Please tell us about yourself.
Before becoming my wife’s caregiver, I had a number of careers --- I worked in Washington, DC, as a Legal Advisor to a Federal Trade Commissioner and as a program and grants administrator. After moving to Seattle, I was a public sector lawyer for a number of years and a criminal defense lawyer, taught in paralegal programs, and was a mediator before abandoning the Law to become a massage therapist and day spa owner. In between, I lived on the island Republic of Palau, where in addition to running a Legal Services office, I was a legal advisor to the President and the Senate of the Republic. After remodeling a house (which ultimately burned to the ground,) raising goats and being a substitute teacher, I discovered a passion for adult education and was a higher education academic administrator and an instructor in an organizational leadership doctoral program.
I have always been involved in non-profit organizations in various volunteer capacities. At present, I serve as the board chair for the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts (nila.edu) a literary-educational organization. My wife, an award-winning journalist and author, and I live on Whidbey Island, north of Seattle, with a semi-neurotic cat. I like to cook (not quite as much as I like to eat,) walks on the beach, scuba diving when I get the chance to do so in warm water, coffee with friends, movies, reading, and the Seattle Seahawks.
Tell us about your book.
Learning to Float describes the challenges I faced and lessons as I transformed from being a rational, some might say aggressive, criminal defense attorney turned higher education instructor to a compassionate and involved caregiver for my wife as she was recovering from a stroke. I have attempted to be as open and vulnerable as I can, describing both the joys and frustrations of this experience, the times and situations where I was less than the ideal caregiver, as well as those moments of humor which always seemed to arise. I have included some “guidelines for floating” which summarize the lessons I learned, as well as some resources I found useful.
What inspired you to write Learning to Float?
After my wife Deloris suffered a stroke, I started sending out emails to family and close friends (I didn’t know about blogs then --- it was almost 10 years ago.) Over the months, the distribution list grew and the nature of the emails changed, becoming less about what has happening externally and more about what I was experiencing internally. Friends began telling me they thought my experiences could be helpful to others, especially men, who found themselves in similar situations. As Deloris had improved to the point where she needed my attention less, I was able to think about how to turn the emails into a more coherent and cohesive book.
How much time per week do you spend writing/editing your work?
At present, I am spending more time on marketing than on writing. When I was in the midst of writing Learning to Float, I often spent ten to twenty hours a week, maybe more. In the initial stages, I spent about 30 minutes writing the original emails. During that period, as I went through the day, part of me was observing what was happening and composing the leads in my mind. I also took writing classes and was involved in several writing/critique groups. Both experiences were essential to my progress as a writer.
What are you working on at the moment?
Most of my “writing” time is spent in marketing Learning to Float. A key part of that, I think, is distilling the essence of the book into one or more magazine-length articles, a task much harder to do than I imagined. When I finally am able to achieve this goal, and can get the articles accepted for publication, I believe it will give the book much-needed regional and national exposure.
I am also having fun writing a series of vignettes about my life, tentatively titled My Life as Anecdote. In a totally different vein, I am playing with an idea for a “pop” business/leadership book.
Title: Learning to Float
Author: Allan Ament
Allan and Deloris Ament’s lives take a dramatic turn when Deloris suffers a debilitating stroke. No longer an equal partner in marriage, Allan becomes Deloris’s primary caregiver, responsible for maintaining their household and her well-being. Learning to Float describes Allan’s transformation from a criminal defense attorney to a compassionate, emotionally vulnerable caregiver. Drawing on contemporaneously written emails and private journal entries, Ament unflinchingly exposes his emotional, mental, and physical ups and downs, consistently focusing on the love, humor, and opportunities for personal and spiritual growth he experiences on this journey. Anyone with the possibility of becoming a caregiver for a loved one, now or in the future, will benefit from the insights Ament shares. Everyone will be buoyed by the love Allan and Deloris experience as they face their new normal.
After successful careers as a criminal defense attorney, higher education administrator and instructor, and day spa manager, Allan Ament now enjoys retirement with his wife, an award-winning journalist and author, and their semi-neurotic cat (are there other kinds?) They live on an island in Puget Sound, north of Seattle, where, in addition to writing and being his wife’s primary caregiver, Ament serves as board chair for the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts (nila.edu). His work has previously appeared in academic, professional, and literary journals, and is included in an upcoming anthology, Being: What Makes a Man. Learning to Float is his first book-length work.