My Book’s Journey, Part 1: My Father Had a Secret

Posted by on Apr 17, 2012 in General | 15 comments

To my incredible, valued blog audience: I hope you’ll join me as I take brief diversion from my usual content. I’m releasing this post as my book is available to the public, but I wrote the post when my proof copies arrived at my home about two weeks ago. It was an emotional, emotional day. The culmination of 30-something years of a dream that had a few false starts already. I stayed up into the early morning hours writing this post. I needed to tell my book’s story so you’d know its history. 

The funny thing is that I haven’t spoken in depth about Say This, NOT That to Your Professor, even though I started this blog a year ago to build a platform for it. Truth be told, even though I’m so, so chatty, talking up others’ work is far easier than talking up my own. But, my book is my whole heart and I want you to know where it came from.

I’ve learned so much from other bloggers over the past year and I keep reading, “Let your audience know who you are.” Well, you’re going to find out! And, at the end of this week, you’ll get a sneak peek into the book… which I’m proud to announce is now on Amazon. I am so thrilled that you are on the journey with me. I value you immensely and look forward to our continued conversations. Deep breath for me. Maybe you can take a deep breath, too. Here we go…


I loved to write ever since I was very young. My mother said I walked very, very late, but I read very early.

In childhood, I never played sports. I wasn’t physically coordinated and I came from a family that battled morbid obesity. But I could put words together. And people seemed to like the way I did that.

My parents supported my writing. My teachers complimented my writing. I won a national short story contest when I was in grade school.

When I was in high school, not surprisingly, I dreamed of becoming a journalist. I had my college all picked out.

Only problem was that my parents never really discussed college with me. I guess I should have taken a clue by the fact that we didn’t even own a home. I was an apartment kid. I guess I didn’t put two and two together that college may not be part of their financial plan.

When I turned 16, my parents suddenly divorced. Without getting into gory details, my relationship with my mother dramatically changed because she dramatically changed. I am an only child and although my father adored me, for reasons that only he knew, he wouldn’t have me live with him.

I remember feeling very stuck in my circumstances: A devastated father who couldn’t house me. A dramatically changed mother who seemingly wanted her freedom. So I went to my high school guidance counselor and asked him how I could possibly graduate early from high school and get a job. Surprisingly, there was a way: Take correspondence courses through Brigham Young University and go to summer school. To this day, don’t ask me how in the hell that came together, but it did.

Fast-forward to the summer of my 17th birthday and instead of a cap and gown graduation, I walked into the high school office and a secretary handed me my high school diploma. I didn’t care about the lack of fanfare. I just cared about getting on with a life that I could somehow try and control.

I landed a simple job working for a portrait studio. I tried to go to community college and pay for it myself. Certainly, this wasn’t the journalism school dream, but it was something.

Living on my own was brutal. I mismanaged my money, although I was very responsible in other aspects of my life (I showed up to work on time. I didn’t drink or do drugs… that kind of responsible). Not surprisingly, the minute a someone came along who seemed loving, I was very willing to give up my difficult little life… and get married. At 20, I thought I knew everything.

My father also thought that getting married was a fantastic idea: A nice Jewish girl marrying a nice Jewish guy 10 years my senior.

But my father was carrying a secret…


What was the secret? Tune in for day 2 to find out… and we’ll revisit how I accidentally became an academic.

Just joining in? Jump over to Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.


  1. Great post Ellen! I’m on the edge of my seat; I can’t wait to find out more…

    • Thank you so much, Sia! It’s really therapeutic to have these pieces out there, too :-) . I appreciate you coming along.

  2. What?!? A cliffhanger? You and your wiley author ways! Guess I’ll be reading day two… ;)

    • Hi, Tom,

      Well, if I didn’t give the break somewhere, the post would be too long. And I’ve been cautioned about my lack of brevity. But there will be more tomorrow… promise! The (true!) plot thickens!

  3. I am waiting as well. Time is very short these days, so I haven’t watched the video yet, but I will do so, and the writing has captured me.

    • Hi, Donn,

      Part 2 is ready to go! No worries about the video :-) . It’s not going anywhere. Just me and the book (which I didn’t realize would show up with some backward text–hmmm). I hope you are doing well!!!!

  4. What a wonderful idea to share the story/person behind the book! Congrats on publishing. Can’t wait for the next installment!

    • Hi, Vicki,

      Thank you! It is therapeutic to talk about the journey and I am very excited. Part 2 is coming today!

      I appreciate you coming along!

  5. Professor, I LOVE the heart AND soul in this video post…I love your excitement. I loved seeing the words backwards. I’m so happy for you. We are doing a coordinated #DadChat and #CollegeCash on May 3 – perhaps we can give away a couple of your books and do some PR for it?

    I’m still curious what your father’s secret was? Do I have to buy the book to find out? It doesn’t seem relevant to the topic (of the book)?

    • Hi, Bruce,

      Thank you so much. Part 2 is coming out in just a couple of minutes and then you’re going to know the secret… It’s not relevant to the topic of the book, but it’s relevant to why I didn’t make it to journalism school or on to that dream of a writing career.

      Yes! I’ll e-mail you on the other. The book is coming your way already for review :-) .

      Okay, on to post now… stay tuned!

  6. Wow! Intriguing! Is your next book going to be a mystery? Just sayin’ :-)

    • Doug, that’s funny. Students and professors are enough of a mystery, don’t you think? ;-) I left you a message yesterday, by the way. Ellen

  7. I love how this is playing out, Ellen. I enjoy the insight into what makes the Chatty Professor. Seems like we may have some common “early background”, so that must be why we get along so well. Oh, and that you care for your students – that could be it, also.

    I look forward to the rest of the series.

    • Hi, Brian,
      I’d really welcome knowing your story. I was part of a National Writing Institute at one time and the theme was “Tell me your story, and I’ll tell you mine, and we will be forever changed.” I’ve always believed that secrets just don’t heal people, and that we all have so much more in common than we think.

      I hope we’ll get to talk about that sometime. Maybe we can have a chat and I can make some Oreo balls? It sounds like it might be a conversation where we’d need some :-) .

      • Oh, I just grew up on the wrong side of the tracks – grandparents took me in after I ran away several times – met the woman of my dreams, and then chased our dreams together while having two wonderful daughters.

        That’s the short story, and it’s still going!

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