Monday, May 16, 2011

Expose Yourself #5 – Cool Cat

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Don’t know what Expose Yourself is all about? Check this out.

Today’s guest has done a considerable amount of work for public TV station WJCT, such as public affairs, producing documentaries, reporting, fundraising, and for eight years he produced the Jacksonville Jazz Festival. The local CBS affiliate also had him working as a cameraman and assistant director!

Writing has always been his passion, and he’s done a lot of it, including three award-winning young adult novels about an extraordinary cat named Windrusher, a multiple-award-winning murder mystery set in northeast Florida, Matanzas Bay, headlined his own humor column in a community paper, and has even been published in Florida Trend Magazine. I met him when I attended one of his speaking engagements, which he does several times a year at libraries, book festivals, and conferences because he’s a regional director of the Florida Writers Association. Please welcome Victor DiGenti!

JC: Vic, good to see you again! You look like you’re having more fun than a barrel full of monkeys.

VD: My wife often accuses me of monkey business, but I do try to weave some fun into the business of writing.

JC: So I've heard. Where are you in your life or career or pursuit of your goals?

VD: There’s a line in my newly released mystery, Matanzas Bay, where protagonist Quint Mitchell waxes philosophically, saying, “… there comes a time when we look back on the things we’ve done and it weighs heavily on us.” The same can be said of the things left undone. In my more callow years, I had fantasies of being a foreign correspondent and a network news anchor. Later, when I became a novelist, I dreamed of making The New York Times Bestseller list. Of being on the Today Show and Oprah. Of having Windrusher made into a movie starring Nicole Kidman. After the movie premiere, she’d invite me to her Malibu Beach house where we … No, wait, that was completely different fantasy.

JC: Sounds like a story for the “After Dark” edition.

VD: Don’t jump to conclusions, Jaycee. I was going to say we would make some popcorn and watch the Windrusher movie again. But to be serious about your question, I’m feeling good about where I am right now. I retired from a career in broadcasting at a relatively early age and jumped into something I’d always wanted to do, which is writing novels. Thanks to organizations like the Florida Writers Association, I was able to learn how much I didn’t know about writing and publishing. But after several years, I’d published the first in my Windrusher trilogy. And now I’ve published my first mystery, which is part of the Quint Mitchell Mystery series. To put things in perspective, though, much of my time was also devoted to volunteer work. I’ve served on the boards of several organizations since my retirement, including chairing the St. Johns County Tourist Development Council’s event funding committee (which came about from my years as an event producer with WJCT), was president of the Friends of the Ponte Vedra Library and still serve on the board, and am active with FWA as Regional Director for NE Florida where I oversee six chapters, and lead the one in Ponte Vedra Beach. I find this part of my life quite fulfilling.

JC: That’s a lot on your plate. How did you get started with all that?

VD: Even though my career was in broadcasting, writing was my first love—and reading, of course. I was one of those geeky kids who would devour anything with words on them: cereal boxes, road signs, you name it.

JC: You too? I thought I was the only one who read every cereal box and billboard.

VD: Most writers, I would guess, started out as voracious readers. From that love of the written word, somehow we were programmed to tell our own stories. That’s how it began for me. I was on my high school newspaper staff, wrote very bad short stories and poetry in college, and wrote a good deal in my job, including scripts and press releases. I also kept writing on the side as a freelancer, including writing a so-called humor column for a community newspaper for almost ten years. As I said before, it wasn’t until after I retired that I turned to writing long-form fiction. One of the turning points in my young life happened back in the 7th grade, when I entered an essay contest sponsored by the American Legion. While I didn’t win the contest, my essay took second place and, if I recall correctly, the prize was a $25 savings bond. That was cool, but I was also required to read it at a school assembly. I was terrified. Standing behind the lectern, no one could see my knees shaking, but they probably heard the tremor in my voice. But the amazing thing was that after I finished, all the kids and teachers applauded. And that response provided me with positive reinforcement and more than a little ego satisfaction, which helped direct me toward a life and career in the communications business.

JC: How did you get where you are?

VD: I’d like to say that I followed a grand plan developed after years of meditation and research. I’d like to say that, but I can’t. What I can say is whenever I have a difficult decision to make, I turn to a higher power. And my wife usually has the answer since she’s the one with the common sense in our partnership. But I guess I have to take responsibility for where I am at this point, since much of it has come post-retirement. When people ask me if I miss the “glamour” of producing the Jacksonville Jazz Festival (coming up later this month), or of being part of an important community institution like WJCT, as I was for so many years, I have to tell them that life is a series of doors we pass through. We don’t know what lies ahead, but we do know that what we left behind is in the past, behind a closed door, so we should make the most of every new opportunity.

JC: And not dwell on the past.

VD: I jumped into writing with both feet, which was kind of messy, and more than a little destructive for my keyboard. My first attempt at writing a novel turned out to be more successful than I had any right to expect. Windrusher has gone through four or five printings, it’s won several major awards, as have all the Windrusher books, and attracted a wide audience of readers of all ages.

JC: Congratulations!

VD: Actually, I don’t believe I do very well in the two to six year-old demographic.

JC: They’ve got such a short attention span, what with their texting and Gameboys and cruising the malls. Don’t feel bad.

VD: I continued to work at my writing, trying to get better with every page, chapter, and book I wrote. I attended workshops and writers conferences to hone my craft, network with other writers and publishing representatives. Everything I learned contributed toward getting me to this point in my writing career. That and my drive to make my mark so that the obit writers have something to write about other than, “DiGenti placed second in an essay contest in the 7th grade.”

Tombstone Pizza - Original Pepperoni Pack of 6JC: At least it’s short enough to fit on your tombstone. Where are you going next? What’s the next goal, the next step, the next whatever?

VD: I’ve just launched myself into ePublishing, releasing Matanzas Bay on both the Kindle and Nook platforms. My Windrusher books are traditionally published through Ocean Publishing, but I’m now an independent publisher under the imprint Windrusher Hall Press. As such, my role has expanded to include both creator of product and businessman. My most ambitious goal is to break into the Kindle Top 100 sellers with Matanzas Bay. I also hope to complete the second Quint Mitchell Mystery, Bring Down the Furies, by the end of the year, and to publish a collection of short stories as an eBook. All of this is being done under my new persona as author Parker Francis.

JC: You’ve already got a name to bank on. Why another one?

VD: After some thought, I decided to use a pen name to separate my darker, edgier mysteries from the Windrusher books, which have a wide audience of young readers. I’m working on the next book, and finding new ways to promote Matanzas Bay to an audience of mystery readers who are probably asking themselves, “Who the hell is Parker Francis?”

JC: How are you going to make it all happen?

VD: Everyday I try to split myself into three people: Vic the Writer, Vic the marketer, and Vic the house-husband in charge of cooking, vacuuming, and cleaning litter boxes. It doesn’t always work out, but using what I’ve learned from my past life, the marketing end comes easy for me. The problem is that it can overwhelm the writing end if you let it. But I’m determined to keep writing. To keep introducing Parker Francis and Quint Mitchell to new readers, and to keep helping other writers. I figure if I can do it, anyone can. But there’s so much to do and so little time left. As Satchel Paige once said, “Don’t look back, someone might be gaining on you.”

JC: I’ve got one more quick question for you: how do you feel about the growing chaos in the publishing industry?

VD: In many ways, the publishing business is crazy-making, as a co-worker of mine was fond of saying. It’s a strange business model that is now being challenged by the booming ePublishing end of the business. Will traditional publishers go the same way as the record companies and retailers went after Apple introduced the iPod and iTunes? I think we’re about to find out.

JC: Thank you very much for stopping by, Vic, I feel like I learned a lot today. I’m sure glad I got to spend a little time with you and find out all this great stuff about how you stuck with your dream and how well it’s working out for you. Folks, take a peek at Vic DiGenti’s fascinating website, where you’ll learn all about Windrusher and Quint Mitchell. Windrusher has a huge fanbase of his own that any cat lover will want to be a part of. He’s got links there to preview and buy his books, but here are a couple links just in case you gotta have it NOW for your KINDLE or NOOK! (or see below)

VD: Thank you, Jaycee, for this opportunity to visit with you and your readers. You’re providing a real service by helping to motivate and inspire people to follow their dreams.





















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More articles to make your eyes drool:
"Expose Yourself"
To Your Health - Part 5
What we mean when we say we will never forget
What you should know about the military before you join

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