Category Archives: Holidays

A Big Thank You to Your Administrative Assistant

The following is a guest post from Kevin Wilson, co-author of The Administrative Assistant’s and Secretary’s Handbook.

Administrative Professional’s Day is the time to thank your hard-working assistant for putting up with those endless requests from you and your colleagues. This year, rather than a gift card to Starbucks or a spa gift certificate you would like to keep for yourself, how about giving the gift of development. (Or perhaps in addition to a gift card or spa gift certificate!)

Gone are the days when an administrative assistant might work 30 years for the same company, many of those years for the same boss. Corporate restructurings, which have affected hundreds of thousands of people over the past few years, have been a mixed blessing for administrative assistants. In the wake of restructuring, some assistants have to leave their position when their boss leaves, but others are asked to take on greater responsibility, to “take up the slack” as middle managers are phased out. Either situation could be professionally devastating if an administrative assistant is not prepared.

While it is important to offer training on the skills needed for the current job, such as computer skills, it could be strategically helpful to acquire other essential business skills whether or not they are needed right now.  Look for training opportunities in areas such as business writing, research, customer service, purchasing, budgeting, bookkeeping, invoicing, training new employees, presentation skills, and supervising an office staff.  The American Management Association offers a wide variety of seminars on these and other topics.

Having these skills will give your administrative assistant the most flexible preparation to meet any challenge he or she may face—either an on-the-job crisis or a career advancement opportunity.

Another development idea that is more closely related with your assistant’s current job would be to support his or her effort to become certified by the International Association of Administrative Professionals (formerly the National Secretaries Association) as a Certified Professional Secretary (CPS) or Certified Administrative Professional (CAP). This certification is granted only upon the successful completion of examinations in various aspects of secretarial/administrative procedures and skills. Being certified can be a tremendous boost to your assistant’s career.

Giving the gift of development shows you care personally about your administrative assistant’s future and well-being. If you have a limited budget, offer to pay for an adult education course of your assistant’s choice at the local college. There are also many useful online courses that can help your assistant acquire new skills.  And above all, talk with your assistant about what they see themselves doing in the future, and then work together on a development plan that helps them achieve these goals.

Kevin Wilson is the co-author of The Administrative Assistant’s and Secretary’s Handbook and is Vice President of Videologies, Inc., a company that specializes in training administrative professionals in Fortune 500 companies.

Books for National Stress Awareness Day

April 16th is National Stress Awareness Day. In honor of the holiday, we’re showcasing quotes from our books about handling stress.

**Originally posted April 16, 2015 — and updated to include When the Pressure’s On (AMACOM May 2016)!**

Jacket cover of When the Pressure's On by Louis CsokaWhen the Pressure’s On: The Secret to Winning When You Can’t Afford to Lose by Louis S. Csoka

Staying prepared is all about maintaining the balance between stress and recovery. Address stress by ensuring that extended periods of high-performance demands are balanced out with appropriate recovery. Recover counter-balances daily stressors before they accumulate and become a significant impediment to performance. When you know an especially stress-filled period is approaching, plan and schedule recovery activities much like your work activity. Mark the recovery activities on the calendar, increasing the probability that you will engaged in them. (pages 110-111).


Jacket cover of Stress Less. Achieve More. by Aimee BernsteinStress Less. Achieve More.: Simple Ways to Turn Pressure into a Positive Force in Your Life by Aimee Bernstein

       Western culture dangles the idea that not only can we have more, but we are also entitled to it. Keeping up the pace of the “good life” can be just as stressful as recognizing that we don’t have all we were told we should have.

As modern life demands that we attend to more things in less time, we believe we must move faster to accomplish all that life requires. As we do, the pressure builds. Yet, moving faster isn’t the answer. Multi-tasking, neuroscience tells us, compromises our effectiveness. Yet, we race ahead, and before we know it, we have moved away from our center, the place I call “home” 0r “here.” The more we distance our attention from ourselves, the more drained, pressured, and disheartened we feel. Our decisions may become flawed and our relationships stressful. In this state, even when things go our way, life seems hard (page 59).

Jacket cover of Success Under Stress by Sharon MelnickSuccess Under Stress: Powerful Tools for Staying Calm, Confident, and Productive When the Pressure’s On by Sharon Melnick

When Brianna’s thoughts about “I’m not good enough” get activated, she feels bad about herself; she thinks she needs to protect herself from being taken advantage of. That’s why she feels deflated and “loses it.” When Brianna learned this insight, she was blown away. “I am shocked at why I reacted. But I can see that’s definitely true,” she told me. In short, the real reason she snapped was that her husband’s question activated her own doubt (page 166).

And here are some of our titles to help reduce the stress of parenthood

Jacket cover of Stress-Free Discipline by Sara Au and Peter L StavinohaStress-Free Discipline: Simple Strategies for Handling Common Behavior Problems by Sara Au and Peter L. Stavinoha

       As parents, you will have Absolutes—behaviors you absolutely expect from family members. They reflect your values and thus are different for every family. There are no right or wrong items for you and your spouse to put on this list.

Here’s what an Absolute means: You will absolutely not tolerate a behavior and will stop what you’re doing to address that issue immediately, taking decisive action and brooking no explanations. These are the lines in the sand that, when crossed, provoke a reaction that conveys to your child that he has gone too far. Absolute consistent: Every time this behavior happens, you are resolute and take action in response. Coordinate and predetermine your response with any other adult who helps to parent your child.

Keep your family’s list of Absolutes very short. These are things you’re going to go to the mat for, and if you choose too many, you’ll be on the mat too often. You won’t be able to effectively parent with such rigid parameters. For example, in many families, hitting is never tolerated. If you and your spouse determine that will be one of your Absolutes, then every time you see your child hit someone, you always need to react with consequence. Many families use a swift Time-Out in these cases (pages 35-36).

Jacket cover of Stress-Free Potty Training by Sara Au and Peter L. StavinohaStress-Free Potty Training: A Commonsense Guide to Finding the Right Approach for Your Child by Sara Au and Peter L. Stavinoha

Praise is not only healthier, but there is an inexhaustible, free supply. We always have some with us. It also gives us parents the chance to specifically target what we really want to reinforce—our kid’s effort, willingness, and interest. Based on our feedback, our children will begin to value the same traits we are reinforcing—persistence, tolerance, overcoming frustration, patience, bravery commitment to a goal, and so on. Reinforcing all of that can be done quickly and efficiently in a statement of admiration or even a quick burst of applause. There is no time like early childhood to start working on the development of an internal achievement-orientation (pages 40-41)!

Want to sample other AMACOM books? Check out our Random Quotes from New Books series.

April Fools!: Publishing Pranks of the Past

Map of San Serriffe, from the Guardian special report Guardian

Map of San Serriffe, from the Guardian

The connection between April Fool’s Day and the printed word has a long and spirited tradition. Newspapers have a decided advantage in this area, especially when editors are willing to set aside their vaunted reputation for truth just for one day. Magazines and journals, too, have managed to hoodwink their readers on several notable occasions, creating such a stir that you look back and wonder, “How could anybody ever fall for that?”

With a tip of the hat to The Museum of Hoaxes ( and its curator, Alex Boese, here are four of my all-time favorite April Fool’s Day published pranks:

San Serriffe: On April 1, 1977, The Guardian published a special seven-page supplement devoted to San Serriffe, a small republic in the Indian Ocean made up of several semi-colon-shaped islands. A series of articles described in glowing detail the geography and culture of this obscure nation. Its two main islands were named Upper Caisse and Lower Caisse; the capital was Bodoni; and the leader’s name was General Pica. The Guardian‘s phones rang all day as readers sought more information about the delightful-sounding holiday spot. Only a few noticed that everything about the island was named after printer’s terminology.

Sidd Finch: The issue of Sports Illustrated dated April 1, 1985 revealed that the New York Mets had recruited a rookie pitcher named Sidd Finch who could throw a baseball at 168 mph.  Surprisingly, the mysterious Mr. Finch had never played baseball before, but he had mastered the “art of the pitch” in a Tibetan monastery. Mets fans celebrated their luck and flooded Sports Illustrated with requests for more information. But this amazing (and obviously too-good-to-be-true) player only existed in the imagination of author George Plimpton, who had left a clue in the sub-heading of the article: “He’s a pitcher, part yogi and part recluse. Impressively liberated from our opulent life-style, Sidd’s deciding about yoga —and his future in baseball.” The first letter of each of these words, taken together, spelled “H-a-p-p-y A-p-r-i-l F-o-o-l-s D-a-y — A-h F-i-b”.

The Norwegian Wine Surplus: On April 1, 1950, Norway’s largest newspaper, Aftenposten, announced on its front page that the government-owned Wine Monopoly (Vinmonopolet) had received a large shipment of wine in barrels, but had run out of bottles. To get rid of the extra wine, the stores were running a one-day bargain sale, offering wine at 75% off and tax-free. The catch was that buyers had to bring their own containers to put the wine in. “Buckets, pitchers, and the like” were recommended. When the Vinmonopolets opened at 10 a.m., Norwegian wine lovers rushed to line up, forming long queues that stretched around the block. According to legend, numerous empty buckets were later seen lying in the streets, left there by people who had realized, while standing in line, that the sale was a hoax

Image courtesy of Jornal GGN- Image of the cow-tomato hybrid prank

The Boimate, from the Jornal GGN

Boimate: New Scientist ran an article on April 1, 1983 about the first successful “plant-animal hybrid” that had resulted in a tomato containing genes from a cow. The cow-tomato was said to have a “tough leathery skin” and grew “discus-shaped” clumps of animal protein sandwiched between an envelope of tomato fruit. The article included clues that it was a joke, such as the names of the researchers, MacDonald and Wimpey, who supposedly worked at the University of Hamburg. But these clues weren’t recognized by the Brazilian science magazine Veja which ran a feature about the new cow-tomato hybrid several weeks later. Veja dubbed the hybrid “Boimate,” and even created a graphic to show how the cow-tomato hybridization process occurred. The magazine was subsequently relentlessly ridiculed in the Brazilian media, until it eventually apologized for its “unfortunate mistake.”

At the heart of these April Fool’s Day hoaxes is the faith readers put in the printed word, a trust that can be easily exploited for a bit of mischief. Caveat lector! (Translation: Look at the date on the calendar!)

This post was written by Senior Development Editor Barry Richardson (thank you, Barry!). Our in-house “book doctor,” he helps improve manuscripts while keeping the author’s voice and expertise–whether it’s heavy-duty editing, reorganization, rewriting, or coaching authors. Prior to joining AMACOM, he worked for 25 years at Prentice Hall (P-H). Visit our website for freelance development inquiries.

Oh the Horror!: Creepy reads for Friday the 13th

Photo of tree and moon at night

In anticipation of Friday the 13th, AMACOM staffers have been discussing their favorite encounters with horror stories. Below are just a few of the macabre tales  that we’ve enjoyed (or been scarred by) over the years. Share your most memorable eerie reads with us in the comments!

Jacket Cover of Pet Sematary by Stephen King A few weeks ago I read a news story about a cat called Bart that literally crawled out of its grave. The cat was hit by a car, and the owner, thinking it was dead, buried Bart in the backyard. The next day, the cat crawled out of the grave, covered in dirt and injured, but very much alive.
The story reminded me of one of my favorite Stephen King books, Pet Sematary. King said that the inspiration for the book was the time when he and his family were living on a particularly busy and dangerous stretch of road. So many pets were killed on that road that the neighborhood kids built a small pet cemetery in the woods. His daughter buried her cat there when it was hit by a car. What terrified the master of terror was that his two year old son Owen was almost hit by a car on this road.
Now back to the tough little cat. The owner took him to the veterinarian and the cat is recovering nicely, and so far doesn’t show any signs of being a zombie or demonic possession. —Irene Majuk, Director of Publicity

Jacket Cover of Ghost Stories of an Antiquary by M.R. JamesIn my last year of grad school, I took a course called “Literature of the Supernatural,” in which we examined texts with various elements of the supernatural from the Renaissance to the 21st century (yes, there was a very long reading list). We read Polidori’s The Vampyre, Le Fanu’s Carmilla, Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, several works by Poe, and many others, but the most disturbing piece (although not necessarily a horror story) that I read that semester was a short story by M.R. James called The Mezzotint.” Alone in my apartment on a dark, wintry evening, I struggled to read the rest of the tales in Ghost Stories of an Antiquary.  —Julia Huschke, Sales & Marketing Intern

182540While many books have disturbed me—the hobbling scene from Stephen King’s Misery tops that list—the only book to scare me was The Amityville Horror, which I read when I was 12. Part of it I read while in a chair in my backyard on a sunny summer afternoon, and I might as well have been in a candlelit tomb. It scared me even when I wasn’t reading it. One night I was going to bed when I looked into my father’s office, which adjoined our family room. In the dark windows I saw two glowing red eyes like the demonic piggy eyes in the book. I went stone cold before realizing they weren’t eyes. They were the reflection of the LED clock on father’s desk. Nonetheless, I watched the latest movie version, and I had to turn the DVD off halfway through when the Ju-on-like girl was crawling on the ceiling.There are some images you just don’t want in your head. Eddie Murphy had it right. As much as I was enjoying the book, at the first “Get out!” I should have said to myself, “Too bad we can’t stay, baby.”—Stephen S. Power, Senior Editor

Jacket Cover of Salem's Lot I didn’t know anything about Stephen King when I first read Salem’s Lot, but it scared me in an extremely visceral way. I always loved horror stories and books, but I felt removed from them as a reader. However, the setting and characters in ‘Salem’s Lot were so ordinary that for the first time I felt like I was really in the story. While the idea of returning to your small home town and coming to the realization that everybody, young and old, is turning into vampires may be preposterous, King somehow made it feel “real” rather than gothic or silly. King has often said this book, his second published novel, is his favorite and I can understand why. —Barry Richardson, Senior Development Editor

Jacket Cover of Hold the Dark by William GiraldiIt’s been many years, but anything by Lovecraft is among my horror book favorites. Also, Dracula, which has to be at the top of my list, ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King, The Midwich Cuckoos and The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham, and I am Legend by Richard Matheson. Not a horror book per se, but one of the darkest and most twisted novels I’ve read in many years is something I picked up at BEA last year: Hold the Dark by William Giraldi. And a great title I saw recently: Sick Bastards. Unfortunately it’s an ebook only, which means I’m never going to read it.Bob Nirkind, Senior Acquisitions Editor

I Jacket Cover of The Jaunt by Stephen Kingremember reading a short story by Stephen King called The Jaunt.” I read it at work on my lunch hour in an office with the door closed. I felt scared all the while I was reading, even though my co-workers sat just outside the door. When I got to the end of the story, I jumped up from my chair and quickly opened that door! Needless to say, I didn’t read any of the other short stories in that book, “The Jaunt” was enough for me. I still get chills whenever I think about it. —Janet Pagano, Executive Assistant

Jacket Cover of The Turn of the Screw by Henry JamesProbably due to my Catholic upbringing, but when I read The Exorcist in college, I was sure the devil was under my bed. Also, The Turn of the Screw by Henry James has always stuck with me. It was published in 1898 and is really scary! It’s about a governess who comes to take care of two children at a country estate in rural England. She begins to see fleeting figures of a man and a woman around the property and realizes they are ghosts.  The man was a servant at the estate and the woman was the children’s former governess. The present governess learns that not only did these demonic presents have a sexual relationship with each other, they have begun appearing to the children eager to ensnare them in their web. Possession and even sexual molestation is implied. The fact that it’s not stated but implied makes it even more frightening. —Andy Ambraziejus, Head of Production & Managing Editor

Independence Day Recipes From AMACOM Staff

CC Image courtesy of Juan N Only on Flickr

CC Image courtesy of Juan N Only on Flickr

Here at AMACOM, we’ve been talking  about Fourth of July celebrations. And, more often than not, that means talking about food. With all the recipes we’ve been talking about, you’d think we published cookbooks, in addition to business books.

Executive Editor Ellen Kadin will get things started with her guacamole.

Ellen’s Outstanding Guacamole. 

  • 2 lbs ripe avocados (4 little ones or 2 big ones)
  • ¼ cup lemon juice (That’s what the recipe says, but I thought it was better with less.)
  • ¼ cup minced onion
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro (coriander leaves)
  • ½ lb tomatoes (≈2 medium-sized)
  • 5 tablespoons finely chopped green chilis (A whole small can contains about that much.)
  • 1¾ teaspoons salt  (That’s what the recipe calls for, but I’d suggest dealing with the salt last and tasting the guac before you add any.  I’ve sometimes left it out altogether.)

Cut avocadoes in half lengthwise, remove the pits, and scoop out the meat.

In a medium-sized bowl, mash the avocado with a silver fork (hey, just relaying what the recipe says) or a wooden spoon.

Add the lemon juice, onions and cilantro.

Coarsely chop the tomatoes and add them to the avocado, along with the chilis and salt (if any).  Stir everything together and serve chilled.

Creative Director Cathleen Ouderkirk has two to share:

Bok Choy Salad

  • 2 pkgs ramen noodles (broken)
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 2 oz sesame seeds
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 lg head bok choy
  • 1 bunch scallions

Sautée noodles, almonds, sesame seeds and garlic in minimal amount of olive oil until golden. Cool.

Boil liquids less than one minute. Cool.

While the above seeds, nuts and dressing are cooling in the fridge, wash chop and refrigerate the two green vegetables.

When everything’s cool, combine it all and serve.

And here’s another recipe from Cathleen:

Pork Baby Back Ribs

6 lbs of ribs (two racks) serves 5-6 adults.

Sauce Ingredients: (makes 3 cups of sauce)

  • 1 1/2 cups Peter Luger’s Old Fashioned Sauce
  • 1/2 cup KC Masterpiece BBQ sauce (original)
  • 1 cup orange juice

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.

Combine BBQ sauces with orange juice.

Smother ribs with sauce (both sides) and leave extra underneath. Save some sauce on the side to be used for final basting.

Cover pan tightly with foil. Cook for 2 1/2 hours. Baste after each hour and before final half hour.

Raise the heat to 350 degrees, uncover and cook for another 1/2 hour, basting once or twice.

Remove from oven, cover again, and let stand for 10 or 15 minutes.

Barry Richardson, the Senior Development Editor, has the secret to good grilled vegetables.  He says: “There’s nothing like grilled vegetables as an appetizer or a side dish at a barbecue. Quick and easy to prepare, they always get loud kudos from the crowd—vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. I prefer using veggies from my own garden, but when they’re not ready yet (like now), I have to go old school—buying them at the market.”

I always use zucchini (especially when they’re in full harvest), usually eggplant and peppers, and yellow squash if available.

Barry’s Grilled Vegetables


Zucchini, cut lengthwise about ¼- to ½-inch thick (probably 4 slices). I leave the skin on the outside slices; some people prefer to trim it off.

Yellow Squash, cut lengthwise about ¼- to ½-inch thick (probably 3-4 slices)

Eggplant, cut lengthwise about ¼- to ½-inch thick (probably 4 or more slices)

Green Peppers, seeded and cut into about 4 pieces

Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

Balsamic vinegar (*Teriyaki sauce makes a tasty alternative)

Olive oil


Lightly coat the sliced vegetables with olive oil.

Brush balsamic vinegar on both sides of vegetables.

Sprinkle salt and pepper to taste on both sides of the vegetables.

(The longer the marinated vegetables sit in the fridge, the better.)

Place vegetables on grill at medium to high heat. Close grill. Check vegetables after a few minutes. When there are light cross marks from the grill across one side, let them grill for another two minutes (closed grill), and then turn them over. Close grill again. When done just right, the vegetables will be tender and charred slightly.

Put grilled vegetables on a plate, serve them to your guests and family, and start grilling another batch. The first ones will be gone almost immediately.

Rosemary Carlough, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, says her blueberry pie is a key part of her Fourth of July Celebration.

Rosemary’s Deep Dish, Double Crust Blueberry Pie

Adapted from Blueberry Pie #2 from Maida Heatter’s New Book of Great Desserts

Make a Pie Crust for a 2 crust pie and chill in two pieces for at least an hour.


  • 4 small boxes (4 pounds) fresh blueberries
  • 8 tablespoons unsifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt (optional)
  • ¼ teaspoon mace
  • Finely grated rind of one large lemon

Wash the berries and pick out any bad ones (but if you buy them fresh they should be fine) and put on a towel to dry.

Sift together the flour, sugar, salt and mace and set aside.

Adjust your oven rack to ¼ or 1/3 from the bottom of the oven. Preheat the oven to 450°.  You need a large deep dish pie plate.

Take two sheets of wax paper.  Use half the pie dough and roll it out between the sheets to the size you need based on the dimensions of the pie plate.   When the correct size take the top wax paper off, and lift the pie dough to the pie plate, peel off the second sheet of wax paper, gently pat the dough into the pan and trim the edges so you have about ½ inch past the edge of the pan.  Sprinkle 3 Tablespoons of the sifted flour mixture evenly over the bottom of the pastry.  Refrigerate.

Roll out the second half of the pastry, again between two sheets of wax paper, to the size you will need to generously cover the pan.  Let stand briefly.

Place the berries in a large bowl. Add the grated rind and toss gently with a rubber spatula.  Add about half of the remaining sifted dry ingredients and toss gently, just a bit, with the rubber spatula.

Place half of the berries in the crust.  Sprinkle with half of the now remaining dry ingredients. Cover with the remaining berries, mounding them high in the middle, and then sprinkle with the last of the dry ingredients.  With your fingers, press down gently to flatten the mound slightly without spending any berries toward the rim.

Fold the rolled out pasty in half. Carefully transfer it to the top of the pie and unfold it.  With scissors trim the edges so you have about ½ inch overhang and then pinch the top and bottom crust edges together.  Stand it upright a bit so any juices that escape don’t drip.

Cut some air vents in a star shape with a small sharp knife.  You should have at least 6-8 vents about 2-3 inches long.  If you wish, spinkle some sugar on top.  Purely optional.

Bake at 450 degrees for 20 minutes.  Then reduce the temperature to 375 degrees and bake for 40 minutes longer.  Cool on a rack.

It needs to cool to not be too runny, but what I like best is that it’s a very fruity juice pie.  None of that thick gloppy filling.  The original recipe says to serve it cold but I like it slightly warm or at room temperature.  It is runny with fruit!

Most of all, we here at AMACOM want to wish you and yours a happy, and delicious Fourth of July celebration.