Compiled by The Bedford Citizen
David Packer, longtime Bedford resident is this weekend launching his new book, a memoir: Finding Joy: A Life Explored.
“I wrote to remember, Packer noted, “I ended up reliving my life in — surprisingly — many ways.”
Packer’s boyhood was spent in the Midwest, where curiosity led him to build his own telescope, fly a plane, and explore unmapped canyons. His future was wide open when he opted against a liberal arts school to attend MIT.
That was Packer’s beginning. Now in his 82nd year, he takes a look at what happened next, as he became a Bedfordian, engineer, adventurer, internationalist, systems thinker, peace-builder and joy-finder.
Packer answered a series of questions for The Bedford Citizen:
Q: This is your first mainstream book, a memoir. What can you tell us about Finding Joy?
A: Well, it is a collection of stories from experiences of many joys I have felt deeply over the first 81 years of my life. I love to tell stories, I enjoy writing, and the idea of exploring my life for joys made this an exciting endeavor.
Q: What joys did you discover in writing your memoir?
A: My focus is narrower but, I think, more powerful. The memoir is based on the idea that only a small portion of life creates the joys, but it is necessary to do all the rest, mundane or even painful, to enable one to experience the joy part. I call the parts “swaths.” The joy swath may be 10 percent, the more mundane may be 90 percent. I do not deal with the joys of family or social interests in my adult life in this book. Instead, I focus on the joys and the adventures that create them. So, the focus is narrower than an autobiography, which would be much longer, and may be boring. So, this is deeper. This distinction is more fully discussed in the book’s introduction and is important. Amazing joys usually stem from unique events that involve leaning out and taking some risks.
Q: Why now?
A: The obvious answer is I have just entered my 82nd year and time is increasingly limited. More importantly, I have wanted to record these stories, remembrances, and opinions for the limited audience of my family and offspring for a long time. In fact, I was surprised to find how much was already written, scattered on my computer. And then I realized that the best way to save them in a lasting way would be in a real book. When Andrea Cleghorn offered a writing course and talked about her work, I knew a Memoir was the right medium for what had been on my mind for a long time.
O: Who is the audience?
A: It is broad. I think the idea of finding joy, in general, is of interest for everybody with an interest in how lives develop through time.
Q: What is your writing history?
A: When I was at MIT I was editor of the student newspaper. In graduate school, my thesis was converted to a book by the MIT Press with the sexy title Resource Acquisition in Corporate Growth and was translated into Japanese, as well. I took a course at the Harvard Business School in 1960 where I was a member of a small group that wrote and distributed a book on the emerging field of Management Science that was mentioned in Business Week. I have written numerous articles applying systems understanding to current issues, which appeared in The Systems Thinker, a popular newsletter in the systems field.
Q: Writing a book is not easy — what was the most difficult aspect for you?
A: Not the writing part, but all the rest: the editing, formatting, and production. Nancy Daugherty who knew production and had worked at Pegasus Communications, also a book publisher, led us into print gracefully with Amazon. Dot Bergin our copy editor did a fine job. Ginny Wiley did the final editing.
Q: What was most enjoyable?
A: Reflecting and writing, remembering experiences that became far more than facts when I began to feel the emotions of those involved, old friends and the like. The things I wrote became real, as Pinocchio became a real boy. I felt like I was back there again, and this feeling brought laughter and tears. What an unexpected joy!
Q: What surprised you?
Q: What did you learn?
A: So much, about me, my life and feelings, and about writing well. Hard work but worth it. I hope some of this will pass on readers and give insight into their lives, too.
Q: Do you have advice for other people who might want to write a memoir?
A: Give it a try. Do a lot of thinking at the front end, about the boundaries and your focus. Write an introduction and have someone review it. Be willing to change the structure if you find things that don’t fit, or that the order of chapters should be changed. Have a small but good support group. Your memoir is a work in process until it’s published.
Finding Joy: A Life Explored, a memoir by David Packer ~ Published by Ginkgo Books, available through amazon.com.