Series - "Everyday" Women Who Have Redefined after 50 - Amy NewmarkDec 28, 2020
I first learned of Amy when I read an article she wrote for Sixty and Me. I read her article and then read her bio and thought – “I’m going to take a chance and reach out to her to see if she’ll interview for this series. There’s no way that she’ll have time to meet with me but what have I got to lose. What’s the BEST that can happen?”
Within a day, I heard from Amy’s assistant who said that she’d love to sit down and chat with me.
And I got to hear the story of Amy Newmark – who went from being a securities analyst on Wall Street specializing in telecommunications and technology stocks, a hedge fund manager, and a corporate executive in the technology field to….
Editor-in-chief, publisher, and author of Chicken Soup for the Soul. And she made the change AT the age of 50!
Amy said that in high school she took every language class that she could and she majored in Portuguese in college. In her junior year, she went to Brazil where she discovered what she called the “literature of the regular people.” These were inexpensive booklets that were fairy tales or often political protests hiding under the guise of being a story. These stories reflected the popular culture and were what the “regular people” could afford. Amy went on to describe how these stories were tied into a group of singers who would do songfests and improvisational singing and that their songs were often memorialized in these booklets.
Amy did her thesis on this popular form of poetry and storytelling. She collected stories from these people and put them together to create her thesis.
Then Came Redefinition Number One
The Harvard college student who majored in Portuguese and minored in French graduated and took a job at a consulting firm that analyzed the telecommunications market in Brazil.
From there, Amy moved on to becoming a securities analyst, hedge fund manager, and sat on the board for various other publicly traded telecommunications companies. As she reflected on those years, she said, “I’ve always loved everything I’ve done. Being on the cutting edge, seeing all of the new technology, picking the companies who would be the winners and helping people know which stocks to buy and, even more importantly, which ones NOT to.”
It was fascinating to hear Amy talk about life on Wall Street in the eighties. How the mostly male environment was typically shocked to learn that this cute little blond was one of the “big guys.” How at a power lunch one of the men remarked, “I like your tits.”
She talked about how she made a lot of enemies on Wall Street because she didn’t hesitate to turn companies into the SEC for fraudulent accounting. She said, “A lot of people didn’t like me. But, I had to do what was right for the people.”
Redefinition Number 2 - Full Circle - Or Was It?
Amy and her husband decided they needed something new to do and began to look for a company to buy. As fate would have it, they learned of the Chicken Soup for the Soul opportunity at a friend’s barbeque. In August, 2007, Amy’s youngest left for college and she became an empty nester. At the same time, she began working on the acquisition of Chicken Soup for the Soul as well as on the 2008 books. By the time the purchase was official in 2008, Amy had become an author, editor, and book publisher.
Amy looked back on her career on Wall Street before Chicken Soup for the Soul and noted some similarities along the way. She said that in every company that she worked for, she was the writer. She wrote the press releases, annual reports, and every important letter or email. In her words, “It was really just a different kind of writing.”
Even more interestingly, she talked about the similarities in the two roles in terms of dealing with people’s emotions. In Wall Street, she was dealing with the emotions of fear and greed. With Chicken Soup for the Soul she’s dealing with all of the human emotions.
Like every woman I’ve interviewed thus far, Amy was no different in terms of her mindset barriers and her case of the Imposter Syndrome. She thought, “I have no idea what I’m doing – I know nothing about making a book or the process you go through!” She said she learned everything on the fly.
Amy laughed as she remembered the time she was going to publish her first book and one of her people asked her if she’d obtained a required Library of Congress number. She’d had no idea that she had to have one! But, she got it done and the book got published.
Amy doesn’t feel that imposter syndrome is necessarily a horrible thing and in fact, went on to say that a little imposter syndrome is healthy. She feels that we shouldn’t take things for granted. And I have to agree with that!
Amy talked about how, even today – 12 years later – when she’s going on tv to promote a new book and getting her hair and makeup done and walking out there, it still feels like an out of body experience. She still can’t believe that she’s here.
Amy’s external barriers were different from any of my other women redefined thus far. She’s had the support of both friends and family – emotionally as well as financially, as she set out on her new endeavor. This, unfortunately, was not the case for my other redefining women as they set out on their journeys.
But….Amy and her husband bought Chicken Soup for the Soul on the cusp of what was our worst recession since the Great Depression. It was a horrible time to be in the book business. Bookstores were going bankrupt and other stores decreased the space dedicated to book sales. They really struggled for the first four years.
Taking that leap and then facing that struggle had to be beyond scary. Courage – “doing the thing in spite of the fear.” Amy did it. And came out on top.
Amy talked about balance as she reflected on what’s ahead for her. She spoke lovingly of her children and grandchildren and talked about how these days her life is broken up into two week quarantine chunks in between visiting her grands.
“My next thing is to satisfy my perpetual quest for balance. I’m always striving to work less.” She spoke of her next goal being to take weekends off and honor that.
We had a laugh as Amy described watching her retired friends coming back and forth from Florida and how nice that seemed. But, I asked her, “Do you ever see yourself doing that?” She laughed and said no. And added, “I’m not going to retire – I know that!”
A woman after my own heart.
However, she is very much looking forward to getting back to traveling.
Amy takes a lot of pride in the Chicken Soup for the Soul brand, as she should. She proudly talked about how the phrase “chicken soup” has the same meaning all over the world. Not just for its curative powers but for the emotional comfort feeling that goes along with it. And that their books and other products are ones that people naturally trust.
I encourage everyone to peruse the website. Chicken Soup for the Soul is way more than a collection of stories. They share these stories with the goal of making the world a better place. And it is a very socially conscious organization that gives back in so many ways.
Another remarkable story and a remarkable woman. Who is taking the art of balancing life’s roles after 50 to a whole new level. Thank you for your inspiration, Amy Newmark!