How could two books be more different? Lisa Winkler’s success story

lisa author

Lisa Winkler has not one, but TWO books recently out on the market. And they couldn’t be more different. The first is a nonfiction story of one young man’s daring journey, and the second is a collection of essays from women bloggers who share their innermost thoughts and posts with the rest of us.

Here at Books New Haven, we’re always ready to celebrate books by local authors, and Lisa was born and raised in Killingworth, where her father was a poultry farmer and the entire family – Lisa’s mother, two sisters and brother – worked on the farm. After graduating from Vassar College, Lisa wanted to be a journalist. She worked as a reporter for the Hartford Courant and the Danbury News-Times, and then married and moved to London. She’s been a teacher and a writer, and is the mother of three children. And now that she’s also a grandmohter, she writes a blog at www.cyclingrandma.wordpress.com.

Welcome, Lisa, to Books New Haven.

tangerine tangocowboy book by lisa

Tell us about your new books.

Tangerine Tango: Women Writers Share Slices of Life is an anthology of short essays by women writers. Most of the writers I met through blogging and I invited them to submit essays, without giving them any theme. I received submissions that span the entire citrus spectrum, from sour to sweet. There are colorful slices of life: some sad, some nostalgic, and some humorous, about parents and parenting, childhood, food, farewell, jobs and journeys.

Where did the germ of the story come from? How did you first know you were going to write this story?

After publishing my first book, On the Trail of the Ancestors: A Black Cowboy’s Ride Across America, people asked me what my next book was about. I didn’t have one! Though I was looking for ideas. When I hit my one-year anniversary for my blog, Cyclingrandma, in April 2012, I thought it would be fun to put my favorite posts into a book. But that didn’t seem enough. So I invited several writers, mostly other bloggers I’ve befriended through blogging, to join the project. Along the way, a couple other writers contributed too.

Was the subject matter of the book related somehow to your regular job? Or is it
something quite outside your field that called to you?

My first book, On the Trial of the Ancestors, tells the story of Miles Dean, a New Jersey teacher, who rode his horse from New York to California to celebrate the contributions of African Americans to US history.

I met Miles Dean while working as an educational consultant in Newark and
believed Dean’s mission and message would make a compelling story. It’s a story that speaks to animal lovers, horsemen and horsewomen, armchair travelers, and with educators, parents and young people who are part of the African American community or connected with it. It’s available via my website: www.lisakwinkler.com, on Amazon, and in other book stores.

What did you most want to get across to readers that they might not have known about before you wrote this book?

As a teacher, I’ve witnessed how young people know little of history. In urban areas,
youth learn about slavery and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and a few more facts
during Black History Month in February. Yet they have little if any connection with
these historical figures. When I began my own reading after meeting Miles, I became
fascinated with these people whose contributions to the development of the US are
largely unknown. Most adults haven’t heard of these people. American history needs to
include all races and genders to truly demonstrate who built this nation, their struggles
and sacrifices and stories.  A cross country journey in itself is a story. From my research, I couldn’t find any other story of of other modern-day African Americans who have ridden a horse across the country with this purpose in mind. I loved the idea of this young boy
growing up watching western movies and television shows and dreaming that he too
could become a cowboy.

Did this book come to you easily, or did you have to wrestle it to the ground once or twice? Did you ever give up on it?

On the Trail of the Ancestors went through many drafts. It began as a first person
narrative and then I changed it to third person. After trying to find an agent and not being able to find out, I thought I should let it go. But something made me continue and I decided to self-publish the book. I felt it’s a great story that had to be told.

For Tangerine Tango, I really had a lot of fun collecting the essays and working with the
writers. Some were a bit more resistant to editing than others, but it all worked out.

Do you have a writing process you could share with readers, a way you like to proceed when you’re writing a book?
With any writing, you have to be passionate and committed to the process. With non-
fiction, I think you have to truly become obsessed with the subject to create a book. It’s
not like fiction—you can’t make it up! That said, I also believe it can happen—just don’t give up! It takes tons of patience, fortitude and sometimes luck to get published. With self-publishing there are many options to get your work out, but it’s a very tough (and can be expensive) road. Believing in your story is paramount. If you have passion for it, others will too. Also, there’s no “quick fix.” While an occasional book might sell hundreds of copies the first week, thousands the first month and so on, most don’t. I believe marketing really becomes a personal adventure: why would someone want to read my book? I view it as my journey: one sale, one reader, one book at a time. If you care about the book, you have to put effort into marketing it.

Was the research fairly easy to come by, or did you have trouble finding the sources you needed?

I ordered books from libraries and bookstores and read on the Internet too. I didn’t have
any trouble obtaining the resources. I reached out to several of the people Miles met and
conducted a few telephone interviews that helped my writing.

What has been the most satisfying thing about compiling this information and getting the book written?
For the first book, I truly believed in the story. I was (and still am) mesmerized by the
journey that Miles Dean took, and the history he brought to life in his travels.
With Tangerine Tango, it was just a fun project and has been a lovely gift book. The
proceeds are going to Huntington’s Disease.

What has happened since this book has been published? What kinds of reactions have you gotten?

The books have been well received and of course appeal to very different audiences. I’m
trying to get On the Trail of the Ancestors into schools. I’ve written a cross-disciplinary
Educator’s Guide that is free to download from my website. I taught these lessons to students when I worked in Newark and they were well received by students and staff.

What’s next for you? Will there be a follow-up?

At the moment, I’m not planning anything. I’m always looking for the next idea and
might do another anthology later this year.

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