In Memory of Journalist John McNamara

 

John McNamara, July 30, 196- – June 28, 2018

One year ago today, a gunman opened fire in the Captial Gazette’s newsroom in Annapolis killing five employees, injuring two others, and shocking the region. I had the opportunity to spend time with one of those fallen reporters in 2016, and in John McNamara’s honor, I share his words today.

A passion for writing, riding

By John McNamara

How many little girls grow up scribbling in notebooks, wanting to write and obsessing about horses?

Bowie native Valerie Ormond did.

How many grow up to be successful enough as writers to own their own horses?

Valerie Ormond did.

She lives next door to the Loftmar Stables at the southeastern tip of the city where her three horses are kept. And there are times, when the horses are let out to graze, that she can look up from her computer and out her back window and see them munching on the grass.

“How did all of these things fall into place that allow me to do that?” she asked with a laugh.

When she was one of those girls scribbling in notebooks and obsessing about horses, ending up the way she did – with two young-adult novels to her credit and a thriving writing/editing/consulting business – would have made sense. She fell in love with horses early; she even worked as a hot walker at the old Bowie Race Track for a time. After graduating from Bowie High School, she majored in English and mass communications at Towson.

But she took a roundabout route to arrive where she is now. After college, she set out to California, wound up joining the Navy and spent 25 years in the service, working in public affairs and intelligence. She rose to captain before retiring in 2009 and had every intention of sitting back and taking it easy at that point.

“I didn’t have to get out, but I was tired,” she said. “My whole intention was to retire — really retire. I had enough to be able to live on without working. I was going to ride horses, enjoy life.”

One day not long after she stepped away from the Navy, she came across an old “to-do” list from her youth. One item on the list grabbed her and wouldn’t let go: “Write a book.” That spurred her to produce “Believing in Horses” in 2011 and a follow-up “Believing in Horses, Too” in 2014. The latter effort earned grant money that will place a copy of it in every library system throughout the state.

Both books feature a young heroine who is passionate about horses and who struggles with the angst and upheaval of belonging to a military family. Needless to say, Ormond – whose father and husband both served in the Navy — drew upon many of her own real-life experiences for the stories.

“This (writing) subconsciously has always been with me,” she said. “The book idea just sort of came to me.”

During the first few years of her so-called “retirement,” she also did proposal writing and editing.

In early 2014, she attended a seminar designed to encourage female veterans and military spouses to start their own businesses. A couple of months later, Ormond created Veteran Writing Services. The business has done work for General Dynamics, the Maryland Horse Council and the U.S. House of Representatives.

She has also become a sought after-public speaker who shares what she has learned about writing, leadership and starting your own business.

“I would really like to write a third book about lessons learned and people who helped me,” she said. “I’ve had some tremendous luck in my life.”

For now, she’s trying to find balance between expanding her business and not working too hard.

After all, she wants to make more time for that trio of horses next door.

One of them is Billy.

The other two? They go by Lucky and Chance.

Rest in peace, John, and thank you for sharing your talent with us while here.

First published in the Capital Gazette January 27, 2016.

 

Leadership – General Colin Powell’s Rules

           I recently spoke to a class of graduating seniors at the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland about being a consultant. The instructor said, “It would be nice if you could speak for a few minutes on leadership, too.”

Besides sharing my personal thoughts, I relied on what has worked for me for years: General Colin Powell’s Rules. I first read them when they became popular when General Powell released his first book, My American Journey, in 1995. I understood them immediately and gained a greater understanding of them while reading his book. I posted them on or near my desk or workplace in every job I could and still have a copy on my desk today.

Why? I’ve never found a time where at least one of them has not applied to the situation I faced. Sometimes, more than one applies. They also serve as a powerful reminder of perspective, human nature, and decision making in so many ways. So here they are.

General Colin Powell’s Rules:

  1. It ain’t as bad as you think. It will look better in the morning.
  2. Get mad, then get over it.
  3. Avoid having your ego so close to your position that when your position falls, your ego goes with it.
  4. It can be done!
  5. Be careful what you choose. You may get it.
  6. Don’t let adverse facts stand in the way of a good decision.
  7. You can’t make someone else’s choices. You shouldn’t let someone else make yours.
  8. Check small things.
  9. Share Credit.
  10. Remain calm. Be kind.
  11. Have a vision. Be demanding.
  12. Don’t take counsel of your fears or naysayers.
  13. Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.

I hope these may come in useful to you at some point, and thank you, General Powell, for sharing them with the rest of us.

Photo Credit: Photo illustration by Peggy Frierson

Veteran Writing Services Celebrates Five Years in Business!

Who would have known that the first scribblings of a horse book would turn into Veteran Writing Services, now a a successful company for five years?

As crazy as it sounds, I woke up one night in October 2009 with an idea for a book sparked by an idea from a friend. My supportive husband understood, and I went to the living room and took down notes until early in the morning for what became the outline of my first book, Believing In Horses. I also fortunately had former bosses [Read more…]

Editing Tips: ProWritingAid Review

I receive a lot of requests for editing advice, so hopefully this will interest some of you. Lewis Parrot of Freelance Effect contacted me and thought I might be interested in sharing a review he published on the ProWritingAid editing tool.

Since some members of the Military Writers Society of America recently asked questions about this tool, it seemed like a good idea and the right timing to post this. [Read more…]

Remembering Diego: Who Trains Who


Last month we said farewell to our fourteen-year-old faithful companion, Diego. Here is a story I wrote about him published in “More Than Best Friends – An Anthology in Support of Guide Dogs for the Blind,” by Kevin Morris. Diego was a special dog and lives on in our hearts and memories.  

I had decided to get a dog because my husband mentioned he wanted a dog. Since he was on a business trip, I decided I would go visit the county pound. That visit resulted in me bringing home the best dog I’ve ever had. I can’t say I own him because it’s more like he owns me.

Sitting in a cage, nose on the cold floor, the dog in front of me was quite the contrast to the surrounding others who were yipping, barking, and craving attention. His sad brown eyes looked up at me, his tail thumped, and he licked his dry lips. Something about this particular dog drew me in. [Read more…]

Returning Freedom to Those Who Fought for Ours

In honor of the final day of Veterans Month, I share a story I wrote that appeared in the Inside the Gate magazine last month.

Veteran patients from Walter Reed Medical Center didn’t know horses would help them. Gold Star Mothers didn’t realize how equine relationships would evolve. And military families weren’t aware of local horse facilities and the joy they would bring their children. Horses Help Heroes marched in and made a difference. [Read more…]