by Angela Lauria September 9, 2020
An Afternoon with Sheri Salata
In this episode I sit down with Sheri Salata, Oprah’s producer and best selling author of The Beautiful No. Sheri dishes about her experiences working on The Oprah Winfrey Show and her transition from driven producer to writer.
Listen To The Show:
Podcast: Download (27:51, 38.2MB )
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In this episode you will learn:
- 3:30 Was writing easy for Sheri?
- 5:00 Is it worth baring your soul to wrote your book?
- 7:49 Can you overcome the fear of stepping into the spotlight?
- 11:00 Do I wrote the hardest chapter first?
- 13:27 Is is easy to write in coffee shops?
- 17:12 Is lipo suction a good idea?
- 19:27 Can I wrote my book if I don’t know what I want?
Learn more about Sheri’s career as a network executive and producer on The Oprah Winfrey Show on her website, SheriSalata.com
Full Episode Transcript:
A:Is also part of our transformational author summit. So you guys are all part of our June transformational author summit. And for me, book started changing my life when I found the Oprah book club anyone else out there?
A: Love Yeah. And so my whole life I always I always loved books that I bought them for, like reading. And really when I connected with it was actually returned to love By Marianne Williamson, I realized that books could change people’s lives. And I have committed myself to building a business where books do change people’s lives. I see many of our authors here, and many other authors here, even non author, incubator authors. And I am so grateful as a reader to the work you do to put your work out in the world because I know that words change people’s lives. And behind all of that, all of that Oprah book of excitement was an amazing woman who inspired me if you watch over season 25 you might feel like you’re already friends with her. I know I did.
A: Now we actually are real life friends.
A: She was executive producer of The Oprah Winfrey Show. She then went over to own and was co president of own and more important than all of that she is an incredible writer and her book the beautiful No, you We’ll all leave this building with a signed copy of which I’m very excited to share with you because it is a memoir that already is changing lives. I’m excited to see how it impacts you. And I’m excited to share this interview with you with our guests. Please join me in welcoming Sheri Salata! We are livestreaming to these people, see them wave at those people as a streamer, visit amazon.com right now and buy The Beautiful No as you can imagine Sherry signing it.
A: Everybody else?
A: Well, I’m excited to have you we’re building this as a fireside chat although I have no fire. I have crystal.That’s right, but I have no desire. Crystal side to side channel. fireside chat,
but we’re having a crystal side chat. And we’re gonna we’re gonna loop you into this conversation to at the end so you can be thinking of your questions. But I have to start obviously, we have a room full of authors, you get a front row of authors right here. I have to start with the writing process. Obviously you wrote you wrote scripts you did a lot as an executive producer, you probably wrote contracts as president of own probably that’s exciting writing. I know that you have always seen yourself as a writer, but writing a book is a very different thing. Can you take us enters the truth in a couple sentences.
It was a total shit show. We’re gonna be honest today. It was a total shit show. And a year ago, December Christmas Eve night. I was sitting there thinking about how my book was not done a year late. My wonderful publisher Karen Rinaldi at her way, so patient but I felt like any minute calls gonna come.
A: So basically, your agent gets out a deal, they send a check for some of your advances. And we’ll give you the money. And then what are you doing this whole time?
S: Well, you know, I took I took a stab at what was originally pitched and it wasn’t working out. And, and I just continued to feel like it was one of those things. This is unusual for me. Because I am an A student, you give me an assignment, and then you put money on it. I feel like I’m if I can’t do that, then I need to be cleaning your house for three years. So but there was something there was just something off, I couldn’t get to it. It starts something I couldn’t finish it. I do a little bit. I’m like, that’s not really the right thing. And it was Christmas Eve a year, a year before this. Last one, I was like, I don’t really need this browser. I’m not doing it. Because I knew that I was going to have to open a vein. You know, you’re not going to be writing a memoir of stories and not like, really just really take your skin off. As like, I really don’t. I’m just not doing it. So, and that was like, you know, like, it was like a Scrooge moment you feel bad. I’ve been visited by the spirits.
S: And I wake up in the morning and I was like, okay, who gets this amazing opportunity to write your stories, and to have them, you know, put out into the world. That is, and who knows that better than me, Oprah’s book club producer. You know, it was, you know,
A: this is what I want to ask you because I wonder if you knew at the time you could have found it like 20 years. There’s like an amazing career.
S: I couldn’t do it.
A: Do you think that’s because you are first and foremost a writer? Like you didn’t want your name on something you could have just hired a ghostwriter? No, I did that for 17 years, I would have written it. I would have interviewed you, I would have asked you and then what happened? Right?
A: I would have written a good but I know
S: if I would have had you that might have worked worked out really well. But But here’s the thing I knew I had to write it myself. I knew I had to take some skin off. I knew I had to really mind for the things, the moments in my life that were that could be valuable to somebody else. Otherwise, why read it? And so I did. I woke up Christmas morning, having been visited by the ghost of Christmas future and I just went No, no, no, no, ma’am. You are going to finish this. This is a wonderful opportunity is a gift. there’s a there’s a holy reverence to this. And you’re going to do it and then I spent the next year writing the beautiful now, and I turned my first draft in December 14. And it was really one year. It was one year. hell were you doing you could have written that.
A: What but let’s talk about that because a lot of people say they’re working on their boat for a year and
S: there’s a lot of other stuff happening. You a lot blinking a lot.
A: It’s usually Instagram. That’s the problem. Yeah. Do you feel like part of this was you going from the person who was the CO president of own the exact former executive producer of The Oprah Winfrey Show? Yeah, give us the real scoop. Well, of course.
S: That is very, it’s I really liked being behind the scenes. That was really my jam for reals. You know, I would like like, all You go in your hair and makeup, and I will be, you know, I will do whatever, you know, 24 seven behind the scenes. And that felt really, really good. First time I was in front of the scenes was when there was the docu series season 25 over by the scenes. And it turns out there was a lot of sharing behind the scenes. And did you watch these in 25? Yeah, that was amazing. I really wants to share.
A: No, no, no, it was just yeah, I know. I want to know. Yes. So it felt so personally, I know it’s reality TV. But for me, you were sort of like the icon of the wind beneath my wait for everyone. For Oprah Of course.
A: Well, yeah. And that’s all Didn’t you all want your own Sherry salata to be amazing.
S: There was someone who would just did you really devoted, devoted, you know, devoted, I was completely devoted and, and part of being a behind the scenes person is that you substitute You know, you’re you really take somebody else’s goals and values and dreams and make that your mission and lucky for me I was in such alignment with that that it was great but you know, I like you know, one of your your company’s missions is the servant’s heart. And that’s what that would I would if I were to say if there was any key to my move up the ladder of the Oprah show it was I had. Yeah, so yes, it took longer because all of a sudden, I’m going to be out there, and I’m going to be like, ooh, people are gonna read that. Oh, and then and also to there were events that had happened. Things that had deep, deep well, of like a heart, heart opening Like my spiritual, you know, evolution that involved very difficult topics that I hadn’t really explored. My little brother, who’s eight years younger than me died suddenly during season 24. And, and I basically just went into producer mode to get my family through it and went back to work. And I knew that was the thing I saved for last, right? Because I knew it wasn’t just gonna be like, some other things are like, looking back at all my shenanigans trying to find the right job, and all that hilarity. That’s like looking back and being like, I’m at a cocktail party, I have you there and I’m just going to tell you, all the all the stuff I did and the mistakes I made, and we’re just going to have a big hoop and holler over that. But there were certain things in my life that writing those chapters was going to be an actual emotional event.
A: So What I love about that is that’s actually one of my tips for our authors is you start with the easiest chapter. Most people want to write in order, yes. But if you write the chapters that are easiest for you to write,
S: I think it’s easier to find your book, you’re very, very wise because I would never have gotten off the ground otherwise, because there was it was looming. And I’d be like, don’t think about it. You’ll write that last and by then you’ll be ready. And so literally, I like, rented a house in another land, and you know, outside of where I live, to go and really sit with that and it was what was what talk about your writing schedule, meant to house in another land another one of our author secrets we tell people to do.
A: But what was your writing schedule? Like? Where did you write how many hours at a time had you set that?
S: I I usually wake up in the morning with like, what I call downloads Now it’s like I, I know that I pride myself at night to say, you know, I just like, let go what happened during the day, I visualize like, a magnificent tomorrow if I’m lucky enough to wake up for it. And usually when I first wake up with an idea will pop it, like, oh, like, like, each of the chapters is really like a standalone, I could read each of the chapters in my book and it stands alone. It isn’t like a straight memoir. And I needed to have an idea for each one of them. Like, what’s the structure going to be? How am I going to talk about it? Is this funny? Is this you know, do I want you to be there with me? Do I am I am I gonna like bring you around my virtual campfire and say, Okay, let’s have our s’mores and I’m gonna, I’m going to spend some yards for you. How am I going to walk you through You know, that particular story. And once I had the idea for what my structure was going to be, or how I was going to tell it, then the rest was like, then the writing of it was okay. So here’s what I did. Oh, here’s like, my funniest thing. I’m like, I want to be a coffee shop writer, and I want to be able to tell you, yeah, good shops, coffee shops.
S: I really like the independence. But on this particular day, I’m at Starbucks at the fancy Starbucks reserved, moves into Los Angeles, California. So it’s really I mean, it’s a very short drive from my house. And I go and I’m like, I see a space at the counter. And what I love about coffee shops Nowadays, people are frickin running empires from this coffee. Back in my day, like you go get a cup of coffee and you got to get to work. You know, because you’re working for somebody. These people are like running their dream. From their laptops and there’s something about that it’s very appealing to me. So and I go I get my seat at the counter. I’m like nodding at everybody, I get my coffee and, you know, I’m sitting there and I now I have my laptop and I’m like, getting ready to play the key. And the guy next to me as his headphones on and he’s listening to Whitney Houston’s Greatest Hits anything like voice ah like, Oh my god, you’re not gonna sing the whole time, sir. It was like, okay, you know, it’s one of those things where my whole afternoon was taken up with. Like, maybe if I jar him and let him know I’m here. So so it wasn’t always successful. To go do the coffee shop thing. I had a room in my house I would go to I would. I would take my laptop whenever I was out of town.
A: She like to write for a long stretch or do you like to kind of break our then go back, get back to your garden. All the things here. About your puppies.
S: Yes, it was stretches. It was stretches of inspiration. I tried to make it really disciplined for a while there was just like, wow, no inspiration for the last two weeks. That’s not gonna work. You know, then I would force myself to sit and be like, you will sit here until you’re inspired. little tricky with a laptop these days. It’s like a playground. You know, everything’s on it, you know, like, stop the notification. But there’s still like, there’s everything I’d rather do. But right this story right now. Yeah. So that’s, that’s a little something. So you wrote this book? Yes.
A: It’s a very I most people will not have read it yet. It just came out a week ago, but it’s very intimate. It’s very raw. When I read the book, I and I told you this it felt like my memoir because it goes through your life. It’s so much of your life was my life. I tracked my life by Oprah And so do it turns out. Yes, but I also tracked my life. And you’ve seen the film that was made about me that we have success, and also track my life cycle. Bruce, wait. Yeah, Eddie, you talked about that in a way that most people are not honest. And like as forthcoming write about their weight loss journey. I’ve lost 100 pounds five times.
S: The first time I met you, you told me that I was like,
A: Yeah, I just like Oprah. I’m just trying to one up, but but one of the few things I have not done, I’ve done it all. Like, wait, why don’t you get a crag nutritionist like I’ve done all the things. That’s the only thing I haven’t done. I’m like up 30 pounds right now I’m super upset about my weight. I’m like the world is gonna end because I’m gaining weight again. And so I made a decision. About a week before I got your book. I was gonna go get my bow and this was going To solve all of my problems, which are primarily in my thighs, I solved the problems with my thighs. Everything else will be easy. And I read a story in the beautiful now about your experience.
S: Chapter. Yeah, the chapter chapter is called chasing chasing beauty. Now, first of all, I’m just gonna call you out and tell you you are far too spiritually advanced, right? I know he’s not bullshit. It totally is. But here’s the thing. So it’s 2000. We have a little workout group at Harpo. And somebody comes back and says, you had a life threatening surgery. And she goes, Yeah, but look at me. Now I had some liposuction. And she was afraid to tell me, she was happy. She was glowing. She was super happy. And I’m like, geez, we’re training for a half marathon. Maybe if I just whip in for some liposuction during the brain, then, you know, and I’ll just zippity doo da right to the finish. As a surgeon, and here’s what he said. He said, weight loss. liposuction is not a weight loss strategy. And I’m like, Okay, anyway. And then he said, You know, I go, how much weight Do you suck out? And he goes now and this is how I remember it. Like, he probably would shoot me if I said his name or whatever. I really think he said, like eight to 10 pounds. I’m like, really? And he goes, but it can’t just be one area would have to be your thighs and your hips. I’m like, I’m done. Done, sir. So I literally went through that. And I remember that morning. I went off for it. Like I was going to have a facial, like may have pack members, maybe we’ll have lunch later. Bla bla bla, no, it’s major surgery, my friends. I was on like, like, like, I’m like, is this one? I mean, is and it was it was it was folly. It was folly. But those are the kinds of things Things that I would always look for the external solution to what is a spiritual issue? I would be like, what is the quick fix? What is the program? What is the thing? What can I sign up for maybe the magic have enough information about spirituality? You ever meet any author? Yes, right.
S: That’s the paradox and that is the inexplicable thing, even through this whole book. I can’t totally explain it to you. I can have a front row seat, be a straight A student, have all the information, take all the notes and yet not make taking care of myself my number one priority. And that really is that’s the thing that in these last three years since I’ve become an entrepreneur and an author and living a very, very, very different life, where radical self care is something Think about, you know, like meditations are not this, you know, like I’m doing the thing. And I still cannot explain to you why I couldn’t. Why I was sitting in that empty chair with a ponytail 50 lattes a day gallons of diet coke and outside smoking. I can’t explain that to you why I couldn’t take that information and put it in my bones. It was like, those were all my habitual stress relievers. And, until I was I until I heard some rubbish realspace in my life, I really couldn’t figure that out or see that and then you know, I because I told you this. I was just on Dr. Oz the other day. This is a thing I find. Absolutely. This breaks my heart a little bit. So he has me on Super nice of them. You know, I’m not a big star by any means. And in all I feel that I may have had on the big screen, we sit there, and I write about him and one of the chapters, and I confess that I would always whenever he was at Harpo, I would run from like, Hi, Dr. scurry away. And so we got on and he said, I understand there’s a question about me in your book. And I said, Yes. And here’s what it is. Because I was a smoker. I didn’t want to be your you enough where you could smell it on me and really judge me harshly like, Are you an idiot or what? So I just be like, Hi, hi. Don’t look at me. Don’t look at how I’m being. Don’t look at my physical state. Don’t look at how I’m handling stress. Don’t look don’t look, don’t look, don’t look, I will just wave to you from afar. And I really, really liked him. So here’s what he says on television. All the cameras are going studio audience. He goes, You know what I thought? What does I thought you didn’t like me? Now that was a moment ago, let’s have that healing. Because I adore you. I adore you, I revere you. But I went away from that and I thought there was a lot of hiding because of shame, because of humiliation because of all kinds of things like that. How many other times have I been cut off and disconnected from that soul to soul connection with people because of my my addictions and my habits? And they thought one day and I’m really just like, I’m just hiding myself a little. Yeah, like I’m out there all the time. I’m working my ass up. I’m hiding myself a little and what I was like, This is such a revelation to me. That that’s the loss and the loss is mine.
A: So, VA and amazing executer operator, as you know, as the As President, I think being the wind middly people’s wings is the way a lot of us have chosen to hide. It’s very good better than heroin. It’s good.
A: And you have come out of hiding my mouth. I have.
A: You’ve got a podcast you guys listen to the Sherry and Nancy show you have an amazing podcast subscribe now on iTunes or wherever you’re getting. You’ve got 100,000 people every episode listening to you like you are now out front. That’s a struggle that a lot of our authors go through.
S: They want to be out front but then the cost of that feels too high. Can you share with us some of your tips some of the things that Inc. That made it easier for you to become the person who puts herself out well, in the day to day of it, still super uncomfortable from time to time.
S: And what I have to take myself aside like this morning, we did two affiliate interviews. Right and here in DC, I have to take myself aside because I you know, I used to company over to her affiliate interviews and wait in the green room and be like that was so you know that it’s like, oh god, it feels hard for me.
A: But all the producers are total super fans we show you our control room. She’s like in there looking at all those things.
S: But I remind myself, here’s what I do I my mind and think about you, you know, this really is about your message. And if it’s valuable to somebody that’s great. And it really isn’t about you it’s
A:what what do you give us the message? What makes it worth it? What’s the message in your
S: what you’re saying? What?
A: What is the message that makes it relevant to you?
S: It’s my story. It’s the message. It is never too late to live the life of your dreams and if not now, when?