Sunday, March 20, 2011

ECC 25th Anniversary Presentation

I would like to thank ECC chairman and ECC President for inviting me and welcoming me so warmly to the ECC 25th anniversary.

This post is dedicated to ECC present and past staff. If you enjoy it, please follow my blog.

Years ago, in my former life, I had the privilege of working for a great company. I should rather say a very small company with big dreams.
We were a bunch of people, eager to face challenge, undaunted by fierce competition, and determined to succeed, each in his, or her, own field.

My area was analytical chemistry and analysis of environmental samples and my initial goal was to set a laboratory and expand it. A big challenge for a chemist fresh out of graduate school who had no experience in management.

To succeed I needed tools. With a Ph.D. in Analytical Chemistry, I was strong technically, however my managerial skills grew slowly and surely through workshops, reading, and hands-on experience. I started the ECC lab with four chemists and two analytical instruments and steadily added to both. Ten years later, the lab counted fifty chemists and every state-of the art analytical instrument necessary to run environmental analysis.

Do you have a dream?
You should. Life is dull without a dream. Life is stagnant without a dream.
A dream is, by definition, an involuntary vision occurring to a person when awake.
Can you make your dream come true?
Can your vision become a reality? Of course it can.
It will, if you take the right decisions and actions to make it happen.

1-Keep your eyes on your vision.
2-Determine your goal. A tangible goal you can achieve.
3-Collect your tools. Do you need more knowledge, more experience, more equipment, more personnel?
4-Apply yourself at the task. Give it your 100%. Give it more than 100%.

• Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself. You can do it if you really want to reach your goal, if you want to live your dream. • Have faith in yourself. If you don’t have faith in yourself, don’t expect others to have faith in you, or to follow your example.
• If you don’t plan to do an excellent job, then don’t do it at all. Because you are depriving others from doing it. Be sure there are others who are ready to do it and do it well.

People are different and have different ways of approaching their goals.
• Some do it in a flamboyant way that attracts all eyes.
• Others prefer a quiet steady pace.

Decide which is your style.
• Independent people like to work on their own.
• Social people like to be part of a team.
• Others have enough self-confidence to become team-leader.

In college, I was a shy student who dreamed to be a confident manager in a far-away future.

At ECC, I was challenged with more than I ever imagined I could handle. I built my experience and reached my goals. The lab grew. Analytical samples came to us from all over the nation. We did an excellent job: delivering accurate results within short deadlines.

I set high standard of performance for myself and my staff and demanded hard work from everyone. But I recognized their effort through compliments, raises, and flexible time. My chemists stayed. At ECC lab, we never encountered the notoriously short personnel turnaround faced by other labs. We collected certifications from every state and agency. We reached our goals. It was easy to plateau and get bored.

But my dreams changed, I wanted more. By then I wasn’t shy anymore, rather assertive and a bit aggressive—just a bit.
In 1994, I wrote a proposal to refurbish a military laboratory in Minsk while asking everyone where the hell was Minsk? In Belarus. And where was Belarus? Somewhere near Russia. Obviously.

We won the contract. And my heart filled with panic when Paul said: “Yeah, you are going to Belarus.”
“Me? No way. I don’t even know where it is.”
But we met the contract officer who had already been there and talked about it with warmth. Belarus became an accessible place with humans. Manjiv was with me in Washington when we signed the contract with J. B., a cheerful man who made the difficult challenge of going to Belarus an enjoyable mission.

To succeed you have to plan well. I organized the refurbishment tasks, ordered the equipment, scheduled the traveling of my chemists to Belarus,...

With every project and every task, there is always the unpredictable.
I never had a contract that came without problems. That would have been too easy. I don’t think the word easy should exist in the dictionary. But every problem, every conflict is part of the challenge and we can tackle it if we keep a cool head and think rationally.

The Belarus project was a big success and led to more contracts in the Russian countries. In addition, to performing a job, we built solid friendships with some of the officers who invited us to their homes. I met their wives and daughters. We were featured on their national TV.
Needleless to say, I enjoyed my trips to Belarus tremendously and kept pages of notes about this country and its culture.

New dreams sprouted in my mind. I wanted to share what I discovered with others. I was in a hotel room in a small town, Uman, in Ukraine, typing a report when I had an epiphany. Why not write a book about my adventures in Belarus? For two years, the idea brewed in my mind. But working 12 to 16 hours a day didn’t leave much time to write a book. After a year of deliberation with myself, I finally gathered the courage to ask my boss for an early retirement to pursue my new goal: write a successful novel.

Could I do it? Too many challenges here. English was my third language after French and Arabic. My background was scientific: a BS in Pharmacy and a Ph.D. in Analytical chemistry. I wrote hundreds of Standard Operating Procedures for ECC, but writing a novel was a completely different endeavor. Good God. I would be competing with writers whose major was English, journalism, law,…people who grew up with English.

So? Since when have I ever backed up from a challenge?
I needed to collect my tools. I bought grammar books, composition books. I read, studied and attended workshops. I joined the Romance Writers of America and two local chapters in Cincinnati and Fort Lauderdale. I joined two others on line, attended their meetings and learned everything I could about the craft. And I wrote the first draft of my book, TO LOVE A HERO, a love story set in Belarus in which I poured my impressions and adventures. My mother read it and loved it.

I even gathered enough gut to enter the first three chapters in a contest. Bracing myself against the slashing I expected to come with the results, I was stunned to read that two out of three judges loved the premises. They encouraged me by pointing out what was good and what could be improved. The third judge almost made me cry by attacking my heroine with a nasty virulence. I followed the advice, learned to accept critique graciously, and toughened my skin. Soon I was a finalist and won contests. Soon I judged contests and coordinated them.

Now I have critique partners with whom I regularly exchange chapters. We help and support each other.

And all the time, I submitted my book to various publishers and accepted rejections with tears and new determination, until the blessed day I received an email offering me a contract for TO LOVE A HERO.

I was now a published author. FRENCH PERIL, a romantic suspense set in France was accepted right away by my publisher. Three more books followed. BABIES IN THE BARGAIN won Best Romance Novel of the Year 2009 and Rx FOR TRUST, Best Romance Novel for 2010. Rx In Russian will be released on April 11, 2011 by The Wild Rose Press.

I achieved my goals of becoming an author. Now I have a new dream. To become a New York Bestselling author. And new goals: to promote my books intensively.

Members of ECC, if I did it twice, you can do it:
  • Remember to dream
  • Set your goals
  • Accept the challenge
  • Collect your tools
  • Give it your 100%
  • Seek support
  • Tackle the conflicts and problems
  • Never, never give up
  • Enjoy your well deserved success
  • And now up your dreams and goals.

If you are about to retire, remember that you really never retire. You just fulfill new dreams, you set new goals and enjoy new successes.
It was wonderful seeing you all at the 25th anniversary of our company, applauding your achievements, and feeling I am still a member of ECC family.

If you like to travel and love to read, come and enjoy my international romances. I will take you around the world through stories that simmer with emotion and sizzle with heat.

BABIES IN THE BARGAIN winner of 2009 Best Romance Novel at Preditors & Editors and winner of 2009 Best Contemporary Romance at Readers Favorite.
Rx FOR TRUST, winner of 2010 Best Contemporary Romance at Readers Favorite and 2011 EPICON.
Rx IN RUSSIAN to be released on April 11, 2011


Keena Kincaid said... I'm fired up and motivated to write this WIP. Excellent speech/post, Mona. You make a lot of great points in a very interesting, personal way. I can see why you were a great manager, and why your former employers have asked for a booklet. You have a lot of wisdom to share.

Celia Yeary said...

Absolutely wonderful, Mona. I'm now even more awed by your accomplishments. I've so glad I read TO LOVE A HERO--remembering that story helped me understand your presentation. Way to do make us proud....Celia

Beth Trissel said...

Mona, you are amazing. I'm vastly impressed. Maybe you can help motivate me to finish that novel I started eons ago. :)

Maggie Toussaint said...

Congratulations on all your success, Mona. And in your signing photo - was that the flipflop clip from our writing cruise? It looked familiar!

I enjoyed hearing about your corporate success. Your courage to face new tasks is admirable, but your dedication to getting the job done is stellar.

Well done!


Joan Leacott said...

I always knew you were an amazing woman, Mona. But how do deal with the doubts the publishing business is so good at raising?

Joanne said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Joanne said...

What an inspiring story of your career. Your former company must have been so pleased when you accepted their invitation to speak. And, your next goal, to become a NY Times Bestselling author, will happen. Dreams do come true, because people like you work to make dreams a reality.

Lynne Marshall said...

Wonderful post, Mona. And great words of advice. I can see why you've had such a successful career. Now, I can't wait to see how your publishing path goes!

I see a bright future for you.


Barbara Monajem said...

Mona, your energy is infectious! (I hope I catch some.) Thanks for the great inspirational boost.

Mary Ricksen said...

Oh Mona you are incredible~
It takes drive, determination and a lot of smarts to accomplish even half of what you have! Mona I am so happy for you and proud to be your friend!

Mary Marvella said...

Hey, woman! Here's a standing ovation for you! Brava! Brave! I know those folks were as inspired as I am!

jeansab said...

Mona, You were one of those key leaders who made it possible for ECC to enjoy 25 years of success! I am proud that Paul and Manjiv recognized you and asked you to speak. Thank you for motivating others and for sharing your enthusiasm.
Jean S.

Judy said...

Excellent, Mona! You are an inspiration!! Congratulations...

Mona Risk said...

Keena, if I managed to motivate you to finish your WIP then my post accomplished its goal.

Mona Risk said...

Thank you Celia. I am glad you enjoyed TO LOVE A HERO, my first book and the book of my heart.

Mona Risk said...

Go Beth. I'm sure you will finish your book soon and it'll be another successful novel.

Mona Risk said...

Maggie, the picture where I am signing books was taken at RT 2009.
I learned from my Dad at a young age that nothing comes without hard work, but there is always some type of reward for your work, even if it's not exactly what we expect.

Mona Risk said...

Ah Joan, the doubts of our writing career is one special challenge that deserves a set aside blog!!!

Mona Risk said...

Joanne, NY Bestseller? As I said in my blog one should always dream, and maybe dream forever!!!

Mona Risk said...

Thank you, Lynne. I already had my bright future. But I love writing so much that I will continue to give it my 100% and write the best I can.

Mona Risk said...

Go Barbara, go. You got the NY part, now you just need the next word, bestseller.

Mona Risk said...

Thank you, Mary. Being part of a wonderful group of writers is an accomplishment in itself.

Mona Risk said...

Thank you Mary. Now I want to cheer your book soon.

Mona Risk said...

Hi Jean, I can't tell you how happy I am to see you here. I wish you could have been at the conference or the reception. It was such a pleasure for me to have dinner with Dr. P.S., to see Paul and Manjiv and so many familiar faces, and to be again part of ECC.

Mona Risk said...

Thank you Judy. Glad you enjoy my post.

Carla Capshaw said...

Mona, you never cease to amaze me. Congratulations on your successes. You deserve every one of them!

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

Mona, I am so very proud of you and all the unbelievably grand accomplishments you've made in your life. It's a honor to call you friend. Of course, you know who my favorite hero is since we worked together on him at the beginning of that part of your dreams. You've achieved a lot, been a great role model for your children and beautiful grandchildren. The rest of us are swept along in your wake to enjoy your work and try to keep up with you. I only wish I had your energy to keep up.

May you continue on your success-filled journey and accomplish all that you attempt. Your speech was absolutely spellbinding and I am so glad you shared it with us.

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Mona,
That was inspiring. What a honour for you to be asked to give the presentation. You made some points that were very relevant to us writers. You are a talented writer, so I know your NY dream will come to fruition.



Anna Sugden said...

Excellent speech, Mona. No less than we'd expect from such a talented writer!

Congratulations on your success, my friend, and may you achieve your next dream too!

Anonymous said...

Great post, Mona. Always go after your dream.
Debbie A.

Nicole North said...

Awesome post, Mona!! Very inspiring! Thanks for sharing!

Amber Skyze said...

Fantastic blog, Mona!

Mona Risk said...

Hi Carla, you my dear was a mentor and an inspiration with your two GH wins and Rita nomination. I tell everyone who wants a good book, to read THE GLADIATOR and THE PROTECTOR.

Mona Risk said...

Marlene, you are such a good friend and a nice CP. And you were one of the first who encouraged me to write and critiqued my WIPs.

Mona Risk said...

Margaret, thank you for your kind words. I just finished reading THE TROUBLE WITH PLAYBOYS and love that book. Great writing. I am glad that you find my presentation useful to writers as well.

Mona Risk said...

Anna, thank you so much. We miss you and hope to see you soon.

Mona Risk said...

Debbie, thanks for stopping by and for your support.

Mona Risk said...

Hi Nicole, glad you like my post.

Mona Risk said...

Hi Amber, I'm delighted you like my blog.

LK Hunsaker said...

Wonderful presentation, Mona! I had no idea English was your third language, and having studied two different languages, I'm horribly impressed that I couldn't tell.

Terri Garey said...

You're an amazing woman, Mona, and I LOVED hearing the details of your life before we met. Great speech, and I'm so proud to call you my friend!

Mona Risk said...

Loraine, I guess by now English is certainly my first language, if not for the accent. It's always good to speak several languages. I managed to teach my kids some French.

Mona Risk said...

Hi Terri, thank you so much for stopping by my blog.

Sally said...


This should be required reading for all writers! Wonderfully inspiring story and I'm so glad I read it. Looking forward to reading RX In Russia!


Nancy J. Cohen said...

Excellent speech, Mona! You have reason to be very proud of all your accomplishments and to serve as a role model for the rest of us with your determination and fortitude.

Mona Risk said...

Oh Sally, you made my day.

Mona Risk said...

Nancy, thank you. I had great mentors like you.

Carolann Wolfgang said...

Mona, thank you for reminding me of our Belarus adventure! I have some pictures of us together from that time. What an amazing trip. For me your post comes at a perfect time. I have been studying, taking classes for a few years now to upgrade my resume and began thinking about new goals when that is all finished (hopefully by the end of the year). I realised I had a few goals that have been sitting in the in basket for quite some time. So I chose one and you inspired me to really jump into it: I'm learning to play piano! So that's my next life goal after the one I'm finishing up now. If we cannot manage to do the things that you list in your blog to help us attain our goals what a dull world it would be. That we have the capacity to do so brings colour to our lives.

Mona Risk said...

Carolann, what a pleasure to see you here. Yes, start your piano lessons, and enjoy what you like to do.