Welcome, friends, to Fabulous February! At least, that’s what I’m calling it…and holding out hope that the month will bring more good news than bad. But it’s always good when I can introduce you to a new Ohio author with an interesting history and compelling reads.
Please say hello to this month’s author, Robert Menz, whom I met at Gallery 2:Ten in Sidney, Ohio, during an author event there last November. Robert is the author of  A Memoir of a Pastoral Counseling Practice and A Pastoral Counselor’s Model for Wellness in the Workplace: Psychergonomics, both from Haworth Press, as well as In the Clouds Voices from Pr’Line Mountain Viet Nam.
Menz received his bachelor of science degree in education from South East Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, which he says, “prepared me to teach Earth Science in High School.” He went on to receive a Master’s of Divinity from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City and later, a Doctor of Ministry in chaplaincy and formal counseling from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He completed a two-year, clinical residency in hospitals in Kansas City, Missouri, which proved to be foundational for his professional journeys. “I had no desire to follow the traditional pastoral route,” Menz says, “so I focused on hospital chaplaincy and counseling in and around medical settings.”
Janet Irvin: Thank you for joining me in the Author’s Corner this month, Robert. One of the first things many readers want to know is why a person decides to write a book. What provided the initial impetus for you to consider writing and publishing?
Robert Menz: My first professional position was that of hospital chaplain in Springfield, Illinois. While there, I was asked to serve as adjunct faculty at the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine (the medical humanities department). Early on, I was invited to speak at various locations. At that point, the only writing I did was in preparation for the topic I was to speak on. These notes, (sometimes crude), became the stories and vignettes for my first book. This book revealed that I had a creative passion yet was lacking in writing skills. I wish I had paid greater attention in my grammar classes and attended classes to help with my writing abilities.
JEI: I’m sure you’re not alone in that thought. 🙂 As an educator, what did you find of most value for you personally in working with students?
RM: As a teacher, I wanted to be more prepared than necessary. This provided me with the ability to answer questions that were not anticipated by many, yet very satisfying when the questions arose (especially for me).
JEI: Did you have any writers who inspired you in your writing?
RM: My mentor at the S.I.U. School of Medicine, Dr. Richard Dayringer, had published several books on the subject of Theology, Psychology, and human relations. He was an inspiration to me and actually opened doors for me to publish. I was fortunate that my first two books with Hayworth Press and my third with the University Press of America had excellent editorial staff.
JEI: Is In the Clouds, about Vietnam and the soldiers who served there, a collaborative effort, or did you interview veterans and then write their stories?
RM: When I was able to reconnect with my old friends from Pr’Line Mountain, Vietnam, we all reminisced about our experiences. We first started “zooming” every month and later had our first reunion. We had enough stories to write a book!
I first asked the full group (about 18 of us at that time) who would be interested in contributing stories for a book. A handful from our company was indeed interested (a couple more later on). A few of the stories that were offered to me verbally were written by me. Most of the contributors, however, wrote their own stories. It was my task to weave them into a meaningful sequence.
JEI: What is your organizational process when formatting a book?
RM: I tend to be topical. I like to arrange things according to topic, and then sequence the information out into the chapters.
JEI: You write primarily non-fiction. Have you ever considered switching to fiction or poetry?
RM: I have self-published two of my books with Balboa Press. One was a collection of prayers, mine and others, called Divine Entreaty. My other book with Balboa, Theo, is indeed fiction. Most all of my books contain poems that I have written.
JEI: How did you find your publisher, Hellgate Press?
RM: When looking for a publisher for In the Clouds, I wanted Hellgate Press as they are considered the premier publisher for all things military. By the way, it gets its name because of its proximity to the Hellgate Canyon in the state of Oregon.
JEI: Do you have any new works in progress?
RM: I do not have anything further that I plan to publish. I still enjoy writing poetry and will continue to do so. Perhaps my children and grandchildren will someday read them.
JEI: What advice would you give to aspiring non-fiction writers?
RM: I guess the best advice I have for aspiring non-fiction writers beyond research, research, research, is to apply the seat of your pants to the seat of the chair – for longer than you first think necessary!
JEI: What’s your favorite place to relax when you aren’t traveling or writing?
RM: My favorite places to relax (and get inspired) are our national parks. Ruth and I are fairly sure we have been to all of them (most of them several times). I have ventured into the Grand Canyon twice, summited Mauna Loa, and attempted summiting Mt.Rainier (it proved bigger than me). The National Parks (and many State Parks) are Sanctuaries that I give homage to.
For more information on Robert Menz, visit hellgatepress.com  Menz’s books are also available on Amazon.