Karen Lynn Maher (KLM): Donna, you wrote your book back in 2012. Give us an update about what you’re doing now and what part the book has played in your journey.
Donna Howell-DePew (DHD): My company is Let’s Get Real Communication Training. Since the root of nearly every breakdown is a breakdown in communication, my mission is to take everyone off autopilot when they talk and help them realize the impact of what they say. I help people see what’s really going on in their communication.
KLM: When we met in Houston, your business focused on using improvisation in your trainings with people and corporations. What was your purpose for writing this book?
DHD: The purpose of my books was to educate the masses about improv. People tend to think improv is the ability to be funny and/or do stand-up comedy and that not everyone can do it. But this is a misconception. Stand-up comedy is usually scripted. It’s a great craft, but it’s not improv. Anyone can do improv.
KLM: What’s the connection between improv and excellent communications?
DHD: We all use improv daily. Few people know there’s an improv system that helps them succeed on the “stage of life.” Improv involves using teamwork and collaboration to improve communication. When I wrote this book, my husband and I owned a theatre that had an improv troupe and improv classes. We trained people to perform improv on the “stage of life.” I still use improv as a main tool to help people make the distinction between what they think is happening and what’s really going on.
KLM: What was the biggest obstacle you had to overcome as an author – and how did you overcome it?
DHD: My main challenge was how to write down what I was thinking. I’m not really a sit-at-the-computer kind of gal. I can stand up in front of a group of people and talk for three days about my subject. But working at a computer wasn’t for me.
KLM: I remember when we were talking about this challenge and I said to you, “Okay, here’s what I suggest. Stand up and just teach me. I’ll record it. Then we can create a transcript and from that, write your book.”
DHD: Yes! It was marvelous. I almost jumped across the table and kissed you because I knew I could talk the content of my book. It was a process that worked perfectly for me.
KLM: What you actually did was give me your training. We captured what you said, and from there, we were able to create a book manuscript. It came together beautifully.
DHD: It did. You said, “Donna, you either have to do this or forget about it and quit torturing yourself.” I thought the telling and transcript process was a brilliant way to capture the content of my book. You made it all easy and seamless.
KLM: You created the manuscript, and then I did the first round of developmental editing. You came back to me and said, “That’s not right.” What I love about the editing and revision process is it involves getting clear about what you want share.
DHD: When you sent me the manuscript, it was beautiful. But I said, “Wait a minute. This is not my voice. This is Karen’s voice.” I didn’t hear myself in the book. I speak in a distinct, fluid way. I needed to hear my own voice because it was there for a reason. You said, “No problem. We can do that.”
KLM: It was also a learning experience for me as an editor to help people maintain their voice in the writing process. It was a great collaboration on many levels. What would you say was your greatest learning experience?
DHD: Don’t get overwhelmed by the details. Just stay present. I also learned that while I am an intelligent, persevering woman and good at many things, book writing and marketing are not among them. It was best to get help. Actually, the person you recommended to me to help design my book cover and the inside pages is now my branding and business coach. I still collaborate, one step at a time.
DHD: We all practice the insanity of doing the same unproductive thing over and over again and expecting different results. In order to get something done you haven’t been able to do, you need to change your mindset. Getting help from a coach is something I continue to do even when I think I should be able to do it on my own.
KLM: Would you say that getting help and having a collaborative process helped you overcome being overwhelmed?
DHD: Absolutely. You were clear about each step I needed to take to move forward. You made it easy to get my content out on to paper and then into a book.
KLM: How has writing a book benefited you personally and professionally?
DHD: Having a book has helped me be clear and has given me credibility. It’s given a voice to my mission so I can be out in the world for more people. It’s definitely worth the investment. I’ve had clients who’ve read my book four or five times because it’s an easy read. The fundamentals I talk about are simple and profound.
KLM: This leads beautifully into my next question about what you might share with other aspiring authors about your experience. What tips would you give to them about just going for it?
DHD: Just do it. Just take that next step. Get started. What do you have to say? What is uniquely yours to share in the world? Also commit to someone else that you are going to do it. Pick up the phone and call LegacyOne Authors for help.
KLM: What do you think an aspiring author should know about what it really takes to successfully get the job done – to write, publish, and market a book?
DHD: It takes focus and attention. Action is the keyword. You have to do the active work of putting your book out there in front of the right people and getting it into the right places.
KLM: Donna, how can people get in touch with you to buy your book or be coached in communications?
DHD: They can buy the book through Amazon or visit my website, Donnahd.com for a complimentary communication reality check. I’d love to talk with them about what’s going on, their challenges, and how we can work together to take these to the next level and smooth them out.
Karen Lynn Maher is a leading authority on writing and self-publishing expert non-fiction. Since 2001, she’s developed more than 50 authors, guiding them from concept to published book. She’s the author of ExpertBook™ Planning Made Simple: The Best Ever Guide to Writing Your Book, and co-author of ExpertBook™ Marketing Made Simple: Publicizing and Promoting Your Book.