Many of the most successful authors I work with have attended Harvard Medical School’s writing and publishing course.
And you may have read my recent interview with the course director Julie Silver, MD, who shared many of the areas that the course is branching out into, such as writing and publishing op/eds, podcasting and how to ramp up your speaking career.
In today’s post, I interview past attendee Carla Naumburg, PhD, author of How to Stop Losing Your S**t with Your Kids, and three other excellent books on parenting. Enjoy Dr. Naumburg’s insights on the power of this course for those wishing to write and publish a book in the health, psychology, parenting or self-help fields, in particular.
Carla Naumburg, PhD on goals and takeaways from Harvard Medical School CME Publishing Course
Lisa: What initially brought you to the Harvard Medical School CME Publishing course?
Dr. Naumburg: I had never before seen a writing course specifically geared towards clinicians. I had been to a number of conferences for clinicians, as well as those for writers, but never both at once!
Lisa: What was your biggest surprise going into it?
Dr. Naumburg: It was refreshing to spend time with other authors (and aspiring authors) of evidence-based self-help books. It was inspiring and energizing to be with kindred spirits.
Lisa: What are three of the biggest takeaways you got from that course?
Self-help books matter. They help people in very real and meaningful ways.
Writers need to take themselves seriously, and we need to share our writing with others as often as possible.
I learned a variety of ways for utilizing social media to make connections with other writers and get the word out about my writing.
Lisa: I think you touch on such important aspects of what a writer needs—community, support and then the very specific strategies for success. The writing and publishing course really delivers in all three areas. You’re surrounded by smart people, you get to meet and get feedback from agents, publishers, freelancers, book coaches—a whole variety of professionals. And there’s so much you’re exposed t0. It’s a real crash course in the publishing industry and online media. How many times have you attended (and why)?
Dr. Naumburg: I’ve been to the conference twice. I went back for ongoing learning, as well as support and connection with other writers.
Lisa: What advice do you have for someone looking to write and publishing a health book, or write articles or start a blog in the medical field?
Dr. Naumburg: Get yourself support, from the folks at a conference like this one, and from professionals! Such support can make a huge difference in helping you to take the first step, and ultimately having some significant success.
Dr. Naumburg: The course inspired me to continue working on my books even after I was feeling frustrated with the process! In addition, the course introduced me to you, and you were instrumental in helping me revise my book proposal for How to Stop Losing Your Sh*t With Your Kids.
Finding Voice in Writing
Lisa: It was such a fun project to work on. I love your voice and I think it’s one reason your books do so well—you possess a strong voice that’s both authoritative and warm, humorous and vulnerable. Readers feel we’re having a conversation with you as a guide who “gets us.” Anyone looking to write a parenting book or other self-help book would do well to study how you blend these qualities to deliver a tone that gives readers what they need and stays authentic.
I wanted to point out, too, that some of your excellent advice to parents, specifically from the chapter on, “Shit You Have to Do if You Don’t Want to Lose Your Shit” applies well to writing a book. You tell parents to take care of themselves to avoid triggers. Get plenty of sleep. Do one thing at a time, rather than attempting to multitask. Respect your boundaries. Every one of those tips will help you write a book!
Did any particular workshops stand out for you at the course?
Dr. Naumberg: I found the advanced workshop on how to write a book proposal immensely helpful in getting direction, clarity, and straightforward advice on how to write and revise my proposal. It was excellent. Also, Rusty Shelton’s social media presentations and Susan Aiello’s instruction on verbs.
Lisa: Susan and I share a passion for verbs. I first learned about the power of verbs from the late Frank Conroy who served as the Director of the Iowa Writers Workshop for decades immediately after I studied with him. He consistently advocated for specificity in verb use as the way to make your writing sing. I still hear his voice in my head when I edit. I like to tell writers, “Verbs are Your Superpower” as a writer. Adverbs, on the other hand, can be your kryptonite!
Is there anything else you’d like to say about Harvard Medical School’s writing and publishing course?
Dr. Naumburg: Yes, I highly recommend this course for academics and clinicians looking to break into the world of popular writing and blogging. It was incredibly helpful to me!
Carla Naumburg, PhD, is a writer, speaker, and clinical social worker. She is the author of three parenting books: the bestselling How to Stop Losing Your Sh*t With Your Kids (Workman, 2019), Ready, Set, Breathe: Practicing Mindfulness with Your Children for Fewer Meltdowns and a More Peaceful Family (New Harbinger, 2015), and Parenting in the Present Moment: How to Stay Focused on What Really Matters (Parallax, 2014). Carla has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, CNN, and Mindful Magazine, among other places. Carla lives outside of Boston with her husband, daughters, and two totally insane cats.
Lisa Tener is an award-winning book writing coach who assists writers in all aspects of the writing process—from writing a book proposal and getting published to finding one’s creative voice. Her clients have appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, CBS Early Show, The Montel Williams Show, CNN, Fox News, New Morning and much more. They blog on sites like The Huffington Post, Psychology Today and WebMD.
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