Posts Tagged inspiration

DARE TO BE YOU – Interview with Marianne Schnall

Author and activist Marianne Schnall has a new book out, DARE TO BE YOU. It’s a collection of motivational quotes from some of the amazing, trailblazing women she’s interviewed over the years …  an impressive list of people. I had a chance to interview Marianne recently about her book and her hopes for empowering young women coming into their own.

Dare to be You

Interview with Marianne Schnall

HMC: DARE TO BE YOU is such a lovely collection of quotes – almost like a daily affirmation book. Is that how you intended it to be used? If not, what was your vision?

MS: I love the idea that the book could be used as a daily affirmation book! It most certainly can be used that way – there are so many potent messages in the book that may resonate with readers for different reasons. My vision is that this book and its content would be used in whatever ways best serve those who read it – to find guidance, insight, encouragement and inspiration.

HMC: What’s the origin story for this book?

MS: I always knew I wanted to do a focused book for girls because so much of our sense of who we are, our self esteem, our development of our voice and our vision for ourselves happens early on. There are so  many harmful messages routinely hurled at girls from our society and the media, I wanted to help counteract those messages with some positive ones! More than ever we need women and girls to come into their true selves and power, to be emboldened to follow their dreams and callings, to be leaders and enact their influence and creativity in the world – both for their benefit and the benefit of the world around them.

Quotes from Personal Interviews

HMC: Do all of the quotes in this book come from women you’ve interview personally?

Yes, all of the quotes are from the wide range of incredible women I have had the good fortune to interview over the past two decades who span different backgrounds, industries, and perspectives. From Oprah to Melinda Gates, Natalie Portman to Jane Goodall, Maya Angelou to Anita Hill and so many more. I have spoken to so many amazing women who all have so much life wisdom to share – not only from their accomplishments, but in all the challenges and hurdles they had to overcome.

HMC: Any favorite stories from an interview you did for this book?

MS: There are so many it is hard to single any out! Gloria Steinem is someone I have learned a lot from through our many interviews, but she is also an important personal mentor to me. Whether reminding me to “ask for what I need,” or to take a pause now and then to acknowledge and own my accomplishments, Gloria has shared many wise insights with me in our conversations and interviews. She is someone who I have always admired for her trailblazing work, for her inclusive leadership, for her generosity of spirit, for her humor and curiosity, and for her tireless and fearless commitment to making the world a better place for all. And she is still doing it!

On Feminism

HMC: I loved the section on “Understanding Feminism.” It’s amazing to me that in this day and age, it’s such a loaded term. Are we still so embroiled in old stereotypes of the angry bra-burning woman that we can’t all embrace the concept without fear of reprisal?

MS: There are still so many misconceptions about what feminism is, but I do think the concept is being more widely embraced in a more mainstream way by women, and increasingly by men who realize that they too benefit from gender equality. It is hard to take issue with the dictionary definition of feminism which is quite simply, “the political, social and economic equality of the sexes.” I also think as the movement evolves to become more inclusive and intersectional with other identities and movements, more and more people are feeling like they can align with its objectives and values.

(For another look at evolving attitudes toward strong girls and the power of words to shape attitudes, read this post from MUF contributor Mike Hays)

Dare to be You

HMC: Your sections on women seeing themselves as leaders and resisting negative media messages is also a powerful statement in this election season. The idea of the “unlikeable” woman candidate is frustrating… were there any “outakes” you can share with us from your interviews that touched on this subject?

MS: Yes, a lot of people I interviewed talked about this – about the conundrum of powerful, confident, ambitious women being deemed as “unlikeable.”.This is certainly a sexist bias we need to watch for and change. But as Gloria Steinem reminded me in one of our conversations, women need to also not be as dependent on being liked. It is hard to be an effective leader if you worry too much about other people’s perceptions.

Finding Inspiration

HMC: Any other thoughts or hopes you have for this book you can share with our readers?

MS: My hope is that the book will encourage girls and women, and all those who read it, to fully embrace who they are, celebrate what it is that makes them unique and special rather than thinking they need to fit in or conform, and find the inspiration and support to follow their dreams, use their voices, and fulfill the vision they have for themselves and for the world.

HMC: What part of this book resonated most with you?

MS: I grew up as a very insecure teenage girl, and having two daughters of my own now, I see so much progress in their ability to know themselves and resist the disempowering influences they receive from society and the media. I feel very hopeful that we are living through a time where women and girls are rising up as a potent force to help transform the world in all kinds of necessary, beneficial and important ways. What resonates most for me is thinking about how the world would change if we unleash all of that untapped potential!

author marianne schnall

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Marianne Schnall is a widely published writer and interviewer whose work has appeared in a variety of media outlets including O, The Oprah Magazine,, Forbes,, Refinery29, the Women’s Media Center, HuffPost, and many others. Schnall is the founder of, a leading women’s website and nonprofit organization and, a media and event platform that engages women everywhere to advance in all levels of leadership and take action. She is the author of What Will It Take to Make a Woman President?, Daring to Be Ourselves, Leading the Way, and Dare to Be You.

Connect with Marianne

Find Marianne here: ▪ ▪

And here: @marianneschnall

To buy a copy of Marianne’s book, click here.

The Problem with (Too Many) Ideas

There are two kinds of people.

People who think like writers. And people who don’t.

Give a class of fifth graders blank paper and and tell them they can write about anything they choose. Those who don’t think like writers will stare at the page. They will fidget. They’ll gaze into the middle distance, as if to summon an idea from the atmosphere. Before long, the teacher will see the frustration begin to rise and she’ll remind them of the time the author came to school and talked about how ideas are all around us and we must only keep our eyes and ears open to find one.

But I want to talk about those who think like writers. Those students may also stare at the blank page, fidget, and appear filled with angst, but it’s for a different reason. Those who think like writers have no shortage of ideas. They have ideas stacked upon ideas stacked upon ideas. If they are hesitating, it’s because they can’t possibly choose between the many fabulous ideas they have swimming around in their brains.Image result for crossroads

Writers talk a lot about where to find ideas.  (Keep your eyes open. Keep a journal. Listen. Engage in the world around you. Observe the world around you. Read the newspaper. Ask questions. Etc. So on. You know.)

But we seldom discuss what to do about all of the ideas we have.

I’ve been struggling with too many ideas myself this past year. Some folks might be unsympathetic to this plight, especially those who feel challenged to come up with ideas. But, believe me, having too many ideas can be just as damaging to productivity.

That shiny new idea always seems better than the tired old one I’ve been working on for months years.

I bounce from project to project, working on many, completing none.

I can’t decide which idea to tackle today, so I flip through social media and waste a few minutes hours days while I consider which idea is the best one to work on.

When the going gets tough on WIP (Work In Progress) #1, I don’t stick it out. Why should I when I have WIP #2, #3,  and #4 through #47 to turn my attention to?

Let’s talk about what to do when we have TOO MANY ideas.

Triage. I love this word. And the first time I ever heard it applied to ideas was at Picture Book Boot Camp with Jane Yolen. Jane has TOO MANY ideas. You don’t publish over 365 books without having an abundance of ideas. But daily, Jane triages her ideas so that she can focus on THE ONE. She might do this several times a day, but that’s okay. We need to rank our ideas: those that will die without our immediate attention and those which can lounge around a while, waiting for us.

But by what criteria do we make these life-and-death decisions? I’ve identified five ways. Here they are, not necessarily in order of importance.

  1. The idea with a deadline. This is often a no-brainer. You work on the project that someone else is expecting. But just like a student with a homework assignment, it isn’t always what you’re excited about working on. Still, if an editor or agent is waiting, it makes sense to put this idea on the top of the stack.
  2. The idea that won’t leave you alone. These ideas don’t like to be pushed aside. They follow you home from work. They jump in the shower with you (of all the nerve!) They lay awake at night and make sure you do, too. If you have an idea following you around like a lost pup, then you might want to give it some attention. It will LOVE YOU for it.
  3. The idea that is new and exciting. Use caution here. Sometimes the idea that is new and exciting is nothing more than a distraction. But, once in a while, that new and exciting idea is one that can’t wait. To be honest, the idea probably can wait. But your enthusiasm carries some clout. If we’re really, really into something, we’re likely to give it our best attention. If you are passionate about a new idea, at least explore it a little. You’ll know soon enough whether it’s a distraction or your new WIP.
  4. The idea that is almost done. This idea used to be new and exciting. A long time ago. When it was new. And exciting. But now it’s the WIP that has been whipping you for months or years. The thing is, it’s still good, but you gave up too quickly (likely when Miss New and Exciting showed up) and now it feels like drudgery to return to the scene of the abandonment. But, consider the time and energy you’ve already invested. If you just put in a little more time, the results might be amazing. And, even if they aren’t quite amazing, you’ll have a completed manuscript. And that has much more potential than an incomplete one.
  5. The idea that is timely.  Sometimes an idea can’t wait. As I put the finishing touches on this post, which is scheduled for April 24th, I notice that today (April 22nd) is Earth Day. I also learned that this is the 49th anniversary of Earth Day. That means next year at this time, the world will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. If I had a brilliant idea for a book plot that centered around Earth Day, next year would be the ideal time to get that book out into the world. If I had such an idea (I don’t), it would have been worth setting aside something else this past year to work on it. In fact, books that will release in the spring of 2020 have already been written, submitted, accepted, and are in the editing process right now. For some ideas, timing is everything.

Having  too many ideas may make it difficult to focus our energy on just one at a time, but look at the bright side. We’ll never run out of inspiration. We’ll write until we can’t write any longer and, perhaps, leave some ideas behind for others to explore. It’s a lovely problem to have.

If you have TOO MANY IDEAS, embrace them. And triage with confidence.

Inspiration for Famous Authors

Writers are often told to write what they know. Even if they end up writing fantasy, some of their real life often creeps into the story. I recently enjoyed a Children’s Literature Tour of England and Scotland to see the homes and work spaces of famous authors, and I was surprised to see the little details (or sometimes more) from their homes or towns that crept into their work. See if you can recognize any of these places from the books.

Lucy Boston Children of Green Knowe

Tolly arrives at Green Knowe, and this is his bedroom. He leaves his window open a little bit so a bird can fly in. Here’s the bird cage and toy chest too. The room Lucy Boston described in the book belonged to her son, Peter. They’ve kept the room the same so visitors to the house can see what it looked like long ago.








C. S. Lewis The Lion, The Witch, & the Wardrobe

When Lucy walks into the wardrobe, she heads toward a lamppost in the snow and meets a faun. When Author C. S. Lewis walked along this path in Oxford, he passed this lamppost. Can you imagine him seeing it on a snowy day? What’s even more interesting is that the porch posts on a nearby house have fauns carved into them. Could that be where he got his idea?

J. K. Rowling  Harry Potter

So many scenes in the Harry Potter books and movies are drawn from Oxford. Do these scenes from the Buttery, the Sorting Room, and the staircase look familiar? How about taking a ride on a steam train? Do you think any of these inspired J. K. Rowling?

Howard Pyle  Robin Hood

This giant oak still stands in Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire, England. Its branches are now propped up, but can you picture this mighty tree sheltering Robin Hood and his band of merry men?

Nancy Farmer  Sea of Trolls

The Holy Isle of Lindsifarne, a tidal island off the coast of England is cut off from the mainland during high tide. Visitors to the tiny town are trapped on the island until low tide. Isn’t this mysterious island the perfect setting for the Sea of Trolls trilogy?