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Writers@Work: Overcoming Obstacles

November 15, 2016


Note From Rochelle

Dear Writers,

I’m writing a book to help you conquer your obstacles and succeed at your creative endeavors. It’s fun to write—and I can’t wait to share it with you.

Until then, I want to offer you an opportunity to plan what you’re going to accomplish next year.

I know you can do it on your own, but it’s so much easier—and more effective—to work with a coach. For that reason, I’m offering a special $95 rate for this one-hour conversation. You’ll receive:

+A welcome letter and assignment to complete before we meet.

+A one-hour consultation with me.

+A recording of our conversation.

If you’re interested in claiming one of the remaining spots I have available for this conversation, email me.

I’m delighted to welcome Mary J. Dowell to the blog today to talk about her new book, Playing Through the Fence. She will speak and sign books at Boswell Book Company on Friday, November 18 at 7:00 PM.


Happy Writing!

The Write Now! Coach




Writers@Work: Interview with Mary J. Dowell author of Playing Through the Fence: Stories from 19 Women Who Challenged Stereotypes, Prejudice and Other Barriers to Achieve Career Success


Welcome, Mary! I’m excited about your new book. Can you tell us how the book came about?

playingthroughfence_coverPlaying Through the Fence is a labor of love that took eight years to bring to fruition. It originated from a childhood memory, which I share in the book’s preface, when a young white girl moved in next door in my all-black neighborhood. We became friends but were only allowed (due to the times) to play on separate sides of the tattered wire fence that separated us. Determined, we found holes to play through for as long as the family lived there. This memory transformed into a book with what I call a gift of divine inspiration, serving as a metaphor for obstacles we all face in our lives and careers. The stories shared from the incredible women I interviewed illustrate this idea of breaking through barriers out of our control to find success in our personal and/or professional lives.




Your book uses the metaphor of the fence to represent the crossroads where struggle meets opportunity.  Can you share a bit of your story—how did you handle those crossroads to be where you are today?

As I made my way through my life and career, the fence metaphor became symbolic for me. I often found myself in a similar place—facing barriers out of my control that kept me from obtaining what was on the other side. As a young, enthusiastic, maybe even idealistic woman, I certainly had my own view of the world and expectations of how it should be. I was surprised and disappointed when the start of my career was met with unexpected challenge, but that did not thwart my plan or drive to succeed. I used the resources that were available to me and dug deep to find inner strength in order to stay grounded and focused. I learned early on that obstacles are temporary, but the decision to persevere and overcome, whatever the circumstance, builds strengths and character that is life-long.


You share the stories of 19 women who have overcome obstacles on their path to work and life success. What are some of the practices you and the women you write about used to challenge and cross barriers and achieve success?

Stories of challenge, disappointment, growth, and success are interwoven throughout the book with leadership concepts such as mentoring, networking and family support. While some of the stories highlight those topics specifically, the overarching theme of them all is perseverance. The foundational concept, and the message I hope to leave readers with, is that with obstacle comes opportunity and a call to action. Crisis is a moment to decide and an opportunity to grow. All the women who shared their stories in this book were faced with potentially game-changing obstacles in their paths. Their stories of challenge became stories of triumph, as each made the same decision in their moments of crisis—to persevere, despite all odds, in the name of success.




Many of my readers are writers who are struggling to write books! How did you use the tools you learned as a businesswoman and leader to write your book? 

I found the inspiration and drive to write my book through observance and interaction. During my 20 years in Fortune 100 and 500 organizations as a community relations and human resources executive, I interacted with individuals at various levels in their lives and careers. The one underlying consistency I observed over the years was the desire to learn what resources are needed to grow and develop leadership skills for optimum success in their lives and careers. I provided direction and support, but I also helped them realize what was right under their noses. I feel strongly that there is a leader within all of us, but that sometimes life gets in the way of realizing our potential and using our talents to achieve our goals. This book has been a great opportunity for me to use my professional knowledge in an inspirational way, and the incredible women who share their stories illustrate the power of perseverance in the quest for leadership.


What books have supported you in your journey?

I have found inspiration and support in my journey from many books, including:

  • Lois P. Frankel, Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office: Unconscious Mistakes Women Make That Sabotage Their Careers
  • Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In
  • Susan Marshall, How to Grow a Backbone


mary-dowell-photoAbout the Author: Mary J. Dowell is the principal of MJDowell & Associates, a management-consulting group with emphasis in Human Resources, Coaching, Workshops, Philanthropy, and Public Speaking. Her extensive background includes Community Relations, Foundation and Philanthropy, and Human Resources. She has 20+ years of executive experience delivering performance objectives within global business-driven manufacturing organizations. Dowell has demonstrated significant community involvement, participation, and leadership, and has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the Milwaukee Times Black Excellence Award and the Milwaukee Business Journal’s Women of Influence Award.



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