Please tell the readers a bit more about you. I became a first-time author at age 63 – I guess that’s worth noting. I was always considered an accomplished writer beginning in grade school, but my life took other paths. I graduated from Northwestern University with a BS in Radio, Television, and Film. I met my husband, Scott, at Northwestern, and we were married shortly after I graduated. It was the Vietnam War era, and Scott was in the Army, so we moved frequently. I worked in radio or television stations wherever we went, taking whatever job was available. By 1973, Scott had been discharged, and we moved to Washington, DC. I found a job as a copywriter, providing support for the advertising sales staff, at U.S. News & World Report magazine. By the time Scott was transferred to Cincinnati in the early ‘80s, we had a young son, and I decided to be a stay-at-home mom for a while. In 1990, I started volunteering at a no-kill animal shelter in Cincinnati. My responsibilities grew, and for a while I was putting in 55-60 hours a week at the shelter. I still work there, giving medication to sick cats, but a few years ago I was able to cut back my volunteer hours and start writing again.
What types of books do you write? I’ve written only one book so far. It’s a memoir called Incomplete Passes: Reflections on Life, Love, and Football. I grew up in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and when I was twelve I became a huge fan of the Packers football team. I’d always been a nerdy kid up to that point—a chubby bookworm—but because of my growing interest in sports I made some new friends who changed my life. These three girls and I were all infatuated with the Packers. These were the days of Vince Lombardi and a championship almost every year. Since Green Bay is the NFL’s smallest city, we could literally follow our heroes around town. As we grew older, that led to some incidents that were embarrassing at the time, but funny today. We went our separate ways, but about 15 years ago we started making an annual pilgrimage back to Green Bay, to see a Packer game and renew our ties. So the book is a coming-of-age story, and it’s about this fifty-year female friendship, but it’s all tied up with the Packers, who taught us a number of life lessons. I would like to write at least one more book, a novel about people who work in an animal shelter. Most people don’t realize how enormous the homeless-animal problem is. They think they’ll drop off their unwanted dog and he’ll have a great new home in a week. I’d like to tell them what really happens, both good and bad. This book would be a novel rather than a memoir, because I’d like to write about the relationships between the volunteers. Our interaction sometimes turns into soap opera because many of us get along better with animals than with humans. I don’t want to write about real people and possibly make them angry, so I’d have to fictionalize my account.
Who’s your main audience? I see my ideal reader for Incomplete Passes as a woman who’s either a baby-boomer or is interested in the Sixties. If she’s a Packer fan or from Wisconsin, that’s great, but she doesn’t need to be. Maybe she was crazy about one of the Beatles and can relate that to the way I felt about the Packer players.
When it comes to writing, what are your strong points? What are your weaknesses? I think that my biggest asset is the ability to write in a conversational tone. My broadcast training had a lot to do with that. As for weaknesses, I guess the biggest one is a reluctance to ask questions. My parents harped on me to mind my own business, and I also have a phobia about making phone calls, so I never could have succeeded as the journalist I once expected to be. I think sometimes I back off and simply don’t get into some areas that could be adding depth or interest to my work. As far as Incomplete Passes is concerned, I think a possible flaw is that some readers will expect a big, dramatic, happy ending, but that doesn’t happen. I don’t marry the football player of my dreams—or get a chance to turn him down. But after all, the book is called Incomplete Passes. That’s the way life is. Things so often don’t turn out the way we plan, and that’s a theme of the book.
What do you think of this term—Writer’s Block? How do you overcome it? I can’t say I’ve suffered from Writer’s Block, although I’m sure other writers do. When I’ve had an assignment, I’ve always been able to take a few hours off and then come back to it and get it done. With Incomplete Passes, I didn’t have a firm deadline. It took me a few years to write it, because I was busy with other things, but I didn’t ever feel blocked. It’s more that there have been periods in my life where I’ve been writing, and other periods where I simply haven’t. If I’m too stressed, I don’t write—and if I’m too happy, I don’t write.
How many books have you written? See Question 2.
Are you self-published or traditionally published? Since we’re talking about a single book, it makes sense to answer these questions together. Incomplete Passes is self-published, through iUniverse. I submitted it to a number of small, traditional publishers, but I got impatient with the process. A couple of times, a publisher requested chapters and then kept them for months while I waited for a verdict. I lost time because I was afraid to continue writing and editing. I didn’t want to go in a direction that would make the book less appealing to that publisher. As it turned out, those publishers did not accept the book, so I decided to self-publish.
In the beginning I didn’t know about companies like iUniverse and CreateSpace. I eventually decided to publish through iUniverse because they offered a social media startup package. I believed that the Internet was the best way to promote a book by an unknown author, but I had no idea how to establish a website, tie it in with a blog, etc. My package included an editorial evaluation, so I was able to have the guidance of a professional editor, even though I had to pay for it. I did a lot of rewriting after that evaluation. So I needed iUniverse. If I do the second book, though, I might save money by doing more on my own. There are a lot of resources available that I hadn’t heard of at the time I discovered iUniverse. I would check out Smashwords, for example.
What’s the hardest part of the writing process for you? Nothing in the writing process is as hard as what I’m doing now—marketing a book on my own.
What type of books do you enjoy reading? I read mainly for relaxation, so I read mostly popular fiction. I like best-sellers, chick-lit, etc. While I was writing Incomplete Passes, I was afraid to read memoirs, because I was afraid I’d pick up another author’s style. But now I’m enjoying that genre as well.
Who’s your favorite Author? This is far from unique, but I’d have to say Jodi Picoult. I appreciate the way she takes a social issue, researches it thoroughly, and then manages to tell the story in human terms. She makes me care so much about her characters.
What’s your all time favorite book? Again, not an original choice, but it’s Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper. I was furious that they changed the ending for the movie. Another novel I have read over and over is Anne Rivers Siddons’ Peachtree Road. I found the characters in that one fascinating, too, although I think Siddons tends to over-write, and she steals things from her earlier books and puts them in her newer ones. I know a little bit about her Southern world because my son went to the College of Charleston. Siddons was the commencement speaker at my son’s graduation, and I was thrilled to see her in person. My son was scheduled to get his diploma early in the ceremony, and he wanted to sneak out after that. He told my husband and me to sit in the back so we could leave unobtrusively and join him. It was a big outdoor venue, and here was an author I loved, and we were so far away, I couldn’t hear a word she said!
How long does it take you to write a book? It took me about three years to write Incomplete Passes, and another year for the editing and production. There were periods, of course, when a publisher was considering the book or things got extremely busy at the animal shelter, and I didn’t write at all during those periods.
Out of all of your characters, which is your favorite? Why? I’m not sure if this question applies to me, because my only book is about me and three girlfriends. I wouldn’t dare choose between them! So let’s say that I ended up devoting a lot more space than I anticipated to Paul Hornung, the Packers’ handsome, blond halfback of the ‘50s and ‘60s. I guess you never forget your first crush.
What is one of the most surprising things you’ve learned as a writer? A lot of my training was journalistic, and my copywriter job was similar to technical writing. I learned to differentiate fact from opinion, and keep my opinion out of things. Writing the memoir was very different. I wasn’t sure I could break out of that factual mode and convey emotions. But I think I did learn to stretch in such passages as, “I wanted to climb that big man like a jungle gym.” It surprised me that I could write that.
What does your family think of your writing? My son has been very supportive, but of course he doesn’t have to live with me anymore. I think he’s surprised that his mother could put a whole book together. It has to be unsettling for him to read about the silly things I did as a teenager. My husband acts proud when we’re with other people, but I’m not sure he really feels that way. Writing and marketing take a lot of time away from our home life, and since I’m a new author, I’m still paying off the self-publishing costs and haven’t brought in any money. (Hint: Buy my book! Save my marriage!) Interestingly, Incomplete Passes has been out since August, and my husband hasn’t read it yet. There’s one chapter called, “This Chapter Has a Ten-Year Statute of Limitations!” Because of something that happened to me in Green Bay, the gimmick is that my husband isn’t supposed to read that chapter until 2017. (It’s not a sexual indiscretion; it’s a security breach that I know would make him mad.) So he says he’ll wait until 2017 to read the whole book, and as far as I know, he honestly hasn’t read any of it.
Do you manage to write every day? Again, for me it makes the most sense to answer these together. I’m not working on a new book yet, just on marketing Incomplete Passes. I do a blog post over the weekend and try to network via the Internet on Mondays and Tuesdays. Wednesday and Friday are my long days at the animal shelter. I’m there from about 6:00 a.m to 7:00 p.m, so I hardly ever write on those days. I also work there on certain Thursdays and Saturdays. I try to do something in the marketing area on each day I don’t spend at the shelter. I hope to start working on the new book early next year. But that may give me a different schedule—since I will be writing about an animal shelter, I may keep a daily log of material from the one where I work.
What’s the latest news you’d like to share? Incomplete Passes was named a Finalist in the Memoirs (Other) category of the 2012 Next Generation Indie Book Awards.
Do you have any advice for new writers? Ask me again in about a year—I’m still so new myself. The world of writing and publishing is in such transition—print vs. e-books, traditional publishing vs. putting something together cheaply and giving it away on the Internet. I’m still trying to make sense of all the trends and options.
Find out more here:
Incomplete-Passes-Reflections- Life-Football/dp/1462033741/ ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8& qid=1336950619&sr=1-1
Indie Bound: http://www.indiebound.org/