THANK YOU!: An Essay In Honor of National Library Week

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

            The theme for this year's National Library Week, observed April 10-16, is – simply enough – "Libraries Transform."
            As an author, there are endless op-eds I could write on the plight of our state and national libraries. They continue to endure – much like the world of publishing – a stunning sea change in terms of technology and its impact on readers as well as massive budget cuts. Instead, I wanted to focus on the theme of "Libraries Transform" and why – in its simplicity – it's so profound.

One of my earliest and fondest memories from childhood is going to the library – hand in hand with my Ozarks grandmother – who used to volunteer there. The library was one of our neighboring town's oldest buildings, and it sat under ancient, arched trees. The steps were always a bit mossy in spring and leaf-strewn in the fall, but walking inside was akin to entering heaven. It smelled like another world, a magical world, a world filled with secrets I needed to know.
My grandmother was a voracious reader, and she and my mother helped make me one as well. My grandmother's two favorite books were The Bible and Walden, and she jokingly said that in the Ozarks, where I grew up, it was heresy to read anything but the Bible or to put any book on a similar level. But she felt reading was a key to understanding the world and those who were different than she was.          
"We live in a small town," my grandma would say, "but the world is big. That's how your mind must be, too."
I spent hours in that library, reading, talking to the librarians about their favorite books. It was there I read Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys, Where the Red Fern Grows and Call of the Wild. I read newspapers. I read magazines. I read Erma Bombeck, a Midwestern humorist who would become my inspiration.
Every summer was spent with my grandparents at their log cabin on a crystal clear, ice-cold creek in the middle of nowhere. We had nothing but each other and books: No microwave, no TV, no phone. When my grandma would head up for groceries, she would also return with a trunk load of library books. She would read to me as we rocked on a barn red glider that sat on a bluff overlooking the water; I would read in tree swings as well as on innertubes as I floated in circles.
I read, and I read, and that's when I started to write.
I often didn't fit in at school, and the local library served as my refuge. I was encouraged not only to read, but to be smart, think critically, think beyond the small world in which I lived. More than anything, I was encouraged to dream, and let me tell you this: Once that seed is planted, it immediately takes root in a child's soul.
There is nothing bigger, or more special, than a child's dream.
Erma Bombeck once wrote: "As a child, my number one best friend was the librarian in my grade school. I actually believed all those books belonged to her."
And despite the stunning sea change in our library system today – as well as publishing – that core has remain unchanged. Reading changes lives. Books change lives. Libraries change lives. And they remain the centers of our communities and our lives. I'm here to restate the obvious: What libraries do changes lives. I know because they changed mine.
And they continue to do so:  I've traveled the U.S. speaking at libraries – including all over the state I love and now call home – and have been stunned at their enduring power. I've spoken to grade school children and nonagenarians. Libraries have made me feel – more than anywhere, else save our nation's independent booksellers – that what I do is vitally important and what they do transforms lives and fuels dreams.

So, I simply want to say this week what I'm sure too few people say to our libraries and those who support them: Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

BE FEARLESS! A Writing (& Life) Lesson on Fear & Voice

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

An inspirational quote from my debut novel, THE CHARM BRACELET

Of the endless things I could teach and preach to writers, learning to overcome fear to channel your true voice tops the list.

Fear is devastating to all of us in life, but especially an author. Too often in our world today, we let fear consume us: It drives our daily lives typically more so than passion. We worry about money. Time. Health. Aging. Our Parents. Our Children. The future.

The same typically holds true in writing. In the beginning stages, we worry about all the things over which we have no control: Whether our writing is good enough, whether we'll make money at it, whether those we love and know – and even those we don't – will like our work.

Awful things happen from head to hands, from brain to fingers to laptop, when we let fear consume us as writers. When emerging authors begin a book, they are drive by that unique voice that runs in their heads – the one only they can hear, the one which drives all of us to tell our story. But before we fully channel that voice, it begins to be drowned out by the call of fear. Too often, we bow down to fear, and that voice becomes diluted, a faint echo of the one that originally sang to us.

I know because it's happened to me. I began my first book, America's Boy – a memoir about growing up different in the Missouri Ozarks but buoyed by the love of family – as a novel. I actually started it as a memoir but grew fearful of pretty much everything, including what my family and hometown would think. I spent a year writing it as fiction, until someone I loved accidentally read it (a nightmare for writers).

When I asked what they thought, the reply was, "If you had dropped this on the street, and I had picked it up, I would never have known you had written it. It sounds nothing like you."

I was stunned. But, in my heart, I knew they were right.

So I started anew. Fearless. I channeled my voice, the funny-sad-poignant-sentimental one that could make my ugly laugh and ugly cry in the course of one paragraph. I finished the book, I queried agents, I received three offers of representation, and that was five books ago.

"Your voice is one-of-a-kind," my literary agent said to me when I signed with her.

Voice is all we have as writers. If you ask any agent, editor, or publisher what he or she is looking for today in a writer or book, they typically will not say the next Harry Potter, Fault in Our Stars, Gone Girl, Jen Weiner or Stephen King: They will say the next great voice.

Voice is the only thing that sets a writer apart from another. I joke there is only so much that separates Sedaris from Shakespeare: We all utilize the same tool belt: Same words, same themes. We all tend to write about the same things, too: Love, faith, family, sex, work, pets, war, death, but it's how we tell those stories that makes us unique.

Anne Lamott is one of my favorite writers and teachers of writing. She explains voice this way to writers, and I do as well: If you were all a choir, and I gave you the lyrics to the same song, and stood up here and listened to you sing, from a distance, it would largely sound the same. You'd be singing the same words, hopefully together and in tune. But if I dropped a microphone over each of your heads, the song would sound totally different: The sound of your voice, the way you interpret those exact same words would be uniquely you. A writer must do just that, except silently, on paper.

But the drumbeat of fear silences too many emerging voices. I teach a number of writing workshops, where I help emerging and established authors on their craft and their manuscripts. I am proud to have helped numerous writers have their manuscripts published by major publishers. But I am more proud of the fact that I help souls overcome the fear that keeps them from not only pursuing their passion but also from channeling that unique voice that calls to them.

Write because you have to write, no matter what anyone else thinks. Tell that story in your head that yearns to be told, that begs to get out, no matter what anyone says or thinks.

Let your voice be heard, and I guarantee you'll be amazed at how many people will respond not only to your talent but also your fearlessness.


Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Dear Friends:

I don't know how I got here. Literally. My debut novel, The Charm Bracelet, launches one week from today, March 22. ONE WEEK!

Many of you have asked what you can do to help since the first week of a book’s publication is as important as opening week for a Broadway show, movie or having the lead at halftime.  This is why I'm reaching out to you now.

I choose to write under my grandmother Viola Shipman’s name as a way to celebrate her and the bracelet that inspired The Charm Bracelet.  Writing my first novel wasn’t easy, but Viola would be thrilled to know her stories have meant so much.  This is why I am particularly hopeful that we can make The Charm Bracelet a big success in honor of her.

You’ve already done SO much to encourage me and I am humbled by all of your support, but here are some ideas that will make a difference:

1)   Buy The Charm Bracelet. Today!

I know many of you are waiting to attend one of my events, but early sales are the most effective way to get buzz going about The Charm Bracelet.  Here are links to places where you can find The Charm Bracelet in all formats:

2)   Social media the heck out of it!

Word-of-mouth is still the main way people discover books. Talk about it on Facebook. Tweet it. Put a photo on Instagram of you reading the book while wearing your charm bracelet. Be sure to link to my web site ( so I can share in the fun.  You can also include a link to buy the book as an extra boost.

3)   Attend my events and invite friends!

This not only supports me and the book but also your local bookseller. Here is a link to all my events:

4)   Review the book!

Readers who are not familiar with me, or my work, look to reviews from other readers to gauge whether they will buy a book or not. You can review The Charm Bracelet on Goodreads, Amazon and B&N.

5)   Pick me for your book club!

I would love to visit or call and chat with your group.  It’s one of my favorite things to do! Here is a link to a book club discussion guide and reading group questions, as well as how to contact me:

I would not be here without your ongoing support and friendship – in every way – and cannot thank you enough. Writers exist in isolation until their book is born, and then we celebrate with those we love.

I truly hope you're charmed (sorry, I couldn't resist) by The Charm Bracelet and look forward to hearing from you!

Wade Rouse

Holiday Heartache & Gifts: A Farewell to My Father

Saturday, December 5, 2015

My father passed away the end of October. As I navigate this first holiday season without him -- my first as an "orphan" now that all of my immediate family, brother, mother, father, are gone -- I often feel lost, empty and overwhelmed by emotion. I try to remind myself every day how loved I was, how blessed I am, and that I am who I am because of the influence of my father and my family. 

The relationship between my dad and I was not always easy -- we were often polar opposites in our views of the world, politics, life -- but we found common ground in the most important place: Each other's hearts and souls. My dad drove me crazy, and I drove him nuts as well, but we respected and loved one another deeply. 

The older I get, the more I realize what a beautiful gift it is to live without regret. I may have disagreed with my dad, but I told him every day I loved him, and he said, "I love you, too, son." That transparency was hard-fought and hard-earned, but it's allowed me to live without regret and in a place of peace. That is the gift I will receive from him this holiday season, even though he is no longer beside me. And that is the gift from both of us that I share with you and those you love this holiday season: Peace, happiness and relationships without regret. Tell those you love this year just that: I love you. You mean the world to me. I am blessed to have you in my life. You will never regret it. 
I wrote the following about my father, which was read by the minister at my father's funeral. I share his gifts with you this holiday season. 

This is a photo of my father as a child that sums him up perfectly. xoxo

I am heartbroken but remembering how blessed I have been and that he is now out of pain. I have been blessed to have many larger-than-life characters in my life. Perhaps that is why I’m a writer. My father was one of the largest. This photo of my dad as a child truly sums him up: Dimples, curls, a perpetual, "Life is sweet, let's get this party started" attitude. My dad loved life. He loved God. He loved his friends. He loved his family. He loved golf. He loved the St. Louis Cardinals. He loved the community in which he was born and raised. He was a chemical engineer, a logical man, and seemed the polar opposite of me. But he wasn't.
My father was a teacher. That’s what fathers do. And what my dad taught me influenced me greatly: He taught me to respect my elders. He taught me to relish the natural beauty of the area in which I was raised. He taught the value and importance of education. He taught me how to invest and save, and the value of a dollar.
But more than anything my father taught me never to quit. “You will never know what you’re capable of accomplishing if you stop,” he always told me. In my career, that has been of the utmost importance. My father was the stubbornest man I’ve ever known. People say the same thing of me. And I take it as a complement, for it is strength, toughness, resilience and a grand love of life that sets us apart, makes us strive to achieve something of importance in this short journey we’re given.
I loved my father. He and my mom were great characters in life and in my life. Now, they are together again. Fred and Ethel forever united. Prepare to be dipped, mom. And have the ice cream ready.

Where Writers Write

Monday, August 3, 2015

Most readers seem to have a fascination (if not semi-obsession) with where writers write. 

I think it's more of an interest in seeing and understanding the intimate space in which writers create, that world where writers go to leave this one behind. 

I have long held that fascination, too. As many of you know, Erma Bombeck remains an idol of mine, and I loved to read about how she locked herself away from her family to write undisturbed (save for the notes under the door). 

I have a plaque on the wall next to my desk of Margaret Mitchell which reads, "In a weak moment, I wrote a book." I love the saying, but I also love the photo on the plaque of her in her office sitting at her desk -- hands fluttering over her typewriter. 

I often love to sneak a peek into authors' writing spaces, both personally and electronically.  

One of the first things I wanted to see when Rita Mae Brown -- the legendary author of RUBYFRUIT JUNGLE and The Sneaky Pie Brown Series -- invited me to stay at her beautiful Virginia farm was her office. It was a bright room, with big windows, and a beautiful, old desk. On top? A typewriter. Rita Mae had nothing else in there: No lap top, no phone, no cell, no internet. She said she rose at dawn with the sun, and got her writing done, so she had most of the morning and all day to tend to her many animals. I think my agent and editor would murder me if I sent in a typewritten manuscript, but it is RMB after all. But, I did learn something: I rise early, too, like she does, and write. And I have learned to turn off social media when writing (and leave my cell behind, too). 

Though I have not visited their homes, I know many author-friends, like New York Times bestsellers Adriana Trigiani and Caroline Leavitt write from urban spaces while Nancy Thayer writes from her cottage in Nantucket (in an office with views of the water). I know authors that prefer to make their offices in a local coffeehouse or library.

My space is very important to as both a writer and a person: Our home is a knotty-pine cottage we call "Turkey Run," for all the wild turkeys who treat our paths and yard as their personal woodland interstate. I love my cottage, its history and its feel. It grounds me, as does Gary's gorgeous gardens, from which I pick fresh flowers for my office two or three times a week. 

My writing studio is a carriage house attached to our house. It is private, quiet, and -- the nice thing is -- I can leave it when I'm done for the day: I can return to this world. 

A peek at our carriage house in the winter

One wall leading up the stairs to the office is filled with the framed covers of my five books. This is -- and isn't -- done from pure ego. A friend sent me the first two, and when I hung them, I realized they were an important and visceral reminder of all that I had accomplished and -- now -- all that I have to accomplish. (I mean, an entire wall is still EMPTY!)

My desk sits facing two giant windows overlooking our woods and -- in the distance -- our neighbor's blueberry fields. The view is constantly inspiring and ever-changing: Summer screams green, and the windows are constantly wide open. Fall is a wonder of color, the sugar maples and sassafras visual overload. Winter is quiet and white (before we leave for the desert). And spring is nothing to everything all at once, an unfurling of Mother Nature. 

A huge sugar maple sits outside the windows, and a squirrel I call Dorothy Parker visits me nearly every day, eating acorns, staring at me, squawking at me to keep going. 

On my desk, I have my Mac, fresh flowers, all of my published books on one side of a lamp and a collection of beloved Bombeck on the other. There are meaningful photos of family, friends and pets, an assortment of bobble head dolls and raccoons (from fans of AT LEAST IN THE CITY SOMEONE WOULD HEAR ME SCREAM), a calendar filled with deadlines, glass vases filled with rocks and shells collected from nearby Lake Michigan and our coastal vacations (as well as a turkey feather or two). Usually, there are a stack of galleys on a pullout drawer that authors and publishers have asked me to read and blurb. A plaque that my artist aunt gave my parents after they built our family home titled "The House that Rouse Built" sits nearby, too. I rotate two favorite coasters for my coffee and water (and, OK, wine on occasion): One that says, "Mama loves her some boxed wine" from a dear friend (and in reference to IT'S ALL RELATIVE) 
LOVE coffee! (literally!)
and one from Oscar Wilde that reads, "Be yourself, everyone else is already taken."


I have bookshelves filled with books, family heirlooms and photos, and my expansive Pez collection. A lamp with that looks like burnished wood sits by my desk. I have a couch behind my desk that serves as a comfy place for writers who take my writing workshops to sit (and sweat ... just joking) when they come to my retreats. (btw, I NEVER nap, so it's of no use to me). 

The walls around my desk are filled with framed accomplishments (my bachelor's and master's degrees, my first marathon medal with official time and photo at the finish line), some of my first published magazine articles, as well as a number of framed quotes.

The first quote is from Dr. Seuss and states: "The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go."

The next is: "Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail," from Emerson. It was a quote given to me by Gary that helped to inspire, both humorously and poignantly, my Michigan memoir, At Least in the City Someone Would Hear Me Scream.

The next up is from Dorothy Parker, which reads: “If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can give them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.”

And, finally, from Erma Bombeck: "Great dreams... never even get out of the box. It takes an uncommon amount of guts to put your dreams on the line, to hold them up and say to the world, 'How good or how bad am I?' That's where courage comes in."

Always flowers!

At the top of the stairway are two leather chairs I call my Hemingway chairs and a leather ottoman that flank a fireplace (which gets a lot of use in the fall and winter). There is a pouf for our smaller mutt, Doris, that sits under my desk, and larger pouf for her sister, Mabel, right next to my chair. 

I have a stereo that I occasionally turn on to classical, jazz or Pink Martini (but I am noise-obsessed when I write, and must have complete quiet ... which is why Gary leaves every morning to go to yoga and coffee). 

I love my office. I love going to work. My commute is short -- a stop for coffee, a stroll in our walkway past our woods and then up 14 stairs -- but I love every step. 

Fab Fall!

A writer's space -- any artist's creative lair -- is a special place. I encourage aspiring and emerging writers to give themselves not only permission to call themselves writers but also to carve out a space that belongs to them -- be it at the dining room table, a desk in the laundry room, or in the sunroom (the place I first started in St. Louis). Claim it! Call it yours! Even over the shouts of your husbands, wives, children. Over time, it will call to you. Over time, you will return, and you will create. 

And, over time, your dream space and dream book will become reality. 



Tuesday, June 30, 2015

I was a weeping, snotty, emotional mess on Friday when the Supreme Court's ruling was announced. It was a day -- like so many of those I know and love -- never dreamed would happen in our lifetimes. The ruling was an exclamation point to all that I've written about for so many years in my books and essays, and to my life -- our lives -- in general.

There is so much to say. And I am writing about it in longer form. But, in brief:

On Friday, when a friend texted us the news, I ran down from my writing studio, weeping, uncontrollably, yelling for Gary. I grabbed him and held him, and we moved as one heap toward the TV to turn on the breaking news. I couldn't comprehend it at first. Had I hoped this would happen? Yes. Did I feel it would happen? Yes? But did it seem real? After all these years? No.

We fell as a ball onto the couch, and I grabbed Gary's face.

"I don't know what to do when you cry like this?" Gary said.

See, I'm supposed to be the strong one, the logical one. But he's really the rock.

I stared at him, seeing our 20 years together flash before my eyes, our lives now defined as Before 6/26 and Post 6/26. How manny battles had we waged to get to this point?

"Stop crying," Gary begged. "Please."

I couldn't.

Gary and I on our wedding day, 2014

I wept for the many friends who didn't make it to see this day, too many of whom took their own lives because they had been rejected.

I thought of my mom, the strongest person of faith I've ever known, who told me how proud she was of me and Gary every day, and how -- before she died -- said my faith shined through in every way and every day since I had "come into love and the light."

Yes, this is about love, but it's also about equality. Next year, Gary and I will celebrate our 20th anniversary. We were married one year ago in California. And we will renew our vows in Michigan. For years, we paid separate taxes. For years, we paid tremendous legal bills to ensure that we were each other's "family" and "guardian." What would happen, an attorney asked us years back when I was traveling on book tours, should you be injured and hospitalized? Gary likely would not be allowed to visit.

Equal? How is this right?

We fought. For years. No, our whole lives. We were bullied. We were taunted. We were rejected. Sometimes in terms of ignorance, often in terms of faith.

I no longer care what people think, because they do not speak for me, or know me. I knew from the earliest of ages I was born gay. I hurt and lied to more people than I can ever apologize to in my attempt to be "normal". Gary and I both attempted suicide.

The importance of Friday's ruling cannot be overstated. Now, no child will be born without knowing that he or she has equal rights, can grow to marry who they love and choose, without being isolated, hated, scared. Will discrimination still occur? Of course. Will hatred still rear its head? Yes.

But now everything has changed.

I have heard rumblings of all the hate chatter after the ruling, but it's on my periphery, buzzing as softly as a mosquito in my ear.

I no longer pay attention to what people say or think if they are not willing to talk, change, learn, grow, evolve.

I have been ostracized too many years from life, from faith. How would you feel if you had to hide who you are, or who you loved? How would you feel if you couldn't hold hands, or sit too close to someone at a restaurant, or invite them to a work function, or put his or her picture on your desk? Much less live through the dark years of state laws being passed "defining" what a "real" marriage is? Would you have survived?

My LGBT brothers and sisters are among the strongest people I know. When you are beaten down, and are still able to succeed, find happiness, thrive in careers, believe in God, find love, then you are heroic. You know true faith. You know true happiness.

So, talk all you want. I've heard it before. I am not to be tolerated, like a rainy day, or a cold sore. I am to be celebrated. We all are, gay or straight, black or white, married or single. We are all survivors. We are all one. We are all more alike than different.

And together we can change the world. And we have. And we will. One day, one word, at a time.

A Blink of An Eye

Friday, March 6, 2015

A Blink of An Eye

My husband, Gary, wants to live to be 114. That's the age, for some reason, that he has chosen and is working hard to reach. 

"I want to live well past 100," Gary always says, very seriously. "I want to be a centaurian."

"So you want to be live until you become half-man, half-horse?" I ask.
"It's centenarian. Not centaurian."

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