The road to becoming a writer is different for every author, but for most there is a catalyst that makes them finally sit down in a chair and write. For career counselor and University of San Diego adjunct faculty member Gina DeLapa, a love of writing that started in childhood became a book as a result of bits of advice written in a journal for her nephew — which turned into the successful “Stuff You Already Know’ series, which includes “Stuff You Already Know” and “Stuff You Already Know — And Every College Student Should.”
Aspiring writers will find inspiration in what DeLapa shares about her process. And with graduation around the corner, bring your high school or college students to meet her and learn how to maximize their educational experience at 1 p.m. May 9 at Barnes & Noble Grossmont Center and 7 p.m. May 15 at Bookstar in La Jolla. For more on DeLapa and her books, check out www.stuffyoualreadyknow.com.
Q: You are the author of the “Stuff You Already Know” series. If we already know it, why write the books?
Ha! Great question. The shortest answer can be found in my tagline: “Life’s Ultimate Reminders.” We do know this stuff, but sometimes we all need small reminders to keep us moving in the right direction.
Q: What kind of Stuff will readers find in “Stuff You Already Know for College Students”?
All the stuff they’ll wish they had known in hindsight — from creative ways to choose a major to how to get rid of Camping Carl, the guy who drops by the dorm room and won’t leave. Most of all, students will discover practical ways to maximize the return on their college investment, both inside the classroom and far beyond it.
Q: What was your inspiration for the series?
It really started with the desire to share a few words of wisdom for my non-biological nephew Adam, who was just starting high school. There was “stuff” I wanted him to know, to make his life easier. I’m proud to say that first book has since been enjoyed by people of all ages, from middle schoolers to folks in their eighties and, of course, by Adam, who’s now a junior.
Q: Writing figured in your life since you were a child, and you even edited two national newsletters. But what made you finally sit down and write a book?
I guess I have a lot of opinions! The deal with Adam started as a collection of notes —mostly one-liners — in a red leather journal. The more I surrendered the whole thing, the more my enthusiasm grew, and the more people flooded into my life to make it something bigger than I could have envisioned on my own — first, a book, and then a series.
The cool thing is, the store where I bought that red leather journal, Bookstar at Costa Verde, now carries my books! If I can throw in a quick, shameless plug, I hope to see as many people as possible at the store event on Friday, May 15. Or at the B&N in Grossmont on May 9.
Q: You have a master’s in counseling and are a career counselor and adjunct faculty member at University of San Diego. How does your training and work play into your writing?
I see so much good in the twentysomething generation. They’re so full of life, so witty, and optimistic. On a good day, they bring out those qualities in me. And I venture to say readers will see those qualities reflected in my writing.
Q: Family has been a huge part of your life. How has family influenced your books?
As a kid of maybe 3 or 4, I remember taking family trips to the public library. I loved books, even just the smell of them. My mother and older brothers taught me how to read before kindergarten. So I think that planted the seed for my love for words. When I was in high school, my dad and I would read poetry together. Some of it was really sappy, but it really brought us together.
Beyond that, as the youngest, I probably did a lot of observing. And as a young adult, my mother inspired me by her example to keep a “Lessons Learned” journal. Without that, I don’t think there would be a “Stuff You Already Know” series. Thanks, Mom!
Q: What is the easiest part of being a writer? What is the most difficult?
I get paid to affirm and encourage other people — and to get them to laugh and maybe see life in a different way. It’s an awesome privilege, because let’s face it, life can be hard. On the other hand, so can writing!
Sometimes as writers, we find ourselves telling stories we’ve never shared with anyone, including ourselves — for example, when I wrote (in the first book) about my friend Susie, under the banner of, “Don’t make death harder than it is,” it ripped my heart out to relive that experience. But in the end, the story offered hope and redemption. I would not have left it in the book had it turned out otherwise.
Q: As you became a published author, what was the most important lesson you learned along the way?
Maybe just to get over myself! This really isn’t about me — it’s about passing along what I’ve learned, in the best way I know how, and trusting God with the results.
I’m very careful in all my books to tell the reader, “Filter this through the lens of your own experience, and keep and pass along only what is helpful.”
Q: What was the best piece of advice you were given as a writer?
A guy named Hugh Aaron, a business-owner-turned-author, reminded me that writing itself was its own best reward. “Good thing,” he added, “because it’s tough to sell your wares.” Then he summed up with, “You want to write? Then write.”
Q: What is the most important bit of Stuff you would pass along to aspiring authors?
Honor your own writing style — whether it’s literary, journalistic, or just pithy one-liners. When someone tries to stop you or discourage you — as they will — use it as rocket fuel. I’m serious about that. And to paraphrase my old friend Hugh Aaron, if you want to write, write. Use your writing to make the world better, and writing truly will be its own best reward.
Antoinette Kuritz and Jared Kuritz are the team behind both STRATEGIES Public Relations and the La Jolla Writer’s Conference (www.lajollawritersconference.com).