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  • Writer's pictureDanielle Holian

Book Feature: Rosemary Schmidt ‘The Happy Clam’



BOOK REVIEW


The Happy Clam, is a self-help book about finding one's inner happiness and contentment – a topic that has been well traveled. However, Rosemary A. Schmidt has the ability to tread these waters with a unique perspective, and successfully manages to take a tired subject and breathe new life into it. It has an excellent taste of flavour and relatability with a lot of wisdom spread throughout the book.


“Without telling you what to do, The Happy Clam, offers a roadmap and allows you to chart your own course,” Rosemary Schmidt comments. “It will make you think and leave you smiling.”


Rosemary Schmidt unfolds a direct reflection of how she approaches her life by using the parts and pieces to form a cohesive whole. She explores the wholeness where harmony is possible, weaving research from the fields of sociology, psychology and neurology with deeply personal, relatable anecdotes, meanwhile she contemplates what brings people joy, how change happens and what makes people tick.


Upon reading the first half of The Happy Clam, it’s clear to see Rosemary Schmidt has laid the foundations on building such an elegant and intriguing story. Noting that she has ruminating on the benefits of being happier and why it is a worthwhile goal, and the myriad subtle but deliberate changes people can make to move the needle a tick or two.


The second half of, The Happy Clam, has more of a descriptive, storytelling manner to its reading. As she parts her tales related to her time as a supervisor, the sudden loss of her sister, and her mother’s gradual decline and eventual passing, there’s something raw and captivating that makes this book a page turner.


In the last part of, The Happy Clam, the book takes a more philosophical and theological turn, getting at the heart of human relationships and how to make change happen.


The Happy Clam, follows Rosemary Schmidt’s stories about her adulthood exploring topics of her family, relationships, and work. Throughout the book, there’s moments where she offloads gathered information from her knowledge to share with the reader. Sourcing credible mastery, with relevancy, there’s something special about this read. It’s a readable book to pick up whenever the reader wishes, always leaving the reader feeling inspired.


Rosemary A. Schmidt is a Boston-area author, blogger and geologist. She published her first book, Go Forward, Support! The Rugby of Life, in 2003, which explores life lessons drawn from the sport of rugby. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in geology from the University of Dayton and a Master of Science in geology from the University of Illinois. She works as a professional geologist. Originally from the Chicago area, Schmidt now resides near Boston with her spouse, Susan.


Words by Danielle Holian


INTERVIEW


Tell us a bit about your writing background.


I’ve been writing pretty much all my life, one way or another, going all the way back to grade school. But when I went to college, I wasn’t sure enough of myself to pursue a major in writing. I was pretty sure from my time scouring the jobs section of the newspaper that there weren’t any saying “Novelist wanted,” or “Immediate opening for constant ponderer,” but I was pretty sure I’d need a job and a paycheck when I graduated. I started in Engineering, had a bad encounter with Calculus, was very briefly an English major, and as I liked Science, I ultimately landed in Geology, which has been great. But I made a promise to myself to always find a way to keep writing, even if it wasn’t part of my day job. I’ve been fortunate to be able to find ways to do both science and writing.


What, or who, inspired you to start writing?


I think I’ve always wanted to write, it feels like it’s just in my DNA. With that said, I’ve had a lot of encouragement along the way, going as far back as my fifth grade Creative Writing teacher, Mrs.Jean Scanlan. We were given free rein to write and tell stories. My biggest break, though, was in college, when I was chosen to write a weekly column for the campus newspaper my senior year. I had gotten the itch to write, and scared out of my wits, submitted a sample column, and based on that column, the editors picked me, an unknown geology major. Who does that? The columns are usually reserved for the senior Journalism majors. That year, I regularly typed up my column on my portable manual typewriter and deposited it under the door of the newspaper office by noon each Sunday, and then again faced the blank page, terrified once again. That column for The Flyer News, at the University of Dayton, fanned the flame in me to write. Life-changing. I have always been so grateful for that experience, and know how lucky I was to be given that opportunity.


And what influenced your latest book, The Happy Clam?


I was looking for ways to be happier myself, to find more peace, calm, and focus. I was a brand-new supervisor and super stressed, and so I started collecting little snippets of advice here and there on ways to improve one’s mood by making small changes to their environment. Want to focus? Have some mint tea. Want to be more productive? Turn on the radio and listen to some music. Want to feel more positive? Smell some lemon or other citrus. So, I started collecting the first notes back around 2006. But then life happened. I lost my sister, Angie, and then three years later my mother as well, after a long and ragged decline in health. I set the book aside for a long while. I was tired, and I became comfortable. It wasn’t until some things went sideways, that I picked up my old notes again, and that’s why the book takes a ninety degree turn about midway through, switching from nonfiction to a more narrative story-telling form. The book is ultimately about people. If my first book (Go Forward, Support! The Rugby of Life) was about staying a child (or child-like) as long as possible, then this book is about being an adult. Writing a book is not a continuous process. One might think – fourteen chapters written over fourteen years, that’s a chapter per year, say a page per month, maybe a sentence a day. But that’s not how it goes. It happens in fits and starts. For me, anyway.


How has your life in general influenced your work?


I regularly draw from my own life experiences and weave them into my work - what I learned from my sister, Angie, my mom’s health declined, and as a supervisor. It’s non-fiction, so I can do that. I’ve never really given fiction a try, and I stand in awe of those writers who can create entire worlds of people and tell their stories, all made up out of thin air. How do they do that? After some things went sideways, I thought about trying to get a gig writing a column again, but instead I was encouraged to write a blog. That was in 2014. So, I started Rosebud’s Blog. The blog is another way that I process current events and share my thoughts with the world.


Can you describe what your writing process is like?


I spend a lot of time gathering the bits and pieces of the story, collecting articles, quotes, research, and connecting them in my head. I’ll get another idea, and jot it down in the notebook I always carry in my back pocket. When I’m ready to start writing, that’s another matter. It’s a decision really. It’s easy to think about writing something someday. There is almost no greater regret for a writer than the ghost of the unwritten work weighing upon them. Sometimes it takes a nudge, or a kick, from the outside world. In retrospect, I’ve been fortunate to get a few of those. Winter is the best time to write, with the world cloaked and quiet with snow. Snowy days are my absolute favorite. I like to settle into a rhythm, after dinner, making a cup of tea (Earl Grey), and pointing myself to my writing desk. I take myself to the desk, put myself in front of the paper, and writing happens. If you create the habitat, the writer will appear. I have always written the first drafts of my manuscripts by hand, in pencil (mechanical, 0.9 mm lead because I press so hard when I’m on a roll), in simple bound notebooks. If it doesn’t sound perfect, I just keep going, there will be plenty of time to edit and re-write later.


What do you want the readers to take away from your work?


Things can get better. If you’re feeling stressed, alone, or depressed, you’re not alone. You’re human. Don’t underestimate the power of making small changes.


What drives you forward as an artist?


The blank page. The project has not started yet. Connecting things, and telling a story. I genuinely like to entertain people.


Tell us one fun fact about yourself.


On a high school career aptitude test, I scored outside the World of Work. In hindsight, I probably should have been more concerned. I plotted squarely on the line, thinking, midway between people and things. I wanted to think about people and things. In a way, that’s a pretty accurate description of what writing is. Oh, and I never learned to type, so all my typing is done with just a few fingers.


And finally what advice would you give to aspiring writers?


The hardest part is starting. The second hardest part is finishing, but that won’t be relevant unless you do the first part, and get started. Create a space. Create a rhythm. Trust the process. If you go there, you will write. Be kind to yourself. The first version may not be exactly perfect, but it’s often the most raw and real, and that’s what connects with people.



Visit her blog at www.happyclam.net, or follow her on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn.

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