Book Review: The Napkin, the Melon & the Monkey

The Napkin, the Melon & the Monkey: How to Be Happy and Successful at Work and in Life by Simply Changing Your Mind

By Barbara Burke (reviewed by Peter DeHaan)

Promoted as “a customer service fable,” The Napkin, the Melon & the Monkey is ambitiously subtitled: How to Be Happy and Successful at Work and in Life by Simply Changing Your Mind. I believe it lives up to its grand intention. The inside back cover notes that author “Barbara Burke is an internationally known consultant, speaker, and author who specializes in the ‘people side’ of customer service management.”

Reminiscent of the classic The One Minute Manager, this fable follows the vocational pursuits of Olivia, a harried customer service representative at the local utility. Starting her position with much excitement and high expectation, it isn’t long before the crush of complaint calls and barbs from angry customers bring her to her breaking point.

Enter Isabel, a wise and insightful veteran of the team, fortuitously comes to Olivia’s rescue. With one simple piece of advice, Isabel changes Olivia’s job outlook and career trajectory. This, however, will not be their only interaction, but the first of many such exchanges between mentor and mentee. Along the way, Olivia records twenty-two “aha!” moments, which have broad application for her work, customer service, and even life itself.

In case you’re wondering how a napkin, a melon, and a monkey fit into this, let me assure you they do, serving as apt metaphors for three key points, the reoccurring themes in the book. But don’t take my word for it. Read The Napkin, the Melon & the Monkey yourself and then share it with your coworkers. It might make a huge difference.

[The Napkin, the Melon & the Monkey: How to Be Happy and Successful at Work and in Life by Simply Changing Your Mind, by Barbara Burke. Published by Front Wheel Learning, 2006, ISDN: 0-9746379-3-9, 137 pages.]

Read more book reviews by Peter DeHaan

Book Review: Ditched

Ditched: A Love Story

By Robin Mellom (reviewed by Peter DeHaan)

Justina’s prom didn’t go at all as planned. After tumbling from a moving car just as the morning light emerged, she finds her prom dress ripped and stained, with no memory of what happened, no cellphone to call for help, and no money – sitting in a ditch. Literally ditched. And that new tattoo – please, please be temporary.

A hopeless romantic, Justina had mapped out every detail of how her prom should unfold: the kiss, the song, the dance – the entire evening. Reality turned out quite different, conspiring to keep her from her dream – or did it?

In this delightful romp into the unexpected, Ditched takes readers on a wild ride, weaving in the surprising, twisting and turning at every opportunity. Meeting a cast of colorful characters – true friends, fickle friends, and lovable losers – Ditched is highschool drama at its best – and worst.

Ditched: A Love Story is a young adult novel – and for those young at heart.

[Ditched: A Love Story, by Robin Mellom. Published by Hyperion, 2013, ISBN: 978-1423143512, 288 pages.]

Note: On March 1, 2015, Ditched was updated and re-released as Perfect Kiss.

Read more book reviews by Peter DeHaan

What I’m Looking Forward to the Most at the Breathe Conference

This weekend I’m heading off to the Breathe Writers Conference. It will be my third time in three years. There are many things I’m looking forward to, among them:

  • I’m looking forward to my workshop presentation to help and encourage other writers.
  • I’m looking forward to meeting new people and making new friends.
  • I’m looking forward to seeing friends from past conferences, writing groups, and even cyberspace.
  • I’m looking forward to scheduling one-on-one meetings with those who can guide me as a writer.
  • I’m looking forward to buying some books and having them autographed.
  • I’m looking forward to attending the general sessions and many workshops.
  • I’m looking forward to learning more about the art and craft of writing.

Mostly I’m looking forward to being in the company of other writers, to share and learn, to encourage and be encouraged, and to grow as a writer.

Perhaps I will see you there — and then we can do all these things together.

4 Reasons to Set Goals

By Peter DeHaan

It’s important to set goals, both for our work and for our self.

Goals move us forward: Without goals, it’s easy to drift from day to day, week to week, month to month, and year to year — and nothing really changes. One of my goals is to attend two writing conferences each year. This helps grow me as a writer and meet others in the industry.

Goals give us clarity: Goals reveal what’s important to us. Activities that aren’t relevant to our goals need to be given lower priority or even eliminated. One of my goals is to write every day.

Goals reflect our focus: Without goals we can easily go in four directions at once, never accomplishing anything. Another of my goals is to watch less TV, specifically I will not idly view it, and I will not begin watching any new series. This gives more time to read, write reviews, and do other things to advance my career as a writer.

Goals facilitate success: I want to publish my books, but that won’t happen just because I wish it. I need to work at it. One critical step is to present my writing to agents and publishers, often in the form of a query. For my books, I’ve been putting this off, but last year at the Breathe Christian Writers Conference, I set a goal to query a book (or two) at this year’s event. Submitting a query will not guarantee success, but failing to do so will ensure failure.

What are some of your goals?

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Visit peterdehaan.com to receive his newsletter, read his blog, or connect on social media.

Peter DeHaan and Jerry Barrett Start Writers Group

The Kalamazoo Christian Writers critique group holds first meeting and generates excitement.

Mattawan, Michigan, July 19, 2012 – Peter DeHaan and Jerry Barrett have started a writers critique group, Kalamazoo Christian Writers (KCW), based in Kalamazoo Michigan. The first meeting was held July 11 at The Point, a non-profit community center located on the west side of Kalamazoo.

KCW materials passed out at the inaugural meeting state, “Though this is a Christian writers group, there is no expectation that all our work must be ostensibly ‘Christian’ writing. Christians who write have a place in virtually every genre, market, and industry; we need to embrace and support that.”

“The response was great,” said cofounder Peter DeHaan. “We talked about the vision for the group, shared the critiquing process, and practiced on a couple of pieces.” Attendees were universally excited about the group and what it will offer to improve their writing and advance their careers.

For some time Barrett and DeHaan have been making an hour drive twice a month to take part in another critique group. When they realized the value of group critiquing and with the uncertainty of winter driving in Michigan, they began making plans to form a local group. Though the two intend to remain connected with the first group, this new endeavor, KCW, will be their focus.

“The main value of a critique group is to help the writer to look at the window of the craft of writing not through it,” said cofounder Jerry Barrett. “The goal of critique is to help one another, as writers, to accentuate what is clear for the reader and to remove possible smudges on the pane.”

The critiquing process is scalable, so there’s no limit to the size of the group – and the meeting room is large enough to accommodate a much larger scope. Regardless of the number present, writers will split into manageable sized groups to maximize effectiveness and minimize time requirements. Critiquing is best when done in groups of four or five, with everyone having a piece to share and everyone providing feedback.

The group meets the second Wednesday of each month. Email Peter DeHaan for more information.

About Jerry Barrett

Jerry Barrett (aka “Jerry Poet”) is a longtime poet and a more recent memoirist. He frequently blogs his distinctive poetry, insightful observations, and compelling commentary at Gerald the Writer. For his day job, he wears a brown uniform and delivers packages. Jerry resides near Kalamazoo, Michigan, with his wife, a dozen kids, and assortment of pets. This all serves to give him much fodder to fire his imaginative writing.
About Peter DeHaan:

Peter DeHaan is a published author and president of Peter DeHaan Publishing Inc. He is an active blogger and frequent book reviewer. His blogs include “Byline” (a blog about writing), “Spiritually Speaking,” “From the Publisher’s Desk” (covering publishing and marketing), and “The Musings of Peter DeHaan.” Many of Peter DeHaan’s articles can be found online at Article Weekly. Peter resides near Kalamazoo with his wife; they have two adult children.

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Contact:
Peter DeHaan
www.peterdehaan.com
dehaan@peterdehaan.com
616-284-1305

The Work of Publishing Periodicals

I publish four periodicals: two magazines, an e-publication, and an e-newsletter. There is an established workflow to each, with every day requiring that some task be accomplished for at least one of them.

Additionally, one of the magazines has an overlapping production schedule, meaning that sometimes I have to start the next issue before the current one is finished. The result is that at any given time, I am working on four or five publications. Given a bit of discipline, it is all quite manageable — when I am in the office.

Two weeks ago, I missed four days in the office due to traveling to and covering a convention. I began my preparations in earnest two weeks prior to departure, working in advance and accomplishing tasks ahead of schedule to the degree it was possible. Essentially, this meant doing three weeks of production work in two weeks. Some ancillary things, such as blogging, fell by the wayside.

Then I was gone for a week. Then I spent a week getting caught up from being gone. This included doing those tasks that could not be done in advance, responding to issues that arose while I was gone, and following up on everything from the convention.

So, the essence is that being gone for four days required a concerted effort lasting four weeks.

Although this may sound like complaining, it is really explaining — why it has been 21 days since my last blog entry.

[If you are interested, my publications are Connections Magazine, AnswerStat, TAS Trader, and Medical Call Center News.]

Sarah Palin Goes Rogue in Grand Rapids

It seems that in recent days, every time you turned around you heard about Sarah Palin and her new book, “Going Rogue.”  Released yesterday, it was immediately proclaimed a best seller.

To promote it, Sarah appeared on several news/talk shows this week.  She also embarked on a campaign-style book tour, starting in nearby Grand Rapids (GR), Michigan.  She picked Michigan citing her disappointment in not being able to campaign here after the McCain campaign abruptly shut down its efforts in the state shortly after Sarah joined the ticket — not to mention that GR is an extremely friendly environment for her.

My wife works in GR and although that fact precluded her from standing in line all morning to secure the requisite wristband to meet Sarah and receive an autograph copy, she did nonetheless make it to the event.  The media reported that thousands stood in line — and my bride was one of them.  Although she didn’t get to meet Sarah, she was able to see her — and receive an autographed card to place in the book she purchased.

Whether you like Sarah or dislike her — I happen to like her — it is going to be interesting to see how this all plays out.  Certainly, it is vastly more interesting than the incessant wranglings in Washington about healthcare reform.

Kindle Continues to Grow

Since its introduction, I’ve been tracking Amazon’s Kindle, a portable, wireless reading device for e-books and digital media (such as magazines).  When it was first introduced in April 2008, the initial production run sold out within hours.

It seems that the high demand for Kindle has been maintained.  Publishing consultant Robert Sacks recently reported that Kindle sales are believed to have grown faster than iPod sales for the same time frame.  This impressive record is enough to confirm consumer interest and the growing pervasiveness of Kindle (as well as other digital readers).

We are getting close to the point where there will be enough interest to make my magazines and newsletter available to digital readers.  Although I personally prefer holding a book or magazine in my hand, I am anxious to experience digital reading via a Kindle device.  My main dilemma is carving out time to play with it and get up to speed.

Once I see how the device works and better understand its value, the next step will be formatting my publications for it.  Of course, that takes times as well.  There is an opportunity cost of pursuing this course versus some other equally interesting, compelling, and important task.  Even so, it is my goal before year-end to have prioritized the time to do so.

I’ll keep you posted.

Forty years ago today

Forty years ago today, on July 20, 1969, two men, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, landed on the moon and walked on its surface.  It was an historic event, the crowning achievement of space travel to date, and produced one of the most iconic images of the twentieth century.

Other visits were made since, but none in the past 30 years.  Apparently, there are no compelling reasons — at this time — to return.

Still, it was and continues to be a memorable event.  As with many events of great historic significance, people tend to remember where they were, what they were doing when, or how they heard about it.

For me, other such events of such monumental proportions were not happy ones or joyous occasions, such as the assassinations of JFK and Dr King or the terrorist attacks on September 11.

Do you remember where you were when you heard about or saw man’s first step on the moon?

Although Neil Armstrong was and is the focal point of attention with his “one small step,” there were countless others how worked to make the “giant leap for mankind” happen.

Today we can salute them all as we remember with awe the great feat that was accomplished.