message I received from Casey Gauntt (I've known Casey and his wife Hilary since the early 1970s) who sent these words to help calm me down in the middle of one of my many mini-meltdowns. He wrote: "Fear can be a terrific motivator, but don't let yourself get twisted up by are too close to the finish line with your book, so please stay focused on that. And keep the faith."

Still looking forward to your comments...

Monday, August 17, 2009

5. Team Self-Empowered Woman

Dear Followers,

Well, the weekend is over and it's time to bring you up to date on the status of The Self-Empowered Woman. After a lot of howling and moaning (me) darling Tony once again rode to the rescue and spent all day Saturday emailing the "error" changes to Amazon's Booksurge. Much to our surprise (and delight) they answered and essentially said that they would have corrected proofs back to us by this time next week. Amazing!

Jacqueline Whitmore came over today to give me another blogging tutorial - I hope you'll like the changes. In the space for my photo I chose instead to insert a picture of Tony and me taken on one of our Boston trips. As I was reading Julie Powell's "Julie and Julia" I came across a passage that described Tony's importance to this project: "He was my partner. It occurred to me...that my husband was doing more than just enduring this crazy thing I'd gotten myself into, doing more than being supportive. I realized this was his Project too...he had become part of this thing. There would be no Project without him, and he would not be the same without the Project. I felt so married, all of a sudden, and so happy." Those of you who know us well know that Tony does all the typing, all the email retrieval, and all the nerve-soothing when I have one of my many frustration-fueled meltdowns.

Now to answer last blog's question: what do comedienne Sandra Bernhard, U.S. Olympic Softball Medalist Crystl Bustos, TV and movie writer/director Diane English, and actress Sandra Oh have in common?
These women all followed their own dream even when others (i.e., family) thought their lives should take a different direction.

Looking forward to your comments...

Friday, August 14, 2009

4. Production headaches of "The Self-Empowed Woman"

Dear Followers,

In an effort to make sure that The Self-Empowered Woman can go on sale in September I've spent the past week carefully rereading every word of the galleys sent to me by Amazon/Booksurge. By noon today (Friday) I was ready to throw all 297 pages out the window in frustration. Three other people proofread the manuscript before Tony and I typed in the last changes and yet on this latest go round I still found things that need to be changed.

This weekend's project will be deciding which mistakes were mine, which were theirs, and which ones don't really have to be altered. This production part of publishing is not nearly as much fun (for either me or for Tony) as the research.
For today's question, what do comedienne Sandra Bernhard, U.S. Olympic Softball Medalist Crystl Bustos, TV and movie writer/director Diane English, and actress Sandra Oh have in common?

One follower suggested that yesterday's women (Czechoslovakian tennis player Martina Hingis, Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector, Canadian singer Anne Murray, and Italian film director Lina Wertmuller) all had lengthy names. Nice try, but no cigar. These achievers were lucky enough to identify their life goal or dream at a young age, which is a trait that can be really beneficial.

I started "dictating" the book on Mother's Day 2008 and finished twelve months later. Compulsive researcher that I am, however, I've continued to collect stories about additional high-achieving women, and now have over 100 additional names (like Sonia Sotomayor) to add to the 238 that already appear in the book.

Your comments are really welcome, and I look forward to our online conversations...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

3. The Shared Traits in "The Self-Empowed Woman"

Dear Followers,

So far I've been quizzing you about American women who are high achievers and today I'll answer the first two questions.

Do you know what writer Maya Angelou, comedienne Ellen DeGeneres, singer Gloria Estefan and actress Demi Moore have in common? They all fall under the category of accomplished women who learned - at an early age - that they couldn't depend on Dad. There are countless reasons why a father might be unreliable - death, illness, divorce, distance, you name it. But a lot of admirable women learn that losing a father's support usually brings with it hidden benefits.

(Photo by WNYC)

Do you know what author Judy Blume, actress Geena Davis, TV newswoman Andrea Mitchell, and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have in common?

These women (who have each succeeded in areas that seem to have nothing in common) share a love of and involvement with music. I found it amazing that close to the surface of many Self-Empowered Women is an enduring relationship with music, and in my book I explain this connection.

Intrigued? Today I'm going to go abroad and ask you about women from foreign locales. Do you know what Czechoslovakian tennis player Martina Hingis, Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector, Canadian singer Anne Murray, and Italian film director Lina Wertmuller have in common?
The idea here is to convey the idea that when it comes to women of achievement it doesn't really matter where they come from or what they set out to accomplish because they all share certain traits.

One trait I wish I had a better grasp of is the new, high-tech world of e-publishing. This week's main activity has been re-re-re-reading the manuscript for The Self-Empowered Woman so that it can go on sale in September. Meanwhile, poor Tony types my blog at the end of each day and I try not to be like Julie Powell (Julie & Julia) as she wonders if any readers are really out there in cyberspace...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

2. 17 Traits of "The Self-Empowered Woman"

What do author Judy Blume, actress Geena Davis, TV newswoman Andrea Mitchell, and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have in common?

On each blog entry I plan to tweak your curiousity about the women I've included in my soon-to-be published book The Self-Empowered Woman. By this time next year, I predict that much of the "mystery" about high-achieving women will become mere common knowledge. Finishing the book and sharing my research with all of you is a real thrill, and I'm counting the days until I have a finished book in my hands.

Who would have ever thought that Ms. "I hate computers" would be looking forward to each evening's blog time with Tony, my very supportive husband. A million years ago when I lived in L.A. I had a newspaper column called "A Woman's Place" that ran on Tuesdays and Thursdays. When a visiting publisher from NY read my pieces while at his breakfast table he decided that the story they told deserved to be in book form, which is how Diary of a Divorced Mother came to life.

When Tony and I went to see "Julie & Julia" over the weekend I realized that composing a blog and writing a column are pretty similar. So here I am, anxious to share with you the decades worth of research and reading about high-achieving women that will soon be published in book form.

Before you know it, you too will begin to keep track of which traits (from the 17 included in the book) apply to which women - or even to yourself.

I really look forward to your feedback.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

1. An Introduction to "The Self-Empowered Woman"

What do writer Maya Angelou, comedienne Ellen DeGeneres, singer Gloria Estefan and actress Demi Moore have in common?

If you are interested in or intrigued by the life stories of accomplished women, then you've landed on the right blog. My name is Marilyn Murray Willison, and my new book (The Self-Empowered Woman) addresses the question: What circumstances and characteristics help create a high-achieving woman?

Together we can use this space to examine the lives of accomplished women around the world, and at the same time I can share with you the lessons I've learned about publishing my own book for the first time (my four earlier books were published the conventional - old fashioned - way).

Please visit my website to learn more about my background, and I look forward to hearing your answers to the question that will appear at the start of each blog entry.

If you've ever found yourself fascinated by a high-achieving woman's remarkable life - think Coco Chanel, Golda Meir or even Cher - then you're really enjoy our time together.