Dr. Roger Leslie is a scholar in the fields of success and education. Through major literary houses, medium and small presses, and his own publishing house, Leslie has published fiction and nonfiction books in multiple genres: historical fiction, inspirational self-help, spirituality, writing and publishing, movie reference, teaching and librarianship, biography, history, and memoir.
Leslie has won numerous national awards including ForeWord Book of the Year, The Ben Franklin Award, and Writer’s Digest’s #1 Inspirational Book of the Year. At its inaugural event, Leslie received the Houston Literary Award for his body of work.
Leslie is in demand as a teacher, coach, and keynote speaker. He leads FLY (First Last Year) courses based on his blockbuster memoir, My First Last Year. He draws from decades as an author, editor, and publisher to coach writers in groups and individually. He is also a sought-after speaker for his lively, entertaining keynotes relating award-winning movies to any topic or group.
Roger, welcome to Discovered Wordsmiths. Again, this is kinda a back to the Future Groundhogs Day scenario.
For those of you listening, we got halfway through our. And I forgot to hit record. So all on me. Roger has been doing wonderful. And he can’t strangle me Roger, welcome to Discovery Word Smith. How are you doing today? Nice, Steven.
Roger: I’m doing great. Thanks for having him. Yes at least we didn’t get through a whole hour and find out, hey we didn’t record anything.
Stephen: In my defense, this is on new setup, so I’ll go with that. Roger again. Tell everybody a little bit about yourself, where you live and some of the things you like to do besides writing.
Roger: I live in the Houston area and I am passionate about writing and I teach writing. I’m a writing coach.
I am an editor. I’m a publisher of other people’s books. That’s all the businessy stuff that I do besides writing my own. And for my own personal edification, I love spending time with my dog and my family. I love old classic movies and I love anything that deals with spiritual growth. So anything that I can learn more about how life works and how I can work better with as life as it unfolds, I’m all.
Stephen: Nice. Nice. we talked in the unrecorded part about classic horror movies and watching those, cuz it’s almost Halloween. And so we’ll just summarize and say we talked about classic horror movies, , which is one of my favorites. So Roger, tell everybody why you wanted to start writing it.
It was a great story. I’ve heard it. Let’s tell everybody else for once what .
Roger: When I was 13 years old, I just had the inspiration that I was gonna be a writer. I had no prior experience or skills that told me I had what it took to be a writer. I loved reading and I loved television and movies. So I appreciated great writing.
But I didn’t know if I had the skill to do it, but something told me that’s what I wanna do. That’s how I’m gonna leave my mark outta the world. And I was just excited about that prospect. Here’s something I teach in my courses and in my TED Talk and in there are several areas. The rule for any great accomplishment is to take inspiration to action.
So I needed to take that inspiration to. What’s even better is before we ever get an inspiration, life already sets up everything we need to begin and to succeed. So it turned out that the very week that I had this inspiration that I wanted to be a writer, my English teacher at the time, assigned something that she had never assigned in all the years I’ve been in school.
She said, I want all of you students to do any kind of creative project. Doesn’t matter what it is. I just need you to do a creative project for a major. I knew immediately, okay, I’m gonna write a story. And that’s when I started. I just went back to my house. At that time actually, I used to type an old standard typewriter.
I had my dad had one with black keys and my grandmother had one. It was a gray one with gray keys. She helped me write my first short story and I wrote it on that old Ray typewriter. Manual typewriter. And when she passed away in 1990, my dad gave that typewriter to me. I have it in my office right
Oh, that’s nice. Nice. Okay, I’m glad we did redo this because you did not mention the first time around that you did a TED Talk. I That’s pretty fantastic cuz they’re pretty picky. So tell us real quick about that TED talk.
Roger: So there I was working as a librarian at a high school. I was an educator for many years.
I was an English teacher and. There was a faculty member on my campus who got a grant to be able to do a TED Talk with educators in our district, and he picked the people he thought that could give the vote, who might be able to give the most inspiring TED Talks. And so he knew about my book Success Express for Teens.
I’ve been working with teens on how to be successful and how to set goals for many years. So he asked me if I would be part of that program and I was, They recorded it, and then mine was one that was selected to be on the talk channel.
Stephen: Nice. Wow. That’s pretty cool. I’ll have to get the link from you for that.
Okay. So we can find it and link to it. That’s pretty. Okay. You are extremely busy and creative. So tell us about your book. Why did you wanna write this particular book?
Roger: Over the years, my focus had always been on writing fiction. My was, I wanted kind that inspired young reader f Scott Fitzgerald and the Great Gatsby Carson MCs.
And the Heart is the Lonely Hunter James Baldwin. And several of James Baldwin’s books, they just really touched my heart and I thought, You know what? This is what I wanna do. So I always focused on writing fiction, but as I was working through my career as a teacher, ideas and opportunities kept coming up, and I ended up writing in all different kinds of genres.
If you go to my website, roger leslie.com, you’ll see my books. I have books in all different kinds of genre, mostly nonfiction as well as. So I didn’t really have a specific idea of what book I wanted to write next. I was already in the process of writing few books and one night I had a dream, and in that dream I was told expressly to live the next 365 days as if I would never experience those calendar dates again.
As you can imagine, the dream that scared me on was like, Are you telling me I’m gonna die? But the dream. And the instructions continued and it said, Don’t prepare to die, but live each day so clearly and so presently that you can make an impact every day of the year as you live those days. It continued right about it.
Journal about it, and make that your next book. That idea thrilled me cause I thought, ok, I had another book idea and then the dream concluded with one more bit of. After I wrote the book, I was told teach other people how to live and get the most out of their life as well. That book became what I call my first last
Nice. Okay. That tells us a lot about the book. It’s, is it fiction or nonfiction?
Roger: It is nonfiction. It is a memoir of my experience. So through the year when I was first promoting the book I said it is like, Henry David throws Walden, except I didn’t go to the woods cause I don’t like to get dirty.
In essence, I lived a Walden experience, but kept the context of my life the same. I didn’t quit my job, I didn’t go off to, to any remote area and live by myself and grow my own food and of those details. What I did was I be, I focused on being completely present every day and really appreciating what I had each.
And also focusing on doing everything I wanted to do that year so that I, when I got to the end of my life, whenever that was, whether it was a year from that moment or whether it was anytime in the future, I could look back on my life with no regrets. Nice. And that was the focus of my first last year.
Stephen: So give us an example of a few of the things in the.
Roger: So many different things occurred. I set some I’ve always been a big goal setter. I used to teach my students how to set goals. I help I teach courses called Fly First last year and that this is how that happened. This was interesting.
So while I was journaling as instructed and living my first last year, I kept writing out the words first last year, and it just kept taking so much. I just abbreviated it and it turned out to be f l y for first last year. And I, and the minute I wrote it down the first time, I thought, okay, that’s the theme of the courses that I’m gonna teach.
I’m gonna teach people to fly. So I focused on being present, being appreciative, making sure I was really living each moment instead of always having my mind somewhere in the future. What am I gonna do next? What am I gonna accomplish next? What? What’s the legacy I’m gonna. So it was being present and setting goals for everything I wanted to do, assuming that I had to do them that year.
Stephen: Nice. Okay. What are people saying about the book? People who have read it already,
Roger: of the book and the courses people are saying it changed my life. I’ve had some really great feedback on the book. Major players in the field of spirituality and inspiration as well as many people, just reviewers and just readers who enjoy the book and who taken and or who taken the
Nice. So do you feel the book gives people what’s in the classes or is there more how do you get ’em together?
Roger: So the book and the classes were exclusive of each other. The book is My Journey, and so it was my first last year. It’s the journal that I kept during my first last year. So it can serve as an example or a template, but the focus of the fly courses is I teach people that no matter where you are, no matter what your dreams, I can help you make your dreams come true, and the way your first last year develops and evolves doesn’t necessarily have to look anything like mine.
If it does, and I set a great example for you, that’s wonderful, but if it only creates a springboard to giving you your own ideas of how you would do it even
Stephen: better. Nice. Okay. And do you have any plans for a follow up book to that or another course or anything to go with it?
Roger: Yes. So I’m continuing to create new curriculum and I’m doing different kinds of curriculum for different kinds of audiences.
One of my upcoming books is a Fly Book of Days, which is a calendar book, because one of the things I did during my first last year was anytime I did anything that I thought was really memorable or meaningful to me on a particular day, I recorded it in my book of days as this is. I will, I always want to remember that on such, such a date, I did this or accomplished this or had this experience.
So one of the next books that will be coming out within the next year is the fly book of days, which is which people who are working on getting the most out of their life can use so that they have a record rather than in journal form, just in calendar form what they’ve done and what they’ve
Oh nice. And you keep expanding it. That’s pretty good. Cuz different people use and learn in many different ways. Yes. So that’s a good thought. Very good thought. So your fiction, do you have any plans for more fiction?
Roger: Yes, actually I’m doing the final revisions of a novel that I started last year.
And that novel should be, I’m hoping by Christmas of 2023 I’ve got a little bit more work to do on this one. But in the meantime I have three other nonfiction books that’ll coming out. So one of the things that happened when the pandemic first hit was that many of the writing clients that I had and the editing clients that I had everybody just disappeared cuz we didn’t know if the world was ending or anything.
And people were holding onto their money and staying at home. That opened up my schedule. And I, so I had a first last year inspiration. I thought, okay, so if everything else has been cleared away and now my time is free to do whatever I want to do, what is it that I most want to do? And that’s when I realized this was my opportunity to write.
And I did, And now I am actually at different stages of eight different books, five novels and three nonfiction. That will be coming out over the next few years.
Stephen: Wow. That, that’s very ambitious there. And you mentioned the website, so I assume all the books are on the website.
Tell everybody what your website
Roger: is. It’s my name roger
Stephen: leslie.com. Okay. That’s easy. We’ll put a link to the show notes for checking it out. And you said you’ve written in multiple fiction genres over time.
Roger: I’ve written in multiple non-fiction genres mostly. Okay. Most of my fiction is historical fiction.
Okay. Okay. I really, I, I love past time periods and everything I, my the different genres are nonfiction. I write inspirational and self-help. I write books that help people with success. I’ve written books for librarians. I have written biographies and memoirs. Little bit of.
Stephen: Nice. Nice.
Okay. We’ll put a link to the show notes. People can check out all the books there. So l let me switch gears just a little bit find a few things out about you. Growing up, what were some of the books and authors that you liked to read? Some of your favorites?
It could be now too.
Roger: Sorry. I’ve always been a voracious reader and so even when I was younger, I was reading. More adult fiction. My parents were very nice that way. They were very understanding. And let me read books that were meant for adults, not just children’s books. So as I mentioned earlier the book that touched me the most in high school was the great guest.
It was a heartbreaking experience for me. I was really struggling at the time with my own loneliness and just different issues that I had as a team feeling isolated, and it just resonated. And this a similar experience I had with Carson McCull is the member of the wedding and the heart is a lonely hunter.
And so those were some of my favorites. I love Winesburg, Ohio. I love, I’ve got that on my list to read. Oh yeah. I love that book. I read that once on vacation and I always connected that book now with where I was when I was reading it because it just made such an impression on me. I love the House on Mango Street by sans, which is a book I used to teach literature to my students, and so I created a unit.
This was back in the eighties and nineties when teachers had more. And more leeway with what they could create in their curriculum. So I taught senior honors and so I developed a unit great called great novels, and I picked 50 of the greatest authors of all time in English language. So they were British or American.
And I picked what was considered their masterpiece, and I created a unit where each student could pick a different novel, and then we would do different things with it. We’d have Lincoln Douglas debates. They’d have to write a research paper, they’d have to do a creative project, but that gave me a chance.
Because I had read some of those books, but quite honestly, I didn’t read all of them before I put them on that assignment. So that first year was interesting. I had a stack of those novels on my car seat as I was driving. And I would stop at the light and I’d open the book and start reading to the lighting so I could keep up cuz I needed to stay ahead
Stephen: of the students.
Wow. And that’s one of the, I love that they get a choice. One of the things I’ve talked to some other teachers about and. We always lament the fact that kids don’t wanna read. They’re not interested, they don’t wanna read, but then we force ’em to read books they’re not interested in. And I’ve, I’m like, Do you see the problem there that if you’re forcing ’em to read something that they’re not enjoying, they’re not gonna read and they’re not gonna care, and then that goes into their adult life.
But if we. Get them hooked on reading first and then worry about the books that we want them to read. It, sorry. It’s a easier process because they already like to read. Yes. You hit the nail on the heads, Stephen, when you, with what you just shared, because. I was also a librarian and when I got my degree in library science, my certification in library science, that’s one of the first tenants they teach you is you’ve got to get kids to love to read.
Roger: And one of the ways to get them to love to the to read is to pick books on topics that they’re interested in at a reading level, that they’re comfortable. Yes.
Stephen: Yes, and that, that was one of the reasons back in the day. Now this was beyond our time, but the Goosebumps books, I know a lot of parents like, Oh no, I’m never letting my kid read those books and stuff how many kids like devoured those and then went on to read everything available?
Because they liked to read and they got hooked on reading was something they really enjoyed. So man, if you give somebody Daniel Defo Robinson Cruso and say, Here, read this, or the great white Moby Dick and say, Here, this is the first book you’re reading. Read it now. Sixth graders go, Oh my gosh, this sucks.
But if they
Roger: read up, they think that’s what reading is. They think, Oh, a book must be dense and heavy and hard. Difficult to wallow through. That becomes their association and they associate with the emotion of feeling dread and oppress and boredom. No wonder they don’t wanna read if that’s how we start out.
Yeah. Yeah, I agree. And that’s one of the great things that JK Rolling did with the Harry Potter books, is she got them to read what they cared about and what they love and made the book so long. The first several publishers, she took them. Rejected them simply because they were too long.
They said, Yo middle school kids will never read this long of a book. Little did they
Stephen: know and their parents are gonna read it too. Exactly. I always look at the Har Romance women because they’ll read 10 books in a week and I’m like, You’re reading this cuz you enjoy it. You’re not being forced, It’s not dense.
They’re quick, easy reads so why are we telling our kids, Oh no, you can’t read anything you enjoy, you have to read this other stuff. We’re making your read. I, I don’t, that’s one of my crusades in my life. So maybe sometime if we meet up we’ve got the same message we could pass on to teachers and parents and for their kids.
Love that idea. Okay, so besides the books, do you have a local bookstore that you like to go to?
Roger: One of my very favorites is called Copperfield Books in the Houston area. It’s a run by a husband and wife, and the wife’s mother also works the register very often. My first experience there was so great because they have some local author events and so many years ago I found out about the store and I stopped by and I told them that I’m an established author and.
I would like to do some kind of a keynote rather than just set up a table and stand around. She was immediately amenable to that idea. She let me do a presentation on how to start writing a book. If you ever go about starting to write a book. The attendance was great. The people were fun, and it just started a great relationship that I valued.
Chapter books in the
Stephen: Eastern area. Okay. I’ll put a link to them in the show notes. And I, one of the things I’m doing an expert, not an expertise, but something I’m interested in, have some knowledge of is writing stories for video games. And I do a workshop with kids about writing stories for video games and how to make a video game without being a programmer.
And that’s a job you can actually get, which parents are like, ah you gotta. Get them to understand that a hundred years ago, being a screenwriter was not a job. Now it is. This is the next thing. That’s a workshop I’ve been working on with kids cuz kids love it, oh, I get to make a video game and I’m writing stories.
Roger: So good for you and good for them.
Stephen: Yes, it’s really cool. And I’ve got a contact that runs a school for video game stuff and he’s helped me a bit on it. So yeah, I love the things you’re doing and working with kids. Who’s go read our books when they’re adults if we don’t get them reading and who’s go write the next Harry Potter if the kids aren’t writing.
Exactly. All right, so Roger, before we move on and talk author tell everybody. If someone came up to you and said, Roger, I heard you wrote a book why should I get it and read it? What would you tell ’em? My
Roger: mission in life is to inspire people to live the life they dream and to empower them to follow their own unique journey to success and fulfillment.
If that’s what you’re looking for, If you wanna live the life you dream, and if you wanna feel empowered to li to follow your own unique. Read one of my books.
Stephen: Nice. Very succinct and well thought out. For any authors listening, you should come up with that paragraph to answer that question. I had an author go, Oh, I’m going to a book fair that I’m gonna be at.
And I ask that question. They’re like, Oh, I bet someone will ask me that. Maybe I should think of what to actually say. That you’ve practiced that I could tell. That was perfect. All right, Roger, I appreciate you being on talking about your book.