Interview with George Rogers

George Rogers

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.AmongtheLeaves-Cover

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?

George: Both.

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.

Syncopation Sightings

Syncopation has been sighted all across the country.  Have you seen the signs?  Here are a few that I’ve seen.  Click on them to make them bigger, so you can make the sighting yourself:



More sightings are being posted to the Cornerstone Press Facebook page.  Like them and get updates.

Author Interview: Melissa Westemeier

To begin my series of author interviews, I’ve invited Cornerstone Press author Melissa Westemeier.  I was fortunate enough to attend the release party for her novel Whipped, Not Beaten and get an early copy, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Whipped Not Beaten tells the story of Sadie Davis. Recently dumped and working for a boss she despises, she is determined to shake up her life as a single woman in the city of Madison, Wisconsin. She takes a side job as a home party consultant selling kitchenware, hoping that it will be the spice that turns her life around. Through failed recipes and cold ovens, Sadie works to create something that’s a bit sweeter, a lot richer, and oh, so very delicious.

Melissa, welcome.

Q: Tell us about Whipped, Not Beaten, and how you came to write it

A: The main plotline is about how Sadie starts selling home party products. When I quit my teaching job and became a stay at home mom, my social life became nonexistent. The only time I had a night out was when I got invited to a home party―and naturally I accepted every invitation. After attending several―Partylite Candles, Tupperware, Tastefully Simple, Mary Kay, Creative Memories, Pampered Chef―it struck me how a novel could appeal to women by poking fun at the entire set-up. I’d already written a couple of YA novels, and the idea of a romantic comedy, “chick lit” with home parties as the backdrop really appealed to me. Like I begin all my books, I just started writing and the plot and characters fleshed out as I kept at it. I chose Madison as the setting because all chick lit seems to take place in New York or Los Angeles. The Midwest gets almost no attention, unless someone’s writing about a rural setting. Also, I’m familiar with Madison, which made the book easier to write than if I had to research a different setting, like New York City.

Q: Many readers think that the main characters in novels are like the authors themselves. Is there a lot of Sadie Davis in you?

A: That’s a funny question! One of my best friends read the book with me as Sadie in her head. Needless to say, when Sadie has her first sex scene, Nicole had to set the book down…

I think there’s a little of any woman my age in Sadie. As far as specific traits that we share, I do fantasize about George Clooney, battle the occasional blemish, and find my medicine cabinet terribly disorganized. When I was younger I had to learn to stand up for myself at work and I enjoyed the mentorship of some great older women. Really, the character most like anyone in real life is Sadie’s mom, who I based almost entirely on my Grandmother, Gloria Volkman. If I were to BE like any of my characters, I confess that I wish I were just like Sadie’s older sister, Jane. She lives my fantasy.

Q: Whipped, Not Beaten was your first published novel. Have you written other things?

A: I co-wrote a chapter in Teaching Writing in High School and College (NCTE, 2002) and co-wrote Writing in a Changing World (Bridle Path Press, 2010). I’ve had some poetry and essays published, and like most writers, I have a drawer full of rejected or partially-developed manuscripts.

Q: You’ve worked as both a teacher and as an editor. How have those jobs influenced your writing?

A: After teaching high school English for almost 10 years, I really developed an eye for recognizing what makes a piece of writing strong or weak. I also developed the knowledge base to help writers tend to those issues. My writing group works well together because we all have teaching backgrounds, so instead of just getting together and pointing out what “doesn’t work” in each other’s manuscripts, we advise each other on how to make revisions, play to our individual strengths, and address the problems with suggestions. I think the best thing a writer can do for their own craft is to find other writers to work with―I really enjoy editing manuscripts for other authors and it’s a personal thrill when they get published, too.

The only drawback is when I’m with my book club―I need to learn to turn off my “editor eyes” and approach some books with only my “reader eyes.” Writers read books differently than other people.

Q: What can you tell me about working with the student-run publishing house Cornerstone Press?

A: They were lovely and so professional. From the content editing to the marketing, every step of the way demonstrated the investment they made into my book. I loved getting 100% of their attention, which I know wouldn’t happen in a larger press, and they were so creative, too.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: Currently I’m working on 2 projects―final revisions on a nonfiction book I wrote with Jen Brecht, my co-founder over at It’s a guidebook to making one’s lifestyle environmentally friendly by making one behavioral change a week over a whole year.

Also, I’m bringing a revised version of my latest novel, Across the River to a writing workshop this summer. It’s the story of a small town on a river, loosely based on my bartending days during college when I lived in Fremont, Wisconsin. The main characters are the daughter of a dairy farmer who sees a different future for her family’s farm and a bait shop owner who has dreams of big development moving into the area. It’s funny, but with a more earthy humor than Whipped, Not Beaten, in part because most of the characters are men, and it takes place during the white bass run.

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:

Coffee or tea? Coffee.

Ocean or mountain? Ocean.

Hiking or shopping? Hiking.

Violin or piano? To listen to, right? Violin.

Mystery or fantasy? Mystery.

Darcy or Heathcliff? Always, always Mr. Darcy.

Love scene or death scene? Love scene.

A great big thanks to Melissa for being the laboratory rat in my first interview experiment.

I encourage you to  order her book, Whipped, Not Beaten, and to visit Melissa at Green Girl in Wisconsin