Thursday, August 28, 2014

Book Spotlight and Author Interview - What Counts Most is How You Finish by Shelia Payton

What Counts Most is How You Finish is a book of short essays that shares ideas for addressing life's challenges. The book (which uses experiences from the author's life and the lives of others) is written with two ideas in mind:
• Each person has to find his or her own way in life
• We can learn worthwhile things from each other

To make it easier to find an essay that can help the reader address life situations in real time, What Counts Most is How You Finish is divided into seven topic areas: Being You, Taking Care of You, Dealing with People, Overcoming Challenges, Staying Focused, Achieving Success and Making a Difference.

While the primary audience for What Counts Most is How You Finish is people between the ages of 16-25, the book has received positive feedback from many older than that who say it’s a good reminder for them.

Where to buy the book:

Xlibris Book Store

Author's Bio:

Shelia Payton is an entrepreneur, former newspaper reporter, corporate manager and educator who spent all of her early life and much of her career in a time when people of color and women in this country were pushing for greater inclusion at all levels of society, and seeking greater opportunities to live life to the fullest. Like others in her generation, Shelia had to face and overcome barriers to entering and succeeding in non-traditional jobs, and create a place in civic and leadership settings. Also like others in her generation, Shelia’s motivation has not just been about what she can accomplish for herself, but also how she can open up opportunities for future generations. Shelia’s current focus is on creating books, plays and music that build human connections by breaking down barriers and stereotypes.

I enjoyed interviewing Ms. Payton about this book:

What inspired you to write this book?

My oldest niece, Joi Michelle Payton, lived in another state. As she was growing up we didn’t have a lot of face time where I could take advantage of “teachable moments” to share some of my experiences in a way that was relevant to things she was experiencing or had questions about. This fact hit me when Joi turned 13. I decided to write about life lessons I’d learned and the situations that taught me those lessons. What started out as “Letters to My Niece” became a book after I showed some of the letters to others who had or worked with teens and young adults to get their feedback. They told me to expand my audience. I took their advice and also decided to include stories from other people’s lives in the book.

What did you most enjoy about writing this book?

The opportunity to share ideas about facing and overcoming life’s challenges. Life is not one big problem, but it’s not a smooth road either. This has always been true. But there are differences between growing up today and growing up when I was a teen and young adult: everything happens faster today, and there’s information overload that creates an environment in which multiple things are constantly vying for attention or a response. As a result it’s harder to find a quiet place to think, reflect and weigh the pros and cons before making decisions. While it’s true each person has to find his or her own way in life, it’s also true we all can learn worthwhile things from each other. By using real world examples, dividing the book into seven subject categories and making the essays short, my goal for What Counts Most is How You Finish is to provide a real time reference guide that can serve as that “quiet place” for readers as they make decisions and navigate toward a wonderful life.

Do you have a special time to write, or how is your day structured?

Although I don’t have a special time of day to write, late morning and early afternoon tend to work best for me. I have tried to set a specific time to write but, because I work part time and have other commitments, that is not always possible. What I do, however, is try to have quiet periods during the day to allow my brain to work on ideas in the background. During that time I might be doing something else that doesn’t require close attention—washing dishes, clothes, cooking, walking. These quiet times help me start writing immediately when I sit down at the computer because I’ve had a chance to think through ideas.

This sounds like a great, inspiring book for young adults.  What is one of your favorite tips or advice for young readers?

If I were to choose one tip it would be to set and write down goals for yourself, make a list of things you need to do to move toward your goals, do something each week (or better still each day) that moves you closer to your goals, and check off what you’ve done from your list so you can see the progress you’re making. This may sound complicated and time consuming, but it’s not as hard as it sounds. The investment of time made to set goals and list the steps needed to achieve them will help you successfully navigate life’s rough patches. How? By helping you keep your eye on the prize—what you want to accomplish. For example: when you have to make choices in life you can evaluate those choices in terms of whether they hurt, improve or have no effect on achieving your goals. This can help you avoid decisions that could derail your plans. When people put you down or try to discourage you, instead of letting their negativity bring you down you can look at your goals, decide what you need to do next to get where you want to be, and then focus your energy on doing that. Having goals and a plan for reaching them can keep you on track for living the type of life you want to. Put another way, having goals and plans for achieving them is like turning the corner when you’re lost on a dark road and seeing a light off in the distance. Like that light, your goals and plans can take you to a better place.

What is a tip from this book that would also be useful for older readers?

That no matter how old you are you can still grow and learn. Put another way, don’t stop living and learning until they stick you in the ground. Generally speaking, when you’re younger you see the world as interesting and a place to explore. As we get older there’s a tendency to set unnecessary limits—I can’t learn to play an instrument or paint or write or go back to school to become a teacher because I’m too old. If I were to pick two essays from the book that summarize this point they would be “There’s No Such Thing as Can’t” and “Pivot.” The first essay’s title is self-explanatory. The second essay uses three people’s lives to illustrate how anyone can change their life’s direction.

What books have influenced your life the most?

As a teen the Trixie Belden “girl detective” books showed me average girls could be smart and brave. Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird introduced me to the power of storytelling based on real life. Langston Hughes’ poetry (in book form) focused a spotlight on beauty and cultural richness that had not been acknowledged in the past, and spoke truth to power. Michael Shaara’s book The Killer Angels showed me how to make history a lived experience. While it is not a book, Lorraine Hansberry’s play A Raisin in the Sun (whose title is taken from a line in a Langston Hughes poem) showed me the power of stories about everyday people who refuse to accept limits others try to put on their lives.

What are your hobbies and interests outside of writing?

I’m a sports fan and a culture vulture. I enjoy watching sports (especially basketball, football, tennis, track and field and gymnastics.) I downhill ski. I love the arts—theatre, music, dance, visual arts, books. And, I love to travel. Most times I pick a destination I haven’t been to before. I like learning about the area, its culture and history, trying new foods, and doing and seeing things I hadn’t experienced before.

What is your next writing project?

I have several in mind, but the most likely is a young adult fantasy book series in which the main characters’ lives are transformed by their experiences in another world and time. I also will likely start doing research on my next play—one that, again, is based on a moment in history.


Lysha said...

Sounds like a really great and inspiring book.

Shelia Payton said...

Trish, Thank you for sharing my book with your readers by spotlighting it on your blog; and for doing such a great interview. You asked a lot of questions that really made me think about what I do and how and why I do it. Sharing your love of books with others is a great service to both your readers and to authors. Preserving and creating a connection with the past through your amazing collection of children’s books and ephemera is also a great service because the past has much to teach us. I wish you continued success in the future.—Shelia Payton

Birdhouse Books said...

Sheila, thank you so much for your nice comment. I really enjoyed interviewing you for this post. I am looking forward to reading the book. It sounds really inspiring!