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Christina Ranallo of PenPaperWrite: “Share successes, big and small with every single person on your team; Leave no one out no matter how small the contribution”

Share successes, big and small with every single person on your team. Leave no one out no matter how small the contribution. Things shift in a company and often the person who may have little to offer at one point will be energized by recognition and jump in with greater enthusiasm at a later point […]

Share successes, big and small with every single person on your team. Leave no one out no matter how small the contribution. Things shift in a company and often the person who may have little to offer at one point will be energized by recognition and jump in with greater enthusiasm at a later point and add more than expected.


For my series on strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Christina Ranallo. Christina is a poet, novelist, playwright, founder of PenPaperWrite, organizer of the local PenPaperWrite Meetup, a Certified Life Coach, lecturer on the Hero’s Journey, and a motivational speaker for over 25 years. She has held writing workshops, given online seminars, and developed the 60 Scenes Writing Method.


Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I started Penpaperwrite at 62. My previous life was I retired at 43 from a company I stared in Chicago in my 20’s. I moved to Georgia with my family to be a stay at home mom.

Things did not go as I planned. I was left with literally nothing after a divorce and had to reinvent myself.

I turned to writing, something I have never stopped doing since I published a poem at 10. I also wrote a novel while I was married. Rick Kogan, a Chicago journalist loved it and had me come back to Chicago to be on his radio show.

I wrote that novel without a lot of formal training, and I realized there was one deeply rooted quality in me that applied not only to writing but to everything in my life. I wanted to write a novel and I did.

I finish what I start.

Lots of people do not. I wanted to find a way to inspire, assist, advocate, do whatever I could to help people finish what they started writing. When I took over a writer’s group no one had a finished work. They all had bits and pieces that they wrote and rewrote to bring back for critique.

I said to all of them “Is this what you want?” I made Penpaperwrite a group that was all about getting to “The End” and if that wasn’t your goal then you needed to find another group.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

I believe in signs. I have always counseled my children to watch for them and follow them.

I had so many boxes when I moved after my divorce. It was a massive event that happened over three days. So many boxes and bags that it took months to get to all of them. I put all the boxes of my writing in one room untouched until I decided to start Penpaperwrite.

The first journal I pulled out on the first page this is what it said:

Where do I want to be? I want to be in a place where I have the answers to questions and those answers help people find their way. And that is because I have found my way.

I wrote that in 1976.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I was so full of optimism. Everybody has a story to tell. That was my mantra. I met a man who was a member of a motorcycle “club” and he asked me to give a talk to the other members about writing. I went with all good intentions to the clubhouse.

Every one of the bikers had a story.

None of them could ever be published. Ever.

It was an amazing day and I learned that there are some brilliant tales to be told that have to be fictionalized because if they were told with real names and actual facts those stories would result in people going to jail, murdered or both.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

I listened to writers share stories for over ten years-Penpaperwrite began to help writers write to The End. We are not here to critique writers, impede writing or set standards that do anything to curtail the writing process. Penpaperwrite is dedicated to helping writers no matter how well they writer, complete their dream of a first draft and ultimately a finished novel.

An Israeli man came to the writing group and wanted to write a novel. English was his second language. He was in IT and not comfortable writing fiction. He stuck with the courses we offered and learned the 60 Scenes Writing Method, our signature course.

He has written four novels, the latest, No Bond Too Small, is available on Amazon and it is fantastic. I would love to give you the links to his book. He deserves success after all his hard work.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Penpaperwrite is about to offer a new series of writing Studios that take a deeper dive into elements of what we teach in the 60 Scenes Writing Method Workshop. A Studio called Logline, which is the condensation of what a story is about, and many writers are unable to articulate that essential nugget. Also, one on Characters and what a writer should know about them.

Lots more to come and all of them created with the intention to inspire and inform writers and to interest them in learning the 60 Scenes Writing Method if they want to develop a project and take an idea all the way to a finished first draft.

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

Share successes, big and small with every single person on your team. Leave no one out no matter how small the contribution. Things shift in a company and often the person who may have little to offer at one point will be energized by recognition and jump in with greater enthusiasm at a later point and add more than expected.

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

Communicate often and simply. Try doing it in threes: One in a few words, one in a paragraph and one in more detail, a page or two. This gives your team the option to get the picture quickly and then choose to read more when they can. It’s an efficient way to get something across to people with different types of intake options.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I credit my partner, Michael with getting Penpaperwrite up and going at a time in my life when I faced starting over from scratch. I had been married to someone since I was 19. Four marriages, two children and the last relationship lasted over twenty years.

I managed to run a business in Chicago through three of those relationships before coming to Georgia and I was leery about getting into another one at this point in my life. But Michael is a poet grounded in kindness and honesty and he understood my chaos in a way no one else had.

My process is to begin with chaos, throw it all out, make a big mess, study it and then choose the things that stand out, the best of the best, and create from there. Not a lot of people can deal with going through how many times I play in the “mess.” Michael could and did.

I worked on creating 60 Scenes for years starting with a writing group then lectures on the Hero’s Journey, then a two day workshop, then an online two month workshop 60 Scenes 60 Days and finally the current one day 60 Scenes Writing Method One Day Workshop. Michael is a workshop leader and a story coach for Penpaperwrite.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

For every writer that finishes a story there is a message sent out into the world for someone to hear “I am not alone” and that is what is important.

What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

1. Look beyond what you think you want — there is always something more

I have always been accused of remaking things, rewriting things, taking things apart and starting over. It’s an illness, maybe. But I refuse to believe I’m a genius. I consider whatever I come up with the first time is a prototype. That’s how I approach creating anything. The final product, like my workshop, is the best because it went through trials and testing. I don’t take art for granted.

2. Listen — More than you talk

My oldest daughter is an anorexic and a cutter. I began the journey with her at 14. I learned that when I talk the space between us grew. When I listened, the gap closed. It taught me that this is true for every situation in life. I wrote a play about our relationship and it took four years to complete because I would stop writing every time she went into the hospital for months at a time. She is a very successful designer in NYC, and I never undervalue the time I get to spend with her listening to her day.

3. Pay attention to the signs — don’t ignore your gut

My grandmother came from Italy at the turn of the century. She was trained as a healer. She could set bones, deliver babies and dress wounds. I was her helper as a child, so I saw a great deal of suffering and watched her give relief.

She was also an intuitive. People came to her to interpret their dreams. I watched her tell a woman to do what she thought was right. She touched the woman’s belly. The woman was pregnant. I had no idea what she was telling the woman to do. I was old enough to know about babies and it crossed my mind she was referring to the unborn baby. My grandmother was putting a bandage on the woman’s arm. I didn’t understand the situation at the time.

The next day that same woman’s husband came over and it was the first time I ever saw a gunshot wound. It was then that the whole thing made sense. My grandmother counseled many people to follow their gut, watch for signs so I came away from that upbringing with the same strong belief. It has served me well.

4. If you believe it, others will

I am an only child. There was always only one way to achieve anything in my life; convince somebody what I want is a good idea. I think it really began in High School. I started the first literary magazine, A Gathering, by convincing the nuns it would get the local companies around our Catholic HS to donate to the convent. They did.

And I convinced a trader on the Mercantile Exchange to lend me 12,000 dollars to start my company in Chicago. In 1973. I believed bringing modern hardware to America was a good idea. The Ironmonger is still in business today.

5. Pay attention to the now, now is when you can act -there is nothing behind you — literally nothing

I have always been fascinated by Joseph Campbell ever since I read The Hero with a Thousand Faces. So much of our past is linked to myth that I started reading all I could written by Campbell. A lot can be learned from the Hero’s Journey if you apply it to your own life and I found that my deepest struggles had to do with holding on to the past. I knew I had to learn from it and move on.

“Cutting Ties” is a step in the journey and it is a difficult step to take. It teaches you that there is no future unless you accept that you can only act in the present. The past is a place that can only be visited in your head. Leaders stay in the now. Leaders act.

11. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Pick up a PEN, a piece of PAPER and WRITE!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

No doubt it’s this one. I say it all the time:

Ride the horse in the direction it’s going.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Neil deGrasse Tyson — Love that guy

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