Alanna Kane tells us about her book, Dear Mr. President. Alanna has already been featured on CNN news as well as in her local media, and has some more media appearances coming up – find out more below!
After the 2016 presidential campaign, I became very discouraged with the divisive political environment in the United States. The candidate who ended up winning the election didn’t seem to be interested in bridging that gap, which made me feel even more hopeless. I decided to write a daily letter to the White House during President Trump’s first year in office, in an attempt to connect with a person and a perspective I stood in opposition to. These letters talked about who I was, what I believed in, asked questions, gave advice. They were silly, sad, sincere, sarcastic at times, but always written with the intention of connection, entertainment and friendship.
Dear Mr. President is a collection of all my letters, as well as some updates, background, photos and even a bonus “write-your-own-letter” section that can be filled in, torn out and sent to Washington.
And can you tell us a little about yourself?
The first thing I wanted to be when I grew up was Indiana Jones, but somehow, I ended up becoming a 911 dispatcher and reluctant voice of the small-town left. I’d still love to be Indiana Jones someday, though.
I also enjoy reading (especially classic lit), talking to plants and animals (and stones, rivers, silverware, my car, and anything not human that will sit still enough to listen), making things out of yarn, and eating my husband’s habanero pepper casserole.
Do you have any particular literary influences? What inspired you to write your book?
One of my favorite literary heroes is Kurt Vonnegut. He always inspires me with his ability to convey profound truths in the simplest, most conversational style…he made writing look easy, even when he insisted it was the hardest thing he’s ever done. Like him, I just really want people to take better care of each other.
How did you get the attention of CNN?
As 911 dispatchers, we talk with the media on a daily basis. They call in to ask if anything is going on that the public would be interested in, or to ask questions about in-progress calls they’re listening to on their scanners. We get to know each other a bit because of our ongoing daily conversations. When my project was finished, I wrote an email to one of the journalists I joke around with a lot to ask if his channel would be interested in doing a story about it. And they were! One of their anchors came to my house and did a little interview that was broadcast on their local news program, and then CNN became aware of it.
One of their journalists called me out of the blue shortly after it aired and asked if I’d be willing to work with them on a story about it. I usually don’t answer the phone when I don’t recognize the number, but for some reason, I did that day. It was quite a thrill! The journalist I worked with was so encouraging and so amused by the conversations we had…it ended up being one of the reasons why I decided to publish!
I’m also a regular listener to NPR, and found them to be an absolutely invaluable resource for accurate political information during the year I wrote my letters. So when the project was finished, I emailed my local public radio station and let them know about the CNN story and asked if they’d like to do a story on it as well.
Now that Dear Mr. President is published, the station has invited me to come in for a tour, record a little promo for the book and the station, and one of the professors there is reading my book to prep for an actual interview with me about it! I’m really excited about the opportunity, as NPR is such a huge part of my daily life.
What is the one message you would like to convey to your readers?
Never, ever, EVER give up. If you feel that something needs to be said, say it. You may not be as loud as the other voices in the room, and you may think what you say won’t make a difference…but it does. Find creative, engaging ways to keep saying it, and never give up.
Are you working on a sequel to Dear Mr. President?
I’m undecided on that right now. God knows the material is there, but it was an exhausting experience writing the first one! I need to take a little time-out before I decide what to do next.
What was your favorite part of your publishing experience, overall and with iUniverse?
I felt very isolated and alone in my feelings during the actual letter-writing process, so it was amazing to hear so many positive responses to it from people I didn’t even know. So many people reached out to me after the CNN story that I’ve grown close to. My very first contact at iUniverse told me she was originally from DC, and that she’d be personally honored to help me publish a book. That made such a difference to me, and really helped boost my confidence.
Finally, what advice would you give to aspiring authors?
I think most authors have a “day job” and families…it’s hard to juggle a commitment to writing with that. I found it to be a little easier by deciding ahead of time when I’d write and for how long. By making it a routine part of my day, just like brushing my teeth and making my bed, it didn’t feel quite as overwhelming to fit it in. After a while, it just became a given in my day.
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