Creative writer and book coach, Lisa Tener, quotes Brenda Ueland, “I learned that you should feel when writing, not like Lord Byron on a mountain top, but like a child stringing beads in kindergarten – happy, absorbed and quietly putting one bead on after another.” These words capture Lisa’s keenness for her craft and modesty about her accomplishments. Her creative mind contemplates writing projects and ideas for interesting angles and perspectives for her book-coaching clients.
We first met at the Harvard Writing and Publishing Course, where Lisa was leading a workshop on developing a more compelling writing style. She arrived with her newborn baby in one arm and her papers in the other. A minute before the session began her mother-in-law scooped up her beautiful boy and Lisa began her talk without missing a beat. Her workshop drew me into the world of writing creative non-fiction. I knew when I began my blog, www.DrKamen.com that Lisa was sure to be one of my inspiring women.
A Sheltered Childhood Leads to a Fertile Imagination
Lisa grew up in Queens, New York with her parents, siblings and grandmother. Her father was an English teacher and her mother a watercolor artist. Lisa, the oldest of three, grew up in a protective environment and was not encouraged far from venture far from home.
As a child Lisa’s imagination blossomed. She immersed herself in writing poetry and stories. As she grew up Lisa often imagined herself becoming an author. She wrote down her made up stories that she later learned was called fiction.
“My happiest memories are of nature and of being creative: writing poems, making up songs, putting on plays with my siblings, putting on puppet shows for the summer neighborhood in New Brunswick, Canada. We got written up in the Moncton Times and filled a large barn with audience members. Our summer place was on huge beach where the tides are extremely low and high, so at low tide you can walk out unusually far across the beach–between the seaweed covered rocks and the tide pools. It looked like another planet. I often imagined filming a science fiction movie on that beach.
“I wrote poetry there. I remember one night waking up at four in the morning and writing and writing, watching the sun rise over the Fundy bay and writing poems about the sunrise and about writing poetry. That was the closest I ever got to god in my childhood.”
When Lisa was in third grade her grandmother gave her a diary. Her grandmother explained that she could write about whatever flowers she saw blooming on her way to school. Her April birthday gave way to descriptions and stories about crocuses. Then her fourth grade diary took her down the path of writing about her friends and the dramas of her childhood. Lisa noted that her diaries invariably had a self-improvement quality to them. Each year she wrote New Year’s resolutions with promises to stop biting her nails and losing her temper.
Eventually her diary became more of a journal. She replaced the locked sixth grade diary with spiral bound notebooks and single entries stretched on for pages. With more pages, she became more creative. She began to write poetry again and doodle. As Lisa grew older her journal entries became more interwoven with the beginnings of stories, most of which went unfinished.
Journaling Practice Leads to Lisa’s First Published Book
Lisa’s first solo adventure was coming to Boston to attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology for her bachelors and masters degrees. Upon graduation she worked as a nonprofit executive for several years, until she decided to ask the board of directors for a job share so that she could write her first book. Much to Lisa’s amazement they agreed to her request. After that, they agreed to permit her two more years of job sharing.
Lisa married a man from a different cultural and religious background and found that they complemented each other well. After they began their family together, Lisa stayed at home with her baby, continued to write and slowly grew her home-based business.
“My first published book grew out of one of these spiral notebook notations. I used the polarity therapy I’d learned to explore and created these exercises I later termed anger-obics. The book, The Ultimate Guide to Transforming Anger, took shape when I teamed up with my co-authors, Peaco Todd and Jane Middelton-Moz, but the journaling really got me started.”
On a more personal note Lisa faced the diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. An unexpected positive result of this challenge opened Lisa up to the world of spirituality and alternative methods of healing. Polarity therapy gradually helped her to heal. It is no surprise that this method of healing gave Lisa the idea for her first book.
Channeling Creativity While Promoting Her Career
As A Book Writing Coach
Lisa is married with two sons, one in pre-school and another in elementary school. She has a thriving business as a book writing coach. These days she is journaling less because of the demands of her everyday life. But even when she’s on a business call with clients she finds herself doodling. Lisa says, “I think the doodling integrates my creative and analytical sides and allows me to bring both to the client’s work.” Perhaps it is her way of keeping her creative juices flowing or as she explained, “The muse within finds a way to express itself – and not for sharing, not for understanding myself, not for creating something out of it – just for the sake of expression. Pure, unselfconscious life force streaming from my pen, for no other reason than just being creative.”
In Lisa’s work as a book writing coach, she inspires others to write their books and get them published. She also teaches private book writing courses – as a tele-seminar and as a local class in Narragansett, Rhode Island. Narragansett is in one of the most beautiful spots on earth, surrounded by ocean on a rocky point that juts into the Atlantic.
“I feel so lucky to do work that I love. It brings together all of my skills. I have a knack for helping someone take a raw idea and transform it into something marketable. It combines creativity, collaborative energy and intuition. I also love editing, because it’s like a puzzle, finding the perfect way to say something, or drawing the writer out and helping to make the writing come alive for the readers.”
Lisa has been on the faculty of the Harvard Medical School CME Publishing Course for five years. Her clients have landed publishing contracts with Simon and Schuster, Prometheus Books, Beyond Words and Random House. She has been featured in Body and Soul magazine and quoted in many national news outlets.
Advice on Nurturing Creativity and Completing a Book Project
Lisa told me she has notebooks scattered throughout her house. They contain snippets of dreams, book ideas, a word-mandala practice that she recently developed and lots of doodles. Periodically Lisa goes through these journals tearing out the writing and filing the pages into categories. She says that scattered information burdens her energetically.
She shared “It’s interesting how many creative ideas pop out over time in those journals. I think creativity is like breathing. You just do it and do it and most of it never turns into a product, but it’s just something we need to do–for our minds, bodies, hearts and spirits. And if only one-tenth of one percent of it turns into something usable, that’s okay.”
When asked about her interests Lisa says she loves to dance, walk along the cliff walk in Newport, make up songs and sing.
Finding a career that gives her flexibility allows Lisa to be the parent she wants to be. Her current goal is to integrate more play-time into her life. Lisa is an inspiration in her ability to be a wonderful mother, coach, and teacher, helping others bring their books to life.
Spring/summer registration for Lisa’s book-writing courses is now closed. However, as a special offer to my subscribers, you can sign up for the series that begins September 29 or October 1 and she will provide you with the materials and a private book consultation to get an early start on the project this spring/summer. In addition, if you e-mail Lisa before May 31 for the special “Randy’s friends” pricing, you’ll save $1,500 off the entire program. You could have a first draft of your how-to book or memoir in your hands by the end of the year.