Category Archives: Leadership

Paying Tribute to Purdue’s Music Maker: Chuck Coe

Band Members dadbandstandsV2img182

“We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams.”
— Arthur O’Shaughnessy, British poet (1844-1881)

The Writing Well is delighted to pay tribute today to a special music maker — my husband’s 99-year-old grandfather, Charles (Chuck) Coe.

Last week, he received a lifetime entertainment award from Second Wind Dreams®, a non-profit devoted to granting a dream to those living in eldercare communities or in hospice care. The organization, begun in 1997, has fulfilled more than 10,000 dreams nationwide since its founding.

ChucUniformk, a World War II vet and graduate of Purdue University, earned his way through engineering school as a band leader and musician, playing clarinet, flute and saxophone. His group, “Chuck Coe and the Purduvians” performed at dances and special events, and even made three cruises to Europe and back entertaining passengers. When the war came, Chuck served as an Army captain in the 2nd Armored Division’s Hell on Wheels, where he was part of the D-day invasion + 3. He was head of communication for the battalion, making sure all the radios worked.

I could feel the love and regard for Chuck as residents, staff and family members came to pay their respects at his assisted living home in Roswell. His three children and their spouses were on hand, as well as my husband and our two kids, who are his great-grandchildren.

“Wow, sure appreciate it,” said Chuck, after receiving the award.

Sue Hamilton hugging Chuck -- she coordinated Chuck's musical tribute.

Sue Hamilton hugging Chuck — she coordinated Chuck’s musical tribute.

Sue Hamilton, the healthy lifestyle coordinator for the facility, planned and executed the entire event, serving as liaison with Second Wind Dreams and securing entertainment. She  hugged Chuck and showed everyone a lamp he fashioned from his old clarinet.

A special lamp Chuck made from his reetired clarinet.

A special lamp.

She then introduced Amber, who transported everyone back to the big band music of the 40s, kicking off her tribute singing Billie Holiday’s “What’s New?” before delving into countless Glenn Miller tunes.

Linda Coatsworth, Chuck’s youngest and a hammered dulcimer player, said she was so happy with how the event went. “We weren’t real sure how well he was going to do with a surprise, but I think he’s done quite well for 99 and a half.” Added Linda: “What’s so wonderful about this event is that dad was able to enjoy the tribute, whereas these kinds of tributes usually happen after the one honored has passed.”

Asked what she is most proud of about her dad, Linda said, “His example – to stay calm, don’t get excited. I don’t think I ever heard him raise one loud voice to mom in his 75 years of marriage to her. He’s such a role model.”

Chuck with his kids (L to R) Linda, Larry and Carol.

Chuck with his kids (L to R) Linda, Larry and Carol.

Carol, Chuck’s oldest, who plays the piano as well as the hammered dulcimer, said, “Seeing the good in others and being grateful no matter what,” is the quality of her father that stays with her the most. “It’s cute that the people who work here say he is so special to them. They would like him for a father if I would share him.”
Carol was only two years old when her father went off to war, and was in kindergarten when he returned. Her brother, Larry, was just an infant when he returned home.

“I remember when he came home after the war. We had this little house in Lafayette, Indiana, and he had his uniform on and just stood there. Mother said, ‘This is your father. He’s going to live here,'” recalled Carol. “Chuck_PosterI was somewhat stunned. He was so peaceful. He smiled, he went out in the backyard and saw trees, bushes and grass, and he just looked like he landed in heaven. That was how I remembered really, really knowing him.”

Larry, who bears a strong likeness to his dad, told me that Chuck never spoke much about his experiences during WWII. He followed in his father’s footsteps as an engineer but didn’t take his career advice. “He advised me to not go to work in the steel business, but I did anyway.” Larry said, chuckling. “I remember us working underneath a ’47 Buick, rebuilding the engine. He had a cigarette in his mouth and ash about that long coming off the end of the cigarette until it finally fell on his face.”

Chuck with Amber after her musical performance.

Chuck with Amber after her musical performance.

I caught up with Amber after her music performance concluded, and she shared that this was the first time she ever performed Big Band songs for someone. “This was fun for me because this is the music I sing in my car, the music I love and that I’ve been singing for years and years.”
Amber explained that Chuck told her he played the saxophone and the flute and pretty much any woodwind in his orchestra. She notes that all the Big Band songs have a specific order– first you sing two verses, then a chorus, and then there is a dance break before you come back to do a chorus again.

“During the dance break you’re almost always have a piano solo or more often than not, a woodwind solo. So, I could imagine Chuck standing up during the dance breaks to play his solo saxophone. When I was putting the set together, that was what I was imagining.”

Doreen Scascitelli, CEO of Second Wind Dreams, seemed visibly moved by Chuck’s response and the outpouring of people at the celebration. “Seeing the community come out and everyone supporting him – that’s the principle   this organization was founded on. It’s not just the dream – it’s actually about unity and everyone being involved in the dream, from the people who provided the champagne to the people who provided the cake, to the person who did the poster. The dreams, whether they are simple or sublime, all have an amazing meaning for the elder and for the community.”

Connecting with God through Prayer: One Author’s Journey


More than 75 percent of Americans believe in the importance and power of prayer. But, how many enjoy it, look forward to it, and feel equipped for the task?

That’s the primary question Atlantan Tawana Lowery wants to answer with her new spiritual self-help book, Five Easy Steps to Life-Changing Prayer.

Based on her own struggles with faith and personal tragedy, the book serves as a heart-felt and engaging guide for those who want to pursue prayer practice using a proven process.  Tawana believes people first must give their burdens to God – and in the process, they will liberate their hearts and minds.

The part memoir, part spiritual coaching guide is chocked full of practical tips and inspiring stories targeted at “people who want to pray but don’t feel equipped or don’t believe their prayers matter,” explains Tawana.

“It’s for anyone who is hurting, wounded, exhausted and confused and need a way to connect with their creator for answers and solutions, or who feels lost, forgotten or disconnected and simply wants to connect with someone who cares about them,” she adds.

prayereaglesTawana frequently speaks at conferences and to groups about her book. The PR-trained entrepreneur and former single mother started her own company, Prayer Eagles, to provide team effectiveness training, community outreach strategies and prayer skills coaching.  In early August, she was a featured author at the She Speaks women’s conference in Atlanta.

Below she shares more detail on her tightly interwoven faith and writing journey and what she hopes readers will get out of her book.

Q. What made you decide to write this book?

Tawana: In less than 10 years, I endured two bankruptcies, the loss of all my investment property, watched two business go belly up, dealt with years of unemployment, gave up three beautiful homes, moved 8 times, was blindsided by betrayal and experienced the death of  both parents. I like to describe it as a Financial Tornado, followed by an emotional Hurricane, followed by a personal Tsunami.

During those tumultuous years I was desperate to connect to God. Being a very practical, bottomline person I didn’t want to wait for someone else or hope that a minister might accidently say something remotely related to what I needed to hear. There were days when I neede to experience God in less than 10 minutes or die. I seriously thougth about killing myself on numerous occassions.

Through that experience I began to notice ways I was sabotaging my prayers and what I could do to reverse it. Once I began to incorporate the principles I share in my book, dramatic changes took place in my life and my relationship with God. Soon I was able to hear God’s voice with clarity, and experience his grace that enabled me to carry on. But it came about from doing what I share in my book on a consistent basis.

As I began to share what I had learned, others were also experiencing dynamic changes. So much so I was asked repeatedly to write a book about it. I even had one person tell me to quit my job and write a book so other people could know how to pray.

The truth is, most people want to pray. But they feel so ill equipoed they stop before they even get started.

What we pray about is already difficult. So why make the act of praying equally hard? My goal for writing this book was to offer an easy-to-understand prayer-coach approach to the most important and deeply personal activity of our life. I’ve tried to make it as easy and as simple as possible. I even included several plug-and-play tools that are easy to understand and easy to implement. Meaning you can apply what you learn to effectively pray about anything, any time, any place for yourself and others.

Q. What does success in prayer mean to people?

Tawana: For most people success in prayer means:

  • Ending the cycle of uncertainty and frustration that often describes most people’s prayer experience.
  • Being able to improve your ability to hear God’s voice and enjoy a stronger relationship with the person who loves you most.
  • Having insight to understand what brings about transformational thinking, rest for your mind and peace for your soul.
  • Knowing how to pray in a manner that produces lasting healing for wounded emotions and relationships.
  • And learning how to notice divine invitations for prayer you might be missing out on.

Q. Have you found that the topic of prayer is something that is a big issue for people? What has been the response to the book?

Tawana: The response has been very positive. So many people tell me that the book and my writing style have helped them cut through the complications of religious rhetoric so they can experience an easy, enjoyable connection with God. They tell me the topics and illustrations in my book address issues and problems they have struggled with. It gave them clarity and hope. It gave them a sense of being connected and understood.

Those answers don’t surprise me at all, because the research supports the feedback I hear.  According to a 2012 Pew Research survey, more than 75% of Americans agreed that prayer is an important part of daily life. Surprisingly, that percentage has remained consistent over the past 25 years. Even among those who say they don’t believe in God, 12 percent admit they pray, as reported in The Washington Post in June, 2013.

It seems a lot of us believe in the importance of prayer. The question is how many of us actually enjoy it? How many look forward to it? How often does prayer strengthen our relationship with God or make us feel more intimate with our Creator? As I said before, most people don’t feel equipped for the task.

According to an Ellis Research survey for Facts & Trends, less than 20% of church leaders say they are satisfied with their prayer lives. That means close to 80% are either completely or partially dissatisfied with prayer. That’s an astounding figure, yet probably very representative of most people.

I just don’t believe it has to be that way. I found something better and my goal is to help as many people escape from Prayer Fail Jail as possible.

Q. What did you learn in the process of producing this work?

Tawana:  One of my biggest challenges while I was going through my seasons of difficulty was trying to make sense of it. I was plagued with the thought that my trials would be in vain unless something beneficial came out of it.

During the process of writing the book, I began to see the upside to all the downside. What I learned about God and prayer during those painful dark days laid the foundation for my book.  My prayer is that it will strengthen the foundation of other people’s lives as a result.

Sometimes we try to put as much distance as we can between ourselves and our painful experiences. That’s what I was trying to do. And moving forward is important. But the trials are important also. They have value because they show us what where we have need, and that’s a good thing. It makes us human.  It makes us real. It makes us relatable. It gives us a story to share.

Q. What lessons learned can you share with other writers of non-fiction/memoir type writing?

Tawana: My advice would be to share your story because it’s yours to share. It means you value your own journey enough to write about it.

Q.What was the hardest part of this experience? The best part?

Tawana: Because I also work a full-time job, I had to write on weekends and holidays. My schedule was very strict so as to maximize the time. But it was something I always looked forward to.  It was also a challenge to curate years of experience in to something simple and consumable.

The best part was knowing that I was giving others something to help them; knowing that I was making a positive impact on the world and sharing my struggles with others in hopes of inspiring them to persevere.


I’m often referred to as “The Prayer Chick.” It started by praying with a porn operator who had no hands.

The truth is I love to pray with anybody about any issue. I’m not easily offended. People trust me because I can relate to their pain and struggle without judging them. I truly believe that comes across in the book. People feel connected to me and they know I understand their struggles because I’ve lived them.

Q. What’s next for you?

Tawana: I am considering investigating the possibility of hosting a women’s conference of my own in the fall of 2016.

About the Author

TawanaTawana Lowery is following her true passion as a writer, inspirational speaker and prayer coach. Her debut book, 5 Easy Steps to LIfe Changing Prayer, was published in May 2015. As founder and director of Prayer Eagles, she enjoys helping others succeed with prayer and in their relationship with God.  Visit Tawana on her website,, or follow her on Twitter at: 


The Writing Well Honors Veterans: Most Memorable War-related Posts


Today, as America honors those who have served their country, The Writing Well revisits this blog’s most poignant posts with veteran themes over the last four years.

Published on U.S. Memorial Days, the 4th of July and other dates of significance to the nation, these entries are examples of storytelling that underscore the power of words to move and heal. They include interviews with memoir, fiction and non-fiction authors who served or lost loved ones during times of war, an Army chaplain researching how a family member tended to the physical and religious needs of Civil War soldiers, as well as memorable war-time speeches and books worth reading.

Pulitzer Prize-nominated Author Jedwin Smith Talks about the Re-release of His Family War-time Memoir, Our Brother’s Keeper

Jedwin Smith’s memoir, originally released in 2005, details the loss of his younger brother, Jeff, the family’s “peacemaker,” during the Vietnam War, and his journey to find out who killed him. Since its release, Our Brother’s Keeper has been widely used by the VA and by the Wounded Warrior Project®, serving  to heal many veterans and bring closure to families still reeling from the sacrifice of their loved ones.

Lost Art of Letter Writing: One Sister’s Tribute to her Brother

Fellow writing group member Susan Jimison talks about her experience crafting her up-and-coming memoir about her brother, Mark Clotfelter, a pilot who died in Vietnam when she was only 14 years old: as a series Jimison_Mark_Suan_Wallof letters to him. “Writing about my brother’s heroic feats during the Vietnam War felt very unnatural for me. It was almost like I was trying to tell a war story. A war I was never in,” recalls Susan, “So, at the suggestion of fellow writer, Mari Ann Steffaneli, I tried epistolary style. Writing letters to my brother is exactly what I had done forty-three years earlier. And so, I continued writing to him, to tell his story, in letter form. It felt natural and that showed in my writing.”

Healing Soldiers: Civil War Devotional Back in Print 

Dr. Bill Nisbet, a retired Army Reserves chaplain who serves on the pastoral staff of my church, his journey re-publishing The Confederate Soldier’s Pocket Manual of Devotions, a 1863 book compiled by Nisbet’s great-great-great grandfather, a medical doctor and chaplain of the First Tennessee Regiment, who cared for the physical and spiritual needs of soldiers as a hospital field surgeon.



Revolutionary Speeches to Remember

From American presidents FDR and Abraham Lincoln to esteemed British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, these famous orators delivered patriotic speeches that have inspired generations, and made a lasting impact on the public during times of trial and times of healing.

Three Must-Reads of the War-time Experience

These three books — two works of historical fiction and one non-fiction work– memorably captured a soldier’s struggles and experiences in wars past and present. They include my all-time favorite historical novel, The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara.

The other books featured are: A Soldier of the Great War by Mark Helprin, and WAR by Sebastian Junger.  Helprin’s book focuses on an elderly Italian professor and veteran of the Great War, who is moved to tell the story of his life to a young, illiterate Sicilian industrial worker, as they take a long walk from Rome to a village in the mountains. Junger, a contributing editor at Vanity Fair, recreates the experiences of an American infantry platoon he spent months shadowing in Afghanistan between 2007 and 2008. The story chronicles the 15-month deployment of a platoon in the Korangal Valley, considered the most hostile and dangerous valley in the country. The valley, the author explains, “is sort of the Afghanistan of Afghanistan: too ­remote to conquer, too poor to intimidate, too autonomous to buy off.”

Transformation & Redemption: A Conversation with Civil War Storyteller Robert Hicks

Book_WidowoftheSouthI relished this in-depth interview with Robert Hicks, acclaimed author of two engaging historical fiction books about the Civil War and its aftermath. The first, The Widow of the South, is the tale of Carrie McGavock, a headstrong wife and mother who, in November 1864, finds her plantation home turned into a field hospital during the devastating one-day Battle of Franklin (widely considered as among the five bloodiest hours in the entire war).

Robert’s second novel, A Separate Country, takes place in New Orleans in the years after the Civil War, and focuses on the life of John Bell Hood, arguably one of the most controversial generals of the Confederate Army–and one of its most tragic figures.

Books for Heroes – A Worthy Cause

No soldier should be without a book — that sentiment formed the inspiration for creating this charitable foundation that ships books to soldiers free of charge. Thanks to the generosity of numerous book publishers, bookstore customers and trucking firms, Books for Heroes has shipped thousands of books to armed forces in Afghanistan, VA hospitals, and U.S. military bases. The charity got a major boost when bestselling author James Patterson donated  200,000 of his own books to the cause.


Wharton: Leadership Lessons from the Battlefield

Reenactment of the Battle of Gettysburg in 2003. (Robert London / The Baltimore Sun)

Reenactment of the Battle of Gettysburg in 2003. (Robert London / The Baltimore Sun)

As an organizational storyteller and a history buff, I’ve seldom tackled a more fascinating writing assignment than this: chronicling Wharton Executive Education’s program that brings lessons of leadership from actual sites of major historical battles.

The unique learning engagement has taken business leaders from the fields of Gettysburg, to the beaches at Normandy and the Italian Peninsula to understand and learn from the commanders who led military forces and fought in these locations during the Civil War and WWII.

Rather than relying on classroom lectures from imminent historians, program participants actually toured the hallowed ground where blood was shed, and, in the case of the WWII locations, heard from surviving eyewitnesses.

For the past decade, Wharton has hosted scores of alumni through the fields of Gettysburg to recreate the critical decision-making moments and their outcomes of the most famous battle in the Civil War and widely considered its turning point.

In the case of Gettysburg, Wharton participants studied Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s less-than-clear strategic intent to his commanders in the field, notably Gen. Ewell. Wharton also showed the initiative and innovative actions early on by John Buford, a Union cavalry commander who first arrived at Gettysburg before the Confederate army was concentrated for battle. He quickly grasped the significance of the high ground south of the town, galvanizing his cavalry to hold back the Confederates until Union reinforcements could arrive.

General Mark Clark entering Rome in 1944.

General Mark Clark entering Rome in 1944.

This past September, Wharton also hosted a three-day trip to Italy, where 24 global business leaders retraced the steps of Lt. Gen. Mark Clark, leader of the 5th U.S. Army in Italy, through a series of battles along the Italian peninsula begun in September 1943. Clark was tasked with disrupting entrenched German forces in preparation for the Normandy invasion the following June.  The path forward for the Allies was daunting given German fortifications and central Italy’s narrow and mountainous terrain with high, barely passable trails, open valleys and rivers.

“The reason we decided to go to Italy was because it’s an example of multiple failures of leadership – failures in strategy, failures indecision making,” recalls Todd Henshaw, PhD, director of Executive Leadership Programs at The Wharton School and former director of leadership and management programs at West Point, where he served as a key author and designer of the Academy’s leadership programs.

Todd Henshaw (photo courtesy of Wharton)

Todd Henshaw (photo courtesy of Wharton)

Henshaw elaborates, explaining how Clark failed to set the conditions for his commanders to succeed by not providing enough resources and support; he also didn’t give his subordinates “clear missions that were achievable.” The disastrous outcome for allied troops attempting to cross the Rapido River in October 1943 is well summarized in John Reardon’s blog post, which details the unnecessary loss of life, especially for the 36th Infantry division from Texas. The river was one of four stops the Wharton participants visited. Another was Monte Cassino, a historic hilltop abbey that was almost completely destroyed by allies. Participants heard from a Benedictine monk, who was 15 at the time of the battle and who was thankful for Allied action.While the bombing of

Present-day Monte Cassino, where allies met tenacious German defenses during WWII. Photo courtesy of: Wharton

Present-day Monte Cassino, where allies met tenacious German defenses during WWII. (photo courtesy of Wharton)

the monastery resulted in significant civilian casualties, it ultimately resulted in Germans being pushed out of the area, the monk stated.

Woven into the on-site experiences was a full day of classroom lectures, where participants explored their own personal leadership styles and reviewed a Harvard case of the May 10,1996 Mt. Everest disaster, where  eight climbers died after a fast-moving storm hit the summit, trapping climbers on the mountain. The 1996 disaster, which claimed the lives of competing team leaders Rob Hall and Scott Fischer, remains the worst loss of life on the mountain on a single day.

So, what’s been the impact of the most recent program? Feedback from the Italy participants has been universally positive. Many attendees said eyewitnesses really brought the leadership challenges to life for them. The vividness of learning about leadership breakdowns rather than leadership successes is helping them better understand their own styles of decision making and how to be better leaders to their own teams.

“A lot of choices and decisions leaders make on a battlefield are not dissimilar to what we face in a corporate environment every day,” observed Wharton’s custom client for the Italy trip. “It’s all around understanding the markets that you are in, the competition that you’re dealing with, the resources in terms of people and time that you have — there are parallels that are very easy to make.”

According to Henshaw, two common learning themes emerged:

  • One, How do I set conditions and shape the environment so my people can be successful?
  • Two, How do I bring innovation back into my workplace? How do I allow it? How do I build a climate for it? How do I ensure I share the best thinking across the team and across the organization?

Concludes Henshaw: “The stories and case studies are very rich and are crafted to meet the learning needs of our clients, whether it’s risk management, transformational leadership, strategic thinking, or innovation.  Participants live the story — and it’s learning that lasts a lifetime.”