Carla D. Bass retired as colonel after 30 years in the Air Force, working with generals, ambassadors, congressional delegations, and foreign dignitaries. She wrote hundreds of personnel reviews; award nominations and other competitive packages; and letters for executive signature, many of which were sent to Congress. In all instances, every word and every second of the audience’s time counted. Carla developed a handbook on professional writing, transformed it into an acclaimed course, and taught thousands of people for 15 years as a labor of love. She lives in the Virginia country side with her husband, Lynn, and cocker spaniel, Cash.
AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH CARLA D. BASS:
Joining LitPick today for an author interview is Carla D. Bass. She is the author of Write to Influence! Carla is here to share the importance of writing and how you can effectively craft your words to influence your readers. She has a passion for helping other write well, and she offers a variety of writing courses. Be sure to check them out at http://carladbass.com/.
***Why did you write your book?
The answer lies in a backstory. I once led a squadron of 480 people in Hawaii. When I assumed command, it was the most losing unit in the state. Talented, deserving individuals were routinely beaten in quarterly and annual award competitions, careers impeded because their supervisors couldn’t write strong submissions. This was my “family,” and I had to fix the problem.
I took 3 days personal leave and analyzed my own writing. This was the birth of my Word Sculpting tools (genesis of Part 1, Write to Influence!). I then developed an 18-page handbook, transformed that into a one-hour workshop, and taught my people to write, catapulting the unit to the one to beat! So successful were my methods and workshop, I taught thousands of people for the next 15 years – to rave reviews.
That is how I realized that powerful writing changes lives. Indeed, that realization changed my own life!
***Why is writing so important to you?
It’s all about helping people. “Powerful writing changes lives” … is my battle cry. It often tips the balance between success and failure. Write to Influence! is all about empowering people through their own written words. You could be the most talented applicant for a job, scholarship, internship, etc.; however, if the competition is better at telling a story, you lose.
For example, as a board member of a non-profit organization, I recently judged scholarship packages submitted by college juniors. One stood out above the others. The individual’s record was fabulous from scholastic achievements to extensive leadership positions in community events. However, this person lost resoundingly. Why? The quality of written responses to essay questions was elementary; responses were riddled with errors and demonstrated zero forethought as to the intended message.
This is the same tragic situation I successfully combated in the Air Force, giving workshops on my writing techniques to thousands of people for 15 years. To this day, I receive email and Facebook postings from individuals testifying that my techniques opened doors that would otherwise have remained closed to them. “If it weren’t for your book and class, I wouldn’t have…” are some of the most gratifying words I’ve ever encountered. That’s why I wrote the book and continue to write articles in various venues to spread the word.
***Tell us about your background as a writer.
I am an award winning author who has worked for the past 10 years for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, writing correspondence signed at the senior-most levels. Prior to that, I retired as a colonel after 30 years in the Air Force – one of the few women in my generation to do so – working directly with generals, ambassadors, congressional delegations, and foreign dignitaries.
I wrote hundreds of personnel reviews; award nominations and other competitive packages; and documents for executive signature, many of which were sent to Congress. I wrote and gave presentations to senior leaders for whom five minutes was significant. As a 1st lieutenant, I composed and presented daily briefings to the Director, National Security Agency. In all instances – written and verbal presentations – each word and every second of the audience’s time counted.
My assignments included Washington, D.C.; Nebraska; Hawaii; Germany; Korea; Turkey; and Bulgaria, where I represented our country for three years as the U.S. Defense Attaché, the first woman to hold this position.
My husband and I reside in the foothills of Shenandoah with our cocker spaniel, Cash. We have two grown children, who are successfully living their own life’s adventures.
***What (who) inspires you to write?
I am inspired by an overwhelming desire to help people. Three facts in play. First, many people do not realize that the ability to write has a very real, financial impact on their lives – it opens … or closes doors to opportunity. Second, learning to write well, leveraging words to your advantage, takes practice but is not difficult. Third, people spend huge sums of money pursuing an education in their field of choice; however, they don’t spend a fraction of that time or money learning how to wield the written word – that handicaps them in the long run.
Want to win a research grant? Need finances for a major IT system? Competing for a scholarship or to snag that job? My book and workshops provide an outstanding foundation to do just that. The numerous testimonials I’ve received over the years … and receive to this day … are my inspiration.
Think technicians (engineers, scientists, IT experts) don’t need this skill? They are often most in need. If you can’t effectively and persuasively make your case, how can you convince others (usually non-technically oriented but in leadership positions) that your solution is correct or deserves funding? You must be able to leverage your written words and strength of your case to influence the decision makers.
***What are your top 3 writing strategies everyone should know?
Whether writing fiction or non-fiction, you – as the author – are taking the reader by the hand and leading him/her on a journey. First, answer the questions, “Why are you knocking at the reader’s door? You have a purpose – a message – what is it?” Then develop an outline … a roadmap … of your key points, items you want the reader to remember. Second, gather the substantiating material, thoughts, rationale, etc., the straw that Rumpelstiltskin – you –can spin into gold. Third, use statistics and detail to give the story context, focus, and impact. Fourth, (I’m sneaking in one more item), ensure the conclusion is powerful, succinct, and tracks with your intended, opening thesis.
***What advice do you have for someone who wants to be an author?
Let me change the question to, “What advice do I offer everyone?” Each individual entering the professional world – in almost any occupation – needs to be a skilled story teller. Whenever you communicate, e.g., government official testifying to Congress, lawyer addressing a jury, writing input for your annual appraisal or composing your resume, updating the boss on the day’s activities, nurse briefing a doctor about a patient, student writing a report for a college class … these are – in fact – telling a story.
My advice to everyone (beyond the specifics in Write to Influence!) -- do NOT write as you speak. Words flow in conversation; we do not edit before uttering. A major mistake people make in writing is that they don’t edit … at all. The written language is completely different from the colloquial (that spoken daily), especially in the professional world. Unfortunately, this is a common affliction as seen here:
The values my father and mother learned and displayed are my ideal of citizenship. While I am not yet 100% certain on how I want to leverage my degree (i.e., private practice, government, or uniform), my parents’ example has certainly taught me the “how” – fully committed, dedicated and with absolute integrity.
My parents’ values are my model. I will pursue a career in engineering, fully committed and with integrity, whether in private practice, government, or the military.
***Tell us about your workshops.
Each workshop, 60-90 minutes in length, is fun, fast-paced, interactive, and effective. Each includes some of the Word Sculpting tools (face it, if you can’t compose a sharp, focused sentence … it’s game over).
My opening question, “Who likes scavenger, Easter egg, or treasure hunts?” Everyone does, of course. I present a slide with the teaching point and one example, followed by error-riddled examples. It’s the audience’s turn to find and correct the mistakes.
I teach high school students thru seasoned professionals in the workforce (often, they need the most help to expunge bureaucratic blather). I also tailor presentations to cover other aspects as customers desire. The titles:
· Powerful Writing – The Lifeblood for Successful Organizations — Infuse Products with Clarity, Focus, Direction, and Purpose
· Powerful Writing Changes Lives! Write a Resume that Stands Out – For All the Right Reasons
· “Abracadabra” – Words Really Do Open Doors … to Opportunity! Grants, Fellowships, Scholarships, Bid Proposals and More
· Write to Influence! – The Fundamentals Put Your Writing on a Diet – Expunge the Fat
· Write to Influence! For Teens … Land That Job! Writing Resumes and Job Interviews
· Write to Influence! College Applications — The Essay that Opens Doors
***Is there anything else we should know about you?
Fun facts: While in high school, I was the first runner-up at the national level in a sewing contest. I adore baking (especially the desserts featured on the cover of Southern Living magazine) and collecting antique playing marbles. I revel in throwing crazy, elegant dinner parties. I enjoy foreign languages, having studied Latin, French, Spanish, Russian, Bulgarian, German, and Turkish. Pure bliss as being on the back of a horse. At age of 58, I took six months of polo lessons; “croquet on a horse,” doesn’t get any better!” My passions – writing and teaching others to write, of course!
Carla, thanks for joining us to share why writing is so important and how the words we craft are influential. We loved getting to know more about you and your love for elegant dinner parties.