Book Review: Deep Work by Cal Newport

As I’ve been thinking about heart, and how my heart shows up in my work, I picked up Cal Newport’s book: Deep Work.

What I love about this book is that Cal doesn’t simply tell us that we need to focus on the things that matter (a truth that is clear to most of us), but he also discusses what focus looks like, and practical ways to build our mental capacity for focus.

Cal defines deep work as “the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task.” Deep Work leads to a sense of joy and meaning in our lives because we learn to focus on what matters and let go of the more shallow concerns that otherwise might consume us.

Deep Work lives to an improved life. Cal says: “Like fingers pointing to the moon, other diverse disciplines from anthropology to education, behavioral economics to family counseling, similarly suggest that the skillful management of attention is the sine qua non of the good life and the key to improving virtually every aspect of your experience.” 

He also points out that when we spend our time in our inboxes, we tend to focus on the irritating small issues of life. It isn’t that we shouldn’t pay attention to our community and the things they may need from us, more that we should make sure our best attention goes to those few projects that really tap into the most meaningful use of our unique capabilities.

Cal says, “Who you are, what you think, feel, and do, what you love—is the sum of what you focus on.” When we focus on work that challenges us to work at our highest intellectual capacity, we gain a sense of significance. He points out that most knowledge workers are engaged in vague tasks that yield vague and hard to measure results. No wonder we have a hard time knowing whether what we do matters. By determining what deep work is for us, and by building the mental discipline needed to engage in deep work, we not only are able to give more to the world around us, but are more satisfied, settled and joyful in our lives.

Results well worth working hard for, no?

If you’re exploring how to bring your heart into your work and looking for practical strategies, Deep Work will be a compelling read for you.

An Interview with Holly Schindler: Junction of Sunshine and Lucky

I’m thrilled to feature Holly Schindler, author of The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky, as part of her book launch tour!

Holly_Schindler_SML Junction1.1

Drumroll, please… and now from Holly:

Nothing is more satisfying, as an author, than sending your finished book out into the world.  I’m especially excited to send my girl Auggie (the main character of my debut MG, THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY) out for readers to meet.  She may very well be my favorite of all my main characters.  I could go on for hours describing who she is, or I could just let you meet her yourself, through a couple of vlogs that contain passages from the book!

First, a few excerpts:

Second, a video on Auggie’s voice and the use of simile / metaphor in the book.

Additional Info / Links (Includes a Giveaway!):

About The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky:

“Beasts of the Southern Wild” meets Because of Winn Dixie in this inspiring story of hope.

 Auggie Jones lives with her grandpa Gus, a trash hauler, in a poor part of town. So when her wealthy classmate’s father starts the House Beautification Committee, it’s homes like Auggie’s that are deemed “in violation.” But Auggie is determined to prove that there’s more to her—and to her house—than meets the eye.

What starts out as a home renovation project quickly becomes much more as Auggie and her grandpa discover a talent they never knew they had—and redefine a whole town’s perception of beauty, one recycled sculpture at a time.

Holly Schindler’s feel-good story about the power one voice can have will inspire readers to speak from their hearts.


“…a heartwarming and uplifting story…[that] shines…with vibrant themes of community, self-empowerment and artistic vision delivered with a satisfying verve.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Axioms like ‘One man’s trash is another man’s treasure’ and ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ come gracefully to life in Schindler’s tale about the value of hard work and the power of community…Auggie’s enthusiasm and unbridled creativity are infectious, and likeminded readers will envy her creative partnership with [her grandfather] Gus.” – Publishers Weekly

“Determined to save her home, Auggie [uses] pottery shards, vivid glass, and metal sculptures [to] transform the house’s exterior into a vibrant expression of the love within its walls. In Auggie, Schindler creates a spunky, sympathetic character young readers will engage with and enjoy.” – The Bulletin for the Center of Children’s Book Studies


Twitter: @holly_schindler
Author site:

Site for young readers:

Holly Schindler’s Middles – I’m especially excited about this site. I adored getting to interact with the YA readership online—usually through Twitter or FB. But I had to create a site where I could interact with the MG readership. I’m devoting a page on the site to reviews from young readers themselves! Be sure to send your young reader’s review through the Contact Me page.

Group Author Blogs:

YA Outside the Lines ( for YA authors and Smack Dab in the Middle ( for MG authors.

Don’t miss the Giveaway, running Feb. 13-20:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Buy The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky on Amazon

The next stop on the tour is: The Hiding Spot  Visit on Feb. 19, 2014!


Artists often struggle with marketing. There are many reasons (and excuses) that we all give, but the fact of the matter is that if we don’t get better at marketing, no one will know we’re creating anything. Artists need audiences for many reasons. The deepest, most important one, I think, is that art is made for an audience. Books and paintings and songs and culinary creations, at best, are conversations. Artists start to feel isolated and lose perspective on what they create if they don’t have anyone with whom to share.

Of course, the other issue is that there are only twenty-four hours in a day. If we need to eat and sleep and make a living, making art ends up in the nooks and crannies of our lives. If we can earn at least part of our living from our creative efforts, then we have more time and energy to give to those efforts. Thus, learning to market is a key part of the life on an artist, be it painful for us or no.

There’s a lot of noise out there in the world about getting online, about shouting your message to the world, over and over, anywhere people are listening. I’d rather approach marketing as a way to share my passion with the world, in my own unique way. I’m an artist, after all.

One tool I’ve found very helpful in gaining perspective on how to think about my marketing is the intriguing research Sally Hogshead has done on Fascination. On her site, one can take a test to learn about what unique triggers we unconsciously use to influence and lead others. Understanding those strengths can make creating a marketing plan a comprehensible task. You’re not doing what everyone else would do. You’re doing what YOU do. Also, Sally’s test will help you see what you may be unconsciously doing that is undermining your message.

Once you know your strengths, the next step is figuring out what the core message you have to share is. Not the product you’re trying to sell today, but the underlying contagious idea that you’re passionate about sharing. You have one, you must, if you’re an artist. Another post on that topic soon.

For now, though, I recommend checking out Sally’s site and taking the test. There’s a small fee involved, but it’s worth the cost in self-revelation.