“free-range” writer, speaker, and author coach
I support other aspiring authors unleash their creative courage (aka, their authentic voice and agency).
Shelly L. Francis is author of The Courage Way: Leading and Living with Integrity, written on behalf of the Center for Courage & Renewal during her tenure there as the marketing and communications director. She is now a “free-range” writer, speaker, and author coach, helping other aspiring authors unleash their creative courage (aka, their authentic voice and agency). Before coming to the Center in 2012, Shelly directed trade marketing and publicity for multi-media publisher Sounds True, Inc. She has been a communicator in a range of business sectors from publishing to government to high tech and health care. Whether running her own business or serving organizations, the common thread throughout Shelly’s career has been bringing to light best-kept secrets — technology, services, resources, ideas — while bringing people together to facilitate collective impact and good work. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The one and maybe only thing I think I do better than anyone else is looking for metaphors and synchronicity that add meaning to the every day life of being a human. What I love to do best is to be in the flow of putting creative ideas together that help people access their inner resourcefulness.
The most important characteristic that has gotten me to where I am today is trusting that if I’m faced with a challenge, it’s because I have chosen soul-deep to learn from the situation (dangit!). You could call that having a growth mindset.
I’m not sure I separate personal from business aspirations, except in the sense of the scale. I aspire to walk my talk, live my best life and make a positive difference in the lives of other people. I aim to contribute my gifts toward making the world a better place—without burning out! I say that creativity is my caffeine, so I aspire to make a life and a living by staying awake with my creativity. Writing is my art and I like to combine words with images and be braver about sharing those expressions more broadly. I’d like to feel as articulate out loud as I feel in my (final-draft) writing voice.
I can point to certain projects throughout my career that I’m proud of, and the ongoing theme has been where I’ve combined technology and creativity that resulted in great ideas being accessible to more people. Most recently I’m proud of writing The Courage Way book, which describes how leaders are applying a social technology that helps them be wholehearted, trustworthy humans.
Maya Angelou once said of her son that he was her monument. I’m extremely proud of the person my son has become, so I’m proud of bringing him into the world and bringing him up as someone who is authentic, a bright light, and compassionate.
Not long ago my life did several 180s all at once. My job came to an end, my relationship ended, and then a deer ran in front of my car and totaled it. If your life does a 180 more than once, I’d call that a 540! When life changes all at once times three, it’s a clear sign from the universe that it’s time to accept that it’s time to move forward. Because of researching and writing my book over many years, I felt prepared to face and embrace those changes with courage.
I looked inward at my true self, reflecting on what I was ready to grow into next and where my resistance might be, as well as my strengths.
I looked for places I could trust in myself to take on the challenges, even though it felt exhausting, scary and overwhelming some days. I also looked for the gift in the changes, knowing I wouldn’t be able to see them just yet but trusting they were there.
I looked for community and realized who I could trust–friends, family, colleagues. Those are the people who stayed connected, who offered a great listening ear, good food, and laughter.
All that was about practicing reflection, looking inward so I could move forward. I use journaling, walking in nature, looking for metaphors, even noticing the synchronicity of song lyrics to reflect on my life every day. It’s like a continuing conversation with my inner true self.
Another important practice was noticing all the places of paradox, where it was more healthy and whole to think of both/and instead of default to either/or thinking. I looked for creative third ways to approach changes: where to live, what to do next. How to pace myself by flowing from one option to another, rather than staying stuck as if there were only one option for any challenge or decision.
Since those big 180s, life kept on offering changes and new invitations. A tree recently fell on my roof, thanks to a freak wind storm (thankfully nobody was hurt). I think I’m up to a 900 by now. Because that’s how life works. I realized it wasn’t just a back-and-forth swing of some mystic pendulum. Those changes are like breathing, like the tide coming in and out, and sometimes, like the hands going around an analog clock.
I love collecting words to live by, so I can’t pick just one. Here are two quotes that have guided me most in recent years:
(1) Violence is what happens when we don’t know what else to do with our own suffering,” by Parker J. Palmer and also by Parker (2) Self-care is never a selfish act—it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer others.”
People who inspire me the most are the ones who have the courage to speak up and give voice to their own experience to serve a greater good. Most recently I’m inspired by the teens in Florida (and beyond) who are part of the #NeverAgain movement to change gun control laws so that shootings, in schools especially but overall, someday become a thing of the past.
I love uncrowded beaches where I can feel the tide and sense the connection point between land and sea. I have been lucky to travel many places with my work and love going places where I get to meet people I’ve been corresponding with; one such highlight was New Zealand. I also love “going home” to visit family and friends in Colorado, Chicago and Philadelphia.
Pens with purple ink, specifically Pilot G-2 07 pens with refills. Seashell fragments, especially the spiral eyes of moonsnails; and small stones that I can stack. Also wooden art manikins.
After three years of 24/7 working on a book project (The Courage Way), which I loved, I’m enjoying being in the “in between” phase of big projects right now as I start to launch a new entrepreneurial endeavor. I am passionate about finding joy and balance in the unfolding of what’s next. I’m pondering the idea of “presence.” I feel like the universe is calling me to live into what I’ve been writing about—which is leading a life of integrity. I define that as aligning who I am with what I do.