Saturday, April 25, 2020

Christine Brown-Quinn on Unlocking Your Career Success

In this interview, Christine Brown-Quinn talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by, about her book, Unlock Your Career Success: Knowing the Unwritten Rules Changes Everything.

“Take ownership of your career.” ~Christine Brown-Quinn

Christine Brown-Quinn has spent thirty years in the corporate world and has become a Managing Director in International Finance, moving from the United States to London to pursue her career, as part of a wave of people who were recruited to London to strengthen the financial industry there. It was in 2010 when the bank she was working for launched a Women’s Network, which Christine had no idea what was about, as she was used, by then, to being “the only woman in the room.” When Christine asked why she was being asked to give a talk at that summit, she was told that she had a successful career as well as a family, and women would be interested to know how she did it. It was from this that she realized that the skills she did at work were ones which she transferred to her home, and vice versa, remarking that people actually become better parents and partners because of the skills they can pick up at work. Where things brought from personal life are concerned, Christine remarks that it is the values that are taught at home are the things which one brings to work, and gives an example of when her children called her out on her not doing something which she said she did.

It was during the talk, however, that Christine realized that her work was now to coach other women about how to have both a career and a family life, given the framework of both aspects of one’s life supporting each other. It was during the summer after that talk, which took place during the financial crisis of 2010, that she left the banking industry and set up her own career consultancy business, then turned that into her first book. Unlock Your Career Success is her second book, and the seed of this was planted when several of her clients mentioned that she needed to write it. “I woke up in March 2019, and the whole book was in my head,” Christine confesses, adding that what the book’s subject matter covered was essentially what she had been talking about for the past ten years.

Christine admitted that, when she left the university, her idea of career progression was all about “doing a great job;” that said, she remarked that that is only what starts off one’s career, and that it is up to the person themselves to ensure that their careers progress, as a company’s HR or a person’s manager is not responsible for that.

Christine offers the following question for women who have both family and career: “As a parent, how am I at my best?” She notes that everyone is individual, and that a “one size fits all” approach doesn’t work, so people need to think about the ways by which they will be happy, remarking that her being at home with the children all the time isn’t something that she could do well. Having a career was thus very necessary for Christine, as work stimulated her and fulfilled her being a mother.

Where work is concerned, Christine notes that the issue is that of having a mismatch in culture, noting that, when women enter the workplace, they want to feel good about the value they’re bringing as well as feel good about their organizations, working in a way that “feels more natural” to them. She notes that a lot of women look for leadership role models in the corporate world, leaders who are willing to collaborate and bring the best out in others, and that this is more of the issue than anything else. Christine also remarks that people want their work to be meaningful in that, if one has children, one desires more that the time spent away from family counts.

Christine’s most targeted audience is women in corporate environments, as she helps women navigate the issues and leadership styles in such an environment – something she has had a lot of experience with, given her corporate career. She gave the case study of one of her clients, Candida, who worked for a technology company who had worked very hard but whose career stalled out. Christine was able to coach Candida into getting the kind of position she liked, by focusing on a digital start-up department that she was interested in getting into and by using her network of contacts to send the head of the department some suggestions. These suggestions interested the department head and, thanks to Christine’s coaching, Candida asked open-ended questions which gave her more insight into concerns within the department that she could help out with. As a result, Candida is now in a position, in that department, that fulfills her.

Christine notes that the rules in the book are intended to establish career-enhancing mindset and behaviors which are needed to achieve career progression, within the context of what makes one happy. She notes that one has to plan one’s career and nourish one’s network are critical to helping one’s career progress; and the latter is particularly important when getting a broader understanding of the challenges facing the company, as one can then provide suggestions which can address said concerns. The unwritten rules, Christine also remarks, resonates more with women than with men, as the way women navigate the world is different from the way men do so. That said, men can also pick something up from knowing these rules as, while they know those rules, it articulates those rules and gives an awareness of the way women think, as the viewpoint the rules show is an alternative one which they can use to help others.

“The best way to sell is to understand the need of the client, and then address it,” Christine notes. She also remarks that, in today’s environment, the challenges of technology and the pace of change is very fast. That said, the chaos that exists in today’s environment also creates opportunities, Christine believes, and this gives people an opportunity to align the needs of the organization with one’s own values and the value that one can add to the organization. “That’s what job security looks like, now and in the future,” she concludes.

Purchase from Amazon: 
Unlock Your Career Success: Knowing the Unwritten Rules Changes Everything by Christine Brown-Quinn

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Judy Bebelaar on Teenagers of Peoples Temple from High School to Jonestown

In this interview, Judy Bebelaar talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by, about his/her book, And Then They Were Gone: Teenagers of Peoples Temple from High School to Jonestown.

“Trust your own perceptions.” ~Judy Bebelaar

Judy has a Master’s in creative writing who wrote her first book of poetry while in third grade, and it was largely because of the support of her teacher at the time that she decided to become a teacher, herself. She has taught creative writing for decades and has published books with her students’ poetry in it, some of which have won awards. “Literature is not only the voices of others but their own voices and their own stories,” Judy says about her students’ writing. Her classes included her sharing her own writings whenever her students did so, remarking that “it was only fair.” She also commented that sharing her feelings and thoughts with others was somewhat scary, but it was through such sharing that her classrooms became a community. Judy also remarks that it is by sharing their stories that children realize that others have undergone something that they, likewise, had undergone. It was under her guidance that the students under her produced literary and art calendars which contained their writings, calendars which garnered national awards and attention.

Ron Cabral, who had, like Judy, taught teenagers of the Peoples Temple at San Francisco’s Opportunity II High School, remarked that it would would be good to write a book about the teenagers from the Peoples Temple that they knew after watching a play in 2008 where the name was spelled as “The People’s Temple,” as a way to memorialize them. And Then They Were Gone is thus a story about the students, and while Judy and Ron didn’t initially really know what went on inside the Temple in detail until they did research on for the book, when they spoke with survivors and other sources who filled them in. Judy points out that teachers rarely lose a lot of their students all at once, and writing the book also helped her and Ron come to terms with their grief.

“Don’t drink the Kool-aid” is a phrase which has reached common currency, and Judy points out that using it without knowing the horrific circumstances behind the phrase. Where the killing was concerned, Judy notes that the babies were killed first, which was something that Marceline Jones, the wife of Jim Jones, would very likely have objected to.

Jones was charismatic and appealed to the idealism of young people to pull them in and also had people who assist him in the process. He recruited people by showing the beauty of Guyana and the paradise that they would live in, but didn’t mention such details as the nearest grocery being a 27-hour trip, including a leg by boat, from their camp, or that nobody would be allowed to leave. Jonestown, in Guyana, was essentially a jungle prison camp where Jones ruled through fear and terror. The community’s members were mostly good people who wanted world peace, but the place itself was overcrowded, where the elderly were kept in bunk beds in a single dormitory, and where horrific punishments were meted out. He would hold meetings which would last until the early hours of the morning, and no matter what one’s age, nobody was allowed to sleep, no matter how sleepy or tired they were, and those who did so were punished. Jones would also conduct fake suicide rituals, where people would knowingly drink a supposedly poisoned drink and find, afterwards, that what they drank was actually harmless. People from within the Peoples Temple escaped and attempted to get word out of what was going on, in an attempt to avoid some future tragedy, particularly since people they loved were living there without their permission. This eventually led to a congressman and some members of the press actually visiting Guyana to see what was going on. Jones also loved taping his speeches, and Judy notes that, in the available recording made during the night of the mass suicide/murders, Jones stopped the recording 32 times, likely so that the sounds of people screaming and protesting and suffering wouldn’t be recorded.

When Judy and Ron researched their book, they reached out to people who had known people there, and Judy mentions Steven Jones, who was Jim Jones’ sole biological child and who was particularly helpful with their research. Judy relates that Steven remarked that he was more likely to carry a rifle than a baby on his lap while at Jonestown, and that the event and its aftermath weren’t easy for the survivors. She also notes that people undertook acts of kindness, such as not even saying that one was homesick (which could be told to Jones by someone who wanted to get on his good side), or of a boy who grew food outside the compound which he traded with the local people (he got punished when he got found out), which Jones would have considered treason. Judy also mentioned that, despite Jones’ strict rules and consequent punishments against such, some Temple children, who weren’t allowed to ride such conveyances as motorcycles, eagerly did so when invited, and that non-Temple teenagers got involved romantically with Temple teenagers.

In the book, Judy included works from the Temple teenagers she and Ron taught, to give a sense of what kind of children the Temple teenagers were. She remarks that people are now wanting to know more about such things that happened in the 1970s, such as the war in Vietnam, and which was the decade when the Jonestown murder/suicides took place. To those who might be involved with organizations like the Peoples Temple, Judy refers to what Steven Jones refers to as the power of peer pressure where, if one sees that everyone is doing the same thing, even if it feels wrong, then they must be doing something right.

At the end of the interview, Judy repeated passages from the book’s foreword which, for her, gives the rationale for remembering such horrific events.

Purchase from Amazon: And Then They Were Gone: Teenagers of Peoples Temple from High School to Jonestown by Judy Bebelaar and Ron Cabral

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Ellery Akers on Environmentalism, Feminism, and Poetry

In this interview, Ellery Akers talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by, about his/her book, Swerve: Poems on Environmentalism, Feminism, and Resistance.

“If you love Nature, it’s really important to try to protect it.” ~Ellery Akers

Ellery was exposed to poetry early, as her mother would do so while working around the house, which made poetry a normal part of her life. She loves being in nature, and Nature has been her inspiration for all of her artistic endeavors. That said, she doesn’t hesitate about writing about such serious matters as child abuse, believing that Nature is the greatest healer; as she quotes, “Earth has no sorrow that Earth cannot heal.” She thus doesn’t shy from topics that people might not want to talk about, saying that Swerve is also about climate change, as she believes that talking about such things is the only way for people to make a difference.

Ellery spent twenty years camping while the weather was good, and it was while she was doing so that she wrote out her books and felt a sense of connection with Nature as a whole. She remarks that Nature is the original teacher of meditation, and remarks that studies have proven that those who are in touch with nature experience less stress. Ellery also remarks that getting in touch with nature also helps with such conditions as diabetes and ADHD, and that doctors are now issuing prescriptions for people to spend time in nature, adding that, in Japan, “forest bathing” is a system of medicine where those who participate in it have better immune systems.

Ellery chose “Swerve” as the title of her book in recognition of our presently being in a “swerve” part of our history, albeit one which is catastrophic. (NB: This interview was conducted at the height of the coronavirus pandemic of 2020.) She notes that there have been positive swerves in the past, such as the downfall of the Berlin wall, the deconstruction of apartheid. Ellery counts as one of her heroes the conservationist, Rachel Carson, whose work helped establish the importance of natural ecology.

Ellery admits she’s and “environmentalist, a feminist and an activist,” and she wrote about these themes as a way to recover feminine values, which recognize interdependence and cooperation, rather than the masculine values of competition and win-lose. She notes that such outstanding women as Wangari Malaathai (who created a movement which planted 51 million trees in Kenya) and Barbara McClintock (a scientist who discovered the secret of the corn genes, which all worked together rather than being controlled by a “top gene,” which was the masculine-oriented context of the day) are mentioned in her book, women who have made a positive difference in the world. She also remarks that, at the end of the day, action is what makes a difference. Her outlook on the need for a feminine outlook to be included in the mainstream came from her admiration from women who have made a difference, and this comes to bear on the present urgency to turn around the negative trend of climate change.

Ellery presented two of her poems, and she then remarked that poetry isn’t particularly mainstream. That said, she remarks that “poetry is the soul of the culture,” as it’s short and cuts to the core. She remarks that her process for poetry is the same as when she is creating a painting. When her subject is a tree, for example, she desires to know what it is like to be a tree “from the inside,” which means that she will spend hours with the tree, trying to connect with it. Doing so, Ellery admits, requires humility, as she wants to learn from the subject how to write about it or how to paint it. Such a process does take time, she admits, but it is worth it, as she wants to be a “voice for Nature.”

“I think that poetry can inspire people,” Ellery remarks, adding that poetry can inspire people to create change. She notes that people can feel overwhelmed about what to do to change the way things are going, and follows up with a quote from the Dalai Lama: “If you think you’re too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.” To those who want to make a difference, Ellery remarks that sending an e-mail or postcard to their representative, saying that they care about climate change and reforestation, to make a difference. “This is a dark time for the Earth,” Ellery notes, “but we have come through dark times before and come out victorious,” after which she gave the example of Rachel Carson, who worked against the large, polluting corporations of the day.

Ellery’s vision of the world is that of reforesting the world to buy humanity time to reverse climate change, as well as transforming cities to use sustainable energy. She would also like feminine values to become more front-and-center, and while she believes that such a future is possible, we should move now to achieve this. “We are not powerless,” she points out, adding that there is hope and that only 3.5% of the population is needed to effect a reversal of climate change.

Purchase from Amazon: Swerve: Poems on Environmentalism, Feminism, and Resistance by Ellery Akers