Hello once again from the sunny island of Guam!
Stopping and gracing us with his beautiful story is the author of one of my recent favorite books, “Will Little Roo Ever…?” Chuck Miller from West Virginia.
Welcome to Empowering Stories, Chuck! Why don’t you introduce yourself to our readers and tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m from a small town in West Virginia called Bridgeport. I usually lead with that, because I’m awfully proud of my roots. My mom was pregnant with my sister, and I was three years old when my father died of a heart attack. Mom raised us alone in that little town, but our circumstances didn’t seem tragic to me. From my perspective, we had a very happy, middle class upbringing. I still enjoy spending time in West Virginia whenever I have a chance.
Career-wise, I sort of bounced around after college and never quite found my niche. I was a nonprofit fundraiser for nearly fifteen years, but these days I’m only working part-time. With the rest of my time, I write and have a few personal training clients who come to my home or train remotely following my guidance. I’ve used my storytelling ability to author two books.
Will Little Roo Ever…? is a children’s picture book about a little girl striving to overcome developmental delays. Inside the Mind of an iron Icon is a strength training book. I also blog about grief coping and write articles on a variety of topics for many popular websites. Maybe I never found that elusive career because I should have been writing more all along. Regardless, it’s been an interesting and mostly enjoyable journey.
I’ve been to Virginia several times, but have not had the chance to visit West Virginia yet; I’m sure it’s a beautiful place. I’m sorry to hear about your dad. Your mom sounds like an amazing woman. It is not easy raising children let alone raising them alone. It is wonderful that you have a positive outlook in life.
You seemed to have been very busy with a lot of things, especially with writing; tell us more about your book/books and what inspired you to write them?
My first book was the strength training book. This beautifully illustrated children’s picture book—many thanks to my talented illustrator, Jacob Below, for bringing my words to life—is obviously much different. It’s inspired by my daughter, Ruby, and the challenges she faced with developmental delays, but it’s not entirely her story. It’s my take on the emotional journey of every child and family who finds themselves in a similar situation.
I guess I have two reasons for being passionate enough about this little story to go so far as to run a successful Kickstarter campaign to raise enough money to publish it. Primarily, I hope to create an atmosphere of acceptance and belonging for all children and their parents. Whatever the reality is, mild delays or more extensive, it’s going to be okay because of that unbreakable parent/child bond of love.
I’m also doing it as a legacy to Roo, as we affectionately called her, and her fighting spirit. She woke up happy and grateful to be alive every day. The smallest things we all take for granted were fascinating to her. I once saw her stop dead in her tracks in the middle of the sidewalk and bend over to inspect something on the ground. When I couldn’t get her to budge from her spot after several minutes, I finally figured out what had grabbed her attention so fiercely. It was a tiny bug barely bigger than a speck of dust she’d somehow noticed while running along, despite the fact I hardly saw it even with my nose buried in cement. When I took the time to marvel with her, this little bug really was pretty amazing.
Roo sounds like an amazing child, indeed, what an inspiration! Perhaps you could write about the little bug from Roo’s point of view on your next book? Sounds like there’s another lesson to learn from that experience.
As an indie author myself, I know that writing a story can sometimes be the easy part of publishing a book. However, many aspects of publishing are quite challenging, and of course, funding is one of them. I’m glad you were able to successfully run a crowdfunding campaign for your book; that’s fantastic!
What was the most challenging part about writing “Will Little Roo Ever…?”?
I wrote the first draft while Ruby was alive and healthy and originally just circulated that to family and friends one year around Christmas. I don’t really like to say it came to me rather easily, because that creates the impression that writing should somehow be “inspired.” To the contrary, my experience is that most writing is a laborious and tedious process. The initial words for this story, however, did flow pretty well after I had the idea and framework in mind.
Fine tuning it for publication was another matter. I was mostly content during Ruby’s lifetime for the story just to be shared with family, and I wasn’t quite so particular about every little aspect of the structure. After her death, it started to represent something more to me, and I developed a strong desire to put it out into the world. I tinkered off and on for months before I had it just right.
Yes, I agree coming up with a story and writing them can be laborious at times, but once you put your heart and mind into it, most of the time, it would write itself; straight from the heart. I’m glad you decided to share Roo’s story with the world. I’m pretty sure the book will inspire many people; I know I was. The book brought tears to my eyes the first time I read it and now that I know more about the story behind it, I could appreciate it more.
I’m sure despite the challenges, there were also some exciting parts of the journey. What was the most exciting part of the entire process?
Seeing the funding for my Kickstarter campaign come in fairly quickly and realizing my dream of publishing Roo’s story really could happen was very exciting for me. I’m grateful to this day to every donor who helped fund the project.
That’s amazing! Crowdfunding isn’t easy, but if you have a beautiful book and a valuable message to share with the world, I believe many people will be touched by it and would want to support your campaign. I’m glad you found that support!
After reading their stories, many authors realize that a verse or part of a text speaks to them more than others do. Do you have a favorite part of your book, a dialogue, perhaps?
I guess I was naïve when I wrote Will Little Roo Ever…?, because I didn’t give much thought at all to how important the opening sentences might be. Researching my craft later, I read about openings and the fervor there is about them. Some aspiring writers even commit the opening lines of their favorite novels to memory and wax poetically about them.
If I’d have put a lot of thought into my opening, I’d have probably gotten bound up and not arrived at anything nearly as strong. In my blissful ignorance, here’s what I wrote:
The only thing little Roo ever did early was come into the world.
After her early arrival, she was late for just about everything else.
Though this obsessing over openings is probably overwrought, I am pleased with that one.
Well, I must say, this opening caught my attention; I think it’s beautifully stated. I felt the importance and the impact of it once I read the whole story. I think you did a great job!
Though it will be evident to the readers what this book is all about, are there any other messages you would like for them to receive?
Will Little Roo Ever…? breaks the mold of a lot of my writing. Its message is clearly one of hope and acceptance, whereas some of my essays are kind of bleakly realistic. I’ll probably continue writing unvarnished essays that show the world exactly as I see it in my grumpy adult state.
When I write children’s stories, I hope to try to see through my inner child’s eyes and convey that childlike hope and innocence. If I ever forget how to look at the world with a child’s eyes, then I won’t be any good as a children’s author.
Well said! Will Little Roo Ever?… is a beautiful book, indeed! All my children are grown, but I’ve started collecting children’s books that my future grandchildren would hopefully enjoy someday and books that would add value to them and my readers. Your book has become one of my favorites!
As a writer, do you have any advice you’d like to share with aspiring authors or writers out there?
You have to write if you call yourself a writer. And then you have to share it, even if you have to give it away for free at first.
Okay, so what are you going to write about?
A friend and I were sharing a couple beers, and he told me that his father advised him when he was a child to “read something you enjoy.” It didn’t have to be heavy reading. It could be a comic book or the sports page or whatever. Just read because you’re curious about the topic and want to know more or because the story speaks to you. Don’t force yourself to read something that’s putting you to sleep. What great advice!
I say the same thing about writing. Write about something you really want to explore or that moves you. You could choose any topic, really, as long as you immerse yourself in learning about it—gardening as an example. Once you develop some expertise, start sharing your knowledge with others. From there, perhaps you’ll branch out into other areas like I did. That approach is what drew me to writing, and I hope it brings out the best in your writing as well.
This is not only a piece of great advice but a smart one as well. You can’t be a writer if you don’t start writing or continue writing, for that matter. I also agree with you; you have to share your work even if you have to give it out for free at first; it reminds me of what my mentor, John Maxwell, had asked me once, “What is something you love doing that you would do it for free?” I guess one would be sharing a wonderful message through my writing, as you have done with yours.
I am blessed to have you share your story, writing journey, and knowledge with our readers. Is there anything else you would like to share before we sign off?
As if writing itself weren’t difficult enough, independent writers have the additional challenge of promoting their work. I’d like nothing more than to get my stories out into the world where they can be read and enjoyed. Any opportunity to do that is a gift. Thank you, Jennifer, for asking me to participate in your blog and thanks also to anyone who takes the time to read it and connect with my story in any way.
It has been a great blessing to have you grace us with your story here on Empowering Stories. I believe “Will Little Roo Ever?…” will inspire many readers out there as it had inspired me. Thank you so much for allowing me to share your journey on my blog.
For more information about Chuck Miller, his books and other work, please visit the links below.
Chuck, I wish you all the best!
Please don’t forget to grab a copy of “Will Little Roo Ever?…
If you are an author or someone who have an empowering story to share with the world, would like to be featured on Empowering Stories Blog Page and my other social media, please head on to the contact page on this website and send me a quick email. I would love to hear your empowering stories!
Don’t forget to grab a copy of my latest book Wonder Mommy – a sweet tribute to mommies with chronic illness.