I can’t wait to read Joanne Tombrakos’s new and first novel, The Secrets They Kept and you are going to see why below. After reading Joanne’s story, I think you’ll join me in running out to buy her book. At least I hope so.
Joanne and I met at an 85 Broads breakfast a couple of years ago when we shared our stories of making purposeful life transitions. I’ve admired her writing on her blog ever since. And just look at how she’s applied the 9 Ways Power Tools!
When Gloria Feldt extended the invitation for me to be profiled in this column I quickly accepted. And who wouldn’t? After all this was Gloria Feldt. Best selling author and activist for whom I hold such high esteem.
I was honored. I was excited. Until the waves of nausea washed over me. What was I doing that was worthy of a profile in this column? Certainly not curing cancer or feeding the starving in Africa.
Not a particularly commanding statement when invited to write on a blog whose subject matter is about women and power.
But forced, as I have been to think about it, the truth is I am doing it. My way.
Defining my Own Terms
I’ve never been one for following a traditional path. Try as I might to conform to what is expected I have always deviated just enough so I can live with myself.
I started out teaching school. I can still remember the look of horror on my father’s face when I told him I was leaving that profession, not to get married but to go sell :60 commercials on a country music radio station.
From that I created a successful twenty-five year corporate career in sales management with no business background and two degrees in education.
Carpe the Chaos
In 2008 just before the economic world as we know it was about to collapse, I found myself at a fork in the road and I chose the one everyone else feared. I took my severance package, decided it was my first book advance, and embarked on career number three.
See, I had this dream that I had kept quiet for a long time. I wanted to be published. When no one was watching I had written my first novel.
With my manuscript and an agent in hand I waited. I read about the growing self-publishing phenomenon but I continued to wait while the machinations of the corporate structure I openly abhor, decided it was my time. I kept myself busy amidst the rejection letters and started a blog in which I would chronicle what it was like to live and work after corporate America. I wanted to inspire people and prove that it was indeed possible. I launched a coaching practice in which I could take my expertise in business and experience in leadership to inspire and create change in others.
And I waited. For that is what we have been taught to do as women. We wait our turn. We wait to be asked on a date or to be married. We wait for the promotion. We wait because we are told that we should play by the rules. And the rules of publishing included waiting to be chosen.
I read more about the wave of self-publishing but I still lived in that dream bubble in which I would be granted access past the velvet rope.
Then last January I attended a Seth Godin seminar on the future of publishing. Seth drew the analogy that waiting to be published was comparable to sitting on the bench waiting to be picked for the team in fifth grade.
His words struck a cord. I had been waiting for someone else to tell me I was good enough. I had been doing exactly what I would tell a client not to do. I was not embracing anything. I was letting my terms be defined by someone else. And I didn’t have to.
Use what you’ve got
Selling advertising prepares you for a lot. You learn not only about your business, but about other businesses. You get really good at calling complete strangers on the phone and asking for things. Navigating the unknown is how you earn your stripes. My background prepared me for the steep learning curve I was about to embark on much better than had I been holed up in a garret writing in the hopes of being discovered.
Create a Movement
I didn’t create my movement. But I strive to be a leader in it. My desire is to inspire others to create change, whether that is in their small circle or in the larger world. As women we are told every day why we shouldn’t be doing something and how we should act. I want others to see they can do something different if they want to.
And I lead by example. My decision to self-publish my novel is a statement of what can be done when everyone else tells you no.
Tell Your Story
I had a story to tell. I believe we can learn and be inspired through fiction as much as we can through non-fiction, sometimes more. The women in my novel are strong characters influenced by the culture and religion in which they were raised, each struggling to embrace their power. Each has something to say that we can learn from.
I self-published, The Secrets They Kept in September. The finished book is indistinguishable inside and out from one published by a Big Six publishing house. Click on the BlogTalk Radio icon for a recent radio interview. I have a lot more stories to tell. Stay tuned.
Joanne Tombrakos is a writer, business coach and speaker. She blogs on living and working after corporate America at One Women’s Eye. Joanne lives in New York City. The Secrets They Kept is her first novel.