Writer Diane Keyes wraps up this week with me. We’re chatting about her memoir, To Wendy’s With Love: The 22-Year Lunch.
Welcome, Diane. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’ve owned a staging business for more than twenty-five years—since before the name staging. I also have an eclectic background working as a book reviewer, editor, retreat director, grief group facilitator, and commercial floral designer, and I often speak at real estate functions and make appearances on local TV and radio programs.
As a child, I always told people that I wanted to be a race car driver and a writer. I didn’t get my driver’s license until I was 30 years old and I didn’t start writing till I was in my 40’s so I guess I’m a late bloomer. And even then I began writing only because every word of my first book, Spirit of the Snowpeople, came to me at a stop light between the red and the green. I couldn’t have even thought every idea in the book, much less composed it, in that short space of time. I believed then, and still do, that it was sent to me and I had an obligation to get it to print. It took twelve years before it was published but it was published exactly as it was given to me. It sold out its first printing three weeks after publication and I’m thrilled to say the book had the largest presale in the 60-plus-year history of DownEast Books. My second book, This Sold House, received two Best Book Awards, in the business and how-to categories, from the Midwest Independent Publishers’ Association (a twelve state region) and is endorsed by Joan Steffens, host of HGTV’s, Decorating Cents. It will be going into its 3rd edition later this year.
Please tell us about your current release.
To Wendy’s With Love: The 22-Year Lunch is the story of my weekly lunches with my mother, which I started in an attempt to heal my relationship with her. I needed a low energy way to spend time with Mom. I was carrying around a lot of baggage I’d had since childhood after a brain hemorrhage left me with painful memories, unanswered questions, and crippling depression. I found my healing in an unlikely place—Wendy’s fast food restaurant. Once we met in “the neutral zone,” she wasn’t doing the Mom thing and I wasn’t doing the kid thing and we were able to see each other outside of our accustomed roles. Along the way I discovered the power of gratitude, relationships, and family meals. The lessons I learned have changed my life as well as those of the family and friends who have joined mom and me each week around the Wendy’s table. Still going strong after 22 years, it now includes four generations of our family and some weeks we have as many as 15-20 people show up for lunch.
To Wendy’s With Love is just that—a love letter to Wendy’s for creating a congenial space in which to heal, along with good food and warm and welcoming staff who have become like family to us.
What inspired you to write this book?
Over the years, I’d occasionally think “I should write a book about our Wendy’s experience.” But I never felt compelled until one day when the local Wendy’s PR person came to take photos of our family. They’d finally noticed we’d been there every week for more than 15 years. (If you go to our Wendy’s in Roseville, Minnesota, you’ll find photos of us all over the walls). Anyway, my mom was bragging about me and telling the photographer that I was a writer. He asked me if I’d considered writing a book about Wendy’s and I said I had. He told me, “I think it would be a very good idea.” I started the book that week.
What exciting story are you working on next?
I’m working on a juvenile fiction novel tentatively called The Legend of Bella Vie, about the woman behind Santa Claus. Unfortunately I’ve been stuck for a while, so if anyone has any ideas, let me know. I also have the first draft done of Sound Bytes of Relationship Advice. I’ve been married to the same wonderful guy for decades and I’ve learned some things it would be helpful to know right out of the gate.
I’m also toying with the idea of writing the back story of getting To Wendy’s With Love published—because a lot of interesting things happened in the 7 years between writing the bones of the book and getting it in print.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I think that I probably didn’t really consider myself a writer until I wrote the Wendy’s manuscript. The children’s book was sent to me—I’m very proud that I stayed with Spirit of the Snowpeople until it was published 12 years later, but I did not write it. And the staging book, This Sold House, had more to do with my business than with my writing so I don’t really count that book either. But in the last 7-8 years, I’ve been doing a lot of editing and I’ve been told I’m a good writer; the trouble is I want to be someone grand and lyrical, not just good. Oh well, I do what I can with what I’ve got.
Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I do not write full time. I belong to a writers’ group for women; we started with 10 people and now have 300 members, and they often speak about their writing practices. I can’t relate to any of them. If I’m not in the middle of a book, I don’t write. When I do have something to write, I start and don’t stop, working 14-16 hours a day until I’m finished, I guess I’m a feast or famine writer. I love my writing process. It’s the same if I’m editing.
The rest of the time I’m a stager, which I also love. I love helping people get as much money for their homes as they can. It’s amazing what a little purging, painting and cleaning can do for the bottom line.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I think my interesting writing quirk is that I LOVE writing but I am not obsessed by it. From my experience, many, if not most, writers hate writing but feel compelled to do it. If I have something to write, I’m on it but the rest of the time I’m busy with other things.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
My grandpa told me I could either be a teacher, a nurse or a secretary, and I knew I was not cut out for any of those things, which is probably where I came up with the idea of being race car driver or a writer. If I was going to go off the grid, I guess I wanted to go WAY OFF.
Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Don’t EVER let fear stop you. Everything good that comes your way begins with saying “Yes.” Don’t let other people’s notion of what is impossible keep you from reaching for your dreams. Nike’s right when they say “just do it.” There is not a single desire in your heart that wasn’t put there by the Universe/God/Spirit. If you have the desire you also have the means, but you first must believe it.
Thanks for being here today, Diane.