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The Right Words at the Right Time Volume 2: Your Turn!

The Right Words at the Right Time Volume 2: Your Turn!

by Marlo Thomas

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From big cities to farm communities, from office cubicles to hospital wards, from Normandy Beach to Boston's Fenway Park, the contributors to this remarkable volume -- selected from among thousands in a nationwide search -- tell riveting stories about the words that changed their lives forever.

You'll meet a "Plain Jane" from Seattle, whose world was


From big cities to farm communities, from office cubicles to hospital wards, from Normandy Beach to Boston's Fenway Park, the contributors to this remarkable volume -- selected from among thousands in a nationwide search -- tell riveting stories about the words that changed their lives forever.

You'll meet a "Plain Jane" from Seattle, whose world was rocked by a passing remark made by her favorite musician, backstage at a concert. You'll hear from the bereaved fiancé of a 9/11 victim, who found hope in a note pinned to a teddy bear. You'll laugh with a beleaguered soccer mom, who reveals the single phrase she never wants to hear again. And your heart will break for a prison inmate, who recalls the one piece of advice he still wishes he took.

In each case, words had made all the difference.

Marlo Thomas has once again tapped into the human spirit, assembling a breathtaking collection of beautiful and inspiring essays about the enduring power of words, and how their impact can last a lifetime. As a follow-up to her 2002 New York Times #1 bestseller, The Right Words at the Right Time, Thomas presents 101 new first-person stories that are at once universal and strikingly personal.

Like the tale of a Gulf War veteran, whose life was transformed by just two words spoken by a young stranger at a Burger King. Or the aimless garage mechanic, who found salvation in a Help Wanted ad. Or the unsuspecting mother of three, who made a heart-warming discovery about her grandmother's "racy past."

As this astonishing anthology proves, the "right words" can come from anywhere -- the pages of a dusty old songbook, the pulpit of a neighborhood church, the wreckage of Ground Zero, a hand-stitched sampler hanging on a wall, and a child's simple expression of love.

The Right Words at the Right Time, Volume 2: Your Turn! is a collection to be read and read again -- a volume that will be cherished both by fans of the original book and anyone who has ever been touched by the startling and life-affirming magic of words.

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Read an Excerpt


I never saw the woman's face. I only heard her voice.

It was spring of 2002, and I was in the middle of a radio interview, talking about my new book, The Right Words at the Right Time, in which I had asked 108 famous people -- people I admired -- to write about the words that changed their lives. Halfway through the interview, a listener called the station and told a story that would stay with me.

Her teenage son had been in a terrible car accident, the woman said, and as she sat in the hospital waiting to learn his fate, two doctors prepared her for the worst.

"You have to know when to let go," said the first doctor, gently warning her that her son was probably not going to make it. The second doctor, believing that her child might pull through, cautioned her that, due to his injuries, he'd never be the same again. Then he added, "But life is precious."

Both men were telling the truth as they saw it, the caller explained, but their words couldn't have been more different.

"I sat there trying to decide which words I would hold on to through that night," she remembered, confessing that neither scenario was something she'd ever dreamed of happening to her son. "But in the end, I hung on to the words of the second doctor. Because life is so precious. And these were the words that gave me strength to endure the life trial that was to come."

The woman was so honest, and her account so moving. I'd been hearing stories like this ever since the book had come out. Everywhere I went, people were eager to tell me about the right words in their lives. In airports. At book signings. In countless, heartfelt letters sent through the mail.

That day in the radio station, I was reminded that we're surrounded by heroes everywhere -- and I thought about how exciting it would be to assemble a new collection of right words stories, not from celebrities this time, but from everyday Americans.

Famous people have lots of opportunities to be heard. This book would provide a voice for everyone else.

The more I thought about the idea, the more I realized that the best way to find stories for the book would be to cast a net across the country -- along both coasts and through the heartland. And so we did. We announced a nationwide contest in the pages of the paperback edition of Right Words, asking readers to search their memories for that vivid moment in their lives when words made all the difference. We set up a website for online submissions. We hung posters in hospitals and military posts, in schools and police stations and prisons. And Parade magazine, which had been a champion of the first book, lent a hand by soliciting stories from its readers.

It didn't take long for millions of thoughtful words to suddenly materialize around me -- riveting, well-rendered letters, more than a thousand all together, from 30 states and three countries. Reading them late into the night was a joy, but choosing the 101 essays that would appear in this book was daunting. People didn't simply send us random thoughts that strung together a few memorable words from their past. They sent us their stories, pieces of their lives.

As I'd learned from the first book, the right words can transform us. They can challenge us at a crossroads; they can help us through times of sorrow; they can dare us to action. They can be spoken with love or shouted in anger. The right words can be funny words, thought-provoking words, words that prop us up when we think we can go no further.

And they can be found almost anywhere -- in a poem or a songbook, illuminated on a computer screen, stitched onto a wall-hanging, or scratched into the dirt with a wooden stick.

Whether set in a small schoolhouse on the plains of Wyoming or in a Zen Buddhist monastery in Japan, each story we received sprang from the heart. For Michael Raysses of Los Angeles and Nebraskan Steve Martinez, the right words were spoken by strangers, one at a Starbucks, the other in an emergency room. Arizonian Susyn Reeve learned about human compassion, thanks to a chance encounter in a rainstorm. A teenage employee of Burger King grasped Floridian Tim Ciciora's hand and spoke two words that almost made a tough guy cry.

And for four special contributors to this book, words alone helped them extract a measure of hope from the devastating heartbreak of September 11th.

As the nights wore on and the stacks of letters grew, I became increasingly awed by the bounty of truth that surrounded me. I am a wiser person, I think, for having taken the journeys so eloquently recounted in the pages of this book. And I'm thankful for the generous spirit of our contributors, whose strong and intimate and touchingly personal stories may help all of us to find our own right words.

Marlo Thomas

New York City

Spring, 2006 Copyright ©2006 by The Right Words, LLC

Meet the Author

Marlo Thomas graduated from the University of Southern California with a teaching degree. She is the author of six bestselling books: Free to Be…You and Me; Free to Be…a Family; The Right Words at the Right Time; The Right Words at the Right Time, Volume 2: Your Turn!; Thanks & Giving: All Year Long; and her memoir, Growing Up Laughing: My Story and the Story of Funny. Ms. Thomas has won four Emmy Awards, a Peabody Award, a Golden Globe, and a Grammy, and has been inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame for her work in television, including her starring role in the landmark series That Girl, which she also conceived and produced. She is the National Outreach Director for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, which was founded by her father, Danny Thomas, in 1962.

In 2010, Ms. Thomas launched her website, MarloThomas.com, on The Huffington Post and AOL. She lives in New York with her husband, Phil Donahue.
Bruce Kluger and David Slavin began writing and producing satire for National Public Radio's All Things Considered in 2002. Their cultural and political commentary has appeared in countless publications, including the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, and dozens of other newspapers. Their work has also been featured prominently on the Huffington Post and Salon.com, which ran their acclaimed "Memo to George" series during the Bush II administration. Their satirical children's biography, Young Dick Cheney: Great American (AlterNet Books), was published in 2008. In 2009, Bruce coauthored Dear President Obama: Letters of Hope from Children Across America (Beckham Publications) and David contributed to the special 35th anniversary rerelease of Marlo Thomas's landmark children's book, Free to Be . . . You and Me (Running Press Kids). Bruce and David live one block from each other in New York City.

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