Behind the Books with Don Snyder, Author of Walking With Jack

Behind the Books with Don Snyder - Walking with Jack

With the 2013 Masters behind us, the social buzz around Tiger Woods's drop-controversy and Adam Scott's hallelujah-victory has lost its swing. To sate our appetite for the game of golf, and for the even broader appeal of high-stakes successes and failures, Don Snyder has teed up one of this year's finest tributes to the sport with his new memoir, Walking with Jack: A Father's Journey to Become His Son's Caddie. But before we lose a swath of you whose only definition of "golf" is a miniature windmill-dotted obstacle course reserved for birthdays, we hasten to add that Snyder breaks the boundaries of sports, sinking his tale squarely into the most relatable realm of all: family ties.

Walking with Jack is the story of a father and son leaning on one another to instill confidence, creating memories, and fulfilling a promise of companionship that ultimately leads Don to stand alongside his son as his professional caddie. Don Snyder, a graduate of the Iowa Writer's Workshop, is the author of both fiction and nonfiction, of which include his earlier memoir The Cliff Walk, a sensitive exploration of losing a job, and the ensuing search to support his family. We've asked Don to share with us some words on his writing interests for our Behind the Books series. Here he tells us of his early (and we mean early) writing routine, the importance of capturing our live's moments -- "each moment a scene" -- and the process of writing "from stillness into the sounds of a growing family."

Signature: To the aspiring writer, what advice would you give? What advice helped you become the writer you are today?

Don Snyder: The best advice I can give is to take your vows of poverty and loneliness, prepare for many years of disappointment and  discouragement, and be eternally thankful for the privilege of doing the work that your heart is set upon.

SIG: What five writers -- dead or alive -- would you invite to an imaginary dinner party?

DS: Richard Yates.  F. Scott Fitzgerald.  Thomas Wolfe. Alice McDermott. Virginia Woolf.

SIG: As the author of both memoirs and novels, does one style of writing come more naturally to you than the other? The preparation for both must be remarkably different.

DS: For me, whether it is fiction or nonfiction, it has always come down to writing scenes from the inside out that bring characters and their motivations, and their fears and dreams to life and that give readers the feeling that they are inhabiting these scenes.  Everything hangs on striking the most vivid detail and selecting the revealing scenes that are heated by conflict.  I believe our lives, no matter how long we live, come down to a collection of moments. Each moment a scene.

SIG: Read any great biographies or memoirs recently?

DS: An American Requiem by James Carroll.

SIG: What classics would you read if you had all the time in the world?

DS: I have spent my life reading the classics over and over again. Especially Shakespeare's tragedies.

SIG: It’s said that people either read to escape or read to remember. Do you fall into one of these groups?

DS: I  believe that the best books make us think about our own lives. Those are the kind of books I have tried to write, and that I hope to read.

SIG: Faulkner said a writer needs three things: experience, observation, and imagination. Do you use all three equally, or rely on one over another?

DS: I think perseverance and conviction matter more than those three things.

SIG: What’s next on your reading list?

DS: Two novels in progress by former students of mine who I am trying to help.

SIG: What’s your writing routine? Where, when, and how does it happen?

DS: For the last twenty seven years, ever since my wife and I began having babies I have awakened at 4:30am and done my most serious writing in the early hours of each new day, writing from darkness into the light, and from stillness into the sounds of a growing family.

SIG: Do you always have to finish reading a book you start?

DS: Absolutely. And the same is true with any book I set out to write.