A newsmaker you should know: Freelance author Rodell finds time to play

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It was a conversation between his then-4-year-old daughter and her friends that served as inspiration for Chris Rodell's book -- and lifestyle.

"I was making lunch while listening to her talk with friends about what their dads did," Mr. Rodell recalled.

One said her father was a doctor; another said her father fixed cars; a third said her father built houses. Mr. Rodell's daughter, Josie said, "mine plays with me."

"I thought, 'That's not going to look good on any loan applications,' but then thought, 'what could be more important than that?' " he said.

Josie is now 12 and her sister Lucy, 6. And Mr. Rodell still plays with them.

As a journalist, Mr. Rodell has created a career that has allowed him to be available for the girls. He also wrote, "Use All The Crayons! The Colorful Guide to Simple Human Happiness," that discusses playing to create happiness.

Mr. Rodell was recently the featured speaker at the Ligonier Valley Writer's Group Conference. He grew up in Mt. Lebanon and majored in journalism at Ohio University. Like many with a degree in journalism, he worked at a couple of newspapers until he moved back to the Pittsburgh area and decided to pursue a career as a freelance journalist.

"When many people hear that, they think that my wife must make a lot of money," Mr. Rodell said of his wife, Valerie, "But she is a freelance editor -- which can even be a more precarious career."

Over the years, Mr. Rodell has written for national publications, such as Sports Illustrated, Cooking Light and Playboy magazines. He has also created the blog, "Eight Days to Amish," that discusses his life as a freelance journalist and the lean economic times he has faced.

"Like everyone else, we were hit with the recession, but my wife and I have made a commitment to be at home with our girls," he said. "And that has been making some sacrifices, but it is worth it."

Mr. Rodell said he wrote his book after listening to the girls' conversation and tried to market it to numerous publishing companies. Despite lots of positive feedback from publishers, however, he still couldn't find a home for his book.

"I decided I was going to take a great leap of faith and invest in myself," he said and self-published the book in February 2012. Since then he has been promoting the book and appearing at local book signings, library talks and even giving the book away.

"On the first page of my book, I say that I will give the book to anyone who wants it and thinks they can use it," Mr. Rodell said.

So far, Mr. Rodell has given away nearly 500 of his books. It has also been picked up by 15 Barnes and Noble bookstores in three states and is sold on Amazon.

"I've been receiving wonderful letters," he noted. "One came from a 97-year-old woman who told me it changed her life. How amazing is that?"

Mr. Rodell also recounts that when he was in Las Vegas and mentioned to a new acquaintance that he had written a book, his statement was met with quiet.

"Then the man said, 'I love your book. I teach it to my students.' He couldn't believe he was meeting the author and I couldn't believe I was meeting someone in Las Vegas who knew my book," Mr. Rodell said.

While Mr. Rodell acknowledges having a career as a freelance journalist isn't an easy way to earn a living, it is the life he has chosen.

"We know how precious this time is with the girls," he said.

Mr. Rodell hopes his book will be picked up by a major publishing house but, in the meantime, he continues to give talks such as the presentation to the writer's group and attends the Barnes and Noble book signings.

"I also have other book projects and will continue with my blog. I enjoy that so much," he said.

neigh_east - neigh_south

Kathleen Ganster, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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