Interview with Novelist Wanda Adams Fischer (EMPTY SEATS)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your novel about?

Wanda Adams Fischer: After being drafted by the Montreal Expos to play minor league baseball in Jamestown, NY, three young men who’d been champion ballplayers in their respective hometowns think it will be an easy ride to the big time. Little do they realize that they’ll be competing against every other talented kid who’s dreamed about becoming the next best thing in Major League Baseball. Young, inexperienced, away from home without the support from their families and friends, they find they’re faced with challenges and obstacles they hadn’t anticipated–not always on the baseball diamond.

2. What genres would you say this story is in?

This is young adult to general fiction. It’s been characterized as “sports fiction,” but some people who have reviewed it have also said that you don’t have to like baseball to enjoy the book. It’s a coming-of-age book with baseball as a backdrop is the best way I can describe it.

3. How would you describe this story in two words?

Staying alive

4. What movie have you seen the most in your life?

“A League of Their Own” and “Bull Durham,” but I also like “Ninotchka”

5. What is your favorite song? (Or, what song have you listened to the most times in your life?)

“Where Have All The Flowers Gone” (done by many different people) or the traditional song “Shenandoah”

6. Do you have an all-time favorite novel?

“The Edge of Sadness” by Edwin O’Connor

7. What motivated you to write this story?

When I was young, in the 1960s, I wanted to become a sportswriter. That career path wasn’t clear for women at that time. I spoke to a MLB baseball player back then, who cautioned me about how difficult it would be to break that glass ceiling back then. Then I became involved in the Civil Rights Movement and the anti-Vietnam war movement, and had a nearly 40-year career in public relations/marketing/media relations, with a few detours along the way in broadcast journalism. I’ve also done a folk music program on a major NPR affiliate since 1982 and am a singer/songwriter. At one time, I sang the National Anthem for the Tri-City Valley Cats, a low-A minor league affiliate of the Houston Astros. As I would go on to the field, I’d see the young faces in the dugout. They often looked lost to me, but when they got out onto the baseball field, they came alive. That experience planted the seed. I began creating characters out of baseball players I’d met over the years, as well as pulling from some personal experienced I’d had in various jobs and put them together in this novel.

8. If you could have dinner with one person (dead or alive), who would that be?

Martin Luther King, Jr. or Zora Neale Hurston

9. Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?

Political and social justice, my grandchildren, baseball, folk music (singing, writing songs, my radio show), playing competitive tennis (although I only play with people my own age now), volunteering to read with elementary school kids in a local inner city school, dachshunds, the environment, Ireland, and cramming in as much as I can into the rest of my now-70-year-old life.

10. What influenced you to enter your story to get performed?

As a radio broadcaster, I have wanted to get this novel converted to an audiobook, and I didn’t know where to start. I have several listeners who are blind, and they have been asking when the book would be available in aural format. I wanted to have this performed to give me an idea as to where to start, because I don’t have a clue as to how to begin to audition potential readers. This is an amazing start.

11. Any advice or tips you’d like to pass on to other writers?

As someone who has written all my life, I can only advise people to continue to read AND write. I don’t think people can be good writers if they don’t read. A couple of years ago, I applied for a master’s degree program in creative writing, and was accepted. However, I declined, because it was too expensive (at my age), and I wondered what good it would do. Instead, I took a couple of workshops and just started writing this book. Also, get the writing done and worry about the marketing and PR later. Develop the product; it’s easy to market a good product. If you get good reviews, tell people you appreciate them. If you get bad reviews, take the criticism as constructive and not personal.  

BUY novel on Amazon

In 1972, the Montreal Expos draft three 18-year-old baseball stars, send them far from their hometowns, where they discover their dreams of becoming Major League ballplayers won’t be as easy as they once thought. Challenges call for split-second decisions–on and off the baseball diamond.

Performed by Val Cole

My take on “Bill Parcells – A Football Life” book

Coming in at 544 pages in medium print, the Parcells “I better get this all down before I die” book, that looks at his life and career as a football coach, goes down many fascinating roads in his life. From his childhood, to college, to coaching in various places in college, to his NFL stints for the New York Giants, New England Patriots, New York Jets, Dallas Cowboys, and Miami Dolphins….we journey through many relationships, triumphs and dilemas Parcells goes through.

What was most interesting about this book was the greatness he endoured as perhaps one of the greatest NFL coaches of all-time, while at the same time he failed in his personal life. He let down 4 women that loved him unconditionally – his ex-wife and their 3 daughters. He developed countless relationships and friendships with 100s of people in his life – but they all seemed to be men. From his fellow coaches, to the players he became a strong father figure to, to his relationships with media moguls and billionaires, all his amazing times and bonding sessions in his life were with other men. All the while he ignored his 3 girls and wife who he cheated on countless times until she had enough and eventually divorced him. Parcells regrets those relationships and you wonder what he would have changed again if he could.

That is what you usually see when you look into the life of a person who succeeded a great deal in their chosen path in their lives. Amazing accolades but at a cost to the people who loved them. You can’t do it alone as Parcells needed his wife to make him the man he became, but he only let her in when he needed that support. When he was at his strongest emotionally and intellectually, Parcells was working on football. He was there for countless players as a father-type as he helped them with their personal lives, but it really wasn’t done without his own agenda as the better players they were the more football games he could win.

Parcells has many great sayings on the tricks of the trade of being a successful person. My favorite one on the book is – Don’t confuse routine with commitment.

Now if I only read that saying a few years ago, perhaps my life would be so much better right now. In the past I have mistaken my routines for a committment on my career, but they really were just a way for me to keep working and convince myself that I was committed to the business at hand. But that wasn’t true.

I liked this book because it shows a man who loved something so much and was very organized and discplined on how to do a job well.