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Author Interview with Keven Fletcher

Keven Fletcher Author Interview

 

I am pleased to have Keven Fletcher join us here at Nothing Any Good. Mr. Fletcher is a Chaplain and Faculty Mentor at St. Michaels University School in Victoria BC. His first book—When It Matters Most—is set to be released on June 7th and is currently available for pre-order. Welcome Keven!

Glad to be here.

 

I’m going to skip a softball opener and come out of the gates with a 90 MPH slider. You’ve written that the old adage, “You did the best you could,” can not only be misleading, (e.g. your best isn’t always good enough), but can also be detrimental. What you seem to theorize, if I can crassly distil it, is that sometimes our best actually has a negative impact, so simply saying that I tried my best is not enough. I need to reflect on where my best failed and learn to improve. (Correct me if I’m misrepresenting your thoughts.) If you will allow me to take your theory one step further, though, if my best has a negative impact, wouldn’t not trying at all have been better than trying and creating a negative?

Great slider! I have a totally satisfying answer:

It depends.

Okay, not very satisfying, but hear me out.

If you ask me to prepare pufferfish for dinner tonight and I’m not an expert, rather than trying my best, I should probably defer to someone who knows what they’re doing or offer you salmon in its place. In a high risk case such as this, doing my best isn’t necessarily the same as doing what’s right. It’s better to not try at all, period.

That being said, let’s assume that I’ve been trained in the preparation of fugu and you understand the poison risks. In this case, I’m in a position to offer you the pufferfish. Of course, I should offer my best work. Anything less courts disaster.

Now imagine that despite my best efforts tonight, you get sick from the meal (sorry). This happens, even in the world of master chefs. The popularity of the meal is partially connected to the risk – the foodie equivalent of bungee jumping.

My response to the situation is crucial. If I shrug my shoulders, ignore the outcome, and simply hope that you won’t get sick next time, I’m not really offering my best in its most important sense (even though I am doing my best in the moment). If this is the case, it would be more accurate to simply say that I’m doing the same as before.

Quite differently, doing my best in its fuller sense entails figuring out where I missed the mark and learning all I can to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. It’s ultimately about my willingness to learn and grow, rather than any single meal’s effort.

This being said, the stakes aren’t usually so high. Most often, we’re well positioned to (1) do our best in the moment, (2) learn from our subsequent successes/shortcomings, and (3) apply those learnings to the next rounds. My suggestion is that we can’t stop at step one and slap on a vacant approval statement. We are only truly at our best when we incorporate all three.

For the record, I’ve neither prepared nor eaten fugu. I avoid it for the same reason that I avoid bungee jumping – life is thrilling enough.

 

So it seems you’re more concerned with people not learning from their mistakes and being content. I’m a basketball fan and there are two quotes by two different coaching greats that I think apply. John Wooden, the UCLA coaching legend, once said, “If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have the time to do it over?” Another great coach and current president of the Miami Heat once wrote, “Anytime you stop striving to get better, you’re bound to get worse.” I love both of those.

 

I don't know what to do with worldviews that don’t involve paradox. It must be wonderful, but it’s just not my experience. - Keven FletcherClick To Tweet

 

Now that we’ve gone from 0-100 in one question…Your website (www.kevenfletcher.com), and I can only assume part of your pastoral mission as well, focuses on how to create a meaningful life. What does your inspiration for creating meaning in people’s lives come from? Is it from your own hard-learned failures to create meaning or the thrashing of others searching without finding meaning?

People fascinate me. Some seem compelled to create a deep sense of purpose in life, while others seldom move past the surface. We’re all scattered across this spectrum, seemingly without correlation to privilege, education, or health. When I come across people who are strong, vulnerable, and resilient, I wonder how it happens – what ways of thinking, what patterns of behaviour lead to lives that are so full of meaning?

It’s not that my own life has been marked by extraordinary challenges or that I’ve benefited from remarkable adventures. The gift I’ve received has been exposure to a wide cross-section of people at very significant moments in their lives.

Through these encounters, I’ve come to conclude that we both receive and offer the most in our lives when a sense of greater purpose and meaning guides our thoughts and actions.

 

Have you read “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Victor Frankl? Has it impacted your work at all?

Frankl is a personal hero. He influences my work whether I directly reference him or not. The book you mention is one of my favourites on two counts.

First, Frankl provides a powerful example as to how we always have a choice. I’ve spoken more than a few times about how I don’t draw this conviction regarding the enduring existence of choice from my own life. Mine has neither been particularly challenging nor adventurous. But Frankl, he talked about the existence of choice within the context of his personal experience of four concentration camps and the loss of his immediate family. He witnessed its power in both the guards and prisoners, and we, his readers, see it in him.

Second, Frankl concluded that people need a sense of meaning in their lives. What’s so important is that he wasn’t fixated on a particular meaning, such as a doctrinal stance or specific worldview. Rather, my understanding is that he believed that people need to find a meaning that reflects their individuality.

I was introduced to Frankl’s work by a dear friend who happened to be re-reading his favourite books as death neared. It’s an example of the gifts I’ve been handed by people whose paths I’ve been fortunate to cross. You meet my friend in the book, over a glass of Guiness.

 

Victor Frankl is a personal hero. I was introduced to Frankl by a dear friend nearing death. -Keven FletcherClick To Tweet

 

Your first book—When It Matters Most—looks at creating purpose and acceptance in relationships by exploring the wisdom of Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, and Taoism. What inspires you to explore the wisdom of all of those traditions?

I think that wisdom stories are powerful tools for stimulating reflection. They tend to be universal, transcending cultures and times. Because the tales usually offer several layers of understanding, the same story can offer different insights at different points in our lives. On top of this, the story format makes the wisdom memorable and accessible, which renders the messages easier to call upon when needed.

As for the breadth of stories used in the book, I think that we sometimes get caught up in our own traditions. More and more, though, we’re coming to understand and appreciate the global nature of the human endeavour. These stories allow us to dip into the full breadth of what that outlook offers.

The novel expresses this broader approach through more than the wisdom tales. Though set in a single location, its characters reflect a wide spectrum of humanity in terms of our ethnic, social, economic, gender, and sexual diversity. Again, it’s about the broader picture.

 

Were you afraid of the undertaking of exploring the wisdom of all these ancient traditions and religions? Did you ever find yourself saying, “Who cares what I think about this?”

I’m glad you care enough to offer this interview!

The initial drive to produce the novel stemmed from a desire to share the wisdom stories more widely. In my own speaking, they’ve generated the strongest, positive response. I have students and faculty who come to me years after leaving the school, who share the stories that stuck with them and made a difference.

Happily, this focus on the stories makes the novel less about what I think and mostly about the wisdom tales themselves. I’ve tried my best to set them into a concrete context that illustrates their power, but in the end, it’s not about what I think. In fact, my only responsibility is to share these narrative gifts from which I’ve benefited.

And best of all, those who don’t care aren’t required to read the book…

 

I may be projecting, but you seem to be someone that is not only comfortable with paradox, but embraces it. How do you account for the paradoxes that lie within your religious and personal worldviews?

Am I allowed an extended quote? Fritz Williams said:

I believe in cultivating opposite, but complementary views of life, and I believe in meeting life’s challenges with contradictory strategies. I believe in reckoning with the ultimate meaninglessness of our existence, even as we fall in love with the miracle of being alive. I believe in working passionately to make our lives count while never losing sight of our insignificance. I believe in caring deeply and being beyond caring. It is by encompassing these opposites, by being involved and vulnerable, but simultaneously transcendent and detached, that our lives are graced by resilience and joy.

I completely buy into this approach. So much of living a rich life is tied to our ability to choose which end of a paradox to emphasize at a given moment. Each of Fritz’ statements is true. Knowing which way to lean is a product of wisdom. Being able to follow that wisdom takes discipline and practice.

I’m really not sure what to do with worldviews that don’t involve paradox. In a way, it must be wonderful to see life as less complex. It’s just not my experience.

 

Your Amazon bi-line refers to your wife as “resilient.” Why did you choose this adjective to describe your spouse?

Jenn puts up with me. Not everyone would. But that’s not the full story.

Her family having been hit by a drunk driver when she was young, Jenn’s physical challenges and sheer number of surgeries would have caused lesser souls to crumble. For me and others, she’s an inspiration as to how our framing of events has greater impact than the events themselves. In many ways, she embodies the exercise of choice at the core of Frankl’s work.

She’s been an incredible influence in how I understand my own life and its meaning.

 

It sounds like you, like me, got too lucky. People say, “Behind every good man is a good woman.” In my case, my wife is miles ahead of me encouraging me to keep up.

I only allow this from time to time, but for your final question, I’m allowing you to interview yourself, but it can’t be a standard interview question that is pre-packaged.

Keven, you prattle on about finding one’s meaning in life. What’s yours?

At the school, we take our grade twelves through an exercise where they identify all the roles they fulfil (son/daughter, student, athlete, friend…). We then ask them to pick the five that they believe to be most significant. Once they’ve gone through that process, we get them to finish the sentence, “I exist in order to…” It’s a simple enough exercise and sets the stage for some deeper thinking.

Of course, what’s good for the participants is good for the leaders. Here’s how I filled in the blanks:

I, Keven Fletcher, am a citizen, spouse/father, chaplain, friend, and writer. I exist in order to cultivate and celebrate growth in others and myself.

It’s the sort of bookmark exercise that one can return to every few years. After all, our understandings grow over time.

Did you notice that I cheated by combining two roles? Perhaps we can chat about my moral failings next time.

Thanks so much for the chance to share!

 

Thank you, Keven! I am grateful for your time. You seem to have a kind and generous heart. The world needs more men like you.

 

 

Find more writing and publishing tips at Nothing Any Good.

 

 

keven_fletcher

 

About the Author

Drawing on a background in corporate leadership, mediation, and religious thought, Keven Fletcher currently speaks, facilitates, and mentors within a globally diverse, academic community that represents twenty-five countries and five continents. His recent book, When It Matters Mostreflects a distillation of all these roles.

 

 

 

 

 

The Courage to Create

Courage to Create

Image Courtesy of liveyourmark.com

 

How Writing More Will Lead to Writing Better

by Daniel Bates

 

Creativity is not about formulating the perfect idea. It’s about formulating enough ideas until you find a winner.

I can understand skepticism regarding this idea. It makes sense that in order to come up with a really great idea you have to put a great deal of work into it. But this is where common sense may fail you. Creativity is counterintuitive.

There is more trial and error in creativity than you may realize. I once heard an analogy that may shed light onto this point.

In a college pottery class a professor split the class into two groups. Each group was given the same assignment: to make the best vase over the course of 1 month. However, each group was given different conditions. Group 1 could use as much time as they wanted on each vase they created. Group 2 could only spend a limited amount of time on each vase they made.

After the month elapsed the professor had the two groups present their final work. Each group, after a lot of hard work, unveiled their final work. Before the unveiling, there was an assumption made by the class that Group 1 was going to win. Given the limitations of Group 2 and the advantages presented to Group 1, you can see why they thought this. However, to everyone’s shock, the two vases unveiled could not have been more different regarding quality, aesthetics, and sturdiness.

Group 2’s vase was unparalleled in every way. Group 2’s vase was superior to Group 1. But how could this be? Group 1 didn’t have any constraints. At best, Group 2 was slated to produce more, but no one thought their product would be better because Group 1 was granted the time to make a masterwork.

The class demanded an answer from the professor. The professor smiled. He said because Group 2 was forced to produce more, they were given greater opportunity to learn from their mistakes. This allowed them to reflect, make modifications and ultimately create a beautiful final product. Whereas Group 1 put an inordinate amount of time into only a few vases, effectively limiting their mistakes and limiting their learning.

 

My challenge to you: Embrace the process of failure. Trust that your mistakes will lead to success.

Therefore, more vases lead to more mistakes which lead to more learning and eventually to a better product.

The lesson for writers— and anyone really—write a lot and make a lot of mistakes. Don’t get hung up on making your work perfect. And don’t give up. The first book I wrote was an abysmal failure. The writing wasn’t good. The structure of the book was nonexistent. My sentences were clunky and unclear. I didn’t know who my target audience was. I probably made every writing mistake you could make. And sadly, I spent 2 ½ years on the thing.

I could have looked at all those failures and given up on my dream of becoming a writer. But, instead I learned from my mistakes and kept writing. I realized the first book was exactly that, my first. It wasn’t my one and only shot at writing a book I could be proud of. And the book wasn’t my one and only good idea. It was, in fact, the floodgate to a host of future ideas and books. After making this realization, I found that I was more excited to write. I had more ideas. I was more passionate and better equipped to execute my new ideas.

I now see my past writing failures as essential to my current writing successes. I recently finished and published my latest book on thinking errors that render parents ineffective. When writing my latest book–When Parenting BackfiresI utilized all the lessons I previously learned. Not only did I write the book in half the time it took me to write the first one, I also enjoyed the writing process more. The writing is clearer, more focused and purposeful.

Again, this progress is the product of learning from failure.

My challenge to you: Embrace the process of failure. Trust that your mistakes will lead to success. Trust that your current idea that feels like a dud will lead a stroke of genius. It will be a stepping stone to your magnum opus. And keep in mind it is an act of courage to create. Don’t think for a second that it’s trivial. No one else can articulate your vision with your voice and your passion. Only you can breathe life into your idea.

 

 

Find more writing and publishing tips at Nothing Any Good.

 

 

UntitledAbout the Author

Daniel Bates is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor who works with families dealing with violence, substance abuse, and legal issues. He loves to write and think critically. He’s passionate about writing and reading poetry, discussing philosophy/theology, spending time with his wife and daughters, connecting with friends, and getting lost in a good book.

Daniel has written several books of poetry and non-fiction books on mental health issues and spirituality which are available on Amazon in both kindle and paperback. Daniel also writes for two online magazines: mum.info and FamilyShare.com, in addition to his own blog. You can find links to Daniel’s books, read his blog, and view and purchase his paintings at his website.

Follow Daniel on twitter @HdShrnkInc.

 

 

Preview “When Parenting Backfires”

 

Add an Instant Sample of your Book in 3 Easy Steps

 

Amazon now allows writers, authors, bloggers, and wannabes to add a preview of their book to their website. It is as simple as 1-2-3.

 

Step 1- Go to Amazon

Log into Amazon and search for your book (or the book you would like to preview). A screen shot of my book is below. You see that little “<Embed>” in the bottom right hand corner there? That’s where you want to click.

 

Amazon Dan Buri

 

Step 2- Get Embed Code

Click on the “<Embed>” on your page. You will then have then have the option to either get the link for your book or get the embed code for your site. If you’re putting this on your website, you’re going to want to click the embed radio button.

 

Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 2.28.12 PM

 

If you have an Amazon Associates ID, you will also want to make sure you add your ID.

 

Step 3- Place the Code on Your Site

This is self explanatory, but here’s a glimpse of what it looks like in action.

 

 

Go ahead, take a gander at my book. Read the first couple of pages. Get a feel for how it looks. In fact, read the entire sample. Once you’ve done that, you’re going to want to be sure that the “Buy” link works as advertised before implementing this on your own website with your own book. I mean, imagine how embarrassing that would be for you if it didn’t work! Use me as your guinea pig.

Go ahead and purchase it just to make sure everything works as it should. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Ok, done? Great! Now that you know it works, you can follow these three easy steps on your own website.

 

 

Find more writing and publishing tips at Nothing Any Good.

Happily Ever After by Marjorie Owen

happily ever afterI am excited that Nothing Any Good can utilized as a platform, not only for assisting writers throughout the writing process and promoting their works, but also as a platform to explore new works from up-and-coming authors. Despite what some might think, I don’t believe writing should always be done in a vacuum. Having a community with whom to share essays, short stories, and musings is a valuable commodity for writers. I’m pleased to bring you our second short story by Jesse Dee’s beloved mother, Marjorie Owen.

 

Happily Ever After

by Marjorie Owen

 

“And so they were married and lived happily ever after.”

The little girl gave a sigh of blissful contentment, although she must have heard the story at least a dozen times before. Then, with the eternal optimism of children she begged, “Read me one more, granny. Just one.”

Laura Clayton closed the book firmly and stood up. “No more tonight, darling. Time you were asleep. Snuggle down now, and I’ll tuck you in.” This done, she kissed her granddaughter and went to the door, turning to look fondly at the child whose eyes were already closed. She’d soon be dead to the world, Laura thought.

She hurried along to the bathroom. Extraordinary, what a mess one small person’s bath time could make. She could imagine, all too well, the familiar icy look of tight-lipped disapproval on her daughter-in-law’s face if she saw the havoc there; she could hear the impatience, “Oh, leave it to me, mother!”

This always reduced her to a fumbling, inefficient idiot, of about the same age as her own granddaughter. Tidying away the little garments, putting the soggy towels in the linen basket, cleaning the bath, mopping down the walls, and trying to dry the worst bits of the carpet, her thoughts were scurrying around for the umpteenth time. Why, oh why, had she ever been so foolish as to agree to make her home with Roy and his wife? Working furiously away, she smiled wryly and muttered half aloud, “Money, my girl! That’s the beginning and end of that one. What else?”

When her husband died so suddenly, leaving his affairs in such a muddle, and it dawned on everybody there was absolutely nothing left, what alternative was there but to accept her son’s invitation to make her home with him? A woman in her forties with no skills, no training, and no experience. There seemed no other way out. That was two months ago and how bitterly she regretted it. It would have been better to have gone into one room, tried to get some sort of unskilled job, perhaps as a charwoman. They earned enough, God knew! Some cleaner I’d have made, she thought ruefully, regarding her inexpert attempts to get the bathroom cleaned up.

The trouble was she hadn’t known her son’s wife very well beforehand. The two families lived hundreds of miles apart and on their infrequent meetings; everyone was on his or her best behaviour. Laura had decided from the day of Roy’s wedding, she’d never become an interfering mother-in-law and the best way to achieve that was to keep a respectable distance between them. She despised those mothers of only sons who refused to cut the links.

For a few days after her arrival in their home, everything had been sweetness and light. They’d given her a very nice room, there were flowers to welcome her, and Roy seemed genuinely pleased to have his mother under his roof. Her daughter-in-law, Nancy, although not effusive in her greeting, had spoken kindly enough and said she hoped Laura would be comfortable. Then came the night of the dinner party, ostensibly held for her as an introduction to their friends and Roy’s business colleagues. Laura was quite looking forward to a little gaiety; dressed and made herself up very carefully so that she should be a credit to her son and his wife.

Copyright 2012: Michael James Owen

 

 

Find more writing and publishing tips at Nothing Any Good.

 

 

This delightful excerpt was shared with me by Jesse Dee, who found this story (and over fifty others) in a box after her mother had passed away. Jesse Dee chose a select few to share with the world.  You can find the short story on Smashwords and follow Jesse Dee  at her blog.

Here’s the tale of her mother and how Jesse Dee happened upon the stories.

 

WritingMarjorie Grace Patricia Bridget Owen was born on September 11th 1911 in England and endured the bombardment of World War II. She was born out-of-wedlock with an Irish Lord for a father and a Russian princess as her mother. Although her life before working is somewhat sketchy, her career, as a major London department store clothing buyer, was long and interesting. Members of the Royal family were amongst some of her more famous clients. Marjorie found time to write many short stories and four novels ranging from romance to mystery. She did not attempt to publish any of her writings. We can only surmise that she wrote for the joy and did not wish to seek out any recognition or fame.

Marjorie passed away on March 28th 2004, after a very full life, at the age of ninety-three.

Mum had told Mike that she had written a couple of stories and let him read them some years ago. She expressed no interest in having them published at that time. He was never aware of the amount that she had written until she passed away. Mike, being an only child and having no Aunts or Uncles, is the sole heir to Marjorie’s estate. He discovered the box full of Mum’s writings on clearing her flat in England and took them back to the USA.  

As an avid reader Dee (daughter-in-law) became fascinated with Mum’s stories and books. All her writings were hand written on legal size paper or note books and on both sides of the paper. Dee began reading some of the short stories (there are fifty plus).   After reading a few, she was hooked and decided to attempt, the monumental task of transcribing them to computer.   Mum’s writing was not the easiest to read, however, Dee had set herself the challenge and was going to follow through. At first, her husband, Mike assisted her with the ‘translation’ of Mum’s hand writing. At times they became frustrated with each other and Mum. After a couple of stories, Dee became the expert, reading Mum’s writing and even improving her own typing skills and speed. As yet, Dee has not completed the task, with a few more stories to go and two novels, after several years of work.

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