Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is happy to shine our weekly spotlight on Scott Schaeffer-Duffy, author and activist who graduated from Worcester’s Holy Cross College. He’ll be visiting our 65 James Street store on Sunday, April 17, to talk about his book, Nothing Is Impossible, which is a memoir of activism, hope and inspiration.
Thank you very much for being on our blog, Scott! For those less familiar with you and your work, can you please tell us briefly a little about yourself and your writing?
I am one of seven children who grew up in the projects but managed to work my way through Holy Cross College, where I was the publisher of a magazine called Crosscurrents. I have spent most of the 36 years since graduation as a member of the Catholic Worker Movement, first in Washington, DC and then in Worcester. Catholic Workers shelter the homeless and work for peace and justice. Journalism is a major part of that work. I have been an editor and contributor to a bi-monthly journal called The Catholic Radical since its inception in 1985. I began collecting material for my book early on and took the last five years to finish it. I have always believed that frank storytelling, replete with humor and compassion, is the most personal way to communicate ideas, information, and experience. When I write, I imagine my readers sitting right in front of me. I feel an intimacy with them and always welcome their feedback.
How would you describe what you write? What can readers expect from Nothing Is Impossible?
Readers can expect to be interested, entertained, and inspired.
My writing has wildly variant settings and genres, but is unified in its optimism. I draw inspiration from Lawrence Sterne’s 19th century novel Tristram Shandy and Kurt Vonnegut’s Jailbird. Both books are at once serious and whimsical.
What kind of research went into writing this book? What is your favorite research story? What cool facts and findings didn’t make it into the book, but you loved discovering?
I have kept journals, letters (written and received), newspaper clippings, video interviews, court transcripts, legal briefs, and notes that now fill half of the space in my office. I made an earnest effort to be accurate in my facts and double-checked many with other individuals who were part of my stories. I tried not to include disparaging details about anyone save my own self because my book was not meant to be a complete history, but a vehicle for inspiring my readers. Hundreds of anecdotes and adventures, as well as details about wonderful people, were not included merely to keep the book from ballooning beyond reason. I hope to share some of those stories in future talks and letters.
What was the inspiration for Nothing Is Impossible? What were the steps you took to bring it from initial inspiration to the finished book?
My father-in-law suffered from dementia before he died.
As a self-styled hypochondriac, I became worried that I would forget much of what has made my life rewarding and fun if I waiting too long to put it down on paper. I also worried that my recollections would be boiled down to several narratives that I would introduce with “Did I tell you this one before?” ad nauseum. By writing this book now, I am free to have new adventures without concern about the details slipping away of those I’ve already enjoyed.
What is your favorite part of being a writer? Of the whole writing and publishing process? What do you think has been your greatest lesson in the journey thus far?
I am an extremely social person. Even when I am sitting at my desk alone, writing, I picture my readers. I am always eager to read my work aloud and to hear their reactions. When I speak before a live audience, I never bring a prepared text because I want to be free to alter my direction, emphasis, tone, and content based on the body language and facial expressions of the women, men, and children in front of me. I want to be as excited and curious about what is going to be said next as they are. I want my speaking and writing to lay my heart bare. The feedback I have received from readers, editors, and my publisher has been a wonderful assistance in achieving my goals. If my listeners and readers do not laugh out loud, as well as fill their eyes with tears, I have failed to open my heart wide enough.
Where can people find your work? (Besides ABSW ;)–though they should totally check here first!)
My book is available at Boucher’s Good Books, Holy Cross College Bookstore, and at various Barnes and Noble stores, as well as through my publisher Haley’s in Athol and directly from me at the Saints Francis & Thérèse Catholic Worker, 52 Mason Street, Worcester 01610. A full list of contacts can be found at the website: www. nothingisimpossiblebook.com.
How can we follow your work, share your awesomeness, or otherwise stalk you in a totally non-creepy way?
You can either subscribe to the print edition of The Catholic Radical or check it out at the Worcester Public Library or online at: https://archive.org/details/catholicradical or, even better, email (theresecw2@gmail) or call (508 753-3588) me and arrange a visit.