Author Q&A With Rachel Silber Devlin

Author Q&A With Rachel Silber Devlin

Author Rachel Silber Devlin a teacher and writer. Her new biography, Snapshots of My Father, John Silber, is a clear-eyed vision of this authentic man of principle who had a drive to achieve great things. Devlin says that she sometimes feels like she and her dad grew up together because she knew him so well from a time when he was young and still learning how to make his way in the world. She divides her time between her homes in Texas and Massachusetts, the states where her children and grandchildren live. Meet Rachel…

You are an author, but is it your day job? For most of my life, I was a wife, a mother, and a homemaker.  I had a few jobs, working in an office very briefly.  Then I worked as a proof-reader and also did some paste-up for a phototypesetting firm for a time.  I was mostly a homemaker when my family lived on a farm in the countryside, where, besides learning to ride the horses, I did my share of mucking out stables alongside my kids.  When my youngest daughter entered middle school, I went back to college to become a teacher, and then taught every age from kindergarten to fifth grade.  I loved teaching the younger children to read, and with the older ones it was most rewarding to teach the writing process.

Did you always want to be an author? I always liked to write.  I remember writing poetry from a very early age, and wrote longer, more ambitious poems in high school and college.  I was always keeping notebooks of what I thought were interesting conversations, observations, and reflections.  When I lived in Los Angeles for several years in my twenties, I wrote a screenplay which got its round of rejections.  Back in New England in my thirties, I wrote a novel that also didn’t find an audience.  The negative letters hurt, but I never gave up.  Writing had become my natural way to think about any subject.

What is your most recent book and what inspired you to write it? I started working on my biography, Snapshots of My Father, John Silber, shortly after my well-known father, my Pop, died.  His accomplishments were so numerous it would be impossible to mention them all here, or even in a book.  He was on the commission that created Head Start and championed freedom of speech all his life.  As president of Boston University, he entirely transformed it into a great institution of learning and research and was the controversial, yet intellectually formidable, candidate for governor of Massachusetts in 1990.

How do you hope your book uplifts those who read it? My father’s story is inspirational in many ways.  Pop was born with a birth defect that shortened his right arm.  He nevertheless became an athlete, an artist, and an acclaimed intellectual.  He had a sense of humility, as well.  In 1946, he wrote a poem with a line that was inspirational to him all of his adult life:  “A sparrow would as eagle fly.”  It expressed perfectly how he saw himself.  He was confident that he could achieve great things, but he never mistook himself for a giant among men.  He felt that it was only by force of will that he was able to accomplish so much.

What are you most excited about with this book? Before my book was published, a couple of my opinion pieces had been printed in newspapers, but otherwise I did not have much in the public realm to show for my efforts.  Since its publication, I have had several articles published on blogs, including Books Uplift, and another was published online in CommonWealth magazine.  It is very satisfying to hear from people who have read my articles.

How did writing a book help your career take off? I don’t know if I really have a career; it’s more like a way of life.  I see writing observational essays and opinion pieces as something I would like to continue beyond the promotion of this book.  I keep coming up with ideas that interest me for future articles.  Finding blogs, papers, or magazines where I can submit them for publication, facing rejection some of the time, or as so often happens, hearing nothing one way or the other, will be something I have to accept—while not letting it get me down.

How do you hold yourself accountable and achieve the goals that you set forth? I don’t worry too much about holding myself accountable.  I write about what interests me, and see where it leads me. Sometimes I surprise myself; a tangent I went off on one day might become a whole new story or essay.

How do you structure your day and make time for writing? I like to get up early and write before doing anything else.  I make coffee and write—before I read emails or look at the news, before going to the gym, doing errands, or making phone calls.  I’m not good at multi-tasking.  For me it’s one thing at a time.

What do you find most fulfilling in the career that you’ve chosen? The world is so much more interesting when you look at each event, each experience, with the idea of writing about it, exploring beneath the surface characteristics, to find a deeper meaning.

What book uplifts you? Lately, I have been reading the mysteries of Josephine Tey.  The characters are so well drawn, and the relationships and personalities are even more interesting than the brilliant intrigue of the plots.

Meet Rachel and buy her books via her website.

Images and Interview Courtesy of PR by the Book. 

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