Books

Life at 12 College Road by Eric Mondschein


What’s the latest on your book?
Life at 12 College Road now has an audio version and I am so pleased that my son Adam Mondschein does the reading. He is a an actor on stage and screen,  and I really am excited with his reading. He brings each story to life in just the right way and captures each moment and feeling as I pictured.
Tell us a little about your self , that is your education Family life etc  

I am an author and education consultant. I have a Bachelor’s degree in political science from the American University, a Master’s degree in delinquency prevention, and a doctorate in law and education from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

I have taught law and education at the undergraduate and graduate levels at the University of Massachusetts, the American University in Washington, DC, and the State University of New York in Albany. I worked for the US government in various capacities, published and edited numerous articles and books in various areas of law and education and written and managed numerous grants from the private and public sectors. I directed an award winning law-related education program for the New York State Bar Association from 1980 through 1994, where I managed and developed many programs in the areas of constitutional, international, environmental and education law as well as other areas of civil and criminal law.

From 1995 to 2006, I served as an advisor for external affairs in Haifa, Israel, where I advised the governing board of an international non-governmental organization in the area of external affairs, including government relations, security and provided analysis of human rights situations in selected countries throughout the world in general, and in Iran and the Middle East in particular.
In addition, in 2009 and 2018 I served as the Citizen Representative on The Post-Star Editorial Board, which is a local newspaper in upstate New York.

I am the author of Life at 12 College Road.

I currently reside in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York with my wife, Ginny. We have two grown children Adam and Emily, a son in law, Kamal, a daughter in law, Yaani, and grandchildren, Annie, Nate, and Eli.

When was the first time you wrote something that wasn’t part of school work (or professional work)? What did you write?
I began writing poetry in the late 1960’s and was encouraged to do so by my college English Literature and creative writing professor, William A. Hughes. He made a big impression on me, but instead of pursuing writing I focused on political science and law. Although I stopped writing poetry I did write, but they were professional articles on law and education, and of course in professional positions I’ve held over the years, I have been required to file reports, write memoranda, and even treatises.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I never really considered myself a writer, even though I did have several poems published, and as I said I wrote numerous articles for professional journals and several education books. I first actually considered myself a writer when I wrote Life at 12 College Road. As I said when I wrote it, not when it was published. Even if it had not been published, although I am delighted that it was, I considered myself a writer when I began writing it. I also have a blog where I do write about random thoughts and commentaries about issues and concerns that we are faced with these days, poems, and even recipes. So I guess I have thought about myself as writer only recently.

What inspired you to write your first book?

First, I want to say that no one makes me write. In the professional positions I’ve held over the years, I have been required as I mentioned, to file reports, write memoranda, even treatises, but I was never required to publish law-related articles, write poems, or, of course, author Life at 12 College Road. But I certainly did not write because I had nothing better to do. The time spent away from family and the activities that were sacrificed along the way attest to that. It was more often a feeling of being compelled to write. Not for others, although most writers do want people to read their work, but to feed a need or a desire coming from within. I’ve felt particularly driven to write about my experiences growing up. The writing is not really so much about me as it is about those feelings and emotions—joy, happiness, sadness, anger, fear, even loss—that each of us, in our own ways, inevitably encounters.

Through this writing experience, I have also come to recognize that even in the solitude of writing, we are not really alone. Our memories of loved ones; friends, and those we admire are always with us. Some are nearer to the surface of sentience than others, but they are there nonetheless.

And if we are really willing to listen, they have much to offer.

How did you come up with the idea for your book, Life at 12 College Road?

I had not intended to write this book at all.  I was on a mission to write an action/adventure thriller and was attending a writer’s retreat in Maine several years ago to do just that. But I wasn’t getting anywhere with it, so I decided to take a short nap. As fate would have it, the idea for Life at 12 College Road came to me while I was dreaming, or perhaps during that period of time just before awakening.

I recalled sitting at the dining room table where I had shared Sunday dinners with my family growing up. As I sat at the table, I realized the other three chairs had been tilted forward so that their ladder-backs rested against it. They were obviously no longer of use. And it was then that I remembered what had been bothering me: I was alone. You see, my mom, dad, and younger brother have all passed on without me. They are exploring new worlds and I have been left behind. Heck, even my dog is gone.

It was that realization, those memories, which provided the impetus for me to put my novel on the shelf and write Life at 12 College Road. The book is a collection of thirty-three “real life” short stories that, when taken as a whole, paint a mosaic of a time and place both familiar and distant. Although they fit together, each piece of the mosaic can be viewed and enjoyed on its own, and each provides a different glimpse into the world of growing up in 1950s and 60s America.

In time, I may get back to the novel, as every once in while I think I hear the characters trying to talk to me.

Tell us about your main character.

As this is a memoir, I guess that makes me the main character. Without giving anything away, I would think that after reading the book one might come away wondering just how I could have survived. But I wrote the book, and am now answering your questions, so I am happy to report that I did. As I said earlier, the book is about growing up in suburban/rural New York in the 1950s and 60s. The main character, as a young boy and teenager, is confronted with many of the issues and concerns of that time. I think, however, that many of the concerns, questions, problems, and conflicts I encountered will be familiar to just about anyone, at any age.

The tools and knowledge at our disposal may differ, but as human beings we all generally go through the same stages of growing up and discovering what is really important. In reflecting on my past, I found that it was not the earth-shattering events that were most significant to me. Rather, it was the small things, many long forgotten until recently, that deeply and indelibly touched me. Sure, some of the memories involve fire trucks, police cars, and hospital visits. But most do not. And if their retelling can help the reader to connect with similar moments from their own life, well, that is special.
What type of writing do you practice? Fiction, nonfiction, or both – essays, short stories, novels, poems, screenplays, or something else?
Although I stopped writing poetry for a while I am again. I did write, but mostly they were professional articles on law and education, and of course in professional positions I’ve held over the years, I have been required to file reports, write memoranda, and even treatises. I am also now writing short stories  and nonfiction pieces.
Everyone has their own style/voice, but what author would you say your work most resembles

That is a tough question. I have listened a lot to stories by Garrison Keillor and have always enjoyed his writing. And I was quite humbled when a review of my book was posted on Amazon.com suggesting that if you liked Garrison Keillor you would like my book. So I guess I would have to say my writing in a small way may resemble that of Garrison Keillor. Perhaps it’s more so because of the subject matter of the stories rather than the writing. My style however may be similar as I do try to write as if I am sitting in front a few close friends, and telling them a story. So I guess my writing style is one of storytelling. I want the reader to feel that I am talking to them and sharing something of value to me.

Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

That is not an easy question to answer, but as you have put me on the spot, I would have to say Dean Kootnz. He has a way with character development that makes them so human and alive. In many cases the main character is someone I would really enjoy meeting. Odd Thomas is one such character I would thoroughly enjoy hanging out with if it were possible. He is also is a phenomenal storyteller and his plots and dialogue bring every page to life. I find in many cases once I pick up a book of his I just can’t put it down until I have finished it. And I would be remiss if I did not state that he also knows how to scare the heck out of his readers.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

It was in my first year as a college student at Wesley College in Professor William A. Hughes creative writing and English Literature classes that I found that I was interested in writing. He urged me to write. At the time it was poetry, but that is where the seed was planted. But at the time I chose a different path and it would be many years before I returned to writing as he had warned me would happen. He is gone now, but I am sure he knows I finally took his advice.

How long did it take you to write “Life at 12 College Road”?
I would say it took about three years. The first year was more exploration and deciding this was the book I wanted to write. The second was determining what “stories”  I should include and the third year was the actual writing and editing.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

I think it is always the beginning, I procrastinate, knowing that once I start writing I usually do not stop until I am either done, or my wife says you have to eat something or if you do not get some sleep you will collapse.

What writing project(s) are you working on now?
I would like to tell you that after I finished writing Life at 12 College Road I wrote the action/thriller novel I had always wanted to write. But that is not the case. I co-authored a monograph and teaching supplement for the Education Law Association (ELA) with a colleague and friend, Ellery (Rick) Miller, on the subject of sexual harassment and bullying. It’s called Sexual Harassment and Bullying: Similar, but Not the Same, and is was published in the fall of 2015. The monograph explores the current legal developments in the areas of sexual harassment and bullying K-12. It also examines strategies for developing and implementing policies and training to create an educational environment that allows each student to feel safe and secure, and to ensure a safe school environment conducive to learning. After the monograph and the annual updates through last year, I am now working on a short story Dinner at Grandma’s. It’s a story about family, coming of age, and the unique politics of family in the 1950’s. I am also working on a piece with Ellery (Rick) Miller on our working relationship and friendship that has evolved over forty years.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?

Once I knew what I was going to write about, and that I had found my voice, it was the editing process. Working with my editor was a fantastic experience and I owe Michael Schindler a great deal. He made it as painless as he could, and it was a wonderful learning experience and it improved my writing. But I must confess seeing what was ending up on the cutting room floor, as they say, was the hardest part for me. I admit it was necessary and it did in the end make for a better read, but it still hurt nonetheless.

Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

I learned that I could in fact write, and that others enjoyed my writing. What I also learned was that it was more often a feeling of being compelled to write. Not for others, although most writers do want people to read their work, but to feed a need or a desire coming from within.

We all know that marketing lies (mostly) with the author. Aside from social media, what forms of marketing have you engaged in? Book fairs, signings, podcasts, et cetera… Have you found them beneficial?

Besides the social media marketing efforts I have also participated in book fairs, book signings and readings at local bookstores, and I have spoken at book clubs, and at senior citizen writing group meetings. I must confess I have enjoyed these events very much and but for one, sold books at each event. I especially enjoy book readings where I can share my stories with people and it is also fun to mingle and get to know folks interested in not just my stories, but books in general during the social portion of these activities. I also believe it is important to support our independent bookstores as so many are closing around the country, and these bookstores and public libraries are more important to the life and health of local communities than they realize.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

To read as much as you can and as varied as you can make it, be it action, adventure, romance, novels or short stories, just Read, Read, and Read some more. And be willing, truly willing to take constructive criticism, and to learn what the difference is between criticism that is meant to assist, and that which is meant to debilitate, and pay no attention to the latter. And it goes without saying—WRITE.

Do you remember the first book you read?

The first book I remember reading on my own, that was not a comic book was one of the Rick Brandt adventure series. I also read Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels.

What makes you laugh/cry?

There are many things that make me laugh, but I must confess watching my grandchildren enjoying the simplest things have made me laugh from happiness and joy more often than not. As for crying, I admit I am more of a softy than many believe, having diligently maintained that reputation I have, but honestly, seeing others suffer, seeing injustice not only makes me angry, but also touches me more now than when I was younger.

Do you have a blog and if so, what types of posts would a visitor find on it?

Yes I do have a blog and it can be found at: http://www.ericmondschein.com. There you will find my musings on current events, commentaries on issues of import, poetry, the outdoors, and even some of my recipes.  I have even included several of the short stories from my book. But if readers really want to know more about me they should read Life at 12 College Road.

What’s the best advice ever given to you, and by whom?

As it relates to writing, the best advice was given to me by Professor Hughes, who I mentioned earlier, and that was to “read, read, read and then read some more.” Conversely, the advice I chose to ignore was that I probably should not try to write, and there is no need to mention who gave me that advice.


Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Without giving anything away, I would think that after reading the book one might come away wondering just how I could have survived. But as I wrote the book, and am now answering your questions, I am happy to report I survived.  The book is about growing up in suburban/rural New York in the 1950s and 1960s. The main character, as a young boy and teenager, is confronted with many of the issues and concerns of that time. I think, however, that many of the concerns, questions, problems, and conflicts I encountered will be familiar to just about anyone, at any age.

The tools and knowledge at our disposal may differ, but as human beings we all generally go through the same stages of growing up and discovering what is really important. In reflecting on my past, I found that it was not the earth-shattering events that were most significant to me. Rather, it was the small things; many long forgotten until recently, that deeply and indelibly touched me. Sure, some of the memories involve fire trucks, police cars, and hospital visits. But most do not. And if their retelling can help the reader to connect with similar moments from their own life, well, that to me is special.


Life at 12 College Road
Eric Mondschein

Genre: Memoir

Publisher: Something or Other Publishing, LLC
              
Date of Publication: November 15, 2013

ISBN: 0984693831
ASIN: B00MH94J22

Number of pages: 224
Word Count: 49,000

Book Description:

It’s not always the earth-shattering events that are most significant in our hectic lives. More often, it’s the small things, many long forgotten, that touch and shape us most deeply.

Our memories of these events might bring smiles, or anger, or even a desire to forget. But every one of them helps to make us who we are today-and in some ways, who we will become tomorrow.

Join Eric Mondschein at the unhurried pace of a cup of coffee for a surprising and powerful journey in which laughter inevitably mingles with tears, sorrow turns to joy, and loss almost becomes bearable.

                                                                      
                       
About the Author:

Dr. Eric S. Mondschein has taught law and education and published and edited numerous articles and books in the field. He has worked for the US government in various capacities and directed an award-winning education program for New York. He was awarded the American Bar Association’s Award of Excellence in Law Related Education. He served as an advisor for an international NGO in Haifa, Israel, in external affairs, security, government relations, and human rights. He also served as the citizen representative of The Post Star editorial board in 2009 and 2018.

He is the author of Life at 12 College Road published by Something or Other Publishing, which is a collection of short stories about growing up in America in the 1950s and 60s. He is also the co-author with Ellery M. ‘Rick’ Miller Jr. of Sexual Harassment and Bullying; Similar, But Not The Same, and an accompanying Teaching Supplement published by the Education Law Association in 2015.

He currently resides in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York with his wife, Ginny. They have two grown children Adam and Emily, a son in law, Kamal, a daughter in law, Yaani, and grandchildren, Annie, Nathanael, and Eli.