When it comes to people you should know, Rebeca DeBoard Seitz tops the list. She is an amazing woman; not only is she a writer and a publicist, but she is the President and CEO of SON, the Spirit Of Naples and Southwest Florida, Inc. and home of SON Studios, an entity that exists to create relevant, mainstream media that has a positive impact on society.
The company has opportunities for donors to sponsor projects such as book publishing, platform creation and branding, and film development, so it’s a way for those with resources to directly impact the type of media that is reaching mainstream society. If you’re not resonating with the values you’re seeing reflected in today’s media, SON is exactly the solution you may have been hoping for. The company even has a Studio in the pipeline and is merely waiting on the right sponsors to recognize its potential and back the project. You can donate now to the Studio by clicking here.
Rebeca holds a Master’s in Mass Communication and a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and Political Science from the University of Tennessee, where she was a FRC Witherspoon Fellow for Media. She began her career by serving as the first dedicated publicist for the fiction division of Thomas Nelson Publishers, one of the Top Ten Publishers in the World and now a division of HarperCollins Publishers.
In 2005, Rebeca founded Glass Road Public Relations as the first U.S. firm committed to promoting story-driven works created by Christians. Later expanding to become Glass Road Media, the firm helped authors, from debut novelists to New York Times bestsellers, secure coverage in a variety of media outlets including The Today Show, USA Today, The Blaze, CNN, FOX, Southern Living, The 700 Club, National Public Radio, and numerous newspapers and radio shows.
Rebeca is an award-winning writer and co-author of numerous books (click to order):
- Lights Out: Living In a Sightless World (the story that inspired the major motion picture 23 Blast)
- Prints Charming (Thomas Nelson)
- Sisters, Ink (B&H Publishing Group/LifeWay)
- Coming Unglued (B&H Publishing Group/LifeWay)
- Scrapping Plans (B&H Publishing Group/LifeWay)
- Perfect Piece (B&H Publishing Group/LifeWay)
- First Blush (Amazon Digital Services)
- Second Glance (Amazon Digital Services)
She also runs her own blog at rebecaseitz.com.
For two years, Rebeca served as co-host of “Deeper Living”, an interview-style television show featuring writers, artists, and artisans filmed in Atlanta and aired nationwide via SkyAngel and other networks.
Naples Noteworthy: You’re the President and CEO of SON, The Spirit Of Naples and Southwest Florida, Inc. and the home of SON Studios. What have been the greatest challenges you have faced so far with SON?
Rebeca DeBoard Seitz: Over the five years of our existence, there have definitely been plenty of challenges! We’re a nonprofit that will likely not be financially self-sustaining until such time as our studio is built, so funding is always a concern. Thankfully, our Board members and the community have kept us afloat this far. Their understanding that this undertaking requires years for fruition has been a God-send.
Historically, another challenge is conveying why we do what we do. The concept isn’t as straightforward as housing the homeless or feeding the hungry. In that type of nonprofit, the work reveals the reason. The public grasps this immediately and decides whether or not to engage. Here, though, the work doesn’t instantly point to the reason. Why be a part of making entertainment embedded with enriching values? What good does that do? We first have to point out that the average American spends nearly 11 hours every day consuming media – more than sleeping, more than eating, more than working. Utilizing research from UCLA, Rasmussen, Andersen, Nielsen, Deloitte, and elsewhere, we then show how the values in that media began to drastically shift in the early 90s, resulting in a country that, today, exhibits positive behaviors (courage, generosity, community engagement, benevolence, loyalty, fidelity, self-sacrifice, commitment, etc.) less than it did prior to the 1990s. It is this shift in behavior – caused by the shift in our media examples – that bent cultural values in a negative direction and resulted in nearly 2/3 of the country believing today that the country is headed in the wrong direction. The good news is, if we know how we broke things, then we know how to fix them. SON is here to put those enriching values back into entertainment so that we bend the culture toward a more positive place.
Basically, I ask people to think about who will house the homeless, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, dig the wells, and more when they are gone? If we are raising up a generation that only values self (and studies show that’s exactly what we’re doing, directly via our entertainment), then what will the country look like in one generation? In two? Engaging with SON requires the patience of a long-term approach to an enormous problem and that’s not a typical non-profit setup.
Naples Noteworthy: What drives you to publish Christian fiction and/or film? Why is that so important to you?
Rebeca DeBoard Seitz: We don’t create “Christian” media. We’re blessed to have members and work with media creators from many different faith backgrounds (and some with no faith affiliation). Our focus is on values that enrich society and those values are quite often a common ground upon which people of many backgrounds can stand.
Naples Noteworthy: How would you describe your philosophy of life?
We have lost a kindness toward each other and a respect of life itself. It’s made us coarse, crude, mean, divided, spiteful, hurtful, violent, depressed, dangerous, and broken. It focuses us inward, blinding us to the value of relationship and our own ability to make another life better. Astounding occurrences happen when we look beyond, reach out, and care. I go through my own selfish cycles. I completely understand the urge to just take care of yourself and leave everyone else to his/her own devices. That makes for an awfully pointless, gray human existence, though. To taste the color of life as intended, we must live beyond ourselves.
Naples Noteworthy: You are an award-winning author. Are you working on anything now that you want to share with us or do you have any plans for books in the future?
Rebeca DeBoard Seitz: I do love to write! It keeps me grounded and helps me stay in touch with the experience our writers live. SON is a great respecter of writers and, I hope, a safe place for them and their stories to grow. I’ve written two Naples-based novellas since moving here in 2014, First Blush and Second Glance, available on Amazon. At the moment, I’m hungry to write another biography and am talking with a couple of individuals to determine if it’s time to tell their stories. When someone allows me the gift of knowing his/her life story in intimate detail, I’ve received one of the greatest honors a writer could ever experience.
Naples Noteworthy: How well do you feel your education prepared you for what your real life work experiences have been?
Rebeca DeBoard Seitz: I hold a B.A. in Communications and Political Science and a Master’s in Mass Communication. The professors who mentored me – Dr. Jerald Ogg, Dr. Robert Nanney, Dr. Dorotha Norton, Dr. Vaughn May – were intelligent, prepared people with a sincere interest in investing knowledge into others. Thank heaven for them! The curriculum itself wasn’t preparatory for a career in entertainment media. It was more geared toward news-related media and corporate communications. While that information was helpful during the nine years I owned a for-profit public relations firm, it left my knowledge of entertainment media practices and policies almost nonexistent. Thankfully, mentors in the workplace also graciously invested their time and knowledge into me just as those college professors had done years before. The combination of learning in the classroom and in the office equipped me for the role in which I now serve.
Naples Noteworthy: What advice would you give aspiring writers of Christian books?
Rebeca DeBoard Seitz: Stop calling them Christian books. 😊
Seriously, stop segregating your art from the world and don’t stand for others doing it, either. “Christian” novels are shelved in a separate section of the bookstore (near the Bibles and self-help books). “Christian” novels are often marked with a colored sticker so they can be easily identified (ignored? shunned?) on public library shelves. This is nuts for many reasons, not the least of which is that there are plenty of Christians writing books that aren’t segregated in this manner purely because they weren’t published by a CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) publishing house or imprint.
Unless you are called to write stories for people already in your faith tradition – and your stories are designed only and specifically to appeal to the people in that faith tradition – don’t publish with a publishing house only geared to reach consumers in that faith tradition.
As for how to be a good writer, Mrs. Pam Harris (who, at the time, was my high school Spanish and journalism teacher) provided the best advice ever: take as many jobs as you can until you’re 25 years old. Gather experiences up as much as is possible. This will give you both perspective and stories. Read. Read some more. Read still more. Never stop reading.
Naples Noteworthy: Where do you see yourself in ten years and what will you be doing?
Rebeca DeBoard Seitz: Let’s see…I’ll be staring my 50th birthday in the face. The kiddos will be in college or early days of their careers, taking those precious baby steps into full independence and adulthood. They’re going to be phenomenal adults! Charles and I will celebrate 23 years of marriage that year. Nearly to the silver anniversary! We should start now in the planning of a big family get-together at The Old Edwards Inn in Highlands, North Carolina, like his parents did for their 50th.
Career-wise, I’ll be halfway into the 20 good years I think I have left to make movies, TV shows, and books. Hopefully, that body of work is positively impacting lives and the culture is showing early signs of a shift toward a more positive place. I’d like to think, too, that an even larger community of writers, producers, and publishers has coalesced at the SON campus and that the fruit of their labor ripples into the cultural consciousness for decades.
Naples Noteworthy: How has your spirituality played a part in your career successes?
Rebeca DeBoard Seitz: My spirituality has been the guiding force in my life since childhood. Being aware that I am not the center of the universe, and yet I have an ability to impact that universe simply by touching one other life, helps me decide what to do, how to be, and when to engage. Recognizing that there is more to existence than what we currently have the ability to see, detect, and understand keeps the mystery and excitement of life alive. It frees me to listen when others tell of their beliefs and ideas. It gives the space to learn and grow.
Spirituality is the interaction place. I can walk through life and seem outwardly to be living, but if the spiritual side is dead or closed off, it’s just motion. Spirituality lets life enter me and lets me enter life.
Naples Noteworthy: When do you expect SON Studios to be completed?
Rebeca DeBoard Seitz: From the day we tell the architect, “We’re a go,” it will be about 16 months to opening the door of SON Studios.
For the sake of our community here in Southwest Florida, the entertainment industry, and the cultural consciousness of the nation, I hope we get to say that phrase soon. The campus will bring 800-1200 year-round, livable wage jobs to this area, many of which do not require a college degree. It will provide affordable housing for workers. The plan incorporates solar energy capture into parking spaces and docks for recharging of electric cars. There are so many ways we have worked to ensure the campus gives back to the community from inception, it astounds me. SON Studios has been created with benevolence and responsible implementation in mind from day one. I am SO excited to bring that to fruition!
Naples Noteworthy: If you could change one thing in the world today, what would it be?
Rebeca DeBoard Seitz: I would make it impossible for someone to access the power of media distribution without first considering and stating outright the impact his/her media product is intended to have on the viewer or reader.
So many ills could be alleviated if the masses operated from a different mindset and worldview. Those are set and relentlessly influenced by media. If we harnessed the power of media to distribute stories that ignite kindness, generosity, benevolence, courage, fidelity, loyalty, and more, then we would see more humans rise up to feed the hungry, house the homeless, clothe the naked, tend the sick, care for the orphan, dig the wells…ease the burdens.
Naples Noteworthy: What was your favorite job experience, and why?
Rebeca DeBoard Seitz: I’m living it now! I’ve held many positions since my first job at age 11 and have loved nearly all of them for different reasons. Caring for an at-risk foster child on the weekends let me see the far-reaching implications of a life bruised and battered in the beginning. Clerking for the Tennessee House of Representatives let me see the purity of motivation many lawmakers enter government with…and how that motivation is sometimes easily corrupted. Being a media fellow for a conservative think-tank in Washington, D.C. during the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal let me see the delay in the news cycle from when those in the Capitol know what’s happening inside government to when those in the rest of the nation hear it. Being a staff member at a mega-church in Orlando let me see how a large staff can still make room in the workweek for purposeful community and communication if the one in charge values such. Being a police dispatcher let me see the many ways life can turn on a dime and, in the turning, either bend us or break us. That job also let me see the enormity of sacrifice that police officers make to serve the community. Being a counselor and financial clerk in a crisis pregnancy center let me see the personal impact on a woman’s life when deceptive messaging about a harmful practice proliferates in the media.
I’ve been given great gifts of opened doors. On the other side of those doors a river of life swirled in all its color and quick. If I’ve done anything right so far, it’s that I plunged into that river with both feet every time.
That’s why my current job is my favorite job. It’s where the water swirls and covers my feet right now.
Naples Noteworthy: If you had to name one or two people who have been the most influential on your life, who would they be, and why?
Rebeca DeBoard Seitz: Retta Harris Moultrie was my great, great aunt (or great grand aunt, depending on how you title your relatives). Born in 1894, she lived just around the bend from our house, on my granddaddy’s farm (which had been in our family since before the Civil War). I spent most afternoons and weekends at her house listening to her stories of the first telephone coming to town, the first car, news that the Wright Brothers had conquered flight, the first television, and more. She was a natural-born storyteller. We also did word-search and crossword puzzles together, sang hymns from old hymnbooks, and went through Reader’s Digest cover-to-cover each month. She let me settle into a corner of the barn or nestle up to a giant tree with a glass of RC Cola, a Debbie Cake, and a Nancy Drew book. She taught me to love writing, words, stories, and entertainment just by living with them in her life. She told me I was worthy, that I had many interesting things to do and be, and I believed her.
Naples Noteworthy: How has publicity changed over the past ten years or so?
Rebeca DeBoard Seitz: Personal branding is more accessible and impactful today than ten years ago, which makes publicists more in-demand and more powerful. Today, authors are asked to have a “platform” before approaching publishers – meaning, they need to already have a fan base in place that is likely to purchase the novel once it’s published. Authors spend inordinate amounts of time building blog readership and social media followers so that they can be attractive to publishers. While I understand the market force idea behind this, it often seems to be a detriment to both the novelist and eventual novel. Publicists can help ease this burden on the writer.
Publicists must be quicker on their feet and more accessible to their clients 24/7 today due to the almost-immediate impact of social media on marketability of a person and/or the person’s product(s). One viral video post can kill a career, or make it. Managing that enormity of power requires both instinct and publicity skill.
Naples Noteworthy: Do you have any pastimes or activities/hobbies you particularly enjoy?
Rebeca DeBoard Seitz: I love to read novels, biographies, and scripts. Reading is probably the only time that I don’t want music in the background. The quilting bug bit me on a recent trip home to Mom’s quilt shop (Ellakates.com), so that’s become a go-to source of stress relief (with Pandora’s “Morning Motown Radio” playing). Baking has always been a calming, rejuvenating endeavor (with Pandora’s “French Café Radio” or “Otis Redding Radio” playing). My kiddos love board games and one is usually open on the dining room table (with Pandora’s “Today’s Adult Hits Radio” or “80s Pop Hits Radio” or “Classic Rock Radio” playing).
Naples Noteworthy: What do you think about the city of Naples, and how is it you came to live here?
Rebeca DeBoard Seitz:
Charles (husband) was raised here. His family relocated from Napierville (Chicago suburb) when he was 7 and his dad, Jim Seitz, was part of the small team tasked with bringing Northern Trust to Naples. We met in Nashville in 2003 and later moved to Kentucky where we renovated a 110-year-old home and 7-acre property. After several years there, Charles’ mom and dad broke the news to us that Jim had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. We said that, when the time came, we would move to Naples to help care for him. I began going back and forth every few months, during which SON began coming together.
The call came in early 2013 that the disease had progressed significantly. We sold the Kentucky house and moved here full-time in July 2013. My amazing father-in-love passed on July 30, 2016.
I love Naples. The heart of this town is good. It’s a place that approaches the world with hands out and open, fervently seeking a way to help. This is where people who can, do. Naples is a living embodiment of the societal good that can be executed by successful, hard-working capitalists as well as those tasked with wisely stewarding generational resources. A career in media and entertainment has taken me to hundreds of cities, many of which can honestly claim the levels of wealth and prestige among its citizens that Neapolitans possess. I’ve yet to be in a town, though, whose citizens find more peace and pleasure in putting wealth and prestige to work for the benefit of others like they do in Naples. It’s one of the reasons for the name behind the SON acronym – Spirit Of Naples.
The spirit of this town is a loving, giving, others-oriented one. Living amongst that every day – raising my kiddos steeped in that culture – is a gift like none other.
SON, The Spirit Of Naples and Southwest Florida, Inc. is a non-profit, tax-exempt 501c3 corporation. All gifts are tax-deductible. You can learn more about SON by visiting their website at sonstudios.org. They are also on Facebook at Facebook.com/SONStudios.
3765 Airport Pulling Rd North, Ste 203
Naples, Florida, FL 34105