“Follow your bliss and you’ll have success,” the saying goes. I’m assuming “bliss” excludes things like sleeping or getting spa treatments, but Wendy Clinch is proof that the old adage does hold some truth.
Wendy is The Ski Diva and if you, too, are a ski diva then you have surely found her online community where thousands of female ski fans share stories and trade gear tips.
Wendy took her ski bliss a step further and incorporated it into another passion – writing. The recently-released first book of the The Ski Diva Mystery series, Double Black, introduces us to Stacey Curtis, a grad student turned ski bum turned amateur sleuth.
So that, fellow bliss-aspirers, is how a person follows their passion and finds success! Simple, right?! At any rate, it’s always inspiring to hear how others did it and Wendy shares her insight, offers advice for skiers and writers, and even drops in a recipe from The Ski Diva Cooks! cookbook which contains recipes from women of The Ski Diva community. Can’t get to your dream on an empty stomach.
Visit with Wendy here and at her website. And stay tuned for another Clinch q&a in July when Wendy’s husband, Jon Clinch, who wrote the widely-praised novel Finn, will be featured on Mom Culture as his new book, Kings of the Earth, comes out.
from the art closet: fun vintage ski posters and a photo of perhaps the most grueling aspect of skiing ever. see it.
How did you catapult your ski passion and your Ski Diva website into a book deal?
Although being a novelist is fairly new to me, I’ve always worked as a writer. For many years I made a living writing ad copy for industrial equipment — like pumps used to move toxic chemicals, and wastewater treatment equipment.
When my husband’s first book came out in 2007 (Finn, Random House,), I was able to leave advertising and concentrate on skiing. But this left me without a creative outlet. Writing Double Black allowed me to combine my two passions – skiing and writing. It’s really the best of both worlds.
Double Black is a mystery novel. When writing a mystery, do you plot out the intrigue and then fill in the story…in other words, what’s the creative process like when weaving a tale of murder mystery?
For me, it all began with the germ of an idea. I wondered what my life would’ve been like if I’d become a ski bum after college instead of taking the path I chose: marriage, career, motherhood. The main character, Stacey Curtis, is actually my alter ego.
With Stacey as my inspiration, I began imagining the sort of life she’d have. For example, where would she live? Some ski bums actually end up sleeping in their cars. So what if Stacey did something different? What if she noticed all the empty condos at the ski resort, and decided to take advantage of those, instead? What if one night she opened the door to a condo and found a dead body? In Double Black, we explore who this dead body is and how it came to be there. To do this, I came up with a few main events, then filled in the gaps between them. I will say, however, that sometimes the characters or events can take on a life of their own. When this happens, it is important to be flexible enough to adjust things accordingly.
The subtitle of your book is “A Ski Diva Mystery” — will this become a series of books?
Yes. The second book in the series, Fade To White, will be out during the winter of 2011, though I’m not sure yet of the exact publication date. Fade to White features the same main character, Stacey Curtis, in the same locale. But there are new characters, as well. Stacey’s ex-fiance makes an appearance. Plus there’s a washed up action movie hero who comes to the resort to film a mouthwash commercial. He’s not happy with the direction his career has taken. And that’s where the story lies.
You live with another successful writer. Do you critique each other’s work?
We do. Jon is incredibly talented, so I’d be foolish not to take advantage of his expertise. I run things by him all the time. His contribution to my writing is invaluable.
As “The Ski Diva,” the end of ski season must be the saddest time of the year. What do you do in the summer months to satisfy your ski soul?
Yes, the end of the season is very difficult to me. My life is so consumed by skiing during the winter that I leave little time for anything else. In fact, I only write during the off season. I satisfy my ski addiction during the summer through my website, TheSkiDiva.com, where women who love to ski come together to talk about anything and everything ski related, all year round. That said, the off season is long and it’s important to stay active. I swim at the local fitness center, bike, and hike. Vermont is a beautiful state, so it’s a gift to be outdoors.
I once rode on a ski lift with the rock star David Lee Roth’s dad. What’s your most surprising ski moment?
Wow, I’m impressed! I’ve never ridden the lift with anyone famous, though I did meet Rosie O’Donnell in the lodge once.
I can’t say I’ve had any surprising moments, though I think some of the best have come from meeting women who participate in TheSkiDiva.com. We have events where we get together from time to time, and it’s a lot of fun. TheSkiDiva is a terrific community of women who share a common passion. You really do form bonds with the people you meet on line, so it’s great to meet them face to face.
You just came out with The Ski Diva Cooks! cookbook. Who’s in the photo on the cover? Can you share one or two of your favorite recipes from the book?
The photo on the cover is something I picked up on ebay. I have no idea who those people are, but it’s a great picture, isn’t it?
The cookbook is a collection of recipes from the women of TheSkiDiva.com. Here’s an example:
Diva Dude Chili
1 lb lean ground beef
1/2 lb hot/spicy Italian sausage, cut lengthwise then into hefty chunks
1/2 lb sweet Italian sausage, cut lengthwise then into hefty chunks
1 can (15 oz) diced tomatoes
3 cans (45 oz) tomato sauce
1 can (15 oz) kidney beans, drained
1 can (15 oz) black beans, drained
1 can (15 oz) white beans, drained
2 T minced garlic
1/2 tsp pepper
1 T (or 2) chili powder
1 green pepper, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 onion, medium, diced
Lightly sauté vegetables in the chili pot. Brown meats in a separate pan. Combine all ingredients, bring to boil, simmer for an hour.
Serve with garlic bread, plus garnish (red pepper flakes, shredded cheeses, diced onions, sliced jalapeno peppers, sour cream, or hot sauce) as desired. Leftovers make great breakfasts, such as fajitas and eggs with chili, ski lunches, and nachos.
Any advice for aspiring writers…or aspiring skiers?
Don’t think you can’t ski just because you’re a mom or you didn’t start when you were a kid. It’s never too late to learn. Taking lessons can make a big difference. I really don’t think it’s a good idea have your husband or a friend teach you. There’s too much emotional baggage there. The best way to learn is to enroll in a good ski school. Many resorts have programs specifically for women, and these are definitely worth pursuing. The same goes for kids. Enroll them in good ski school, where people who are trained to teach kids can give them the lessons they need. Also, don’t push them to do things they’re not ready for. One of my pet peeves is parents (and it’s usually dads) who take kids on trails they don’t have the skills to handle. It’s not a great experience for the kid or the parent.
As far as writing goes, my best advice is the following: Apply seat to chair. Just like anything else, the more you do it, the better you’ll get.
As a mother, how did you nurture creativity with your child when she was younger?
I think it’s important to recognize that different children have different strengths. And it’s important to expose them to different things so you can realize what those strengths may be.
When my daughter was little, we tried a lot of different things: dance, music, gymnastics, even skiing. She wasn’t interested in any of them, and I never pushed her, either. I think that’s a sure way to turn kids off to something completely. My daughter has always been interested in crafts, which I am totally inept at. I can’t even cut on a straight line. But I always encouraged her to explore this side of her. She’s 28 now and still enjoys crafts, so I guess I did something right.
My favorite snack is: Pretzels. I lived in Pennsylvania for 30 years. It’s the state food. Well, one of them, anyway, besides scrapple. Don’t ask.
Don’t ask me to: glue, cut, or paste. I have terrible small motor skills and can’t do any of these things without making a dreadful mess. I leave all that to my husband, Jon.
I would put into a time capsule my: iPod shuffle. I have it loaded with all the music I love to listen to when I’m skiing, so it’s a pretty good indication of my state of mind.
My favorite place is: The Green Mountain State (Vermont). I love it here. I count my blessings every day that I’m able to live in such a beautiful place.
When I have a creative block I: do something completely unrelated, like cycling or swimming. That said, I sometimes get my best ideas in the shower.
My favorite mantra is: Keep at it. If you hit a brick wall long and hard enough, sooner or later it’ll give way. One hopes, anyway.