Persuasive Writing & Write to Influence! – FAQs
1. Why did you write the book?
Answer: To take care of my troops. I commanded a squadron of 480 officers and enlisted personnel in Hawaii.
I saw how powerful writing changes lives – how a winning award or promotion package propels careers; helps families; and extrapolated, better enables parents to send kids to college … all based on the power of the pen.
I also saw how careers of talented people were unintentionally impeded by supervisors who couldn’t write well. That just wasn’t right. It was my “family” and I had to fix the problem.
2. What precisely prompted you to write this book?
Answer: “Scored 3+/3+ on DLPT.” You don’t understand this; neither did I nor would most people. It’s gibberish — THAT’s the problem.
This was the opening line on a military personnel appraisal – a document critical to promotion and career progression. Translated, it’s a tremendous achievement. The individual scored A+ in reading/listening on a defense language proficiency test, placing her in top 5% of her peers.
As written, however, few would understand the significance. As written, she loses award competitions and can be hindered in promotion.
3. How have you measured your success of this book?
Answer: Measuring success is difficult, especially in the early months following publication.
Awards – It was just named as a Finalist in the New Generation Independent Book Awards. That is a tremendous honor.
Feature Articles – My writing techniques are the focal point of a feature article in the May/June edition of Analytics, a professional magazine for our country’s operations research community.
Reviews – 25 on Amazon … all 5-star. Nothing less. Reviews on NetGalley and GoodReads are split between 5 and 4-star; again, nothing less. I’ve a lengthy string of glowing endorsements from the business world. She! Magazine highlighted Write to Influence! in its spring edition as one of 5 must-buy books.
Book Sales – I’ve sold several hundred books in its first year and continue to work the publicity and marketing; so, more to come. Also, a private school just purchased a copy for each of its 22 graduating seniors!
Libraries – My book is now in five county library systems in three states; I have been accepted into speaker programs for two of these (the third county is in California – hard to travel to the West coast to speak there!) and will give a series of workshops for young adults with a focus of writing essays for college applications, and resumes & job interviewing. Being accepted into speaker program of a library is a major nod of approval.
Clients – I was just hired by Diplomatic Language Services, a long-standing business in the D.C. area, to give two workshops. Word is spreading!
4. How long did it take to compose, Write to Influence! ?
Answer: Two answers to this question … 3 days … and ten years.
While assigned to the unit in Hawaii, I took 3 day’s personal leave, rented a cottage at Bellows Beach, and analyzed my writing techniques. I pondered, “What enables you to consistently write award-winning packages? How, exactly, DO you write?”
During this seclusion, I distilled my approach to writing into 10 tools, which I described as “Word Sculpting,” and generated a 15-page handbook. I then transformed that into a class I taught for the next 15 years because it was so popular and the writing tools so effective.
It took 10 years, off and on, to revise and expand the content of the handbook to its current form, replacing the military examples with those applicable for a much broader audience.
I reached a cross road in the summer of 2015: Either finish the book or flush the idea. I was compelled to complete it because so many people told me how these tools changed their lives. Write to Influence! has tremendous potential to help thousands of people.
5. Where did you write the book?
Answer: Well, I’ve already mentioned the beach cottage. I also spent many hours writing on a street curb outside my daughter’s home in CA. Why? I visited for a week, helping with their newborn baby. Would arrive early in the morning; not wanting to awaken the household, I sat on the street curb and wrote!
I took the manuscript on a Disney cruise to Alaska. Enjoyed many hours on the cabin deck writing while enjoying the magnificent scenery. Also wrote at home, in the car, in restaurants. Might be easier to state where I didn’t write!
6. Your acknowledgment page mentions, “Mrs. Gelwicks.” Who was she?
Answer: Kathleen Gelwicks was my 7th grade English teacher, whom I adored. She was precise, demanding, and no-nonsense in her instruction. It was she who taught me to love grammar through sentence diagraming. That solid foundation enabled me to learn and love other languages, as well, and subsequently had a direct bearing on my Air Force career.
7. What other languages have you studied?
Answer: German, Spanish, Latin, Russian, Bulgarian, Turkish, and French. Of course, several of these are a tad rusty and require brushing up before I can engage in conversation.
8. How did you come to do what you’re doing today?
I credit John Wayne, Bob Hope, my very patriotic parents, and my insatiable curiosity.
The journey began in 7th grade; my father was a colonel in Air Force intelligence. After being repeatedly chastised by my mother, “Don’t ask your father any questions!” … I decided to join Air Force intelligence, myself.
I realized the power of the written word and its impact on people as a lieutenant colonel – the writing journey began then. I served 30 years active duty and also retired as a colonel.
Following that, I went to work for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and have been with ODNI for ten years. For 40 years, I have written for generals, ambassadors, Congress, and even letters that the Director of National Intelligence has signed to the President of the United States.
9. Can you describe a typical day in your life?
I arise at 3:30 a.m., arrive at ODNI in Bethesda, MD at 5:00 a.m. and spend the day writing executive-level correspondence. I return home around 3:00 p.m., grab a glass of wine, walk the property, and play ball with our cocker spaniel, Cash. I then begin my second full-time job … publicity and marketing for the book and developing/scheduling workshops. All is a labor of love.
10. What do you most enjoy about what you do?
Positively impacting peoples’ lives – empowering them to better influence their own destiny.
To this day, I receive email and Facebook postings from individuals testifying that my techniques opened doors that would otherwise have remained closed to them. “If it weren’t for your book and class, I wouldn’t have…” are some of the most gratifying words I’ve ever encountered.
That’s why I wrote the book and continue to write articles in various venues to spread the word; this propels me to continue.
11. What people and/or books have inspired you?
I am inspired by an overwhelming desire to help people and the knowledge that my techniques work. Three facts in play.
First, many people do not realize that the ability to write has a very real, financial impact on their lives – it opens … or closes doors to opportunity.
Second, learning to write well, leveraging words to your advantage, takes practice but is not difficult.
Third, people spend huge sums of money pursuing an education in their field of choice; however, they don’t spend a fraction of that time or money learning how to wield the written word.
Think technicians (engineers, scientists, IT experts) don’t need this skill? They are often most in need. If you can’t effectively and persuasively make your case, how can you convince others (usually non-technically oriented but in leadership positions) that your solution is correct or deserves funding? You must leverage your written words and strength of your case to influence the decision makers.
12. Can you share some fun facts about yourself?
While in high school, I was the first runner-up at the national level in a sewing contest.
I adore baking (especially the desserts featured on the cover of Southern Living magazine) and collecting antique playing marbles.
I revel in throwing crazy, elegant dinner parties. I enjoy foreign languages, having studied Latin, French, Spanish, Russian, Bulgarian, German, and Turkish. Pure bliss as being on the back of a horse.
At age of 58, I took six months of polo http://carladbass.com/bass-blog/he lessons; “croquet on a horse,” doesn’t get any better!” My passions – writing and teaching others to write, of course!
13. What’s next for you?
Continuing to publicize the book, give workshops, and develop a workbook for 7&8th grade students.
14. Can you share some background stories to the book?
A. This is my thank you to Mrs. Gelwicks, my 7th grade English teacher. I was assigned to the Pentagon as a major hen I first realized that I could write winning packages. I’d earned the nickname, “Major with the Silver Pen.”
I attributed this ability to Mrs. Gelwicks and wanted to thank her. I contacted her husband to arrange a visit. He explained that she had suffered a stroke but was recovering and able to understand conversations and speak a bit.
I brought a picture of myself in 7th grade to help her remember me (we all changed a great deal, hadn’t we?!). She remembered immediately.
I explained how it was she who had made such a difference in the lives of many Air Force people for whom I’d written award and promotion packages – people she didn’t even know. Because, were it not for her, I couldn’t have written them.
I cried all the way home. Good thing traffic on the beltway was significantly lighter in those days!
B. CGO (Company Grade Officer) of the Year Award. This occurred at my unit in Hawaii. I received an award nomination for one of my most talented captains to compete in the annual All Air Force Hawaii Awards – this was a big deal.
However, the single-page nomination was absolutely horrid! So horrid, I called the author to my office and cautiously made a proposition: If he would allow me to use that page in the hand book and the class I taught regularly as an example of how NOT to write – I’d give him private lessons!
Thankfully, he took this in good cheer. I taught that page for the next 15 years. The graduation exercise in Write to Influence! is based upon it, as well.
C. When I took command of that same unit, we were the most losing unit on Oahu for the quarterly and annual All Air Force Hawaii Awards.
A cherished memory to this day is the first time we swept all of the award categories … took all the awards, beating all of the other units … because my troops had learned to write!
You should have heard the shouts and banging of spoons on tables when that final category was announced! The room erupted in jubilation! We finally arrived and were in the game to stay!
15. How are you certain your writing tools and strategies work?
Answer: Well, in addition to transforming the 324th Intelligence Squadron from the most losing to the most winning unit on in Hawaii, sweeping the All Air Force Hawaii awards, is certainly a solid testimonial. But there are more!
Over the years, many people stopped me in hallways simply to say, “Thank you! If it weren’t for you and Word Sculpting, I wouldn’t have ….” Specifics included “received the scholarship,” “been accepted into Officer Training School,” “received the Congressional Fellowship,” and others … all of which were highly competitive and life changing opportunities.
16. You really are passionate about writing, why?
Answer: It’s fun! Applying the tools and strategies in Write to Influence! is like a game. Find words to delete to make the text more powerful – that’s an Easter egg hunt. Determine how to make the story more robust, adding details to make the story pop. That’s painting.
Determine the message you need to communicate: Know your audience and intended goal. Depending on the task at hand, that can be poker! Bring wordy, fuzzy text into sharp focus. That’s photography.
Of course, the end game is the objective, whether personal advancement, furthering a subordinate’s career, or achieving or contributing to an organizational mission. That’s pure satisfaction.
17. What advice do you have for someone who wants to be an author?
Let me change the question to, “What advice do I offer everyone?” Each individual entering the professional world – in almost any occupation – needs to be a skilled story teller.
Whenever you communicate, e.g., government official testifying to Congress, lawyer addressing a jury, writing input for your annual appraisal or composing your resume, updating the boss on the day’s activities, nurse briefing a doctor about a patient, student writing a report for a college class … these are – in fact – telling a story.
My advice to everyone (beyond the specifics in Write to Influence!) — do NOT write as you speak. Words flow in conversation; we do not edit before uttering. A major mistake people make in writing is that they don’t edit … at all.
The written language is completely different from the colloquial (that spoken daily), especially in the professional world. Unfortunately, this is a common affliction as seen here:
The values my father and mother learned and displayed are my ideal of citizenship. While I am not yet 100% certain on how I want to leverage my degree (i.e., private practice, government, or uniform), my parents’ example has certainly taught me the “how” – fully committed, dedicated and with absolute integrity.
My parents’ values are my model. I will pursue a career in engineering fully committed and with integrity, whether in private practice, government, or the military.
18. Tell us about your workshops.
Each workshop, 60-90 minutes in length, is fun, fast-paced, interactive, and effective. Each includes some of the Word Sculpting tools (face it, if you can’t compose a sharp, focused sentence … it’s game over).
My opening question, “Who likes scavenger, Easter egg, or treasure hunts?” Everyone does, of course. I present a slide with the teaching point and one example, followed by error-riddled examples. It’s the audience’s turn to find and correct the mistakes.
I teach high school students thru seasoned professionals in the workforce (often, they need the most help to expunge bureaucratic blather). I also tailor presentations to cover other aspects as customers desire.
19. What are your top 3 writing strategies everyone should know?
Whether writing fiction or non-fiction, you – as the author – are taking the reader by the hand and leading him/her on a journey.
First, answer the questions, “Why are you knocking at the reader’s door? You have a purpose – a message – what is it?” Then develop an outline … a roadmap … of your key points, items you want the reader to remember.
Second, gather the substantiating material, thoughts, rationale, etc., the straw that Rumpelstiltskin – you –can spin into gold.
Third, use statistics and detail to give the story context, focus, and impact.
Fourth, (I’m sneaking in one more item), ensure the conclusion is powerful, succinct, and tracks with your intended, opening thesis
20. Any final thoughts you’d like to share?
Answer: Yes, two things.
1) My writing techniques apply to fiction, as well. The barometric question – Do you want to write a swimming pool book (one in which you can skim three sentences per page, get the drift, and don’t mind it falling in the pool) OR do you want to keep the reader hanging on each word?
Apply my writing techniques to reach the latter. My favorite author – Daniel Silva; he makes each word count … quoting from memory, “The doorbell rang with the urgency of an angry infant.” … My goodness, what that conveys! Contrast this with a sentence from an equally famous author (who will remain unnamed), “They went to a bar, ordered a beer, and drank it all up.” OUCH!!
2) The realization that powerful writing changes lives actually changed my own life. I know that Write to Influence! will change others’ lives as well.
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