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Writers@Work: Better Together—An Interview with Authors Betsy Polk and Maggie Ellis Chotas

February 9, 2016


Note From Rochelle


Dear Writers,


book (2)Last fall, when I invited you to take my survey on writing business-boosting books, I met several authors. Throughout the next year, I’ll be interviewing many of them about their writing process. For today’s post, I interviewed Betsy Polk and Maggie Ellis Chotas about their work as authors of the book, Power through Partnership. Enjoy!


Happy Writing!
Rochelle, the Write Now! Coach





Better Together:

An Interview with Betsy Polk and Maggie Ellis Chotas

by Rochelle Melander


Today I’m delighted to welcome Betsy Polk and Maggie Ellis Chotas to the blog to talk about their book, Power Through Partnership: How Women Lead Better Together. Welcome, women!


R: Can you talk a bit about your book, Power Through Partnership, and what it’s about?


Betsy and Maggie: Power through Partnership is a celebration of the great things that happen when women work together as partners. It was inspired by our own experience.


Betsy PolkBetsy: When Maggie and I, friends since 10th grade, decided to combine our skills to form The Mulberry Partners, a coaching & consulting practice, we looked around for a resource that would guide the way but didn’t find what we were looking for. While we found plenty of books about the legal aspects of forming a collaboration, there wasn’t anything that spoke to us as two women who really wanted to build a business while making sure to preserve the partnership at the core of it. A few years into working together, it hit us that we were really happy with our work, our lives and our partnership and wondered if other women partners were achieving similar results. So, we reached out and asked and the result is our book—the very book we were looking for when we first started!


Maggie Ellis Chotas

Maggie Ellis Chotas

Maggie: The women we interviewed were so inspiring! Over and over from them we heard about the flexibility, happiness, confidence, support, creativity, reciprocity they got from their partnerships—benefits so many women are looking for at work and in life. Power Through Partnership is about being able to reap those benefits through strong professional relationships with other women by getting past the myths that can get in our way, learning how to get the most out of conflict and bringing out the best in each other.






R: Your book is based on your experience, consulting work, and interviews with women. In what ways did your book content emerge from the interviews and research? Or, did your research and interviews change your ideas about what you would write about?
Betsy: We found that whenever we were facing a roadblock in our partnership, we’d somehow—and it always seemed miraculous—uncover just the right answer or new approach from the women we interviewed. For example, we were both considering taking on projects outside of Mulberry and were concerned that in doing so we might be doing our partnership a disservice. As we interviewed partners like the Indigo Girls who talked about the many ways in which their separate endeavors enriched their partnership, we realized that what we were thinking of as a deficit could really be a strength. So, we embraced these outside opportunities, balanced them with the work of The Mulberry Partners and learned that the Indigo Girls were right!


Maggie: It’s true. We were writing the book we needed as we went along. Since women in partnership are still under the radar (though rising about every day!), the more we talked to other women the more we learned about our own collaboration and the more we could see how important it was for these stories and role models to get out into the world to help other women just as they were helping us!


Writing Together


R: What was it like to write with a partner?


Betsy: Once we got our rhythm it was great! At first it was frustrating because we’d get into editing cycles where we’d each override what the other wrote. Finally, Maggie proposed that I act as the lead writer. With clear roles, we developed a more efficient way of working that turned a frustrating process into an energizing one.


Maggie: It was a great lesson to learn: sometimes you have to be flexible and look at doing things differently. One of our mantras for our business partnership has been 50/50, but over time we’ve come to realize that we need to be open to other arrangements when they are warranted. Power Through Partnership was both of our ideas, but Betsy held fast to it and had the burning, sustained passion for it. It made sense she would be the lead author.


R: What advice would you have for other people who want to write with a partner?


Betsy: Be clear about roles and expectations while you’re deciding to co-write. In other words, do what we did but a whole lot earlier in the process than we did!


Maggie: Keep reminding yourselves what your goals are—what are you wanting to accomplish together? Why are you co-writing? The vision of why can be such a guiding star through the ups and downs of writing and publication.


Staying Productive


R: What tools did each of you use to stay productive with your writing process while also working?


Betsy: Knowing that I am accountable to Maggie really helped! Deadlines really mean something to each of us because we know our partner is counting on it.


Maggie: Yes, Betsy and I are both “deadline kind of people.” Once we had deadlines in front of us, we hit them. I am a big fan of lists; there is nothing like crossing something off and having a celebration—even if it’s a just a little party at my desk.


Recommending Books


R: What are you reading right now?


Betsy: I just finished American Dervish—a very well written fictional story about a Muslim-American boy’s coming of age.


Maggie: I’m loving Gloria Steinem’s On The Road. She has led a remarkable life and her honesty comes through in these stories.


ABOUT BETSY POLK AND MAGGIE ELLIS CHOTAS Betsy Polk and Maggie Ellis Chotas founded The Mulberry Partners, LLC in 2003 to guide people in a variety of organizations to ways of working better together. Inspired by the flexibility, support and confidence that fueled their own collaboration as The Mulberry Partners, Betsy and Maggie reached out to 125 female business partners to find out if they were realizing similar benefits from their business partnerships. These women—ranging from cupcake bakers to Mideast peace brokers—all responded with a resounding yes. Betsy and Maggie’s book, Power Through Partnership: How Women Lead Better Together (Berrett-Koehler Publishing, November 2014) captures the stories and lessons shared by the partners they interviewed, debunks myths blocking the path to working together and explores why partnership is the solution for women ready for a better way to work and lead. Visit them online at The Mulberry Partners, follow them on Twitter, or like their page on Facebook.



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