Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Scratching the surface of Scratch Beginnings

You may not know it, but given the crazy economic times of today there is still hope. One man has taken the will to achieve the american dream and has gone on to star on the Today Show, 20/20, NPR, The Artist's Craft and many others. And now we have a sit down with this blog's first Non-fiction author interview. Please welcome Adam Shepard to the site.

What is your earliest memory of writing?

My mom had me writing thank-you notes before I knew my ABC’s. Really. She wanted to make sure that we expressed how grateful we were for any gifts we received.

From there, I enjoyed creating stories, but writing wasn’t a passion of mine until I got to college. I was always pretty good at it, but I didn’t take the time to really foster this craft until I got to that level.

What inspired you to write SCRATCH BEGINNINGS?

I read a book the summer after my freshman year of college called NICKEL AND DIMED. In it, Barbara Ehrenreich basically writes on the death of the American Dream. Her tone really, really bothered me, so I took some time to ponder how I could write a response. Even better, as I looked around me at what a spoiled society we are—especially this younger generation, my generation—I knew that I could go out and make a discovery about what is really important.

I think there is a lot of power in writing in response. A lot of people have their opinions, but few really care to take action.

Tell us about SCRATCH BEGINNINGS and how you promoted it.

Scratch Beginnings is the true story of how I started in a randomly chosen city with $25, a sleeping bag, and the clothes on my back to see if, in one year, I could have $2500, a car, and a furnished apartment. Essentially, I was set on A) discovering the vitality of the American Dream, and B) meeting the guys living in a lower socioeconomic stream—at homeless shelters, etc.

I self-published this book initially, so promoting it was nothing short of the toughest experience of my life. Every night after work, I’d come home and email journalists, editors, producers…whoever for three or so hours. It was time consuming, but worth it in the end. Finally, after many, many rejections, a writer for the New York Post decided to write a piece about my story and that opened the flood gates for me to get on the Today Show, CNN, NPR, etc. and eventually receive an offer for publication from HarperCollins.

What were the most important things you learned from the experience?

Not to take anything for granted. We, as Americans especially, don’t understand the difference between want and need. I was able to get under the layer of superficiality and see that I could be happy without an iPod or a BMW or the coolest new jeans. It’s easy to talk about, but for me to actually live this experience gave me the opportunity to actually be a part of it.

More than my story, though, I’m fortunate to be able to write about Marco and BG and Easy E and Derrick, guys who are much more fascinating than me, and who have some very engaging stories to tell about REALLY facing adversity.

What are you working on now?

I just finished my second book, THE BEST FOUR YEARS, which is basically a look at how college students can make the most of their time from orientation to graduation. It’s a topic I’m passionate about, since most students today only go to school to graduate with a diploma and move on to building careers. College can be so much more than that.

Most of my time now is spent on airplanes and in hotels on the way to my next speaking engagement.

With the economy in the poor state that it is right now and job loss on the rise, do you still believe that the American Dream is obtainable?

Of course! Shoot, man, the greatest opportunities in this country come out of the deepest, darkest moments. Take the Great Depression. How many millionaires evolved out of that time period just because they saw opportunity while others were jumping off the roof. Really. It’s all an attitude. There are tough times and good times, but it’s all about how you handle your attitude during those times.

"Anyone who has ever struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor. " ~James Baldwin


Alissa said...

Adam Shepard sounds like a pretty cool guy. I think a lot of us, at one time or another have fantasized about doing what he did, starting from scratch in some random town and trying to make a go of it. Of course, most of us don't have the guts to do it. This sounds like an inspiring read. I think I'll add it to my reading list.

Elisa said...

I had the pleasure of being on a panel discussion with Adam at Quail Ridge Books earlier this year. He is the epitomy of persistence and ambition! And he's got a fabulous story.

Looking forward to your new book, Adam, since it's a subject that I too am passionate about, being a college instructor!