You may recognize Amy Sweezey as the broadcast meteorologist who works for WESH-2 in Florida. But she’s also written an award-winning, nonfiction children’s book that discusses weather forecasting in great detail.
Tell me about your background. Where you grew up, where you live now, education, work experience? Share some interesting things about yourself that we should know about.
I grew up in Michigan (for the most part). I was born in the Upper Peninsula (which makes me a Yooper) and then lived south of Ann Arbor for many of my childhood years. I moved to Central Florida in 2002 for the job at WESH. After college graduation from Loyola University Chicago, I worked in South Bend Indiana and West Michigan before moving to Orlando with my husband. Our 3 kids were all born in Florida and are now in 10th, 8th and 6th grades. I homeschool them part-time which works out great with my wacky work hours. Since I wake up at 2 AM, having my kids home 2 days a week allows me to see them more.
What inspired you to write this book? What is the story behind the story?
For many years as part of my TV job, I have spoken to school kids about weather. It often comes with the territory of being a meteorologist — Teachers call the local weather expert to share with their students. I don’t know how the tradition first started but, for me personally, I speak at about 30-40 schools each year. Writing books about weather was a natural transition from homeschooling my own kids along with teaching other school-age kids about weather. My first book was conceived when my Florida-born children were learning about the seasons, but didn’t understand words like “snow” “blizzard” or “ice” when reading about winter. I decided Florida kids needed their own winter weather story, so I wrote It Never, Ever Snows in Florida about a little boy named AJ who had never seen snow. My second book, Let’s Talk Weather,TV Forecasting: Behind the Scenes is nonfiction and focuses on how I do my job. It’s all about the tools and instruments I use for forecasting. It explains the science behind the weather to 3rd-5th graders.
What has been your biggest challenge or obstacle?
Knowing HOW to get a book published has been the biggest challenge. I chose to self-publish both of my books, but there are many pros and cons to traditional publishing versus self-publishing. It’s much easier to get a book published when you do it yourself — but it also raises a lot of challenges when you don’t know what you are doing or where to start!
What has been your biggest “aha” moment or success?
I was pleased to win a gold medal from the Florida Authors & Publishers Association in 2018 for Let’s Talk Weather. I’m not sure if it qualifies as an “aha” moment but now that my book has been published for almost 2 years I ask myself, “What took so long?” I wish I had published years ago.
What authors do you like to read? What books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?
I absolutely love to read! I used to devour anything I could get my hands on, especially fiction and historical fiction. Now that I have 3 kids and wake up at 2 AM for work, I have a really tough time finding the time to read. If I have time, I don’t always have the energy. Audio books and podcasts are in my wheelhouse now — which I can do while driving and not fall asleep! I still love fiction books, but I enjoy non fiction inspirational and motivational books more now than I ever have: Quiet by Susan Cain (I’m an introvert); The Moment of Lift by Melinda Gates; anything by Brene Brown. I also read a lot of children’s books — not just about weather. I believe you need to stay immersed in your genre if you want to successfully emulate it.
Do you write every single day? Any writing rituals?
I tend to write every day — but usually it’s for work, not for fun. I write a lot of social media posts and website updates. My daily writing is forecast based. My blog posts are much more fun to write — but I usually take a long time putting those together. I write and re-write and write again, then fix and change, and write some more. Even a blog post that’s only a few paragraphs long can take me days or weeks to polish. Part of it is because I’m a perfectionist, part is because I’m a grammar fanatic, and part is because I try to catch and change anything that might be worded controversially. Being in the public eye, specifically in a journalism/media field, requires a certain amount of care in being politically correct. Everyone always has a problem with SOMETHING you say or write, so I try to head off as many of those comments and criticisms right from the start.
What are your interests outside of writing?
With three kids, part-time homeschooling, a 2 AM job start, and two books under my belt, I don’t have much time for anything else. I enjoy the beach and sunshine (hence the move to Florida). I love meaningful conversation with true friends about things that matter. I like watching movies with my husband and I enjoy good food. Exploring new restaurants with my family, rather than always visiting the same place every time, makes for a fun, yet simple, adventure.
Share some tips for other Authors or Aspiring Authors: What would you do differently? What would you do the same? Please share anything you think would be beneficial to those reading this.
Everyone says, “write what you know.” I agree wholeheartedly. The best writing comes from the heart. It’s real and authentic. Don’t just self-publish your book because YOU think it’s good. Get some feedback. Ask for critiques. Pay for professional editing from someone who has written books of their own (which you have read and admire). If you want your book to be successful and be something that people want to read, take the time to get it right. Don’t rush to the printer too soon. Once it’s done, it’s done.
Renee Garrison is the award-winning author of The Anchor Clankers. To suggest an interview, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org