It’s January 2010. Encouraged by my spouse, Margi Brown Ash, I am commencing a three-year part-time Master of Counselling. I am a corporate leader and lawyer entering the world of brief, solution focussed, narrative, creative arts, and process-oriented therapies. I soon realise I am studying a Master of Life, how to be a better parent, a better leader, a better person. I am learning the importance of noticing our conversations, how they affect everything we think, say, and do.
It’s June 2010. I am attending a workshop facilitated by Ken Gergen and Mary Gergen, co-founders of the Taos Institute, a virtual global body of scholars and practitioners concerned with relational practices. I read Ken Gergen’s seminal work Relational Being. I am drawn into a journey exploring conversations and relationships in the family, workplace, and society.
Forced to Write
It’s 2012, my final year in my Master of Counselling. I am required to write an article for publication. Margi and I, having become associates of the Taos Institute, attend a Taos Conference in Mexico on ‘Enriching Collaborative Practices Across Cultural Borders’. Another co-founder, Harlene Anderson, is the editor of the International Journal of Collaborative-Dialogic Practices. Harlene encourages me to write an article. My book is born, birthed with an article titled ‘A Lawyer’s Provocative and Reflective Journey into Social Constructionism and Not-Knowing’, focussing on how my journey affects my conversations and relationships with Margi and our four children.
The Book Begins
It's 2013. I have put pen to paper of a book titled ‘Parenting, My Story.’ My first words are, It’s nearly 30 years since I transformed from a me-focussed bachelor to an our-focussed partner and parent.
The Focus Widens
It’s 2014. I am in a leadership workshop. As leadership skills are rattled off, I realise I am also in a parenting workshop. Seeds for this thinking were planted by Harlene Anderson’s idea we perform our roles in our multiple ‘social occasions’ informed by using similar conversation skills, though adapted for the circumstances in which they are performed. A ‘good morning’ with a kiss and hug for our family social occasion will be modified for the workplace social occasion. My writing started playing with these ideas, as I observed how we performed in social occasions from the boardroom to independent theatre.
Brought Down to Earth
It’s early 2016. I am in a Queensland Writers Centre Memoir workshop receiving feedback from author Dr Kári Gíslason on the first chapter of my book. My interpretation of his respectful language is that my writing comes across as self-indulgent, of little interest to the reading public. I am devastated. One of the most annoying aphorisms out there is ‘feedback is a gift’. Yet I soon realise Kári Gíslason had given me a gift. I need a break from writing. I join Margi on a Writers Retreat in Iceland, coincidentally Kári Gíslason’s birthplace. I use it as a time of listening and reflecting, interspersed with feelings of despondency.
Exit Corporate/Legal Career
It’s 26 April 2016. I am sitting in my CEO’s office the first day after returning from Iceland being informed of a company restructure, with my position made redundant. I am overjoyed, realising my despondency has also been fed with a ‘time’s up’ on my corporate legal career, a career of energising conversations and relationships that had run their course.
Reflecting on my Journey
It’s 4 July 2016, the official birth of my new career, with the incorporation of my business ARC Coaching. By chance it’s Independence Day in the United States, taking me back to studying and working in the US after leaving Law School. This was my first step in becoming independent from the social milieu of my upbringing, leading to traveling in cities, towns, and villages in North and South America and Asia, engaging in conversations and forming relationships with people from all walks of life, cultures, and identities.
The Book’s Framework is Born
It’s 14 July 2016. I am sitting in a Conference Room in the inspirationally named Beau Monde International Hotel in greater Melbourne, waiting for Alan Sieler to begin facilitating the beginning of my 18-month Graduate Diploma of Ontological Coaching. It did not take me long to realise my book was being re-born into one offering everyday conversation skills to enrich our relationships, supported by personal stories, case studies, and exercises.
It's Summon Courage Time: Publishing
It's 4 May 2021. I am having a 1 ½ hour conversation with Ocean Reeve, CEO of Ocean Reeve Publishing. I was introduced to ORP by an old friend, Tom Stodulka AM. ORP had published two collections of Tom’s poetry. During that conversation, Ocean ticked all my boxes. Asking myself, Is this too good to be true?, I phoned Tom. It was a short conversation. Nothing more needed to be said after Tom declared, Ocean is a value-driven person. So it turned out to be, flowing to ORP’s team who enabled me to be the best version of my writing self.
It’s 4 July 2021. I open an email from Sarah Kate Hill, the Publishing Coordinator at Ocean Reeve Publishing, with three attachments: ‘ORP Editing Summary’ (12 single spaced pages); ‘Structure’ (an excel spreadsheet with a suggested re-structure); and ‘Bill Ash (First Pass)’ (an every page tracked-changes version of my book). ‘OMG’ turns into a quick, ‘WOW’, this takes my book to the next level. It takes out the ‘I’, and incorporates the ‘WE’, my audience, the reader. Over the next five weeks I adopt all suggestions, from the simple re-ordering to adopting a new title, ‘Redesigning Conversations: a Guide to Communicating Effectively in the Family, Workplace, and Society’, dropping over 30,000 words along the way, ‘killing my darlings.’ I feel energised, a new awakening. I am lost for words of gratitude for ORP’s Lead Editor, Kristy Martin and Copy Editor, Chloe Cran. I have come full circle to the book born all those years ago, a book for all our social occasions, within our families, workplaces, and society, whether or not a parent.
It's 21 October 2021. My illustrator, Steve Bachmayer, signs off on the 20+ drawings for my book. Steve has been amazing, understanding my intent, helping my words leap off the page.
It is 3 December 2021. I summon the courage to send out requests to endorse/review my book to a range of people globally, some I knew personally, others through LinkedIn, and others recognised globally as experts who have influenced my thinking. I also made a request of two of my oldest friends. I knew this was a big ask and my timing was not great with the holidays approaching. I appreciated those who responded with not having the time to read/review the book. I received 20+ reviews by end January. The reviewers’ generosity, and depth/range of thoughts reinforced I had achieved my goal, that is, written the book for my audience (the readers), not for me. All reviews/endorsements are on my website. I give immense gratitude to each person.
It's 5 April 2022. I approve the book for printing by Clarke & Mackay.
Writing Over, Another Journey Begins
The journey of writing this book has concluded in a book I offer to the reader to assist them in redesigning their conversations, enabling them to communicate more effectively in their family, workplace, and in society. The journey of marketing the book has now begun by ORP and me, a joint effort aided by ORP’s marketing guru, Joshua Clifton.
Back to the Beginning
This book would not have been possible without Margi Brown Ash’s unwavering support and provocations while taking the words off the page in reading aloud earlier drafts, applying her years of acting to the full. Margi’s provocations were not always easy to take, though inevitably resulted in redesigning sections of my book, giving voice to the adage, ‘feedback is a gift’.
Another book is brewing in me ...
 Kenneth J. Gergen, Relational Being: Beyond Self and Community. Oxford University Press, 2009.  https://ijcp.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/4-ash_a-lawyers-provocative-and-reflective-journey_5-15-13.pdf