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March 17, 2021
By Drucilla Shultz
BookLife chats with the winners and finalists of the 2019 BookLife Prize Nonfiction Contest, which were announced in spring 2020.

Title: Fierce: Essays by and about Dauntless Women

Editor: Karyn Kloumann

Authors: Nancy Agabian, Betsy Andrews, Debra Brehmer, Kara Lee Corthron, Chicava HoneyChild, Robyn Kraft, Caitlin Grace McDonnell, Leah Mueller, Meera Nair, Edissa Nicolás-Huntsman, Jessie Serfilippi, Claudia Smith, Taté Walker. Illustrated by: Anna Torbina 

Category: Memoir/Autobiography

Description: In 13 powerful, entwined biographies and memoirs, Fierce explores the lives of “masterless women” in education, entrepreneurship, religion, the armed forces, the arts, adventuring, and activism, celebrating their strengths and achievements while questioning the systems that erased the significance of their influence and importance. Along with striking frontispiece illustrations, an extensive Reader’s Guide includes book group materials and substantial writing and conversation prompts.

What the judge said: "The 13 essays in this collection are as bold and unique as the women that inspired them. The book is more than a celebration of a diverse group of activists, agitators, and iconoclasts whose lives and accomplishments have largely been ignored by history—it’s an examination of the systematic oppression that led to this erasure and continues to exclude women to this day." — Anya Yurchyshyn 

What has happened as a result of you being the Grand Prize winner for the 2019 BookLife Prize in Nonfiction?: It has been a blessing to share this recognition and reward with all of the writers, to know that their hard work is valued and appreciated by people outside of the “friends and family circle." Nauset Press has gotten more work to assist others with bringing their books to fruition.
What are you working on now?: Nauset Press has just published a book of poetry called Pandemic City by Caitlin Grace McDonnell (who also contributed an essay to FIERCE). We have two more books scheduled to be published in 2021, including another volume of poetry, Crowded by Fierce, by contributing writer Betsy Andrews, and Behind Blue Curtains by author Lizzie Hershberger. It's a true-crime memoir about a former Amish woman who was assaulted as a child within her community and managed to bring her assaulter to justice. Other FIERCE writers are publishing, too!
What’s one tip that you have for other indie authors? Always hire a copyeditor and a proofreader if you are serious about your writing and want to make a good impression on your readers. Writers always complain about the cost before they do it, but they never regret it afterwards!


 Title: Your Living Legacy: How Your Parenting Style Shapes the Future for You and Your Child 

Author:  Shelli Chosak

Category: Self-Help & Relationships

Author bio: Chosak has a Master’s in Clinical Psychology, a Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology, and a California license in Marriage and Family Therapy. She maintained a psychotherapy practice in Los Angeles for 25 years and served as a consultant to the L.A. Superior Court Family Mediation Division for over 10 years. She also served on the California State Task force on Parenting and Families, and was a delegate to the White House Conference on Families.  

Description: Your Living Legacy is about empowering parents to become more self-aware and confident in guiding their children to become emotionally healthy and successful adults. The book’s central focus describes 20 different parenting styles. Self-assessments enable the reader to identify their personal style and evaluate the impact on the child’s development as well as the parent-child relationship. 

What the critic's report said: Chosak’s book is "relatable and enduring," and added that the book "stands apart from other guides aimed at conscientious parents, through its broad-ranging and comprehensive content." 

What has happened as a result of you being named a finalist in the 2019 BookLife Prize in Nonfiction?:
 It has given me additional credibility and a higher sales ranking on Amazon due to social media promotion. I was also impressed with the book review and judging process at BookLife. It was more professional and thorough than other contests I’ve entered—and received awards for.
What are you working on now?  I’m writing a second book as well as monthly blogs on self-empowerment.
What’s one tip that you have for other indie authors? Being an indie author has many advantages, including more control over the editing, content, and publishing of my book, as well as the freedom to decide and develop my own marketing plan. Most importantly, getting recognition and sales will not happen without a thoughtful, well-designed marketing plan, and the willingness to be persistent.

Title: What Is Water?: How Young Leaders Can Thrive in an Uncertain World

Author: Kayvan Kian

Category: Business/Personal Finance

Description: We live in a world that feels increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. For young people, the sense of unease this world creates comes with serious difficulties. Many are asking: how can you lead, grow, and thrive in today's world?

In What is Water?, Kian shifts the focus away from this overwhelm and toward ways of thinking that will help you grow stronger through it all. Drawing on everything from ancient Stoic philosophy to contemporary examples, Kayvan delivers an approach for dealing with our world that is simple, pragmatic, and easily transferable to teams, families, and communities. You are not alone in this struggle, and with this book, you'll be empowered with a strong sense of choice in life, no matter what kind of situations come your way.

 Author bio: Kayvan Kian is an entrepreneur, teacher, and senior advisor to McKinsey & Company in Amsterdam. He is the founder of the Young Leaders Forum, and has given guest lectures at Harvard Business School, HEC, Sciences Po, and other schools. Ever since childhood, he has been interested in understanding how some people are able to thrive through challenging times in life, and he hopes that by sharing these hard-fought lessons with each other, we can make this world a better place. He holds an MBA from INSEAD and a degree in both Economics and Law from the Erasmus University Rotterdam.

What the judge said: "'This book contains exactly zero new ideas.' It's a bold statement for Kian to make in the introduction to his book. Admittedly, I liked the honesty. So many works in writing and art are just repackaged and recycled ideas. Heck, I'm a personal finance writer and there's really nothing new you can say about moneyjust slightly nuanced ways to present the information. That's exactly what Kian is doing in this book. He's packaged and blended many strategies for you to use in order to progress in your own lifeprofessionally or personally. At first blush, a lot of the content here may strike readers as far too self-help focused. A genre so often dismissed. Spending time deep thinking and challenging the way you'd normally perceive situations, even if it does tie into the self, is time well spent." — Erin Lowry

What has happened as a result of you being named a finalist in the 2019 BookLife Prize in Nonfiction?:

It was wonderful to see the book reach such a wide audience, and the message resonate with so many readers. After being named finalist, I decided to focus even more on helping young leaders through these challenging times. In addition to the book, there are now also podcasts, articles, and even various (online) programs that young leaders can attend on leading in an uncertain world.

What are you working on now? I’m currently finishing a series of articles on what young leaders can learn from philosophers, ranging from Aristotle (on finding meaning in difficult times) to Kant (on gaining the courage to think for yourself) to Nietzsche (on living a regret-free life). In addition, I’ve started a series on what young leaders can learn about making better decisions in complex systems.

What’s one tip that you have for other indie authors? Don’t get too distracted by what others who are not your audience think about your work. And don’t forget to enjoy the act of creating something that no one else other than you can do.


Title: Finding Hildegard: Healing Through Medieval Wisdom

Author: Gregg Koskela​

Category: Spirituality/Inspirational

Description: Each day, it seems another Christian institution or leader breaks our trust, raising questions about whether faith is an asset or a liability for living today. Looking for wisdom and a perspective on faith that has stood the test of time, Koskela found Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179)—a remarkable medieval woman who experienced the living vitality of God in all of creation. Her mystical visions are wild, but her faith is rooted in the gritty earth, seeing in the incarnation of Jesus an antidote to our modern tendency to separate the spiritual from the physical world. Hildegard reminds us that though institutions and relationships break, God is still worth seeking. Koskela weaves his own experience with her life and words, honestly sharing his own journey toward finding this God who Hildegard makes so life giving.

Author bio: After spending decades as a pastor, I no longer have that as my job. Our faith community shattered, and I'm still unraveling the shrapnel. Over the last year I've immersed myself in the writings of women from the middle ages, mystics like Hildegard of Bingen who have grounded me and given me new (and ancient) spiritual life. After taking a spiritual retreat in the place of her birth and life in Germany, I've written a book about what she’s teaching me.

What the judge said: "I found Finding Hildegard to be engaging, informative, and inspiring. It's a beautifully written memoir that would appeal to everyone from the faith skeptic to the devoutly faithful. Koskela masterfully weaves his story of finding his own life uprooted with that of a medieval female saint and the result is an insightful, vulnerable, and honest look at spirituality and God. Most of us have felt disillusionment with the church and will find Koskela's honesty refreshing and inspiring as it leads us to dig deeper into our own faith and relationship with God." Melanie Shankle

What has happened as a result of you being named a finalist in the 2019 BookLife Prize in Nonfiction?:  I really appreciated the feedback from Melanie Shankle. It was a long time goal to have a review in Publishers Weekly, and that happened as a result of this contest. It was also great to see some sales from the ads created by BookBaby, one of the prizes for being a finalist.

What are you working on now? 

I working on a memoir of my grandfather called Finding Papa. I knew Robert Buster Keethler as Papa. My grandfather was a U.S. Postal Service letter carrier, a WWII veteran, a perfect example of the “everyman” of the Greatest Generation. Unfailingly kind, hauntingly quiet, I’ve wanted to tell his story for a very long time. But as I’ve uncovered pieces of his life, I’ve found there is deep pain that he just tried to bury. The alcoholism and dementia of his last years remind us burying doesn’t work. So the journey of writing his story has pushed me to vulnerability and truth—to exploring in my own life how and why I choose to live differently, openly.

What’s one tip that you have for other indie authors? Everything they say is true: promotion is the most challenging part of the journey. Focus first on being true to yourself as you write; create the best work that you can. Then, follow the advice on promotion and take deep breaths and do it! I’m working right now on recording my own audiobook, and hoping that releasing that will be another way to generate interest in the book.