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The STEW: A book for women that breaks all the rules

by Vervante •

We’re so excited to share the news with you of a new book that’s recently launched with a bold message, unique content, and impressive team of authors supporting it. In fact, we’re honored to be a part of that team as both publisher for the book and as one of the contributors. 

“The STEW: Smart Talk Exceptional Women: Art & Insights By Women For The World” was written by 60+ women connected to Colorado’s CampExperience™ Network during COVID-19. Known as “The STEW,” this colorful 200-page book launched Oct. 1, 2020 and features heartfelt stories written by 60+ women, poetry by Carol Calkins, and inspirational art by Vervante client Betsy Wiersma.

This endeavor began with Betsy Wiersma, author, artist and founder of the CampExperience™ Network. The idea for this book stems from Betsy’s belief that women thrive on real-life innovation, ideas, and experiences shared by other women. In her years spent building the 5,000+ CampExperience™ Network and raising over $1 million cash and in-kind donations for charities around the world, Betsy has found that women thrive when exposed to smart talk, bold ideas, and insights shared from life’s journey.

The STEW is a book filled with curated content from women who have opened their hearts and have a passion for serving others. Inside its colorful pages readers will find a yummy mix of inspirational art, proven ideas, heart-felt stories, poetry, and quotes from real women in the real world.

The book is organized into five sections: Share Your Voice, Creativity Connects, Love Wins, Do Good Have Fun, and Fly! The authors range in age from 18 to 75 and reside in seven countries (Australia, England, Israel, Italy, Kenya, Norway and United States).

“We’re very excited for this book, proud to have been a part of bringing it to life, and grateful for the opportunity to share this with you,” said Cindy Tyler, Vervante CEO and founder.  “Betsy began with printing art cards and a card deck, and keeps us busy growing her products. We love The STEW.”

Below you’ll find more information about the book and a sampling of the authors and content inside. First, here are a few quick links if you’re ready to take action now:

Authors you’ll experience inside The STEW include:

>> Australian Gretchen Gagel, PhD is the managing director – Asia Pacific for Conversant, owner of Greatness Consulting, and affiliate professor at the University of Denver – Daniels School of Business and The Australian National University College of Business and Economics. The former president of The Women’s Foundation of Colorado and a female executive in the male-dominated industries of manufacturing, engineering and construction, Gagel developed a deep passion for investing in female leaders and is author of “8 Steps to Being a Great Working Mom.” In “The STEW,” Gagel writes about allowing your voice and the voice of others to be heard. She emphasizes, “Giving people voice engages them, empowers them, and fuels such amazing collaboration and innovation.”

>> Based in Salt Lake City, Utah, Brittani Coury landed a silver medal in banked slalom snowboarding at the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea and also is a motivational speaker and registered nurse. When her World Cup season came to an abrupt end in March 2020 due to COVID-19, the 34-year-old put her scrubs back on to help out on the acute internal medicine floor at University of Utah Hospital. Originally from Durango, a terrible snowboarding accident shattered her right ankle in 2003, resulting in a joint that never healed, multiple operations and amputation below her right knee in 2011. Coury shares her journey to the Paralympics and expertly narrates what it was like to take three gutsy and nerve-racking runs to a silver medal. She says, “I knew this was my opportunity to be a positive example to the world of someone who gets back up when they’re knocked down.”

>> Holly Forlenza has never spoken a word but she has a lot to say. She has severe epilepsy and bilateral hearing loss and is on the autism spectrum. Sadly, Forlenza’s inability to speak masked her wisdom for more than 20 years, but she fortunately crossed paths with Dr. Christi Kasa, an expert in facilitated communication in 2011. Kasa recognized Forlenza’s literary skills, and through years of patience and practice she now types on an iPad with the assistance of aides to express a message of love, hope and resilience. Holly and her mother, Eileen, share Holly’s story with community groups, associations and corporations to inspire and advocate for others who are unable to speak. In her STEW essay “How Love is in the Eyes of the People Before You,” Holly writes, “I think the things we as women need to do are simple. Loving yourself, loving others, and loving God. Sounds hard but we are the ones pushing ourselves to make others happy at our own expense. It is easy to do those three things if you slow down.”

>> As the CEO of Women’s Bean Project, Tamra Ryan has been the Denver-based organization’s visionary leader for more than 17 years. She has been instrumental in putting the organization on the national and international map as a high-performing and impactful social enterprise, which works to affect chronic unemployment and poverty among women. Ryan’s book “The Third Law”  highlights societal obstacles and internal demons that must be overcome for marginalized women to change their lives, and is currently working on “Followship: How to be a leader worth following.” For “The STEW,” Ryan writes about the role of compassion and kindness in overcoming negative thoughts for ourselves and others. “First, we must give ourselves the grace to be messy and imperfect. Next, we must create a practice of imagining we are deserving of love from those who love us unconditionally. Finally, we can extend this same love to others.” 

>> Poet Carol Calkins, PhD (at left) is a retired hospital and university administrator as well as a grandma, poet and executive director of the Global Sisterhood Network. She started writing poetry after the loss of a dear friend and was inspired even more by a CampExperience™ Fall Retreat that asked participants to “share their voice.” Carol rediscovered her lifelong love of poetry and is the author of five poetry books and HeartPoems, which are individual poem cards for sharing daily inspiration.

>> Cindy Tyler, CEO of Vervante, Inc., (at right) is dedicated to helping people publish their passion and use their talents and creativity to make a positive difference in the world. In her chapter for The STEW, titled “How to unleash our inner creative spark,” Cindy provides inspiration and take-action ideas for using the creativity we all have as a force against the negativity and chaos that is in the world today, unleashing it’s power to balance the dark and bring more light back into our lives.

>> Betsy Wiersma (pictured below) combines positive intention, love and scrap materials. Her playful style calls forth our participation, as each piece encourages people to live their best lives and to savor the journey. “At the ripe old age of 56, I stumbled upon an art program in California hosted by Kelly Rae Roberts. I booked a spot for myself and a friend; between serving the growing tribe in CampExperience™ and my daughter growing up, I realized I was not doing anything for myself,” she explains. “I needed to escape my normal life and responsibilities and let myself just be ... in art!” Since then, Wiersma has created more than 100 pieces, inspired and curated “The STEW,” and has designed and produced two inspirational card decks, greeting cards and blessing journals.  She also shares stories of inspiration in the book

If you’re inspired to take action, here are some next steps you can take:

  • PREVIEW THE BOOK: Learn all about the inspiration, authors, art and ideas that combined to create The STEW here:
  • BUY THE BOOK: Prepare to be inspired! Click on the following links to purchase:  Paperback or Hardcover.  
  • CONNECT AND CREATE WITH BETSY: Are you interested in creating a book like this? If you’d like to learn about how Betsy can help you with your own project like The STEW, complete with podcasts and events that connect your tribe, email her at

Thanks for letting us share, we’re always excited to spread the news of books and products that we know will be a force for good and positivity in the world.