Welcome to the second installment of my “Introducing…” blog series, featuring indie authors, their craft, their struggles and achievements and, of course, their adventures in Social Media. This week we talk to Tami McCandlish, author of the autobiographical novel, Flying Grounded.
Tami McCandlish holds a B.A. in English and journalism from Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio. Since the publication of her book, Tami has spoken to thousands of girls and has been featured on radio and television shows and in print media (including NBC4 Columbus, WOUB Athens, 90.9 fm Lancaster, 88.9 fm Lancaster and The Lancaster Eagle Gazette). McCandlish was born and raised in Fairfield County, Ohio and now serves as the Founder and President of The Triumph Organization, a Central Ohio based non-profit that is dedicated to dealing with female bullying through awareness, education, and tools that promote healthy communication and competition among girls and women.
Relational aggression is also known as girl bullying. It is a form of emotional and psychological bullying that occurs when people (specifically girls and women) use their social relationships to hurt a targeted individual. Aggressors do this through tactics like alliance building, rumor-spreading, gossip, backstabbing, betrayal, silent treatments, name-calling, eye-rolling and dirty looks, lies and half-truths, manipulation, and many other indirect behaviors.
2) Flying Grounded touches on your real-life experience as a victim of this. Why did you choose to document such a painful episode in your life?
It was not easy reliving those memories every day as I sat in front of my computer, writing. There were times when I thought, “Should I really be telling everyone this?” But when I analyzed the honesty and consequences of my statements, I believed every component of my story was put in place not only to free myself from pain but to establish a voice for others who are or have been in similar situations.
My goal is to educate people and help change their perception about bullying. Many people view bullying as physical aggression, used primarily by boys. However, oftentimes social exclusion, silent treatments, rumors, and betrayal can hurt just as badly, if not more, than a punch in the nose. In documenting my experience, I hope to encourage others to expand their definition of aggression and to stop thinking of this behavior as simply jealous junior high school girls who will grow out of their meanness once they get to high school. I want girls to know they do not have to be defined by this (whether it is as a victim, aggressor, reactive-aggressor, bystander, or a mix of roles), that there are outlets to channel their emotions, and that there are ways to productively and effectively communicate and compete within their friendships and relationships without having to drag down another girl.
3) Did you have a specific audience in mind when writing Flying Grounded? When I was writing Flying Grounded I primarily had my hometown audience in mind. I knew my story might help girls in many places, but specifically, I wanted to positively impact the girls and people with whom I had had such unhealthy experiences with. However, changing the thought process of those in a rural, small-town has been very challenging.
Overall, my audience has responded positively. Although I find major resistance from schools when it comes to implementing educational programs, and although most of my main characters are still unwilling to open their hearts and participate in discussion about relational aggression and faith, I believe I have given my audience much to contemplate and act on in their own time.
4) How was the self-publishing experience?
In 2004, when I decided to write my book during my senior year of college, I asked my professors for guidance. They all cringed at the mention of supported self-publishing presses, and told me, “Go for the big, reputable publishers.” Tapping into the mainstream, New York publishing industry is easier said than done, though. I spent a year e-mailing and mailing query letters to agents and editors, and while I received many nice, encouraging rejection letters, no one seemed to be taking on new projects at that time. Because I felt an intense urgency to present my story to the public, I started exploring the option of supported self-publishing. My research led me to iUniverse, which seemed to be the best fit for me.
I know that some authors who publish traditionally don’t have much say-so in choosing their title, cover art, or marketing plan. Some don’t even get to see the last edit of their book. I couldn’t deal with that, and thankfully I didn’t have to.
I would definitely use supported self-publishing again, but next time I won’t make as much of an investment in the package. There were a few things that I eventually decided I shouldn’t have to pay for (like qualifying for literary awards).
5) What kind of promotional activities have you been doing to promote your book?
To promote my book, I use social networking (primarily Facebook and MySpace), and I do speaking engagements and run programs through my non-profit, The Triumph Organization, which is dedicated to dealing with girl bullying. Through Triumph, I have spoken to thousands of students and adults in Ohio in schools and communities. I have also been featured on local radio, television, and in print news.
6) Describe your ideal writing environment.
My ideal writing environment would take place on a warm summer evening into the late night (that’s when I’m most productive) with a gentle breeze floating through the open windows. I’m alone and at peace. Inspirational Christian rock or smooth jazz is softly playing in the background, but it’s quiet enough to allow imagery to jump alive. I have a relaxed desk environment with no papers, books or pens invading my space, or I am reclined in bed, propped up on a mound of pillows with a pillow-desk for my laptop. Oh, and a glass of iced tea is nearby.
7) Do you have another life, as in a career, other activities, etc.
In addition to writing, I work as a personal fitness trainer for my husband’s company, Elite Performance Enhancement Programs LLC. We conduct one-on-one and group fitness training as well as athletic performance training. I love exercising and enjoy being outdoors, traveling, hiking, mountain biking, swimming, reading, and spending time with my close-knit family.
8) What can we expect next from Tami McCandlish?
As soon as Flying Grounded was published, people asked me if I had started working on my second book yet. “Whew,” I thought. “Give me some time people!” It took me two-and-a-half years to complete the first one. I hear the first book is most difficult, so I’m happy to have that completed. I would like to publish again in the next three years. My mind is swirling with many ideas, but I know I would like to continue to write about relational aggression. Currently, I’m leaning toward with the topic of girl bullying on a collegiate level. So if anyone knows of young women who are willing to share their stories please send them my way!
9) Where can readers get a copy of Flying Grounded?
Thanks to Tami for sharing her story with us. Please visit her website and join the fight against Female Relational Aggression.
Richard S. Todd is the author of the critically-praised Raincloud: A Novel and holds talks on the self-publishing experience. He spends his time blogging and working on his next novel, The Orphans of the Creek.
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