“I’m still trying to figure out what I’m all about,” admits entrepreneur Kelly Harman, author of a series of autobiographical essays she published last year in her book, Did I Say That Out Loud? “It seems to change every few years. I love technology, marketing, reading, writing, going to spas with my girlfriends, spending time with my family and grandchildren, and owning lots of gadgets. I love gadgets. In fact, you could probably call me a gadget slut.”
She also owns a lot of infomercial products. “Unfortunately I suffer from insomnia, and the only thing to watch on TV at 3 a.m. are porn movies or infomercials,” she says. “I now own the “set it and forget it” rotisserie grill, the entire Windsor Pilates series, Bare Minerals makeup, the sweeper, three kinds of “miracle” cleaning products, the Kimora girdle (guaranteed to suck in five pounds), four Time Life music series, the chopper, the Foreman grill, the NuWave oven, the Bullet, the Yoshi ceramic knife, the P90-X series, the HSN Aero-Pilates machine, the pedi-Egg, the ab-roller, and a box of Mighty-Putty. I’m seriously considering switching to porn, it has to be cheaper.”
She recently celebrated her 50th birthday by climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, she’s married to Bob Harman, and she describes herself as “the proud mother of three wonderful sons; each of whom has given me the world’s greatest grandchild.” The stories in her book and blog are, she says, “87 percent true. The other 13 percent should be attributed to the fact that I am of Irish descent.”
Scroll down for our Q&A.
Be Inkandescent: Tell us about your book. What inspired you to write it?
Kelly Harman: Life is a lot easier to handle with a good dose of humor. So I’ve been observing and writing about my life experiences for a long time, always trying to see the humor in any situation. I started a blog called “Did I Say That Out Loud?” and as it gained popularity and subscribers, I had a lot of friends and family encourage me to compile my stories into a book.
Be Inkandescent: Tell us about your business, and your career as an entrepreneur. Where was your first job? And how did you get to where you are today?
Kelly Harman: My first job was in high school working as a bank teller. I was horrible at it, and seldom managed to balance my cash drawer at the end of the day. Then I got a job as a receptionist at a plumbing supply company. I held several office administrative positions before I decided to go into sales. I wanted a job that would allow me to make a lot of money, and I liked the idea that in sales I could have control over my income based on how how hard I worked and how much I sold.
I also made a conscious decision to work for small companies. You are given a lot more responsibility in a small, fast-growing company, especially if you are willing to take on responsibility. Eventually I migrated from sales into marketing and discovered I had a real passion for entrepreneurship. I have several entrepreneurial endeavors under my belt now, some more successful than others, but all have been great experiences for me, and taught me a great deal. Today I am a freelance consultant. I work with technology companies helping them develop and execute their sales and marketing strategies.
Be Inkandescent: Being an author isn’t your job, but writing this book was clearly important to you. What do you hope others will take away from reading it?
Kelly Harman: I want people to see themselves in the stories and understand that it is okay to laugh at yourself and see the humor in life. I also want to touch their hearts with some of my stories. Especially the ones about my family and my relationship with all of them. The common theme throughout the book is the strength and depth of the relationships I have with my friends and family, and I wanted that to shine through.
Be Inkandescent: It was self-published with the help of Wegost Press, which is a huge trend in the publishing industry. Tell us about your experience. Was it easy, affordable, and would you go this route again?
Kelly Harman: I would definitely self-publish again. I had a fantastic resource in Guy Kawasaki’s book “APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur,” which is an extremely thorough primer on how to self-publish. I must have read that book a dozen times. Self-publishing does not necessarily mean cheap. I invested in hiring a professional design firm for my book cover. Monkey C Media knocked it out of the park; I love that book cover. I also paid a professional to design the interior of the book. I hired a professional editor and proofreader. If I was going to self-publish, I was going to make sure it was still a top-quality production. And I think it made a big difference. My book got picked up by Barnes & Noble and is being sold in some of their stores now. That is very unusual for a self-published book.
Be Inkandescent: I love the title of your book, “Did I Say That Out Loud?,” because the older you get, the more stuff you would have kept to yourself in the past just rolls right out. Have you always been brave and brazen?
Kelly Harman: I think I’ve gotten a lot braver and more willing to say things out loud over the years. Every time I faced a challenge and came out ahead I got a little more confident in myself. The more confident I became, the more comfortable I was admitting when I screwed up or made a fool of myself, or just did something crazy.
Be Inkandescent: Do you encourage others to say what they mean and mean what they say—without being mean?
Kelly Harman: I have a saying, “Sticks and stones can break your bones, but words can break your heart.” I used to tell my kids all the time, “Be careful of what you say to someone because once you say it out loud, you can never take it back.” I don’t believe in being mean to be funny, or hurting people through my writing or speaking. I encourage people always to be honest and speak from their heart, but come from a place of understanding and kindness.
Be Inkandescent: The “say it out loud” movement has taken hold, as well. In fact, you feature several outspoken women on your popular blog, “KellyOutLoud.com.” Tell us about those women, and why speaking up and speaking out resonates with so many people.
Kelly Harman: I appreciate people who live their lives out loud and have the courage to share their hopes, fears, failures, and accomplishments with the rest of the world. We all need to know that there are other people out there who face the same challenges that we face. They can be a great inspiration to us as we go through our own lives. The best compliment I can receive is to have someone come up and say, “I saw myself in your stories, thank you for sharing them with me because it helped me laugh at myself and appreciate the experience through a fresh perspective.”
Be Inkandescent: What is on the horizon for you? Will you be writing another book?
Kelly Harman: There are several books I want to write. I’m working on one right now that is a collection of stories from my youth and then another one that is a sort of sequel to “Did I Say That Out Loud?” Those stories are around the experiences my friends and I are having as we enter our 50s and 60s.
Be Inkandescent: Which is your favorite chapter in the book?
Kelly Harman: I’d say it is a tie between, “Mom Says You’re Adopted, Part One” and “Mom Says You’re Adopted, Part Two.” They are the story of my sister and brother, respectively, and I was very happy with those two chapters and how I was able to capture the special relationship I have with my siblings.
Be Inkandescent: Our favorite is the final essay, “How Close Can Two People Be?” Thank you for giving us permission to run it. Best of luck to you, Kelly!
How Close Can Two People Be?
When I was 25 I watched my parents dance together. It wasn’t the first time I had seen them dance, but it was the first time I paid attention. They moved together as a single unit across the floor. My father held my mother as lightly as a feather, and she smiled and swayed in his arms as though her feet were hovering above the floor. Without a word, they swung apart and back together again, knees lightly touching here, a hand on a shoulder there. For a few minutes, everyone else in the room disappeared, and I saw them alone as they moved to the music. They were lost in their private world, where nothing existed except the two of them. I realized then, as I do now, that my parents put each other ahead of everything else in their lives.
How close can two people be? They can become so integrated with each other that one begins breathing where the other leaves off. Where a single look across a room, a sigh, a touch, carries more words than a novel. They can become so connected that even when separated by continents and oceans, one person can suddenly sit up and know that at that very moment, the other is thinking of them.
It doesn’t come easily or quickly. It takes time to get to the point where one person finishes the other’s sentence. Where you can dance with your partner and move as one. But if you commit your life to someone else, then you have years to work on it. The two of you will see each other at your weakest, most selfish, most horrible state. You will laugh together, scream at each other, and cry in each others’ arms. You’ll say things you regret having ever said out loud, or things that you regret you didn’t say sooner. There will be times when you look at your partner and wonder what on earth you were thinking when you said “I do.” These moments may last for months. But then one day you will wake up, look at your partner, and the thought of not having this person in your life will make you lose your breath.
It takes great courage to show someone else what is inside of you. To not be afraid to be vulnerable, and to trust your partner to love you as you really are, not as others perceive you. But once you’ve done that with each other, then it begins. Slowly, painfully sometimes, and joyfully at other times, you will begin to meld into each other. Then one day, years from now, you will find yourselves swaying to music, real or imagined, held together with invisible strands of a lifetime of shared experience. When that time comes, look into your heart. Whatever is in there, don’t be afraid to say it out loud.
About Kelly Harman
Kelly Harman lives in Virginia but was born in Asmara, Ethiopia, in 1962 and has walked the road less traveled ever since. Her childhood was spent overseas, living in eight different countries before she came to the United States at the age of 16. This experience inspired an adventurous streak and disregard for convention that has yielded a rich life, overflowing with great story material.
Her experiences range from celebrating her 9th birthday at India’s Taj Mahal to being evacuated with her family in the midst of a civil war in East Pakistan, single motherhood to serial entrepreneur, and Burning Man devotee to self-made marketing maven. Most recently Harman came full-circle back to the continent of her birthplace, celebrating her 50th birthday at the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro.
Learn more at www.kellyoutloud.com.