Linda Lange is a graduate of Green Bay East High School and Northwestern University. She has worked in broadcast stations and as a copywriter for U.S. News & World Report. Incomplete Passes is her first book. Linda lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, with her husband, Scott.
Q. What inspired the start of your writing career?
A. I can’t remember a time when I couldn’t read and write. I’m an only child, and for a few years my family didn’t live near other families with children, so I had plenty of time for both. In school I was recognized for my writing, so naturally I looked for career opportunities that made use of my skill. I wrote radio and television commercials, and promotional materials for a TV station, before becoming a promotional copywriter for U.S. News & World Report magazine in Washington, DC. My family and I moved from DC to Cincinnati in 1983, and I decided not to take another career job. I stayed home with my son and did some free-lance writing, and in 1990 I became a volunteer at a no-kill animal shelter. Although that was volunteer work, it was like a full-time job. I put in more hours and had more responsibility than I did at any of my paying jobs. When circumstances allowed me to cut back on my volunteer hours, I started writing again, and eventually the book came together. So I became a first-time author last summer, at 63.
Q. What inspired you to write a memoir involving reconnecting with friends, the baby boomer generation, aging and the Green Bay Packers? It just sounds so marvelous!
A. I grew up in Green Bay, and the year I turned twelve, I became interested in the Packers. That was a great time to discover the Packers because it was 1959, Vince Lombardi’s first year as coach and general manager. He inherited a team that was 1-10-1 and compiled a coaching record of 98-30-4, with five league championships plus victories in the first two Super Bowls. I made three new girlfriends because of our mutual interest in the Packers, and these girls changed my life. I was a chubby, nerdy bookworm, and I was having difficulty with the transition to adolescence. My new friends got me playing sports and gave me back my childhood—with them, I did “kid things” that I’d never done when I was younger. The four of us have remained close all these years, but we were scattered across the country and for a while we didn’t see much of each other. But I had long phone conversations with one of them, my BFF—I call her Pam in the book. Pam would say over and over that we were so lucky to grow up in that special time and place. It was special, because in that small town, we all felt so close to our team. I wanted to share the memories. Beginning in 1997, the four of us started making trips to Green Bay almost every fall, to renew our ties and see games. I’ve heard of other groups of friends who have get-togethers like that—or they reconnect on the Internet through Facebook or Memory Lane. It’s something my generation is doing, so I wanted to write about that, too.
Q. What is your favorite thing about being an author?
A. Finding out that I can move people. It’s a real thrill when someone tells me they laughed out loud at something I wrote.
Q. What is the toughest part of being an author?
A. Marketing the book—getting people to buy it—is tougher than anything I did while I was writing the book. Incomplete Passes is self-published (through iUniverse), so I’m promoting it largely on my own.
Q. If you could not be an author, what would you do/be?
A. I kick myself because I wasn’t the first female NFL sideline reporter. I came out of Northwestern University in 1969 with a degree in broadcasting, a pair of legs that looked good in a mini-skirt, and an almost encyclopedic knowledge of the Packers. (I’ve forgotten a lot of what I once knew.) If I’d had the foresight—and the chutzpah to sell my idea—I could have been a TV pioneer. But whoever heard of a female sideline reporter in 1969? I might as well have said I wanted to be a website designer.
Q. What would the story of your life be entitled?
A. Incomplete Passes, of course! For me that phrase has another connotation beside the obvious sports and romantic ones. It’s a metaphor for all the things in life that don’t turn out the way we plan them. My life is very different from the way I envisioned it when I was a girl.
Q. What is your favorite book of all time?
A. Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper. I love the way Picoult can take a controversial subject out of the headlines and tell the story in totally human terms. I care so much about her characters. I was shocked and saddened by the ending of My Sister’s Keeper, but I was furious that they changed it for the movie.
Q. Which character from ANY book are you most like?
A. Whew … had to think about this one for a long time. I don’t think I’m so much like an individual character as I am a type of character. I’m the perennial sidekick … every hero has one, right? I’m not good at making decisions—that is, I can make decisions just fine for myself, but I’m not comfortable making decisions that affect other people, so it’s, “Well, what do YOU want to do?” Even in my own memoir, I’m the main character, of course, but you generally find me following my friends’ leads. Sometimes that doesn’t work out so well—like when I went along with Carla in the lifesaving class and wound up having a bathing-suit malfunction.
Q. What inspired you to write a memoir about the Packers?
A. Back in the 1980s, I wrote a play called Third and Long. When I moved to Cincinnati and gave up my job at U.S. News, I was at loose ends. I was nearing forty, and was painfully aware that I wasn’t “young” anymore. One day it occurred to me that I was older than almost all of the players in the National Football League—and I’d never had a relationship with one of them. And now that I was approaching forty, I was never going to. I got obsessed with this idea; I had a true midlife crisis. Ideas started going through my head and coming out as song lyrics—musical-comedy Iyrics—and I wrote scenes to go with them. Third and Long was about a woman, Ellen, who hadn’t achieved her youthful expectations. The first song I wrote for Ellen–which didn’t make the finished script—was titled “I Could Have Been Barbara Walters.” Ellen goes back to her hometown, a thinly disguised Green Bay. She connects with a handsome quarterback and a retired player and tries to make something happen. The show didn’t get produced because I can’t write music and never found the right composer. But a few years ago, I took out the script, and I still thought it was pretty good. I decided to make it the centerpiece of a book and write a few chapters of a memoir as backstory. But my friends and the editors who saw the manuscript said the memoir was easier to read than the play and would sell better. The clincher was when my son – a professional actor – said he preferred the memoir. So I focused on the memoir and made the play subordinate to it. There’s a chapter about writing the play, and each section of memoir leads off with a brief excerpt from the script. You could say the play has almost become one of the characters in Incomplete Passes.
Q. What is your favorite season?
A. Fall, of course—it’s football season! It means that my girlfriends and I will be getting together in Green Bay for another year. My birthday is in October, which gives me another reason to enjoy fall.
Q. Tell me something funny that happened while on a book tour or while promoting your book(s).
A. As a self-published author, I’m trying to do most of my promotion through the Internet. I found a Facebook group called “She Loves the Packers” and figured this was an ideal audience for my book. Now, I want to establish that there is plenty of serious football talk on that page, and other kinds of serious talk as well. The women in that group have a real feeling of sisterhood; they share problems, and I’ve seen some darned good advice given by one woman to another on the page. But … one of the things about being a female fan is that a lot of us like to look at the hunky players. So I applied to join the closed group, and I was accepted. When I clicked on the page, the first thing I saw was a picture of Clay Matthews (Packers linebacker), followed by a lot of comments about how handsome and sexy he is. I scrolled down, and there was a picture of Aaron Rodgers (the quarterback), and comments about how hot he is. Scrolled down again, and there was another picture of Clay. In this one he wasn’t wearing a shirt. About that time, my husband stuck his head into my office to see what I was doing, and he couldn’t miss what was on the screen. I turned to him and quickly explained, “I HAVE to do this; this is WORK.”
Q. Are you working on something new?
A. Right now I’m concentrating on marketing Incomplete Passes. I’d like to start drafting another book after the first of the year. I think the new one will be a novel, because it’s nerve-wracking writing about real people and wondering if they’ll take offense. I’d like to do a novel about volunteers and animals at a shelter. I think the general public has no idea of the scope of the homeless-animal problem, and I want to educate as well as entertain them. Someone will drop off a dog at the shelter, and then they’ll call the next day to see if he has a wonderful new home already. That dog might be at our no-kill shelter for months or years—or, if he’d gone to a county shelter instead, there’s a real chance he would have been put to sleep within a couple of weeks. People don’t realize how many homeless animals there are – it’s incredible. I’m also interested in writing about the interaction among the volunteers. Most of us get along better with animals than we do with people, so there can be great friendships, but there can be enormous conflicts as well.
Q. Anything you want to say to followers of this blog or those that are just stopping by?
A. Keep reading! It’s a way to experience both the serendipitous, magical moments and the great ironies of life. I tried to put some of each in my book—after all, life just keeps throwing you Incomplete Passes!