Who’s going to tell the stories that matter? Rev. Jessica Steward sits down with author, coach, and friend Pamela Slim to find out.

“Fuck! Babe! What have you been up to for the past two years?”

I’ve known business coach and author Pamela Slim for nearly fifteen years and her greeting was friendly and effusive, a reflection of the inner sunshine she carries with her everywhere. As a native Californian who’s been living in Mesa, Arizona for the past two decades, it’s not surprising she emanates a natural warmth and light. I laughed and reminded her it had been at least four years since we last connected. With the advent of texting and social media, it’s easy to stay in touch even when lives and careers diverge.

I reached out to Pam to see if she’d be willing to speak with me about her writing career. As a graduate student in my first year of an MFA program in Creative Writing at Chatham University, I wanted to talk to a writer whose success I admired. It just so happens that in addition to being a successful business coach and innovative community builder, my long-time friend is also an award-winning author of three, critically acclaimed, business books targeting entrepreneurs. Despite—or perhaps because of—her breezy affability and heartwarming humility, Pam enjoys close friendships and working relationships with the upper echelon of business and entrepreneur authors like Seth Godin, Guy Kawasaki, Susan Cain, and Daniel Pink, although her own career has been somewhat less flashy and she herself is arguably more approachable. While I’ve always understood her success, I realized that in all the years I’ve known her, she and I have never spoken about her life as a writer.

 I first met Pam when I was in training to be a life coach. In addition to owning her own business coaching and consulting practice, Pam was one of my instructors in the life coach training program I was enrolled in. Her primary teaching topics were on marketing, networking, and promoting our own unique intellectual property, which also happened to also be my area of expertise at the time. I liked her easy and accessible approach to teaching and felt an instant kinship with her. As a corporate escapee, I learned a lot from Pam during my training and through reading her first book, Escape from Cubicle Nation: From Corporate Prisoner to Thriving Entrepreneur. It was rare for me to find a teacher and mentor that made me feel like my own success in coaching was not only possible but inevitable.

After I completed the master coach training and certification program, Pam and I became peers in the life coach training program. I joined the ranks of its instructors, where Pam and I briefly got to work together, redesigning the marketing classes in the coach training curriculum. Unfortunately, the transition from student to staff was challenging for me: I enjoyed teaching, but the behind-the-scenes reality of our cliquish training organization took some of the shine off my experience. Pam had already begun to distance herself from the organizational drama and eventually left to grow her own coaching practice.

During this brief collaboration, I managed to learn a lot about adult learning from Pam and attribute some of my own skills as a trainer and facilitator to this time together. Over the years we would see each other at various coaching events but she was also busy with her own business and raising two young children, so our moments of connection were fewer and further between.  In the meantime, I enjoyed reading her second book, Body of Work: Finding the Thread That Ties Your Story Together, and keeping connected with her on social media.

After leaving corporate work for coaching, it seemed as if I jumped out of the aphoristic frying pan straight into the fire. In early 2017, I unceremoniously parted ways with the life coach training program and its managing organization where I worked full-time. I learned over the years it was a highly personality-driven company, rife with favoritism, paranoia, and dysfunctional work dynamics. It was also an incredibly stressful working environment. While I was glad to be moving on, I was still shocked at suddenly losing most of my income.

When Pam learned what had happened, she immediately reached out. Something similar had happened to her in the early days of working with the same organization, making her decision to leave years later much easier. While sharing my story, Pam listened with deep empathy and offered forthright, comforting, and expletive-laden support. Then, with her signature generosity and convivial compassion, she asked me to come do some consulting work for her business. She was moving into a critical part of growing her new Mesa-based community learning lab and “needed” my expertise. Her support came as a beneficent response to my unspoken prayer that I would survive this experience, support for which I will forever be grateful.

Nearly five years later—with many life transitions between us—I was excited to catch up with my friend and learn more about Pam as a writer. I prepared a list of questions for us, knowing I would need a guidepost to bring me back to the goal of our conversation since staying on topic has never been our strong suit. We met via Zoom and after catching each other up on our personal life updates, I finally hit “record.”

“I don’t know anything about you as a writer, and I was curious if writing has always been something that’s been important for you?” I asked.

“It has,” she replied.  “Writing has always been part of my family life. As you may know my dad was a photojournalist. And so, he loved to write.”

Pam goes on to explain that her father, Lewis “Skip” Stewart got a dual degree in English and Journalism from what is now the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California. After graduation, he worked as a reporter for the Roseville Press-Tribune. He then went on to further his photographic studies at the Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara. I know that Pam’s father was a great influence on her life, and she grew up watching him write for his career—often on a yellow pad before two-finger typing his article on a typewriter.

Besides being the daughter of a photojournalist, Pam also shares how her “introverted” family’s mutual love of reading and discussing books was an influence on her career, even though becoming a writer was never part of her plan.

“I’ve always enjoyed it. I love to read. I was good at writing. I would get good grades in English… Yet, I never thought in a million years that it would be anything that I would do professionally.”

After graduation, Pam went on to work for non-profits as well as in training and development for ten years before starting her own coaching business. To help grow her burgeoning practice, Pam took a class on how to build her online business profile. It was ultimately an assignment on blogging as a business development tool that changed the trajectory of her career. Pam shares, “It wasn’t until I started writing my blog that I really connected with my voice and a love of writing again in 2005.”

Pam named her blog “Escape from Cubicle Nation,” which went on to become the title of her subsequent book after an editor—Emily Rapoport at Portfolio, a division of Penguin Books—discovered Pam through the blog and its supplemental podcast in 2008. It was actually a 2006 viral post on her blog that helped shape the future of Pam’s writing career from burgeoning blogger to published author. “It was May 6th, 2006 when I wrote the open letter to CEOs post that I shared with [marketing guru] Guy Kawasaki, where he posted it on his blog. It went madly viral everywhere… At that point, somebody who responded to that [post] reached out, introduced me to their agent, and I did an early shopping around with an outline for the book that got rejected by everybody. One publisher said, ‘You know, it’s kind of pedestrian,’ I was like, ‘Okay, whatever.’ So, I just went back to writing for another year and a half.”

It was a critical year and half, offering Pam the chance to continue to sharpen her voice and widen her audience. Eventually, she got that fateful email from Emily—who worked at the very same publisher who had said her original book proposal was “pedestrian.” Emily shared that she listened to Pam’s podcast on the train to and from the office, which eventually led her to reading Pam’s blog. “It really was ‘blog to book’…that’s how it started. And then I got a two-book deal with the option for the second that was Body of Work.”

Escape from Cubicle Nation won “Best Small Business/Entrepreneur Book” from Porchlight’s “800-CEO-Read” awards in 2009, which was an incredible and unexpected achievement for Pam as a new business author on the scene. She then published her second book, Body of Work: Finding the Thread That Ties Your Story Together, in 2013. Portfolio passed on publishing her third book, The Widest Net: Unlock Untapped Markets and Discover New Customers Right in Front of You, which got picked up and eventually published by McGraw Hill in 2021. It ended up winning a Porchlight Business Books award and was named the “Best Sales and Marketing Book” for 2021. And while the total sales of her three books may not be what Pam would hope, Pam understands that the books are a specific tool to help get her messages out, connecting her with amazing people who need her special brand of entrepreneurial magic through her one-on-one coaching, classes, workshops, and retreats.

Throughout our interview, I glance at my prepared list of questions to make sure I am covering what I wanted to discuss. There is one question in particular I want to ask, although I suppose it’s more of an entreaty rather than a question. For as long as I’ve known Pam, her writing has always focused on advice for the entrepreneur. Yet based on my personal experience, she has deeper life wisdom to impart to her reader that goes well beyond intellectual property, brand growth, community development, and entrepreneurship. She has offered me many spoken and unspoken lessons on living a life of integrity and devotion. I am curious if she has been called to write more specifically about who she is in the world and not just what she does? While she frequently uses her stories in the context of her business books, I wanted to know if she is ever going to write a book filled with lessons on building a beautiful life and not just building a thriving business. Before I can form the words, though, a moment of pure serendipity happens: Pam says she already knows what her next book will be about and asks me if I want to know.

Duh. “Of course,” I reply.

At first, Pam thought her next book would be on making good choices, because much of her career has been about helping people sort through “really difficult decisions in such a way that is in alignment with who they are, so they can live with the decisions that they’ve made.” However, while contemplating her next book, Pam recalled a guest post she did for artist and author Hugh MacLeod’s website gapingvoid. The blog series was called, “Remember Who You Are” and the post she wrote for that blog is ultimately where she wants to take her next book. It is about how to pull yourself back from the edge of life when the world makes you feel “less than” the truth of who you are. I can feel the hair on my arm rise at the coincidence unfolding before us.

As she pulls the article up on her computer so we can read it together, Pam shares that this post gets to the heart of her next book. She wants to help others understand “what is the way—no matter what is happening around you— that you can maintain a sense of yourself? No matter what’s happening, how do you find a way through it?” Pam says that this article feels very specific to what she wants to write next not only for her fans, but as a prayer and love letter to her children.

“That’s really what I want to write to them: How you navigate this thing called ‘life.’”

I smile and feel a little frisson of joy, smiling at the synchronicity. I tell her then why I am smiling, letting her know that this is exactly what I had hoped she would write her next book about. “Because” I explain, “you have so many lessons that run deeper than business. And those are often the ones that have saved me personally in my darkest hour. Who’s going to tell those stories?”

“Me?” She replies. We both smile widely at the converging magic of the moment, Pam’s eyes crinkling and sparkling in that magnetic way they always do.

“Yeah, it’s you,” I answer.

I sense our work here is done. I could ask her about her writing process, pick her brain about how she sits down to write the actual book once a book proposal is accepted. But there is time for that later. I said what I needed to say to Pam today, conveying to her that her stories— her life—matter and I want the world to know more of who she is as an incredible human and not just as a business coach. I can tell she is touched by our conversation and delighted by the serendipity of our shared vision for what’s next for her. It’s the gift of friendship that allows us to see each other so deeply and speak to one another so openly. We wrap up the interview and I turn off the recording so we can chat a little bit more, including dreams of co-facilitating a writing retreat in Scotland. I am grateful for her conversation, for her story, and for the reminder that there is a beautiful connection that exists between us regardless of how often we speak. Something alchemical has happened in our conversation and I am curious to see where it leads us both, as writers, as humans, and as friends.

Unsurprisingly, I don’t have to wait long for my quick-start friend to begin working on her next book. The next morning, Pam tags me in a post on Facebook, sharing with her community that through our conversation, she has been connected to the heart of her next book, which she had been pretending she didn’t want to write yet. She also mentions our conversation and the subject of her next book in her newsletter that day. As a final confirmation that our time together was as meaningful for her as it was for me, I received a personal email from Pam with the subject line “Your fault” and the title, subtitle, and dedication for the book she began writing right after our call, but truly the book she began writing the moment she was born.  The title, at least for now, is Remember Who You Are. I smile, with tears in my eyes, glad for the invitation back to myself and grateful for the friend who has made the invitation to me many times before.

~Rev. Jessica Steward

Note: I wrote this as part of a graduate school assignment and chose to publish it because Pam is truly one of the inspirations and guiding lights for our work at A Mighty Kindness. She is the embodiment of sacred activism and compassion-in-action that is at the heart our organization and I’m proud to call her “friend.” ~The Rev