Today we welcome Debra Winegarten.
Book ‘Em: Tell us about you and your life outside of writing.
Debra Winegarten: I’m an author and a publisher. When I’m not doing either of those things, I work part-time at the University of Texas at Austin in the Astronomy Department. I also teach sociology at the Art Institute of Austin and South University. I am married to my beloved husbian, Cindy Huyer, and we are currently owned by two cats, Orange Julious and Keyboard.
Book ‘Em: Which books have you written? What are they about and why did you choose to write them? Do your books have a message? Are they fiction or nonfiction?
Debra Winegarten: To date, I’ve authored or co-authored many books. My first book, “Strong Family Ties: The Tiny Hawkins Story,” I co-authored with my mother, Ruthe Winegarten. The book is the life story of an extraordinary woman, Dr. Leona T. (Tiny) Hawkins, one of the first African-Americans in Texas to own her own nursing home. The book’s message is two-fold, “Families are stronger when they stick together; and black people can do anything.” My second book was “Katherine Stinson: The Flying Schoolgirl,” a biography of the fourth woman in the US to earn her pilot’s license, in 1912. The book’s message is basically “women can do anything.”
My third book, “Mum’s the Word: A Tribute to Ruthe Winegarten,” is an homage to my mother, who wrote 18 books on women in Texas history and is now recognized as the “mother of Texas women’s history.” I xeroxed all three of her Rolodexes, sent out 256 letters with self-addressed, stamped envelopes and said, “Send me a story about Mom.” I received 145 letters back. I then wrote those people and said, “Send me $20 so I can publish the book.” They did. I did. I gave Mom the book on her 72nd birthday. They are the stories people tell at your funeral, but you don’t get to hear them, because you’re dead. She got to hear them.
Next, I won a national poetry contest for my chapbook, “There’s Jews in Texas?” The complaint about that book was that it’s too short, so I wrote the sequel, “Where Jewish Grandmothers Come From.” I’m working on the third in that series now.
My next book was “Oveta Culp Hobby: Colonel, Cabinet Member, Philanthropist,” the story of an extraordinary Texas woman who was the first director of the Women’s Army Corps for WWII, she designed it; first woman appointed a US Army colonel, and second woman appointed to a presidential cabinet-level position. The message of this book is, “Girls from small Texas towns can do anything.” Are you starting to see a theme in my work?
This year, I co-authored a memoir and book on creativity with Dr. Zvi Yaniv, an inventor and entrepreneur who has over 300 patents, his book, “My Life on the Mysterious Island of Nanotechnology: an adventure through time and very tiny spaces.” I used all the money that Zvi paid me for that book and published my first Jewish-themed illustrated children’s book, words by Lori S. Kline and art work by Susan Simon, “Almost a Minyan.” This book was released in April of this year and just won its first award, a Seal of Approval from Literary Classics of America, which called the book “a cultural gem.”
Book ‘Em: Do you have a work in progress?
Debra Winegarten: Yes, I’m working on another poetry book, my memoir, and another biography of Texas women, this one is a dual biography and it’s for adults.
Book ‘Em: What sort of research do you do for your work?
Debra Winegarten: I do interviews and archival research, secondary analysis of existing data, as well as newspaper and magazine articles.
Book ‘Em: Which books and authors do you read for pleasure? Is there an author that inspires you?
Debra Winegarten: I’m a member of Story Circle Network and usually read women authors. I tend towards biographies and books on writing, as well as poetry. I read a wide range and gamut of work.
Book ‘Em: Was there a person who encouraged you to write?
Debra Winegarten: My mother encouraged me to do whatever I wanted to do. She didn’t particularly encourage me to write, as a matter of fact, she discouraged me from being a writer and told me to “get a day job” if I wanted to be a writer. “But Mom,” I said, “I don’t have a day job.” “Get one,” she said. And so I did. Now, I have several day and night jobs and also squeeze in time to write.
Book ‘Em: What would you say are your strengths as an author?
Debra Winegarten: I never get writer’s block. I’m a legend in my own mind and think I can write about anything. I’m fearless. If I don’t know how to do something, I find qualified competent professionals and get them to teach me how to do it.
Book ‘Em: How often do you write, and do you write using a strict routine?
Debra Winegarten: When I’m in writing mode, I write 3-4 days a week, in the morning between 6am-11am and in the evening, between 8pm-11pm.
Book ‘Em: Five years from now, where do you see yourself as a writer?
Debra Winegarten: Mentoring other writers, working on my second memoir.
Book ‘Em: If you could offer one piece of advice to a novice writer, what would it be?
Debra Winegarten: Follow your intuition and ignore the critics.
Book ‘Em: What would you consider the best compliment a reader could give your book?
Debra Winegarten: Buying it, reading it first, and then giving it as a gift to someone else.
Book ‘Em: Provide an excerpt of your writing that you would like to share with our members.
Debra Winegarten: Excerpt from, “There’s Jews in Texas?” Second Grade, Part Three
“That’s an A-flat,” I told my music teacher.
“That’s middle C,” I said, when she played the next note.
“That one’s easy, it’s G,” I said,
My back turned to the keyboard as she hit the next ivory.
“You’ve got perfect pitch!” she said, excitement in her voice,
And told me to stay after class.
I thought I was in trouble for knowing the notes without looking.
After class, she told me, “It’s a gift from God.”
“It is?” I said. “Is it because I’m Jewish?”
“You are?” asked my Catholic music teacher.
“You have a special connection to God.
You can pray to Him directly.”
“You can, too,” I protested,
Secretly wondering how having perfect pitch
Gave me a direct line to God.
My author website is here: www.winegarten.com
My publisher’s website is here: