B.L.A.S.T. Mentoring with Shannon Ethridge

Please welcome Leah Apineru of Impact Author Services, and Shannon Ethridge, our guests today:

BLASTOver 80% of the population believe they have a book inside them, yet less than 1% ever sit down to write it.  Why?  Because most don’t have a clue how to get started, and there’s no existing roadmap to guide someone on such an adventure.

If you’re one of those 80% that believe you have a story to share with the world, imagine receiving three hours of inspirational wisdom and practical guidance each month for an entire year from one of the most successful author/speakers of the past decade… having the opportunity to schedule one-on-one coaching sessions with that experienced professional… getting the inside scoop on the best books for aspiring writers and speakers to read… being partnered with a small group of like-minded individuals with similar ministry goals who can cheer you on… having the opportunity to submit speaking samples and a polished bio for professional critique and feedback, etc.

Where can you find all of these things?  Through B.L.A.S.T. (Building Leaders, Authors, Speakers & Teachers), Shannon Ethridge’s online mentorship program for those looking to launch (or strengthen) their writing and speaking platform.  I talked with Shannon recently about how the program was started and what kind of encouraging words she could share with my readers…

Interview with Shannon Ethridge

1.     You seem to have so much going on with your own writing and speaking, so what motivated you to launch the B.L.A.S.T. program?

Wherever I speak, one of the most common questions men and women ask is, “How can I do what you do?”  There is no “two-minute answer” to that question, and there’s no college class or training program where I could refer people seeking to become an author or speaker.  For years I didn’t know how to respond except to point them in the direction of the Sally Stuart Christian Writer’s Marketing Guide and offering a prayer.

However, as Shannon Ethridge Ministries blossomed more fully than my husband or I ever imagine possible, I felt such an overwhelming debt of gratitude toward the handful of people who’d really taken an interest in my mission and helped me navigate the waters toward getting published.  The only way I could imagine “paying them back” was to “pay it forward” like they had done.  So in 2008 we began brainstorming all of the things I’d learned along the way, especially the things I only wish I’d learned much earlier in my career.  We began visualizing how to pass this plethora of information along to aspiring writers and speakers, and realized we had an entire year’s worth of valuable teachings that we could offer to those who are really serious about launching or strengthening their own writing or speaking platform.

As much as my own platform continues to grow, I’m constantly reminding myself that this is “not about me.”  It’s about helping others grow, and there are plenty of aspiring writers and speakers out there who have similar desires to impact society in a positive way.  The more I can help others “find their voice,” the more positive change we can see in this world.   We’re all on the same team, so I want to help my teammates excel!

2.     What’s been your greatest joy as you’ve watched people progress through the 12-month program?

Of course, it’s always a thrill to hear that someone’s finally completed that book proposal that’s been swimming around in their head for years… or that someone’s proposal is being seriously considered by a full-service publishing house… or that they’ve been invited to speak at a major conference.  But there’s lots of “smaller victories” that bring me just as much joy, such as when a B.L.A.S.T. participant realizes what they’re passionate enough about to commit their whole life to speaking or writing about it… or they gain a crystal clear direction as they develop the foundation for their own platform … or they simply learn to surrender and trust the creative process more fully and completely than they ever have before.  All of these are major steps in the right direction, and I love celebrating the baby steps as much as the giant leaps forward!

3.     Remembering back to your own days of trying to get your first book published, what were your biggest challenges?

When you’ve never published anything before, it feels like a Catch-22 situation.  Publishing houses prefer published authors, but you can’t become a published author until a publishing house takes a chance on you!  And trying to get a full-service publishing house to seriously consider your proposal  — well, it’s easy to feel like a tiny grain of sand on an entire continent of beach.  The idea of someone noticing YOU among all the other voices out there clamoring for attention can be oh-so-discouraging.  I remember sending 13 query letters to 13 different publishers, and within 3 months receiving 13 decline letters.  But I kept trying, and through random circumstances that could never be explained except to say that God orchestrated a major miracle, I just happened to send my manuscript to a literary agent that represented Stephen Arterburn and the Every Man’s Battle book series.  Little did I know that they were searching for a female voice to write the Every Woman’s Battle series.  All that to say, regardless of how many times you hear “no,” you only need ONE “yes!”

4.     How has the publishing industry changed since then?  What challenges will aspiring writers & speakers face now?

It’s no longer just about having a message that will preach.  Publishing houses expect that you are preaching/speaking about it already – not just on a stage, but on social media outlets.  Publishers want you to have your own “following” or “tribe” that you communicate with regularly through your website, blog, facebook page, twitter feed, etc.  Speaking and creating a following before you are published can be challenging, but it actually makes sense.  Testing your material over and over in front of live audiences, getting lots of feedback, and gathering personal stories from audience members are keys to really honing your message.  Some people think you have to publish a book first before becoming a speaker.  That’s absolutely backward.  I spoke for many years before writing a single word, and I believe the words I finally sat down to write were much stronger because of those years of speaking to groups and investing in one-on-one conversations.

5.     Describe how your own ministry has grown over the past 15 years, and to what do you attribute that growth?
I started out speaking to youth groups of 20-30 in my own backyard in Dallas, Texas in 1996.  Now I travel as far as Australia and New Zealand to share my story, and recently spoke to an audience of 12,000 for Women of Faith.  Since signing my first contract in 2001, I’ve published 19 books that have collectively sold over 1 million copies – or as I prefer to say “impacted over 1 million lives!”  Some titles have been published in 18 languages, which boggles my mind that through my writings, I get to share with people in countries I’ll probably never set foot in.  But I know that this ministry wasn’t born out of any special gifts or talents that I possess.  Tons of people can write and speak effectively.  I believe it was born out of my own sexual and emotional issues, and my willingness to be honest and vulnerable about those struggles, which I’ve learned are far more common among women than most people realize.

6.     How can someone really discern what they are to speak or write about?

That’s one of the first items on the B.L.A.S.T. agenda – helping people discern their calling, crystalize their message, and develop their own voice in sharing that message.  My best advice is that we need to look at our own lives.  We rarely feel called to speak about something that we haven’t experienced personally.  We don’t want to just “theoretically teach” about some random issue.  We want to show the world what we’ve managed to learn for ourselves and how deeply that knowledge has impacted our lives.   That’s how I knew I was to speak on sex and love addiction.  That was my greatest misery, but became my greatest ministry.  Not everyone’s message will be as “messy” as mine, but it’s got to be something you’re passionate about – something that has impacted you on a deep and personal level.  Doing a “life mapping” exercise where you chart the highs and lows of your life is a good place to start.

7.     To the person questioning, “Can I really do this – can I really be a speaker or writer?” what do you say?

I’d say you’re asking the wrong question.  Why can’t you be a speaker or writer?  Writing or speaking is something that most people have the ability to do.  The better question to ask is, “Do I have something that needs to be said?”  After all, it’s not about the messenger.  It’s about the message.

8.     Writing and speaking can feel very discouraging to those who have big dreams and their writing and speaking platforms seem to be going nowhere. What would you say to those seasoned writers and speakers who get good feedback, but still their platforms seem small?

I don’t think we can ever measure success in terms of numbers.  I remember showing up to speak at a youth retreat and only five teenagers were there, but it was one of the most powerful experiences having that intimate of a setting and spending more one-on-one time with each student than usual.  Our only job is to be faithful and “show up prepared.”  It’s all about being faithful to what’s been entrusted to us, regardless of how great or small.
And remember, the game of life isn’t over yet!  Just because you’re not seeing tons of growth today doesn’t mean that it won’t be growing by leaps and bounds tomorrow!   Or that it’s not growing like crazy deep inside people’s hearts where you can’t see it, but they can feel the difference your message has made in their life.

Shannon EthridgeShannon Ethridge, M.A. is an AACC-certified life coach, best-selling author, and international speaker.   Her ministry focuses on her three passions:   sexual integrity, sexual intimacy in marriage, and spiritual intimacy with Christ.  Although grateful for the opportunity to impact others through her writing and speaking, she’s most passionate about being a cheerleader to her husband of 23 years, Greg, and their two children, Erin (21) and Matthew (18).  Learn more about her books and ministry resources at www.shannonethridge.com.

B.L.A.S.T. Mentoring website: http://www.blastmentoring.com/
B.L.A.S.T. on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BLASTmentoring
Shannon on Twitter: https://twitter.com/shannonethridge

The next B.L.A.S.T. session starts April 1st.  The application deadline is this Friday, March 15th.  However for the LiteraryCO followers, we are extending the deadline to Sunday, March 24th. 

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