Thursday, June 28, 2012

Interview with author Bill Birnbaum-

Born and raised in New York, Bill spent his middle years in Southern California. There, he raised two sons and enjoyed a twenty-five year career as a self-employed management consultant. For twenty years, Bill published and edited the Business Strategies Newsletter. He authored two business books, including, Strategic Thinking: A Four Piece Puzzle. Published in 2004, that book is currently in its third printing.

In 2007, Bill and his wife, Wendy, were ready to write a new chapter in their lives. They sold their home, put everything they owned in storage and purchased one-way tickets to Arequipa, Peru. They spent the next eight months living in Peru, six of those months working voluntarily in a poor community in the Peruvian Andes. In 2008, the Birnbaums spent an additional four months traveling in Ecuador, Patagonia, Chile and Argentina.

Bill holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Electrical Engineering from The City College of New York, School of Engineering and a Master’s Degree in Business from California State University-Fullerton.

Thanks so much for your time!  You have a varied background that led you to write! 
Q: Tell us briefly about your book.

A: In my newly-published memoir, A Lifetime of Small Adventures, I relate my stories of adventure from my mischievous boyhood to my mountain climbing adulthood.  As a boy, I flooded the basement of my home – quite by accident, I assure you.  As a young man, I acquired the habit of picking up hitchhikers.  Fortunately, only a few of my passengers were seriously dangerous. 
In my memoir, I also relate my lessons learned.  I point out that we citizens of modern society are too busy  and too often concerned about things which aren’t important at all. 

About my writing style – I think of it as easy-going.  Others have described it as both humorous and friendly. 

Q: How did you feel the day you held the copy of your first book in your hands?
A: Holding my first book in my hands was an absolute thrill.  The feeling of elation was my reward for having spent all of those months working on the book.  I was especially pleased that I could finally share my stories and my thoughts with my readers.

Q: What type of music, if any, do you listen to while you write? Do you need the noise or the silence?

A: I’m one of those writers who prefers a quiet working environment.  I find music to be a distraction.  And it isn’t just while writing that I need quiet.  I even have trouble reading while a TV or a radio is playing. 

Q: I am always amazed when I see others doing several things while reading!  If you could live in one of your books, which one would you live in?  

A: If I could live in one of my books, I’d live in my recently published memoir, A Lifetime of Small Adventures.  And since it’s a memoir, I actually did live in that book.  My two earlier books are business books, and while I’m proud of having written them, they’re both descriptive of intellectual adventure, rather than physical and emotional adventure.  My business books describe my lessons learned as a business consultant.  But my memoir describes my lessons learned while experiencing life’s adventures.  Whenever I read a chapter in my memoir, I enjoy re-living the adventure.

Q: How great to live in one of your books!  How do you balance out the writer’s life and the rest of life? Do you get up early? Stay up late? Ignore friends and family for certain periods of time?

A: I confess that I’m an undisciplined writer.  I don’t really have a set writing schedule.  Instead, I catch a few hours here and there.  And I’ve drafted quite a number of my ideas and stories in hotel rooms and on airplanes.  Inspiration, at times, strikes me at some very odd moments – like when riding my bicycle or paddling my kayak.  I then play with the idea in my head for a while.   At my first opportunity, I sketch the idea on paper, and later draft the idea at my computer. 

Q: When growing up, did you have a favorite author, book series, or book?

A: While growing up, my favorite author was Mark Twain.  I was especially enamored with his book, Roughing It.  For in that book especially, his dry sense of humor was at its peak.  Twain had a talent for telling a story which initially seemed true.  Then, as the story progressed, he’d depart from reality and, before too long, I’d realize that the story was simply too fantastic to be real.  But exactly where in his story Twain moved from truth to fiction was impossible to know. 

Q: I love how you describe Twain’s writing... very beautiful description.  When they write your obituary, what do you hope they will say about your book/s and writing? What do you hope they will say about you?  

A: When they write my obituary, I’d like them to say that I was an adventurer throughout my lifetime and that I had a talent for relating my stories with both humor and insight.   

Q: Where you have lived and what you have experienced can influence your writing in many ways. Even with your book being a memoir, are there any special locations or experiences that have popped up in your books?  

A: Part Three in my memoir, A Lifetime of Small Adventures, is entitled “Two Special Places.”  There, I tell of Baja California, Mexico and Toroweap Point in the Grand Canyon.  I returned to those two places, again and again, seeking yet another adventure.  Part Five of my memoir is entitled, “Adventure Retirement.”  There I write of my adventures and my lessons learned while living and working voluntarily in a poor community in the Peruvian Andes.   

Q: What is your writing space like? Do you have a designated space? What does it look like? On the couch, laptop, desk? Music? Lighting? Typing? Handwriting?  

A: I work on a laptop computer both in my office and while traveling.  A spare bedroom in our home serves as my office. There are lots of windows for ventilation and window shades to adjust light levels and reduce glare.  The only sound I hear comes from the birds at the bird feeders outside my window.   

Q: Is there any particular book that, when you read it, you thought, "I wish I had written that!"?  

A: I found Michael Crichton’s memoir, Travels, to be fascinating.  Not only were his stories of adventure exciting, also his writing was so very reader-friendly.   

Q: It’s one thing to write a book and another to edit it. How do you feel about the editing process? What was it like to edit your book?  
 A: I know that many authors dislike the editing process, but I actually enjoy it.  For me, it’s fun to watch my work improve with each editing step.   

I print my draft double-spaced, then read it slowly – sometimes aloud – while editing with a red pencil.  Then I return to the computer making corrections on disk and, in the best of cases, this one edit does the trick.  Far more often however, I’ll repeat this process – double-spaced hard copy, red pencil, edit on disk – two or three more times.
Use this space to tell us more about who you are. Anything you want your readers to know. Include information on where to find your books, any blogs you may have, or how a reader can learn more about you and writing.

I’ve recently completed writing my third book, a memoir entitled, A Lifetime of Small Adventures.  When asked to describe the book, I simply refer to the subtitle, Stories of Adventure, Misadventure, and Lessons Learned Along the Way

I live in Sisters, Oregon with my adventurous wife, Wendy, a red kayak and a well-worn pair of hiking boots.

For more information, please visit: 
My business book, Strategic Thinking: A Four Piece Puzzle, is available from bookstores and on-line book sellers.  Here’s a link to the book’s descriptive page on

My recently published memoir, A Lifetime of Small Adventures:  Stories of Adventure, Misadventure and Lessons Learned Along the Way, is also available from bookstores and on-line book sellers.  Here’s a link to the book’s descriptive page on

Also I write the Adventure Retirement blog at:


  1. Hello! Enjoyed the interview. I'm also one of those people who works better when it is quiet. The radio and TV background noises are very distracting for me. If I want to read in the living room, while my family watches TV, I have to wear headphones to block out the noise.

    1. Hi, Susan... I really admire those who can tune out the background noise. I, like you, cannot. Some years ago, I heard a psychologist speak on this subject. She said that those who can tune out the noise are often extroverts. Seems that extroverts can deal with "a whole bunch going on" at the same time. Those of us who are introverts, according to the psychologist, have a greater sensitivity to our surroundings and are, therefore, more distracted. I thought this perspective to be interesting. Bill



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