Fiona: Where are you from?
Queensbury, New York, USA (Upstate NY)
I am an author and education consultant. I have a Bachelor’s degree in political science from American University in Washington D.C., a Master’s degree in delinquency prevention, and a Doctorate in law and education from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
I taught law and education at the undergraduate and graduate levels of education. I worked for the US government in various capacities, published and edited numerous articles and books in various areas of law and education, written and managed numerous grants from the private and public sectors. I also directed a law-related education program for the New York State Bar Association from 1980 through 1994.
From 1995 to 2006, I served as an advisor for external affairs in Haifa, Israel, where I advised the governing board of an international non-governmental organization in the area of external affairs, including government relations, security and provided analysis of human rights situations in selected countries throughout the world in general, and in Iran and the Middle East in particular. I am the author of Life at 12 College Road.
I currently reside in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York with my wife, Ginny. We have two grown children Adam and Emily, a son in law, Kamal, a daughter in law, Yaani, and grandchildren, Annie, Nate, and Eli.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
I would like to tell you that after I finished writing Life at 12 College Road I wrote the action/thriller novel I had always wanted to write. But that is not the case. I am now coauthoring a monograph and teaching supplement for the Education Law Association (ELA) with a colleague and friend, Ellery (Rick) Miller, on the subject of sexual harassment and bullying. It’s called Sexual Harassment and Bullying: Similar, but Not the Same, and is due to be published in the fall of 2015. The monograph explores the current legal developments in the areas of sexual harassment and bullying K-12. It also examines strategies for developing and implementing policies and training to create an educational environment that allows each student to feel safe and secure, and to ensure a safe school environment conducive to learning.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I began writing poetry in the late 1960’s and was encouraged to do so by my college English Literature and creative writing professor, William A. Hughes. He made a big impression on me, but instead of pursuing writing I focused on political science and law. Although I stopped writing poetry I did write, but they were professional articles on law and education, and of course in professional positions I’ve held over the years, I have been required to file reports, write memoranda, and even treatises.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I never really considered myself a writer, even though I did have several poems published, and as I said I wrote numerous articles for professional journals and several education books. I first actually considered myself a writer when I wrote Life at 12 College Road. As I said when I wrote it, not when it was published. Even if it had not been published, although I am delighted that it was, I considered myself a writer when I began writing it. I also have a blog where I do write about random thoughts and commentaries about issues and concerns that we are faced with these days, poems, and even recipes. So I guess I have thought about myself as writer only recently.
First, I want to say that no one makes me write. In the professional positions I’ve held over the years, I have been required as I mentioned, to file reports, write memoranda, even treatises, but I was never required to publish law-related articles, write poems, or, of course, author Life at 12 College Road. But I certainly did not write because I had nothing better to do. The time spent away from family and the activities that were sacrificed along the way attest to that. It was more often a feeling of being compelled to write. Not for others, although most writers do want people to read their work, but to feed a need or a desire coming from within. I’ve felt particularly driven to write about my experiences growing up. The writing is not really so much about me as it is about those feelings and emotions—joy, happiness, sadness, anger, fear, even loss—that each of us, in our own ways, inevitably encounters.
Through this writing experience, I have also come to recognize that even in the solitude of writing, we are not really alone. Our memories of loved ones; friends, and those we admire are always with us. Some are nearer to the surface of sentience than others, but they are there nonetheless.
And if we are really willing to listen, they have much to offer.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
Yes I believe I do. I write as if I am sitting in front a few close friends, and telling them a story. So I guess my writing style is one of storytelling. I want the reader to feel that I am talking to them.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
The title just seemed a natural. The book was about my life at 12 College Road. Every story, and the book is really a collection of thirty-three short stories about my life in and around the house I lived in at 12 College Road. So the title Life at 12 College Road just seemed the way to go, that and my wife liked it.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
First, my book is not a novel it is a memoir, and as I said it is really a collection of thirty-three ‘real life’ short stories. As to your question, we all have memories—those that make us smile or laugh, others that bring anger or tears, and some that we’d just as soon forget. But those memories help to make us who we are today—and in some ways, who we will become tomorrow.
While reflecting upon my past to write the book, I found that it was not the major earth-shattering events that were truly significant for me. Rather, it was the small things, many long forgotten until recently, that deeply touched me. And if their retelling can help the reader to connect with similar moments from their own life, then it was worth the time and effort in my writing Life at 12 College Road and their reading it.
All of it, as it all really did happen, although as I said in my dedication I could almost hear my family saying, “Rick, we don’t remember it happening exactly that way.”
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
As it is a memoir, all the events are from my life.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? A mentor?
Books: I would have to say The Citadel of Faith and the Promised Day is Come by Shoghi Effendi.
Mentor(s): I would have to say Professor William A. Hughes who encouraged me to write, Mr. Glenford E. Mitchell who showed me how to write, and Phyllis Edgerly Ring who made me want to write.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Lately, I have been reading Dean Kootnz’s Odd Thomas series. I also just finished The Last Israelis by Noah Beck and Israel Strikes by William Stroock.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Yes, William Stroock as I just mentioned and Phyllis Edgerly Ring the author of among others, Snow Fence Road.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
As I indicated previously, I am coauthoring a monograph and teaching supplement for the Education Law Association (ELA) Ellery (Rick) Miller, entitled, Sexual Harassment and Bullying: Similar, but Not the Same, and is due to be published in the fall of 2015.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
The writing group that I was a member of, which was facilitated by Phyllis Edgerly Ring.
For me, no I do not, but if you mean will I keep writing, yes I will. If at this stage of my life that makes it my new career so be it.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
If you are referring to Life at 12 College Road no I would not change a thing, except perhaps argue a bit more strenuously to leave one of the stories in that ended up on the cutting room floor.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
It was at Wesley College in Professor William A. Hughes creative writing and English Literature classes that I found that I was interested in writing. At the time it was poetry but that is where the seed was planted.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Well I am not sure you would be interested as the novel I wanted to write is on the shelf, and even though some of the characters sometimes talk to me, I am not ready to take them down off that shelf. As I said earlier, right now I am working on a monograph on sexual harassment and bullying with a friend. I am concerned about our schools providing a safe and secure environment for our young people to be able to learn and grow. Unfortunately bullying and sexual harassment are problems in schools not only in America, but also around the world. The book my friend and I are working on is designed to be used in colleges of education and law schools, as well as assisting school districts in training their teachers and staff. In time, I may get back to the novel, as every once in while I think I hear the characters trying to talk to me.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I think it is always the beginning, I procrastinate, knowing that once I start writing I usually do not stop until I am either done, or my wife says you have to eat something, or if you do not get some sleep you will collapse.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Dean Kootnz. He has a way with character development that makes them so human and alive, and in many cases someone you would really enjoy being friends with like for example his Odd Thomas character. He also is a phenomenal storyteller and his plots and dialogue bring every page to life.
I have done some travelling, but mostly it is local. I had a book launch in New York City, but for the most part I have been doing book fairs, readings, and book signings closer to home. For those not familiar with the geography of New York, I live in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York, and in fact I live much closer to Canada than New York City.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Rachel Abou-Zeid, a woman who works for my publisher Something or Other Publishing (SOOPLC), designed the cover. We spoke about what I was trying to accomplish with the book, what the title would be, and she went from there. It was a great experience.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Once I knew what I was going to write about, and that I had found my voice, it was the editing process. Working with my editor was a fantastic experience and I owe Michael Schindler a great deal. He made it as painless as he could, and it was a wonderful learning experience and it improved my writing. But I must confess seeing what was ending up on the cutting room floor, as they say, was the hardest part for me. I admit it was necessary and it did in the end make for a better read, but it still hurt nonetheless.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I learned that I could in fact write, and that others enjoyed my writing. What I also learned was that it was more often a feeling of being compelled to write. Not for others, although most writers do want people to read their work, but to feed a need or a desire coming from within.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
To read as much as you can and as varied as you can make it, be it action, adventure, romance, novels or short stories, just Read, Read, and Read some more. And be willing, truly willing to take constructive criticism, and to learn what the difference is between criticism that is meant to assist, and that which is meant to debilitate, and pay no attention to the latter. And it goes without saying—WRITE.
Without giving anything away, I would think that after reading the book one might come away wondering just how I could have survived. But I wrote the book, and am now answering your questions, so I am happy to report that I did. The book is about growing up in suburban/rural New York in the 1950s and 60s. The main character, as a young boy and teenager, is confronted with many of the issues and concerns of that time. I think, however, that many of the concerns, questions, problems, and conflicts I encountered will be familiar to just about anyone, at any age.
The tools and knowledge at our disposal may differ, but as human beings we all generally go through the same stages of growing up and discovering what is really important. In reflecting on my past, I found that it was not the earth-shattering events that were most significant to me. Rather, it was the small things; many long forgotten until recently, that deeply and indelibly touched me. Sure, some of the memories involve fire trucks, police cars, and hospital visits. But most do not. And if their retelling can help the reader to connect with similar moments from their own life, well, that is special.
The first book I remember reading on my own, that was not a comic book was one of the Rick Brandt adventure series. I also read Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
There are many things that make me laugh, but I must confess watching my grandchildren enjoying the simplest things have made me laugh from happiness and joy more often than not. As for crying, I admit I am more of a softy than many believe, having diligently maintained that reputation I have, but honestly, seeing others suffer, seeing injustice not only makes me angry, but also touches me more now than when I was younger.
Fiona: Is there one person past or present you would meet and why?
Except for family members that have passed and ancestors, no one in particular.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why?
I think just my name and date of birth and death will suffice. As to why, well those who know me do not need to read what I did, and to those who did not know me, what difference would it make anyway?
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies?
I enjoy fishing, canoeing, boating, shooting, hunting, grilling and of course reading. As a boy I enjoyed making model ships and airplanes, and I am sure will again, as well as tying flies for fishing.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I enjoy Game of Thrones, NCIS, The Black List, Chicago PD, Rizzoli and Isles, Banshee, The Hunted, Strike Back, and Suits to name, but a few As for movies, I enjoyed Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, The Avengers, Star Trek, and all the James Bond movies. There are some “chick flicks” as they are called that I really enjoyed, but we will not mention them, as I still do have a reputation to uphold.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
I am a meat eater, so I enjoy roasts – pork, beef, and lamb, also seafood and BBQ, as well as Mediterranean and French food. I also love homemade breads and fruit pies. My favorite color is blue, although I am partial to purple, and I enjoy classical strings, chamber music, and country.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
Well I have been blessed with having had the opportunity to have done so many different things, from positions that I have been honoured to have held and activities I participated in here and abroad before becoming a ‘writer,’ so I think at this point in my life I will stick to writing, my hobbies, and spending time with family and friends.