Sunday, August 24, 2014

What Counts is How You Finish by Sheila Payton Book Review & Interview

Book Synopsis:

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.


How did you do research for your book?

Initially my plan was to write letters about lessons I’d learned in life and share them with my niece (Joi Michelle Payton) who had just turned 13. When I shared a draft of what I’d written with fellow writers and people who either had or worked with teens and young adults, they said the book should be available to anyone. For the book to make sense to a larger audience I knew I needed to broaden the real world examples I used. The first thing I did was think about the topics I wanted to cover in the book—including  subjects important and relevant to today’s teens and young adults that I might not have personal experiences with. Then I thought about people I knew or knew of whose life stories contained strong examples of how best to deal with a life challenge. I also talked to people, read articles and paid more attention to young people’s conversations and comments to get a better feel for what the hot topics were in their lives. After that I started writing. Once I finished writing I grouped the essays under seven topic areas: Being You, Taking Care of You, Dealing with People, Overcoming Challenges, Staying Focused, Achieving Success, and Making a Difference.

What is your writing process?

The first thing I do after I decide what I want to write about is research. When I say research, I don’t mean doing a quick internet search to get basic information. I try to find out as much about the subject as I can because having more information helps me keep the writing process flowing. When I get stuck, I can look at my research and find something that will give me ideas about what to say next. The second thing I do before writing is to think about what “story” I want to tell. If I’m writing a fiction book or a play, I like to figure out how the story will begin and end. If I’m writing non-fiction, I think about what I want the reader to know, understand and learn after they’ve finished the book. The third thing I do before writing is read through my research and highlight information that provides me with details I can use in the finished work. I use different colored highlighters based on what the subject matter is so I can easily find something on that subject as I write. For example, in a play I wrote I had some information about the lifestyle and popular culture of the time period, historical events during that time, and “hot topic” issues of the time (among other subjects). Once these three things are done I start writing. I write the whole “story” straight through rather than constantly edit what I’ve written. Writing straight through helps me keep the project moving forward; and allows me to discover new angles or ideas that may be even more interesting than my original idea; and it keeps me from becoming fixated on making everything “perfect” before I can write anything else. When I’ve completed the first draft I set it aside for a few days and then begin editing. Putting some time between writing the first draft and making revisions helps in two ways: (1) When I look at the material, I’m actually reading it rather than reciting what I just wrote (which is a common thing we all do. Think about the errors you find in an email you sent when you read it a few days later.); (2) It helps me be more ruthless in evaluating what I’ve written because I’m not as emotionally invested in the words on paper.

Where do you get inspiration for your stories?

I became a serious history buff after taking a course from Dr. Nelson Blake at Syracuse
University on the social and cultural history of the United States. The class taught me that history is more than dates, generals, wars, politicians and elections. It is also about people who, in the course of living their lives, come together to build communities, solve problems and work to improve the social and economic conditions under which they live. It took me a while to link my interest in history to my writing. But one day as I was having another “oh, that’s interesting” moment while reading about some part of history I didn’t know about, it occurred to me there are many “interesting” stories from history that could be the basis for books and plays. While these stories may have been written about in history books, most people don’t read history once they finish school. But, if these same stories are told in a compelling way (as Michael Shaara did in his book The Killer Angels about the Battle of Gettysburg during the Civil War) this interesting history could reach a wider audience. Having come to this realization, I decided to focus much of my writing on trying to tell “interesting” history stories in a compelling way.

What do you enjoy most about writing? Least?

I really enjoy doing research because it gives me a chance to learn something new. I also enjoy writing. What I enjoy least is anything after the fourth re-write. I have no problem editing my work, but if I have to do that more than four times back to back I need to take a short break to refresh my brain, and give myself a chance to think about different approaches to writing the piece I’m working on.

If you could go back in time, where would you go?

I would pick the Harlem Renaissance period in the 1920s. I consider this period the platinum standard for African American arts and culture in the United States. Poets, playwrights, authors, visual artists, musicians, scholars and intellectuals created high quality works that are still relevant today and are considered an important part of the cultural heritage of the United States. What attracts me to this period (besides the cultural output of that time) is the idea of having a chance to be part of such a stimulating, energetic, creative community.

My review:

Shelia Payton has written a novel that helps and explains how to confront any challenge you may face. She talks about being happy with yourself and what you wish to become . The book is divided into chapters so you can look up anything that you need help with right now. She uses her personal thought to help others. I give this book a 4/5. I was given this book  by iRead Book Tours and all opinions are my own.

1 comment:

  1. Vicky, Thank you for reading my book and sharing your thoughts about it with your Deal Sharing Aunt blog readers. I’m honored What Counts Most is How You Finished received such a high rating, and hope your readers will find it enjoyable and useful. It was a pleasure doing the interview with you, also.—Shelia Payton