I learned about something called the People First Project from my mentor and coach, Michael Knouse, creator of The Council for Visionary Business Builders. It sounded like the perfect way to connect with creative souls who yearn to share their meaningful stories and brilliant ideas in book form (or some other form) for but who haven’t yet made the leap or who are stuck in their process.

I’ve renamed my project the Story First Project because I focus on story, its importance in our lives, and its power to transform and heal us all. And of course, because it’s people like you whom I love to meet and help through the sometimes harrowing process of putting words on the page, people are always first. Without you, there would be no book or script or… to write. 


As a professional editor, it is very difficult for me to set aside that hat when I’m writing; it’s also difficult to make the time for my own writing when the words of others are such a priority in my life.

When Johnnie described writing as an act of self-love, however, my perspective began to change—the magic returned to my practice.

And from there, she’s helped to provide the back-to-basics structure I need to get my head where it belongs: in the creative process, not on the outcome. I can’t imagine going through this writing journey without her.

Jen – coaching client – Portland, OR


I’m not your “typical” coach, and by that, I mean that I have struggled with building my business with all the methods I’ve been told to follow and use: chronic (and oftentimes, hokey) social media marketing, complicated sales funnels, and sales-y emails to my faithful list. This just isn’t me. Because I trust my gut and have been fairly low-key with these approaches, it has looked to some like I’ve “played small.” But the truth is, I wanted to find an approach that felt genuine and more in line with who I am.

I believe the Story First Project is it.



I did my first Story First Project the Fall of 2018 and from that project, I gathered a handfull of clients I spent several months to a year working with. It was a pleasure and a joy to meet with them one-on-one, help them envision and transform their ideas into a workable plan, and see them make significant progress getting their meaningful stories and brilliant ideas onto the page.


I’m not a person who’s out to gather clients for the sake of having them. It’s important to me to work with people I vibe with in all the right ways… because when we find each other and our chemistry syncs, magic happens. I call these people STARs – Self-aware, Tenacious, and Responsible. They’re people who have committed to a path of personal growth, people who are willing to put forth an honest effort and stay the course to achieve their goals, people who take responsibility for their failures and successes… all so they can make their dreams reality. In this case, their writing dreams…


It’s a challenge to find those people who have a yearning desire to write a book or some other big writing project (and I know you’re out there!), and I think a large part of that challenge is that many people don’t want to admit their dream. I think this comes from fears people have or beliefs they hold about what it takes to undertake such a project and whether or not they’re capable. And just as my gut told me to wait for the right method for my potential clients and me, it also told me that the Story First Project is an ideal way to connect with, get to know, and help these very creative souls unburden themselves from the stories they carry inside them.

There is no greater agony
than bearing an untold story inside you.

~ Maya Angelou

If you know me at all, you know I have a salty, irreverent – even crass – side. I love this side of myself for many reasons. She surprises people and makes them laugh. She makes people comfortable (and sometimes, UNcomfortable). She goes through life with a no-blinders-on mentality, and she likes to call a spade a spade. She’s also the armor I wear to protect what’s on the inside. I’m a hyper-intuitive, introverted, creative soul, and with that, comes a heightened sensitivity to my world and the people who cross my path. I’m not a person who can throw myself and my soul’s work out into the world as if it’s a free-for-all. I need it to feel more personal, and I need to be selective. Because just as you need to feel safe in writing your book and putting your voice out into the world, I need to feel safe in sharing myself and my offerings because they come from a sacred place within me.

Along with my soft, sensitive interior comes an immense belief and awe in the positive power of humanity and the depth of human resilience, as well as profound respect and honor for the creative process and its ability to heal us all in remarkable ways. My belief in transformation and healing on a global level is tempered with the recognition of all the darkness that exists in the world. I believe we need to shine a light on that very darkness by sharing our stories and ideas. This is how we create change.

Not only will writing your stories heal others who encounter them, writing your stories will heal you, too.

Until you make the unconscious conscious,
it will direct your life and you will call it fate.

~ Carl Jung

There is power in the unconscious, the place from which we write our very best stuff, and each of us has endless reserves to make a positive, lasting difference in the world.

What meaningful stories and brilliant ideas do you have to share?

How many have you withheld because you fear the consequences
or because you feel lost or overwhelmed about where to begin?

What would it mean to find a way to write the stories you’ve held within
and still feel protected and safe during the process and afterward?

 If this speaks to you, chances are, we’re like-minded souls who would enjoy a meaningful and respectful rapport.


The Story First Project is my biggest offer of the year, and I do it because talking one-on-one with people, discovering what’s bouncing around inside their beautiful minds, and helping them get words on the page is what I live for. It energizes me and brings me joy.

Before you make the leap, it’s important to know that the Story First Project is not…

life coaching. While writing a book or other large writing project and calling up the courage and bravery it takes to move through the creative process will change you and your life, my focus is on your relationship with your writing practice and your creative process. We will have mindful discussions about the synchronistic give and take between your lived life and your writing life, but I am not a certified life coach. I’ve lived a full and varied life, have been on my own path to greater self-awareness, and have learned a thing or two along the way, I prefer to focus my sage insights to help people discover, understand, and embrace their creative process, giving them tools and support to reach their writing goals and inspiring them to stay the course.

a hierarchy. While I do have ideas and methods that I will share with you because I believe they will help you achieve your writing goals, I don’t see myself as a dispenser or bestower of knowledge. I have faith that the people who are drawn to work with me possess a great deal of self-awareness and motivation and are reaching out because they recognize the validity of their voices, whether they’ve been actively using them or not. Rather, I’m interested in having conversations with people; learning about their ideas, thoughts, and writing struggles; and helping them find ways to overcome those struggles. Imagine us walking side-by-side on a pine-scented mountain path or having tea together in a cozy tea shop. This is how I envision working with you. Friendly. Supportive. Nurturing.

a guaranteed easy path. While I do hold visions of peaceful and benevolent interactions between us – I will be there right alongside you, cheering you on and offering tips and tools, motivation, support, and belief in you and your abilities – this doesn’t mean that there won’t be obstacles and rough spots. It doesn’t mean that you won’t find yourself resisting, doubting whether it’s best to proceed, and/or feeling emotions that surprise you. This happens to all of us. It’s part of the process. And it’s what makes it so damn valuable and necessary!


The Story First Project is… 

…an exploration of YOU, your creative vision, and your creative voice.

…gaining clarity around why you’re compelled to write your book or script or something else (or even if you’re curious!) and knowing how to do it in a way and in a form that makes you feel safe.

…embracing the concept of writing and telling your stories as an act of self-love.

…creating a plan of action to get you on your way to begin your writing project.



Each of these 20 discovery conversations is a gift of my service
and an invitation to the experience of narrowing in on the focus
of your story/book idea
, determining its genre, troubleshooting obstacles,
and creating a plan to begin or to reconsider your process
if you already have something in progress.

It’s about resurrecting or maintaining your conviction to your creative process and honoring writing as a necessary and integral part of your life.


What to expect:

  • There are 20 spots. Period. No wait list. This experience is first-come, first-serve. If you find yourself hesitating, then this offer is likely NOT for you.
  • The project runs from January 1 – 31.
  • Each conversation is 60 minutes and is recorded. You can re-listen to your discovery conversation indefinitely.
  • This session will ask you to call into question some of your long-held ideas about writing, what it means to you, and what it can do for you. It will inspire you to start, rekindle, or recommit to your writing practice so you can get your book written.
  • When working with people around the endeavor of writing a book, I’ve witnessed excitement, conviction, frustration, anger, fear, shame, resentment, and more. Every emotion is welcome because wrapped inside each emotional reaction is a deeper truth that is either creating an obstacle to keep you feeling safe and in control or informing what to do next.
  • You will come out of this call with THREE specific things: clarity about what kind of story you’re going to tell and why it must be written, clarity about how to begin, and a plan to create space for time so you can honor your writing practice and embrace it as an act of self-love. 


Finding Johnnie and working with her was magic.  With her 1:1 coaching, I took a concept that was bubbling up inside of me and turned it into 55,000 words in what felt like a blink of an eye. Her insights and encouragement moved my project forward.  I am so grateful for her presence in my (writing) life.

Deepika Sandhu – Coaching Client – Fremont, CA


How to be part of the Story First Project 

    1. Click the link to select your day and time.
    2. Fill out the short questionnaire you’ll receive in a follow-up email.
    3. Show up! There will be no re-schedules.


In addition to these 20 discovery conversations, I will be looking for and carefully selecting 10 people for a 90-day transformative writing experience that will begin in February. (I’ll tell you all about it at the end of our conversation.) I’m looking for people whose purpose I feel drawn to and inspired by, people who I know will do the work, and people who are ready to courageously write their books, no matter what it takes.

Together, we will unearth your writerly gifts so you can take the necessary steps to make your book dreams a reality.


Sending you mad writing mojo…