Author Interview with Allan Ament
I’m interviewing Allan Ament today, author of memoir “Learning to Float”. Welcome to my blog, and thanks for answering my questions
When did you know you wanted to be an author?
I have always written. When I was in college, I knew I wanted to have written a book that was published. I had no idea what the book was to be about, although I sensed it would probably be non-fiction, and I didn’t want it to be academic in tone. After graduation, aside from my journals, my writing was almost entirely academic or professional. The desire to be a published author receded as I focused time and energy on my career, first as a lawyer and later in higher education. My wife was the professional writer, and I was happy in my role as reader.
Yet, the desire to publish was still present. I quit writing fiction when I quit practicing law! (Somewhat, but not entirely, a joke — I was a criminal defense attorney and so knew the power of a good story.) After Deloris had her stroke and I became her caregiver, I needed some creative outlet. I took some writing courses, began writing short memoir-ish pieces, some of which I submitted for publication. The positive feedback I received from both my instructors and friends who were published authors encouraged me to keep writing.
What inspired you to write a memoir?
After Deloris’s stroke, I began sending emails to family and close friends. Over the months, the distribution list grew and the nature of the emails changed, becoming less about what has happening externally and more about my internal experiences. The emails had become my journal. Friends began telling me they thought my experiences could be helpful to others, especially men, who found themselves in similar situations. As Deloris had improved to the point where she needed my attention less, I began to consider how to turn the emails into a coherent and cohesive book. I was enthusiastic both the creative outlet writing this memoir provided, as well as the potential to help others through my writing. The process also allowed me to better understand my own experiences. Being of service has always been part of my life, I think in large part from the lessons my social worker mother instilled in me. Reading early drafts enabled Deloris to fill in lapses in her memory of the early days of her post-stroke recovery. This was an unexpected, and much appreciated, benefit.
What is your editing process like?
In all my writing, whether personal, academic, professional, or creative, I want to get words down on paper (or now—on screen.) While I will outline my academic and professional work, much of initial creative and personal writing process is more free flow. I don’t edit until I have paragraphs, sections, or chapters written. I then read through what I have written to see if it flows, if it makes sense, and to correct any glaring typographical, spelling, or grammar errors. In the memoir drafting, and in the foundational emails, I had to determine how much I was going to self-censor. Ultimately I was surprised at how much I was willing to disclose.
I then usually walk away from the material before going through another rewrite. When I am satisfied with what I have written, usually after a couple of complete redrafts, I will take the section to my writers group for their comments and critiques. At the same time, I give a copy to Deloris, whose comments and line editing are invaluable. After reviewing the comments I have received, I incorporate those I think are appropriate and helpful, and go on to the next section, and repeat the process, often several times.
When I have what I think is a complete manuscript, I set it aside for a couple of days or a week. I then read the entire manuscript to ensure there is sufficient flow to the story arc, overall readability, and other concerns I note. When I am satisfied with the manuscript, I give it to Deloris and send it to some friends who were writers or other people whose opinions I value. While I was not able to convince an agent to offer a contract, their rejections did contain valuable feedback on how to improve the book. While I agreed with all the comments, I couldn’t figure out how to make the changes. So, the manuscript sat for about a year.
I ultimately hired a professional editor to help me reorganize the material into a more polished and publishable form. I also had a professional copy editor proof read it, asked Deloris to copy and content edit it, and, when it was accepted by Booktrope, submitted it to their editor and proofreader.
Writing is very much an iterative, and collaborative, process and I am grateful for the wonderful professionals I had working with me.
Did you set any writing goals for 2014? Did you accomplish them?
My major goal for 2014 was to finish Learning to Float and get it published. With the assistance of Booktrope, I was able to accomplish this goal in November 2014.
What are your writing goals for 2015?
My major writing goal for 2015 is to endorse the back of lots of royalty checks! Seriously.
Actually, my primary objective is to make Learning to Float available to the largest number of people. I do not write formulaic, genre fiction, although I do read them. So I set no writing goals in terms of having x number of words written or drafts of new works completed. Writing non-fiction, especially personally-based non-fiction, is an entirely different process.
I write both for the love of the craft, to amuse myself, and because I think I have some knowledge, some experience, some lessons I have learned that can help others. I consider myself primarily as an educator who is also an author. And, at the moment, what I want to educate people, especially men, on is the joys, and challenges, of family and spousal caregiving.
Are you working on something now? If so, can you tell us a little about it?
My primary writing focus at present is to utilize my experience and knowledge to help others, especially men, who may find themselves unexpectedly thrust into a caregiving situation. In addition to marketing my book, I am working on some short, magazine-length pieces and presentations drawing on it.
Primarily for fun, and also to increase my self-awareness, I am working on a series of autobiographical vignettes, the collection of which I tentatively entitled My Life as Anecdote. I have no idea if it has any market potential, but I am having fun playing with it. They also provide something I can take to my writers’ group meetings. Other project ideas are very much in the early conception stage.
About The Book
Author: Allan Ament
Allan and Deloris Ament’s lives take a dramatic turn when Deloris suffers a debilitating stroke. No longer an equal partner in marriage, Allan becomes Deloris’s primary caregiver, responsible for maintaining their household and her well-being. Learning to Float describes Allan’s transformation from a criminal defense attorney to a compassionate, emotionally vulnerable caregiver. Drawing on contemporaneously written emails and private journal entries, Ament unflinchingly exposes his emotional, mental, and physical ups and downs, consistently focusing on the love, humor, and opportunities for personal and spiritual growth he experiences on this journey. Anyone with the possibility of becoming a caregiver for a loved one, now or in the future, will benefit from the insights Ament shares. Everyone will be buoyed by the love Allan and Deloris experience as they face their new normal.
After successful careers as a criminal defense attorney, higher education administrator and instructor, and day spa manager, Allan Ament now enjoys retirement with his wife, an award-winning journalist and author, and their semi-neurotic cat (are there other kinds?) They live on an island in Puget Sound, north of Seattle, where, in addition to writing and being his wife’s primary caregiver, Ament serves as board chair for the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts (nila.edu). His work has previously appeared in academic, professional, and literary journals, and is included in an upcoming anthology, Being: What Makes a Man. Learning to Float is his first book-length work.