November of 2017   

Greetings from Mary Kay Shanley

James Autry (Des Moines) is a writer, author, poet and former Fortune 500 executive whose work has had significant influence on leadership thinking. His newest venture, with son Rick, is a kids' book, but not just a book for kids. A storybook, but not just a book of stories. The focus is on six virtues: Justice, Humility, Courage, Compassion, Freedom and Respect, gleaned mostly from the world's folk traditions. I'm thinking Everyday Virtues will become an enriched experience for adults and children alike.                                           --Mary Kay Shanley
By James A. Autry and Rick Autry
Here, James Autry shares the story behind the book: Everyday Virtues was a long time aborning.  It began years ago when I found myself somewhat disgusted with the kinds of "virtue" books popping up in bookstores and, in one case, on the bestseller lists.  I thought they too often concentrated on what Natalia Ginzburg called the "little virtues."  She insisted we should teach not the little ones but the great ones. Not thrift but generosity and an indifference to money; not caution but courage; not
The Authors: Dad Jim
and Son Rick
shrewdness but frankness and a love of truth; not a desire for success but a desire to be and to know.

So Rick and I developed an outline with the title Virtues of the Heart, and did a regular book proposal. But my agent said there were already too many virtue books and didn't think he could sell ours. So we put it aside 20 years ago, well before the onslaught of the Internet and, most particularly, social media with its excess of trivia and gossip.     

I know that sounds like the ravings of a grumpy old man out of touch with the modern world.  The only thing I plead guilty to is "old."  I use the Internet and I appreciate the opportunities that social media give us to stay in touch with a wide network of friends and family. However, I've watched with some alarm how obsessed kids and young adults become with the digital world.  I am concerned much less about that than about kids who are left to their digital obsessions without ever being read to, without ever being encouraged to read, and without ever being introduced to age-old stories that fire their  imaginations rather than attack their senses with manufactured images.

Since worthy ideas don't go away, Rick and I decided to revisit the stories from both our childhoods -- stories that contain lessons about virtues. Now we've resurrected our original book, this time aiming it at the kids and the adults who read to them.            
The stories illustrate what we call "the kind-hearted virtues" that must be a part of our fiber if we are to be truly human and to participate fully in our communities and in our world. And despite the many technical means to tell stories, there's still no better way to reach the imaginations of children and young people than through the voice of a respected and beloved adult. 
And, frankly, there's no better way for that adult to connect with the child than by reading a story.
These tales have been carefully gleaned from an extensive review of children's stories and folk tales from many traditions, with no conscious attempt to be artificially representative of the world's cultures. There are also stories based on the lives of famous people or incidents in history. The collection acts as a reference point for adults and children to discuss the importance of the six kind-hearted virtues and how we can realize them in our lives every day. 
Also included is a brief discussion of each and how it fits into this pantheon of virtues.  They often interlock in ways that make separation seem almost arbitrary.  Yet that is part of the point.  In striving toward a good life, a person must work to balance these virtues and assure that they constantly inform and work with one another.
For more information:

Something to Consider: A Workshop Experience in Reflective Writing
Ever heard of reflective writing?

It's a learned technique that enables you to tap into a resource deep within but often unknown to you - a place where your inner self, your soul, the essence of who you are resides. Here, you begin your writing journey not by thinking, but rather by reflecting - quietly, patiently, alone - until words come to you, rather than from you. Then, you begin to write.

Author Pat Schneider offers an almost tactile description of the technique: "May you hear in your own writing - the strangeness, the surprise of mysteries - the presence of ancestors, spirits - buried in the cells of your body."

On Feb. 15-18, 2018, Diane Douiyssi of Bloomington, IL, and I will be hosting Journey through the Forest - A Reflective Writing Retreat in Racine, WI. We'll discuss reflective writing, then experience it first-hand and, finally, consider the possibilities for creating meaningful copy from the words that emerge from your own reflections.

For more information and/or to register: