At first, I was worried that a one-day conference wouldn’t be worth $99 or, at the last minute, $149, but the moment I was welcomed into the Unitarian church on Franklin, I received a nice string backpack containing three new books, all useful, and two, especially valuable. Already I had recouped $60! And there was much more. This is a conference I believe many Tikkun readers would appreciate.

photo by Marty Castleberg

Hawken and the Seattle Protests: Writing That Changes the World

The best moment – Paul Hawken’s speech – came first. It was wonderful to hear that someone hugely successful, the pal of people like Clinton, had shown up in person at the WTO protests in Seattle, an event he felt was grossly misrepresented by the likes of Tom Friedman who opined from a continent away. In response, he wrote a 10,000-word email. He asked for no payment from the publications that accepted it, but wanted them to give up exclusive rights so that it could be freely and widely shared. Eventually, it turned into his latest book, Blessed Unrest, a title that came from Martha Graham’s words:

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. …. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. … No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.”

It was interesting to learn that Hawken, someone with decades of professional speaking behind him, had only the previous Monday begun talking about his personal life: having severe asthma in childhood and being essentially straight-jacketed for six weeks as a fourteen-month old, his mother instructed not to visit him because it made him frantic, and to concentrate instead on his twin because he, Paul, wasn’t going to make it. Here are a few of his many wise thoughts:

“If you show up and have good intention, which is about serving others, presences show up.”

“It’s not how many but who reads your book.” As it happened, a CEO, Ray C. Anderson, read his book, The Ecology of Commerce, and said it changed his life; he realized he had been ‘a robber of the world’ and called his staff together to announce that from now on, their goal was “zero pollution.”

And Not Changing the World? Self-Promotion Through Media Onslaught

The middle of the conference was far more nuts and bolts, and at times, overwhelming. Very knowledgeable people talked about the fifty thousand social network techniques writers should employ to promote their work, and much and varying advice poured out regarding the new world of self-publishing and the old world of agented publication. A panelist shared her experience of making hundreds of thousands and even a million dollars over a decade; another advised us to arrange for financial security (somehow) so that we could devote a year to promoting our book. By the second panel, the focus of the conference had veered into Writing for Money and Success.

On the other hand, the organizers and fellow attendees were delightful people as were many of the panelists when we talked face to face, and the independent publishing companies, Berrett-Koehler and Weiser/RedWheel/Conari Press seemed like very appropriate resources for Tikkun readers. I would definitely recommend the conference. Andy Ross, former owner of Cody’s Books and current agent of the Andy Ross Agency, was a candid and encouraging participant as was the ever-jocular Michael Larsen of Larsen-Pomada.

The Free Books!

Turning Dead Ends into Doorways: How to Grow through Whatever Life Throws Your Way by Staci Boden (Weiser/RedWheel/Conari Press) was, on the surface, just another self-help book, but I really appreciated its acknowledgement that no matter how spiritually aligned we are, no matter what healthy food we eat, no matter how much we meditate, we cannot assure success, children, a relationship, a promotion, all the goals we fixate on. Bad things will sometimes happen, and we cannot through any means whatsoever control life, but we can enter into a meaningful and spiritual daily relationship with the unknown and the difficult, a relationship that helps, sustains, and frees us.

Invisible Capital: How Unseen Forces Shape Entrepreneurial Opportunity by Chris Rabb (Berrett-Koehler) is a surprising book about small business that offers many insights into human or social capital and how it played a part in the success of African-American entrepreneurs in his family and the occasional failure of people of privilege, for example, a Harvard grad with venture capital experience, who tried to enter a realm – punk tourism – where she had no social capital and the capital she did have was reviled. Rabb asks us to look at entrepreneurialism in a broader way. Isn’t a daycare center that nurtures a community a hugely important small business even if it only scrapes by financially? The author spent years in government promoting small business efforts and offers a clear critique.

We also received law professor Kirk Boyd’s book on creating an International Bill of Rights, a worthy effort to support.

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