David Henry Sterry

Author, book doctor, raker of muck

David Henry Sterry

Tag: humor

Photo of Joan Garry; she's wearing glasses and smiling

Joan Garry on Writing, Nonprofits, Online Platform Building and Bringing the Funny

We first met Joan Garry through Susan Weinberg, the publisher of Perseus Books Group. Joan was whip smart, pistol sharp, savvy, funny, altogether awesome, and shockingly humble. We would never have guessed that she is a top dog when it comes to consulting with nonprofits. And her website is of-the-charts excellent. It almost didn’t matter what her book was, we knew she had the goods necessary for success. Now that her book Joan Garry’s Guide to Nonprofit Leadership is out, we wanted to pick her brain about books, writing, and nonprofits.

Read this interview on the HuffPost.

Photo of Joan Garry; she's wearing glasses and smiling

Joan Garry

The Book Doctors: There are other books on the subject of nonprofit management. Without an apparent hole in the market, how did you distinguish your book from what was already out there?

Joan Garry: You’re absolutely right – there are plenty of books about nonprofit management, but none that focus on what I call “shared leadership,” which is a challenge and opportunity quite unique to nonprofits.

What I mean is, there are books written for staff executives and resources galore for board leaders. But the reality is neither can be effective without the other. Nobody else has written about them as co-pilots of the same jet. If we don’t treat board chairs like they are in the cockpit, they won’t lead. This book is written for nonprofit leaders – the paid AND the unpaid.

I also found that a number of important topics were conspicuously absent. For example, storytelling plays an absolutely critical role in successful nonprofit leadership. A nonprofit ambassador who can tell a compelling and emotional story can invite folks to know more and do more. Crisis management is another missing topic. Far too few organizations are ready should a crisis strike.

Finally, I tried to bring a real sense of humor to the book. A lot of the book touches on personal experiences I had as a nonprofit Executive Director, a board leader, a donor, and a volunteer. I just had so many great stories to share and these stories are what make the book unique and fun to read – not just practical, though it is that too.

TBD: One thing about your book that’s different from the others out there is your voice. Why is the voice of your book important? For others writing books based on their business, what advice can you offer about bringing your voice into your book?

JG: I’m lucky. I write the way I speak and so folks say reading my work is like hearing me chat with them. My voice is informed by having played every position on the nonprofit field, so I have stood firmly in the shoes of my readers. I have personally experienced many of the same issues and concerns they have – good and bad.

Most nonprofit leadership books tend to be pretty clinical and instructive. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but that’s not the book I wanted to write. I wanted to demonstrate the joy that the best leaders bring to their work. And it’s a short ride from joy to humor. And there’s plenty of humor in my book. I just think that makes it a lot more fun to read, which ultimately makes it easier to absorb the material.

Photo of the book Joan Garry's Guide to Nonprofit Leadership; picture of Joan Garry standing and smiling

WILEY

TBD: You have an incredible team that works with you. How did this team help you get your proposal, book, and your marketing done? Why is it important to have a team?

JG: Some people have a family business – I call mine a ‘chosen family business’ – a small team of colleagues who are smart and dedicated to the work we do. Each of us is clear that we are advocates for the success of nonprofit leaders and we always keep our eye on what we believe would be most helpful to the folks we serve – staff and board leaders. We each brought something different to the development of the book proposal to chapter editing to marketing the book. The brand, the audience, the strategy to reach that particular audience, the content. Each of us were advocates in each of these areas. There’s no way I could have done all this by myself.

TBD: When we first met you, we were really struck by your website. We’ve continued to be so impressed by all your social media — particularly your newsletters. How did you develop your digital platform? What are some things that have worked, and what are some things that haven’t?

JG: I started to build my digital platform in late 2012. One of the best business decisions I ever made was hiring my digital strategist, Scott Paley at Abstract Edge. When I first reached out to him, based on a recommendation I got from somebody else who had worked with his company, I told him I needed a new website for my consulting business. That’s all I thought I needed. What did I know? In our very first conversation, he gave me a vision for what could be – a much bigger vision that I had imagined.

That conversation ultimately led to my blog, my social media, my podcast, my gig as a panelist on NBC’s Give (the first network TV reality show about nonprofits), my upcoming online education platform, and even the opportunity to have a major publisher interested in publishing my book. Now, whenever I write something online, tens of thousands of people read it! Not surprisingly, my consulting practice completely took off. It’s just amazing.

The biggest thing about this platform is that I just focus on helping people. I recently had Adam Grant on the podcast. He’s the author of a best selling book that’s all about “givers” and “takers”. His philosophy has been a big influence. Everything I do online is about giving. I never worry that I’m giving away too much. I really think that’s been the secret.

Most of what we’ve tried has worked very well. The one exception was a couple years ago we built an area on my website called “The Couch.” It was a place where nonprofit people could anonymously vent about their frustrations and others could sympathize. After a couple of months, we realized that it was too negative and we shut it down. But I don’t view that as a failure at all. It taught us a lot about what “Joan Garry” stands for as a brand and how important it is for all of our media to be on brand.

TBD: What did you find challenging about turning your business into a book?

JG: So much of what I do with my clients is teach. I’m an educator. I think writing the book was easier for me because of that and because of how much I’ve already written on my blog. The blog is a place where I can formulate my ideas and get them down in writing and get feedback from literally thousands of people who understand exactly what I’m writing about. The blog is an amazing crucible for me in that sense and the outcome of all that thinking and all that feedback is this book. Without that, it certainly would have been much more challenging to write.

TBD: Did you find that writing a book helped you with your business?

JG: I’ll let you know in about 6-9 months. J

But I will say that the process of writing the book has helped me to organize some of what I teach my clients in new ways I hadn’t previously considered. So in that sense, absolutely it has helped.

TBD: Your book is officially published on March 6, but you’ve been so successful in garnering pre-orders. Can you tell us a little bit about how you did this?

JG: Largely this was also the work of Scott, my digital strategist, and his team at Abstract Edge. They created a gorgeous website for the book (www.nonprofitsaremessy.com), but more importantly they put together a plan that really leveraged the audience we’ve built up over the last 4 years.

We’re offering valuable book bonuses for pre-orders. We developed a really smart rollout strategy that includes the blog, the podcast, my email list, and social media. We organized a volunteer “launch team” to help spread the word. Created a Thunderclap, which will help spread the word even further on launch day. We’ve given copies of the book to some well-known folks in the nonprofit world who are saying lovely things about it and telling their networks. All of that has led to a much larger volume of pre-sales than the publisher was initially anticipating.

I’ve been absolutely thrilled by the response.

TBD: We hate to ask you this, but what advice do you have for writers?

  1. Make sure you have something unique to say and can say it in a way that sticks.
  2. Be absolutely clear about who you are speaking to and be as specific as possible. You have to really understand your readers’ concerns and issues.
  3. Be passionate about ensuring that the maximum number of those people have the opportunity to buy it. And be ready to invest time, energy and money in reaching them.

Widely known as the “Dear Abby” of nonprofit leadership, Joan Garry works with nonprofit CEOs and boards as a strategic advisor, crisis manager, change agent and strategic planner. Her nonprofit blog at joangarry.com reaches leaders in over 150 countries and she hosts a top nonprofit podcast on iTunes: Nonprofits Are Messy. Joan also teaches at the University of Pennsylvania with a focus on nonprofit communications and leadership.

Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry are co-founders of The Book Doctors, a company that has helped countless authors get their books published. They are co-authors of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How To Write It, Sell It, and Market It… Successfully (Workman, 2015). They are also book editors, and between them they have authored 25 books, and appeared on National Public Radio, the London Times, and the front cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review.

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T’ree Joizy Goils tawk about how dey gotta dumb dawtah, a dead dawg, & no cawfee

A New Year Thought I Plan to Live By

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Mort Morte Review: Delightfully Macabre…Great Black Humor

Revenge is a dish best served cold (‘La vendetta es una minestra che se mangia fredda).  This isn’t just an old mafia saying, it’s what David Henry Sterry delivers in his delightfully macabre coming of age story. Morte Morte goes kind of like this: Boy is born. Mom is needy and one of your many step dads likes to play a game called Farmer and The Bull.  “He was the bull,” writes Sterry, “I was the farmer.  It was the farmer’s job to milk the bull. When my life flashes before my eyes right before I die, this is one of the things that I will see. Me, the Littlest Farmer, milking the Big Bad Bull.” But, just like all great black humor, that makes light of otherwise serious subject matter, Sterry doesn’t dwell on all of the shitty, cruel things that can happen. Instead, he delights us by serving cold, hard revenge on the depraved, brutish and sadistic suitors of his needy, tea drinking, most milky of women, English mother. Morte Morte does to perverts and physically abusive step-fathers what Quintin Tarantino does to revenge fantasy feature films.  If you have ever harbored a deep desire for justice and you love words, Morte Morte is for you. It is the perfect antidote for our human sense of unsatisfied reciprocity. It’s positively pulchritudinous! – Maribel Garcia

To buy the book click here.  To see the movie click here.

mort morte the bull pic mort cover mort sliced-the-bulls-balls-ch-9

Tripping the Light Fantastic, or How I Learned to Play Hockey on Acid

At 16 I’m shipped away to Boarding School for my sins.  The school is full of bright, gifted, spindled, folded, and mutilated teenagers, almost all of whom have been kicked of at least 1, if not several, other institutions of learning.  Believe me, I fit right in at Boarding School.

darrow lacrosseWe have the worst hockey team in the history of the league.  Our first game we get beat like 31-1.  Do you have any idea how difficult it is to let in 31 goals in 30 minutes?  Any way you do the math, that’s over a goal a minute, ladies and gentlemen.  The best player on the team is Joe Skyfeather.  We call him Joe Starfucker, and he likes that.  He’s our goalie.  A great goalie.  After every game he’s one huge Iriquois welt.  He says if he wasn’t a hopeless Indian drunk already, he’d have to start drinking heavily.   The one good thing about losing 31-1 is that when you score that 1 goal, man, you celebrate hard.

Half-way through our season, we’re 0-5.  We’ve scored 4 goals, while allowing about, I don’t know, maybe a kazillion.  We’re going to play our sixth game, on the road, against Andover, 1 of the hoitiest of the toity prep schools in America.  As we’re getting ready to leave, Rat comes in all excited.  He’s just scored some acid from his brother who’s out on parole and laying low in Rat’s room.  I’ve never taken acid at this point, but the word from Rat’s brother is that this is the trippiest shit he’s ever seen.  And apparently he’s seen some pretty trippy shit.  And there’s enough for everybody.    Rat whips it out.  I’m expecting some bubbling liquid in a laboratory beaker, with smoke and prisms and colored lights.   But no.  It’s just an 8 x 10 sheet of paper.  He peels something off, and with an impish grins, places it on his tongue and downs it.  He holds it out for us to join him.  Everyone sits and stares.

“Come on, you sorry bunch of pansy-asses.  We gotta go show those rich bitches what it means to be play this game with a head full of the trippiest shit in the Berkshire Mountains.  We gotta show the world that we may be the worst hockey players in history, but we’re the all-time greatest partiers.  We gotta let our freak flag fly, man!’

Rat’s speech stirs something within me.  In all of us.  We’re castoffs, misfits, the throwaways of our generation.  And suddenly we’ve got a shot to go down in school history, turn ourselves from laughing stock into folk heroes, talked about around campfires for generations to come.

Still, no one wants to be the first to follow Rat down the road to Infamy.  Eyes are averted.  Feet shuffled.  Harrumphs abound.

It’s times like this that turn boys into men.  While us white suburban bourgeois laddies sit with our thumbs up our collective ass, it takes a young brave from the reservation to lead us.  A boy warrior whose ancestors have been raped and pillaged, lied to, deceived, mocked, vilified, burned out of the land they loved, hunted down and destroyed like vermin.   Joe Starfucker.  He rises slowly, a beat-up rented mule of a goalie with long, straggly scraggly raven hair.   He walks with the weight of the ages to Rat and sticks out his tongue.

hanson_brothersRat grins like Jack Nicholson in The Shining.

“Yeah baby, that’s what I’m talkin’ about.  Joe Starfucker, you are the man!”

Joe closes his eyes and crosses himself, while Rat places the tab on his tongue like he’s giving Holy Communion.  When Starfucker swallows, everybody whoops and hollers.   Rat then dispenses the rest of the acid like he’s High Priest of the Order of Psychedelic Hockey, a cross between the Pope, Timothy Leery and Wayne Gretsky.

Beevo, Nevs, Harry the Hoagy, Fat Phil, Dougy the K, even Lurch, all gobble down their medicine.

When my turn comes, I’m shocked to find out that the tab of acid is actually a thin little transparent Mickey Mouse.  I smile as I swallow my electric Disney coolaid, visions of Snow White and her freaky dwarves stoned off their nuts, as Jimi Hendrix wails “Some Day My Prince Will Come” in the background.

It’s quiet on the bus to the game.  Scary quiet.  Everyone’s bugging eyes at each other, trying to see if anything’s happening, wondering if this really is some trippy shit, and if it is, what it will be like trying to play hockey against the masters of the universe Andover superstars while we’re massively loop-de-looped.

Then suddenly  we’re pulling into Andover.  You can smell the money.  At least I think that’s what the smell is.  The dorms are all swanky swank swank.  The grounds are manicured to within an inch of their strangulated lives.  The boys are wearing their spiffy little blue blazers, and their spastic little tassley shoes with their dorkadelic little preppy haircuts.  If you weren’t high on some trippy shit already, looking at all these Young Republican bootlickers-in-training would make you go all wavy gravy in a New York minute.

I’m still not feeling any effects, and frankly I’m beginning to wonder whether Rat’s brother sold us all a bill of goods, as we troop into the Taj Mahal locker room, looking at each other for any tell-tale signs of synaptic scramble.

lsdNot a word is spoken as we don the tools of ignorance necessary for us to get the inevitable ass-whupping we are about to take.  Our coach, Mr. Clament, the Clam, a besotted French teacher, senses something is amiss.  He clears his drunken throat, and launches into a Win-One-For-the-Gipper speech.

About half-way through the Clam’s speech, his face starts melting, his tongue flicks out like an iguana, and his eyes spring loose from their sockets like those eyeball glasses that hang down and wobble when you move your head.  His nose spreads out like Silly Putty smushed as his eyebrows do the Australian crawl across his face.  His lips are wax candy and his teeth are changing colors like the Wizard of Oz’s horse: red to green to blue to orange.

I shake my head to try and clear it, but that just makes little fireworks with tails shoot across the inside of my eyeballs in wonderful waving watercolors.

I look around. Everyone’s shaking their head, eyes covered with potter’s glaze, like a flock of sheep who’ve just been converted to Christianity.

The Clam reaches his drunken crescendo, expecting a rousing jolt of competitive manchild testosterone.  Nothing.  We just sit there, staring like big mouth bass, tripping our little brains out.  He’s dumbfounded, and decides his next logical move is go into the bathroom and drink, so he shrugs, turns, and disappears into the bathroom to drink.

“Is this some trippy shit or what?”   Rat pops his eyes out of his head and rolls them around, and the laugher lets loose – KABANG! – and we chortle like whacked-out bobbing head dolls.

The Andover superstar uniforms are shiny and new as the masters of the universe prepare to use us as the tools of their athletic glorification.  They look like bourgeois marionettes to me, stooge puppets of the paramilitary fascist state.  The thought of cutting their strings and watching them crumble cracks me up, and I catch an edge of my skate on the ice, tumbling down, and sliding headfirst into the boards with a loud crash.  The game hasn’t even started yet, and I’ve already checked myself.  Our whole team stops their pitiful warm-up, stares at me, and gets the giggles, tittering like schoolboys, kids in the stands pointing fingers and laughing at us, Andover superstars glaring with smug, condescending menace.

slide_294923_2397851_freeThen suddenly the game is starting, and the crowd shape-shifts, all beautiful fuzzy colors that only make sense when you look at the whole thing from a distance.  When I focus on any one person, the face seems to disintegrate and lose focus.  Or maybe it is me who’s disintegrating and losing focus.  Hard to say for sure.  The referee looks like a big fat zebra.  I chuckle thinking about the lion waiting for him at the watering hole after the game.

The puck takes about six weeks to drop from the fat Zebra’s hoof to the ice.  I discover I don’t have to move my legs to skate.   I float over the ice like an angel on a wave of feathers.  Beevo is winning the face-off now, and the puck shuffles back to me.  It takes its sweet time.  It realizes time is sweet.  I stop it with my stick, which bends and waves in my hands.  An Andover superstar rushes headlong at me, snarling like an overbred hound from hell, but moving in slow motion.  I sidestep him with the greatest of ease.  I have to stop myself from laughing it’s so much fun.  My bones are almost-congealed jello, my skin tingles with the fire of Godlove, and my third eye is wide open.  I see Harry the Hoagy streaking with trails like a comet up-ice and I can see the line the puck will travel to get to him before I even make the pass.  So I flick my stick and the puck goes on that exact line, like a geometry equation only I can see.  As if Harry the Hoagy and I are connected by a Higher Power.  The puck nestles gently on The Hoagy’s stick.  He cuts between the two Andover behemoth superstar defensemen and suddenly he’s 1-on-1 with the master of the universe goalie, face to mask, stoned off of his nut.  Harry the Hoagy starts to go right, the goalie bites, Harry changes his mind, slides the puck onto his backhand and eases it into the gaping mouth of the goal like Casanova scoring with the Queen of France.

We stop.  The crowd is all stunned silence.  The Andover superstars flabbergast.  Then it dawns on us.  We scored a goal.  We’re ahead for the first time the whole year.  We free-form to Harry the Hoagy and do a group hug interpretive dance celebration, Fosse meets Bullwinkle.  The fat Zebra has to come get us to re-start the game.  We’re too busy celebrating.  We’ve never celebrated being ahead in a game before, and we have no idea how it’s done, or when it’s supposed to be over.

The whole game is like that.  Lurch hits a guy so hard he airlifts him up off the ice and knocks out his whole family.  Rat is a whirling dervish, breaking up plays, leading rushes, poke-checking guys who aren’t even there.  Fat Phil is a man possessed, moving like one of those graceful hippo ballet dancers in tutus from “Fantasia”.  And Joe Starfucker,a well, Joe plays the game of his life.  Stick saves, pad saves, glove saves.  At one point he makes a save, and his glove flies off.  The puck rebounds right back to an Andover superstar, and he fires again.  Joe Starfucker reaches out and catches that puck with his bare hand.  This time even the Andover superstar crowd has to give him a big ovation.  They don’t want to, you can tell.  They have to.  He holds the puck over his head, he’s showing it the Great Puck Spirit, then bows deeply, as if he’s a Japanese kabuki actor.

largeLate in the game, the Andover superstars manage to sneak one by Joe Starfucker, after they roughed him up in the crease, which as anyone who’s ever been roughed up in a crease knows, is nasty business, and strictly illegal to boot.  The game’s winding down, and the Andover superstars are sharks who’ve smelled blood.  But the acid still floods our collective brains with the power and beauty of Mother Earth and Father Sky, and we match the superstars hammer for tong.

There’s a minute left to play.  We to get a face-off deep in superstar territory.  Beevo takes the face-off, the puck falling like a big black penny from heaven.  Beevo flicks it easily back to Lurch at the point.  Lurch winds up and takes a Paul Bunyon swing at it.  However, he mostly misses, catching the puck on end so it flutters like a drunken butterfly toward the net.  The Andover superstars are caught off-guard.  They’re expecting a bullet, clenched and moving towards the upper left corner of the goal, where it is happily headed.

I see the puck fluffernutting towards me, getting bigger and bigger as it calls my name:

“Here I come, David – here I commmmmmme…”

I see myself gently flicking the puck, caressing it lightly like a well-loved lover past the Andover superstar goalie.  So I reach up with my wavy stick and kiss the crazy gyrating puck with it.  The Andover superstar defensemen and goalie are already off-balance because it is loop-de-looping instead of shotgunning, and when I flick it, the puck tumbles down and right, leaving them grasping at air straws.

Gently lovingly it bulges pillowy into the billowing netting of the goal.

The buzzer sounds.

BUZZZZZZZ!

The game is over.

The silence sits on the ice like the gods have pushed the mute button.

David has slain Goliath.  Not with a stone and a slingshot, but stoned with a headful of totally trippy shit.

We skate over to Joe Starfucker and jump on top of him, flopping around on the ice like a huge undulating amoebae, until they cart us off.  In the locker room our clothes jump off our bodies.  We sing in the rain of the shower, then have a wild raucous ride home.

Word of our triumph, and how achieved it, spreads like wildfire through our little community.  Of course we never win another game all year.  Never even come close.  Rat’s brother gets put back in the slammer, and that’s the end of the great Acid Experiment.

But for one glorious winter afternoon, we were one with the universe, Kings of the World, and we did it tripping the light fantastic.

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