Thursday, June 25, 2009

Bevan Encourages Writers to Use Their Gifts

Last night's impassioned guest was literary artist, musician and author Jan Atchley Bevan. 

DSC06827 - Jan Bevan

Knowing that the gift of writing is from God, Jan finds it a natural mission to be a mentor for writers with and without disabilities.  As a blessed writer and one who overcame her own challenges with low vision she knows her role to inspire writers comes in the telling of the story of her own work. By second grade her imagination was in overtime and hasn't stopped since. Her imagination has taken her life on a unique journey as a literary artist, musician, composer author and poet.  Her passions are too many to count.  She fondly recalls the eight years she spent at the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens as Author in Residence and Museum Educator.  She worked with hundreds of children through Art Connections a "hands on" art experience, which is award winning from numerous sources in Art Education. Jan’s literary art education program encouraged many children in the Duval County Public School System to be better writers through the “joy of reading”.

Jan started off as a psychiatric social worker however she would often say "I'm a social worker who thinks she is an author."  One day this closet author met Christine Yovanovic a nurse who thought she was an illustrator and so Corky The Bathtub Who Couldn't Swallow was created.  After her book was published she learned "authors shouldn't give up their day job." In search of a new career Jan was hired as a staff member of Art Connections in the education department of the Cummer Museum. Prior to the literary Art opening of this, her first children’s book, Jan was given the honorarium of the Author in Residence.

Jan is an ambassador for VSA Arts (Very Special Arts). Founded by Jean Kennedy Smith, VSA Arts, an affiliate of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., is an international organization that brings the art world to performing, visual and literary artists who just happen to have disabilities. Jan continues to be a teaching artist for VSA Arts of Florida.

Jan credits her imagination with her love of music.  Although she can not read music she has no trouble composing music.  She ascribes music with gifting her with discipline and imagination.  She uses music to assist her when she writes her books or works on the many projects she is involved in. Music is a gift for the soul. Jan told a story of a brilliant plastic surgeon who was struck by lighting while on the phone.  Prior to the lighting strike he could not read music, yet a month after the incident he could play Bach.

Her passion for music is evident yet the reward was even greater when her C.D. Heartstrings was produced by Museum Music of N.Y. a CD that includes the chamber music of Ensemble Encore Berkeley, California, the visual art of Susanne Schuenke, the photography of Ingrid Domiani, prose poetry of Jan Atchley Bevan and narrated by the beautiful voice of Penny Mitton Hamilton, Ontario. This all was made possible through a ten thousand dollar grant from the Able Trust Foundation in Tallahassee, Florida. This was Jan’s last produced work as Author in Residence of the Cummer Museum. You can buy the C.D. through the Cummer Museum or Museum Music of N.Y.

This was Museum Music’s first production of spoken word with chamber music, visual art and photography all set around prose poetry.

Providence continued to direct Jan’s life when a graphic artist and add agency Executive formally from Buffalo, New York found photos of World War II Japanese Soldiers tucked away in a tutored photograph album seemingly brought over to America by an unknown Solider of World War 11.  It is from this discovery that her lasted passion took root.  Jan and her co-author Ron Ferster have completed an historical fiction book titled Letters of the Lost Children World War 11.

They wanted to create fictional letters and stories from the point of view of the people in the photographs.  In order to do this Jan and Ron researched Ancient Japanese culture as well as the age of Imperial Japan which ended when the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This extensive research allowed Jan and Ron to immerse themselves in the characters.  What resulted is a stunning work of art. Their book was previewed during the Exhibit of Japan in Jacksonville at the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens. It was well received and opened conversation to new views through old windows broken by War and World devastation. 

There are high hopes for this latest venture yet sadly the Japanese people do not have vast national memorials for their World War II soldiers, the war is viewed as a national shame and is not talked about nor was the history even taught in schools.  (Our prayers are that this work of art will give a voice to the lost children of that generation and heal a nation from the outside in.)

The research Jan completed for this project is par for course in any of her undertakings.  She attributes research, dedication to truth and integrity as the grit to accomplish her writing dreams.

She researched publishers, and prairie dogs and anything else she poured into her books.  After 9/11 Jan wanted to reassure children that the world was still a safe place.  Zachary Cooks Up Some Fun resulted, Ocean Publishing.  The main character was a prairie dog, true to form illustrated by Danna Kleiman Garfinkel a visual artist, educator, illustrator and graduate of the University of Texas. Jan takes on her responsibility to protect the innocents of children and have morals for her stories.  She also enjoys the props she accumulates that match the themes of her books.

DSC06847 - Jan Bevan speaking at FCCW

Her latest prop, uh!m I mean co-author is "Fluffy" a big white bunny, one of her characters in her next children's book Lemon-aid Summers, to be illustrated by Susanne Schuenke.

Jan reminded us "you are only as good as your last book."  Fluffy is there to remind her to sit down write, and to help her get into her new characters.  Props are also important for book signings as a marketing tool.  A remark about book signings; she once had someone ask her if the rolling pin she used as a prop was for sale? Often times at book signings some people even ask her "so what do you do?"  She truly enjoys the events but reading out loud to a group of children is even more rewarding.

Last May she had the opportunity to read her book Corky the Bathtub who Couldn’t Swallow to a group of primary students in Great Tew Oxfordshire England.  It was a delightful experience for her complete with the traditional cup of tea!

Life has literally been a journey of extraordinary pieces all coming together in Jan’s puzzle of life. Her end thoughts; “We all have gifts, which I see as the promises of God for our inner selves which allows us to bring our creativity into this world.”

Jan has always felt that she has seen life from the inside out, not from the outside in!”  She uses her publishing rejections as mementos of her attempts to see her work come to fruition.

By Tracy Redman, FCCW Treasurer

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Beehner Shares True Wealth by the Book

Founder and CEO of Wise Counsel, John has worked with leading entrepreneurs over the course of his career, as well as owning his own businesses.

DSC06719 Cropped - John Beehner

That experience would perfectly position him to write his book, True Wealth by the Book – a collection of inspirational stories targeted to business leaders about how 100 well-known Americans built character and learned moral and spiritual truths.

Despite his business experience, a fear of failure and insecurities about writing made John reluctant to author the book even though he sensed God’s leading. He ultimately obeyed the call and decided to hire a ghost writer for the project to overcome his concerns. During the process of writing the book, John says that he grew spiritually as he sought God in a deeper way. He encouraged FCCW members to follow their calling at all costs even if it means losing money on the project and having to confront tough personal obstacles like fear or pride.

While researching and planning the book, John received what could be called divine direction as to how best to reach his audience. While on the treadmill one day, he got a phone call in which he and the caller discussed the Ten Commandments. The caller asserted that they were not only the origin of spiritual law, but all moral law as well. After reflecting on the call, John realized that foundation for the book should be about moral and spiritual principles for acquiring true wealth. Like the Bible, John’s book would use stories, parables and illustrations to communicate the principles to business leaders.

DSC06713 - John Beehner

With the book’s direction firmly established, John then needed to get his book printed and in the hands of CEOs and entrepreneurs. He determined that the best option for him was to self-publish. John shared his experience with the group including the extensive research he undertook before deciding on a printer in the Midwest.

To market his book, John joined PMA (a self-publishers group) and hired a PR firm to set up radio interviews. He also promotes the book through personal networking and his business workshops. The success of John’s book led to two subsequent reprints for a total of 15,000 copies printed.

Based on the principles in the book, John has also produced a video series called Genesis: The Business Workshop. John says that both the book and the video series have helped business leaders learn to trust God. He now hopes to take to the book and series to churches as well as marketing them on the internet.

To learn more about John Beehner, see his website

By Tina Givens, FCCW VP of Public Relations

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Levy Combines His Love of Food and Writing

Larry Levy spoke to the FCCW group on June 11th about writing as well as his love of food, which he attributes to the generosity of his parents.

DSC06615 Larry Levy - Cropped

“I grew up outside of New York City,” he explained, “Which made fine dining very accessible.” His parents introduced him to many culinary experiences, which sparked his love of cooking. Larry’s other passion, writing, produced several short stories and poems during his college years.

The combination of food and writing, as well as the influence of his daughters Mya, Lea and Ava all of whom have a penchant for helping out in the kitchen, became the catalyst for Mr. Levy’s first published book Harry The Hungry Frog, Harry Ventures Out. In this first book of the series we are introduced to a frog named Harry, who knows there is more to taste than bugs and flies. Harry goes on several adventures looking for yummy food and on the journey learns politeness and develops friendships. An added surprise is a pizza recipe at the back of the book.

In light of Mr. Levy’s personality, which is full of vivaciousness and enthusiasm, it’s no wonder he was dressed in a green shirt and frog patterned tie. As an entrepreneur who started and eventually sold his own business, Larry is no newcomer to the importance of promotion.

“You need to market your book as if it were a product,” Larry explained. And in doing so, Mr. Levy regaled us with many whimsical stories and encounters. “Marketing your book takes you out and about which only helps the networking process, thus producing sales.” The author showed true excitement and shared many stories about the process. Here is someone totally passionate about their work.

DSC06620 - Cropped

Mr. Levy commented on the fact, that through networking you can find the talent you need.

His short children’s story, Harry The Hungry Frog, took eight months to complete, from conception to store shelves. It took three months to find an illustrator. His, “Diamond in the rough,” was a stay at home mom who was an illustrator for children’s books. It was a perfect fit.

Larry first addressed the group with, “I’m going to re-kindle that desire within all of you to embrace writing, welcome the promotion process, and enjoy it every step of the way.” He discussed how he uses his vehicle as a traveling book sale van. “I have a table and promotional materials at the ready wherever I go,” Larry beamed, “You never know when an opportunity to promote will arise.” Mr. Levy stressed the importance of channeling through your local Chamber of Commerce. “Get out there and use all the tools available,” he encouraged.


Larry Levy has several children’s books on the horizon-it would not be surprising though if several stories came out of his many promotional experiences. He is available for speaking engagements and his talks are centered on running a small business, writing, and developing effective marketing techniques. Who knows he may even whip up a meal, food for thought anyone?

You can reach Larry Levy at

By Linda Feist, FCCW member

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Mandela Recommends Dog Ear to Writers

"Dog Ear" spoke my language, says author Josette Mandela, who spoke at FCCW on Thursday, June 4th.


FCCW is blessed with many diverse writers.  Some always knew they  wanted to write, while others happened into writing.  Josette  Mandela is one of those writers that just happened into it.  She is  the author of Money is Freedom and Safety. Her book combines the  features of a workbook and works like a step by step guide on how to  get your financial house in order and have fun doing it.  She wrote  the book in just weeks, it just flowed out of her.  She wrote the  book freehand whenever she had the chance.  One time she was writing  in the repair shop while her car was being worked on.  The ease that  came with writing encouraged her to write another book.  This time  that plain white page seemed a little more daunting.

She shared her solutions for getting over writers block.  She  suggests going for a walk or really anything that will break your  routine and get your creative juices flowing.  Call that special  friend that always encourages you and stands by you no matter what.   Finally she said find your passion, the written word comes much  easier if you are passionate about what you are writing.

Josette explained how to get the most out of your walks;  observe your surroundings, you never know what unique information  you will discover from the simplest things.  She told a story about  this road she was traveling down.  The road had many different kinks  in the road, when she sat down to research why.  She discovered all  these kinks in the road turned out to be special places that the  builders decided not to pave over so instead they adjusted the road  to make room for the cemeteries and ancient places.  SO paying  attention to the littlest thing can bring out great inspirations for  stories.  Keep notebooks or a tape recorder with you all the time so  you can jot down ideas. After your walk take some quiet time to  meditate and let the information sit and sink in to see what God  will do with it.
Another trick for Josette overcoming writers block is to have  an accountability partner.  This is that person that you can talk to  and they never have discouraging words.  Many of us have friends who  can inadvertently discourage us from writing.  These are the people  that will often tell you "You can't write a book"    "What makes you  think you can be a writer"  Sometimes these people can be close  family and friends.  Don't listen and don't hold it against them,  just realize that in life there is always opposition.  More  importantly DON"T TALK YOURSELF OUT OF WRITING THE BOOK!  We all  have our little voices that can discourage us from time to time.  So  choose your support partner wisely, this should be the person that  would go skydiving with you!  You must allow them to be honest and  inspire you, remember they care about you and are not correcting you  to discourage you but to help you improve!

Once you choose your support partner you should now set  goals.  You will never complete the book unless you set goals.   Josette uses Outlook, creates tasks and  blocks off time to keep  herself accountable.  This helps her meet her goal of sending her  support partner an email at the end of everyday to make sure she is  working on her goals.  After a while you will discipline yourself to  write.

Once you've started writing, the key to keep writing is to be  passionate about your subject.  If you are not passionate about your  subject you'll notice you have dozens of start ups and never get  them done. Ideas are not the problem, its our passion about the  ideas.  Today with the Internet the world is literally at your  finger tip.  You can do research and bring Japan into your living  room.  If you are looking for ideas you can use Google trends, research  what people are talking about.  If you have an idea you are  passionate about research what's been written about it and maybe  find a new perspective on it.

If you need more inspiration Josette recommends the Prosperity  Bible.  It is a collection of short stories from successful people  such as Napoleon Hill and Ben Franklin.  It will help you see what  other people have done to be successful or inspired.

Josette learned from her first book that print on demand offers  the best publishing option.  She used Dog Ear Publishing.  She found  them very easy and fun to work with.  Her background in computer  science did not offer her any direction when it came to getting  published.  She found Dog Ear Publishing talked in a language she  understood, were reasonably priced and offered many extra  specialized services.

Right now Josette is focusing on marketing her current book.   She has a website and she blogs, to  help get the word out. She always carries several copies with her and found  that she could sell books just talking to people at the airport.   She has received positive feedback about her book, from how easy it  is to read to it offers immediate results.

By Tracy Redman, FCCW Treasurer