Michael Willard, writer, painter, columnist, entrepreneur
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Books: Having Something to Say

I started out writing fiction. Most American writers want to be one of three and maybe a combination of all three: Hemmingway, Steinbeck and Faulkner. I was and am no different, though Sinclair Lewis also enters my collage.

After a series of unpublished short stories, I launched into a series of unpublished novels-nearly four in all. My first, "The Old Man Who Walked So Far", was to be an allegorical short story for my son Rob at age five. It was finished 600 pages later. That was nearly 30 years ago.

Doubleday took a rather good look at it as a favor of a friend, Patrick Anderson, who was among the house's authors in the late 1970s. They passed, saying it lacked the inevitable "suspension of disbelief". They encouraged me to write another, more commercial.

A year later I shipped to them "Shadow of Doubt", a grimy detective story filled with sex and violence. They said they liked my first book better. This led me to conclude that instead of writing fiction and non-fiction, that I write trash and non-trash.

When I came to Ukraine, I immediately launched into "A Thief Wears A Burning Hat", another detective story set in Ukraine and Washington, D.C. I really didn't try that hard to publish it, though tossed it in the direction of several agents.

 I was nearly through another fiction work, "The Legacy of Moon Pie Jefferson" when I came to the conclusion that making it as a fiction writer and paying the bills is extremely difficult. From time to time, I pick up on another novel or revisit Moon Pie-but not seriously.

I turned toward non-fiction, writing about my work, my life, and my thoughts on management, in 1998. "The Silverback Diaries: A Level Playing Field is for Suckers" is my latest effort, out in June, 2008.


The Silverback Diaries: The Manager as Hero 

"The Silverback Diaries" really isn't about a Silverback. So, that's a semi-lie.  It is about management and since it seems every business book needs a metaphor, I tossed in a gorilla.  It also isn't really a diary, more a series of essays penned over time.

I started the book while on holiday in England four years ago. Usually, I am a quick writer, but this one took a while being born, and I changed it often. It was not the usual sustained forced march that characterized my other efforts.

In "Diaries", I take a look at what I think is wrong with management today, and attempt-yes, even through humor-to tidy up the room a bit. I take on such issues as timeliness, hourly billing, flex time (the 24-hour workday) and language fraud.

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The Portfolio Bubble: Surviving Professionally at 60

This is not really a book for geezers who don't aspire to retire. It is a recognition that many of us cannot retire, and, it's a bonus if we don't want to retire. In it, I discuss the very vulnerable "red zone", the age between 50 and 60.

In the red zone you are the aging lefty from the major leagues who some feel has lost a little heat. You are in danger of being traded to the Toledo Mud Hens or worse, forcefully retired.

I offer practical solutions on how to stack your portfolio with personal talents, and how to market yourself as "you, the brand".  I think it is my best book, and the reviews were good. Look it up on Google..

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The Flak: A PR Journey

You have probably guessed by now I am in one of those fields that require more common sense than concentrated brainpower, public relations. Because I have owned ad and PR agencies, I keep a foot on the ad side as well. However, most people see me as a PR guy.

The Flak is a journey into nostalgia. It is a memoir of sorts with a skeletal backbone about how to survive and thrive in public relations. It is, like any autobiographical account by someone not famous, an egotistically romp.

However, Harold Burson, founder of Burson-Marsteller and PR Week's PR Man of the 20th Century, had kind words about the nearly 400-page tome. I think you will like it as well. It has been an interesting, often exciting life.

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The Accidental Headline

This is a bubble-fart of a book, a short, sit -down-stand-up read on how to do mental combat with the media and survive. We hand it out after every media training at Willard. It is a practical book for anyone who meets with the media or thinks he or she might one day have the opportunity to go before the press.

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Dancing With the Bear: Crisis Management in Eastern Europe

This is the moneymaker. It is probably impossible to quantify but a book that cost my company a couple of thousand to publish has raked in tens of thousands. It is our most popular handout, probably because crises in Eastern Europe is a sun-coming up occurrence and everyone wants to have some understanding of what to do. We are experts at it. It was not the selling of books that brought in the dough. It was crisis trainings and clients generated by the book.

I wrote the book in 1998, during the economic crisis that first hit Russia and then flooded over to Ukraine. If you are a CEO working in a risky market, "Dancing With the Bear" should be a must read.

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