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Iris Waichler: “You need to work with a great editor”

I want people to know what an amazing guy my dad was. By society standards he was an ordinary man with a high school education. He had a blue collar job. But he was extraordinary. He was a member of the greatest generation fighting in World War II. He was a caregiver from the time […]

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I want people to know what an amazing guy my dad was. By society standards he was an ordinary man with a high school education. He had a blue collar job. But he was extraordinary. He was a member of the greatest generation fighting in World War II. He was a caregiver from the time he was a child. The book is written in his words and mine which brings me comfort. His words will always live on. I also want readers to read my book and take away the skills, resources, and information they need to be better caregivers. Hopefully, it will strengthen their relationships with family members.


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 Iris Waichler.

Ms. Waichler has been a medical social worker, freelance writer, and authored 3 books which won 14 major book awards. Her latest book is Role Reversal How to Take Care of Yourself and Your Aging Parents.


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

While working as a medical social worker in a hospital I saw family members of a patient sobbing in a hall because they did not know what questions to ask about a loved one they mistakenly thought was seriously ill. It prompted me to write my first book, Patient Power How to Have a Say During Your Hospital Stay, in 1986. I realized the power of words and information could empower and educate people in crisis situations. It could also reduce their anxiety. I wanted to help people and extend my voice reaching out to as many people as I could. Advocacy has become a theme in all of my non-fiction writing since then.

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

I have been so blessed in my social work career to come across so many remarkable people battling medical crisis who faced incredible challenges. I wrote a book called Riding the Infertility Roller Coaster: A Guide to Educate and Inspire. I received an email from a woman from Sri Lanka. She told me she had gotten my book and read it with tears in her eyes. She said nobody there was allowed to talk about their infertility and she felt she was the only experiencing the devastating emotions associated with it. She expressed her gratitude for learning what she felt was normal. It was a memorable and powerful moment for me and brought tears to my eyes.

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

When I wrote Patient Power it was the first writing I had done. I was shocked when a publishing company agreed to publish a book by an author with no previous experience. I falsely assumed my second book would be the same. I wrote 60 publishing companies before I found a publisher who agreed to publish my second book. I pitched 65 publishers before I found one to publish my third book. The publishing world has changed so much since I started. Major publishing companies have closed and others merged. It is harder to get a book published by a major publisher especially as a new author. The good news is there are many more publishing options for authors everything from self publishing to indie and Hybrid publishing to traditional publishing. The lesson I learned was never give up. You can get a book published if you are determined.

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?

It wasn’t a funny mistake but a very common one. I knew nothing about how to market my first book. I just thought once my book was published my publisher would take over to market my book. That turned out to be a mistake in judgement. I have learned quite a lot since then. In addition, now social media is such a huge tool that authors must be familiar with and be able to use. Successfully publishing and selling a book involves much more than writing it. The lesson is as an author you must develop a platform and have a concrete marketing plan in place. It is very expensive to hire a marketing expert and may not be possible for many authors.

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

I have become a regular article contributor to a website called choosing therapy.com . I write articles on infertility, caregiving, and other health related topics. I also will be doing a large webinar broadcasting in multiple states happening later this month. I will be discussing caregiving and the resulting role reversal that occurs and how to cope with it and mange it more effectively.

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

My book is a combination of a memoir about my dad’s life combined with self help book to help caregivers understand what tools they need to be effective caregivers. It follows my 97 year old father from being a 6 year old boy literally to the day he died. I describe the day before he died and the day he died. We were very close. The day before he died he was confused and he told me he had to go to work. I told him he had worked a long time and he deserved to rest. He told me he had to keep working to take care of my siblings. I was visiting him the next day and he was clearly tired. The staff put him to bed. I whispered in his ear that I loved him so much. I told him that if he wanted to let go (meaning die) I understood and that I was ready to say good bye if he was. I told him it was OK with me. I left and went home which was 15 minutes away. I got home and the phone rang. The nurse told me to come back that it looked like my dad was close to death. By the time I got there he had died.

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

I want people to know what an amazing guy my dad was. By society standards he was an ordinary man with a high school education. He had a blue collar job. But he was extraordinary. He was a member of the greatest generation fighting in World War II. He was a caregiver from the time he was a child. The book is written in his words and mine which brings me comfort. His words will always live on. I also want readers to read my book and take away the skills, resources, and information they need to be better caregivers. Hopefully, it will strengthen their relationships with family members.

Based on your experience, what are the “5 Things You Need to Know to Become a Great Author”? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. If you want to write a book make sure the book you want to write has not been written already. I always do research for 3 months or more before I write a book. I want to make sure what I want to say has not been said before in the way that I want to say it. I also want to be certain that I have no information to give my readers.
  2. You need to work with a great editor. You have to be prepared to write and rewrite many drafts of your book. A great editor is an essential member of this process and his/her contributions cannot be underestimated. They can help make a good book great. I was uncertain how to structure Role Reversal and it was my editor that came up with the idea and framework i ultimately chose.
  3. Write a book that you are going to be comfortable being with for a very long time. Writing a book and helping it move from an initial draft to the final product takes a very long time. Author Isabel Wilkerson takes 10 years to write her books. It took about 2 years for me from the time I began to write it to its final product.
  4. Write about something you know about. Your passion, insights, knowledge, and experience will shine through your text and will pull your reader in. I write about health related topics because I have a great body of personal and professional experience in this area. I have a goal to have my readers finish my writing be it my books or articles and feel like I understand their issues and I have given them tools to cope.
  5. This sounds simple and perhaps obvious but a great writer has to express their ideas clearly in a way your reader can understand and relate to. This is the way to engage your reader. Carefully select your words and clearly express the feelings associated with the words you use. I tried to do this in telling the story of caring for my father and helping him to die with dignity. Many readers have let me know how meaningful this part of my book was for them.

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 don’t put expectations on myself regarding my output of a certain number of words per day. My style is to find similar books and see what they say, how they said it, and what they left out. I create an outline about what I want to say and basically create the initial framework of my book. I am flexible about changing that as I engage in my writing process. I try to write every day. I also choose a specific area that is my “writing space” that does not have distractions. It needs to be a comfortable space.

Which literature do you draw inspiration from? Why?

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande and The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. Also Christine Northrup,MD’s book, Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom and Mother-Daughter Wisdom. I admire these books and authors for a couple of reasons. They choose to write about tough topics. But these are topics that describe the human experience. Their writing is eloquent and so beautifully describes the emotions, challenges, and joy/sorrow that encompass the complexity of human relationships.

You are a person of enormous 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. 🙂

I would say that we have to be kind and patient with people who are in crisis. This needs to include their loved ones because they are impacted too. Especially people who are struggling with a medical crisis that can be life changing. Just know that your are not alone in your emotions and reach out to others who have similar experiences. Also reach out to trusted healthcare professionals with expertise in the area you need help. Their input and support can bring a measure of comfort and can empower you in ways you may not understand or imagine.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

My website is at https://iwaichlerwpengine.com/

My Facebook author page is at https://www.facebook.com/RoleReversal1

My Twitter page is https://twitter.com/IrisWaichler

I post articles on infertility and aging and caregiving on my Facebook and Twitter pages Monday-Friday.

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

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