Tweed Scott Interview – Excerpt I
First Published Online in
SPORKETTE GAZETTE – January 27, 2009 – Volume 4, Issue 3
Tweed Scott is a Professional Speaker and Author of Texas In Her Own Words, a 3-time national award-winning book.
I met Tweed via e-mail after following up on a call for submissions for Texas In Her Own Words. Sadly, my submission was one of the many culled during editing. Crap! Oh well, thankfully we continued correspondence—not real often, but often enough I received a review copy of the book and got to interview him for a SporkBinge pamphlette that never transpired. Sorry, Tweed.
The interview idled on computer since January 2007. But why let such a great interview go to waste? So, recently contacted Tweed and gained permissions for interview excerpts to be published in several issues of SG. Thanks, Tweed…you sweetie, you!
You’ll notice throughout interview excerpts in this SG issue and future issues that people and business names have been reduced to initials, for online privacy concerns and because I did not seek permissions for usage here. If you want to know more about such matters, then buy a copy of Texas In Her Own Words.
Although Texas In Her Own Words was published in 2006, the book has timeless appeal, as does Tweed’s interview. So read the interview excerpts, now and in future, to gain insight about Tweed’s book; insight about the author’s obsessive passion to write the book; insight about his extensive search for what he calls the T-Chromosome; and insight about strategies used for a successful first book publication.
TWEED SCOTT INTERVIEW – Excerpt I:
SPORKETTE: Would you mind providing a fairly lengthy synopsis of Texas In Her Own Words? Include excerpts if you like!
TWEED SCOTT: Texas In Her Own Words is a peek into the Texas psyche and explains why Texans are the way they are…where all that attitude comes from. What started with a throw away comment at the dinner table soon turned into a Texas odyssey. I started asking Texans what makes Texas so special, why is this place so, by God, different than anywhere else on the planet? I also asked when it applied to them, what’s it mean to be a native Texan, what’s that all about? I began to get some remarkable answers.
I had lived in Texas long enough to know there are several states within the state. I also knew that I could not write a book about Texas while sitting in my favorite coffee shop in Austin. I had to get out there and speak to her people and that’s exactly what we did. Our travels took us from East Texas to far west Texas, up to the panhandle and points south, not to mention all the little stops in between. I slapped about 4,000 miles on what was then a new car.
What came out of all these trips were over 100 interviews. There about 60 in the book. What really struck me was after about 60 interviews or so, I began to connect the dots, if you will. I began to find similarities and commonalities amongst the people I interviewed. In most case, these people couldn’t possibly know one another. They came from all walks of life. Some were famous, most not; blue collar, white-collar natives and transplants each telling me what Texas meant to them.
By the time I finished, I realized if I didn’t find the T-Chromosome I set out to find, I had at least got my arms around it. I was amazed to find that all Texans share four or five traits regardless of where they live in Texas.
One of the absolute wonderful payoffs in this book for me was what happened at the interviews. I know many people have commented on how much they have enjoyed. However, I can tell everyone who has read it that nothing compares to the experience of sitting across the table from most of these people and looking in their eyes and peering into their hearts and souls as they explained why they love Texas. No amount of money could equal that satisfaction.
I could have completed this book with all famous people. I have met and befriended many through my radio days but frankly, I thought that would make for a boring book. I wanted to talk to the people who walk the talk everyday…the real Texans, if you will. I also didn’t want to make it one boring interview after another. That’s why I wrote short introductions for each interview. I looked at the intros as a table setter…to set you up for what was coming in that interview. I wanted a fun quick read that was not heavy or academic. The final manuscript came in at 180,000 words. It was edited down to 80,000. I also wanted to break it up with lots of trivia. The pacing of this book is a part of its success.
The last piece in the book, The End of the Trail is where, if you had not connected all the dots for yourself, I bring it all together and explain what I found because of my travels and interviews. I also look at some areas worth mentioning, the birth of the Texas image and the significance of the Alamo. By the time one finishes the book they should have a good idea about why Texans are the way they are.
Much of what you learn about Texas in this book is a matter of perspective. For instance, L. C. says that Texans were needy people. Needy in that they needed their neighbors to survive. Texas was such a brutally tough place to eek out a living, you couldn’t survive here alone. W. N. dryly states about Texas, “If you need to ask…you don’t need to know.” B. C. told me that if you gave a Texan an enema, you could bury him in a shoebox. I promise the readers that you will learn something about Texas you didn’t know before. Another contributor to the text told me that West Texas is where all the lies you ever heard about Texas are true.
SPORKETTE: Being a Yankee from Rhode Island, how has Texas influenced you over the years?
TWEED SCOTT: I have always admired the Texan character. There is a real ‘can do’ attitude that permeates all of Texas. Having lived here now for almost 40 years, I can tell you, I completely assimilated into the culture. I feel like I belong here. Having done this book, what started as a love of Texas is now a passion for my adopted state. There is a real positive mentality here. As I say in the book, Texans think big and act accordingly. You can pursue your dreams here and you can fulfill them too; IF you’re willing to work hard enough. There is no other place I would rather live.
SPORKETTE: As a non-native Texan, what gives you the right to write about this great state?
TWEED SCOTT: I am precisely the person to write this book. I have several other points of reference. I have lived in other states long enough to see how Texas is just different than any other state. I can be more objective about Texas. It was interesting for me to ask native Texans what it meant to them to be a native Texan. About half of them looked at me as if I was from Mars. They couldn’t answer the question because Texas was their only point of reference. They’d say, “I dunno…it’s just who I am.” I really wanted to know where that Texas attitude and mindset originated…where does all that come from? It has to have a source. That is why I wrote the book.
Tweed Scott Interview – Excerpt 2
First Published Online in
SPORKETTE GAZETTE – July 21, 2009 – Volume 4, Issue 9
SPORKETTE: As a first time author, you sold 125 books at your first book signing, so what do you feel was the most effective promotion prior to the book’s release at the signing?
TWEED SCOTT: To start with, I have to tell you, I’d be lying to you if I told you I had a solid marketing plan. It was more of a marketing clue. For the book release party I had radio, TV, print and email working for me. My publisher had agreed to add the services of a publicist. He was helpful but I believe the biggest bang for my buck actually was the effort I put into my email campaign. I looked through my email contacts. I then compiled a mailing list from those contacts. I then composed an invitation and sent it out to about 200 people. After the event was over, I looked back at where the attendees came from and determined that most of the turn out was, in fact, from my email list. There were people I could directly attribute to the radio coverage, still others from the TV coverage but the preponderance of the turnout was directly from that email list.
SPORKETTE: How in the heck did you get a 2nd print run for Texas In Her Own Words 7 months to day of its release?
TWEED SCOTT: This to me is a remarkable story. My publisher and I think of this as ‘the little book that could.’ There are, I believe, several factors for our commercial success. The initial book release party was great. I have been told by several authors that your book release party will almost always be the biggest single day you’ll ever have. So far, they’ve been right; however, we have had consistent success on several fronts. For example, we did a book signing…in Amarillo that resulted in 41 copies sold in 90 minutes. We sold 26 copies at a book signing…in Corpus Christi. The book is available…throughout Texas.
I also do a great deal of public speaking to groups, clubs and civic organizations resulting in back-of-the-room sales. Thus far, I have been converting at least a third and, more likely, half the room with each speech. We have moved several hundred books this way. Another big factor that cannot be overlooked is the Alamo. About five weeks after the book was released on March 2, 2006, Texas Independence Day, the Alamo called and purchased 60 copies of Texas In Her Own Words. That was a stunner for me. That was instant validation of this book. Doors just blew open everywhere. Since then the book has been taken on by the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum, in Austin. It is in the state capitol gift shops, several other museums in Texas, and several book stores and gift shops statewide.
Without blowing my horn too loudly, I have taken the marketing of this book quite seriously. It goes back to finding a publisher who believed in this work before they ever saw a word of the manuscript.
…It is important for new authors to understand, you will spend 6% of your time writing your book. You’ll spend 94% of your time selling it. Ultimately, it is up to the author to get out there and make it happen.
The initial print run was for 3,000 books. Seven months to the day of the release date, my publisher decided that we needed to go ahead with a second run…we didn’t want to run short over the holidays. It truly has proven to be a popular gift book…moved in the neighborhood of 2,300 books in 7 months; thus, the decision to move ahead.
SPORKETTE: You traveled extensively throughout Texas seeking interviews…what especially made the traveling time and expenses worthwhile, besides the endeavor to get content for your book?
TWEED SCOTT: Understanding. That’s the short answer. I saw Texas in a new way…up close and very personal. There is boundless beauty in every part of Texas, even the desert. I knew I couldn’t write a book about Texas sitting in a coffee shop in Austin. There are several states within the state. I knew I had to go to all these places if I was going to do this book justice. What really made the effort worth the time and expense was the absolute privilege of sitting down and looking across the table into the eyes of these wonderful Texans. Looking into their eyes, I peered through the window to their hearts and souls. Like the commercial says…the experience was priceless.
SPORKETTE: Being Texas In Her Own Words is an ‘as told to‘ you book, what were some unforeseen opportunities that helped you land interviews with well-known celebrities and a ‘Foreword’ by a potential governor?
TWEED SCOTT: There are a couple of points here. First, I was in radio for over 30 years. I was fortunate to have met and known many famous people. I’ve learned that famous people are just like the rest of us. They’re just people who do things we consider extraordinary. I’ve never really been in awe of stardom. So I just look at them as people. That makes the interview process much easier. Second, many serendipitous things did happen along the way that found me talking to some extraordinary Texans. For example, I went to interview entertainer, B. Boyd…in Spicewood, TX. That particular establishment is owned by P. Locke, W. Nelson’s stage manager. As I began to interview Booby, he asked if it was OK if Poodie sat in with us. That was fine by me. In course of the interview he asked me if I had interviewed Willie or Coach D. Royal yet. I said, ‘No.’ He then told me that I couldn’t do a book about Texas without W. Nelson or D. Royal or the Alamo. He set the interviews up for me. I had already met them before, during my radio days, but this was far better. Poodie also took me to the Alamo movie set. It was a moving place, because for the first time, I got a real sense of what the Alamo defenders were facing. Those poor boogers never had a chance.
On the trip out there, I told him, I’d like to get K. Friedman to do the foreword. Again, I had met Kinky before but didn’t know him well enough to find him. Poodie said, just call him…yeah, like I had his home number.
The next day I did. I called Kinky and asked him and he said, “Yes, just send me the manuscript.”
Can you imagine it being that easy? That happened long before the race for governor was ever mentioned in the media.
There were several instances of running across people that I never could have dreamed of having a conversation. I actually stumbled across General G. Patton’s personal tank driver. Through another interview, I found a Pulitzer Prize winning author. It’s amazing how if you do the work, it will reward you with surprising results.
SPORKETTE: If you had a choice between fighting at the Alamo or fighting in the Civil War against the South, which would you choose and why?
TWEED SCOTT: The Alamo without question. As I mention the book, I believe Texans, to this very day, are somehow spiritually connected to those people at the Alamo…men and women. Texans admire courage, spirit and standing up for something you believe in even though the outcome may not be ideal. They got that from the Alamo. The story is well known. Those men and women could have left and saved their lives. They knew beyond a shadow of doubt their chances of survival were next to nil. Yet, they stayed anyway. How can you not admire that kind of courage? I certainly don’t have a death wish, but I’d like to think that I would have stood at that wall beside others who possessed the belief and fortitude needed to create a nation. The Alamo is the crucible of Texas liberty, bought and paid for by individuals who dared to dream, and purchased that dream with their own blood.
SPORKETTE: Do you think some of the people you interviewed were instrumental in getting Texas In Her Own Words available to mass audience? If so, how so?
TWEED SCOTT: From what I’ve seen first hand, yes, some of the people in the book have lent a certain appeal to it. The appearances of some others have certainly made it an easier sale. As I have told many people – because of my broadcasting background – I could have done this entire book with interviews with famous people. However, I thought, ultimately, that would have made for a mostly boring book. I wanted a really good cross section of Texans. What I call the people who walk the talk every day. Ironically, I have also seen people pull back because they viewed say, Kinky or even Willie as a polarizing factor. Not everyone in Texas loves Willie…same thing for Kinky. Perhaps because they live a different lifestyle. I knew that was a calculated risk to include them in the book. The bottom line for me was…I wanted them in the book. It’s a better book because of that. It is also a better book because there are people in there that most people couldn’t possibly know but who speak to the readers. Most Texans will find a piece of themselves somewhere between the covers of the book.
SPORKETTE: What was the most humorous incident that occurred during your interview quests throughout Texas?
TWEED SCOTT: The first thing that comes to mind was the initial conversation with B. Leftwich, Patton’s tank driver. As we were sitting down to do the interview, he started telling me about a ranch that was 2.1 RI’s. I know I looked at him quizzically. I was not familiar with the term. After thinking a moment under a furrowed brow, I knew I had been had. He was telling me the ranch was 2.1 Rhode Islands. We got a good laugh out of that one.
SPORKETTE: Texas In Her Own Words is an eye-appealing soft-cover book, inside and out…can you please describe its design and overall appearance, and where it’s available for purchase?
TWEED SCOTT: When I started writing and transcribing the interviews, I began by placing person’s name and vital data…birthplace, current residence and occupation at the top of the page. I did this just so I could easily keep track of them and recognize which interview I had in my hand. It was just an organizational device for me. I had thought of adding pictures of everyone I interviewed, but nixed the idea when my book designer, T. Dever, suggested that would give the book a ‘scrapbooky’ look. So we decided not to include a lot of people pictures.
I have no illusions…I am not a book designer…I’m a writer. I left the conceptual design with the book designer. After all, that’s what they do. I have to brag on Tami and her business partner, Erin. They have done some magnificent books and have won the prestigious Ben Franklin Award for book design at least a couple of times. Who am I to tell them? To her credit, Tami saw the vision of this book before she ever saw a word of copy. …A barbed wire motif runs throughout the book. That is something inspired by Tami or Erin. I find it appealing. Several book customers have mentioned it to me while thumbing through the pages.
Several times while in discussions with the publisher, we talked about soft cover versus hard cover or doing a split run. I didn’t feel like if we started with a soft cover, we could never go back to hard cover. I have never been one to want to spend a ton of my publisher’s money but I also wanted a good-looking book. The compromise was the soft cover with French flaps.
…I had no idea how the book would actually look. My first glimpse was the black & white PDF file. I was stunned even then. I knew this was going to be a gorgeous book.
Let me tell you a quick story. The printer overnighted me two copies of the actual book the day it came off the press. I can still remember my excitement trying to get into the mailer. What was so weird was when I held the book in my hands for the first time, the emotions ran the gamut. It was exhilaration; laugh out loud joy, excitement, and in a flash, abject depression. I’m not kidding. I went from this soaring high to this cold feeling of depression. At that precise moment, the three years of living with this book came crashing in on me. I realized at that moment that it was over. What I was holding in my hand was the culmination of three years of my life. This was it. I recognized that THIS was the book. Finally. I could not go back and change a word of it. It is what it is. That part is over. Almost immediately, I switched into the marketing mode and have been there ever since.
The book is available at all the Barnes & Noble Booksellers across the state of Texas; it is also available at The Alamo gift shop, the Bob Bullock State of Texas History Museum, and both of the State Capitol building gifts shops in Austin; as well as, Austin’s Book People and the Congress Avenue Card & Gift shop. You can find the book at the Admiral Nimitz Museum, in Fredericksburg; the Luckenbach General Store; The Panhandle Plains Museum, in Canyon, Texas; and at the Big Texan Restaurant’s gift shop on I-40 in Amarillo. That’s where, if you can eat the 72 oz. steak with all the trimmins’, you get it for free. We’re still opening up outlets, such as gift shops, around the state, whenever and wherever we can.
SPORKETTE: Would you mind crediting your wife here, for her photographic contribution to Texas In Her Own Words? Thanks!
TWEED SCOTT: There are, I believe, something like 78 photos in the book. My wife, Zee, took 59-60 of them. She just has a good eye. In fact, that stunning cover was her shot also. As I explain in the book, that particular shot was an accident of sorts. We passed a flag late in the afternoon and the sun went behind the flag and washed out the colors. I happened to see it and told her that she needed to see it too. I turned the car around. She got out and got down in the wet bar ditch and snapped two pictures. About a week later when we got the pictures developed, we were surprised at what we had. Later, my book designer chose it as the cover shot. That cover has sold us books. I have had more comments about that shot. Zee just has the eye. In the beginning, I was writing a book about Texas. After the book came out with her pictures adorning the inside and the cover, it was obvious this was as much her book as mine. I love sharing it with her.
SPORKETTE: How supportive were your family members while you worked on your book and what was their general opinion of Texas In Her Own Words after its publication?
TWEED SCOTT: That is somewhat amusing. I think, my wife especially, just understood and let me do my own thing. When it got really interesting was after she took the picture and it was chosen to be the cover…that’s when she really bought in to this project. After it came out, it became as much her book as mine. She has enjoyed the attention she has received for taking the cover and most of the interior pictures as well. My son, Tyler, thinks it’s cool that he helped cause a book to be written. My daughter was not happy with me because she was barely mentioned in the book. The truth be known, she was born in Oklahoma. Tyler is the Texas native.
The overall acceptance by family and friends has been heartwarming. So many of my friends are genuinely happy for me. I know they heard so much about this book…I’m sure some were wondering if there really was a book. Now that it’s out, they think it’s cool to have been around the process. I have one friend who became so inspired that one of her friends wrote a book that she has since written and published a book too. That’s cool. We can just look at one another and wink and we both ‘get it.’
SPORKETTE: Do you think the armadillo should be the Texas State mammal…why or why not?
TWEED SCOTT: No. I’ve always thought the horse should be the state mammal, for the simple reason the horse was so instrumental in the advancement of Texas. Some of the greatest light cavalry the western hemisphere has ever seen were, in fact, the Comanche Indians. The cattle drives certainly would have never happened without the horse. For me, the horse is almost synonymous with Texas. When you think of the Texas image, isn’t there a horse in there somewhere? What the Armadillo means to me is that when I’m traveling and I see one with four legs up on the highway…I know I’m back home in Texas.
SPORKETTE: Out of curiosity, do you ride horses or ranch cattle, and do you look good in a cowboy hat and tight jeans?
TWEED SCOTT: Actually, I’ve never owned a horse…but I can ride some. I wouldn’t say I’m an accomplished equestrian, by any stretch, but I like being on horses. We have run some cattle on our place, but didn’t particularly enjoy the experience. There’s just something about cows; you can look in their eyes and tell ‘there ain’t anybody drivin’.’ Actually, I do wear a cowboy hat much of the time. I started several years ago, because I wanted to keep the sun off my neck, nose and ears. I can burn easily. The only time you won’t find me in jeans is when I have to dress up. I do know how to wear my hat and jeans.
SPORKETTE: What is your main regret about the publication of Texas In Her Own Words?
TWEED SCOTT: Actually, there are two regrets. First (and I mention this in the thank portion of the book), both of my parents didn’t live long enough to see the book. The second regret was that although I had each of the people in the book sign a release – so that I could use there image and words in the promotion and marketing of the book as well as be in the book – I failed to seek permission to use their voices. I have all these interviews on tape and I can’t really use them to do an audio portion of the book or e-book. Some will be impossible to get again because there are already three people I interviewed for the book that have passed on. Trust me…that will be in my next release.
Tweed Scott Interview – Excerpt III
First Published Online in
SPORKETTE GAZETTE – October 6, 2009 – Volume 4, Issue 11
Since the last interview excerpt, Tweed has closed down Tejas Communications.com and rolled everything necessary from that site to TweedScott.com, since people locate him online by his name and not the company name.
Anyhoo, I thank Tweed for taking the time to do the interview and wish him continued success with his writing career. Thanks, Tweed!
TWEED SCOTT INTERVIEW – Excerpt III:
SPORKETTE: How did you get from radio broadcaster to award winning nonfiction book author?
TWEED SCOTT: To answer that could be another book. Simply put, I have been writing most of my life. What I consider my first good piece of writing was done back in high school. I was assigned a term paper my junior year. As I dug into the research, I realized the project was bigger than a term paper due in about 4 weeks. I knew I was going to have to write another term paper for my senior year, so I banged out another quickly researched term paper for the junior session. I continued to research the original project throughout my junior year and senior year. When it was completed, I received an exceptional grade on the project. The subject matter dealt with the personal price that each of the signers of the Declaration of Independence paid for signing that document. I left for the U.S. Navy the morning after high school graduation and never gave another thought to writing.
After the service, I started college and ‘fell’ into radio. I used radio to work my way through college. Upon graduation, I already had a radio career started and I stayed with it for the next 28 years. The interesting thing about radio stations is that they are the consummate marketing machines. That’s all they do 24/7/365…they market themselves and their clients. Commercial broadcast stations by definition are fueled by commercials and promotions. Before anyone hears or sees commercials, they must be written and produced. Over the course of those 30 years, I wrote thousands of commercials and promotional spots. I cannot put a number on how many I wrote and produced…I do know it was easily in the thousands. You have to have some copy before you go into the studio to produce the commercial.
What is interesting now, looking back, I never once thought about the writing process over all those years. I never thought, ‘Gee, I’m writing.’ Writing was just a necessary function of my job. I won’t puff it up and tell you I developed my talent for writing while writing marketing copy. It simply was part of my job. I never thought of myself as a writing talent, even after winning a couple of awards for my commercials.
When I left the radio business, one of my many jobs was that of a producer of a Saturday morning hunting and fishing outdoor show. The host of that show also published a country lifestyle monthly magazine. I had written a funny little piece and showed it to him. He liked it and asked to put it in the magazine. The next thing I knew, I was a staff writer and wrote a piece every month. This went on for at least a couple of years. I developed a talent for interviewing people and writing profiles of them.
After radio, I asked myself, what now? What can you do at this stage of your life? I thought about it for a couple of days and realized that I could convey a thought on paper, coupled with all that experience writing radio and marketing copy, I decided to hang out my shingle as a professional copywriter. That’s when I started Tejas Communications. I never thought about writing books…just never crossed my mind.
Then that fateful night came when my wife made the silly statement to my son that he had something I would never ever have…he was born in Texas. That was the spark that got me to thinking about why Texans are so different than most people. I then pursued my search for the T-Chromosome.
I didn’t write a book to win awards. Don’t get me wrong, awards are cool but it wasn’t something I doggedly sought. In fact, my publisher is the person who submitted the book for the award. I was as surprised as anyone was when we found out that ultimately we were the first runner up of a national book award. The book that beat us, The Tree House, had already won about half dozen national awards. I figured we must have been running in some tall cotton. The book has really turned out to be a little gem. As I mentioned before, my publisher and I look at Texas In Her Own Words as ‘the little book that could.’
SPORKETTE: What made you decide to invest in billboard advertising, and was this type of promotion worth the costly expense?
TWEED SCOTT: Second part first: No, it wasn’t a profit center for us. Having said that, I do know it brought in some buyers…probably just not enough. The reasoning behind doing this began with one of the people in the book. He was from the Amarillo area and had many friends there. He found the billboard company that would sell us two billboards for about 250 a piece for two weeks. It seemed like a good price to me. He bought one and my publisher bought one. We put his picture on the board with the caption ‘Come meet the most interesting man in Texas…‘
What was cool was the number of people who actually saw and mentioned the billboards at the book signing. At the end of the day, we sold 41 books in 90 minutes. I know it was not a strategy most authors or publishers would normally use, but in this case, it did make some sense for us.
SPORKETTE: After your book’s publication, a snowball effect occurred, with TV, radio and newspaper interviews…how are you adapting to still being in the media spotlight?
TWEED SCOTT: It has been a help having a publicist for the first 11 months of the life of this book. He has lined up several of the interviews and speaking engagements for me. I welcome the publicity. I was in broadcasting for 31 years and have no fear of dealing with the media. Publicity is media time and space that is essentially free and you take it when you can get it. With my background, I have an insight as to what the media is seeking from me. It is an asset having sat on the other side of the interview table asking the questions for so many years. I simply try to deliver good pithy answers to the questions that get tossed my way. I have a real passion for this book and my subject matter. I believe that comes across in my interviews, whether it be the electronic media or print. I want the audience to feel some of the excitement I feel.”
SPORKETTE: How proud are you of Texas In Her Own Words and why?
TWEED SCOTT: Immensely proud. I wrote this book to be an evergreen. The material is not dated. The concepts that come out of the backside of the book were 170 years in the making. The tone of the book is almost reverent. I was able to capture the personality not only of the contributors but of Texas itself. I am extremely proud of my wife’s cover shot. Frankly, that cover has sold a bunch of books for us. I’m glad that she is so involved with the book. In many ways, it’s become her book. I am so proud for my publisher. She worked hard to make it happen. It takes amazing people to literally buy into your dream and help you achieve it. For that I will be forever grateful….
SPORKETTE: What advice would you give a writer contemplating writing a first nonfiction book?
TWEED SCOTT: Again, have passion for your subject matter. If you’re not passionate about what you’re writing about, you have no right to expect your audience to feel any passion or interest in what you’re doing. The next thing is do the research. Simply, do the work. Writing a book is a multifaceted process. It requires several skill sets or processes. Researching, traveling, interviewing, of course writing, and editing. I would also hasten to add that every book is different and not only that but each writer’s work habits and processes are different. So it’s tough to make a blanket statement. In my case, when I started the project, I didn’t know where the work would take me or what the outcome would be. I’m a big believer in just do the work. I trusted the work to lead me to a place where I would begin to understand what I was learning. Therefore, in my case, it was more of an open-ended conclusion. I just did the work and eventually the book told me what I needed to know and provided enough information for me to draw logical conclusions.
Other nonfiction works may rely more on understanding historical facts where we already know the outcome but seek better clarity. Perhaps another work might be akin to proving scientific theory.
Another point should be addressed here. I was always told that if you didn’t know who was going to buy your book before you wrote it, then don’t bother (unless you just have to write it for yourself). I’m not saying do it the way I did it, but I didn’t have a clear image of who was going to buy my book. My book boiled down to a simple act of curiosity that other people found interesting. Looking back, it wasn’t even a calculated gamble. So in that respect, I have probably beaten the odds. It gets back to my original thought on this question. Believe in what you are doing and never give up. I learned a long time ago, reputations are not built on ‘gonnas’. I’m going to is not a result. It’s not even a plan. If there is one quality a writer must possess when writing a book, regardless of genre, is perseverance. You must keep the end in sight and never give up until you get there.
Prepare to be successful. Nothing compares with that sense of accomplishment you will feel when you hold your book in your hands for the first time. It is truly one of life’s most magnificent highs. Be proud. You will have earned it.
SPORKETTE: If Texas in Her Own Words is so popular that you sold 2,300 books in 7 months and won an award, why is it there was no suitable place for your book in the 2006 Texas Book Festival?
TWEED SCOTT: I would love to know that myself. I have my suspicions. Like any big function, there is politics involved. I intend to get to the bottom of it. I found it ironic that I know my book sold more copies in…7 months, than some of the panelists have sold…. Not only that, but two of the people in my book spoke at the Texas Book Festival.
If you read the small print in the submission process, they essentially tell you that the self or independent small press need not apply. How a book about Texas can not get into the Texas Book Festival, especially with measurable commercial acceptance, just escapes me. The final hypocritical aspect is that the small and independent publishers were invited to buy a table booth for $600 to show their books. My wife put it all into perspective when she asked, “Where would you rather have your book; the Texas Book Festival or The Alamo?“ The book is on sale at the Alamo. My wife is a wise lady.
SPORKETTE: What faults do you have as a writer and how do you compensate for them?
TWEED SCOTT: Ummm. This not a question I’ve ever been asked before. Faults? The first thing that comes to mind is that I don’t do enough of it. I have been asked dozens of times, how do you become a writer? I tell them, it’s easy. It involves only four steps. Get a pen or pencil, get a piece of paper, sit down and write. I also tell them to write for at least ten minutes everyday and get into that habit. Now having given that advice, I don’t always do that. Writing is a discipline and you have to keep doing it to get better. It’s true, practice makes…well, better.
Another fault as a writer I can think of is not reading enough good books. I admit for having a soft spot for both Twain and Poe, but the world is full of great examples of literature. Reading is another way of expanding your skill as a writer.
SPORKETTE: What are your 5 most favorite factoids in Texas In Her Own Words?
TWEED SCOTT: Gosh, that’s a fun question. Without a doubt, my favorite question is: Outside of being at opposite ends of I-10, what attributes do the cities of Orange, TX and El Paso/Anthony, TX share? I devoted two pages to that…that includes a special map.
Other favorites include: Amarillo is closer to four other state capitols than it is to its own; If Texas were to secede from the union, it would own the 8th largest economy in the world. A couple of more would include, Rhode Island would fit into Texas 220 times; and finally, Texas is 11 miles taller than it is wide.
SPORKETTE: For those who don’t know, what is Tejas?
TWEED SCOTT: The first written reference to Tejas was found on an old Spanish map going back to the 16th century that referred to an area along the Texas coast as Tejas. Here’s how I explain it in the book: Texas derives its name from the word ‘Tejas’…pronounced “Tay-haas.” It is thought to refer to the remnants of various Indian tribes…the Nasoni, Nabedache, Hainai, and the Nacogdoche. The handbook of Texas says the French and Spanish knew the Tejas as the Hasinai. The word itself is thought to be a Spanish pronunciation of the Hasinai word for friend. It is said these were the first words with which the natives greeted the first Europeans. The word has also been interpreted as meaning ‘ally.’
SPORKETTE: Is a second volume of Texas In Her Own Words planned for the future, and if so, how might someone locate the submission guidelines?
TWEED SCOTT: Early on, while still interviewing people, I did think about the sequel. What was funny was that it was difficult in the beginning to get people to sit down and talk with me. It might have been because they didn’t really believe I was writing a book. Once the word got out that I was serious about this project, I never ran out of people to talk with. As I finished the book, I came to the realization that I couldn’t do this book again. Oh, I could go and interview another 60 people for a second volume, but I submit to you, the conclusions would all be the same. I’ve already written what those are. If I did this again, it would merely be with different people. Now if the reading public told me that’s what they want, surely I’d do it, but I haven’t sensed that.
Now I have been asked many times about my next book. My plan at this point is two books – one with my wife. I would like to drive around the state and let my wife take pictures of the various ways Texans show or display their pride. Flags on barns, mailboxes, rooftops, windmills, cowboy hats, etc…the list goes on. There is not another state in the union that displays its pride as prominently as Texas. So, that’s one book. The other would be along the same format as Texas In Her Own Words, but this one would be interviewing the owners and operators of many of the old line businesses in Texas. There are some great stories there. I know of one business that literally was won in a card game. Now, is that Texan or what?
SPORKETTE: Please close with your best written Texan’s philosophy, attitude—at least 300 words.
TWEED SCOTT: “Never let anybody piss down you neck and tell you it’s raining.” That is one of the guiding Texas philosophies of my life. All that means is if that if you have a dream, you owe it to yourself and your dream to pursue it. It’s your dream. There will always be 200 people lined up to tell you, you can’t do it because you are not old enough, not big enough, not rich enough, not smart enough, not (you fill in the blank) enough to succeed. You can never, ever, ever, ever, buy into that. It’s your dream. The people quick to tell you that you will fail are the ones who are already failures themselves. Just nod and smile and get on with your dream.
One of the reasons I love Texans so much is because they are possibility thinkers. This place oozes in that can-do attitude. Want to get something done. Tell a Texan it can’t happen and then get the hell out of the way. Some action is about to take place. Granted it may not be well thought out but something is about to happen. Texans are “How” thinkers and not “If” thinkers. Go back to the pioneers. For them, no was not an option. This was such a brutally tough place to live. You had essentially two choices when faced with a challenge. You could quit, lie down and die or get up and dust yourself off and say, “Well, that didn’t work, now what? How do we make this happen?“ Texas was built by that kind of character.
Besides being an award-winning author, Tweed Scott writes marketing collateral and website content for a few selected clients. He is working on his next book, Texas 50 Over 50, about 50 Texas home-grown businesses over 50 years old. As a motivational speaker, Tweed speaks to an ever-growing variety of businesses and organizations, motivating people by using Texas as a vehicle to deliver his points.