Inside APA Books: An Interview With an Acquisitions Editor

What makes APA Books tick? This is the first in a series of interviews with APA Books staff, to help shed light on what we do, and how we do it.  For this interview, Tyler Aune, Editorial Development Manager, interviewed Chris Kelaher, Senior Acquisitions Editor.

Note: The opinions expressed in this interview are those of the participants and should not be taken to represent the official views or policies of the American Psychological Association.

Chris Kelaher, Acquisitions Editor with APA Books

TA: What’s a typical day in the life for an Acquisitions Editor at APA Books?

CK: I correspond with current authors as well as prospects, trying to bring in new material. When everything works out, we get a strong manuscript with which to work.  Much of my time is spent searching for new ideas, guiding new proposals through review, and eventually  getting a manuscript in good enough shape to send over to you guys [in development].  That can involve a lot of back-and forth with authors—sometimes for years, quite honestly.  To develop ideas, I look at what else is going on in the field, what’s being published in journals, which scholars and topics are prominent at the major professional meetings.  I spend a fair amount of time preparing for, attending, and following up on the key conferences in my fields. I keep an eye on the APA website and visit college campuses. And sometimes I actually find the time to do cold prospecting—researching who’s working on what, who’s teaching on which topics, identifying the gaps in our list, and approaching authors I think could fill those gaps.

TA: So when you go to a conference, do you already know ahead of time who’s gonna be there? You’re setting up meetings ahead of time?

CK: I do plenty of advance work and schedule meetings in advance, but I also meet with people on the fly, as well.

TA: So can people walk up to you, and say “hey Chris, I have a great idea for a book. . . “

CK: Absolutely! I want them to do that.

TA: What are the areas that you’re looking to acquire in, specifically?

CK: I’m one of three acquisitions editors at APA Books. My areas include cognitive psychology; developmental; social and personality; neuropsychology; forensic; and military.  I handle four series, including Division 35’s Psychology of Women series, Division’s 44 series on Perspectives on Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity, Latin American Perspectives on Psychology, and the Language and the Human Lifespan Series, which we copublish with DeGruyter Mouton, a major linguistics publisher.  I’m also looking for new material in environmental psychology, particularly climate change.

TA: Can you describe the typical author that you work with? How young, how old, how experienced?  At what point in their career is the typical APA book author?

CK: We have a number of outstanding younger authors, but more often than not, they’re degreed psychologists well along the tenure track in a university. It’s not always in their best interests career-wise to work on a book earlier than that.

TA: Because it’ll take time off from other things?

CK: Right. Producing a book is a lot more work than publishing a single journal article, yet the young scholar working his or her way up the university ladder often doesn’t get much credit for it.

TA: So then why write a book?

CK: Because many topics simply cannot be adequately covered in a journal article, which are shorter and more tightly focused. Sometimes the books come out of larger programs or conferences.  Books can pay special attention to specific areas, like the divisional series I mentioned earlier.  There are royalties involved, so you can make some money doing this. And you do get a certain cache, because not everyone can do it.  A book can pull together various strands of research after it reaches a critical mass, with enough data or raw material to synthesize it into something larger and more cohesive.  A book does that better than any other vehicle, I feel.  So plenty of folks still want to tackle the challenge, but our typical author tends to be somebody who has tenure, or is getting close to it, or is at least working with a more senior person.

TA: I’ve heard psychologists with publishing experience say, “don’t do edited volumes.” In other words, don’t be the person who has to corral the contributors, and handle all the paperwork, because it’s so much work with so little reward.  Is it harder these days to get people to do edited volumes, or to do books in general?  Do you get resistance?

CK: Well, publishers in general stress single author titles more these days if they can. There are a lot of benefits to them; however, many scholars feel they don’t have the time to write an entire book themselves, and many don’t feel that they have the full expertise necessary.  That’s especially the case with younger people, where the first part of their research careers is spent developing important but relatively narrow ideas. They’re encouraged to stress depth, but expanding the breadth or audience of their work is not yet in their comfort zone.  And many times they need reach a certain point in their careers before it’s even professionally advisable to go for breadth.

TA: Why is that?

CK: Well, a lot of psychology departments want you to make your bones with original research, which is usually put out piecemeal, in journal articles. That’s the way the system works.

TA: Does it actually help the science, the accumulation of knowledge, for things to be done this way? Or is that just the way the hierarchy works?

CK: I have a hard time discerning cause and effect here. It’s probably a little of both.  Because the process works that way, it keeps working that way, like a self-fulfilling prophecy.  But there are exceptions.  Actually just now, as you walked in this door, I was getting ready to meet with our marketing department about a forthcoming book called Making Research Matter: a Psychologist’s Guide to Engagement Beyond the Academy [coming in November, 2017].  One thing we can accomplish with this handy book is to help researchers reach beyond the people in their cohort, floor, or building, in the interest of increasing the impact of their work. I’m hearing more and more desire for translational research, a desire to have impact beyond just continuing one’s own career, and I find that very encouraging.

TA: We’ve seen some pushback over the idea of impact.  Some people say that that, in the effort to make a big splash, to get noticed, researchers may be tempted to cut corners, to make their work more appealing.  Is that a real risk?  Not that publishing with APA is gonna turn people into rock stars overnight, but…

CK: Now now, if you had seen the way people were approaching and talking about [Roberta] Golinkoff and [Kathy] Hirsh-Pasek at the last conference I went to, you might feel differently! They were rock stars!  Their tremendously successful book [Becoming Brilliant: What Science Tells Us About Raising Successful Children] is a bit of an outlier, but there are people who can write psychology in a way that is authoritative and scholarly, yet still accessible.  I’m not talking about pop psychology; I’m talking serious folks like Stephen Pinker, Dan Gilbert, Roy Baumeister, and the like.  Those people are in high demand, because what they do is important, and it’s useful, and it’s hard to do.

TA: It’s especially hard if you’ve been writing only in scholarly venues your whole career.

CK: Right. If you’ve had it pounded in your head for years not to do it that way.  Look: we’re very discerning in what we publish.  We’re very conscious that we represent APA, we represent psychology.  So we take steps to ensure that when we go for breadth, we don’t sacrifice depth.  That’s where our thorough process of vetting, our developmental editing (which most publishers don’t do anymore), really helps.  I think you can be serious and still speak to more than a handful of people at a time.

TA: Are there any areas that you feel are currently underrepresented in our list? If somebody wants to get a proposal into you, and it’s unsolicited, what’s the best chance of getting your attention?  What area(s)?

CK: Neuropsychology, for one. We do have some upcoming books in this area that I’m excited about, on topics such as multiple sclerosis and concussion.  And there’s also Clinical Neuropsychology: A Pocket Handbook for Assessment, [now in its third edition] which is a great resource.  But we want to do even more in this area.

TA: Obviously most unsolicited proposals get rejected. Why?  What are you looking for that you don’t find in those rejects?

CK: Many times, the prospective authors are not as qualified to write a book as they think they are. That’s part of it.  So credentials is one criterion.  Experience, is another.  It can be difficult to market an esoteric book written by someone with little name recognition.  And if our previous experience publishing on a certain topic was problematic, it would be foolhardy to ignore that.

TA: I know it’s very rare that an unsolicited book proposal can turn into a contract—

CK: Rare, but not impossible. Speaking for myself, I wish we got more proposals over the transom than we do.  It’s not usually the best stuff, and we don’t get a lot of it, but I’ll tell ya, when someone wants to work with you, it’s a good head start.  I’ve spent months, years, just trying to convince someone to write a book proposal.  It’s a lot faster just to react to one that comes at you, even if that one still needs a lot of work.

TA: That’s interesting. I always assumed that the slush pile was all rejects.

CK: Well, it’s called the slush pile for a reason. It can get pretty slushy.  But occasionally, you find a real snowball in there.

 

Mindful Photography: Finding Presence Through the Lens

By David Becker

Thanks to modern technology, taking photos is such a simple task that we rarely put much thought into it. All we need to do is pull out our phones, point them at something, and quickly snap a photo just by tapping on the screen. And we don’t even have to worry about wasting film, so there’s no need to put a lot of careful thought into making sure we get the photo just right.

Long before digital cameras and smartphones made photography so effortless and convenient, Ansel Adams commented on how easy it is to just go “snap, snap, snap” and take a bunch of photos to quickly capture a memory. However, he advocated a more thoughtful and creative approach. A legendary innovator in artistic photography, Adams pioneered the concept of visualization, which entails seeing your photo in your mind’s eye and “feeling it” before you actually click the shutter. The goal is to capture not just an external event, but also the internal event that occurs in the photographer’s mind as he or she takes the photo. Quoting fellow artistic photographer Alfred Stieglitz, Adams said, “I give [the photograph] to you as the equivalent of what I saw and felt.” His approach resulted in phenomenally beautiful images that continue to evoke strong emotional reactions from their viewers to this day.

Adams’s visualization technique can be seen as a precursor to mindful photography, a meditative exercise developed by psychiatrist and photographer M. Lee Freedman. In her book A Practical Guide to Cultivating Therapeutic Presence, clinical psychologist Shari Geller (2017) offers this exercise as a way to cultivate a greater sense of presence in our daily lives. By presence, Geller means “(a) being grounded and centered in yourself, while (b) feeling deeply immersed in the moment, with (c) a larger sense of expansion or spaciousness” (p. 4). Mindful photography in particular teaches us how to shift from an immersive experience, in which we become cognizant of fine details, to a more expansive awareness of the big picture. It means seeing both the forest and the trees—perhaps even each individual leaf as well.

Black and white image of a lake with snow capped mountains in the background.

In her book, Geller lays out each step of the mindful photography exercise, which can be done with any sort of camera, whether a digital SLR or a mobile phone:

  1. Pause and take three full breaths, feeling your feet on the ground.
  2. Go for a walk, or look around your current space, to find three objects or images: one that you are attracted to, one you have an aversion to, and one you feel neutral about.
  3. Beginning with the first object or image of something you are attracted to, look through your camera’s viewfinder and notice what you see. Be curious about this object. Allow yourself to receive the image rather than looking out at it.
  4. Now either zoom in or move your body physically closer to the object, focusing on one aspect. Notice what is calling your attention to the subject as you zoom in closer.
  5. Now zoom your lens out, or move your body further away from the image. Look and feel, with curiosity, your relationship with this image.
  6. Walk further away and then pause to look at the image with your eyes or the viewfinder.
  7. Now move closer to the image with your body and/or the viewfinder of your camera. How does this image look or feel different or the same? What do you feel in your body as you use the camera or your body movements to see this object from different vantage points?
  8. Repeat this practice with an image of something you feel averse to and something you feel neutral about. Notice how your perspective, feeling, or relationship with the object may change as you see what is present before you from different perspectives. (pp. 187–188)

Like Ansel Adams, the mindful photographer develops a deep connection with his or her subject. This creates a powerful, mind-opening experience for the photographer that is translated into a beautiful image for others to enjoy as well. In capturing the photographer’s internal event, the resulting photo can also cultivate presence in its viewers, especially those who view it mindfully and take the time to really internalize the image.

References

Geller, S. (with Siegel, D. J.). (2017). A practical guide to cultivating therapeutic presencehttps://doi.org/10.1037/0000025-000

Reforming Statistics in Psychology

David BeckerBy David Becker

Are you fed up with those unsightly wrinkles? Have you tried everything to get rid of them, but nothing seems to work? Well, throw away your anti-aging creams and forget about those harmful Botox injections! Did you know that you can reverse the aging process just by listening to music? Scientists have found that listening to songs about growing old will decrease your age by one-and-a-half years. Amazing!

Not only is this finding amazing, it’s also complete lie. The study itself was real, but the researchers (Simmons, Nelson, & Simonsohn, 2016) weren’t actually interested in testing the effects of music on age. Their true intent was to shine a light on researchers’ overreliance on and misuse of significance testing by generating a statistically significant result that has no bearing on reality whatsoever.

Many people believe that a statistically significant result affirms that a study’s findings are real, but that’s not what statistical significance measures. Statistical significance measures the probability of error in a study’s data. It’s indicated by the p value, which determines the likelihood of rejecting the null hypothesis. The null hypothesis essentially opposes the hypothesis that the researchers are testing. In other words, if the researchers hypothesize that a new therapeutic approach will have a meaningful effect or will be superior to an established approach, the null hypothesis refers to the possibility that there will be no meaningful effect or no differences between the two approaches. A lower p value (.05 is the most commonly used cutoff) suggests a higher likelihood that the null hypothesis is false. However, a high probability of rejecting the null hypothesis doesn’t make the researcher’s hypothesis true; it simply reflects greater confidence in the data’s validity (researchers sometimes refer to a confidence level above 95%, which equates to a p value below .05). Even so, it’s very easy to play with the data until you achieve statistical significance.

Simmons and colleagues illustrated in their study how easy it is to get a false positive by manipulating what they refer to as “researcher degrees of freedom.” These are the decisions that researchers make about how to collect, analyze, and report data—decisions that include when to stop collecting data, which variables to analyze, and which subsets of data to report. Many researchers make these decisions throughout the research process. For instance, researchers may decide to stop collecting data as soon as they have achieved significant result. Or they might change their hypothesis based on the data. Practices like this are often referred to as “p hacking,” the idea being that researchers will massage the data until they come up with a low-enough p value. Simmons et al. estimate that abusing researcher degrees of freedom can lead to a false positive rate as high as 61% in a given study, which they admit might be a conservative figure.

Human Mind series. Backdrop of brain, human outlines and fractal elements on the subject of technology, science, education and human mindIt’s important to note that most researchers who p hack aren’t purposefully trying to be deceptive. Many of them don’t fully grasp the potential consequences of what seem like minor decisions. In a recent example, psychologist Dana Carney rejected a psychological phenomenon she helped popularize—power poses—and essentially admitted that she and her fellow researchers unknowingly abused researcher degrees of freedom to achieve a statistically significant result that had no real-world significance (Peters, 2016).

Even when p hacking is unintentional, social psychologist Harris Cooper (2016) argues that researchers have an ethical responsibility to the scientific community and to the greater public good that obliges them to be aware of the decisions they make, and their impact. He advises researchers to make decisions about data collection as early as possible—primarily in the planning phase before the study has even begun—and to stick with them throughout the study. If the researchers change course, they need to fully report their new decisions so that anyone scrutinizing the study’s findings and methodology will understand the full context. As an example, if researchers decide to create new data sets based on the original data—a practice that Cooper advises should be rarely used—the changes need to be explicitly catalogued with clear explanations. And under no circumstances should researchers edit or omit any of the original data, regardless of which data sets they choose to analyze.

In addition to carefully documenting their decisions, researchers need to better understand the true purpose of p values and how to properly use them. Clinical psychologist Rex Kline (2013) notes in his book Beyond Significance Testing: Statistics Reform in the Behavioral Sciences, now in its second edition, that cognitive errors surrounding significance testing are so common that they can be considered a form of “trained incapacity” (p. 10). Even statistics instructors don’t even fully understand p values, according to Kline, which feeds the “ongoing cycle of misinformation” (p. 10). The problem is so pervasive that last year the American Statistical Association (ASA) released a policy statement laying out six principles to help the scientific community better understand and apply p values. This marked the first time in its 178-year history that the ASA decided to take an official position on statistical practices.

The ASA also suggested other approaches that researchers might use in addition to or instead of significance testing, including one of the most popular alternatives proposed by advocates of statistics reform: Bayesian analysis. The premise behind Bayesian statistics is fairly simple: “Begin with an estimate of the probability that any claim, belief, [or] hypothesis is true, then look at any new data and update the probability given the new data” (Novella, 2016, para. 2).

Kline (2013, Chapter 10) supports the Bayesian approach because it reflects the fundamental tenets of science and critical thinking. Namely, extraordinary claims that seem implausible given what we know about the universe (e.g., listening to music will make you younger) need to be supported by extraordinary evidence. Kline further argues that Bayesian analysis allows us to compare the competing hypotheses of researchers who have differing interpretations about our existing body of knowledge and are studying the same subject from alternate perspectives. Being able to examine new and divergent findings against our current understanding of the world encourages scientists to reevaluate the likelihood of existing hypotheses, which is fundamental to science’s self-critical and self-correcting nature.

Significant

Courtesy of xkcd

Simmons, Nelson, and Simonsohn (2016), however, are skeptical of Bayesian statistics as an alternative to significance testing. They contend that it gives researchers even more opportunities to manipulate data, in addition to those provided by significance testing. Simonsohn (2015) also argues that the default Bayesian test in psychology is biased against small effects.

If there’s one clear takeaway from this controversy, it’s that there isn’t one perfect alternative to significance testing. In fact, as the ASA points out in their policy statement, significance testing can be useful, so long as it’s properly applied. Therefore, completely avoiding p values doesn’t seem like an ideal, catch-all solution. Rather, scientists must experiment with a variety of solutions to see how best to test the validity of their findings.

In the meantime, it pays to be skeptical. The popular media tends to simplify, overhype, and misinterpret the findings of a single study—much like I did at the beginning of this post—without accounting for the complexities of scientific research. It can be difficult for those of us who are not scientific experts to figure out what to believe and what not to believe, especially when our mental filters are already overwhelmed by the constant deluge of information that floods over us every day.

But look on the bright side: At least you can be pretty confident that you won’t become younger and younger until you vanish from existence just by listening to The Beatles’ “When I’m Sixty-Four” on repeat.

References

Cooper, H. (2016). Ethical choices in research: Managing data, writing reports, and publishing results in the social sciences. https://doi.org/10.1037/14859-000

Kline, R. B. (2013). Beyond significance testing: Statistics reform in the behavioral sciences (2nd ed.). https://doi.org/10.1037/14136-000

Novella, S. (2016, January 8). What is Bayes theorem? [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/what-is-bayes-theorem/

Peters, M. (2016, October 1). ‘Power poses’ co-author: ‘I do not believe the effects are real.’ Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/2016/10/01/496093672/power-poses-co-author-i-do-not-believe-the-effects-are-real

Simmons, J. P., Nelson, L. D., & Simonsohn, U. (2016). False-positive psychology: Undisclosed flexibility in data collection and analysis allows presenting anything as significant. In A. E. Kazdin (Ed.), Methodological issues and strategies in clinical research (4th ed., pp. 547–555). https://doi.org/10.1037/14805-033

Simonsohn, U. (2015, April 9). The default Bayesian test is prejudiced against small effects [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://datacolada.org/35

March for Science

apa-march4science-banner

 “APA is proud to be an official partner of the March for Science, set to take place on Saturday April 22, 2017, in Washington D.C. We encourage all psychologists, psychology students and their allies to join this broad, nonpartisan effort to support scientific research and the use of scientific evidence for the public good.” See more on APA’s stance and plans for the Science March and beyond here.

 

With our headquarters in downtown DC, many of us here at the APA and APA Books are excited to be able to participate in this historic event. We asked around for thoughts on the march, and why people felt compelled to attend.

The opinions expressed below are those of the individuals and should not be taken to represent the official views or policies of the American Psychological Association.

“I march because I believe science is key to promoting unity. Being much more than just a set of facts, science is a way of thinking that encourages us to look beyond our ideologies and preconceived notions about ourselves and the world around us. It is through science that we can understand our tendencies toward tribalism, an “us vs. them” mentality that can limit our worldviews. My hope is that science can also help us see beyond the boundaries of our various tribes—whether they are defined by politics, religion, race, nationality, or gender—and unite us as members of the one tribe that encapsulates us all: the human tribe.”—David Becker, Development Editor, APA Books

“[I march] to celebrate why science matters and support scientists in their message that evidence-based facts are vital to inform policy and the general public. I hope the march can encourage our leaders and all Americans to value the importance of scientific information as it affects all of us, regardless of political party.”—Marla Koenigsknecht, Marketing and Publicity Specialist, APA Books

“I plan to participate in the March for Science on April 22. I fully support and defend the dissemination of alternative opinions or interpretations. But as Senator Moynihan told us, we are not entitled to our own facts. Ignoring a problem and demonizing those that raise legitimate concerns are losing propositions. We cannot make America great without education, research, funding, and a respect for truth.”—Chris Kelaher, Acquisitions Editor, APA Books

“I am marching because facts matter.”—Beth Hatch, Development Editor, APA Books

“I’m marching because climate change is one of the most pressing challenges of our time. I believe the only way to meet that challenge is by funding research, listening to scientists, and forming evidence based policies.”—Sarah Fell, Editor, Magination Press

“I grew up with science; I spent days off school and take-your-child-to-work days filling pipette tip trays in my mom’s lab. “Bringing her work home with her” sometimes meant tubes of fruit flies in the dining room. But I don’t march because of my personal connection to science; I march because science is important no matter who you are, and because science should inform policy, not the other way around.”—Katie ten Hagen, Editor, Magination Press

“The idea that listening to scientific research will somehow harm us is a disconcerting one, and not just research that applies to mental health and psychology. I grew up in a very rural area and I’ve seen first-hand the damage that can be done by a disregard for the environment. Shoving science under the rug doesn’t make the facts untrue and I’m concerned that too many people in positions of power are trying to because they see the facts as inconvenient. And so I want to join in to show that there are people who care about these things and that our voices deserve to be a part of the conversation. I’m hoping that it will open up a new dialogue about science that is separate from our political persuasions. I want people to think about the ways that science affects their everyday lives and realize that, as a country, our decision-making should be grounded in facts. We should be funding research and then listening to what the research tells us.”—Jessica Jeffers, Assistant Marketing Manager, APA Books

science-march-title-image-

 

From APA Members:
“The science of psychology has been fractured for more than a quarter century.  I march to realign psychology with what should be its common mission, and to elevate it to its rightful place among all sciences.”—Wallace E. Dixon, Jr., Ph.D.

“I am going to the DC March for Science because science is under attack, so Scientists must act. Fake news should be replaced by science news. You can’t make America Great without science.”—Kathleen Y. Haaland, Ph.D., ABPP-CN, Professor

“I am marching because science is fundamentally a search for truth, and truth has been threatened.  Science not only helps keep America great, it makes America—and the world—become better.”—Dr. Paula P. Schnurr

Nancy Schlossberg: On Aging Gracefully

This is the latest in a series of interviews with APA Books authors. Here Andrew Gifford, Development Editor at APA Books, interviews Nancy Schlossberg, a well-known authority on aging and life after retirement.  Nancy will be speaking at Politics and Prose bookstore in Washington, DC (5015 Connecticut Ave NW), this Sunday, April 23, at 1:00pm to kick off the release of her new book, Too Young to Be Old: Love, Learn, Work, and Play as You Age. See more about the event here!

Note: The opinions expressed in this interview are those of the authors and should not be taken to represent the official views or policies of the American Psychological Association.

--Photo by Rod Millington

–Photo by Rod Millington

Nancy K. Schlossberg is an expert in the areas of adult transitions, retirement, career development, adults as learners, and intergenerational relationships. Past President of the National Career Development Association, Co-President of a consulting group TransitionWorks, she is a Professor Emerita, Department of Counseling and Personnel Services, College of Education at the University of Maryland.

Dr. Schlossberg has delivered more than 100 keynote addresses, and has been quoted in the cover story in USA Today, the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Sarasota Herald Tribune, Reader’s Digest, Family Circle, Better Homes and Gardens, U.S. News and World, Consumer Reports.  She has appeared on PBS In the Prime, Derek McGinty’s national talk radio show, CBS This Morning, CBS evening news and is featured in a 90-minute PBS Pledge Special June, 2007, “Retire Smart, Retire Happy.”

AG: In many ways, your latest book feels like part of an unofficial trilogy, starting with the smash hit Retire Smart, Retire Happy which provided a primer on how to adjust to retirement. It was followed by Revitalizing Retirement, which discussed how retirees could reshape their identity and play a vital role in their community.  Too Young to Be Old takes the lessons from the first two books and really emphasizes the idea that retirement is not an ending but a beginning. In it, you discuss relationships, finding your place, embracing adventure, and aging well. Could you tell us a little bit about your own experiences as an author, a psychologist, and a retiree who, herself, is aging very well throughout the process of writing these three books? Do you also see something of a “trilogy” here?

NS: I had not thought of the three books as a trilogy but now that I think about it, each book was an outgrowth of the other. So maybe it is a trilogy. It started with Retire Smart, Retire Happy. I had thought retirement would be a piece of cake. After all, I was an “expert” on transitions and had retired voluntarily. However, retirement for me posed unexpected challenges so I decided to learn how others fared. The result was Retire Smart, Retire Happy. That book became the centerpiece of a PBS special by the same name.

I had many opportunities to continue interviewing and learning about retirement. I realized there was another book which described the paths people follow and the need to strengthen their psychological portfolios. The result was Revitalizing Retirement. This book elaborated on what I had learned in Retire Smart, Retire Happy.

I then became involved in a number of aging projects including writing a transition column for a local magazine. Over time, I realized there was one more—the last—book to focus on aging. This new book broadened my concerns to cover more than retirement. And thus Too Young to be Old was born.

AG: Much of the inspiration for your writing on retirement and aging comes not just from your own experiences, but from the people you’ve worked with in your daily life. Especially after the first book came out, you’ve been engaged by fans and concerned retirees who have come to you with questions about what is often a difficult life transition. What are some of the encounters that have had the most impact on your philosophy and your writing?

NS: Perhaps the most important factor was my own transitions. I found the decade of my eighties filled with transitions—I retired, I became a caregiver, then a widow. I had several surgeries and orthopedic issues. I recovered, began dating and actually went on line, met a retired lawyer, and we now live together. We then moved to a retirement community.

All these transitions make the image of someone in a rocking chair fade.

In addition, many who read my columns reached out saying how they were helped. That made me realize I wanted to keep writing and sharing mine and others experiences.

AG: When Retire Smart, Retire Happy first came out, it coincided with your own decision to retire after nearly three decades teaching counseling psychology at the University of Maryland.  When did you start thinking about ways to retire and age well? Had this been on your mind even in your youth? Or was it your own life transition that spoke to you?

When I was in my late sixties, I went to a retirement party for a much older woman. She was still productive and dynamic. By accident, I left the party walking with two deans. One said, “She should have retired years ago. She is too old to teach and advise.” Right then and there, I knew I would leave before anyone said that about me. And thus began the process of disentangling first from teaching, then advising. My husband and I decided to move to Sarasota where we used to vacation. Since retiring, I have written 4 books and become active in the community. This year will be the first time I have not had a book contract since 1984. So now I will really be retired. I am a bit anxious about it. It is time to reread my own retirement books!

AG: What advice do you give retirees and the soon-to-be-retired about handling this difficult transition?

NS: If someone is struggling to figure out a new path, think about regrets. Is there anything the person wishes he or she had done? If so, is there any way to turn the regret into a plan? That can get someone thinking about a new dream, a new plan.

too young to be oldAG: Too Young to be Old is the first of your titles to really delve into the issue of ageism. America, certainly, is an aging nation. The number of Americans age 55 and older will increase dramatically between now and 2030 – from 60 million today (21 percent of the total US population) to 107.6 million (31 percent of the population) – as the baby boomers reach retirement age.   You’ve written these three books over the course of a decade. What changes have you seen in that time? Is ageism on the rise or the decline? How can individuals embrace aging, and combat ageism?

NS: Ageism is all around us. Even those who are demographically in the old or old-old group exhibit age bias. As the president of AARP wrote, we need to “disrupt aging.” The first step is to be honest about our own ageism, then confront others when they make derogatory comments like, “I live in an old person’s home,” “I just had a senior moment,” “Look at that old lady,” etc.

AG: Do you have some advice on how the children and grandchildren of retirees can help their elders age well and embrace life and happiness after the retirement transition?

NS: Family is very important to most older individuals. So it is important to stay connected. Many of the people I interviewed for Too Young to be Old resented their adult children “bossing” them. Therefore, give the benefit of the doubt to older individuals, give them as much freedom as possible, show respect and help them maintain their dignity.

AG: What is the best thing about aging?

NS: I love the freedom of being 87. I say my age with pride. I never expected to live this long and continue publishing. I like my white hair but must admit the wrinkles surprise and dismay me when I look in the mirror. It is important to remember George Vaillant’s advice–stay young at heart by learning something new, trying something different, and embracing the time you have to spend with family.