I write adventure.

“I was born in Baltimore but I keep moving westward.  These days I call Colorado and Hawaii home.  I’ve raised children, worked more than a decade as a registered nurse, taught skydiving, studied history, and sailed many nautical miles with Bob, my husband.

I first knew I wanted to be a writer in second grade.  But then again I wanted to be a lot of things — including a musician, an actress, an oceanographer, a horse trainer, a dancer.  My mother warned me against being a jack of all trades!  The cool thing about being a novelist is you can be anything you want, you can try on different lives and have a go at different careers — all through your fictional characters.

With my husband Bob Russell I wrote two guidebooks:  Rocky Mountain Wineries; a guide to the wayside vineyards, and Colorado Kids; a statewide family outdoor adventure guide  (Pruett Publishing, 1994 and 1997).   Rocky Mountain Wineries was my first published book; we had a blast researching it!  We traveled all over the Rocky Mountain states one summer, in Bob’s 1984 Corvette, seeking out wineries and tasting hundreds of hand-crafted wines.

I began writing for publication just out of high school.  I sold my first article in college and have had a fair number of articles, essays, and short stories published over the years.   Like other writers I’ve gotten my share of rejections but I’ve also received some writing awards from Honolulu Magazine, Southwest Writers Workshop, National Student Nurses Association, and Daughters of the American Revolution.  In 1996 I was awarded the grand prize from the erstwhile Maui Writers Conference for my contemporary novel, With a Little Luck (which, ironically, had no luck at all)   My articles, essays, short fiction and poetry have appeared in a wide variety of magazines and literary journals, but I’ve always had my “day job”.  Or night job, in my case…

I  spent more than 13 years as a registered nurse, mostly in Emergency and Critical Care (with a stint in psychiatric nursing and oncology), teaching skydiving on the weekends, pursuing a second degree in History, studying French, traveling whenever possible, and writing for magazines as a sideline.  I’ve also worked as a waitress, shoemaker, film processor, gas station attendant, volunteer firefighter — and I spent two weeks skinning tomatoes with migrant workers in Carroll County Maryland.   Time travel I learned on my own!

I met Bob Russell skydiving, a sport we enjoyed for many years.  Together Bob and I have sailed many nautical miles on tall ships as well as aboard our own 36 ‘ sailboat Topaz.

I like writing about the life I’m living at the moment — and the many different lives I’ve imagined.

I’ve always been a writer. Whatever I’ve done in my life, I’ve written about it.  As you can see, it’s been a composite career, a patchwork, entrepreneurial life.  Through it all I’ve written. And still I write.

Linda Collison’s writing has appeared in a variety of magazines over the decades, beginning in fifth grade when her article about General Mordecai Gist won the Maryland Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution essay contest. Linda and her husband Bob Russell have written two guidebooks and have sailed thousands of nautical miles aboard their sailboat. The three weeks they served as voyage crewmembers aboard HM Bark Endeavour inspired the acclaimed YA historical novel Star-Crossed. Her short fiction has won awards from Honolulu Magazine, Southwest Writers, and the former Maui Writers Conference. Her creative nonfiction received an award from the National Student Nurses Association.

Some of my best friends are writers.

I first met Jeanne Roppolo in Hawaii, as the sun set on the Kohala Coast, back in 1997.  She was standing beside a big yellow tanker in jeans and a tee shirt, her eyes wide, hanging onto every word the professional trainer said.  We were both brand new volunteer firefighters for Hawaii County, Company 14-A, and a little nervous about the rigorous training ahead of us.

Over the next months and years, Jeanne and I learned to pull hose and operate the nozzles; we learned how to use a fire extinguisher, how to rescue people off of rooftops and burning buildings, we learned how to jumpstart a heart with the automatic external defibrillator.  Together, Jeanne and I fought many a brush fire on Hawaii’s west side (the dry side) in our yellow canvas brush jackets, our hair tucked up under our helmets, our faces smudged with soot.  Jeanne was everyone’s favorite firefighter.  She’s maybe 5’2″ in her brush boots and 120 pounds with all her bunker gear on; she’s got energy and enthusiasm to spare.  She is likewise one of the most trustworthy people I know, and I’m proud to call her my friend.

Being a middle-aged female firefighter is just one chapter in Jeanne’s life.  A few years ago she took a job in Antarctica.  At a point when other women her age are thinking about retiring or spending more time rocking grandbabies, Jeanne goes off to McMurdo Station to work for six months.  I told her she should write a book.  She’s written four so far, and working on the fifth!  I’m so inspired by this woman, this grandmother, this friend.

I asked Jeanne to share something of her writing process.

…While in the zen of my vacuuming at McMurdo Station, I was plotting my Antarctica adult memoir book when my dear friend and fellow firefighter, Linda Collison, author of numerous titles, the latest being Looking for Redfeather, suggested that I write a children’ book about my adventure at the bottom of the world. With wonder and amazement, (that I had never thought of that), I replied: “I can do that.”
And so it began…
My first draft was written with another children’ book as my guide.  THIS IS WHAT I THOUGHT WAS EXPECTED. -So, I tried to fit into that format. When completed, I gave the result to a friend that I have known for over 45 years, someone who really knows me. She read my masterpiece (haha) & threw it back at me and said: “Do it over.  Where is the passion?  Where are YOU? This is NOT how YOU tell stories.”
You know what? My friend was right.  That first draft was not me; that is not how I tell stories. I was trying to write the way I thought it was expected. I was trying to be something that I was not. So, I rewrote my adventure the way I verbally tell my stories. I changed my mind set. I no longer tried to be an author. I just wrote my story, my way. The result was 100% better. Writing my way, allowed my voice, my passion to come through on every page. This is who I am. I don’t consider myself an author. I am just sharing my stories…When YOU write—YOUR personality, YOUR passion needs to come through the written word. The end product has to be a reflection of you.  If it is, you have succeeded.  You are the writer of your own story.
Jeanne Roppolo
About the “Grandma Goes to…” book series: Written for children, educational for all ages, and an inspirational read for the whole family. Visually stunning with 38 pages of color photographs. These children’s books meet federally-mandated, Common Core standards; a companion Teacher Study Guide is also available for each title.
In her motivational speaking engagements she conducts for children, teens, and adults, Jeanne Roppolo talks about her unusual life journey. This world-traversing grandmother loves to share her unique stories.  Not just for kids.Be inspired! Follow her on Facebook!  Purchase books and study guides, or schedule Grandma Jeanne to speak with your group (K-adults) via her website!
I hope Jeanne is planning a Grandma Fights Fires in Hawaii book in her series — if only for old times’ sake.