Episode 37 Tech and Children's Book Maven Becky Benishek

Heather Newman:  Hello everyone. Welcome to another episode of the Mavens Do It Better podcast. I am so excited to have a dear friend, a colleague, someone who I just think is the berries on today. We have MVP and author of Becky Benishek on from Wisconsin. Yes. That's where you are today right?

Becky Benishek:  Yes, exactly.

Heather Newman:  Welcome! Thank you for being on.

Becky Benishek:  Ah, thank you so much. I think you're the berries too. I hope you know that. Probably don't tell you enough but I will from now on. You're absolutely wonderful. Thank you.

Heather Newman:  Well, Yay. So, so Becky and I have known each other for a while now and I've gotten to know you on so many different levels. I'm like God, where to start because you're a maven of so many things, you know. Which is awesome.

Becky Benishek:  I'm okay with you saying that. Thanks.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. Okay. Yeah, you're welcome. Well, awesome. Well, maybe we'll start with the, the technology side of it. So, you know, Becky is also a Microsoft MVP in the Office space and gosh, how long have you been an MVP? Let's start there.

Becky Benishek:  Three years now. Yeah.

Heather Newman:  That's awesome. Right on. And tell everybody kind of how you got started with technology. Maybe let's go back. Let's go back a little bit.

Becky Benishek:  Let's go back a little bit. A little with the time-lapse is going back. I think it actually, it started in, let's see, several companies ago as these things usually go where I kind of worked my way up to this wonderful mix of marketing and IT. So I kind of like to call it recreational IT cause it's, it's, for me, it's all the fun stuff. You can be creative and analytical at the same time. You can do some fun coding and at the same time, you know, deliver things that, that make people feel good, good design. I like doing things like that. I like helping people. I like getting them what they need so they can just get on with their day because usually that's what people want. They're like, what, you know, it's the other side of what's in it for me, it's like, all right, I need a resource. How can I get this? How can I keep moving? So it's only really looking back, because at the time, I had no idea I would end up where I am now. Moving through social media to online community management. So it's wonderful to look back and see all the steps that, that prepared me for this. I mean, I'm an English major, you know? When I graduated college, I never would have thought I'd be doing this. Of course, it didn't actually exist then either. So, you know, there's that, it's just amazing. You never know how you're going to end up.

Heather Newman:  Absolutely. So many of us, you know, that I talk with and you know, a lot of us came from the arts or BAs and all of that, and we're like, oh, now we're in technology. You know what I mean? So much to my chagrin of my theater degree, you know, I use it every day. But yeah, absolutely. Well tell everybody a little bit about the Crisis Prevention Institute because that's a really amazing thing and a place that you're working. Will you tell everybody about that and what that does a little bit?

Becky Benishek:  I'd be happy to because you're right, it is a real feel good place and that's, it's inside and out. So it's pretty cool. Uh, okay. I'll give the nutshell version. We are a training company, train the trainers. So we'll come to you, you can train to become what we call a certified instructor. And, um, you will then take our techniques back to your staff and train them. So it's basically keeping the children and adults in your care safe. These are nurses, teachers, security guards, human services, any role, you interact with people. If you think, you know, I'm just in an office building. Yeah, well you're probably interacting with people. There's people that come in, coworkers, bosses, et Cetera. We've just got a lot of skills, verbal de-escalation techniques, nonverbal techniques, just to kind of prevent challenging or even violent behavior. So, you know, you know best the population that you're serving in your facility or district, you know the challenges and now you have these tools to help and it goes beyond putting a band aid on something because, you know, then behavior will keep happening. We, we try to help you get to the core of what's causing it so you can really help somebody.

Heather Newman:  Wow. And is it really mostly in the Wisconsin area? Cause I know you're in, you're in Milwaukee or you know, at least the business is in Milwaukee, but is it, is it there, is it more statewide, global? Like how, how does that work?

Becky Benishek:  We are actually global. We've got a UK office, Australia. I know we're looking into, um, I want to say Singapore and a few other areas though I will say that, you know, a lot of our business is, is North America.

Heather Newman:  Right. Yeah. Wow. That's super cool. Yeah, I knew I knew the name and I knew that's where you worked and stuff, but I didn't know a ton about it. That's super cool. What a great company to work for.

Becky Benishek:  It's very person centered. I love it. And it's reflected inside too. I mean we, uh, we started out in 1980 and they're small and now we've grown to mid-size and we still have all company meetings every Thursday where any staff in the office comes to this big room where we go around and if you have something to say you can share. And it's pretty cool. Yeah.

Heather Newman:  That's super awesome. Wow. And you know, I know you from, you know, the Microsoft world and you know, like first of all, Becky is an amazing speaker, first of all. So I know that you do that a lot too. How long have you been out in the speaking circuit?

Becky Benishek:  I would say that it all coincides with becoming an MVP. So, I really have Microsoft to thank for that because you know, first the whole just becoming an MVP because you know, when that lands on you just think wow, you know, cause you're just doing your thing. And at the time I had no idea any of it was being noticed outside of what I was focused on. You know, I mean, I was out there in the Yammer communities at the time, but I was, to me, it was just well people help me. So now here's something I can jump in and, and help someone else because hey, I've just been through this and I didn't think anything other than that. But then to realize that, oh, now all of these opportunities kind of land in your lap you know. There's MVP community days, there's user groups, there's Ignite. It's, it's really cool and, and it just makes you feel really good because now you can maybe reach other people and you can get feedback from them instantly too, and help them and learn from them. I love it.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think that's a big part of the community is that, you know, we learn from each other, you know, and, um, it is such a, I feel like everybody is super generous too. You know what I mean? Um,

Becky Benishek:  I do too. Yeah. Like it's a whole room full of friends, even if you haven't met them yet.

Heather Newman:  Right, exactly. Yeah. There's that belonging sense you know that you're like, I'm a part of this. And, and I think it's also very wonderfully kind of inclusive in that, you know, its customers, its partners, it's, yes, it's the MVP community and all of that stuff, but it's, it's wider than that, right. Because we're all talking to each other on various forums, on Yammer, on Teams, up on Twitter, on all of that stuff, right.

Becky Benishek:  Everywhere.

Heather Newman:  Everywhere. For sure. Yeah. And you came up and you came up doing social media, yeah?

Becky Benishek:  Yes, yes. Um, uh, when I, in the several companies ago job, um, when I moved on from there social media is really starting to take off. So here I came from the marketing IT mix and social media seemed like the next natural step at the time. So I really got my chops there as, as they say. You know, learning how to talk to people like they're people and like you're a person too. I mean, that was a whole new thing versus all the corporate speak you're used to seeing on websites, for example. And blogs and things and that, I just love how that whole movement just shifted and acknowledged that, you know, you're, you may be looking at a screen, but you are reaching an actual living being,

Heather Newman:  Hey, wait! There's human beings.

Becky Benishek:  You're one too, so you may be hiding behind a logo, but you can't talk like you're a logo.

Heather Newman:  Right, right. That's a great point. You know, like I think we talk a lot about humans and tech and humans in the world and that, you know, you can't create in a silo, you know, that at the end of the day they're human beings behind the screen, like you said. That's, yeah, that's super cool. Any, um, social media, I mean, so since you did that any social media trends that you're seeing that you're like, Ooh, interesting or Ooh, oh no. Or you know, any, anything that like, you know, as of late that has pricked your ears up I guess as it were.

Becky Benishek:  I can say Currents has pricked my ears up and I'm probably gonna just do a Beta of that. I want to see what that's about. Google Plus's answer to re-Google Plusing itself. I guess you could say, you know, that's pricking my ears up a bit. I'm also looking in, I'm just idly perhaps for my own benefit, just any alternatives to the big major players. The Facebooks and the Twitters.

Heather Newman:  And say the Google name again. Spell that for me.

Becky Benishek:  It's Currents. So like, yeah, like ripples in the water really, I think. There are offering Beta access right now, so going to see if I can get in. Yeah.

Heather Newman:  Okay. Very cool. And you know the, I'm looking at over here on my desk, a copy of The Squeezer.

Becky Benishek:  Oh, my goodness! I love it!

Heather Newman:  I sent that to a bunch of children in my life. And so sort of hearkening back to the arts, I guess, or an English degree. How many books do you have out, children's books do you have out now? It's a couple, right?

Becky Benishek:  Ah, my fourth will be out in June, late June. Yeah.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. And how did that, I mean obviously you were an English major, so it sort of makes sense, but you know, as far as like why children's books, how did you get into that?

Becky Benishek:  Oh, my goodness. Well I've always been a writer, you know, and growing up I was always writing little stories or class or scribbling, I still have note books. You know how it is. You got note books, you got scraps of paper, envelopes, napkins, anything you can find. I collect them. I stuff them in bigger notebooks and tell myself I want to go back to them and sometimes I do. Uh, you know, I think. But, I um, I hadn't actually, I always wanted my books and stories out there, but I hadn't actually done anything about it, hadn't really focused on it. Um, but then I want to say it was in late 2015 I finally started thinking, all right, I got to do something. Just anything just to it. And so I started getting my stories in a proper format. I got an editor off of fiverr.com I love Fiverr. You can find amazing things there. Got a couple of them illustrated. Those are, these are the ones that I ended up self-publishing. Um, but you know, in the beginning I did look for agents and publishers. Uh, because that's what, that's what you did. And, but you know, I wasn't getting bites. You got to have a thick skin or you develop one real fast. Well, you know, this just didn't find the right person yet. Keep trying. So I wasn't really discouraged but I also kind of also wasn't doing anything about it. I was kind of just letting months go by. And then finally, December, 2016 I will never forget, I was at a Yule party at a friend's house and our host described a ceremony he wanted to do. We sat in a circle. He was brandishing a bottle of homemade strawberry mead. And he said we're going to pass this bottle around the circle three times. For the first round talk about something you're proud of accomplishing this past year. The second round, thank or commemorate a person living or dead. Third round, make an oath for something you're going to do in the next year. And that's when it crystallized for me. The third round I said, I'm going to publish my first children's book in Q1 of 2017 I actually said it like that. Been in the working world longer and I was Q1. I was going to self-publish it. I was going to learn from it I was going to get it out there. And that's exactly what I did. Um, and then I followed up really quickly in, in February of Q1 and just, I don't know, I was just all antsy. So, I learned, I learned so much, still have more to learn about self-publishing and publishing in general. But again, just like with Microsoft and, and Yammer and Teams, there's so many great people who have done what you did. And they're happy to help. And also, you can also just search and all that information’s there in front of you so that you can get going. You can get your own answers. But when The Squeezer came along, I was still working on other stories and I'd actually sent The Squeezer out cause I thought well why not? And if nobody picks it up then I'll self-publish it too. And I actually forgot it was out there cause my focus goes away again. You know, I still have my full time job and life and everything. And um, I got this email one day and it had, it had, you know, the, the subject line re: query and all you have to, you have a certain style that you send out queries to agents and publishers. So I thought, oh it's another rejection. I'll look at it later. And I looked at it and my eye's saw and my brain took a bit to catch up and there was an author's contract attached. Well that's not something I'm used to seeing. So, after I got over that, I think Dave, my husband Dave has a picture of me cause he was in the room, he has me just like. He looked up and he's like, something just happened. So a publisher picked it up so I was just over the moon.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, absolutely. Wow. And a lot of your books, you know, Dr. Guinea Pig George, and What's At the End of Your Nose, A Slippery Bill Tale. Like they have this, um, seal on them. The Reader's Favorite Fivestars. Will you talk about that? What does, what does that mean?

Becky Benishek:  Ooh, well I'm happy to, well, especially when you're self-publishing or even doing traditional publishing and either way, you don't have a lot of money. And, but you still want to have something that signifies to somebody who doesn't know who the heck you are but they see you at a, at a craft fair or maybe you get your book out in the library, something, that you know, you're not the only ones saying, Hey, get my book. You've got the seal and readersfavorite.com. You can pay if you want to, but they offer free reviews. I think there's something like a 60% guarantee that if you apply for a free review you'll get it. So it's pretty good odds. And, and uh, they award up to five stars. You get up to five stars and you have the option to buy the stickers, which I did because I thought, heck, you know. And then you put them on yourself. You know, it's all verifiable because there's also a page that they keep on their website as well. So, yeah.

Heather Newman:  Wow. You know, it's a funny, I keep listening. I always think this when I hear you speak and when we talk because you know I'm from the Midwest as well and like I, you know, I just, I've always thought you are wonderful but, but like I think it's also because you sound like my people, you know? You do, you know what I mean? It's like my cousin, I mean I'm from Michigan, but my cousin lives in Wisconsin and I just, every time I hear you speak, I'm always like, oh, there's like some comfort there that I'm like, oh my people, you know?

Becky Benishek:  All the imagery, the full sensory experience just comes at you.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, no kidding. It's so funny. So, and with these, so I think I find the whole thing super interesting as far as the self-publishing piece of it. Um, and you, so you have, you obviously work with an illustrator right, on these cause they're children's books, which, you know, precludes like having some visuals. Um, and I, you know, you have, um, Kelly and, and I think it's Matt and you know, um, and Alicia now, you know, with other folks with Hush Mouse that's coming out. Um, how did you, how did you find your illustrators and how, how does that, how does that sort of relationship work?

Becky Benishek:  I think it's pure serendipity at some points. Kelly Klein, she's a friend of mine and who's a biology teacher during the school year, but she also, it's, she's marvelous. She, she'll be the first to say she doesn't think she's an illustrator at all, but if you look at what she can do, come on, get your stuff out there. So in the summers, um, you know, she said, sure. She's like, I, I think you're one of the people who will actually do something with this and go places, which I found really cool. I didn't know she thought that, you know, so she um, did you know, Sydney Snail for What's at the End of Your Nose and then I was looking at George, which is actually a story I wrote in 99', I just unearthed it and brushed it off and pushed it out second. Can you also draw a guinea pig? So she researched how to do guinea pigs and make them look, you know, like an actual guinea pig and marvelous to work with. Um, and she was one of the, I loved how she did the black and whites for Sydney so much I decided just to keep them that way and double it up. If kids want to color it in, it lends itself perfectly to that. It's just so evocative. Her expressions are just amazing for those little critters.

Heather Newman:  That's super cool. I mean it's, it's, it's then a book but it's also then a coloring book if you so choose. Right. So,

Becky Benishek:  Right, exactly. For The Squeezer's a little different since that got picked up by the publisher. I thought all right, The Squeezer if that's going to lend itself to just full body, full color kind of thing. And it was during the school year as it were. But I happened to work with Matt Fiss, at CPI at the time. He was one of our graphic designers and I'd seen him draw amazing things including monsters and I that you're the kind of person you can make my squeezer come to life and he totally did. Cause he loves monsters, he liked the story.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. And is Hush Mouse also through the same publisher or are you self-publishing that one?

Becky Benishek:  I was going to, I thought I'd actually started doing that one in tandem while we were getting to The Squeezer ready. But then I asked, the publisher said, do you, do you want this one too? She's like, yes. So I thought okay cool. We'll go through the publisher then and I found the illustrator through Instagram. I was following some illustrators and thought I love how she does children and, and animals. And so she liked the plot and got her all signed up with the publisher and that's how that alchemy happened. It was amazing.

Heather Newman:  The power of social media, right. And being able to see other people's work that they're putting out.

Becky Benishek:  Look at this, coming full circle. You're so right.

Heather Newman:  It's super cool. So interesting, you know. So you said, uh, George, Dr. Guinea Pig George. Let's be clear. That one you wrote in 1999, Huh? Isn't it interesting how like I, I tell ya, you know, like I'm, I've been trying to figure out how to get myself writing the book that I have in my brain and that's on a big, giant sticky note on my closet that I look at all the time. And, um, it's, it's interesting. I know, I know, but do you find that like, I dunno, just like anything else, if you're a writer, what should you be doing? Writing. Right. Um, and right all the time and if you're a swimmer, swim, you know, whatever, all of that stuff. But isn't it interesting how like trying to find your voice sometimes. Um, and also like the fear of putting things out, you know, I dunno, like I go through that and I've gone through that and with that, was it something that you wrote and you were like not ready or, you know, if I dig a little in there, do you mind? Like, I'd love to share that.

Becky Benishek:  No, you can dig. I think they are very valid points. I think, I think George had just been a victim of my lack of gumption, I think for, you know, I was focused on other things and kind of had, I don't know if forgotten is the right word, but lifelong dream to be a writer, but I wasn't doing anything about it. And to me and my mind every time I'd said writer, it was kind of synonymous with author, just growing up. And it just hadn't anything. But now I had my, my little snail book going out and like, well, what about George? You know, he was your first.

Heather Newman:  George crept into your dreams and was like, Hey, remember me?

Becky Benishek:  You've got the voice for it. Like, Hello, waving a small paw. Yeah.

Heather Newman:  You made me snort. Sorry, everybody. Anyway. That's so funny. That's so cool. Um, yeah, I mean, I guess, yeah. So, and you know, gave you a paw and said, remember me, right? So

Becky Benishek:  Right. Well I want to hear about your giant sticky note. I can't help it, I'm very curious.

Heather Newman:  Oh yeah. My giant sticky note is, um, uh, the working title of it has been Spark for a long time, but my, my interest is in moments that it's a, it's a lot to do with the podcast, to be honest. It's, it's that I really enjoy people's stories about what sparks them, what moves them to action, and that there's moments in our lives that we really pay attention to because they're big. And then there's moments in our lives that are micro moments, but that truly can be just as large as graduation, marriage, divorce, death, all that stuff. But we gloss over them sometimes. And so it's looking at how to maybe recognize those more and or categorize things. And so, yeah. So I've been, it's been a while. I've been working on it sort of for a while, and then sort of let it go and similar, you know, where I'm like, I'm busy, I'm traveling the world, I'm like doing, you and I do similar things. We go speak at conferences and we write blogs and we put together community events and blah, blah, blah. You know, so, um,

Becky Benishek:  Yeah. And it's fun. I mean, it's fun and it's easy to say, well, I have another day. I can do it another day.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. And I dunno, I can't remember who said it, but there's a quote that's about, you know, um, an idea not realized, you know. You know what I'm talking about? I can't think of it right now, but it's like,

Becky Benishek:  It sounds very tragic, I think. I know the one you're thinking of.

Heather Newman:  I know. And it's like, you know, it's like it sits there and then nothing ever happens or you don't take action or move forward with it. And it's sometimes it's something about maybe they die on the vine, you know? Um, yeah.

Becky Benishek:  Well, you've got the back of your book blurb now already done. So there you go.

Heather Newman:  We just worked it out right here. Thank you. Credit to Becky on that one, for sure. Oh my goodness. Yeah. And I guess so like, um, I, well I've been having lots of sort of, um, you know, both technologists and makers, you know, on here. And I think if you were in, I don't know, I think they just lend themselves together so nicely. And, um, for some, for our listeners, um, will you talk about sort of the difference between self-publishing and having a publisher and what that's meant and, and not necessarily what you liked better or whatever, because it's not, it's not, they're not even equitable in that way, but you know, like maybe some lessons learned or, I dunno, like just will you talk about that a little bit?

Becky Benishek:  Sure. I think in the beginning I'd approach self-publishing the way perhaps others do. Like there, there might be a stigma about it. It's like, oh, you couldn't get a publisher you're doing it on Amazon. Just like everybody else. And I had that stigma because you want to be a publisher and, or an agent means you've been accepted, in a way. There's still that. I've come to find out self-publishing and Amazon has made it super easy. When I started it was with Create Space and now they've kind of moved to a kindle publishing, which also does paperbacks for example. So, you can have your online and paperback at the same time, but all the control is with you on self-publishing. I mean that does mean all the marketing and, and trying to get all savvy with everything. But you control, up to a point, you can control the costs, you can control release everything from design. Hopefully you get an editor. I think that's one of the biggest stigmas for self-publishing as you will see so many manuscripts out there that have been published with typos and egregious mistakes. And I mean one or two. Sure. I mean, I've even seen them in proofs coming back from the publisher. It's like some something had happened between what you sent and what gets printed. And then then you panic and say, oh, we've got to get it corrected. With self-publishing, it's all up to you. If you want to do a hardcover for example, then you have to go with Ingram Stark for example they'll do that, but then you know that's every cost. It's all you. But there's also such a wonderful community of independent publishers or indie publishers, you call them. There's forums on goodreads.com. There's Facebook groups. You could still join Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators as an indie. Yeah, so there's resources. It just, it takes a lot of work and you find yourself wanting to hire a marketing manager or somebody else. Even if you know how to do it yourself, just because all you really want to do is just write. But now you have to do all these other things and that is, it is. That's the hard, that's the hardest part I would say is all the other things.

Heather Newman:  Right, right. And those are all the other things that a publisher would handle for you then? Right?

Becky Benishek:  Right, right. It depends, you know, if they're small or just starting out, not the vanity publishers, that's different. But you know, the small houses, which are fun to get into. That's what McLaren Cochrane is. They're out in California because they're building their author stable. I shouldn't call it the stable but I just did. Their author stable and so, you know, those are, those are the ones you can try to get into and then they take off and then, hey, you're there. And they like looking at your stuff. They always, they always consider submissions from their current authors before anyone else. So that's cool. And then the bigger ones, it just depends. It goes up with how much money and personnel they have to do all that marketing. But I have seen, I want to say, I don't remember exactly which ones I saw this in but a lot of them will say, well how do you plan, you know, if we take you on, how do you plan on using your presence? Do you have a presence already? What work are you going to do? Cause they, it's, it's no longer a sit back and, and you know, let the mailbox money come in, you really, you still have to work at it.

Heather Newman:  Right, right. No, that makes sense. That's interesting. And I, um, I was looking, I was poking around on Amazon and you're publishing site and I saw something that caught my eye and I want to ask you about it. And with The Squeezer Is Coming, which is a great book everybody and kids love it. And the message is amazing. And I want to talk about that in a second too. But I saw that you have a dyslexic edition with the dyslexic font and I would love for you to talk about that. Cause I was like, what does that mean?

Becky Benishek:  It was something that I hadn't, you know, known about until this publisher picked me up. McLaren Cochran they, um, the, the owner, Tonya and I talked with her on the phone. When you're going over the contract, it's very important to her that not only kids are able to read, kids with dyslexia are able to read these books, but that if parents have dyslexia, they are able to read to their kids. So every book that they, that they publish, they will always make a dyslexic font version as well. So I think it's just Dislexie. It's like an I-E, it's a font that they use. The cover will be a little bit different. I think they're really careful not to have, um, words being obscured by design. They just want to make sure everything's clear, that the wording I have, I have a couple of copies of them. Slightly different type. I just thought, that's so cool. What a nice, what a nice thing? I mean, yeah.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. Way to be inclusive and think about, you know, all people who might want to, you know, read a book or you know, that's amazing. And you have, and the, you have them all on kindle editions as well too, Huh?

Becky Benishek:  Yeah. Definitely my two self-published ones I did those. And uh, now the publisher said they are going to be getting kindle versions of all of their books too. And also they said there's a, I think I want to say it's called little hands, I might have it wrong. They're also going to publish a version that's like sized a little bit differently so that you know, little kids can hold the book themselves.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. That's super cool. Well, and there's all kinds of things that you have to think about with children that maybe you aren't, you know, one doesn't necessarily think about when you're publishing for an adult. Right? Yeah. Have you ever thought of um, like doing like, you know, like I just did the little guinea ba-ba-bah, you know, or whatever. Have you ever thought of doing them on audible and having voices behind them? And having, does Squeezer have a, or whatever, you know, or whatever it is.

Becky Benishek:  You are hired, I would hire you for the Squeezer. You've heard it here folks. This is a verbal contract but it's real. That's awesome.

Heather Newman:  Oh my gosh. Well, well, all right. Anyway, but have. More ideas throwing on the podcast. But I think that would be cool though, right?

Becky Benishek:  I'd love to or, and even like a, I don't know, an animated version. I think he'd be awesome animated. I just, you know, again, I'm in the, well, you know, I've, I've got these other things I'm focused on and I want to do this. I just need to doggonit, stop thinking about it and do it. And that's, that's the biggest thing is, is forgetting everything but just doing it.

Heather Newman:  Right. Yeah. Well, and it's like when you create something, right, and with my marketing hat on, right, that you create something and you know, people will put out a piece of content or put out, you know, a certain thing and then it's like, okay, have you sliced it and diced it in every way, shape and form possible. You know, like that one piece of content becomes like these 15 small Instagram posts or it becomes the infographic, or it becomes the leader for an eBook or, you know, or it becomes the audible version with funky voices. Or then maybe someone would want to animate it and turn it into a, you know, a cartoon on the whatever network kind of thing. You know, like it's, but, but also those things take time and energy. Like who do I ask and how do I do that? And you know what I mean? It's like, are there enough hours in the day to figure that kind of stuff out? You know, but, but I think it is interesting that, I mean, you have this beautiful content with like such a great message that I don't know, the world is your oyster in a way.

Becky Benishek:  I've just written myself a note on a notepad. That says audible by Q3.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. Well, and you know, we'll talk later about this, but you know, I've been doing stuff with Comicon and it'd be interesting to talk to some folks over there about Squeezer. I think it lends itself so interesting too, like what would be a really cool cartoon, you know? Um,

Becky Benishek:  I think you're right, yeah, I can, I can see it in my head. I just gotta get it out of my head.

Heather Newman:  I want to go back to, I want to talk, your message, um, because I haven't read, Dr. Guinea Pig, but I've read Squeezer and I know you and I also read that book and will you talk about the message that you're conveying in these books? Because I, you know, they're very heartfelt and they're very much about, I think learning and teaching kids and their parents about a lot of the sort of beautiful things about say, belonging and you know, being nice to each other and that kind of stuff.

Becky Benishek:  I'll start with, I'll start with my first one and just work my way up. So, What's at the End of Your Nose was Sidney Snail and he's, you know, he's bored. He's going to leave town in search of adventure. But unfortunately his friend, mysterious old Samuel Snail says, take a last look around and he puts it as, find out what's at the end of your nose first. And Sidney's puzzled of course. Then he goes snailing off, you know, and, and through this as he, he just kind of uncovers this whole world that's been there the whole time. But he's been just too bored, you know, he just, he's been looking too far ahead and he hasn't noticed anything. And so, through that I kind of hoping to show children if you think about our world today, we are so inundated with things coming at us, things to do, we're almost passive. And so what if all that gets too much? You know, you get information overload or maybe there's a power outage, you know, anything. Either you cut yourself off or you're cut off cause you just don't feel like. And suddenly, what are you going to do? You know? And, and sometimes what you can do is right in front of you you've just been missing it. So I was hoping to kind of reawaken, you know, a world of adventure right in front of you, whether or not it's snail sized, um, you know, trying to show that, but hopefully in a fun way. And with Dr. Guinea Pig George, that one, I mean he, guinea pig named George lives in a house with a person named George and the person named George is a doctor. So every time the phone rings and someone says, George, it's for you. The guinea pig would think they meant him. And I made this doctor a little old fashioned. He makes house calls and he's very absentminded. He's always leaving his bag open on the floor and the guinea pig is able to get out of his cage cause it's a low to the ground and trundle over and go into the bag and go with the doctor on his house calls and he listens and he learns about everything and he thinks he's a doctor too. And he's able one day to actually show what he can do during a very unexpected house call. So that was about, you know, believe in yourself, kids. Your dreams may seem out of reach. Someone may be telling you can't do something. You sure can. You know, if a guinea pig can do it, you can do it. Yeah. So now I come to The Squeezer and there you've seen him. He's this monster. Scary looking monster, those sharp claws and the teeth and the horns. And he just comes running in all over the place in a town. But all he wants to do is get hugs. But nobody thinks that's all he wants to do. He's got teeth and claws and big greasy toenails and he's just, he's scary looking. Everybody runs away and he is so sad because he can't help how he looks. But everyone's judging him on appearance. So you know, he sits at home and he thinks of all what to do. He tries to read the self-help books, I'm Okay, You're Decaying. He watches Game of Bones on TV. It doesn't help all this stuff. And he finally gets an idea. He's like, it's not about what I want. It's about what the other monsters need so he concocts a plan. He goes into town the next day and he just starts helping the other monsters. He doesn't do it with any thought of gain for himself. He just sees someone needs help. He goes in and helps and everyone's just starts getting amazed. And word starts going around that he's actually a nice guy. He may look scary, but he's not scary at all. He's got a good heart. So things turned around for him. And so it's kind of like a dual thing. It's like, well, what can you do that's in your control? And I know it's super hard for kids to even conceive of that. So an adult would help with that. But also it's like, don't you know, maybe don't judge someone who looks a little bit different than you. Maybe you look beneath the surface.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, for sure. And Hush Mouse.

Becky Benishek:  Hush Mouse that one was really, I mean they're all special, I'm going to say that one's just the, maybe cause it's my newest baby. I got really tender feelings toward it. So, Mouse, uh, is a kitten. It was actually based on a real cat that we had who meowed a lot all the time at 3:00 AM up the stairs anytime. And so, we're all saying Hush Mouse cause he had a lot to say. The Mouse in this book, a little kitten hadn't grown into her ears yet. Uh, and she's meowing all the time. She's meowing at her family trying to eat breakfast, watch TV or go to sleep. Everyone says hush Mouse except for Little Liz, she's the only one in the house who understands Mouse. She's short for her age. She can't reach like cookies on the counter without standing on tiptoe. Her arms are kind of stubby, she can't climb onto chairs are laps without help. Um, she's got big brown eyes and curly brown hair and her people say she hasn't grown into her eyes yet, so it's kind of cute. But you know, she and Mouse spent a lot of time together because nobody really hears what Little Liz has to say either. So, you know, so she knows what it's like not to be listened to. And then one day Little Liz is taking her nap and Mouse is in the living room. She's sunning herself and suddenly there's a clang and a thump coming from the kitchen and Mouse says people don't make sounds like that. So saying meow. And of course, everyone in the house is saying hush Mouse except for Little Liz. She'd heard Mouse, woke up from her nap. She comes down the hall and she says, she's whispering, she's like, what's wrong Mouse? And Mouse says meow. And the Little Liz says, that's what I thought. Let's go see what's happening. So they creep to the kitchen and they appear around the doorway and they see burglars and they're filling sacks with all of grandma's prized china. And then there's cat burglars taking Mouse's tins of tuna. And everybody has masks on, these cat burglars. I mean, when you see them, there's just the cutest thing. But no one has noticed Mouse and Little Liz because they are too small and they're creeping down by the door. And Little Liz says, Mouse there's only one thing to do. And Mouse knew she was right, so she takes a deep breath and she swirls up her little belly and her eyes are screwed shut and her ears are flat against her head. And she lets out the biggest MEOW ever. And it just scares the burglars. They drop everything, they dash out through the open window and her people come running, you know, like you saved us from being robbed. And so now when Mouse and Little Liz have something to say, everybody listens.

Heather Newman:  I love your brain! So Great !

Becky Benishek:  I appreciate you letting me just spew out about him because it's fun to do.

Heather Newman:  Oh yeah, no and they're awesome. I mean they, they're just lovely. So that's so cool. Oh my goodness. Yay. Well everybody, also, everybody, we'll put all the links and stuff, um, in the show notes to make sure you know how to get ahold of Becky and look at her wonderful books and buy her wonderful books and give them to all the kids in your life because it's super important. And also, where, where are you going to be next, speaking?

Becky Benishek:  Gosh, I don't even know. I'm already looking ahead toward November cause that's Ignite. I think I'm going to see, I know, Larry Glickman. And I try to try to do a user group, we call it the Midwest user group. It's really mostly like Chicago and Milwaukee, but you know, anyone in the area is welcome if they want to drive over. We'll see if we can get one of those going on in the interval. Um, yeah. It's like, yeah, Ignite just kind of looms in my head. It's just, it's so awesome. Yeah. And I'm already looking forward to it.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, that's a super great event. Absolutely. Very cool. Um, last question sort of , what sparks you, like where do you, where, where, where do you go for inspiration and kind of downtime when you need it from all of this stuff that you have swirling in your head with all the things you do?

Becky Benishek:  I'm going to say those are two separate things. For downtime generally I'm found with a book. You know, curled up in a rocking chair or just playing with the guinea pigs. Or doing a puzzle, you know, things where you, where you can let your brain just kind of do its thing. And click over stuff in the background while you're doing things on the outside. For inspiration, it just comes from anywhere. It's like I'll see a story or a picture or be in a conversation and suddenly it just sparks off and it's awesome. And I've learned through the years that if you don't write down that idea, when you get it, you will lose it. So, it's like, excuse me, I have to write this down. Don't anybody say anything till I get this down. And I go, okay now you can talk. I apologize to anyone who's especially my husband.

Heather Newman:  That's all those scraps of paper you were talking about in the beginning that are all over the place. So yeah,

Becky Benishek:  Yes, they are. Always carry a pen and an eating utensil and you will be fine for life.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, no kidding. That's awesome. Right on. Well, hun it's been lovely talking to you as usual and going a little deeper with you on all this stuff, super interesting and what a great gift you've given to the world. I think it's so great on so many levels, you know, but I, the kids’ books are really special, so thank you for that.

Becky Benishek:  Thank you. Thank you. That means a ton to me. Thank you.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, absolutely. All right, well Becky darling, thank you for being on the podcast.

Becky Benishek:  Thank you for having me. I love it.

Heather Newman:  Absolutely. Wonderful. Well everyone that has been another Mavens Do It Better podcast. You can find us on all of typical areas where you pick us up, but we are definitely on iTunes, we are on Spotify, we're on the mavensdoitbetter.com website and here is to another beautiful day on this big blue spinning sphere.


Heather Newman

Heather Newman is an award-winning marketing maven, technology entrepreneur and an epic connector that brings many worlds together. She has extensive experience marketing products and services for Enterprise businesses, startups and emerging markets. Heather builds plans and processes that are nimble, human and different. She is an adept storyteller and is passionate about growth for both employees and the corporate bottom-line. Heather hails from the arts and the bulk of her career has been working with the largest technology companies in the world (Microsoft, Google, Amazon, NetApp, Hewlett Packard, and Dell). Her nineteen years of experience working at technology companies and building global high-tech marketing strategy has driven millions of dollars of revenue and multiple award-winning campaigns. She has led global marketing teams for many technology companies including AvePoint, IT Unity & KnowledgeLake. Heather was a part of the original Microsoft SharePoint Marketing team. During her tenure, she helped launch multiple versions of the product, build the SharePoint Partner Ecosystem and conceived of and produced the first three Microsoft SharePoint Conferences. Creative Maven has produced thousands of global marketing campaigns and events. Currently CM is focusing on go to market strategies for Microsoft and its partners as well as a new site sister site launching in 2015 called Marketingfixer.com. Heather also serves as Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Content Panda, an innovative technology startup looking to actively disrupt how content is delivered inside software.