Today I’m welcoming George Rogers to my series of author interviews. George is the co-author of For the Love of Postcards. His most recent book is Among the Leaves, published by Cornerstone Press in November.
Elizabeth: Among the Leaves has the subtitle: A Collection of Outdoor Essays. How would you explain an “outdoor essay?”
George: Anything that has to do with nature.
Elizabeth: Could you tell us the topics of some of the essays?
George: I say in the introduction that this isn’t a “me and Joe went fishin'” book. I don’t ignore fishing and hunting but I’m more into other outdoor activities, wildlife and the environment in general. Some of the topics are the Apostle Islands and Isle Royale in Lake Superior, prairie chickens, deer, jackass rabbits (now thankfully called jackrabbits), wolves, camping in Costa Rica and climbing Mount Fuji. But mostly it’s about Wisconsin.
Elizabeth: You’ve been a journalist for more than fifty years. How were you able to choose which essays to include and which to leave out of this collection?
George: I tried to choose topics that appealed to people who liked the outdoors, not just the hook and bullet crowd.
Elizabeth: You grew up in Wisconsin and spent a lot of time in the woods as a child. How do you think that has affected your outlook on life?
George: I was exposed to nature as a kid by fishing with my father and getting to see the ruined old-growth Wisconsin forest, and learning what a grand thing it had once been. That doesn’t mean I’m against logging. I’ve cut many trees in my time (and planted thousands of them), but from an early age I learned logging had to be done judiciously.
Elizabeth: Tell us about one of your favorite vacations or travel destinations.
George: I’ll mention several. Northern Wisconsin is always a good one. I like the Gulf Coast of Texas because it isn’t as overdeveloped (yet) as Florida, it’s on the ocean and it’s low-key. Japan was good, but when I was there I was in the military and not really vacationing. However, it gave me the opportunity to climb Mount Fuji. Also I saw some incredibly polluted waters, which was a real lesson.
Elizabeth: What is your writing process or schedule?
George: I’m not on a schedule. I write an outdoor column and a few other things for a weekly newspaper, the Portage County Gazette, but that’s a relaxed timetable. I write any time the mood strikes me and email my stuff in. That way I don’t get in the hair of the real working people. If I were writing another book, I’d set a target – so much production per week.
Elizabeth: How did the idea for Among the Leaves come to you?
George: I didn’t plan to write Among the Leaves. A co-worker from my daily newspaper days talked me into it. I thought it would be a chore but I found out it wasn’t. I should have known that. All my working career I was on a deadline and learned to live with it. Relatively speaking, this was easy.
Elizabeth: Cornerstone Press is a small press sponsored by the English Department at the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point. Students enroll in the Editing and Publishing class, and over the course of the semester select a manuscript, design a cover and layout, edit, publish, market and sell the book. What has been your experience working with this group of students?
George: They were good people, really interested in turning out a good product, and quite professional. I predict a bright future for them.
Elizabeth: We’ve now reached the time in our interview for the let’s-get-to-know-the-author-better, nearly-pointless, sort-of-silly, rapid-fire questions:
Elizabeth: Coffee or tea?
George: When I get up in the morning I brew a cup of tea because I don’t like instant coffee and it takes too long to make a pot of regular coffee.
Elizabeth: Ocean or mountain?
Elizabeth: Hiking or shopping?
George: Anything but shopping.
Elizabeth: Violin or piano?
George: Much to my regret, I’m devoid of musical talent.
Elizabeth: Mystery or Fantasy?
George: Mystery. There’s already too much fantasy in life.
Elizabeth: Hester Prynne or Scarlet O’Hara?
George: My attitude on this one was adequately summed up by Rhett Butler in his memorable farewell to Scarlett, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”
To order a copy of Through the Leaves, visit the Cornerstone Press website.
A big thanks to George for being my guest today.