How a Book Was Born: Author Gerri Almand on Writing The Reluctant RV Wife

How a Book Was Born: Author Gerri Almand on Writing The Reluctant RV Wife

Welcome to the fourth installment of the Sunbury Press author journey series!

In every book, there's a story. And not just the one between its pages.

Every author has a different journey for how they ended up with the incredible book that landed in our inbox. Sure, we loved the book that they sent to us--enough to publish it and share with you all--but we wanted to know what it took for them to write that book, what drove them toward publication, and to get to know them better as artists.

And instead of keeping those answers to ourselves, we thought--to hell with it, let's share it with YOU.

We are thrilled to continue this new author-centric series with the hilarious Gerri Almand, author of The Reluctant RV Wife.


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"How a Book Was Born"

by Gerri Almand

The Reluctant RV Wife was a fluke. I never planned to write a book, just as I never planned to bounce up and down the road in a tin-can house. I cringed when my husband announced his dream of buying an RV and seeing the country. Not once had I EVER wanted to be one of those old coots tootling around in an obnoxious motorhome.  But I eventually agreed to try it, and off we went.

It didn’t take long to realize my husband’s RV enthusiasm was unlimited and his wanderlust insatiable. I threw hissy fits that each road trip lasted longer than the one before. My hysterical complaining failed to faze my husband. By our second year of RVing, I knew I had to reconcile being torn from a sticks-‘n-bricks, stay-at-home lifestyle to living part time as a gypsy. I started writing to manage my angst. Words erupted like projectile vomit, and it felt like I was leaving deposits on the keyboard as I struggled to get it all out.

As I wrote, the conflict between a reluctant wife and her excited husband traveling in an RV metamorphosed into a story arc. I realized my emotional meltdowns went beyond resistance to RV travel. The story became a growing old temper tantrum, a final attempt at figuring out the meaning of life and how to spend the rest of mine. Our RV had turned my life upside down and changed me in profound ways. I wanted to share the struggle and the ultimate triumph of achieving a new kind of freedom through a minimalistic lifestyle. My manifesto, The Reluctant RV Wife, was thus born.

My first public appearance as an author took place in a Sunbury Press booth at the 2019 Decatur Book Festival, outside of Atlanta, Georgia. A stranger approached me at the festival. My cardboard poster of the cover of The Reluctant RV Wife had caught her eye.

“Is that a true story?” she asked me, looking at the title of my book.

I laughed. “Yes, it is. I never wanted an RV—my husband did.”

“And he dragged you off in that thing?”

“Well . . . I did agree to it, though I hadn’t wanted to.”

The woman continued. “Back when my husband asked me to marry him over forty years ago, I looked him straight in the eye and told him there were three things I absolutely would never abide: cheating, beating, and RVing.”

I burst into a deep belly laugh. Other women who overheard the conversation laughed as well.  “I’m going to steal those words,” I said. “I love that story.”

That conversation followed me home. I had met many women and a handful of men who reported wanting no part of RVing but had spouses who did. How could those folks oppose RV travel so adamantly if they had never tried it? Then came the epiphany: I’d been just as reluctant as they professed to be. Maybe my story would help change some minds.

Both RVing and writing a book challenged and changed me. While I had never considered becoming a nomad, I had dreamed of being a writer since childhood. Instead, I became a social worker and spent forty years writing Psychosocial Evaluations, Social/Developmental Histories, and Child Custody Investigation Reports. The RV proved a vehicle for finding my voice and fulfilling that childhood fantasy of becoming a ‘real writer.’

My husband argues that The Reluctant RV Wife is his book. He jokes, “You had nothing to say until I bought you an RV.” While I disagree with his summation, writing a book about RV travel now feels like the most satisfying accomplishment of my life. It’s also been a hell of a fun literal and literary journey.


About the Author

Author photo of gerri almand author of the reluctant rv wife

Gerri Almand is a retired social worker turned writer, storyteller, and speaker. Her husband’s retirement crisis, which included buying an RV and declaring they should see the world, has given her untold ammunition for writing material. With a permanent home address in Tampa, Florida, Gerri and her husband Michael Hamlin now switch off their reluctancies. She continues to feel quasi-reluctant on the road and he feels acutely-reluctant during their periods at home. Learn more at her website.


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The Story of a Memoir: How Virginia Brackett Wrote In the Company of Patriots

The Story of a Memoir: How Virginia Brackett Wrote In the Company of Patriots

Welcome to the first installment of the Sunbury Press author journey series!

In every book, there's a story. And not just the one between its pages.

Every author has a different journey for how they ended up with the incredible book that landed in our inbox. Sure, we loved the book that they sent to us--enough to publish it and share with you all--but we wanted to know what it took for them to write that book, what drove them toward publication, and to get to know them better as artists.

And instead of keeping those answers to ourselves, we thought--to hell with it, let's share it with YOU.

We are thrilled to jumpstart this new author-centric series with the uber-talented Virginia Brackett, author of the Korean War memoir In the Company of Patriots.


"The Story of a Memoir"

by Virginia Brackett

_The Story of a Memoir_

I didn’t exactly decide to write a memoir. As with most book-length works, this one grew as part of a process. It was born in an article about my parents titled "Uncommon Heroes" that won a contest and was published in the 1990s in a periodical now defunct.

I thought about doing more with that story from time to time, but life’s more practical demands interfered. I experienced a divorce, two career pivots, remarriage, and loss of a younger sister and my mother to cancer. Still, the desire to know my father, who was killed in military service in Korea when I was eight months old, stayed with me. You might expect this emotion to be blunted by the passage of time, especially since I was blessed by a wonderful stepfather, but circumstances did not allow that.

In my final professional transformation, I entered graduate school to earn a degree in English, ostensibly to support my constant (albeit feeble) writing attempts. I learned a great deal about writing in grad school, and it eventually drove me toward finally moving forward on a project that would focus on my father, almost 20 years after that original article.

But by then, my mother, aunt, and uncle—all of the people who best knew him—had died. Had I waited too late to begin this journey?

By the time I started, I had published many books and articles, most research-based that gave me confidence, but being an academic, I spent far too much time in anguish before I even started.

Would this book be a war history account? Maybe, but only in part; WWII and the Korean conflict could only frame the narrative. Would this book be for my family or for a broader readership? I did not know. Would I write it using history and journalistic resources, or my mother’s many artifacts, letters, and photos? I could use everything.

While I could begin by asking such questions, I knew I had to do as I admonished my students for years—just put some words on the page.

I organized my mother’s resources and compared articles she saved from the 1940s and 1950s to historical accounts, perused my father’s military records, mined his personal war correspondence, and had long conversations with siblings. I had what appeared to be interesting information, but I lacked that organizational “hook,” that nugget of appeal that all writers know any project requires.

And somehow, I found it sooner rather than later, or, instead, it found me.

When I got involved in helping veterans to write and tell their own stories, I found the truth that veterans’ voices would supply the true bedrock for this account.

I found men who had served with my father on the internet. Not only did they respond, but they invited me into their ranks through reunions and interactions that I’d never have imagined. Their energy became my energy. I realized that we would best remember such men through personal stories—that my account would best be served by my telling it as my own.

I adopted first-person point of view and decided to move back and forth in time, connecting moments from my parents’ lives to my own, weaving in voices from literature that I heard, layering in comments from the veterans I spoke with.

The intense research and writing during breaks from teaching stretched over ten years, then eleven, then twelve. My writing experience was neither predictable nor systematic. Stunning events served to change the course of my structure or add to its dimension.

This is a photograph of the actual letter that fell out of one of my father's books during my research

For example, in a moment that I describe as worthy of a B-grade movie, a letter fell from a book I had pulled from our records. I eventually discerned it had been written to my father by the author of that same book, Dark December, an account of the Battle of the Bulge from WWII.  I could tell that the author wrote the letter to respond to my father’s protests regarding the representation of his Company during the Battle of the Bulge in Dark December.

Soon after, I discovered the book’s author had been a war correspondent, a Chicago alderman, and eventually an undersecretary to President Eisenhower. That discovery led to me to tracking down my father’s original letter and being able to hold it in my hands during a visit to the University of Chicago’s special collections. I even managed to locate the lieutenant who had been among the last people to speak to my father before his death by sniper in Korea.

In the process, I also discovered something about myself as a memoir writer. With such a personal topic, I was becoming too emotional to be able to work on the book, and days and weeks might pass before I could return to it.

When I finally had an advanced draft of the book in hand, I realized how difficult finding a publisher would be because the book could not be easily categorized. Was it history? Biography? Creative nonfiction? A University Press expressed interest but, in the end, declined publication, the editor telling me he greatly enjoyed my writing style but that the book was too eclectic for his readers. I had my fair share of agent rejections too.

Then, I discovered Sunbury Press, a publisher not overly concerned about pigeon-holing the book, and In the Company of Patriots became real.

Virginia Brackett holds her own copy of IN THE COMPANY OF PATRIOTS

About the Author

Virginia Brackett - author photo

Virginia Brackett is a retired professor of English who has written 17 books, including In the Company of Patriots, The Facts on File: Companion to 16th and 17th-Century British Poetry which was named a Booklist Editor’s Choice in 2008 and A Home in the Heart: The Story of Sandra Cisneros. You can learn more about her at VirginiaBrackett.com.


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