Thank you. I'm glad to be here.
Tell us a little about yourself. I’m an English literature major/ humanities minor who has worked in three libraries (one military, one academic and one newspaper). Like most other writers, I’ve also had many other types of employment throughout the years. A major turning point was when I became the unofficial primary caregiver for my completely deaf, 80-year-old neighbor. That lasted five years until his death. From then on it was caregiving all the way with my childless aunt and uncle, my in-laws and my parents. I’ve been self-employed as a writer since 2009. I’m single but in a long-term relationship. I’ve got two wonderful grown sons and a daughter-in-law who’s a dream come true.
How and when did you begin to write? I began writing as a catharsis after nearly 15 years of elder care. I still had three elders deeply dependent on me when I began writing Minding Our Elders. From my book came the newspaper column, then the blog and from there the articles for major websites. All are still going strong. Drawing from my personal reserve can become exhausting, but then I receive a wonderful email or comment from someone who tells me that what I said helped them. That energizes my core and I keep writing, hoping to touch just one more caregiver who is hurting.
How did you first become a published writer? The very beginning of my published writing appeared in humor columns for a local magazine. Later, I was a newspaper librarian and I kept trying to convince the then editor that the newspaper needed an elder care column. I was repeatedly turned down. I then applied for another job that paid better than the library but was within the same company. After seeing that I may leave my position as librarian, the editor said that I could write the column if I stayed in the library. That was in 2004, so this is an anniversary of sorts.
Can you give our readers a short description of Minding Our Elders? Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories is a portable support group for caregivers. It contains six of my own caregiving stories as well as interviews with 20 other caregivers. I purposely wrote the book in very short chapters since I’m only too aware that caregivers are often lucky to have time for a magazine article. Many people find one story that resonates with them and they mark and re-read it regularly. The book has been called a “lifeboat” among other things.
What led you to write it? I’ve always been a voracious reader and, at times, a prolific writer though most writing was thinly disguised fiction. As noted, my first bylines were for humor articles based on true life. They ran in a local magazine. After nearly 15 years of providing careg for multiple elders with varying needs, I was feeling the need to share much of what I’d learned as a caregiver and I also felt the need to connect with other caregivers. Not being a very social person, a book was the obvious vehicle for me to do just that. I began sharing through my writing and the results eventually turned into a book. Now, of course, over 2500 articles can be added to my published writing career. I must note that when I first tried to find an agent – ten years ago – I was told no one was interested in this topic. I still chuckle over that. I was just ahead of the caregiving explosion.
What are you working on now? I continue to write my weekly newspaper column as well as articles for major websites including regular articles for long-term clients HealthCentral.com/Alzheimers and Agingcare.com. I also moderate their community forums. I’m working on a second book based on my world view which has been largely formed by many years of caregiving and interacting with other caregivers.
Do you have any advice for beginning writers? It’s become far easier to be published in some form since the Internet has taken over as a chief form of communication. That’s part of the problem, as well. Too many people will write for free so getting paid is a challenge. Still, get your byline out there as often as you can.
Fortunately, self-publishing books has lost much of the stigma it once carried so that’s also an option. A word of caution: Make sure that even if you self-publish your work is worth your reader’s time. The more passionate you are about your subject the more likely you are to have an end product that shines. Use your background or specialized knowledge as part of the wisdom that you share with the world through the written word. This stands in fiction as well as non-fiction. Be authentic in what you do.
How can my readers find out more about you and your work? My main website is located at www.mindingourelders.com. From there you can go to my blog where nearly all of my work comes together. Links will lead you to the work I do for major websites. So, if your readers simply remember “Minding Our Elders” they can find articles and columns with very little digging.