Northfielder Barbara Burke Gets Book Deal with Wiley

In the “Local Girl Makes Good” category, consultant and author Barbara Burke recently scored a deal with John Wiley & Sons for her book, The Napkin, the Melon, and the Monkey: A Customer-Service Fable”. The photo at left is from a recent celebration thrown by friends at which Barbara favored all with a reading.

I’ve often joked that Northfield has a split personality when it comes to consultants – we’ll hire anyone as long as they’re not from around here, often overlooking the nationally-recognized talents of people who just happen to call this place home. (Prophets without honor in their own country, etc.) Not that Northfield needs any customer-service advice, oh, no. Especially not with the ENORMOUS banner in the Council chambers which trumpets, “Striving for excellence, committed to service”. I guess it’s enough to just make declarative statements.

But back to Barbara. In her book proposal, Barbara said,

Imagine what it’s like to work in a job in which you take 100+ phone calls every day from frustrated, disgruntled customers who blame you for their problems. Imagine what it’s like to have a random sample of those calls monitored and evaluated to determine whether you exhibited all 28 required behaviors and handled every call in under 268 seconds.

That is what life is like for the 3,000,000+ customer service representatives who work in North American call centers—and the millions more who staff them elsewhere. It’s no surprise that these employees suffer from chronic, stress-induced health problems—or that call centers are plagued by high rates of absenteeism, low productivity, and high employee turnover.

Barbara has been consulting for more than 20 years and has developed a loyal following for her proven techniques and demonstrated success. Her impressive client list includes Microsoft, Honeywell, and the State of Minnesota; and Barbara is a good example of how to make effective use of the Web for marketing and communication with clients (check out the links).

Congratulations, Barbara, and please be sure your book bio clearly states that you hail from NORTHFIELD, MINNESOTA.


  1. Hey Tracy

    Thanks very much for the shout out!

    Indeed, Northfielders have played an important part in creating the book that I eventually self-published. I will be forever grateful to the following folks: Kari Alberg did an amazing job of designing the book; Nancy Ashmore edited the manuscript and put it into pre-print form; master storyteller, Paul Krause is featured in the story itself; Jerri Hurlbutt did some initial editing; Ellen Keller, a successful author in her own right, provided the encouragement I needed at the beginning; my brother The Photographer, Tom Roster did a photo shoot of napkins and melons (try to find a melon with seeds in February), Tim from Tiny’s loaned me a napkin dispenser for shoot. And then there are a long list of friends who read and responded to initial drafts and even more of them who listened to tales of my publishing adventure, ad nauseum.

    I mention Northfield by name in the back of the book as part of my “village” of clients and friends who helped the book get written and accepted.

    Now I have another opportunity to use local talent. Maybe your readers can help or know a local who can.

    The book will be published in hardcover and distributed internationally. I have retained the merchandising rights to products that are related to the book. I will need to develop a product line of posters, calendars, card decks, CDs, and various chatchkas (Think Who Moved My Cheese or Fish!) I also want to convert my training curriculum for front-line service providers into e-learning and create a training package which would involve a training video.

    That’s a tall order, granted. But I have a feeling there are several people in town that could fill the bill. If so, please be in touch!


    LGMG (Local Girl Makes Good)

    July 1, 2008
  2. Whoops…

    I forgot to mention another talented local that has contributed to my book, The Napkin, the Melon & the Monkey. That is our very own writer of plays — Brendon Etter. He recently wrote a short play based on the book. Normally it would be rather expensive proposition to commission a play. As it happened, Brendon offered to write a 10-page play for the highest bidder at the last NAG auction. I won it.
    I now have a lovely play !!
    Thanks very much Brendon!


    July 1, 2008
  3. Julie Bixby said:

    Congratulations Barbara!
    I know you worked very hard to get your book where it is today.
    Good Job!
    (To those who have not read Barbara’s book I highly recommend it. The information and lessons can be used in all aspects of life.)


    July 1, 2008
  4. Tracy Davis said:

    Barbara – I knew you’d worked with a lot of Northfielders through this process, but it’s great to know the details. Thanks for taking the time to let us know about your collaboration with other local talent.

    July 2, 2008

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