Wed 9/20 @ 7PM
Ken Schneck will be the first person to tell you he has no idea what he’s doing. Aside from the fact he’s a successful college professor, who also is the host and producer behind the award-winning radio show/podcast “This Show is So Gay,” the Northeast Ohio transplant admittedly — albeit unknowingly — has been on some amazing adventures.
Formerly of Vermont, Schneck was in a need of change. This led him to Baldwin Wallace University, where he’s an associate professor and Leadership in Higher Education Program director.
It was only after his arrival in Northeast Ohio that he spent hours at the Detroit-Shoreway Gypsy Beans & Baking Company transforming his diary entries into his debut book, Seriously, What Am I Doing Here? The Adventures of a Wondering and Wandering Gay Jew, which came out this summer.
Next up for Schneck is what he feels will be an amazing experience. With a theme of “Publishing a Memoir When You’re Not Famous or Dead,” Schneck, along with journalist Joanna Connors (I Will Find You: A Journalist Investigates the Life of the Man Who Raped Her), will be the featured guests at Literary Cleveland’s next Between the Lines event scheduled for September 20 at the Happy Dog at the Euclid Tavern.
CoolCleveland talked to Schneck about his memoir, the upcoming Literary Cleveland event and his next adventure.
Tell us about Seriously…What Am I Doing Here?
The book is a travelogue, a daily recounting of the experiences I was having as I set out into the world and had these various adventures. It was written in real time, scribing at the end of each day for more than just my own brain. I had five significant adventures where I put myself in ridiculously unfamiliar terrain.
Did you set out to write a travelogue?
I got the idea when I had my first adventure in rural Uganda. I was just journaling as a way to calm myself down about being a random gay Jew in rural Uganda. I just ended up writing every day and realized it very much helped me. When I showed the writing to people afterwards, they really enjoyed it. So when I had the subsequent adventures — like I did this 425-mile bike ride from Montreal to Portland, Maine, I went to a hippie healing retreat after having never been camping before, and I also did Outward Bound in the backcountry of the Colorado Rockies — I tried to walk myself through what was happening in my head. And that’s how it all came to be.
Let’s back up for a second. How did you end up in rural Uganda?
I went twice. Two of the five adventures in the book are in rural Uganda. I went just because I said yes to the unfamiliar. Some women was on my radio show and she was describing her work in Uganda. I didn’t think it through, as I often don’t. I said, “Oh, I’ll go with you the next time you go.” She said, “Yes, you will” and within 48 hours I had a plane ticket to go with her.
Did you learn anything from that experience?
One person wrote in review, which I thought was the funniest thing, that Ken is witty, but chronically underprepared. So I learned to embrace being chronically underprepared. That first adventure in Uganda was very much about just trying to figure out where I am in the world. Then between the first and the second adventures my marriage disintegrated and my career just kind of fell apart. So the rest of the book is me going on these adventures, but also wrestling with “What am I doing? Why am I even doing what I’m doing?”
Regarding the upcoming Literary Cleveland Between the Lines event, how did you get involved?
It’s so funny how it came about. I presented at their Inkubator literary conference this summer on the topic of “Publishing a Memoir When You’re Not Famous or Dead.” They wanted to do that again for the Between the Lines event, where they pair up different authors. They asked who I would want to get. I said in my ideal world I would love Joanna Connors because I just read her book and it shredded me. But there’s no way you’re going to get Joanna Connors. They said reached out to her and she agreed. I’m beyond excited. Her work is incredible and certainly critically acclaimed. The book is about her journey to learn more about the man who raped her. We’ll be sharing the stage and reading a little bit from both of our books, talking about overlapping themes — these are two very different books — and just engaging with the audience about how do we tell our own personal narrative in a compelling way that people might want to check out.
Finally, have you looked ahead to your next book?
The first book is very much a sense of searching for place truly with the question of the title. The second book, I’m already a big chunk through. I’ve already had a couple of adventures, but it has more of a theme through the lens of self-forgiveness. There are a lot of books out there about how to forgive other people, but there aren’t a lot out there about how to forgive yourself. So as I approach these new adventures, I’m really looking at it through the lens of I’ve wronged people and made horrible mistakes that I have not let go of. What would the process look like to go on adventures to try to forgive myself for the harm I caused?