Erik holds a master’s in journalism from Michigan State University and he also holds a doctorate in education with sanctioned research interests in cultural competence, leadership, and mental health. A section editor of The Journal of Leadership Studies, John Wiley & Sons, he also is founder of the Ethan Bean Mental Wellness Foundation, a Michigan 501(c)3 public charity. Because mental health issues have adversely affected his family and so many others around him, he is passionate about helping others. This lifelong effort includes the 2019 award-winning Ethan’s Healthy Mind Express: A Children’s First Mental Health Primer book and co-author of the self-help series 20/20 Prudent Leadership.
1) First, I want to thank you for taking the time to do this interview with me! When did you know that writing is what you were called to do? What is it about being a writer that you love the most? What about being a writer frustrates you the most?
I majored in psychology 35 years ago but discovered my passion for writing in the late 1980s when I became a communications writer for a Bloomfield Hills marketing company. In 1990 I sent an article to Marketing News, a publication of the American Marketing Association. The article, Teamwork Delivers a Clear Implementation Document, was published in their Sept. 3, 1990 edition. Immediately thereafter in 1991 I had discovered in very small print that a magazine I had been reading since I was kid said they accepted freelance articles and offered payment for them. Later that year my first paid article, There Shouldn’t be a Maintenance Free Aquarium, But There Will Be was published in Freshwater & Marine Aquarium Magazine. The writing bug had bit me and I soon wrote freelance for other publications like Detroit Metropolitan Woman’s Magazine, Michigan Out-of-Doors, and Michigan History Magazine where I wrote a story on the Belle Isle Aquarium squashing notions it was the first U.S. aquarium when in fact it was the second. During this period, I became a stringer for The Grand Rapids Press and a Caucasian Editor of the Afro-American Gazette. I soon became an editor of a weekly Lansing newspaper, The Holt Community News and continued my freelance writing until 1998 when I signed up for the first website ever tied to a writer’s lounge, FreelanceWorkshop.com. An accompanying book on Writing for Publication was published on Amazon in 1999. Since then, I began to publish more academic writing books to help teachers through a variety of different publishers. Among the most popular are Social Media Writing Lesson Plans and Word Press for Student Writing Projects.
I believe all writers share the benefit of writing as a therapeutic process mentally and to some degree spiritually. With regard to frustrations, while we all have more opportunities to write and get published today, it is still very difficult to find an exact audience particularly for those who publish independently on limited budgets.
2) Can you tell us a little about your book(s) and where our readers can find out more about them and you?
I began self-publishing on Amazon.com more than 20 years ago, most of work being centered on educational and academic work. My educational titles expanded when I signed with an educational publisher known as Westphalia and Compass Press based on the last three titles mentioned above. All of my work can be found here https://www.amazon.com/Erik-Bean/e/B00DZ0C2CQ
3) What projects are you currently working on?
My current project came about as the result of the misinformation associated with the 2020 U.S. election, the pandemic, and uncivil unrest. Bias Is All Around You: A Handbook for Inspecting Social Media & News Stories was published on July 4th, 2021. I’d like to think of it as “freedom from misinformation.” As a long-time educator who holds a master’s in journalism and a doctorate in education, I knew that everyone could benefit from zeroing in more on critical thinking as well as some unique ways to analyze the amount of bias in all published information. Afterall we are bombarded with so much information via our smartphones and laptops and much it also is based on algorithms that in many cases serve up fake news and are tied to ads rather than real news.
So, in February 2021 I enlisted my team, Gail Gorske, illustrator, and Sherry Wexler, editor, who supplied their amazing skills in a 2019 children’s book we produced as the result of losing my 17-year-old son Ethan to mental illness. That effort was entitled, Ethan’s Healthy Mind Express, A Children’s First Mental Health Primer. We gratefully nabbed several awards including 2nd place in illustrations and in the education category for the 2020 Royal Dragonfly Children’s Literature contest through Story Monsters Magazine, the most widely circulated children’s book review magazine in the U.S. Gorske is an amazing paper illustrator and Wexler knows how to take complex ideas and simplify them for most every audience.
4) What has been your most significant achievement as a writer thus far? Where do you see yourself within your career in the next five years?
With out question my current 57-page 7 x 10 book, Bias Is All Around You is my most significant achievement since its potential audience is practically limitless. After all, information can outsmart almost anyone today. Also, our personal bias interferes with how we interact with information because we sometimes chose not to listen to competing arguments and we sometimes align with our own social circles. That said, so far, the book has achieved almost all five-star reviews and recommendations from Kirkus Reviews, The Midwest Book Review, and the U.S. Book Review, for example. I also am starting to ride what I hope is a large wave interviews and podcasts. All of these can be found at my Booklife page aboard a platform from Publisher’s Weekly. More on how the book came to be, can be found at the book site, BiasHandbook.com.
5) How have you dealt with rejection within your writing career?
Rejection is a natural part of the career of all writers. The best way to deal with it is to try and learn from it. If the rejection comes with feedback take that feedback and work it back into the manuscript and then start shopping for other publishers. If you are self-publishing, you must have an editor and listen to the editor and rely on his or her expertise to shape the writing for the intended audience.
6) Do you have a schedule for when you write? Do you outline your novels? How long does it generally take you to finish a novel?
For the 57-page Bias Is All Around You book it took four months to write and edit and have the time to go through iterations and think critically about each and every word and how to best label each chapter and in what order made the most sense. I also elicited the expertise of the Director of the Michigan State University School of Journalism, Dr. Tim Vos, to write the foreword. So that too added to the time it took to produce what we believe to be a meaningful and useful reference tool. With regard to writing time, I have to be in an environment that is free of interruptions and if I am unable to achieve at home, a nearby library can typically serve that purpose well.
7) Do you believe that there is ever a point in life where it’s too late for an aspiring writer to become successful in this industry? Do you feel a late start would hinder their chances?
As an educator, I have always believed in lifelong education. So yes, it is typically never too late to start writing. But writing for publication must be tied to a purpose and an audience, otherwise, the result will probably be nothing more than a work associated with a personal diary, for example. There is nothing wrong with that, but writing for publication requires a lot more work, understanding markets, understanding the tools of today’s publishing enterprises, and the need to help sell and market your work.
8) Are you an avid reader and have you always been? What’s the first book you ever read that really touched you emotionally and moved you? Who is your favorite author? What book are you currently reading?
These days I am so busy with teaching that it is hard to find time to read for share pleasure. But that said I’m a huge fan of the 1953 novel, Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury’s classic dystopian tale of a society where books are not allowed. To calm the masses drugs are freely available as well as large screen interactive televisions. In 2016, I had the luxury to visit the London area suburb where the film was shot and wrote a blog
about it. As a kid and to this very day, E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web is still among the best all-time stories I have ever read.
9) The Pandemic was a challenging time for some writers and creative individuals but also for others it was time that they needed to focus on their creative passions. Which side of that spectrum do you fall on? Are there any lessons or nuggets of wisdom that you gained during the Pandemic that help you within your writing career? Did the quarantine stifle your creativity or did it make you even more driven to get things done?
The pandemic allowed me more time to focus on writing without a doubt and I actually was a guest on the Common Bridge podcast while self-isolating at home having been diagnosed with COVID in mid-October 2021. While I was recovering with flu like symptoms with much body aches, I managed to grab my book poster as well as some pain relief medicine and make my way through the 50-minute interview you can see here in on YouTube. Being in isolation can be very boring so I took that time to help publicize my book.
10) What are your thoughts about how the publishing industry as it is being represented today? Do you lean more towards traditional publishing or self-publishing as a preference? Does being a hybrid author interest you?
Publishing in both aspects, as an Indie author and with traditional publishers both have their pros and cons. In my latest effort Bias Is All Around You, I wanted it to be a nonprofit work so any revenue generated would go back to the nonprofit I started after losing my son. Without question the larger publishers have more clout and marketing investment and wherewithal into a book and so no matter what you are working on, traditional publishing should be part of the decision. On the other hand, self-publishing lends itself to much control, but lots of leg work to build notoriety. Consequently, a hybrid model should be considered by all, and it depends ultimately on the purpose and the book’s audience.
11) I feel like writing is a remarkable tool to help people not only express themselves, but also to cope emotionally and mentally. I know for me I write to be and feel more authentic. What unique quality is there about you, about your art, that you feel represents your authenticity? How does writing help you to be more empowered in your purpose?
Writing for most everyone as I indicated earlier can be most therapeutic. But getting the work published is something no one can ever take away from you. Getting published whether independently or through a traditional avenue, means there is potential to touch others and offer sound advice for non-fictional works. For fictional writing, it too can offer lessons that only the writer can meld into it. Without a lesson, for me, there would be no real purpose. After all, I think that is why most people want to “tell their story.”