(From Author Interviews on ASK WENDY blog Author Interview)
Interview with Award-winning Author Eileen Gale Kugler
I speak and write about the unique benefits that diversity brings schools and communities, which is a topic that nearly everyone is (finally) paying attention to. I help break through society’s “myth-perceptions” about race and culture, urging people to go beyond celebrating to advocating for diversity urging people to go beyond celebrating to advocating for diversity. In addition to my book, I’ve written commentaries for pubs ranging from USA Today and The Washington Post to Educational Leadership and The National School Boards Journal. I come to this work as a parent and communications consultant, inspired by the education of my kids at one of the nation’s most diverse high schools, in a Washington, D.C. suburb, where I volunteered for more than a decade. Publishing the book was a watershed point for me, giving me the credibility I needed to speak and consult nationally.
In addition to speaking around the country, I also travel internationally to increase my own understanding of different cultures. Last summer, my husband, adult daughter and spent 3 weeks working with teachers in a rural South African School. We learned unforgettable lessons – from never give up to always be open to new ideas. We’re going back this summer.
1. Tell us about your latest book.
In a recent discussion on Twitter Moms, mothers debated whether to send their kids to a challenging school or a diverse one. I replied that is a false choice, and that’s what my book, Debunking the Middle-class Myth: Why diverse schools are good for all kids, is all about. We need to go beyond society’s definition of a “good school” – largely middle-class white in a suburban enclave – and realize that diverse schools are enriched academically as well as socially. Students who sit in class alongside peers from different races, ethnicities, and socio-economic groups are challenged with different perspectives. They all learn to think more deeply, to question more, to respect differences of all types. You can’t buy that kind of learning.
I’m thrilled to say that my book won national Book of the Year awards from both the National Association for Multicultural Education and the Delta Kappa Gamma International Women Educators Honor Society. It is required reading in universities around the country and is inspiring honest dialogue in school improvement teams, PTAs, and community book discussions.
2. How did you get started as a writer?
My training and early career is as a journalist and I have always considered that to be my profession. In later years I worked as head of communications for a government agency and then a non-profit. Opened my own communications consulting firm, Kugler Communications, in the Washington, DC, area in 1992. I always wrote in my professional life. but never felt I was a writer – until the book came out. It literally changed my identity. Most of my professional life these days is speaking and consulting, but I do a lot of commentary and article writing.
3. What does a typical day look like for you?
I’m a night person, so you’ll see that it skews pretty late. I get up about 8:00 and do some housework upstairs. Then I have breakfast and read the paper. I get to my office downstairs at about 10:00. I often am working on numerous projects at the same time, which suits my personality well. I’m usually writing at least one article/blog entry/issue paper . I try to go with the flow – as you’ll see in later responses, I try to tap into my creativity. I know when something is ready to be written because it writes itself in my head first. I can see the connections that need to be made. I’ll often jot down the key points, particularly if is a long article. After I write something, I let it sit for a few days to get perspective on it. Of course, sometimes deadlines push me to write something when I’m not quite ready, but I usually have time to let the creativity percolate (it doesn’t take much time for this to happen). My workday usually ends about 7, but it is not unusual for me to work until 10 or 11. I frequently go to networking or volunteer meetings in the evening. I try to spend weekends with my husband, grown children and friends.
4. Describe your desk/workspace.
(Do I have to??) I grew up in a house where my mother (whom I love) kept a rigidly clean house. She would straighten things behind me. So now there is a piece of me that craves chaos. I’m very organized, and I keep great files, but my desk is, shall we say…. messy. The other factor at work is that my journalistic training was to focus on the deadline at hand and then move on to the next. Journalists rarely have neat desks because they don’t spend time cleaning up behind them, they just move on. I love the sign that says, “I’m not messy, I’m just creative!”
5. Favorite books (especially for writers)
Three Cups of Tea – I got to hear Greg Mortensen speak recently. What an inspiration for life!
Eat, Pray, Love – Examining life and determining what’s important
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides – Brilliantly written novel. Captivating personal story on a current issue, epic family historical fiction, full of symbolism. Everyone in my family, from my daughter to my mother, could not put it down.
6. Tell us 3 interesting/crazy things about you
1) I married my high school sweetheart. Since he is an educator, he was the first reader of my book, literally reading it on the floor of my office as the pages came out of the printer. He was so overwhelmingly positive about the content that I knew I was on to something.
2) My husband, daughter (also a teacher), and I volunteered in a rural school in South Africa for 3 weeks last summer. We cannot wait to go back next summer. We were so moved by the community and school that this will be a life-long relationship. I can’t imagine not returning – it would feel the same as saying I would never see family again. We have established a fund for the school through South Africa Partners, a U.S. charity. See our blog at http://kuglersinsouthafrica.blogspot.com and a recent article posted by the National Education Association www.neawww.neamb.com/home/1217_2746.htm
3) I get to work on something that I care passionately about EVERY DAY. How crazy is that?
7. Favorite quote
The great use of life is to spend it on something that will outlast you – William James
8. Best and worst part of being a writer
Best – Being able to say what I want to say. Words are powerful and I’m blessed with the ability to put them together with clarity of purpose.
Worst — I often feel compelled to write. I’ll be thinking about something and suddenly writing will appear in my head. I have to stop what I’m doing (even if it means getting out of bed as I’m falling asleep) and write it down. Otherwise the writing in my head will not let me do anything else. When I write it down, it’s always incredible. If I manage to ignore the urge, I do lose the muse – trying to recreate some of those thoughts the next day just doesn’t work.
9. Advice for other writers
-Listen to your muse! (see 8 ) If your brain is giving you some creative stuff, let it rip.
- “Throw up on the page” in your first draft. Don’t analyze your writing as you go or your left brain will kill your right brain. Give yourself enough time so you can let the writing sit a few days and then go back and edit it with a fresh eye.
10. Tell us a story about your writing experience.
Once I started writing my book, I couldn’t stop. It was like a faucet had been turned on. I wrote every day, EVERY DAY, for 10 – 15 hours a day. Sometimes my brain wanted to keep going, but my eyes or my back or my hands gave out. I slept well and would get up with new insights (oh, THAT interview goes better in THAT chapter). When I finished the last chapter, I felt the faucet turn off. I couldn’t write the next week if you paid me.
Where can people buy your book?
My website, www.EmbraceDiverseSchools.com, highlights the work that I do with schools and communities. The resources section includes lots of materials that can be used to support diverse schools. On the website, you can also read excerpts from my book and of course, order it. It’s available on Amazon or Barnes and Noble online, but the best place to go for multiple copies is the publisher, Rowman & Littlefield Education http://www.rowmaneducation.com/Catalog/SingleBook.shtml?command=Search&db=^DB/CATALOG.db&eqSKUdata=0810845113