Featured Non-Fiction Author

                                             

 

 

Andrea Campbell, Renaissance Woman  

by Robert L. Hall 

 

 

 

 

                      

To be honest, I popped on Andrea Campbell’s web site expecting the usual genre-heavy writer.  You know, the kind that writes all mystery, or all romance and nothing in-between.  What I got was not what I expected.         

Within her web pages were books on how to throw party games, how to raise monkeys and forensic science procedures, a truly mixed bag. I did a double take and went back to the home page again, slowly digging my way through the site.  Sure enough, it wasn’t a mistake.  You know the old adage, “Write what you know?”  Well, she just knew a lot and wrote about it, that’s all.   

Next came the hard part.  I had to ask questions of her that would lead smoothly from one area of interest to another.  In desperation, I gave up.  Who can delve into the mind of another and get the right answers, the important reasons as to why she went into so many varied fields?  So, I asked her to send in what she felt was most important about her writing. And you know what?  It worked.   Flooding back came a personal story that went to the core of why she writes as she does.  I liked reading about Andrea.  I hope you will also. 

Andrea: 

The first sign I saw when we moved to Arkansas 23 years ago said: “Hep-Yur-Sef” (Help Your Self). I thought to myself then, "Omigod, they spell in phonetics!" My father had enticed us down here to build our first home and I wondered whether we had made a mistake. Moving to Hot Springs Village, Arkansas--a planned and "gated" community--was quite a shock for someone who grew up in the ‘burbs’ and drove through downtown Cleveland on a regular basis. Also, many years ago, the Village was originally set up as a "retirement" community so as a young woman with an eight month-old baby, I was essentially cut-off from others my age. Thankfully, I stuck it out, took college courses and found contemporaries. Later the area morphed into a better demographic. Now I live in the Ouachita Mountains in a under-developed subdivision and I love it. It's aesthetically very good for your head. I walk two miles a day and in the hills you get quite a good workout. I do it every day, to beat back stress.


Hot Springs proper is an eclectic town with several identities. It has historic bathhouses along magnolia-lined streets, art galleries juxtaposed against antique stores, and horse-track gambling in what is fundamentally a Baptist Bible-belt community. A resort community now, it boasts five diamond lakes, hiking trails, camping sites, and is in the jurisdiction of the National Park system.


Books and methodology:


I started writing seriously in 1990 as a form of recuperation. I had three facial reconstruction surgeries starting in 1986 concerning a tumor in my lower mandible. They first replaced parts of my jaw using pieces from my hipbone, and then my own skull. As a consequence, I found myself either waiting for a surgery or trying to overcome one. Writing became a kind of "cottage industry"--something I could do from home while healing both physically and mentally.


Through this surgery malaise, I also came upon another interest. While interviewing the founder of Helping Hands for a story about a woman starting up a non-profit, I became so involved in her telling, that I found myself applying to be a "foster mom" for a capuchin monkey. I got Ziggy at five weeks old; she was born on Discovery Island at Walt Disney World. Ziggy will one day be a helper/companion for a quadriplegic, someone who lives in a wheelchair and cannot use his/her arms or legs. A seat-of-the pants experiment, we raised Zig as a child. It's like doing a field study in your own living room and I kept accurate notes. This year, Ziggy turned eleven years old and I have her yet. Caps live 30-40 years, so she will still make someone a great companion.



About the same time, while doing career profiles for occupation-related periodicals, I saw success rather early. My book Great Games for Great Parties: How to throw a perfect party was published by Sterling in 1991 in hardback. Just to show how naïve I was about format, form and marketing savvy, my proposal for them used a Roman numeral outline. Well, I must have done something right, because Great Games is my little gemstone. A perennial favorite, it went from hardback into soft trade, and has been published in Spanish and a New Delhi, Indian, version. It is still selling--one of Amazon's bestsellers--and has paid me royalties for almost ten years.

 

Great Games was followed rather quickly by my second book, Your Corner of the Universe: A Guide to Self-Therapy Through Journal Writing published by Bob Adams, Inc. Even though it was agent-submitted, the deal was a poor one, with worse treatment to follow. We had gotten caught in a change of management and Your Corner was published under a lousy cover, with no promotion, in complete apathy. I got the rights back after its demise; the content, I felt, was valuable. It had helped me get through years of medical trauma, so, this year I had it reissued as a trade paperback with iUniverse.com for free.


Then I suffered through three years of rejection and ill treatment. The apparent early success trail had ended and I felt myself a babe, cold and lost in the woods. This was also at the time when the twenty or so publishing houses were being umbrellaed by big business.  Acquisitions seemed to be in such a state of flux, and none of it good. Emotionally, I was drained by the effort. But I had managed to snag a weekly essay newspaper column called "No Stone Unturned" for my community's paper in 1990 and I kept that up, along with writing and submitting more book proposals. In this interim though, I must have been something to live with, whining and jealous of other writer's apparent breakthroughs. I'd had a couple different agents, and pitched many of my own ideas in desperation. Luckily, I kept unmitigated support from both my husband and my mother who encouraged me to follow my dream.
 


To break the sp
ell, I went to college at night to earn a degree in criminal justice. I took meticulous notes and sold them to the students "dirt cheap," and made about $70 each semester. I ordered and read every "how-to" writing book that came across my purview. I joined professional organizations and while early on did not make use of their services, eventually I began to ingratiate myself in their company and extended my circle of acquaintances.

Since I believe in "six degrees of separation" and the zeitgeist of what Carl Jung referred to as "synchronicity," things started coming my way. Apparently my name had reached a threshold, because editors and others who could do me some good began to realize I was not going away. I took two "flat fee" projects (which I'd love to have the royalties on today) for Chelsea House Publishers: Forensic Science: Evidence, Clues, and Investigation (2000) and Rights of the Accused (2000). The objective was to publish in their "Crime, Justice, and Punishment" series and gain some credibility for what I had learned. At the same time, I also studied Graphology and became a "handwriting expert." I joined the American Board of Forensic Examiners when it was still a start-up and studied behavioral profiling and forensic reconstruction sculpture. The new knowledge and disciplines ignited by my passion for research and helped to develop my curiosity of people who committed crimes. I went to any professional workshop I could afford, attending classes in subjects such as "ammunition testing and wound ballistics," "Crip kits for cops,"  and “forensic anthropology.” In addition, I scheduled tours for Cummins Prison, the local jail, and accepted jury duty three separate times (the luck of the lottery). And it persists; just this year, I made acquaintance with the head of the local law library, went into one of the bail bondsmen's offices and garnered a friend, visited the sheriff's office, and got some forms from the new prosecuting attorney. Connecting, connecting.  

Since rearing a monkey has been an unparalleled adventure, I also sold a proposal and wrote about our story in a book called: Bringing Up Ziggy: What raising a Helping Hands monkey taught me about love, commitment, and sacrifice, published by Renaissance Books, it came out in 1999. We are the poster-children of the Simian Society and while the book is selling well, Renaissance let me down promotion-wise by canceling my four-city tour. A heart-warming book and memoir, I had hoped for better. But, at the very least, it leaves a legacy for the monkeys and the people I call the "deep-dish wounded."


After getting my degree, (a lot of these experiences have run simultaneously), I worked on a campaign to get my former criminal justice instructor elected as municipal judge of Hot Springs. Now Judge Ralph Ohm is gracing the cover of my latest book: Legal Ease: A Writer's Guide to Criminal Law, Evidence, and Procedure. Put out by Blue Heron Publishing, Legal Ease will appear in February, 2001. An exchange of services, I have done all the writing and Ralph will check it for accuracy and add credibility, an important factor. His remuneration is minimal but he does get his name on the cover of a book. This will be the definitive reference book for writers of true crime, mysteries, or screenwriters who specialize in crime.


Not one to burn my bridges behind me, I have also just finished a second games/party book for Sterling with another 100+ interactive games, due to debut in May 2001. It's called: Perfect Party Games. By spring next year, I will have seven books on the market, all at the same time! And due to the influence of my editors in all these different companies and my studies of the market, I have discovered some important secrets!
 

Writing secrets: 

* First, that I will always continue to write "reference" material--something that has a long shelf life, whether it is for game-playing and parties, sharing journal ideas, or explaining the forensic sciences and criminal law, my books will be taking up space somewhere, making themselves indispensable.  

* Next, my work is driven by passion, not the market. I write what I want to discover, and no one will ever confuse me with writing the same book over and over for 20 years. That adage about becoming an expert and finding your "niche" is fine, but why confine yourself to only one specialty? No, that's not for me! I will continue to evolve and find new adventures, writing about them with a "fresh" perspective. Just as Ziggy will go off to college and be trained for her life's work, she will eventually become the love of someone else.   I knew this going in. Love and passion are best realized by releasing it to the world. Sure, it will hurt to lose her--she is my kid, after all--but I have arms and legs that work and can go out and find new adventure, some others cannot say the same.  

* Also, it is important for a writer to network. I belong to many professional organizations and have the "resource file" from hell. I can call any of my associates or colleagues for counseling or advice, ask questions and obtain interviews, and, believe me, that takes in a lot of different industries.  

* I also teach month-long, on-line workshops for two different organizations: the Romance Writers of America's Kiss of Death chapter, and Painted Rock Writers and Readers Colony. The money is not great, but it allows me to cultivate new readers and, as an example, I taught a course this month that had 64 students. That's 64 more readers who know who I am and what I do. I believe that by providing guidance and knowledge to others, those acts come back to you in ways not easy to articulate.  

* I suggest that everyone have their own web site. The Internet is, essentially, the new frontier. I loaded NetObjects Fusion onto the computer a year ago last summer, bought the "Bible" for in-depth instructions, and built my own site (including making my own homemade site map) in about five weeks time. Currently, it is 24 pages long and what I like to call "Andrea Campbell ad nauseum." But it has gotten me jobs and serves as a kind of virtual resume.  

* I also supply free advice for Pitsco's "Ask an Expert" site in several different topic areas. I get e-mail from all over the world and wind-up helping many people, including students and folks who fall into trouble, and it keeps me grounded.  

* And, finally, I spend a certain amount of time creating new work and working the promotional wheel.  Whether that be gaining more links to my sites, securing interviews, or doing "out reach" such as writing book reviews, working my e-commerce site for Bellaonline.com (I am their "Home décor host"), or writing to people who have just discovered me, it is all important. I can honestly say that I can travel almost anywhere in the world and find a friend, fan, or student to touch base with. And as Martha Stewart would say, "That's a good thing. "

 

You can reach Andrea at: E-mail: campbell@arkansas.net
or visit her web site at:    www.andreacampbell.com

Bibliography: 

BRINGING UP ZIGGY: What raising a Helping Hands monkey taught me about love, commitment and sacrifice (Renaissance Books)  

FORENSIC SCIENCE: Evidence, Clues and Investigation  

RIGHTS OF THE ACCUSED: (both Chelsea House Pub.)  

GREAT GAMES FOR GREAT PARTIES: How to throw a perfect party (Sterling Pub.)  

New! YOUR CORNER OF THE UNIVERSE: A guide to self-therapy through journal writing (iUniverse.com)  

New! LEGAL EASE: A writer's guide to criminal law, evidence and procedure (Blue Heron Pub.)--out in January 2001.  

New! PERFECT PARTY GAMES: (Sterling Pub.) Out next Spring, 2001


This article is by Robert L. Hall - raised in and currently living outside Memphis, TN., writes crime mysteries and tales of a youth with adventures in horsemanship. His books are Mid-South based. Mr. Hall also is a contributing writer for the on-line journal, When Falls the Coliseum , a self-described “Journal of American Culture (or the lack thereof)” at www.wfthecoliseum.com.

He also does interviews with authors and cultural articles, as well as book reviews for www.southernscribe.com. A trained musician with a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Memphis and Master of Music degree from Florida State University, he is staff pianist at Trinity Baptist Church in West Memphis and has taught music courses at three institutions of higher learning.    

© 2001 Robert L. Hall, All Rights Reserved