How To Book Club

Book Ckub

I was recently invited and agreed to join a book club. My initial reaction was unfavorable. For one thing, inviting someone who talks about books for a living and who writes his own as an avocation to join your book club is a little like asking a member of the Cavaliers to play on your rec league basketball team or asking your priest to join your bible study group. Also, I knew that the proclaimed purpose of many clubs fails to accurately reflect the activities in which they engage when gathered. For example, some card clubs rarely play cards and many of the customers in gentlemen’s clubs are hardly gentlemen. Similarly, in many book clubs, the actual discussion of the book under study is not even secondary but tertiary in importance to the food and the general conversation. In the end, I joined and I’m glad I did. Thus far, t has worked out splendidly.

As an author who has spoken at a number of book club gatherings and, now, as a member of one of my own, I thought I’d offer a few suggestions for those wishing to establish a “books first” book club.

1. Membership – The membership should be limited to 5 – 10 individuals. The small number allows for each reader to contribute to the conversation in a meaningful and thorough manner. Secondly, the members do not need to be close friends. In fact, I think it works better when the majority of members are more acquaintances than friends. The lack of familiarity helps to maintain focus on the book under study rather than the news from one another’s lives.  Thirdly, the membership should represent a diverse cross section of society that brings a wide array of belief and value systems to the discussion table. Therefore, members of different age, ethnic, racial, religious, and political groups should be represented, and most importantly, there should be a gender balance. My own book club miserably fails to live up to this suggestion. Perhaps, over time we will be able to address it.

2. Meeting Frequency – The club should convene every other month. For many, largely because of other time demands, reading a book a month can be onerous, especially if the book under study is lengthy. The two-month period should allow everyone ample time to finish the book, and it also keeps the experience of book club fresh and something to be looked forward to rather than a responsibility to be endured.

3. Refreshments – Keep food and drink to a bare minimum; otherwise, it will become a source of stress and competition, and it may shift the focus of the gathering to the food rather than the book. In addition, the eating becomes a time hog that greatly reduces the time that remains to discuss the book. Most importantly, it takes the stress of pleasing and impressing everyone’s palette off of the host’s shoulders. It’s tough enough to choose a book that will satisfy the diverse reading tastes of the membership and much more difficult to plan a menu to satisfy their culinary tastes.

4. Time Parameters – Begin a couple hours after mealtime. This allows members to eat at home and to make heavy refreshments unnecessary (see above). Set a three-hour time limit. Even if the conversation isn’t completed, that’s okay. It’s not necessary to solve every question the book may raise; there’s nothing wrong with leaving more to chew on. It might even inspire a re-reading and even deeper appreciation/understanding of the book.

5. Facilitator – There should be a facilitator to initiate and further discussion. If the group is leaderless, the discourse will meander, and side discussions will be initiated and fracture the group. The facilitator could be the same person each meeting, or the position could rotate in whatever manner the group sees fit.

6. Book Choice – The most important factor in constructing a  successful book club experience is the selection of reading material. Firstly, the concern should not be to please every member. Part of being in a book club is the experience of reading material you would never have chosen for yourself. If you are not excited by this proposition, you probably don’t belong in a serious book club. Secondly, limit the selections to literary novels. Nonfiction books and popular novels are written almost entirely literally. What you read is exactly what you get. Once it’s established what actually happens in the book, there is nothing left to discuss. With nonfiction and page turners, there is little to no room for personal interpretations to be introduced and bandied about – and that is the fun part and the primary reason why book clubs exist.

In the end, I believe anything that motivates folks to read is a good thing, and any manifestation of a book club is a fundamentally good enterprise rather books, food, or simple fellowship dominates the time. My suggestions as outlined above are primarily for those serious readers who want the book experience to remain at the center of conversation and for the discussion to be as stimulating and, sometimes, even life-changing as possible.


So Kelley


hall of fame

This afternoon, I had the honor of introducing Mr. Gary Kelley for induction into Sandusky Central Catholic’s Hall of Fame. Below is an abridged version of my speech.

I want to thank Mr. Kelley for conferring upon me the honor of speaking at his induction. As his, not former, but forever student, I’m humbled by his faith in me. Although I long ago graduated to calling Mr. Kelley Gary, to the several thousand students whose hearts and minds he touched, he will always be Mr. Kelley. Therefore, as I stand here as their proxy and attempt to give voice to the gratitude and love we wish to share with him today, I will use that title, which was and still is spoken with reverence and affection.

I knew OF Mr. Kelley long before I actually knew Mr. Kelley. When he was only in his twenties and I was still in elementary school, Gary and Linda used to play cards with my Grandma Benkey and my Great Aunts Else and Tec, who were at least in their seventies at the time. I thought it odd, but you had to know my Grandma and her sisters, and as I eventually came to know the Kelleys, it made perfect sense. They were all east enders, they were all Saints Peter and Paul parishioners, and they all loved people, especially young people, or at least people who were young at heart. I also knew of Mr. Kelley because when I was still in elementary school, I would often hear my high school-aged siblings, cousins, and their friends talk of him as that most confusing of breeds: the cool teacher. Remember, this was the early to mid-1970s, when many of the teachers at St. Mary were still nuns and priests. It was also at a time when the generation gap between teens and adults was wide. Roger Daltry of the Who had not too much earlier defiantly sung, “I hope I die before I get old,” and Jack Weinberg, an activist in San Francisco, said those in the movement “didn’t trust anyone over 30.”

When I entered high school myself, I was surprised to learn that this Mr. Kelley was a longish-haired, mustachioed, bell bottom-wearing, borderline hippie who was also the make-up man for school plays. On the surface, he appeared to be nothing like the male role models I’d known up to that point, all of whom were short on words, long on toughness, and often downright scary. Over time, however, I learned that this make-up man was as tough as and, when necessary, could be just as no nonsense-allowing and even intimidating as the most macho of those others. But those occasions were rare. In fact, Mr. Kelley would become the first person I knew to actually model the word “gentle” in gentleman and to teach me that I could love sports and the arts and humanities.

When I finally stepped inside his classroom for senior English, I sensed immediately that his room was different than any I’d ever been in: somehow warmer, somehow safer. It was clear that it didn’t matter who your parents were or if you were a star football player or a cheerleader or the class valedictorian or the class stoner or clown, you were going to be treated like everyone else. For those forty-two minutes, in Mr. Kelley’s room, every one of us were one of the cool kids. Mr. Kelley commanded my respect and attention not by instilling fear but by engaging me intellectually. He fascinated, not frightened me. He taught with a passion that was genuine and incendiary and made me take seriously every word he read or spoke. He made me feel that my thoughts and opinions actually mattered. Whether it was in regards to my behavior or my academic performance, he made me want to please him and never to disappoint him.

Other than my parents and my wife, Mr. Kelley has had more impact on my life than anyone else – not only as I pursued a career in education and a writing avocation, but also as I became a husband, a father, and, a mentor myself to others. When I have been at my best as an adult, I have been the most like Mr. Kelley. It’s when I’m channeling the examples he set for me and the wisdom he shared with me that I most like myself and I know I’m getting it right.

For those who are unaware, after his thirty years in Catholic education, Mr. Kelley began a second career as a sales rep. A job he continues to this day with no plan of retirement on the horizon. He has also immersed himself in his other artistic love: watercolor painting of local landmarks, including a recent one of the Jefferson Street entrance of the high school. I point this out because it is another lesson that, I believe, Mr. Kelley is modeling for us all but especially for me: to never stop seeking new challenges and to live until I die. Because, probably like all of his students, I always thought he was talking especially to me. Gary Kelley is no Gary Cooper, you will never watch him ride off into the sunset. This spirit is exemplified in the poem “Ulysses,” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, a poem that Mr. Kelley and I have long shared as one of our favorites. In the earlier stanzas, Ulysses complains that after living a life of adventure amongst gods and heroes, he has returned to his home in Ithaca and become “an idle king” with little to do but to wait for “that eternal silence.” But in the final line, he determines to set out once more with his men and “to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

It is one of the greatest honors of my lifetime to present Mr. Gary Kelley, my Ulysses, for induction into the Sandusky Central Catholic Hall of Fame.


Brooklyn: A Review

The film version of Brooklyn, Colm Toibin’s novel, has received glowing reviews from film critics and audiences alike, mirroring the acclaim that was heaped on the novel itself. Before you rush out to see it or it becomes available for streaming, I’d suggest that the story is one of such intimacy that it requires the depth of immersion that only reading can plumb in order to be fully appreciated. The time spent with Toibin’s luscious prose and the story’s protagonist Eilis Lacey, with whom I promise you will fall in love, will be well worth your efforts.

Eilis is a provincial Irish-Catholic shop girl who, due to limited prospects in her homeland, emigrates to Brooklyn in the early fifties sponsored by a priest from the home country. While living in an all-female boarding house under the intrusive eyes of her landlady and amongst her sometimes petty, always judgmental, fellow borders, Eilis suffers through a period of near-crippling homesickness. However, after she secures a job at a department store with the aid of Father Flood, begins taking night classes at Brooklyn College, and falls in love with a gregarious Italian plumber named Tony and his welcoming family, Eilis begins to relish her life in her new home. Just as Eilis settles into her previously unimaginably happy present and begins looking forward to her happily-ever-after and the attainment of her American Dream, tragic news from home forces her to confront the existential dilemma of choosing between returning to Ireland and fulfilling her familial duties or remaining in her adopted home, where previously unimaginable hopes have crystallized and dreams are coming true.

Brooklyn’s old-fashioned subject matter (love, family, faith, and home) and settingreturn the reader to the idealized 1950’s, while Toibin’s stylistic choices – the use of omniscient, third-person narration; a traditional plot structure that slowly builds to climax; a complete lack of gratuitous or ridiculously romanticized sex, violence, or crude language; and what I love best about this novel, the almost complete lack of post modern irony – earns the reader’s investment in the story through the creation of believable and empathetic characters faced with recognizable, real world difficulties and dilemmas. Brooklyn represents the novel genre in its purest form and fulfills what was once accepted as its most basic function: to capture the drama in the lives of regular people doing ordinary things in their workaday worlds.

Having come of age in the post modern era, first as a reader and student then as a teacher and writer of fiction, my sensibilities to storytelling have been jaded by the avant-garde’s dismissal of all things traditional and, even more so, by the skepticism, irony, and snark typical of the period’s storytellers. The late David Foster Wallace, a contemporary and one of my favorite authors, often worried that the heavy-handed and pervasive irony of the fiction of the late 20th century had forever destroyed authorial sincerity and that when confronted by genuine and straightforward candor, the modern reader wouldn’t know how to process it. For many, Wallace’s concern remains relevant. However, in Colm Toibin’s Brooklyn, I have found the antidote to my own sardonicism. In his portrayal of an outwardly-appearing simple young everywoman navigating the world, Toibin captures the complexities of leading an ordinary life – our ordinary lives.

Writing Advice

I regularly receive requests for advice on writing as a career from friends, family members, former students, and even mere acquaintances. This entry is an open letter to all those so interested.

Dear Aspiring Writers:

It’s great to hear about your interest in pursuing writing as a career. If you’re really a writer, by now you know that writing fiction is not something you do because you want to; you do it because you have to. It is both your blessing and your curse.

I need to warn you that very few people are able to make their living writing fiction. The vast majority of us, me included, write as an avocation, not a vocation. Fiction writing is an incredibly competitive field full of very talented people all striving to earn the same few available spaces on bookstore shelves. The earning potential is nowhere near as plentiful as most people believe, and there are no benefits (at least of the medical/retirement kind). Again, I’d suggest that if you are going to write, do so because it brings you joy or because it provides some kind of therapeutic benefit or opens up imagined worlds better than your own lived-in one. If you are ever lucky enough to profit financially from your writing, consider yourself blessed, and do something fun with the money. You will have earned it.

 As for seeking copyright, that’s an unnecessary step, a waste of time, and sometimes part of a scam. There are many unscrupulous scavengers out there seeking to take advantage of people’s dreams. This is especially true in the publishing world. Once you write it, your work is protected under copyright law without any formal registration.

 As for self-publishing, I’ve done it both ways. My first book was published by Random House in the traditional way; whereas, for several reasons, I self-published my second book. I much prefer the former to the latter. Traditional publishing is very difficult to break into, actually nearly impossible, but it allows the writer to concentrate solely on writing rather than all of the behind-the-scenes necessities of publishing: cover art, typesetting, editing, marketing, etc. If you do choose to self-publish, know that it is very unlikely that it will ever appear on a bookstore shelf. Also know that the typical self-published book sells somewhere between 50 – 150 copies, mostly to supportive or guilt-stricken friends and family, and the vast majority of self-published books do not make money. I’ve been much more fortunate. However, remember I had already built a platform and an audience through traditional publishing. Whatever you do, if you do self-publish, hire a qualified editor (not a friend or family member) to aggressively edit your work. If you don’t, chances are that you will be embarrassed by the product you present to the public, and that is never a good thing.

 Finally, you should know that the vast majority of what I’ve written will never be published. I have written at least five full-length novels that have never been read by anyone but me and that will never exist anywhere except on my hard drive. Those novels represent thousands of hours of time spent at my computer and rummaging around my own head. That’s time that I wasn’t playing with my kids, working around the house, or romancing my wife. Point being: writing is sacrifice, both for the writer and his/her family.

 If none of this has discouraged you, then write on! You truly are a writer.

 Good Luck and Always Love,


Kiss Me! I Really Am Irish!

Due to a DNA search and some genealogy research by relatives on my mother’s side, I recently learned that a significant portion of my genetic makeup and ancestral roots can be traced to Ireland, particularly Northern Ireland. This discovery was a sort of epiphany for me. It finally made sense of my lifelong affinity to Irish culture, history, music, and literature. One of my wedding groomsmen and lifelong friend Frank O’Farrell hails from Dublin. Until now, however, I never understood this attraction, and I always felt like a poser in the company of the genuine Irish. Don’t get me wrong, I’m equally proud of my German roots, but I never felt a strong connection to my Teutonic ancestors.

So in honor of this revelation, I’m going to recommend some of my all-time favorite Irish writers and musicians for you to check out in honor of St. Patrick’s Day.

Favorite Irish Writers/Poets: James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, William Butler Yeats, Seamus Heaney, Frank Delaney, Colm Toibin, Patrick Taylor, Colum McCann, and Michael Farrell, who is an ancestor of my friend Frank mentioned above. His novel “Thy Tears Might Cease” is an overlooked masterpiece. I wrote a review of it here. Check out my review, and if you can find it, the novel: This doesn’t include the number of great Irish-American authors. In addition two of my favorite works of historical fiction are about Irish history but from non-Irish authors: Leon Uris’s “Trinity” trilogy and Edward Rutherford’s “The Princes of Ireland” and “The Rebels of Ireland.”

As for Irish or Gaelic-inspired music/musicians, I love the old standbys like, The Irish Rovers and The Dubliners. I also enjoy more contemporary artists, including Young Dubliners, U2, The Corrs, Glen Hansard, Carbon Leaf, Great Big Sea, The Dropkick Murphys, and Flogging Molly. Of course, my favorite musician of all-time Bruce Springsteen is of Irish descent.

I’m sure you could add many other writers and musicians to this list; Ireland is truly one of the world’s greatest generators of artists of all sorts. I’d love to see your suggestions in the comments section. happy St. Patty’s Day everyone! I leave you with Springsteen’s “This American Land.”

Invite Ty Roth and Kelly Lytle to Speak to Your Organization!

Not long ago,I read Kelly Lytle’s memoir, TO DAD, FROM KELLY. For those unaware, Kelly is the son of Rob Lytle, former Michigan Wolverine, finalist for the Heisman Trophy, and Denver Bronco who died much too early at the age of 56. It was his father’s passing that inspired Kelly’s book. As I’ve shared here and on other outlets, I was blown away by TO DAD, FROM KELLY. Recognizing the many similarities in our upbringings and the many intersections between Kelly’s book and my GOODNESS FALLS, I asked Kelly to lunch, and he graciously accepted. Since then, we’ve decided to dip our toes in the public speaking waters by providing presentations on the issues addressed in our respective books. If you are a member of such an organization (Football Moms’ Club, Parents’ Club, Booster Club, Youth Sports League, Civic Organization, etc.) or know of one that might benefit from such a presentation, please contact me. Check out the brief introduction below, and for further information on us and our books, visit our web pages: and

DSC_0843Kelly Lytle

Ty Roth and Kelly Lytle were born and raised thirty miles apart in the Ohio cities of Sandusky and Fremont respectively. Both the public and parochial high schools in their hometowns share long histories of sports rivalries, none more intense than that between their storied football programs. Ty spent nine years as a head varsity football coach, and Kelly, who is the son of the late Heisman Trophy finalist and former Denver Bronco Rob Lytle, had his own promising football career cut short by injuries. It is their histories with football and their love of storytelling that brought Ty and Kelly together.

Although multi-themed, both Ty’s and Kelly’s books and presentations confront the pressing issue of football-induced head injuries. In doing so, they both hope to encourage the establishment of increased safety measures and to raise greater awareness in athletes and their parents of the necessity to report and recover from a head injury in an honest and cautious manner. In addition, they emphasize the importance of keeping sports in a proper perspective, maintaining honest and always open lines of communication with those we love, and living each day with zeal.

If interested in having Ty and Kelly speak to your organization, email Ty at or call at 419-341-1143 for more information and to schedule a FREE presentation. Books will be available for purchase and signing.

A Review (sort of) of TO DAD, FROM KELLY

With all apologies to my Buckeye friends, I grew up in a Notre Dame household, so having no strong Ohio State allegiances, when my oldest brother, Kevin, enrolled at the University of Michigan, I instantaneously became a Wolverine fan. It was the 1975 football season. Rob Lytle was the star tailback for the Maize and Blue, and Don Dufek was the All-American defensive back. In the countless games of football with my brothers, cousins, and friends played in the side lot on the corner of Fifth and Marlboro, I often imagined myself to be Lytle and Dufek making plays in the Big House.

I actually met Rob Lytle in 1989. He was helping out his old high school football coach at Fremont Ross Pete Moore by working as Moore’s assistant at Port Clinton High School. At the time, I was an assistant at Sandusky St. Mary’s, and we were playing against the Redskins at True-Lay Stadium. Someone introduced me to Lytle before the game. I shook his hand, but I was too shy or too starstruck to speak. I mean, Rob Lytle was third in the Heisman voting in 1976 and had played several injury-riddled seasons for the Denver Broncos. I used to play with his football card for God’s sake, and now I was shaking my boyhood hero’s hand?! I never crossed paths with Rob Lytle again, but I remember following his son’s, Kelly, football and track career at Ross. After Kelly graduated, I don’t remember thinking about the Lytles again until I read that Rob had died much too young at the age of 56. It sucked the wind from me like landing belly first on a football.

One thing I’ve learned, however, is that life has a funny way of circling back upon itself. This past Saturday, I had coffee with Kelly Lytle. We met to talk writing, for Kelly recently published his first book, a memoir titled TO DAD, FROM KELLY, that I’d read and thoroughly enjoyed. After finishing the book, I felt compelled to contact Kelly. For one reason, in a chapter titled “Accomplice,” Kelly shares that his father suffered multiple concussions and strongly relied on painkillers to alleviate the pain from the too-many-to-count injuries that resulted from his years in the game that he loved. This is just one area in which Kelly’s book intersects with my novel GOODNESS FALLS. Both of our books question whether the benefits gained from playing the game of football are commensurate to the price the sport exacts. Another reason I felt it necessary to contact Kelly was to, in a strange way, repay Rob Lytle for the joy he brought to me while I watched him play football for the Wolverines with as much grit as any player I’d ever witnessed. At the time, I didn’t realize just how much he was sacrificing in terms of his health and longevity to bring me and others that joy.

When I first entered the world of publishing, I had no one to mentor me, no one to warn me of the pitfalls waiting for a first time author, and no one to point me towards profitable uses of my time and energies. I figured that if I could be that person for Rob’s son, maybe I could make up some of that debt I owed him. It was another reason I felt compelled to touch base with him. What I learned in a two-hour conversation, however, is that Kelly, a Princeton grad and an accomplished professional, doesn’t need me. He’s smart, passionate, driven to succeed, and a living testimony to his parents’ successful raising of a strong and independent young man. In the end, I’m sure I walked out of that coffee shop with more gained than I gave.

It would be a huge mistake to think of TO DAD, FROM KELLY as a football book. In fact, it is hardly that at all. Rather, it is a book about family, growing up in a small town, perspective, living with passion, and most importantly, embracing life and confronting grief. There is literally at least one chapter in this book for everyone. It continually strikes universal chords that resonate with poignant truths and warm nostalgia. Readers will hear the voices of their own parents, coaches, teachers echoed in Rob’s raising of his son, and they will recognize many of the selfsame lessons they were taught as children and teenagers. As it provides invaluable insight into the male psyche at various stages of maturation, TO DAD, FROM KELLY should be of especial interest to moms, wives, and girlfriends in their never ending attempt to understand the motivations and behaviors of the men in their lives.

In my lifetime, I was fortunate to watch Rob Lytle play football and to benefit from his example of toughness, hard work, and dedication to his teams and to the sport he loved. Through Kelly’s recollections, I’ve learned that Rob fully embodied the nickname of his Fremont Ross Little Giants. It’s an oxymoron that captures Rob’s own ironic sense of failure – which Kelly so tenderly shares – and that despite his achievements, he was “little,” just a man like the rest of us; however, Rob Lytle – even if he didn’t quite appreciate it or was too humble to admit it – was truly a “Giant” worthy of my adulation and his son’s undying love and devotion so touchingly shared in TO DAD, FROM KELLY.

Order your copy of TO DAD, FROM KELLY:

Order your copy of GOODNESS FALLS:

Shame in My Hometown: The Cosby Show Goes On

I love my hometown of Sandusky, Ohio. In fact, recently seconded what we Sanduskians have long known when it named Sandusky “The Best Place to Live Cheaply” in the United States. Today, however, I am ashamed that this Friday our city’s theater plans to host the beleaguered Bill Cosby. The State Theater’s web page explains, “While we are aware of the allegations reported in the press, we are only in a position to judge him based on his career as an entertainer and humanitarian.” The theater has staked its own cowardly position despite the cancellation of Cosby’s scheduled appearance by seven other theaters in six other states who have boldly accepted the burden of doing the right thing even if it means suffering a financial loss. I am equally ashamed that thus far there has been little local public outcry to Cosby’s appearance, and it appears he will slip into town on Friday, do his thing, pocket his cash, and slip out of town with his seemingly Teflon-coated conscience unscathed by local voices of condemnation.

The most galling part of the State Theater’s vacuous explanation is its claim that “we are only in a position to judge him based on his career as an entertainer and humanitarian.” What about the public testimony of more than twenty women with strikingly similar accounts of Cosby’s sexual impositions against them? Should not their voices be heard, considered, and fairly judged? Just this week in The Huffington Post, Cindra Ladd, the wife of the accomplished film producer Alan Ladd and a successful executive and philanthropist in her own right, shared her account of Cosby’s alleged sexual assault against her person. Ladd’s waking nightmare followed the near-identical script as reported by so many others. According to Ladd, Cosby used his celebrity to ingratiate himself to the then 21 year-old. He supplied her with an unidentified drug. She later woke up naked having been sexually assaulted. Is it logical that so many women with no connection to one another and with so little to gain could have conspired to concoct such consistently similar stories? If so, for what purpose? Granted in criminal court, the accused is considered innocent until proven guilty. Such a standard, however, never has and never will exist in the court of public opinion, which is, sadly but most likely, the only court in which Cosby will ever be judged. In said court, only the staunchest of his supporters would deny that the evidence against Cosby is overwhelming.

Giving voice to many of Cosby’s most loyal fans and apologists, attorney, Martin Singer, has said that the allegations “have escalated far past the point of absurdity.” He oafishly added, it is “completely illogical that so many people would have said nothing, done nothing, and made no reports to law enforcement or asserted civil claims if they thought they had been assaulted over a span of so many years.” I suggest, however, that Ladd’s explanation of her own delay in coming forward is the perfect rebuttal to Singer’s apparently limited understanding of the mindset of the victims of sexual assault. Ladd wrote, “Those who suffer from these types of assaults know the prison of shame, bewilderment and disbelief. Like so many victims, my way of coping was to shove the memory into the back of my mind. I only revealed nine years ago what happened that night to my husband of nearly 30 years after another woman went public with similar allegations and sued Cosby. I always thought I was the only one.” As Singer surely knows but conveniently chooses to ignore, Ladd’s prolonged silence is far from “illogical” and perfectly consistent with the behavior of many victims of sexual assault.

It’s a lame cop out, State Theater, to claim that you or I or anyone else isn’t in a position to judge this man or to believe his accusers. Despite your long and distinguished service to the community, you have brought shame to my hometown. I guess, State Theater, you have a specious right to host this man and to take your blood money, and I suppose the people of Sandusky have a right to watch him perform and to pretend they aren’t in the company of evil, but I too have a right: the right to condemn your support of Cosby and your callous repudiation of his alleged victims. I also have the right to speak freely and to stand with these brave women who have stepped out from the shadows of their undeserved and unnecessary shame to share their horror stories and to confront the monster who preyed upon them.

Ty Roth is the author of So Shelly and Goodness Falls. Both are available in all formats through your favorite online bookstore. Visit my web page at for direct links to Amazon, B & N, BAM, Indie Bound, and Kobo.

Top 5!

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to return to regular blogging on at least a once a week basis. If nothing else, it keeps my writing skills honed. My delinquency began with the school year as classroom preparation and the grading of composition papers require so much of my time and energy. In addition, I’ve spent the last few months pitching my next novel to agents in the hope of returning to the traditional publishing model. There are currently two agencies which have expressed keen interest and are reviewing the novel, but the competition right now in publishing is intense, and although I have high hopes, I’m trying to maintain low expectations. Should I receive no offer of representation, I’m prepared to go the independent route once again.

For my first blog of the new year, I’ve been inspired by two sources: our love of lists and the Chris Rock film “Top Five.” I have not seen the movie, but the title got me to thinking about my own Top 5 moments in life. The tendency is to think that one’s own life is boring and uneventful compared to the lives of others he might follow on television, in magazines, or of Facebook. I feel, however, with my own life and Top 5 list as evidence, that most of us have led and are living far more interesting lives than we might think.

As a caveat, I need to say that I would rank even my worst days with my wife and kids as better than any of the experience on my list, and we’ll just accept that my wedding day and the births of my kids far outrank in importance and joy produced anything listed below. With that in mind, here it goes in reverse order:

#5 – Kayaking and hiking in the Adirondacks with some of my best friends. It was primordial.
#4 – Skinny dipping in the South Pacific Ocean. (That ought to make my kids and students cringe.)
#3 – Disembarking from an airplane in Orlando to attend a book event and being greeted by a driver holding a placard with my name on it. I always wanted to be that person.
#2 – The Ice Run of 2014. With nine friends, I ran from Catawba across the Lake Erie ice to Put-in-Bay. Probably not the smartest thing I’ve ever done but a whole lot of adventure and fun.
#1 – My trip with my wife to the Random House Headquarters on Broadway in NYC. I’ll never forget standing in the lobby waiting to be called up to the meeting with my editor and standing among hundreds of first edition classics published by Random and its imprints over its long history.I’ve never felt so simultaneously humbled and exalted.

Not much to write home to mom about, but, all-and-all, its a pretty cool list. It’s been and remains a good life. I’m looking forward to what’s to come in 2015 and hope to share much of it here with you. I’d challenge you to make your own list of Top 5 experiences; you might be surprised by just how interesting your own life has been.

Tough Mudders, Better Friends

Kent, Pat, Del. Danny (kneeling), Me, Doc, Marshall, and Seth

Kent, Pat, Del. Danny (kneeling), Me, Doc, Marshall, and Seth

Much of what I’ve done in my life has been done for one of two reasons: 1) to impress a girl, or 2) because my friends were doing it. The former source of motivation goes back as far as junior high and remains my prime motivator today. However, the latter dates back even further to when I was five and my cousin Sheldon thought it would be fun if we flushed my big brother’s collection of miniature statues of the presidents of the United States down the toilet. I remember explaining to my mom that it was Sheldon’s idea and her saying – as she would many more times throughout my childhood – “If Sheldon jumped in the lake, would you too?” I’m pretty sure I answered, “Yes.” My mom thought I was just egging her on and being a smart ass; however, even then I think I understood the value of jumping into lakes (or running across them) with friends.

This past weekend, I completed a Tough Mudder with the group of friends in the photograph above. If you don’t know, a Tough Mudder is a ten-mile run through and over rugged and very muddy terrain with various physically-challenging obstacles to be conquered near each mile marker. Injuries are not uncommon during this event, and in at least one tragic case, a competitor drowned. I was disappointed to learn, however, that many participants greatly reduce the difficulty of the course by simply walking from one obstacle to another or skipping some of them altogether. When anyone asked why I would enter such an event, I thought of my two primary behavioral motivations mentioned above and concluded that after twenty-seven years of marriage, my girl is more impressed by feats of laundry than feats of daring; therefore, my reason for entering the Tough Mudder was clearly because my friends were doing it, and I can’t think of a better reason.

Although I enjoy Facebook, my friends are not people I “follow;” my friends are people I DO stuff with – even when that stuff is not convenient are entirely sane. In recent years, I’ve kayaked and hiked mountains through bear country in the Adirondacks, completed numerous races including a half-Ironman, whitewater rafted a river considered one of the most treacherous in North America – twice, and ran to Put-in-Bay across three miles of ice on Lake Erie. The only adventure I’ve begged off on is when several of my buddies went skydiving – even friendship has its limits. Before we do whatever “It” is, we talk about It and, sometimes, try to talk ourselves out of It. Next, we do It, and It’s usually not as bad as we convinced ourselves It would be. Finally, we talk about It and tell the same stories over and over every time we’re together and, somehow, IT becomes even scarier and more bad ass than we built it up to be in the first place because that’s the way guys are.

Some of those guys in that picture I’ve been friends with for years, and I love them like brothers. Although, if you asked my actual brothers, they wouldn’t think that much of a benefit. A few I’ve grown closer to in recent adventures, and one I met for the first time this past weekend. Some I work with. One’s my boss. Of the other two, one is a wildlife biologist and the other is an M.D. When we’re paddling like mad, tramping over the ice, or slogging through mud, however, we’re just big boys playing like the kids we once were and forging and cementing friendships that will last our lifetimes because we did shit – sometimes scary shit – together.

Now go find some friends and go jump in the lake.

Ty is the author of SO SHELLY and GOODNESS FALLS: