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Maggie McCann Pike is a product of earlier times when women followed narrow paths. After living the life she dreamed of, that of stay-at-home mother of five, she examined her next chapter with intrigue. First things first: get solid financially. Then let her rip. So after cementing her financial situation on a teacher’s salary, she retired and started dreaming wider.
Step by step, she redefined who she was, both in being and in doing, and now wears the following hats: former French, literacy, and English language acquisition teacher; advocate for immigrants seeking citizenship; business owner providing tutoring for children with dyslexia; hospice volunteer; memoir writer; author of multiple books; freelance writer; and the most important of all, devoted mother and loyal friend.
Her writings reflect the diversity of her interests, the ardor of her passions, and the depth of her convictions. Her book for parents, The Power of Discernment: Helping Your Teen Hear God’s Voice Within, is available from St. Mary’s Press. Just Listen for the Thud: Humorous and Intimate Stories From Caregivers Who Refused to be Victims and A Chardonnay a Day: Personal Vignettes That Bring Cheer were recently released in 2015.
In this interview, we talk with Maggie Pike about her newly released book A Chardonnay a Day: Personal Vignettes That Bring Cheer.
Enjoy her exclusive Business Heroine interview…
BH: What inspired you to write this book?
Maggie: My original intent was that this book would be my legacy to my five children, my memoirs of sorts. As I shared some of the anecdotes on my blog, I found I actually had a following. So a book seemed like a logical way to put it all together for everyone to read.
A Chardonnay a Day is a book of short vignettes that are a reflection of my life, my observations, and my thinking. Uplifting and often humorous, these vignettes are pleasure reading at its finest. You’ll discover in them a reflection of what goes on inside me most of the time: I laugh at myself and at the folly of human nature, and I try to find the gold in every person and every situation.
BH: There’s a character in your book named Bartley. This little guy brings us so much joy. Tell us about Bartley!
Maggie: Oh Bartley, Bartley, Bartley. Have you ever met a child who spins your heart into a gigantic comet of love that threatens to catapult out of your chest cavity? That’s Bartley to me.
I met him when he was in third grade, a child with dyslexia who needed specialized tutoring in reading and writing. He had a pumpkin-round head covered with thick brown hair, and a neck that stretched when he was trying to make his point. He was downright funny—without knowing it—but I was touched by his sincerity, openness, and vulnerability.
I could hardly believe one child could talk so long without stopping, and every word was so precious. I would hold a notebook on my lap and keep my eyeballs glued to his, nodding as he spoke, as I wrote down what he was saying at the beginning of each lesson.
Here’s just a glimpse: “That reminds me. I’m going to try not to fart at the Halloween party this year. Sometimes I just can’t help it. My bottom starts to jiggle, and it jiggles and jiggles till I just can’t stop it. That happened to me last year at the Halloween party at the rec center. Phew. That was one short party. Everyone left. Fast. Even the teenagers couldn’t take it.”
Or the time he confided about his struggles with reading. “And by the way, I saw two words in a book, and they both started with A, but in ‘apron,’ the A said ‘ay,’ but in ‘adopt,’ the A said ‘uh,’ and I told my teacher, ‘Whoa. It’s like the world is upside down for me right now. I feel like I’ve been invited to a girls’ party.’”
Now wouldn’t you fall in love with a child like that?
BH: We hear you crashed a funeral (and this happens to be one of the stories you wrote about in the book). What happened?
Maggie: Yes, the funeral. My best friend and I had taken the gondola to the top of Vail Mountain just to see the breathtaking views from above. But when we got there, people were gathering for a funeral!
Any sane person would have hightailed it back to the gondola for a furtive escape, but not the two of us. It seemed rude. So we visited with the guests, asking them about the deceased and offering our condolences.
And then something interesting happened. Before we knew it, we were grieving this man’s passing right along with the rest! Their loss became our loss. Nevertheless, as soon as we could, we hopped on the gondola and headed back down the mountain. Deep inside, we felt a little like frauds.
I seem to have a talent for getting into awkward situations, and I describe them unabashedly in my book. Sometimes all we can do is laugh.
BH: You’ve shared that writing is something you discovered later in your life. How did you become, not just a writer, but an award-winning writer?
Maggie: When I think of myself in high school and college, I’m incredulous that I ever became a published author. Writing was agonizing for me. But when I was several years into my teaching career I took a writing course, reluctantly—a requirement for teacher recertification—at Long Beach State. There, a man named Dr. Alan Schwab changed my life: He taught me the aesthetics of writing.
So I had the know-how, but not the time. I spent many years raising my five children and holding various jobs to help make ends meet, while my writing simmered slowly on the back burner.
When I turned 40, I was looking forward to living the adage “Life begins at 40.” But instead, mine became more challenging. I handled the stress by setting goals for myself and putting them into action. I always say, “During the most trying part of my life, I published three books and got a master’s degree!”
I squeezed in writing time early in the morning and late at night, often after I got home from work at 10:30. My first three books came out of that period of my life. They were picked up by publishers, and one even won an award.
And then I became an empty-nester, and later a retiree from a busy schedule of teaching. I promised myself I would use my newfound freedom to pursue something that tapped my creativity in ways I hadn’t known before. I would simply write—with no goal, as often as I wanted, about anything that struck my fancy.
I discovered that writing anecdotes was my thing: It was creative, cathartic, and just plain fun. I posted my pieces on a blog, and eventually my postings turned into A Chardonnay a Day. Some were also published in the Denver Post and in Business Heroine Magazine.
My writing expanded when people hired me to write their memoirs. Those, of course, are not for public reading, but one did grow into a work that will be available in January 2016. Just Listen for the Thud: Humorous and Intimate Stories from Caregivers won a First Choice Submission Award at the San Diego State University Writers’ Conference in 2015.
This journey supports two phenomena I’ve noticed when looking back over my life and that of others: 1) The more you write, the better you write; and 2) In most careers, one thing leads to the next! Both are testaments to the fact that adventures await us at all times!
BH: Your book is A Chardonnay a Day – not to be confused with Chicken Soup for the Soul… we’re talking Chardonnay here! Tell us about the title.
Maggie: Writers report that ideas, words, characters’ names, etc., often come to them intuitively, without any planning. That’s what happened here. The title just popped into my mind as I was reflecting on this collection of anecdotes. Read one a day, I thought, or sip one after the other in one sitting. Be uplifted as if you were drinking a glass of Chardonnay, I reasoned.
As you read this book, you won’t need wine to have a good time. The written word will be your Chardonnay. Of course, many readers will sip wine while reading the book. Go ahead. I think you should.
Special Offer from Maggie McCann Pike!
I would love to see a copy of A Chardonnay a Day: Vignettes That Bring Cheer in the hands of all Business Heroine readers. Consider it the gift of relaxation.
Autographed copies are available at maggiemccannpike.com/a-chardonnay-a-day. Readers will also receive a free copy of the CD “All That Matters,” composed by Timothy Pike, perfect background music while reading A Chardonnay a Day. The book by itself is also available on Amazon.