Today, I spoke to Kathryn Hall, who is an internationally known book publicist, and author of the forthcoming book Plant Whatever Brings You Joy: Blessed Wisdom from the Garden. In this interview, Kathryn talks about her book, things we can learn from nature, how to stay focused and not spread yourself too thin, cleaning up negative publicity, and she shares secrets for getting media attention.
How did you come up with the name for your new book, “Plant Whatever Brings You Joy”?
Plant Whatever Brings You Joy is one of the 52 metaphors or lessons on which my book is built. All the metaphors were garnered by working in gardens over a period of years. As I worked in the various gardens I created I always had a mind to be answering the question, “What is this garden teaching me that also applies to my life in general?” Since the garden is a place responding to the organic wiring of the planet it seemed like a healthy and wise exercise to be engaged in. I also found it enormously entertaining to do this, a kind of intellectual and spiritual practice full of heart. Planting whatever brings you joy was one of the obvious observations I arrived at, and it lended itself to being the flagship lesson for the book. It is also the name of my blog which currently is one of the top gardening blogs in the world and welcomes over 37,000 visitors each month from around the world!
There is an intrinsic rhythm and balance in the natural world that is built upon thousands and thousands of years of evolution, literally. And as much as we unwittingly work at forgetting that fact, the truth is we are part of that system. The more we return to our essential roots, working in the earth, observing the earth, caring for the earth, the more we are likely to begin to build a bond which has been tragically broken, most likely with the advent of the Industrial Revolution, which, of course, was very exciting for humans, but unfortunately we threw out the baby with the bathwater.
Notice we are now scrambling to reintegrate what our Grandparents knew and we rejected learning. We can’t face tragedies like the Gulf Oil Disaster and the current economic climate and not notice that we have to start making new life choices, like growing our own food, buying locally to stop the expensive transfer of goods that are out of season and not in keeping with our own environmental needs, cooking at home, canning and drying foods and using less energy! Nature is a balm to our hearts and minds and souls.
We don’t have to wait to “go vacation” or for a weekend hike to tap into it and be restored by it. We can get into the practice of going outside in the early morning before our neighbors are up and about and taking in the quiet, filling ourselves up with the stillness, the wisdom, the fresh air our bodies need to energize us for the demands of the day. Even better if you are working on a garden! And in that quiet eventually we will find the treasure of all treasures: the ability to hear the still small voice within that will lead us on the path of our own highest good towards our own unique destinies. Yes, really.
Setting healthy boundaries is one of the challenges of being human. We all have this lesson and we all will learn to master this differently. Your attention is energy. Wherever you put your attention, you will get more of that back,be it the amount of attention you put on food, exercise, television, work or play. So the first step is to begin to take notice about where you put your solid gold attention. You may have to keep a journal to do this effectively. Then once you become better aware of how you are spending your time (really–as in, dead honest) you have the beginnings of being able to make a more conscious choice about whether that really is how you want to spend your energy, which is limited, like your life.
How were you planning on spending your life? If you are one of those folks who is very very clear about what you want and how you want to be spending your energy you might need to ask yourself if your life is balanced. In the Native American tradition each of the four directions means something. The direction of north is rest. In order to have a balanced life and not be overextended one must have rest. I used to have an issue with doing n othing. I learned to tell my inner critic when I chose to do nothing that I was “doing North.” It worked.
Another issue for folks who might be biting off more than they can chew is that they simply have not learned to say no. Usually the person who can not readily say no has a very strong Pleaser archetype in their personalities. It’s not easy to disengage from the Pleaser, maybe because he or she is “so nice.” There are a lot of “strokes” for being a pleaser coming from the outside. But eventually this imbalance catches up with the person being run by this part of him or herself and the day will come when self love becomes the binding commitment and that works wonders!
If you get negative publicity, how do you clean it up?
Switching hats to publicity–I’d say it’s imperative to manage what one puts out into the world from the outset. This requires asking oneself what one’s intention is, intrinsically. If one has a pure intention one is much less likely to attract “negative publicity.” The Dutch say, “In the seed is the tree.” If you are putting yourself out into the public and it’s coming back “negatively” you might ask yourself about the form in which the message was put out into the media world.
When I’m really stuck I take a couple of steps backward and reflect. Then ultimately I rely on the teachings I learned from a very wise teacher I had in grad school who said, “Show up. Pay attention. Tell the truth. And don’t be attached to outcome.” That will pretty much get your through anything. I suppose another good resource if one is trying to “clean something up” might come from the wise words of the I Ching, which counsels, “The best way to fight evil is to make energetic progress in the good.” So in the situation you are describing, I’d get busy.
Again, I believe that the secret to true success with the media is to put something out there that the world needs. Add value. So the very first step is in the very first building block. What is your intention? If your intention is to “make a lot of money,” spare us. If your intention is to be of service (even if you do happen to make a lot of money!) and to offer something you truly believe will make the experience of life on earth (including all its creations) a better place to be, i.e., you’re leaving it better than you found it, then I think that’s the very best prescriptive for approaching the media. Mind you, you might be ahead of your time. The first book I promoted over thiry years ago was Shakti Gawain’s book Creative Visualization. The only folks in the media who had a clue what I was talking about were the Olympic trainers I found in CO. Everyone else pretty much thought I was a loony.
Now that book has sold millions of copies and has been translated into countless languages. Shakti made a difference. In my early years as a book publicist I was often promoting books that had not mainstreamed yet. It’s important to remember that the media are people, individuals. So in promoting books you really just need to find that person, regardless of what publication he or she may be working for, who gets you and your book. Building relationships with these people is critical to the success of any media campaign. But you can’t be attached to where or with whom you might find that connection. In my experience it’s often a big surprise.
Kathryn Hall is an internationally known book publicist, who has spent the major part of over three decades promoting books designed to make a difference, expressed in her popular tagline, “Changing the world one book at a time.” Kathryn is also a writer, a passionate gardener, a devoted mother, a keen Nature observer and an animal lover. She holds a B.A. in English from Kent State University and did graduate work in the field of Social and Cultural Anthro-pology at California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco. She was the contributing health writer for The Financial Times Guide to Business Travel (Financial Times/Prentice Hall, London). Her articles have appeared in Bird Watcher’s Digest, the San Francisco Business Times, and Journal for Quality and Participation. She is the author of the forthcoming book Plant Whatever Brings You Joy: Blessed Wisdom from the Garden. Kathryn is a member of the Garden Writers Association of America and of Northern California Book Publicists and Marketing Association for whom she wrote a column called “The Publicist’s Journey.”