Planes, Canes and Automobiles: Connecting with Your Aging Parents through Travel: A Conversation With Val Grubb
Have you written a book? What is it about?
Yes, my debut book Planes, Canes and Automobiles: Connecting with Your Aging Parents through Travel, was published in October 2015 from Greenleaf Book Group. As the title suggests, Planes, Canes and Automobiles chronicles the ups and downs of inter-generational travel. The book offers advice on the emotional aspects of traveling with a parent, “how-to” tips on physically getting around (particularly if your parent has challenges walking), and suggestions for where to go and what to do when you get there. It’s designed to help everyone plan a stress-free family vacation with mom and dad (and the grandchildren!) and how-to overcome any problems that arise.
What gave you the courage/motivation to start?
Planes, Canes, and Automobiles grew out of the success of my blog, Travel with Aging Parents, which I launched in 2013. My impetus for the blog came in late 2012 when planning a trip to Australia. I realized my then 83-year-old mom’s capabilities had changed: she now needed a wheelchair and was afraid to travel alone even on short flights. I went to find suggestions for handling these and many other changes, and after much research I was struck by the lack of resources to help people plan vacations with an aging friend or family member. I couldn’t find any comprehensive information that shed light on the nuances of globetrotting with aging parents, and realized that many of my friends were struggling with the same thing. I made it to Australia but vowed when I came back to write a book to help others who want to continue traveling (or start!) even as their parents or grandparents age.
Did you encounter any problems such as writer’s block? If so, how did you overcome them?
Writing was way harder than I anticipated! It really felt overwhelming when I first started – I had written many blogs by then, but to thread a story through 55,000 words just felt overwhelming. I happened to pick up a book from Stephen King called On Writing and he gave some fabulous advice on the craft of writing. His advice was the inspiration I needed. That said, it won’t make writing 1,500 words a day (my goal) any easier. You just have to power through it. Even if they’re not the best words, it’s about hitting the goal, and an editor can help clean up the words.
How did you go about finding a publisher/getting the book self-published?
When I came back from Australia, I sent out a proposal to 16 publishers and was 100% rejected. Two gave me feedback though, indicating I should start a blog to give me a platform for the topic. Because I didn’t have a “following” on this topic (or any credibility as these two publishers put it), they didn’t believe I could sell books (which is their only priority). So, I started my blog and 9 months later, I repitched the book and three publishers were interested this time. I signed an agreement with Greenleaf Book Group out of Austin, TX. It’s basically self-publishing where I pay for everything, although Greenleaf did all the work (vs me having to do everything with more traditional self-publishing). It was an incredible learning process but it helped me when I sign my 2nd book deal last year with Wiley for a business book entitled Clash of the Generations: Managing in the New Workplace Reality (November 2016).
Did anything surprise you about the whole process?
Writing a book was (at least for me) a lot harder than I thought it would be! And by the way, writing a book is only the start of the process! Self-publish or traditional? Hire a PR agency or not? (I paid almost $14,000 for a PR agency and got five placements….don’t even get me started…) How to market? How to keep sales momentum 6 months after launch? How am I not allowed to contact any book winners from Goodreads (I run contests where winners get a free copy of my book) yet the winners can SELL MY BOOK on Amazon?!?! The whole process of getting endorsements was fascinating too. My goodness, so many lessons learned and surprises!
What advice would you give to someone wanting to write a book, or starting to write one?
To rip off Nike: JUST DO IT! It was a lot more work than I had anticipated, but, every time I pick up my book, it brings tears to my eyes because I’m so glad I brought this story to life. Read Stephen King’s book as it will give you hardcore tips on the process of writing. Then make daily and weekly goals and stick to them! Understand that time is going to pass anyway – why not have a book to show for it a year from now?
Photo Credit: Bryan Jones