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An Interview with Jack Sheedy


Jack Sheedy is the author of the memoir Sting of the Heat Bug (2012), a collection of essays titled Magical Acts in Two Suitcases (2020) and a poetry chapbook titled The Wanting Place (2021). He is the award-winning playwright of Guardrail Nikes (2000) and Moratorium (2020) and an award-winning journalist for The Catholic Transcript and other publications. His articles have appeared in Litchfield Magazine, The Litchfield County Times, The Hartford Courant, The Register Citizen, The Republican-American, Housatonic Home and Business Digest. He is a lifelong resident of Litchfield County.

Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?

When Sister Mary Jane Garry gave her seventh-grade class an assignment to find synonyms to certain words in a sentence, I got hooked on words. That was in 1958. I’m sure she meant well, but I have never quite forgiven her.

What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?

I’ve tried many times to kick the word habit, but I keep backsliding. I’ve been a factory worker, a janitor, a print shop binderyman, a vitamin salesman, a typesetter, even a hearing aid dealer. I’ve been a pauper and a poet, which are pretty much the same thing. I’ve been a pawn but no king. That’s life, I guess.

Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?

In My Father’s Tire Tracks is simply the best way to describe the theme of the book. Believe it or not, I had intended to call it “In His Father’s Tire Tracks,” but a friend reminded me that I was the one who actually followed those tire tracks, not some third-person singular pronoun.

How did it feel when you first saw your book cover? Or when you first held your book in your hands?

Local artist Marc Stolfi created the cover art, which I think is amazing. But I designed the cover that the artwork occupies, so there was no WOW! moment about the cover. It was a thrill, though, when the big carton of author copies arrived. I was itching to slice the box open immediately, but I waited until my wife, Patricia Martin, could be with me for the unveiling. What a thrill to hold those books in my hands!

If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?

I tried to get permission to quote “A Horse With No Name” in the epigraph, but since that couldn’t happen, I’d love that to be in the soundtrack, especially the line about remembering who you are in the desert (I don’t dare quote it verbatim). Another song—this one in the public domain, and one I freely quote in the book—is “Keep Right On to the End of the Road,” by Sir Harry Lauder. It was a favorite song of my father’s, the man I followed across the country 62 years after he made his journey. “Dust in the Wind” could accompany a chapter about driving across a desert. Also, “On the Road Again,” “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” “King of the Road,” “Ramblin’ Man,” and “I’ve Been Everywhere” are just a few other great tunes that would bring this memoir to life on the silver screen.

What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?

Well, since no readers are perfect, I’ll try to describe the ideal reader. He or she is someone whose father or mother is or was a huge influence but also someone the reader does not fully understand and wants to. Why did my father/mother do what he/she did? Why don’t I understand it? And how can I? If I try doing the mysterious thing my parent did, will I understand? But what if I’m afraid to try to duplicate what my parent did? I hope that reader will find the courage to try following that parent’s footprints—or, in my case, tire tracks.

What was the most rewarding/meaningful part of publishing your book?

There were frustrating moments, of course. The agent chase is humbling, but it also spurred me to keep tweaking the manuscript, even removing the scaffolding at times and redesigning the entire architecture, because of a potential agent’s suggestion. In the end, after two years of searching, I gave up the chase and published the memoir on my own. This required acquiring more skills, and this is where my typesetting background—remember my list of other occupations?—came in handy. Using Adobe InDesign, I laid out the entire book, inserting more than 100 color photos from both my father’s and my solo cross-country trips. I am very pleased with the results!

What new writing projects are you currently working on? Or, other projects that are not writing?

The late, great American playwright Arthur Miller used to answer this question by declining to answer it. What if the project never comes to fruition? I do have several projects in mind, though, including one documenting how my then-fiancée, now wife, endured the COVID lockdown of 2020-2021. (The most fun part of that span of time is pronouncing it: twenty twenty twenty twenty one!) For now, though, I hope my readers will enjoy In My Father’s Tire Tracks.

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