Beth Ruggiero York: “You can succeed despite the difficulties”

My hope is that it will empower anyone with gender or health obstacles in their path to a goal not to give up. You can succeed despite the difficulties. That includes writing a book. As part of my interview series on the five things you need to know to become a great author, I had the […]

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My hope is that it will empower anyone with gender or health obstacles in their path to a goal not to give up. You can succeed despite the difficulties. That includes writing a book.

As part of my interview series on the five things you need to know to become a great author, I had the pleasure of interviewing Beth Ruggiero York. Beth is an author, Chinese language translator, professional photographer, and former airline pilot. Her newest book is “Flying Alone”, a memoir of her years climbing the ladder to become an airline pilot in the 1980s. She is also fluent in Chinese (Mandarin) and works as a freelance translator for pharmaceutical companies. As a professional photographer, Beth teaches photo workshops around the world, sells stock images, and has written a book on night photography, “Fun in the Dark: A Guide to Successful Night Photography.”

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share a story about what brought you to this particular career path?

I think I was always headed for this path. I started writing when I was a child. My diary was my refuge. In 1976, when I was 13 years old, my father died. This was a sudden and devastating event that led to a deeper dive into writing. I would write a letter to him every night to tell him how I felt and what was happening in our family’s life. I still have the thick notebooks filled with letters and occasional photos or drawings.

Can you share the most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?

After graduating college in 1984, I decided to pursue one of my long-established goals of learning to fly and becoming an airline pilot. In the early 1990s, my career as a pilot ended abruptly when I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. The years during the 1980s when I was climbing to my goal were very eventful, both good and bad. I knew I had to write the story of those years, and I did, but I was dealing with a lot of personal health issues at the time and put the manuscript aside, knowing I would revisit it eventually. About a year ago, I went back to the manuscript. When I reread it for the first time in so many years, there were stories I had completely forgotten!

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When I first wrote “Flying Alone” in the early 1990s, I did very little research about how to submit to literary agents. Of course, the Internet was not there to help me! I printed many hard copies of the manuscript and sent the full manuscript to a different agent each day. Things are so much different now, but I advise new authors to perform due diligence in learning the industry standards and expectations. This will optimize your chances of being published.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I am working on a book about the changes I have seen from year to year in China, starting with my first visit in 1984. I’ve been to China over 40 times over the past 35 years and have seen tremendous change. I’m also planning a photography and essay book on the different manifestations of religions in China.

On the subject of aviation, I am working on an article about historical, closed, and otherwise interesting airports in Arizona.

What is the one habit you believe contributed the most to you becoming a great writer? (i.e. perseverance, discipline, play, craft study) Can you share a story or example?

I would have to say that keeping diaries and journaling were the foundation. I learned the discipline of writing consistently at a young age while at the same time recording life events and emotions that might otherwise have been forgotten. By writing every night before bed while growing up, I formed the habit even though it was not a conscious effort in the interest of my future career.

Can you share the most interesting story that you shared in your book?

That is a tough choice! The period covered in my memoir was so eventful, but I would have to say my mind always goes back to when I was a flight instructor at the local airport. I owned a 10 percent share of a 1946 Piper J-3 Cub and decided to take it on a “cross-country” trip from Massachusetts to Atlantic City, New Jersey, a two-day trip each way. One of my student pilots came with me.

We had a late departure when we set out that afternoon, and because of the poor planning, we had to land for the night much earlier than expected. One of the reasons was that the Cub did not have an electrical system — so there were no lights inside or outside the airplane. Because of this, we were required to land before dusk. With low fuel and no defined destination for the night, I settled on an airport on the west side of the Hudson River in New York called Ramapo Valley. The chart indicated that fuel was available there.

It was already after sunset when we crossed the river, and we immediately began scanning for the airport based on the location shown by the chart. We circled and circled, flew further south, north and west, but it was still not to be found. After about 30 minutes, I finally caught sight of it in the near dark and prepared to land immediately. As I approached the runway on short final, it became clear that something was very, very wrong. I threw in the power to abort the landing and flew over to see that the runway was broken up into giant slabs of asphalt. I had no choice but to land, though, because I needed fuel, so I went around to land on the dirt to the right of the runway.

The landing was safe, but the airplane sunk into deep mud, and I did not know how we would ever get out the next day. There was still a hangar in place and helicopters on the small ramp. Two of the pilots were there to see our landing and helped pull the Cub out of the mud. They informed me that the runway had been bulldozed that very day in preparation for building condos on the site!

The story continues from there, but I won’t ruin it for readers by telling what happened.

What is the main empowering lesson you want your readers to take away after finishing your book?

My hope is that it will empower anyone with gender or health obstacles in their path to a goal not to give up. You can succeed despite the difficulties. That includes writing a book.

What was the biggest challenge you faced in your journey to becoming a bestselling author? How did you overcome it? Can you share a story about that that other aspiring writers can learn from?

Certainly my biggest challenge was the decision whether to publish traditionally or self-publish. Originally, there was no question that I would find a literary agent to try and place my book with a traditional publisher. Over the years, though, self-publishing has become an increasingly viable option, so earlier this year, I made the decision to self-publish. The reasons for this were: I would retain control over the manuscript and the book cover; the book would be available within a much shorter timeframe; if it was even picked up by a traditional publisher, any advance they gave me would have to be reinvested in my own marketing of the book.

Which literature do you draw inspiration from? Why?

I draw tremendous inspiration from other non-fiction writers, such as Simon Winchester and Nathaniel Philbrick. Their ability to research a topic and create a page-turning piece of literature is truly impressive.

How do you think your writing makes an impact in the world?

Memorable writing — that is what I strive to and, hopefully, provide, whether for inspiration, encouragement or entertainment.

What advice would you give to someone considering becoming an author like you?

Be sure to write consistently, even if you think there is no end goal to what you are writing. Keep a diary and always have a note pad with you to jot down ideas, phrases and events. Eventually, you will see that what you have written has led you to the basis for your first book.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

I first started in the early 1990s with no Internet guidance. I wish I had been told:

1. Do your research of the publishing industry, both traditional and self-publishing;

2. Write even when you are not inspired, record your life in writing (and photos); you will be glad you did later on;

3. Edit and revise mercilessly — even though you may think your book is ready, have it professionally edited;

4. Hire a seasoned professional to design your book cover;

5. Be aware of the time commitment that comes with publishing (if you want to optimize sales).

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Because of the many years I have traveled and studied other cultures (especially Asia), I envision a movement to educate our children about the value of seeing, appreciating and learning from other cultures. Having taken groups to China that included children of all ages, I have seen the impact. Children begin to understand that life is different from culture to culture and country to country, and that strong impression will shape their views as they grow.

Where can our readers find you online?

My author website is

Readers can also find me on Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram.

Thank you so much for this. This was very inspiring!

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