As part of our monthly celebration of Health Activism In Real Life (IRL) and offline advocacy – we will be looking at a way members of our online health network have made a splash writing offline: authorship. Today’s interview is with Health Activist – Scott Benner, winner of our Advocating for Another 2011 award and parent advocate at his site Arden’s Day and is working on his first book now.
When and why did you start writing?
I’ve been writing since grammar school, but never with any real focus. Back then I’d get an idea, lose track of it, and before I knew what happened, it was gone. I never really believed that being a writer was a realistic endeavor for a middle-class kid like me. I always imagined that authors came from a different place then the one I lived in. It turns out that years later after my daughter Arden was diagnosed with type I diabetes, I found a topic that held my attention, a reason to write that resonated with me, and a medium to present my work in. Very much by mistake, though as if it had always been the plan, I became a health blogger.
Health advocacy that is done through writing is really no more than one person reaching out into the world and saying, “This happens to me…and I thought it may help you to know that you are not alone.” I’ve been blogging about my life as a type I diabetes caregiver for so long now that when people ask me how I began, I don’t really know how to respond. But, I am reminded every day as to why I continue.
What inspired you to write your book? Tell us a bit about it.
My book, Life Is Short, Laundry Is Eternal, is an honest look at role reversal in a marriage, parenting, and the fight to keep on course as you start, raise, and nurture your family. These are the stories that your parents should have told you before you got married and had kids, but they were too embarrassed. From the bemusement that I felt at my wife’s first O.B. appointment to the horror that fell over us on our daughter’s diagnosis day, these are the stories of how to love, persevere, and grow as life takes you from earnest, first-time parent to seasoned pro.
Any tips for fellow Health Activist who may want to write a book?
My opportunity to write came from a small piece that I was asked to contribute to the diabetes parenting book, Kids First, Diabetes Second, by fellow diabetes caregiver blogger, Leighann Calentine. I don’t know how helpful my tips will be, but this is how it happened for me…
First thing, write a lot. Write and then write again. The more you write, the better you’ll get at it. I try very hard to bring the reader into my heart so that the passion that I have for my topic can wash over them. My job is to bring you to that place, give you that feeling, and leave you satisfied that I did my best to tell you the story.
When you think that your writing is at that place, be bold and get it into the world any way that you can. I seized my moment. During a phone call about my piece for Leighann’s book, I swallowed hard and asked the publisher, “How does someone get to write a book?” She answered, and then I pitched my idea before she could speak again. I took the only chance that I thought I would ever have and I laid my heart out on the table. I always believed that my interpretation of life as a stay-at-home dad was an interesting one and I made my best case on the phone that day. After that call, the publisher actually went to my blog and read it. I didn’t get this chance because I said I had an idea and they liked it. I got this chance because I had an idea and a body of work that showed that I could see it through. My writing captured someone’s fancy, my idea their interest, and after that, I was just in the right place at the right time.
My story is probably very different than you’d expect. I don’t have an agent. I’m not walking around with a manuscript. And, I can see how that could be frustrating to the talented people who are working so hard to make this dream for themselves. As much as I’d like to share the secret to getting published, I think the honesty of the situation is that there isn’t any secret, at least not in my case. All I did was blog, try to make a difference in others’ lives, and the rest was serendipity.