Monday, July 16, 2018

Developing a Champion's Mindset - A Guest Post by Dr. Harold Shinitzky

This month, Fabulous Florida Writers is pleased to welcome guest blogger Dr. Harold Shinitzky. Dr. Shinitzky is a licensed psychologist and former Director of Preventive Services at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine's Department of Pediatrics. He has been the mental health correspondent for Animal Planet, Radio Disney, ABC and Fox Television in Tampa. He is also the co-author of "Your Mind - An Owner's Manual for a Better Life" and "Take Control of Your Anxiety - A Drug-Free Approach to Living a Happy, Healthy Life." His latest book, "A Champion's Mindset - 15 Mental Conditioning Steps to Becoming a Champion Athlete," will be released on July 27, 2018. Dr. Shinitzky was our featured writer on January 17, 2012.

Imagine your most intense moment in life.  Remember back to that time when you felt your heart pounding, muscles tightening and worst fears staring you in the face.  It could have been when you asked your now spouse out on the very first date.  It could have been when you were standing up in front of the board of directors pitching your strategy. For the individuals I consult with, it could have been when they were confronted with a long putt for the Masters Tournament in golf, throwing a pass to win the Super Bowl or landing a triple twisting jump on the ice during the winter Olympics.  
 
For nearly thirty years, I have been consulting with elite athletes and people just like you who are dealing with their own version of a championship moment.  Throughout nearly three decades, I have been asked to share the secrets top athletes use to manage their stress.  Over the past few years I have synthesized the techniques I utilize with champion athletes into a user-friendly book which could invariably help you manage your own challenges.  The same skills, strategies and techniques employed by my top athletes can now be yours. 
 
One of my golfers who qualified for a Pro-Am tournament would uncharacteristically begin to putt poorly when he was playing on the final holes for the title.  During the competition he would question everything he did.  Self-doubt would creep in.  Suddenly, this gifted athlete felt the pressure of the situation. In reality, he possessed the necessary skills to be successful.  However, his mindset became his nemesis.  

You can probably relate to what he was going through.  You go from being on top of the world to crumbling like a Jenga structure.  You become consumed with the gravity of the moment.  You start focusing on everything external to the task at hand.  Performance anxiety kicks in.  You start talking negatively to yourself.  “Don’t miss this putt.” “I can’t tell if it will roll to the left or to the right.” “Don’t choke in front of everyone!”

Here is a fun mental exercise to attempt. Try not to think of a big purple elephant. Ok, now what are you thinking about? Yup, that’s right - a large mulberry pachyderm. Your brain will focus on exactly what you focus on even if it is negative.  I tell my elite golfers, “You CANNOT tell your brain what NOT to focus on.”  Champion athletes deactivate their brains just before they engage in any competitive action.  Helping pros and amateurs alike to quiet their internal chatter is vital to taking their game to the next level.

I grew up in an athletic family in a suburb of Chicago, Illinois.  My father was a talented swimmer and football and basketball player.  In my mind, he possessed the talent only gods on Olympus could master.  We lived up the street from my elementary school which had a massive open field area.  That stretch of green became the foundation for all my childhood championship fantasies.  I had caught the go-ahead pass in football when diving over a muddy patch of grass, hit the winning home run on the dirt baseball field of my imaginary world series and perfected my free throws at my “stadium” school parking lot.  I loved sports and could not get enough of them.  My great uncle Manny Schwartz was the director of parks and rec for the Chicago Park District (parenthetically, he helped start the special Olympics).  He got me sideline access to watch the Chicago Bears compete against their vaunted enemies, the iconic coach Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers with Bart Starr and Paul Hornung and the “Purple People Eaters” Minnesota Vikings coached by Bud Grant with Fran Tarkenton and Alan Page.  Watching the Chicago Cubs play in the friendly confines of Wrigley Field and always giving it their best effort only to come up perennially short led to the eventual refrain, “Wait till next year.”  Eventually, I tasted victories with the Bobby Hull Blackhawks in hockey and the Michael Jordan Bulls in basketball.  

Playing sports with my buddies was a common after-school activity.  There was a group of young studs waiting for their turn to shine on a black top playing hoops or an open field playing football.  We learned about leadership, communication and teamwork.  We learned how to handle defeat gracefully and victory with humility.  The lessons acquired in these pick-up games would last a lifetime.  

Though I loved competing in all sports, tennis was my claim to fame.  I was fortunate to be a teaching pro in Chicago. Later, after earning my doctorate in clinical psychology and while on the faculty at the Johns Hopkins University, School of Medicine, I was the captain of their competitive tennis team.  I was also the director of Prevention Services in the Department of Pediatrics. I created Project Champions Youth Resilience and Prevention Program.  My goal was to help keep kids out of trouble.  I was able to use these same prevention skills from Project Champions with athletes, teams, coaches and the athletes’ parents.  It was common to hear the request for my presentations when I spoke to college teams.  When I conduct corporate training and peak performance with executives they often ask if I have published the training materials.

Parents are frequently asking me for tips to help their budding future champion.  Sometimes the parents tell me their child gets too emotional. Other times parents want to know the secrets champions have developed. There are several things as a parent you can do to help your kids become their best. I shared some of these when I conducted the keynote address at the Madeira Beach Recreational Center for their inaugural baseball and softball leagues. First, if you are a parent who has been kicked out of a game because you became too emotional, you might want to consider looking in the mirror.  We all know at least one parent at every game who is screaming, yelling and over-reacting.  If this describes you, you are role modelling the very behavior you wish your child would control.  As I said during the keynote, “Remember, the players are kids, the coaches are volunteers, the umpires are human, and you probably don’t play for the Yankees.” 


If you want to help your child become their best, you need to consider role modelling sportsmanship, teamwork, work ethic, having fun, doing your best and maintaining perspective.  While your child develops the sport specific skills, physical capabilities and mindset, you should provide the 4 A’s of Love: Attention, Affection, Acceptance and Approval.  Spend quality time with your child, let them know how much you cherish and love them, celebrate their individuality and support the dreams and long-term goals. Start with the 4 A’s of Love and the rest will come. If your child is already at a highly competitive amateur level, there are two vital steps to help continue their progress: Improve their skills, and decrease their errors.  As an amateur, the athlete who commits the fewest errors usually wins. Also, making too many errors prevents elite athletes from reaching the pinnacle of their sport.

It has been a joy and pleasure to organize my clinical interventions, educational materials and share these key points with entertaining real-life stories from the athletes I have coached into my latest book, A Champion’s Mindset: 15 Mental Conditioning Steps to Becoming a Champion Athlete.  There was so much material I had to cut over 150 pages out. My goal for A Champion’s Mindset was to focus on the steps leading up to becoming an elite athlete. I have all my athletes practice and rehearse the fifteen mental conditioning steps as part of our work together.  

Most frustrated athletes become overwhelmed during local pick-up games.  Even competitive amateur club champions realize there is another level of skill that separates them from the top professional competitors.  Yet, surprisingly, amateur athletes can benefit from these same mental conditioning steps to help them on and off the field of play. Parents of elite athletes constantly tell me in sessions with their children, “I wish I would have been taught these things when I was their age.”  As a Sports Psychologist I have learned the earlier someone learns these steps in their growth as an athlete, the more successful they will be in their competitive career.

When I conduct corporate training, one of the most requested series of presentations I offer is titled, “The Millionaire Mindset.”  This four-part series addresses evidence-based business strategies that have proven bottom-line economic benefits.  I conducted this series at Morgan Stanley Wealth Management and the results were statistically significant in changing knowledge and attitude of their advisors.  We take traditional corporate training and spin it with sports examples, stories and skill development exercises. I have been told this is a much more fun and entertaining way to receive corporate training.

My hope is for athletes, coaches and parents of future hall of famers to learn these key mental skills that professional and Olympic athletes have developed and begin to use them both on and off the field of play.


For a copy of A Champion’s Mindset: 15 Mental Conditioning Steps to Becoming a Champion Athlete, go to www.amazon.com/dp/B07DD7RKTY for a paperback, eBook or audio version.
If you would like more information about Dr. Harold Shinitzky go to his website, www.drshinitzky.com or call him at 727-560-2697.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Patricia Lorenz - The Art of Living Joyfully


After her 57-year-old mother died of Lou Gehrig’s Disease, Largo writer Patricia Lorenz decided to memorialize her in a story. “Eighty percent of writers start after a death because they need catharsis,” she says. “I didn’t want to write another ‘Dead Grandma’ story. My mother was funny, and I wanted the world to know her sense of humor.” So Lorenz wrote a short piece titled “The Baggy Yellow Shirt” and decided to submit it to Guideposts, a magazine that features inspirational stories. This decision changed her life.

Born and raised in Illinois, Lorenz graduated from Southern Illinois University with a bachelor’s degree in English. She took a job with an advertising agency and spent 16 years writing ads for radio stations. “I wrote about 40,000 radio commercials,” she says. It taught me how to say a lot in 60 seconds.” Then, in 1982, her story won the Guideposts contest. “They flew me to New York and put me up in a mansion,” she recalls. “I met Norman Vincent Peale, Sue Monk Kidd, Marjorie Holmes, and many other famous authors. They taught me how to write for Guideposts.” Lorenz became so skilled that she began selling her stories to Guideposts and other publications.

In 1992, Lorenz received a phone call from Jack Canfield, a co-founder of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. He’d read “The Baggy Yellow Shirt” in Reader’s Digest and asked permission to use the story in his second Chicken Soup book. This began a long relationship with the series. To date, Lorenz has had more than 85 of her stories included in 60 Chicken Soup books.

Despite her professional success, Lorenz was less successful in her personal life. After two failed marriages, she found herself a single mother struggling to raise four children. “I always thought I’d have the perfect life, but it didn’t work out that way,” she explains. “I was standing in the wrong line when God gave out the husband-hunting gene.” She decided to share her joys and trials in a book she hoped would resonate with other parents raising kids without partners, and in 1996, her first full-length book, Stuff That Matters for Single Parents” hit bookstores. Since then, Lorenz has penned 14 books and more than 400 magazine and newspaper articles, essays and stories. She is also an award-winning newspaper columnist and a contributing writer for Daily Guideposts books. 

Lorenz’s latest book, 57 Steps to Paradise, chronicles her search for love in middle age. She admits that it was the hardest book for her to write because “I had to unzip my soul and expose so much about my foibles.” But she believes this is what will connect with readers. “I learned early that readers don’t like perfection,” she says. “They like to read about screw-ups. When I screwed up, I knew there were millions like me. My take-away message is there’s a way to get through the junk in life.”

Lorenz has just completed what she describes as “a Catholic memoir” titled Slogging My Way to Heaven. She is also finishing a 365-day devotional, Grabbing on for Dear Life with Grit, Gusto and Grace. She hopes readers will enjoy what she calls “the humorous bent” with which she approaches otherwise serious subjects. “There’s not one person that doesn’t struggle,” she says. “As writers, we identify with human struggles. And all our struggles make us strong, more compassionate, more forgiving, more aware of our blessings, and much more interesting.”

Lorenz plans to continue following her dreams while she’s still awake, writing and doing as much traveling as possible. “I have always loved Benjamin Franklin’s quote, ‘Write things worth reading or do things worth writing.’  For me, traveling and experiencing the human condition help me find things worth writing.” 

Patricia Lorenz is a sought-after professional speaker.  If you or your club, church or organization would like to hire her as a speaker, contact her at patricialorenz4@gmail.com or visit her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/WriterSpeakerPainter/

Friday, June 15, 2018

The Heretic of Granada - A Guest Post by Dr. David Edmonds


This month, Fabulous Florida Writers is pleased to welcome guest blogger Dr. David Edmonds. His first book, Yankee Autumn in Acadiana, won the top literary award of the Louisiana Library Association. His thriller, Lily of Peru and the Spanish version (Lirio del Peru) is the recipient of numerous first or second-place literary awards, including three International Latino Book Awards for fiction.
The Girl in the Glyphs, a romantic thriller he co-authored with his late wife Maria Nieves Edmonds, received a Royal Palm Literary Award from the Florida Writers' Association and a first-place International Latino Book Award for fiction. His latest novel, The Heretic of  Granada, has also won a Royal Palm Literary Award.
Thank you, Jackie Minniti, for giving Florida writers the opportunity to showcase our works on your “Fabulous Florida Writers” Blog. I’m honored to be in such illustrious company.
I’m also happy to announce that my latest book, The Heretic of Granada, is finally available. I started it several years ago as a spin-off from The Girl in the Glyphs, an archaeological thriller about a Smithsonian specialist in Mayan writing who goes to Nicaragua in search of a mysterious “glyph” cave.

Heretic was delayed, sadly, by the illness and subsequent passing of my beautiful wife, Maria.

The publisher is Southern Yellow Pine Publishing (SYP), a small press in Tallahassee that promotes Southern authors of fiction and non-fiction throughout the southeast. I was on the verge of signing with a much larger publishing house in New York until I received the SYP offer. The clincher was their line-up of talented authors. Almost all have received prestigious literary awards.

Heretic is my third award-winning thriller set in Latin America and/or the Caribbean. Unlike the others, Lily of Peru and The Girl in the Glyphs, which were either based on, or inspired by, my experiences in Latin America, Heretic is set in the days of the Spanish Inquisition and Caribbean piracy. No, I wasn’t alive back then, though I did spend considerable time in all the colonial settings—Granada (Nicaragua), Cartagena (Colombia), Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic), San Juan (Puerto Rico) and Lake Nicaragua.

The back cover blurb gives a pretty good idea of what the story is about.

Father Antonio wasn’t the first priest to take up with a beautiful Indian girl on a secluded island near Granada, Nicaragua. He wasn’t the first priest to have a library of banned books either. But it’s too much for the Church when he tries to protect an Indian holy site from zealots who want to destroy it. 

He escapes on the day he is to be burned for heresy and is chased across the Spanish Main by the Spanish army, agents of the Inquisition, Caribbean pirates, and even bounty hunters. He’s determined to return to Nicaragua and destroy the evil men who murdered his Indian wife and children, and nothing is going to stop him, not hurricanes, not a Gypsy ghost, and not a brutal war between England and Spain (the War of Jenkin’s Ear).

His quest is further complicated by a young woman named Molly, who he saves from the pirates. But Molly has a secret, like a chest of stolen treasure and the Englishman who loves her. The pirates want her back. So does the Englishman. Father Antonio isn’t about to give her up. He’s in love, and the chase continues…


I’m often asked how it was that a Jesuit priest like Father Antonio, who took a vow of celibacy, had a native wife and children. It wasn’t that unusual in colonial days. Priests were stuck for years in remote places and often cohabited with the locals. I’ve been in jungle villages where a number of the bare-footed kids looked just like the padre.

Another frequent question is where I got the idea for a priest on the run from the Inquisition. Part of the answer is that when I worked in Nicaragua in the early 1990s I often stayed at the Hotel Alhambra in the beautiful colonial city of Granada. The hotel was a government building in colonial times and also housed condemned prisoners. It faces the plaza where zealots destroyed native idols of worship and where heretics, pirates and criminals came to an unpleasant end. It was also the scene of bloody fighting in Nicaragua’s civil war and was still scarred and pocked in the early 90s. Several chapters in both The Girl in the Glyphs (1990s) and The Heretic of Granada (1740s) are set at that location.

The other source of inspiration came from my participation in an expedition to locate a jungle cave that had once been a Mayan jade mine and a hideout for Sandinista soldiers. It may sound romantic, but it was not. My memories center mostly around jungle foliage, rain, sweltering heat, hostile natives, mosquitoes, snakes, narrow trails, a nasty stinging nettles plant called chichicaste, and a constant fear of attack from militants with machetes and AK-47s.

When I related the story to Maria, who would later become my wife, she encouraged me to write a fictionalized version, but with a female lead character. We plotted the story together and came up with The Girl in the Glyphs. In that novel, the lead character, Jennifer, discovers the cave only because of her earlier discovery and translation from the Catal├ín of Father Antonio’s written account of his adventures. We also changed the location from mountainous jungle to a beautiful tropical island in the middle of Lake Nicaragua. Additionally, Jennifer’s cave—unlike mine—had once been a place of native worship and a burial site for Father Antonio’s purloined pirate gold (all I found was bat guano).

The original title of title of Father Antonio’s manuscript, in the tradition of lengthy descriptive titles of the time, was:  

Journal of a Voyage through the Spanish Main

A Personal Account of my Escape from the Inquisition in the time of

The War of Jenkins Ear

And my Encounters with Hurricanes, Agents of the Holy Church, English Warships, Flame-throwing Zambos, and Spirits of the Underworld, and my Adventures with Pirates of the Caribbean

by

Father Antonio Escofet, S.J.


Jennifer shortened the title to The Heretic of Granada and submitted it to a publisher. Although the story is fiction, the historical backdrop of Caribbean piracy, native uprisings, superstition, colonial rule, the Spanish Inquisition, the hostility between Catalonian and Castilian Spaniards, and the brutal war between England and Spain (the War of Jenkins' Ear) is authentic. 

Most of the cathedrals, fortresses, convents, seawalls, and other colonial structures depicted in Heretic are still extant.

Finally, I’d like to end this blog with a thought for my fellow writers.

Most of you are familiar with the saying, “Well-behaved women rarely make history.” The same could be said about lead characters in a novel. There’s not a big audience for a character who’s always logical, rational, never takes chances, never gets into trouble, or does anything dangerous, bold, stupid, or out of the ordinary.

Don’t take my word for it. Think of the great characters of literature and film—Madame Bovary, Scarlett O’Hara, Thelma and Louise, Ana Karenina. Would we care about those characters if they’d followed the rules? Would we be intrigued? Would we even have heard of them?

And how about Father Antonio? If he’d remained a devout priest, doing what priests were supposed to do, he would never have stood up to the fanatics who wanted to destroy a native place of worship. He wouldn’t have been dragged before a court of the Holy Inquisition and sentenced to death by burning. There wouldn’t have been a life-threatening chase across the Caribbean, or entanglement with pirates. No book about him either.

The point is don’t let your characters fall into the well-behaved pit. If you can’t bring yourself to have them do something daring, dangerous or otherwise out of the ordinary, at least plunge them into a difficult situation and let them struggle to get out of it.