What’s the hardest part of being an author?
For me, the hardest part of being an author is having the self-discipline to practice the craft on a regular basis. Often I sit in front of my computer to write, especially if I am at the beginning of a project or in a “stuck” place, I can find a thousand other things demanding attention. There are times I even resort to cleaning my house rather than sit at the computer.
The other hard part is editing --- not making sure the grammar is correct, or words are spelled correctly, but the elimination of sentences, the striking out of passages, the assisted suicide of entire sections of my prose. Since I wrote it originally, it has to be good. Right? NO! Often it is not. And while I know it, deleting it is hard. Luckily my wife, who was trained as a journalist and therefore knows how to write concisely, is an excellent editor and a ruthless red pencil wielder.
Can you give us a short synopsis of Learning to Float?
When my wife, Deloris, suffered a stroke, my life, and hers, underwent major transformations. No longer was I a criminal defense lawyer turned higher education administrator and instructor. Now I was a 24-hour a day caregiver. No longer were we co-equal marital partners; now the power relationship in our marriage was dramatically altered. This was a hard, but necessary, adjustment for both of us.
Learning to Float describes these changes, as well as other challenges I faced as I struggled to be a compassionate, effective caregiver. Through writing the initial emails that formed the foundation for this memoir, as well as the book itself, I learned a great deal about myself, about the meaning of love and caring, and
the importance of community. Not all I learned was positive; even in the darkest moments, however, I looked for, and often found, humor. Caring for Deloris became my spiritual path, my job, and to a large degree the identity I presented to the world. I hope others in my position can learn from my experiences and find similar fulfillment in their caregiving.
What inspired you to write this book?
After Deloris’s stroke, I started sending out emails to family and close friends (I didn’t know about blogs then --- it was almost 10 years ago.) 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 was able to think about how to turn the emails into a more coherent and cohesive book.
How many hours per day do you spend writing?
At present, I am spending more time on marketing than on writing. When I was in the midst of writing Learning to Float, I often spent ten to twenty hours a week, maybe more. In the initial stages, I spent about 30 minutes writing the original emails. During that period, as I went through the day, part of me was observing what was happening and composing the leads in my mind. I also took writing classes and was involved in several writing/critique groups. Both experiences were essential to my progress as a writer.
Name your top five favourite books.
Wow; that’s a hard one. The list varies depending on how I am feeling or what I am doing at the time. It also varies on how serious I am reading or think the list should be --- how impressive and erudite do I want to appear. If I were to list books that had the most impact on my life, I might have a different list than ones I enjoyed reading the most. I like some books because I learn something from them, others because of the quality of the writing, others because they are the escape I am seeking at the time, and yet others for different reasons. And I tend to read a lot of escape fiction --- for me American detective novels (different from British mystery novels,) historical fiction, and humor. I don’t read a lot of best sellers and almost no post-Harry Potter fantasy. Since I am answering the question in mid-March, 2015, and I want to be as honest and self-revealing as possible, the list would include, but not be limited to (and yes, I know, there are more than five listed. I’m a writer, not a mathematician!):
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Cannery Row and its sequel, Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck
Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Louis Carroll
The first six Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling (only the first six!)
Grace and Grit by Ken Wilber
Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman
All except Grace and Grit are fiction. While I read a fair amount of non-fiction, mostly I read this genre because I am doing research or because the book or the topic caught my attention.
What are you working on now?
Most of my “writing” time is spent in marketing Learning to Float. A key part of what I am doing is attempting to distill the essence of the book into one or more magazine-length articles, a task much harder to do than I imagined. When I finally am able to achieve this goal, and can get the articles accepted for publication, I believe it will give the book much-needed regional and national exposure. It will also give me some experience in new writing modalities.
I am also having fun writing a series of vignettes about my life, tentatively titled My Life as Anecdote. In a totally different vein, I am playing with an idea for a “pop” business/leadership book.
Title: Learning to Float
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.