To welcome football season, Write On! speaks with Chris Kennedy, author of No Bed of Roses: My Sideline View of the Badgers’ Return to Greatness. Kennedy wrote the book based on his football career at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Kennedy, a former actor and full-time elementary PE teacher and coach, is also an advice columnist. He is the straight male portion of the popular 4-way dating column on DivineCaroline.com. Plus, he shares his honest, insightful, and funny advice on his own site: DearChris.net.
Kennedy shares his journey as a writer, offers advice for authors and columnists, and more.
What is your favorite part of being a writer?
It’s a great outlet to express myself, organize my thoughts, and crystallize my point of view on the world. Plus, it’s something you can do anytime. You get inspired, you sit down and write. When I was acting, I had to rely on too many other factors to express myself.
How did you go from writing a football book to dating advice columnist?
When you write, you write … no matter what the subject is. More specifically, I was doing some freelance articles and the website Divinecaroline.com was looking for a straight male advice columnist. For some reason, the editor thought I could do a good job. I thought it sounded fun and I certainly have no shortages on opinions. I’m surprised how much I like it. I never would’ve thought I would be an advice columnist. I think my family and friends still have a hard time believing it.
What inspired you to write No Bed of Roses?
There’s a saying about church, “Many attend, few understand.” The same is true about big time college football. I wanted to share my experiences in a personal light so it could be better understood by the masses. Also, enough time had passed where I had a perspective I thought was interesting enough to share.
What was your favorite part about writing No Bed of Roses? The greatest challenge?
Finishing the first draft. It took over a year, but was well worth the persistence. It’s rewarding to get a story out of your system.
The greatest challenge was getting past the first 30 pages and getting all my scattered thoughts down on paper in a relatively coherent storyline. After that, the editing and winnowing fell into place.
I’ll also add that it’s a terrific feeling of accomplishment to see your book on a bookstore shelf. It’s an even greater feeling to feel that you put out the story you wanted to put out there when you first had the seedling of an idea about it.
What I see now, when I see a book, is the pure “hourage” the author put into it.
How is writing a non-fiction book similar to/different from writing articles?
I prefer writing articles because of the immediacy of communicating your thoughts as opposed to a book, which is a long process. But a book has more staying power and usually longer-lasting effects.
But essentially, as I stated above, writing is writing regardless of the medium. Articulating your thoughts and expressing them well is a huge thrill and is probably why I do it.
How is the experience for writing for DivineCarline.com different than your DearChris.net? Are there challenges that come with the DivineCaroline “collaboration”?
It’s really no difference. With the 4-way column on DC, we don’t get to see each others responses until the column is posted, so I answer freely without having to fulfill some sort of counter viewpoint or something. So I look forward to reading everyone’s responses when they post each month. Sometimes we all agree, other times we each give a different take. It’s a really cool idea and nice to have a complete take on your particular question.
How do you balance all the aspects of your career?
It’s a constant struggle. I never feel like I’m writing enough. I’ve got to get more disciplined to write a certain amount each day. My schedule as a teacher and coach is pretty consistent, so you think it would be easier, but it’s not. Writing is something that you can’t “phone-in.” It takes full focus and I’m not usually up for that.
Advice for non-fiction book/sports book authors?
Write your story and then find out what’s unique about it. That will help shape and sell it.
Advice for columnists?
Have a strong point of view and be entertaining. Your personality should come through in your writing. The reader is giving you their full attention. Don’t waste the opportunity.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when your first started writing?
There’s nothing to it but to do it. That said, it’s a lot harder than it looks. It’s a battle but a worthy one. It’s more important to get your thoughts down than to make sure they are perfectly worded. That can come later when you edit.