Author Interview: Ali Wenzke
Today’s author interview is with Ali Wenze, a writer I “met” a couple years ago through Instagram. Her first book was published in May of this year (I was lucky enough to read an advanced copy) and I’ve enjoyed seeing her getting the air time she deserves because the topic of making moving easier is one everyone can benefit from!
Ali Wenzke and her husband moved ten times in eleven years, living in six states across the U.S. Now, she helps the millions of people who move each year by providing practical tips on how to build a happier life before, during and after the move on her blog The Art of Happy Moving. Ali is happily settled in the Chicago suburbs with her husband and three children. She doesn’t plan on moving any time soon. The Art of Happy Moving is her first book.
RM: Your book originated with your website, can you tell us what that process was like?
Ali Wenzke: The Art of Happy Moving (both my website and my book) originated because I was lonely. We moved our family from Chicago, IL, to Knoxville, TN, where we expected to settle down and live for the rest of our lives. Since it was our eighth move in nine years, I didn’t expect it to be hard. I was wrong. I had lived in Florida, Massachusetts, Maryland, Ohio, California, and Illinois, so I figured I could live anywhere and be happy. Moving with our three little kids was different, though, and it took me a long, long time to make a friend in a city where I didn’t know anybody. Our “forever” home only lasted a year and a half, and we decided to move back to the Chicago area.
The loneliness I felt during that time changed me. It inspired me to start my blog to let others know that they are not alone, and to guide them through both the logistics and the emotional side of moving. Then, I wrote my book, The Art of Happy Moving: How to Declutter, Pack and Start Over While Maintaining Your Sanity and Finding Happiness, with the hope that I would reach more people to help them have a happy move.
RM: What has the general response been to the book? Do you feel like you’re hitting on topics (regarding moving) that haven’t been widely addressed before now?
AW: Before I started writing my book, I walked into a Barnes & Noble and asked where I could find a book about moving. The customer service representative looked at me and said, “Moving? Well, you can get a book about buying a house or decorating, but there aren’t any books about moving.” He verified this with a quick check on his computer.
I walked out of that Barnes & Noble bewildered. Thirty-five million people move in the U.S. every single year and yet there wasn’t a single book about moving? I knew what I had to do, and I started writing The Art of Happy Moving.
The best response to my book has been from readers who have said they feel less stressed about their move and that they laughed while they read my book. Yes, I do feel like I’m hitting on topics that haven’t been widely addressed (at least in book form), and I really hope that it gets a conversation started about helping others through this time of transition.
Does writing energize or drain you?
Writing energizes me. However, I know my limits, so I try to change writing locations and treat myself with (decaf) coffee or chocolate chip cookies to keep the writing going.
How do you balance being original with delivering readers what they want?
As I write, I imagine the people I have talked to about their moves. I also imagine what I would have wanted to know during my own tough moving moments. Then, I write what I know and what I’ve learned from others. I try to keep it light and fun.
How did publishing your book change your writing process?
Publishing a non-fiction book is different than publishing fiction. With non-fiction, you submit a proposal to publishers with a few sample chapters. You do not have a finished product. So, once I had a book deal, I sat in the library and focused. I would write one chapter a week and, at the end of the month, I would submit four chapters to my editor. After I submitted the complete manuscript to my editor, it was time to go back and edit. Editing was my favorite part of the process. Editing is decluttering with words, and I love decluttering.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
Yes. I read every review. I can’t help it. With the good reviews, I am thankful because they usually say that the book helped them in some way and this is why I became a writer. With the bad reviews, I try to learn from them if they provide constructive feedback. For example, a reader may say that they were hoping for more packing tips or for more of a memoir. I will incorporate helpful comments into my next book.
How do you handle creative blocks?
Before I start writing, I create a list of what I want to accomplish that day. The motivation to check off that list before my kids get home from school helps me to get past creative blocks. When all else fails, I go for a run to clear my head.
What was an early experience where you learned that language has power?
I grew up in Miami, FL, speaking Spanish at home, and I learned from an early age how language connects us. My grandmother, Josefina, lived with my family and she only spoke Spanish. As I grew older, I wanted to learn more languages, so I could talk to others around the world. I studied French, Spanish, and Italian literature in college. Some might conclude I did this so I would have an excuse to travel abroad. It’s for my education, Mom. Language fascinates me. I love the melody of beautifully chosen words.
Do you read much? If so who are your favorite authors?
Reading soothes me and I try to read as often as possible. I like both non-fiction and fiction, and I love getting recommendations from my Instagram friends. Some of my favorite authors are: Fredrik Backman, Liane Moriarty, Jenny Lawson, and Jonathon Tropper. Some recent books I’ve enjoyed are: Normal People, How Not to Die Alone, The Unbreakables, A Bend in the Stars, Daisy Jones and the Six, How to Give a TED Talk, and The Rosie Result.
Can you tell us about your current projects?
A friend recently published his second book with Simon & Schuster and I asked him, “Now that you’ve published your second book, what advice would you give to a first-time author?” He said, “I would have waited longer before writing my second book.” Another author likened her fourth book to a fourth child. “There are hardly any pictures of my fourth and I never got around to making that scrapbook.”
I’ve taken this advice to heart. I want to give my first book, The Art of Happy Moving, all the love and attention I can. Readers tell me that I am helping them, and I want to be there – whether through my book talks or my blog – to help them feel happier about their moves. Pretty soon, though, I’ll lock myself in the library again and start the next book. However, I promise to give her just as much time and attention as my first.
Many thanks to Ali for making time to answer my questions! If there’s a move in your future, no matter how far away that may be, this book is a must read!
You can find my review of The Art of Happy Moving here.