Folks, please give a warm welcome to author and veteran Bill Stokes today. As some of you probably already know, Bill’s grandson, Paul Stokes, is running an Indiegogo Campaign to fund turning Bill’s collection of short stories, Ship the Kids on Ahead, into an audiobook. After reading about Bill on the campaign page, I thought he would be fun to interview and I wasn’t wrong! I’m also tossing in an audiobook from Audible.com giveaway to help promote the campaign. You can read more about the giveaway at the end of the post. Now, on to the interview!
You started your journalism career in a small Wisconsin town in the late 1960s and later in the 1980s moved to the Chicago Tribune. How did the experiences differ for you?
My progression from one newspaper to the next (four) was defined by ever increasing circulation size: Stevens Point, Madison, Milwaukee and Chicago. At each one my freedom as a columnist and feature writer allowed me to practice a personal brand of journalism that people responded to. It was a great job, It worked, even at the Tribune, with Mike Royko on the staff.
I would like to interview Mark Twain, of course. We could talk of many things–human nature and all that goes with it. Hemingway would be fun to talk to. He advised writers, “Don’t tell too much.” I have a problem with that, but then I wasn’t doing fiction, and maybe that is why my novel, “Margaret’s War,” can’t find a publisher.
If you could, what book/movie/TV series would you like to experience for the first time all over again and why?
I would like to hear my mother read “Black Beauty” as she did when my brother and sister and I gathered around the old wood stove as children and imagined wondrous things.
I once floated down the Mississippi River for three days on the Delta Queen with President Carter and Mrs. Carter and got to talk trout fishing with the president. I would liked to have gone fishing with him.
What has been your worst or most difficult job? How does it compare to writing?
I guess my worst job was as an infantry NCO in Korea when bullets were flying. I was never shot at as a journalist, though some people up in Langlade County said never to come into any of their taverns after I wrote against a needless dam on the wonderful Wolf River.
Who are your non-writer influences?
Non writer influence was a man named John Lawton, a lawyer, conservationist and wonderful hunting and fishing companion who taught me how to think for myself and how to laugh at everything.
Once I slept in a deer yard on the Red Cliff Reservation when the temperature dropped to thirty below and I could not buckle on my snowshoes the next morning to walk out over four feet of soft snow. Covering the UW anti war demonstrations during the ’60’s involved getting tear gassed and clubbed by sheriff’s deputies a couple of times. And then I know I drove sometimes when I was full of brandy, and that was probably the most dangerous part of the job. Also really dumb!
What does your Writer’s Den look like? Neat and tidy or creative mess? Can you write anywhere or do you need to be holed up in your author cave?
My den is fairly neat, but then clutter doesn’t bother me, so maybe not. As a journalist you learn to write all over under any circumstances–once in a barn full of cows bellowing so loud the re-write lady could not hear me on the barn phone, and finally said, “Stokes, where the hell are you?”
I never thought seriously about writing as a kid, though I did a column for the High School newspaper. My mother loved words and so there is that DNA.
What is the first audiobook you listened to? Are you an addict like other members of your family?
I have listened to a couple of books on tape while traveling years ago, and I really enjoy WPR Chapter A Day, but I have not listened to an audiobook. I am looking forward to trying one, and hope maybe it will be like listening to Mom read “Black Beauty.”
Born in Barron, Wisconsin, on September 11, 1931, Bill Stokes grew up on a small dairy farm between Barron and Rice Lake. He began his official writing career as an outdoor writer and general reporter for the Stevens Point Daily Journal, where he served as columnist, reporter and outdoor writer. In 1961 he moved to the Wisconsin State Journal, in Madison, where he wrote outdoor and personal columns, some of which were collected in a book “Ship The Kids On Ahead.” (added by Bill Stokes). In 1969, the Milwaukee Journal became his venue and as a feature writer and columnist, and he found new ground to cover in 1982 at the Chicago Tribune. After 11 years there, Bill retired to pursue free-lance projects.
During his long journalism career, Bill won many conservation awards, including the Ernie Pyle Memorial Award from Scripps-Howard News Service in 1972. His work has appeared in many national publications, among them Readers Digest, Outdoor Life and Sports Afield. He has compiled three anthologies of his newspaper writing and authored two children’s books.
Bill has lived on Madison’s west side since 1959, a home he shares with his wife, Betty. They have a 45-acre “back 40” on a trout stream near Westfield, where Bill engages in his hobbies of trout fishing, photography, bicycling and grandfathering. They have five grown children and 12 grandchildren. Bill and Betty also enjoy traveling.
Places to Connect with Bill Stokes
Info on the Ship the Kids on Ahead Audiobook Campaign
“Ship the Kids on Ahead” is a collection of short stories originally written by Bill Stokes. They appeared in his column in the Wisconsin State Journal titled “Stokes Pokes”. “Ship the Kids on Ahead’ was originally self published in 1968 by Bill.
These stories show a small slice of his life during the 1950’s and 60’s starring Bill, Betty (his wife) and their children: Larry, Patty, Ricky, Scotty and Mike. Bill shares personal occurrences in his life through humor, wit and genuine love.
Bill Stokes self published Ship the Kids on Ahead in 1968, before all to tools, such as the internet and amazon were available. The sales of this book were not great at all. Paul, his grandson and the brains behind the Audio Book Reviewer site, wants to show to him that self publishing can be a viable option these days. On top of that he wants to make his work available to a new generation of readers and listeners that crave well written stories.
Bill Stokes has always given great advice. It is Paul’s goal to share his insight and advice to as many people as possible. How can he do this? Very simple, really. He plans to make his works available in modern digital formats for this generation and more to come!
Paul has assembled a great cast of narrators to help make this audiobook come alive: Stefan Rudnicki, Sean Runnette, RC Bray, Xe Sands, Joe Hempel, and James Foster.
I’m giving away 1 Audible.com audiobook; it can be any audiobook from the site you want. You can do the Rafflecopter thing below or answer these questions in the comments: 1) Do you have an Audible.com account? 2) Have you ever tried your hand at reporting on a news event? 3) Hop over to the Indiegogo campaign page and share the event on social media some place. Then post the link to where you shared it in the comments. Giveaway ends July 11, 2016 midnight my time.