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Q&A: Author, speaker Cynthia Mendenhall to host empowering event

Cynthia Mendenhall, an author, speaker and self-proclaimed adventurer, will be hosting a Writer’s Series event on Sept. 15 from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. She’s also a career coach at Ohio University’s Chillicothe campus.

She has many released projects and is continuing her work expressing her words onto paper. She has published three books in her Spunkify series and has been working as a speaker, aiming to empower women. 

The Post sat down with Mendenhall and talked about her past and current work as well as the upcoming event.

The Post: Tell me a little bit about your background bringing you to where you are today.

Mendenhall: I didn't go to college until I was 30 years old. I am first-gen, so that's kind of significant. I did a bachelor's in specialized studies from Ohio University, went into criminal justice for a few years, did pretty well there and then decided to transition into education. So, I went back to school, pursued a master's. I have a master's in educational leadership from Antioch Midwest up in Yellow Springs, so I taught during the day and drove in the evenings for classes. The bigger bulk of my career was in a high school classroom teaching English and American literature, public speaking — all of those wonderful AP courses. And I loved that until there was a point that I just got really restless, and I was looking for something more. I had gone through a divorce that I really didn't expect, and my daughters had gone away. They were in college. So, I'm looking at this big house that I'm paying for, working a job that I'm no longer really super passionate about and thinking, ‘Why in the world am I doing this?’ So, I identified one of my lifelong dreams: I just wanted to write. I wanted to pursue writing. I wanted to see if I could do it. I just packed things up and headed to Phoenix, Arizona — not realizing the opportunity was in Phoenix, not realizing that it was such a hotbed for writers. While I was there, I was in five or six critique and editing groups at all times. I did NaNoWriMo for three successful years while living there. I had a whole community of writers around me and just decided ‘Listen, I've always wanted to live at the beach. Let's see what that looks like.’ So, I loaded up my little hatchback and headed to the beach for 90 days. Ended up staying there for four years. While I was at the beach in South Carolina is when I published my first book — I self-published. There was a little growth guide or a workbook that came along later that year. Then, a couple years later, I self-published my third book. I'm currently in Ohio. Things changed in South Carolina, and I came home.

TP: Can you tell me about your works in progress? Specifically Don’t Die ’til You’re Dead and Sixty by Sixty.

Mendenhall: Those are two works in progress. I have another manuscript that I've completely finished just this summer. So, I'm really excited about it. It's going to be more of a gift book-style, and it's called Mugs of Mojo. It has 30 entries of coffee cups that I've photographed along life and then some motivational, inspirational type things that came out of that experience. So, the subtitle of Mugs of Mojo is “When Coffee Enlightens Your Way.” Don't Die ‘til You're Dead was me reaching into my experiences and telling some really great stories from my lifetime — pulling those stories that have really impactful lessons. I feel like so many people are just completely defaulted in their life, and that's something I'm hoping to speak about next week, but they just stopped planning, and they're going through the motions. Don't Die ‘til You're Dead is a fun and funny book, but it has a very quiet, subtle punch to each story — like a good takeaway, but it's not preach-y. 

Sixty by Sixty is so much fun. I've been working on that little by little. So, I turned 60 last December, and I wanted to throw a big birthday party for myself. I had been thinking for about three or four months reflecting on my life, and I made a list to give to people who came to my birthday party: 60 things that I thought everyone should do before they're 60 years old. So, I had that list, and then a friend of mine said, “You know what? That's a book.”

TP: What keeps you motivated to continuously find all this inspiration in life?

Mendenhall: I'm just very hope-filled. I am a Christian, so I get a lot of strength and hope from my faith. I have this hunger to make every day a little bit better than yesterday, and I never want to stop accomplishing. I want to teach other people to do this and so the feminine drive, just having the list, having the goals. I made a bucket list in 2010. I had 14 items on it. I've had to add more items. I have, every single year, marked one item off of that bucket list. 

TP: Can you tell me about what your event on Sept. 15 will look like?

Mendenhall: They've asked me to read, and interestingly enough with all of the book signings and everything, I've never just sat and read my book. I'm pretty excited to do that. I'm going to share from my first book, a chapter about designing your life and just some strategies to do that. 

TP: What encouragement can you give to college students?

Mendenhall: The title of my book is Spunkify Your Life, and then the second one is Spunkier Yet. I really found it cool when I was writing and when that came to me: when we think of the word “spunk,” we think of something that's maybe a little bit wild, crazy or too loud or out there. But when you look it up, the dictionary definition is “courageous and determined.” That underlies everything that I do, that I teach, that I write, that I speak about — is that courageous determination. So, what I find is a lot of people have a lot of courage, but they don't have a plan. They don't have a determined path to follow. Sometimes, we have a really great plan and a path, but then we don't have the guts to carry it out. And so if you think of having spunk, then that's that courageous determination put together. More than anything, I would like to inspire people to just realize that it takes that: you have to have some spunk to get to your next day, to your next job, to your next class, to your next whatever that is. Wherever your next is, you've got to have that spunk. You've got to have that courage, and you've got to have that determination. 

Those interested in attending Mendenhall’s event are able to join the Zoom meeting. She encourages students to come listen and experience her book firsthand.


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