“Inspiration often emerges from our work; it doesn’t precede our work.” – Madeleine L’Engle (author of A Wrinkle in Time)

A client emailed me to say she was having a hard time making progress on her book.

I sent her the following message – and thought it might have value for you if you’d like to get in that delightful stream-of-conscious state where the words are flowing out of your head so fast your fingers can hardly keep up.

(Name of client) . .. please keep giving yourself props for writing, writing, writing.

E.L. Doctorow was asked what it was like writing a book.

He said, “It’s kind of like driving a car at night: you can only see to the end of your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

Keep driving to the end of your headlights.

Keep producing pages and getting your thoughts on paper.

They don’t have to be perfect and they don’t have to be right.

Just getting your thoughts down will trigger more – which will trigger more – and before you know it, your book is out of your head and on paper.

THEN – you can go back and start cleaning it up.

Don’t try to think up what you want to say. That keeps you in your head. Blocked. Stymied.

Just get your thoughts written down. That keeps you moving forward. That produces a momentum where your writing takes on a life and pace of its own.

All the best-selling authors at Maui Writers Conference – from Mitch Albom to Frank McCourt to Nicholas Sparks to James Rollins to Jacquelyn Mitchard – agreed.

Ink it when you think it.

Jot the thoughts when they’re hot.

Muse it or you’ll lose it.

If writing is hard, it’s because you’re thinking too hard.

Free up the flow.

How do you do that?

Get out in nature. Go somewhere the sun is shining. Fill yourself with the fresh air of a beautiful day, the serenity of deep, calm water, the eternal beauty of green trees or a sweeping vista of towering mountains. Drink in the quiet but powerful energy of that place.

Now, ask yourself:

“What do I passionately believe?

What do I feel is important?

What have I learned – the hard way – that might have value for others?

Who is my target reader? What is that person’s name? What is their story? Man? Woman? Married? Single? Kids? Working 60 hours a week? Out-of-work? What are they going through? What’s keeping them up at night? What are their doubts, fears, hopes, dreams? What could I share that would keep them going, help them deal with their challenges, put hope in their heart?

Fill your mind with that person. Picture him or her in front of you.

Now, reach out to that individual with your words.

Put your pen to paper – your fingers to keys – reach down into your gut – and start writing to THEM.

Pour out your heart, mind, soul and insights to THEM.

Make writing a outreach to that man or woman.

No fancy language. No struggling how to say it just so.

Write and reach out to them with your words until you see the light go on in their eyes.

Writing is not meant to be an intellectual execise where you are in your head, thinking, “What can I say?”

Writing is meant to be a communication – a bridge between our experience and expertise and our readers. The question is, “What would they benefit from hearing?”

Write to connect.

Write to share what you know, beleive and feel in a way that might add value for anyone reading your words.

When you do that, you free yourself up to to serve.

Writing is simply a way to pour out, “Here’s what I’ve experienced, observed, learned . . . and I’m sharing it with you in the hopes it might be of benefit.”

Write on.

“Remember, you’re more interested in what you have to say than anyone else is.” – Andy Rooney, 60 Minutes

I recently had the opportunity to attend Larry Benet’s SANG – an inspiring gathering of the top speakers, authors, executive coaches, social entrepreneurs, website designers, social media experts and internet marketers in the world.

What a great few days it was – leading-edge insights from Jack Canfield, Brian Tracy, Leigh Steinberg (the “original” Jerry Maguire), Kevin Harrington of Shark Tank, Ken Kragen (creator of We are the World and Hands Across America) and the brilliant Peter Diamantis, founder of the X Prize.

Darren Hardy, publisher of Success Magazine, led a panel on the future of publishing.

With Amazon.com now selling more Kindle books than hardback and paperback books combined (!), and with books now available on aps, everyone was wondering, “What’s next?”

Well, what’s next is INTERACTIVE books – such as the new book from Al Gore from PushPOPPress.com which includes such gee-whiz features as QR codes. Just point your smartphone at one and it whisks you to websites and video clips.

What was clear though is that while the future of books is rapidly changing; the future of your book still depends on how clearly, crisply and compellingly you pitch it.

For example, someone at the program asked me, “What do you think of this idea for my next book?”

Hmmm. A few minutes later, I still had no idea what his book was about.


I told him, “This is why I wrote POP!

At our first Maui Writers Conference, we gave participants an unprecedented opportunity to pitch directly to top agents and editors. It was a rare opportunity to jump the chain of command and meet one-to-one with publishing decision-makers who had the power to give you a deal on the spot.

The first question in the pitch session was usually along the lines of, ‘What’s your book about? Why is it different or better than what’s already available?’

Brain freeze.

Many of the participants wasted ther ten minute-golden opportunity desperately trying to describe their book.

By then, it was too late.

See, publishers think, “If you’re not clear what your book’s about and why it’s worth buying, your readers won’t be either.”

I told my lunch partner, “Your goal is to create a 60 second or less book hook that passes the following 3 question test.

1. Do people UNDERSTAND what your book’s about? (Could they explain it to someone else after hearing your description?)

2. Are they INTRIGUED by what you just said? (Did their eyebrows go up? Are they motivated to want to know more?)

3. Can they REPEAT what you just said? (If they can’t repeat it, you’ll be “out of sight, out of mind.” Not good.)

How about you? Have you crafted a succinct elevator pitch for your book?

When people ask, “What’s your book about?” does your response elicit an enthusiastic “I want to read that!” If so, good for you.

If not, you might want to get a copy of my POP Your Pitch CD or MP3.

POP! Your Pitch & Proposal  (A MP3 digital audio download 62 min.)

POP! Your Pitch & Proposal

This one-hour program features my step-by-step, proven approach to creating pithy, powerful, persuasive pitches that have helped my consulting clients get publishers, TV/radio/print journalists, meeting planners and readeres interested in what their book has to say.

Be prepared to take notes. You’ll discover why I’m called The Pitch Whisperer and why these “can-use-it-immediately” techniques have been featured on MSNBC, BusinessWeek.com and FastCompany.com.

Hope these POP! Your Pitch techniques help you win buy-in for your book so your message gets out in the world and makes a positive difference for others and a prosperous living for you.

Guy Kawasaki . . . Genius in Action,

By Sam Horn, The Intrigue Expert

 “It’s not enough to be the best at what you do; you must be perceived to be the only one who does what you do.” – Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead

I’m always keeping my antenna up for people who are one-of-a-kind at what they do.

I had the privilege of seeing one in action last week.

As The Intrigue Expert and a communication strategist for the past 25 years; I’ve seen and given thousands of presentations. (Really).

So, when I say Guy Kawasaki’s keynote at the Invent Your Future conference in Silicon Valley was one of the best presentations I’ve ever experienced, that’s saying something.

I was compelled to take notes because it’s a privilege to watch a master in action.

I shared my observations with Guy afterwards and am sharing them here so you can learn from his shining example and adopt/adapt some of his approaches so you can enchant (and intrigue) your future audiences.

Here’s why Guy’s keynote Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds and Action was a perfect 10.

Everyone was drawn in (and enchanted) -sam horn

Everyone was drawn in (and enchanted)

Please note: I’ve distilled this debrief of his brilliant presentations into three blog posts. Check back the next couple days to read and reap additional techniques.

      1.   Guy had us at hello.

“You’ve got to be a good date for the reader.” – Kurt Vonnegut

No perfunctory opening remarks. That would have been predictable and predictable is boring.

Guy pleasantly surprised everyone by starting with an amusing riff about how most speakers run long and no one’s ever angry at a speaker for ending early so he was going to jump right into things.

Guy knows people are BBB – (Busy, Bored or Been there-heard that) and that we make up our minds in the first 60 seconds whether someone is worth our valuable time, mind and dime.

He earned our good will in the first few minutes by being a “good date” and by kicking off with humor vs. the old-fashioned “Tell ‘em what you’re going to tell ‘em approach ” which would have had us reaching for our smart phones.

Bestselling author Elmore Leonard gave a keynote at the Maui Writers Conference (which I emceed for 17 years.) During the Q & A, a participant asked, “Why are your books so popular?” “Dutch” smiled and said, “I try to leave out the parts people skip.”

Guy was instantly popular because he left out the parts people skip.

      2.    Guy engaged our head and heart – our left and right brain – with facts and feelings.

“I never developed a plan for where I was going. I just counted on one interesting job segueing into the next. I let the universe do its work.” – Bernadette Peters

Any extreme is unhealthy. Many speakers (think engineers, IT professionals, physicians, professors, etc.) focus primarily on data, theories and facts. This makes for a lopsided speech because it’s long on logic but short on interest.

Other presenters (think motivational speakers) share inspiring stories but there’s no “meat” – no tangible takeaways we can apply to reap real-world results.

Guy was a sublime balance of head and heart. He let us know from the get-go he’d distilled his presentation into ten insights and 45 minutes.

People love top ten lists because it indicates you’ve done the homework for us and edited the superfluous, which means we’ll be hearing only the most salient points, the best of the best.

Anxiety is defined in two words: “not knowing.” If we don’t know how long this is going to take or the format, we may resent the speaker because, in a way, they’re keeping us in the dark and holding us hostage.

Covering 10 points (or 7 steps or 6 keys or whatever) in a specified amount of time builds pace and momentum and keeps a speaker on track because you don’t have time to ramble. Logical left-brainers think “Oh, good. This is clearly going to be bottom-line and a good use of my time because it’s measurable and replicable.”

Furthermore, a 10 point plan provides one of the quickest organizational constructs known to humankind because it provides an easy-to-understand-and-follow pattern. Listeners feel they’re in “the Allstate Plan” (they’re in good hands) and feel well-led as one interesting point segues into the next.

Better yet, Guy balanced rhetoric (words) with photos (senses) throughout his presentation. Everyone was drawn in (and enchanted) because he “peopled his points.” His beautifully produced slides featured intellectually satisfying ideas, visually stunning images and named individuals which produced a holistic sense of symmetry. Well done!

      3.    Guy condensed his concepts into one-of-a-kind sound bites.

“    Remember, you’re more interested in what you have to say than anyone else.” – Andy Rooney, 60 Minutes

“Invoke reciprocity”.

“Conduct a ‘Premortum.”

“Incur a Debt.”

“Frame Thy Competition.”

“Separate the Believers.”

These are just a few of Guy’s featured sound-bites (and chapter titles).

How could you NOT want to know more?

Guy got his ideas in our mental front door because he was not content to be common.

Instead of lazily sharing platitudes and clichés (“Make it a win-win. It’s all about team.”), he coined first-of-their-kind phrases that got our eyebrows up.

(Side note: What’s The Eyebrow Test? It is a technique described in my book POP! that gives you a way to test how compelling your communication is . . anywhere, anytime . . . in 5 seconds . . . for free.

Eyebrow Test? It is a technique described in my book POP!

The goal is to get their eyebrows UP

You don’t have to convene a focus group and spend thousands of dollars to determine whether your idea is commercially-viable.

Simply tell someone your main point (or your elevator speech, business name, book title, the first 60 seconds of your pitch/presentation, or the first paragraph of your marketing copy) . . . and watch their eyebrows.

If their eyebrows knit or furrow, it means they’re confused. They didn’t get it. And if they didn’t get it, you won’t get it.

The goal is to get their eyebrows UP.

Try it right now. Lift your eyebrows. Do you feel intrigued? Curious? Like you want to know more?

THAT’s your goal as a communicator – to get the eyebrows up of busy, distracted decision-makers because it means you just got your message in their mental door.)

Guy’s succinct sound-bites made his content POP! Because no matter how many books we’ve read or seminars we’ve attended, we’d never heard this before.

Comedian Jonathan Winters said, “I have a photographic memory. I just haven’t developed it yet. By developing original take-aways and NURDS (new words like Premortum), Guy made his content memorable and sticky.

Unique sound-bites give his content a long tail of influence. People love “the next new thing” and are more likely to share freshly-phrased ideas around the water-cooler – which means they’ll become Guy’s tribe and take his work viral by becoming his voluntary word-of-mouth ambassadors.

Phrases like “invoke reciprocity” are also monetizable and merchandisable.

People will pay for refrigerator magnets (or coffee mugs or t-shirts) with catchy phrases like this. This keeps you and your proprietary ideas “in sight-in-mind” with your target customers which gives your material even longer legs. It’s all good.

Check the next blog to discover more ways Guy demonstrated
platform brilliance.

I figure I’ve attended more than a thousand conferences, meetings and workshops in the past 20+ years – and I’ve spoken at more than 500.

So, I’ve seen a lot of speakers.

Bill Sheft, writer for David Letterman, SI and ESPN columnist, Thurber Prize for Humor finalist and author of Everything Hurts (Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Russo marvels, “How rare it is for a novel to be both hilarious and profoundly moving.”) – was absolutely brilliant at this year’s Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop.

One thing I learned while introducing Dave Barry for the first time at the Maui Writers Conference is to NEVER try to do a humorist’s material when they’re standing right there (thank heaven, Dave was nice about it) . . .

. . . so instead of me trying to tell you how witty, decent, profound and moving Bill was . . . let me just share an excerpt of the blog he wrote about his experience and then give you the link so you can read it yourself and draw your own conclusions.

(Context – this is the evening keynote for the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop held in Dayton, Ohio at UD.)

“Before we begin, can we show a little love for the University of Dayton, 2010 NIT Tournament Champions? I can only imagine the pride you must feel to have the 66th best college basketball team in the nation….

How many of you saw Gail Collins speak at lunch? I thought she was a little too funny, charming and rivetting for my taste. The bad news is there was no money in the Bombeck Workshop speakers budget after they hired Gail. So, it was between me and Dave Barry’s urologist. And I was a little cheaper….

Of course, I would be remiss if i did not pay tribute to the woman whose contribution is the reason why we’re all here, Erma Bombeck. During lunch, at each table there was a placard with one of Erma’s memorable quotes. At my table was one of my favorites: A friend is someone who’ll tell you she saw your ex-boyfriend, and he’s now a priest. Well, maybe not these days….

(Tag) Tough times for the church. Now, when a guy goes to confession and says, “Forgive me, father, for I have sinned,” the priest says, “YOU’VE sinned! Ha! Pull up a chair….”

Screams. And off we went. There were there all the way. Now, as I said, I had done all this stuff before and it all worked, but it had never ALL worked. Until tonight. Not a miss. And laughs, too. None of that half-laugh, applause. Clapter. Real laughs. Stunning.” – the previous 5 paragraphs from Bill Scheft’s blog –


If you’re a communicator on the page or the stage – do yourself a favor and take a few minutes to read his blog and then check out Bill’s site – http://www.billscheft.com/biography.html

He’s a walking-talking role model that you can be side-splittingly funny, insightful and a decent human being . . .all at the same time.

Our opening keynoter at last year’s Hawaii Writers Conference was the incomparable Bryce Courtenay. Amazon had just notified him that his life-changing novel The Power of One has been their 5th biggest-selling book for years . . . just after To Kill a Mockingbird. Go Bryce!

Bryce rocked us in our seats with his oh-so-true observation that “Writing is a perishable skill.” Are you waiting for the “write” time to finish your book? What if those perfect circumstances never come?

If you have a story to tell and a message to share, join us Labor Day weekend at the historical Royal Hawaiian Hotel (yes, the famous Pink Palace) on the beach in Waikiki for our 17th annual http://www.HawaiiWritersConference.com

We have an incredible line-up for this year’s event. It starts off with a week long intensive retreat (August 28 – Sept. 3) in which you have the luxury of immersing yourself in your project while working in a supportive small group with an instructor dedicated to helping you move your manuscript forward.

The impressive instructors include such notables as Pulitzer Prize winner Ron Powers (Flags of our Fathers, Mark Twain) and first-Oprah-pick Jacquelyn Mitchard (Deep End of the Ocean). And yes, I’m heading up the Business/Self Help section and looking forward, once again, to helping participants in my group crystallize a commercially-viable project that gets interest from agents and editors.

The conference itself (Sept. 4–7) begins with a gala starring songstress Norah Jones. I’ll be Emceeing (for the 17th year) and am excited about our great keynoters including:

* Mitch Albom (Tuesdays with Morrie)

* Jospeh Finder (The Moscow Club, High Crimes)

* Alice Hoffman (Here on Earth, The Story Girls)

* Kristin Hannah (Firefly Lane, True Colors)

* Michael Arndt (Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay – Little Miss Sunshine)

* Bobby Moresco (Co-producer for Oscar winners Million Dollar Baby and Crash)

* Diane Ossana (Golden Globe for Best Drama – Brokeback Mountain)

Are you in the market for an agent, publisher or producer? Jump the chain of command and take advantage of this rare opportunity to meet face-to-face with publishing and Hollywood insiders who have the power to give you a contract. MWC (renamed Hawaii Writers Conference since we’ve relocated to Waikiki) originated the concept of giving authors and screenwriters the chance to pitch their projects directly to decision-makers.

Save yourself time, money, frustration and the SLUSH PILE by connecting directly with such powerful agents (Jilian Manus) and editors as Neil Nyren of Putnam (represents Tom Clancy, Patricia Cornwell, Ken Follett, Clive Cussler) and Georgia Hughes of New World Library (Ekhart Tolle’s The Power of Now).

If you have always wanted to get published or produced,THIS is your opportunity to stop wishing and start acting. Fast-forward your cookbook, childrens’ book, business or self help book, memoir, screenplay or novel’s success by putting yourself in the place where luck is most likely to happen. Hope to see you in Hawaii for this chicken-skin (Hawaiian for goose-bumps) experience.

“You must remember this. A kiss is just a kiss.” Those are part of the memorable lyrics in the classic tune As Time Goes By.

Unfortunately, in today’s rush-rush society, we don’t remember much of anything.

At least, that’s the premise of a Sept. 16th NY Times article entitled Britney? That’s All She Rote.

Reporter Jenny Lynn Bader points out that Britney Spears forgetting the words she meant to lip-sync at the MTV Video Music Awards ws not just a monentary brain malfunction, she “joined the absent-minded ranks” of many other Americans who are “products of a culture that does not enforce the development of memory skills.”

The culprits? Bader says, “With cellphones, we don’t even kneed to know phone numbers anymore. With the rise of Web search engines, facts we once kept in our brains are now at our fingertips. Oration and recitation, once staples of the American school system, have largely been phased out.”

That’s exactly what former Poet Laureate W.S. Merwin said the morning after his opening keynote address at this year’s Maui Writers Conference.

The night before, Merwin had enthalled an audience of 1000 people with his lyrical reading of his Pulitzer-prize winning poetry. Merwin, a former resident of New York City, now lives in Maui with his wife Paula, choosing to nurture his creative nature by immersing himself in its tropical environs.

Merwin proved that anything can be a source of poetry as he shared a moving poem about a beloved dog that had gone missing and a poem written about the sound of torrentail rain on their roof. Everyone in the room was completely caught up in his waterfall of words . . . a unique and treasured cultural experience.

The next morning, I had the distinct privilege and pleasure of sharing breakfast with W.S. Merwin and his wife Paula in the presenters’ lounge overlooking Wailea Beach. He is much too humble to talk about this himself, however his wife told me that when they travel abroad, thousands of people walk miles to hear him.

We pondered why poetry seems to be valued so much more in other countries. We conjectured that one of the reasons is that U.S. schools don’t require students to study poetry anymore. Do you remember being assigned a poem and having to recite it from memory in front of your class? I do. I think that’s one of the reasons I’m able to remember hundreds of quotes and recite them on command in my presentations. I’ve had practice.

Comedian Henny Youngman said, “I have a photographic memory. I just haven’t developed it yet.”

Most of us don’t have photographic memories. The good news is, it’s not too late to develop it. The NY Times article claims that, “Contemporary scientists have discovered that memorization exercises can stave off dementia, introducing a new world of neruobics. Memory needs a workout as much as the abs do.”

The next time you see a quote or a short poem that stops you in your tracks, take the time to write it down and commit it to memory.

In my Concentration programs, I share two Focus Pocus secrets to polishing your memory skills (and remembering IS a skill, just like driving a car or playing the piano.)

The first secret is to repeat the quote or poem out loud in an exaggerated, rhythmic phrasing. Remember how we learned our A, B, C’s and nursery rhymes in a cadence? “Jack and Jill . . . went up a hill . . .” When you put words in a beat, you make them easy to repeat.

The second secret is to recite the quote or poem out loud without looking at your “notes” while walking. If you stay seated and repeat the sentence in your head, memorization becomes hard work.

By moving around and reciting the quote or poem out loud, you’re energizing and focusing your attention and aligning your right-left brain. This means you’ll be at your mental best and the physical activity makes this fun.

Furthermore, your ability to recite relevant quotes and provocative poems from memory will spice up your conversations and presentations and keep you mentally sharp. Such a deal.

Were you required to memorize quotes and recite poems in school? Did you dread it? Are you now grateful because quotes and poetry have become an important part of your life? What do you do to keep mentally sharp?

Be one of the first three people to respond with your memory tip or favorite quote or poem . . . and I’ll send you my 1 hour CD on Concentration: Focus Pocus depsite Distractions and Interruptions free.

Or, call 1 800 SAM-3455 for a special discounted You Can Concentrate package which includes my critically-acclaimed book ConZentration (which Stephen Covery called “fascinating”), a quiz to test your concentration skills, and a one hour CD you can listen to in your car or while working out.

Visit http://www.MauiWriters.com for