Tim J. Myers is a man of many hats, including (but not limited to) author, songwriter, storyteller, and lecturer at Santa Clara University in Silicon Valley.
He has published over 130 poems, and his children’s books have been recognized by The New York Times, Kirkus, and NPR, among others. His book Glad to be Dad: A Call to Fatherhood (Familius) was featured on the Parents Magazine website, won the inaugural Ben Franklin Digital Award, and came in at #5 on Amazon's "Hot New Releases in Fatherhood". Tim won the West Coast Songwriters Saratoga Chapter Song of the Year award and the 2012 Society of Children's Writers and Illustrators Magazine Merit Award for Fiction. Most recently, Rude Dude's Book of Food: Stories Behind Some of the Crazy Cool Stuff We Eat, has just been published, also with Familius.
His most important hats, however—and I think he would agree—are his husband/father hats, which, as any parent or spouse would know, he must wear 24/7. We are delighted that he has agreed to participate in this interview, and we send him our thanks.
We'd love to hear a bit about your background (your family most of all).
I'm actually the oldest of 11 children, which is, of course, a story in itself. My family is not only large but full of large personalities, and a lot of crazy things went on. For example, the time my mom—who always cut our hair when we were kids, to save money—forgot that she was cutting one of my sisters' hair and started giving her a boy's crew cut, then realized her mistake halfway through. This might have been the very first time anyone sported the "chili bowl" look. Similarly, my uncle once took us all to a swimming pool some miles away and forgot one of us when we left to go home. Come to think of it, both of these happened to the same sister--and she actually grew up to be a very together person. Whew.
My own family is different, though equally intense. My wife and I have three children, all adults now, and all have what you might call intellectual careers. In a short time, three of us will be university PhD's, and two of us are already writers (and I, by the way, don't have a PhD, though I teach at a university). But at the same time, everyone in my family loves comedy, outdoor life, music—it's a lively group, to say the least. I could never fully express both how much I love my family—and how much I like them and how they are.
When would you say your career took off?
I think there are two answers to this question. The thing about being a writer—or any artist—is that what happens on the inside is more important than what happens on the outside. The moment in which you first behold what art is and what your role as an artist can be, when you fully envision that—well, that's the center of everything. This moment can happen suddenly, but it's usually gradual, and it was very gradual for me. I had no conscious interest in reading or writing when I was a kid, and I only started writing on a whim. I turned in a poem to my sixth-grade teacher when she'd asked for an essay. To my surprise—and great good fortune—she was very positive about this and encouraged me to write. But even then I wrote without any idea of being a writer or publishing or anything like that, and this continued well into adulthood. And once I became a husband and then a father, I was way too busy to do any writing except in a few stolen moments.
But all along I was becoming who I most essentially was—a writer—and that slowly dawned on me, so I finally began submitting things. My first picture book was published in the early '90's, and I've kept on from there. I couldn't actually say that my career has "taken off" yet. But my life as an artist certainly has. And this is a great blessing, because I very much want a successful career, but I need to live the life of an artist.
What are some of the challenges that come with balancing a career with family life?
The biggest single challenge is how you deal with time. The writing world is tremendously competitive—as it should be—and to become a good writer takes a huge amount of training and preparation. I often say that I'm training for the Olympics without an Olympic schedule; even now my daily task is to carve out as much time as possible for writing, and to do so without short-changing my family or my teaching job. My wife and I believe in passionate commitment, especially to family but to our students as well. So I don't rob Peter to pay Paul. And that makes life harder.
But I love what I do, and I love working hard, and I'm delighted to find that one can achieve quite a lot simply through consistent effort. So I'll squeeze whatever I can into the suddenly free 20 minutes that just fell into my lap, and I'll write things in my head when I'm riding my bike, and I'll organize my teaching so I can be as helpful to my students as possible, etc. It would've been nice if I was born independently wealthy, or if I was okay with being half-present in my family life—under those conditions, my career would be a good bit more advanced than it is. But what's the point in that? Being an artist is, to me, a sacred calling, so I find myself grateful—actually grateful—for these challenges.
How has storytelling improved the quality of your family life?
This is a fantastic question, one I've never been asked before! And the answer is—profoundly.
Human beings are drawn to stories—it's in our nature. Look at the TV and movie industries. And people are constantly telling stories in daily life, even if it's only what happened to them at the grocery store that morning. We live in a sea of stories. But you can have more stories in your life if you seek them out, and you can get better at recognizing high quality in stories, and you can get better at telling and listening to stories—and this is especially true if you read. My immediate family—we're all story addicts. And we love story in any form. And because my reading specialist wife and I filled our children's lives with stories almost from birth, story is as normal and fundamental a part of our family life as is sitting down and sharing meals. That builds tremendous bonds in a family, and cements even further the already-strong bonds of natural affection and shared life. For example, our time together is often spent telling family stories, and they mean as much to us as a family as, say, the Greek myths meant to the Greeks.
There's more, though, too—since the more people experience stories, and the better the quality of stories they experience, the richer and wiser and more detailed and deep their thinking and feeling become. The cumulative effect of all the stories I've ever read or heard or watched has made me a much deeper, happier, smarter person, and it's the same with my whole family.
On top of that, people with a sense of story almost inevitably have a strong sense of fun too—which is a precious quality in this world. My family's got that in spades.
Anything else you’d like us to know?
Ah, this is perhaps a mistake on your part—for the writer may respond to the open-ended question with a whole book's worth of answering! Especially if he's asked to talk about himself—
So I'll rein in my garrulous ego and say just a few things:
—Yes, I can whistle and hum at the same time. I usually demonstrate by performing Sousa's "76 Trombones." It sounds very ugly and is utterly awesome.
—My current favorite food is from the chain restaurant my wife refers to as "Panda Excess." I love it way too much.
—One of my sons lived in Alaska and once ate bear. The other was in the Coast Guard and more than once found himself in seas so high he could walk on the walls of the ship. My wife was once bitten by a horse; you could see the teethmarks in her thigh. Ironically, my formerly horse-crazy daughter still defends the horse by saying it meant to bite my wife's mount, not my wife. Cold comfort, I'd say.
—One of my most heartfelt prayers is that I live long enough to complete all the artistic projects I've got planned.
Thanks so much for your time, Tim, and for this fantastic and fun-filled interview! Click here to view his author page for more information, and here to view his YouTube page.