TALKBOOKS INTERVIEW WITH BETTY AUCHARD

What are people saying about Betty Auchard’s Dancing in My Nightgown?

“Auchard simplifies and normalizes the process of a new life transition.” ~ Jewel Sample, award-winning author of Flying Hugs and Kisses

 “The quality is excellent; her (audio) delivery is soothing. The story of transformation is exciting and compelling.” ~ David LaRoche, former South Bay Writers President

This April, both TalkBooks and Betty had a lot more to say about her book, Dancing in My Nightgown: The Rhythms of Widowhood, and writing in general. Read on to learn how this author’s “talking on paper” became awarding-winning reading material.

IPPY (Independent Publisher Book Award) Finalist!

Married when she was barely 19, Betty Auchard went straight from her parent’s home to her husband’s bed. She raised four children, returned to college, taught art in public school, and became a grandmother, published artist, a retiree and then a widow.

When she loses her husband of 49 years, widowhood forces Betty to find out what she can do on her own. She has a lot to learn. Facing her new responsibilities she makes all kinds of mistakes. These short, upbeat, inspiring stories tell how this spunky woman got through widowhood—she decides to dance instead of sitting on the sidelines.

Betty laughs and cries her way through grief and, ultimately, comes to see her situation as normal. Through it all, Betty lands on her feet ready for whatever comes next. The last page doesn’t feel like and ending, because really, it’s just the beginning.

Q&A FROM BETTY’S LIVE INTERVIEW

How did you choose which tales to include in the memoir?

I started writing short notes to myself on scraps of paper the day after Denny died. Nothing seemed real and I didn’t want to forget what it was like. The notes became paragraphs and then turned into stories about my new life as a widow. I was so addicted to writing about every experience that I had to create an ongoing list for new stories that would one day be a reminder of how far I had come. Not until I joined a grief support group sponsored by Hospice did I find out that writing had become my tool for healing. I used to be afraid of widows—I didn’t know what to say to them. Now I know they need someone to listen as they repeat everything that happened over and over again. Only then does it feel real. I’ve learned a lot about grief recovery, and my heart aches for others who have lost a partner.

Except for Chapter 2 (Reflecting), the book is like a story diary representing the first six years of my widowhood. During that time I knew I was moving on when I got a crush on the carpet man.

Dancing in My Nightgown: the Rhythms of Widowhood is my best seller even though I never considered it to be something widows would buy. Originally, I had no plan to publish anything. I loved writing and sharing the stories with family and strangers. Then someone asked me to check out the Chocolate for a Woman’s Soul series, and my stories made it into four books in that series.  Getting included in an anthology encouraged me to continue writing for publication. At speaking events I sometimes tell stories that didn’t make it into a book.

Do you still write while wearing your nightgown?

Yes. If I’m not cleaning the house or doing something else, I’m comfortable that way.

What other writing quirks have you developed?

I carry a little tablet in my purse all the time and have a pencil and paper at my chair where I watch TV. I’m addicted to writing and can’t stop even when I’m supposed to be taking a break. I also keep a tablet with me at the movies. When I’m inspired by a line, I sit there and write it down in the dark.

 What books do you like to read?

I have books scattered all over the place. I read books for literature students that tell about the history of storytelling—it makes me feel like I’m back in school. Right now, I’m reading a mystery novel by Harlan Coben titled Fool Me Once, and I read classics like Wuthering Heights. I also read books about the history of God and religion, and the history of Christianity and the Bible.

How did you manage to schedule so many programs for Dancing in my Nightgown?

I’ve always sold my books as a speaker. I contacted a few organizations I knew (AAUW and women’s clubs) and passed out brochures to everyone attending. Then I asked the crowd not to spill coffee on the brochures but to share them with any group that needed a speaker, or to leave them on the tables so I could collect them to use again. That’s how it got started and how my audiences grew by word of mouth. Word of mouth is the way I advertised. Now I’ve added Facebook as another means of book promotion. It’s fun to be published, but it means the author must take on the job of promoting.

How did you come about narrating your own audiobooks?

I love reading aloud. At open mike nights I begrudged sharing the podium. I looked forward to recording my own audio books and learned a lot about how it works. My first recording session for Dancing in My Nightgown was in Las Vegas where my publisher was based. I’ve since found a reasonably priced local recording studio in Campbell (Reed’s Recordings) where I’ve recorded short, unpublished stories on my Facebook author page, Betty Auchard, Author. I might not record my new book, Living with Twelve Men.  

What was it like to be an IPPY award finalist?

I couldn’t believe it. My publisher, Carolyn Uber of Stephens Press (now closed), submitted the book for the award and then notified me when Dancing in My Nightgown had become a finalist. I couldn’t appreciate what was happening until I learned what it meant. Then, I was blown away. I went to the ceremony in New York, and it was thrilling.  I also got to speak with one of the judges, Nina Diamond, who told me she’d stayed up all night reading my book.

Have you submitted to other writing competitions? 

In 2011, my books were entered in the memoir category for the National Indie Excellence Awards competition. Dancing in My Nightgown won first place for best nonfiction audio book, and the Home for the Friendless won for interior design. Recently, I entered my third memoir, Living with Twelve Men, but won’t know if it’s accepted until later this year.

Do you have another book on the back burner?

Yes, my editor, Sandi Corbitt Sears, and I are working on what we call “Book 4.” My illustrated, unpublished, unedited leftover tales from my story blog at www.bettyauchard.com/blog are getting cleaned up. We’re having fun coming up with a “real” title. I don’t plan ahead for a book release, because I can’t write under pressure. My goal is to have “Book 4” finished before I turn 90. I’m now 85.

What’s your advice for aspiring writers?

Don’t write just to be published. Write from the heart as though it’s a letter to your best friend, and leave some lively stories behind for your family. I wish I’d known more about my great grandmother. After we’re gone, the stories we leave for our progeny should be a pleasure to read. And you need to be honest. Since I come from a family of story “tellers” and not writers, telling stories now is like talking to paper. Some people are literary writers. I’m a “down home” writer.

AMAZON BEST SELLING AUTHOR AND SBW TALKBOOKS MEMBER, R.L. KING’S, FAVORITE QUOTES FROM THIS MONTH’S READ

“What does cheese say when it has its picture taken?”

“People might never forget my stories, but I doubt that they will remember me because my plumbing was in such good condition or because my grass was always mowed.”

“I want my money and my breath to run out at the same time – with nothing left over.”

“I want no regrets when it’s my turn to die.”

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY AND CONTACT INFORMATION

Betty Auchard is the author of the IPPY Award winning Dancing in my Nightgown: The Rhythms of Widowhood, endorsed by celebrity widows Jayne Meadows and Rosemarie Stack. In addition to writing, she enjoys presenting to audiences and narrating her own audio books. Her stories and essays have been published in the San Jose Mercury News, Today’s Senior, and Chocolate for a Woman’s Soul series. Betty lives and writes in Los Gatos, California.

Visit Betty at www.bettyauchard.com and join her followers on Facebook and Goodreads.

Betty Auchard is available to any group that needs a speaker.

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