Category Archives: Reading and Writing

What are you reading?


Twenty Chickens for a Saddle, Robyn Scott’s memoir about growing up in Botswana, is my book club’s April selection.  While I’m enjoying her vivid descriptions of daily life, I wish there was more of a narrative arc to keep the story moving along and to hold my interest.  I’m only halfway through, so we’ll see if that resolves itself.

Tina Fey’s Bossypants is unsurprisingly hilarious, but I am also enjoying her honest insight on women, careers and motherhood.  This is a fun read and has had me in laughing out loud more than once.

I’m also reading Just in Case: How to Be Self-Sufficient When the Unexpected Happens. When taking an evening stroll, do you mentally evaluate each house you pass for how secure it will be in the zombie apocalypse ?  No?  Just me?  Okay then.

On the blog front, I’ve recently discovered The Financial Diet from Chelsea Fagan.  “When you become smarter about money, everything gets better.” – so true.  The Minimalist Pixie Dream Girl: Who She Is And Why I Hate Her and Financially-Sponsored People Need To Be Honest About Their Shit are two good posts.

Also, Permission to Kick Ass: Granted is a must-read from Pamela Wilson.


How about you?  What are you reading right now?  Please share in the comments.

P.S. Are we Twitter friends yet?  Find me @TheMgmtMaven


This post contains affiliate links to Powell’s Books.


Five women I would invite to dinner.

5 women I'd invite to dinner

Vijay via Flickr

I’ve been thinking about my ideal dinner party since Kathleen Shannon put the idea in my head during the Being Boss podcast.  If I could pick any five people to invite over for an evening of food and conversation, who would they be?

Nellie Bly
Groundbreaking investigative journalism, a solo trip around the world and some industrial manufacturing…all while wearing a corset.

Virginia Woolf
A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”  I’ve been fascinated by Virginia Woolf since first reading Orlando.

Peggy Olson
Yes, I know Peggy is not a real person but her character is such an interesting portrait of a woman moving through the corporate ranks in the 1960’s.  I’d pick Jane Maas if our lists are restricted to real people.

Dorothea Hurley
Who?  Exactly.  Dorothea has been married to Jon Bon Jovi for 25 years, a fact I only recently learned while answering the burning late-night question…”is that his real name?”  Rock star husband, 4 gorgeous kids…I’m dying to find out what her life is like.
(And it’s John Bongiovi, btw.)

Amy Poehler
She is just hilarious AND she founded Smart Girls at the Party.  “Change the World by Being Yourself“… so cool.

How about you?  Who would you invite to your imaginary dinner party?  Please share in the comments.


(Photo by Vijay via Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons)


A Scandinavian Dream: My Winter Reading List

winter sunset

Mosier, OR

I’m determined to fight the winter blues this year and to help me follow through on my  ideas for staying happy, I’ve added a few things to my winter reading list:


Denmark is often cited as the world’s happiest nation, but “though we wear their sweaters and read their thrillers, how much do we really know about the Danes themselves?”  I’m about halfway through How To Be Danish and am finding this quick introduction pretty fascinating.

Walking is my outdoor activity of choice but I need a lot of motivation in the winter.  So I’ve added two books on the subject that will hopefully inspire me:

In On Looking, the author takes a series of eleven walks around her neighborhood, each with a different expert, to see how her perspective changes with each.

The Joys of Walking is an anthology of twelve essays from a variety of distinguished writers, including Dickens and Thoreau.  (Thoreau’s essay is currently a free Kindle book on Amazon.)


I love browsing through a beautifully illustrated cookbook and the Scandilicious books from food anthropologist Signe Johansen should set just the right mood this winter.

In her follow-up to The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin focuses on “feeling more at home, at home”.  With monthly projects for making the home more warm, comfortable and loving, I think I’ll dip back into Happier at Home throughout the winter.

And finally, I love a good slow-burn crime thriller, so I’m adding the first of the famous Kurt Wallander mysteries to my list.


Books aside, I think winter is the best time for curling up in front of the television for a good series binge.  I’m a big fan of the American versions of The Killing and The Bridge, so I’m looking forward to watching the Nordic originals, Forbrydelsen and Bron/Broen.

And, for a quick pick-me-up, I recently stumbled upon the design blog Design Attractor.  So lovely on a dreary day.


How about you?  Any Scandinavian-themed reading recommendations?


(This post contains affiliate links to Powell’s Books.)


Fiction with a business bent.


Patrik Goethe via Unsplash

Are you a business book junkie?  I am.  And over the past few years, I’ve seen my reading list become more and more weighted towards non-fiction.  With limited reading time, it just feels like I get more intellectual bang for my buck with fact-based works.

So Rohit Bhargava’s thoughts on why reading fiction is better for your business were a nice reminder for me: taking time for a wider range of reading material enhances your creativity, stimulates your intellectual curiosity and changes your perspective.

Following Bhargava’s lead, here are my own recommendations for powerful fiction with a bit of a business bent.


The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald – This literary classic is a must-read story of greed, money and ambition in the 1920’s. Gatsby is the iconic American entrepreneur, a self-made man blinded by love and the pursuit of wealth.



Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates – The tragic portrait of a couple unable to reconcile their real lives with the lives of their dreams. Trapped in jobs they never particularly wanted – The Housewife, The Company Man – they struggle against their suburban and corporate conformity. Not exactly light reading, this.



The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho – On a brighter note, this allegorical story of a young shepherd’s search for his Personal Legend presents the value of being open to learning, to trying new experiences and to finding meaningful work.




And I’ve said before that AMC’s Mad Men has a wealth of business insights mixed in with all the drama, so here are three fun Mad Men related titles that I’m putting on my Christmas list.



(This post contains affiliate links to Powell’s Books.)


Telling our stories in the digital age.

olympia 2 by glasseyes view

When I was little, I remember my dad pacing the living room floor, dictating, as my mom typed his words on our old electric typewriter.  It was a big, humming machine and the keys made a satisfying chunk sound.  The manuscripts were typed, edited, typed again and then mailed off to magazine editors.  After my dad passed, my mom sent me the 30-year-old copies of Ranger Rick and Owl that held the evidence of their hard work.

Way back in 1994, I started a newsletter about local music in my hometown – The Perimeter: McMinnville’s Premier Music Publication.  I typed the articles on our high-tech word processor, then carefully cut them into columns and pasted them onto graph paper.  I hand-lettered the masthead and had a local print shop make 50 copies.  A few issues in, my family got a PC, outfitted with Microsoft Publisher and a dial-up internet connection, and my production value went up considerably.

Last week, I helped a single mom, with not much work history but lots of life experience, draft her resume.  We emailed back and forth, discussing different ways to describe her skills and tell her story.  We changed fonts, reworked the design, and uploaded to her LinkedIn profile, all with a few clicks of a button.

Kitty Ireland remembers typing her first resume on a rented typewriter at the public library.  Reading her post, I was reminded how hard getting our ideas out into the world used to be. Crafting a good story, one that deftly explains who we are and what we can offer, is still hard work.  But the mechanics of story-telling have definitely gotten easier.


(Photo by glasseyes view via Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons)


3 writing lessons learned from a year of blogging.

writing lessons

This week marks the one year anniversary of my first post here on The Management Maven.  While this hardly makes me a blogging expert, I have gained some insight into what works and what doesn’t work for me.  Have a read and then let me know what you think.  I’d love to hear what you’ve learned about your own writing practice.

Write as much as possible, ideally every day.

I don’t mean post every day – I haven’t even come CLOSE to that.  But just the act of writing everyday – journaling, free-writing, whatever – gets you into a rhythm and the words start to flow more easily.  Posts, when you’re ready to write them, come together much faster.  Just like physical exercise, I’ve found that the longer I go without writing, the harder it becomes to start again.

Write about what you feel like writing about.

Many bloggers plan out their topics with a posting calendar.  This hasn’t worked for me. (which is a little surprising, since I’m such a planner by nature.)  My best posts seem to rise out of whatever I happen to be doing and thinking about that day.  Not that I don’t consider the overall arc of my blog – it’s just that exploring a topic when it’s fresh and interesting to me seems to make my writing better and more engaging.

Keep it simple.

When I’m struggling with a post that just won’t seem to come together, it’s usually because I’ve gotten too attached to a particular idea that just doesn’t fit.  I need to step back, consider what fundamental point I’m trying to make and cut anything that doesn’t develop it.  “Kill your darlings”, as they say, and things will start to gel.

Other posts related to writing:

Don’t let your busy writing get “puffy”.
Post. Promote. Move on.
Work on your writing skills.


What I’m reading…

Summer Reading
Today my husband took the morning shift with The Boy and I got a blissful 30 minutes with my coffee and the NYT Book Review Summer Reading guide.  Heaven!

Currently reading:

      Awesome Supervisory Skills: Seven Lessons for Young, First-Time Managers

I picked up Blood River by Tim Butcher after watching Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown and realizing I truly knew nothing about The Congo.  A fascinating read so far.

(Coincidentally, Butcher’s The Trigger is also featured in the NYTBR Summer Reading.)

I’m also loving Tamara Murray’s practical approach to management in Awesome Supervisory Skills: Seven Lessons for Young, First-Time Managers.

For book club:

A “spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography”?  Yes, please.

From the NYT Book Review:


The Orphan Choir by Sophie Hannah sounds deliciously creepy.  I enjoyed Hannah’s Little Face, so I’m looking forward to some unexpected twists from this one.

I love my Victorians and Slow Train to Switzerland by Diccon Bewes follows a group of English tourists on a hiking excursion in 1863.  Awesome.

And keepin’ it real:

How about you?  What’s on your reading list?

P.S.  Are we Twitter friends yet?  Follow me @TheMgmtMaven


This post contains affiliate links to Powell’s Books.