by Gabbi Hall
Dr. Dave Landers has always been an avid reader. “I read constantly,” he said. “I have since I was 4 years old.” It wasn’t until recently that he wrote his first book. “I Wish He’d Taught Me How to Shave,” a collection of student essays about their fathers and his own thoughts on people’s relationships with their fathers, is this professor’s first book and has sold over 400 copies through the small Vermont publishing company, Wind Ridge Books. A portion of the book’s profits will fund a scholarship at St. Michael’s College where Dave teaches. His book’s mission is simple: “…if this book has challenged you in any way to rethink your own behaviors or attitudes about what fatherhood and a “real” man is, or if it has reinforced that you are indeed a good man or father, then the book has met and surpassed my hopes and expectations.”
Have you always written?
I have not. That’s why this is a new adventure. People always said “You have to write a book. You have to write a book. You have to write a book,” but I never had the time. A couple year’s ago, I was reading a student essay. The student said he loved his dad; he came to all his games and he was successful. He wrote about how when he was a kid, he took one of his dad’s business cards. When people asked what his dad did, he’d pull out the business card and show it off to people. In the end, he said “I just wish he’d taught me how to shave,” and I said “That’s it. That’s the title of the book.”
What was the process from idea to publication?
It has been interesting. I have taught the class, Men and Masculinities, for 13 years. I had all these essays I’d wanted to use, but wasn’t sure how. I had 52 essays. I got in touch with 52 people, and I heard back from 50 people. I ended up with 45 essays divided into 6 sections. My doctor and his wife knew an editor, and I set up a meeting to just ask questions about what the next steps would be if I wanted to be published. I sat down and they said, “We publish four books a year, and we want to publish yours.” I nearly fell out of my chair.
How were student responses to the concept?
Everyone was so excited. One of the reasons I wrote this to give my students a voice. So many young adults feel like they don’t have a voice. I’ve changed the names in the book, but not one person has had any hesitations.
Is there any one student’s story that sticks out to you?
The one with “I wish he’d taught me how to shave.” He worshipped the ground his dad walked on. Then, he found out from his mom that his dad was going to strip joints and using prostitutes when he was on business trips. That made him question everything he learned from his father.
How did you weave together you’re own writing with student work?
That was a challenge. I worked with Lynn Stone as the primary editor, and a professor on campus. Originally, I just thought I’d have a short intro and the essays. They said “We think you write the way you teach. We need your voice to walk us through.” After that, I wrote for three days: Friday, Saturday, Sunday, connecting the stories.
How are you marketing the book?
We had a release party at St. Michael’s with about 80 people. It’s been a lot of talking with local people. It’s been using social media; I’m on Facebook and Twitter. It’s been networking current and former students.
The book has been nominated for Colorado Mountain College’s Common Reader book. I also made it on the front page of the Burlington Free Press. I have no idea what’s going to happen (with the book). It’s just a question of getting it outside of the area. That’s the challenge working with a smaller publishing group.
If you could keep just three books in your library, which would you choose?
“Goodwill Hunting,” “Brokeback Mountain,” and “Exodus.”