>> Tuesday, December 01, 2009
What better way to spend my “14 Days of Nothing” than reading about doing athletic things! I recently was asked to interview Jef Mallett, who just wrote “Trizophrenia: Inside the Minds of a Triathlete.” I was honored, so I asked Jef 5 questions about his book.1 And be sure not to miss the end of this post where there’s a giveaway: Jef’s giving away signed copies of his book!
1. How long have you wanted to do a book like this? How long were you specifically working on this book?
The clichéd answer is, of course, that I’ve wanted to do this all my life. Like a lot of clichés, it’s true. I’ve always loved books. I’ve always loved sports, particularly outdoor endurance sports. I’ve always loved making people smile. I only recently realized I could make people a little smarter, so maybe that’s how long I’ve wanted to create a book like this: about two weeks. Haw, haw. The idea of a funny book about triathlon started to gel while I was illustrating “Roadie,” a similar but very different take on bicycle racing by Jamie Smith. That was a couple of years ago. As it happened, Jamie’s publisher, Velo Press, was having the same idea. I’ll save everybody the math: I wrote this book pretty fast. Not quite Sarah Palin fast, but pretty fast. I didn’t get a lot of sleep in 2008 and 2009.
2. What's the target audience for this book? Who do you hope it appeals to?
Now it’s really going to sound like I’m picking on Sarah Palin. Which readers do I think this can appeal to? All of ‘em! I know the perils of trying to please everyone, but I think this book will offer a little insight for outside observers, a little instruction for those new to or pondering the sport, a little something veterans can identify with, a little perspective for those of us who have wandered off the deep end and a few laughs for everyone. Honestly, you shouldn’t have to care about triathlon at all to get something out of this book. It’s really a book about life and lessons, which is a dreadfully boring topic unless you distort it with some kind of lens to make it relatable and exotic at the same time. And triathlon turns out to be a hell of a lens.
3. I love the "Q&A" section of the book (part 1, chapter 3, section 3). That's not a question, but I'd like a response.
Q: Is there a better way to write a chapter titled “How to Explain It”?
My answer: No, there really isn’t. FYI: That chapter is all in “Q&A” format, and it’s that conversation that we’ve ALL had with someone. You know the conversation. The one that starts with them asking “Why?...” and never ends with either side feeling satisfied. Jef finishes this chapter in a great way that takes it right back around to the beginning.
4. I like how you make fun of yourself a lot, and who doesn't like that?! What else ya got? Give us another embarrassing triathlon story. (Or sports related at least.)
You really have to work at it to embarrass yourself during a triathlon. Everybody else in the race can relate, and everybody watching has to squelch their laughter because you’re out there racing and they’re not. But I manage. I like the one where I’m being interviewed for an article in the New England Masters swimming magazine. Elaine Kornbau is asking about my swimming accomplishments, which are, to put it mildly, slim. In fact, I only have one pure swimming experience that has a chance at impressing anyone, and that’s crossing the Straits of Mackinac. That’s a 4-mile swim, shore to shore, a little more with the current, and I did it with 49 other swimmers on a nice day. So I haul that one out, because sometimes even the best pool swimmers are intimidated by that kind of open water. I didn’t do my research. Elaine had just swam across the Catalina Channel, was a veteran of the around-Manhattan swim, and would soon cross the English Channel, becoming only the 33rd person to complete the open-water triple crown. (Let me make it clear here that any embarrassment was prompted by me alone; Elaine interviews and writes as well as she swims, and she never made me feel like anything short of a star.)
5. Jeez, you sure are a fan of footnotes.2 What's the story behind that?
I tend to digress. Every good story has a whole new batch of sideshows, like the way Vonnegut is always flitting about from one Kilgore Trout story to another. I actually met Vonnegut once, and let me tell you … Oops. Yeah. And the whole three-track-mind theme of the book just begged for that kind of disjointed bouncing back and forth. Doing it in footnotes is a great way to keep the asides as asides and guide the reader right back to the main theme. Much to the surprise of no one, I got carried away. The book, by word count, is roughly a third footnotes. The publisher actually had to change the shape of the book to accommodate them without forcing the reader to turn pages too much.
Isn’t that wonderful? My wife, Patty, is a very good writer and even better editor, so her handiwork shows up in a lot more than just that appendix. It was actually friends of hers who suggested that her perspective on the sport would serve readers well, and Velo Press and I were all over that one. So now there’s yet another category where my life wouldn’t have been nearly as good without her contribution.
I’m almost as bad at keeping records as I am at setting them, but I’ll try. Ironman-distance PR is 11:02, at IM Florida. Half-iron, 5:09 at the Musselman in New York. Olympic, oh boy. I could be missing one, but best I can find is 2:14 at the Lansing Legislator, right here at home. I know I’ve done two IMs and five half-IMs. Probably a couple dozen Olympic-distances and a few more sprints than that.
8. And if you're taking applications, I'd love to join "Team Fast Pig." Like you, I need to get up super early on race morning, I can't swim a straight line, and I believe in "gravity clusters" even if science has yet to back us up on that. So I think those first 2 could be requirements for the team....
The concept of the Fast Pig (blatantly stolen from Steinbeck in “East of Eden,” but with he didn’t have the greatest sport in the world to apply it to) is possibly my favorite metaphor ever. What a team that would be! In retrospect, I should have named the book “Fast Pig.” People could pronounce that. Which, it’s Trits-o-FREE-nee-uh, like schizophrenia plus one.3 I seem to have a lifelong problem with pronouncability. Just so people know, my last name doesn’t rhyme with “shallot,” it rhymes with “a jet.” Which, going back to my personal best times, is probably not the best mnemonic device. Sure wish there was a breed of pig that rhymed …
I wish I’d already committed to a 2010 race schedule so I could urge your readers to come out and say hi. I do know I’ll be at the Hawk Island Triathlon in Lansing, Mich., since I help organize that one. And I’m planning on doing Musselman again, and I’m about to sign up for the Rev3 full-distance race in Cedar Point, Ohio. It looks terrific. Then again, this could work out well – if the right race turns up at the right time, I’m a friendly guy with a book to push, and I’m open to invitation. Thanks, Steve – great questions. This was a blast.
1. I know, I know. This was more than 5 questions. Leave me alone. I’m still on some sort of high from being stuffed with turkey, bacon, duck, ribs, pickle and ham and cream cheese rollups, and 3 different pumpkin-related desserts over the weekend. Cut me some slack.
2. These are footnotes. If you didn’t know, now you do.
3. THANK YOU! I really didn’t know how to pronounce “Trizophrenia” until you explained that.
Honestly, I REALLY enjoyed this book. I got through about 75% of the book on a 3 hour flight, so it’s a pretty quick, enjoyable read. You know how I know that I REALLY enjoyed it? I kept elbowing Pharmie to say “Hey, listen to what Jef says here!...” I was thoroughly amused! (And Pharmie was thoroughly annoyed with me.) It’d make a great gift for someone who’s CHEERED at a lot of triathlons, someone THINKING about getting into triathlons, someone TRAINING for their first triathlon, or someone who’s been COMPETING in triathlons for years. (Need a stocking stuffer?) It’s simply a fun book! Thanks for letting me interview you Jef, and thanks for giving away a few books to my readers!!
WIN A SIGNED COPY OF “TRIZOPHRENIA” FROM JEF:
It’s easy. Ready? Here it is. All you need to do is to comment on this post to be entered in this contest. But, if you want to “earn” more entries, you can follow Jef’s Twitter feed and/or become a member of the “Steve in a Speedo” fan page on Facebook. If you do 1 of those, you earn a second entry! If you do both of those, you earn a third entry!
So follow Jef’s Twitter feed and/or become a member of the “Steve in a Speedo” fan page on Facebook BEFORE commenting on this post, and then let me know what you did in your comment so I know to add your name 2 or 3 times. So, your comment might say “Hey Steve, this John Smith from Topeka. I joined your Facebook group (but I didn’t follow Jef’s twitter), so put my name in the hat twice! Thanks!”
- You may comment now (on THIS post) through midnight Central time on Saturday, Dec 5th. The winner will be contacted on Monday of next week.
- The winner will be chosen at random by a random number generator. If you’ve earned multiple entries, you will get multiple numbers, thus bettering your chances at winning!
- Check back this Monday (Dec 7th) to see if you won! (Especially if you don’t have a blogger account because I have no way of contacting you.)
(p.s. You can learn more about Jef on his blog.)