Some writers and authors have a knack for using language that can really move people. Some writers and authors have been able to influence millions with their words alone. What does it take to become an effective and successful author or writer? In this interview series, called “5 Things You Need To Be A Successful Author or Writer” we are talking to successful authors and writers who can share lessons from their experiences.
As part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tammy J. Cohen. Tammy J. Cohen has been partnering with top-tier corporate executives and entrepreneurs to develop their person and professional brands for more than 20 years. Today, she sees opportunities for women to thrive and grow exponentially, which is why she founded the Women Beyond the Table — a business network with a soul. Tammy is a speaker and podcaster and the author of “Text Messages To My Sons.” She lives in Manhattan and owns Eighteen Restaurant on the Upper Eastside.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
It took me a while to figure out who and what I am. I am a connector — — connecting for me is as natural as breathing and I think having this ability is my back story to everything that I have done and continue to do.
After college, I worked in the garment industry and received an MBA from Baruch College. I then turned entrepreneur and opened Tammy Cohen Marketing and Consulting where I provided traditional marketing services to small businesses across various industries.
After working with a few gem and jewelry clients, I realized that I wanted to focus my skill set in the gem and jewelry space. This led to consulting for a large global diamond company where I was responsible for branding, marketing, training and building networks.
Once the pandemic hit, I focused inwards and realized that I wanted to work on myself. It also became important to me to interact and engage with my sons differently and build a different type of relationship. So, I started messaging. I have to admit, the last few years have led to an awakening and opened the door to me achieving milestones such as founding a women’s business network, starting a podcast and publishing my book, “Text Messages To My Sons.”
Can you share the most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?
I have often had to speak in front of large groups — — whether presenting a topic or doing a training session. I always put a lot of prep time in and would write scripts. I would try to memorize the scripts and it was always an issue. Sometimes, I would just go blank. I could not understand why some people could just get up and be in the flow and here I was, so confident and comfortable in one to one and small groups, but in front of an audience, I would almost stop breathing. I started to dread speaking.
As it turns out, I had been selected to be a speaker at a major gem and jewelry industry conference on the topic of Brand Messaging to what I thought was a group of people that I mostly knew in the audience. I had prepared a great and engaging presentation. When I got to the room, it was not only a huge audience but standing room only.
I started to feel anxious. But, instead of going down the rabbit hole, I just started to breathe deeply, and said to myself, “Forget the script — use it for a note and be yourself. Pretend that everyone here is your friend and that you are just having a conversation.”
It turned out great.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in your journey to becoming a writer? How did you overcome it? Can you share a story about that that other aspiring writers can learn from?
My biggest challenge was trying to figure out how to write a book, as there are a lot of moving parts, and I had no idea how to start and go about it. I had hundreds of messages — — pages and pages — — but that is a far cry from a book. I also had to commit to the expense. Yes, even with self-publishing there are expenses. I was not about to do everything on my own but recognized that I needed experts in the field to guide me. People would often tell me “You should write a book,” but they did not say how or offer any tips!
It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I learned something in the editing process which really made an impact. Besides love, encouragement and positivity, it is important to me to share knowledge and inspirational quotes too. I have a lot of amazing quotes that I sent my sons and that are in my book, “Text Messages to My Sons;” however, when the editors starting checking the quotes themselves, there were quite a few that were un-attributable. This is especially true on social media where quotes are used and attributed to people who did not originate the quote. So, always check and double check.
In your opinion, were you a “natural born writer” or did you develop that aptitude later on? Can you explain what you mean?
I always was an avid reader growing up and I loved writing. I went to a small school during lower and middle school and the teachers always told me what a gifted and incredible writer I was. For high school, I went to a big public school and got an F or D on my first papers which made my cry! I thought “There must be a mistake; I am a brilliant writer, an author”!
However, my English teacher, Mr. Monahan, said to me, “You have potential and if you really want to become a writer you will stay after school and work at it.” So, I did and grew to love writing. As it turns out when I went to college, at SUNY Albany, I was the only one in freshman English Comp to get an A on the first essay while everyone around me was not that lucky. While I was not a natural born writer, I had to work at it and learn.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
Currently, I am very busy with promoting “Text Messages to My Sons.”
I am working on a collaborative book and store launch event in New York City at a fine jewelry store on Madison Avenue, ZADEH. Proceeds are being donated to charity.
I am the founder of a women’s business network called Women Beyond the Table. We recently had a wonderful in person event and are in the midst of several projects and upcoming collaborative events. Another amazing project is the “Beyond the Table Podcast” which I co–host. We have conversations with impactful female entrepreneurs who share their journey and stories.
My consulting business, TC Brand Consulting is where I partner with clients in the gem and jewelry space and utilize my skills to connect them to their message and services needed to grow their business. Last but certainly not least, I have a restaurant on the upper east side of Manhattan called Eighteen Restaurant which has been open for over 13 years.
Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience, what are the “5 Things You Need To Be A Successful Author or Writer”? Please share a story or example for each.
1 . Vision: You need to have an idea in your mind before you can take a step. I had no plan to write a book, I just had the vision to start to text message my sons and connect to them on a deeper level.
2 . Discipline/Consistency: You must do the work, write daily and set aside the time. At the top of my task list every day is to write a message, I do not put if off.
3 . Hire a Pro: Work with a business that understands publishing. I did some research and found a company, Pen for Hire, which took me through the whole process and worked with me every step of the way. Plus, they explained the different ways to publish.
4 . . EDITING/ Design: Make sure you either hire an editor or work with a company that provides editing as it is extremely important that your book is properly edited. In addition, an editor will check every quote to make sure that they are being attributed correctly as well as creating the citation pages. Hiring a designer is important because, let’s face it, people are attracted to the cover, then they check out the back cover and the overview and the decision to buy is often based on the design and attraction of these elements.
5 . Hire PR: I do not know the first thing of getting a book out to an audience nor do I have those types of media contacts. Pen for Hire connected me with Andrea Pass Public Relations who has the contacts to get me interviews and featured in the press.
To be a successful author, you need people to hear about your book, buy it and tell their friends about it.
What is the one habit you believe contributed the most to you becoming a great writer? (i.e. perseverance, discipline, play, craft study). Can you share a story or example?
Discipline and Consistency; I had to discipline myself to write a message to my sons daily, Monday — Friday 5x per week. I had to master this and not find other things to do over writing and sending the message. The words Meditate and Message are the top of my daily list of tasks to accomplish every day. Plus, I get a lot of satisfaction when my sons respond. They do not send big responses, but they acknowledge and send me love back.
Which literature do you draw inspiration from? Why?
A. I have been blessed to be an avid reader growing up, I hid in books and was attracted to all genres. However, I can say that today, I draw inspiration reading the works of transformational coaches, energy workers and leaders who spent 30 years figuring it out; walking a challenging path that they did not deviate from and then sharing the experience in a book. How awesome is it that you can read in a week something that someone took 30 years to figure out?
Here are the books that impacted me:
“Think and Grow Rich”
“The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”
“Think Like A Monk”
“The Leader Who Had No Title”
“Mans Search for Meaning”
“Many Lives Many Masters”
“The Surrender Experiment”
“Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself
“You Are the Placebo”
“Conversations With G-d”
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
The movement would be to encourage people to share messages of love, inspiration, encouragement, positivity, support, and knowledge to their children, family, friends and community. I believe by doing this we bring light into the world.
If a person is born into madness and the only messages they receive are of hate, indoctrination, incitement and violence from their family, friends, community, education and government then there will be darkness. Darkness brings evil.
Thank you so much for this. This was very inspiring!