5 questions with…account clerk, novelist Becky Sloan

Becky SloanWhen Becky Sloan was about 13, her love for writing took root. Now, nearly 60 years later, she’s published her first novel, Branches—a work that took years of writing, rewriting, editing and retooling in order to be fit for print.

Sloan’s long journey led her to realize four crucial words of wisdom: “It’s never too late.”

“I firmly believe that. I wanted to get that phrase trademarked, but apparently it already is,” she said with a laugh.

Sloan, an account clerk for Campus Planning & Facilities Management, self-published Branches via Amazon’s CreateSpace. Though she acknowledges that self-publishing used to be mostly a “vanity project” for many, she also notes it recently has gained in popularity, even among previously published authors.

So for Sloan, self-publishing was the perfect route to finally make her work available to her readers.

“I always wanted to be validated by having a big publishing house publish my book, but I started to realize that wasn’t as important anymore,” she said. “Your work really should stand on its own, and it’s the readers who really make the difference.”

Sloan’s path of getting Branches to her readers began about 15 years ago, while she lived in Iowa. After sharing it with colleagues, she realized major changes needed to occur—including adding central characters and changing the title. After moving to Cleveland in 2003, she continued to work and rework her labor of love. Then last year, she rewrote the entire book, taking it from third-person past tense to first-person present tense. “That made all the difference in the world,” she said. “The book just came alive. I fell in love with it all over again—even 15 years later.”

The book tells the story of three African American women who are “bound together by their common history but separated by the walls of family secrets.”

The story strikes a chord with many of its readers, Sloan said, with many fans telling her the book inspired them to share their long-held secrets with their families. But more importantly, Sloan hopes it encourages readers to never give up on their goals—no matter how far off they may seem.

“I do believe it’s never too late, and other people should feel that way too,” she said. “If they’ve got something they want to accomplish, they should never give up.”

Want to know more about Sloan? Read this week’s five questions.

1. What was the first album you ever purchased, and what was the medium (record, cassette, CD, etc.)?
My first album—or if not my first, close to my first—was Chet Baker Sings on vinyl. I went through all kinds of phases—jazz, folk, R&B, rock—before I discovered that the thing I like best in all good music is the vocals. My love for lyrics is probably akin to my love for poetry and, in a great song, I get hooked on the words every time.

2. What film do you think should have won “Best Picture” at the Oscars—whether or not it was nominated?
I didn’t see any of this year’s nominees, but Inception should win an Oscar every year. I saw it 14 or 15 times. I guess that makes me a fan.

3. What moment at Case Western Reserve stands out as most memorable (so far)?
Commencement 2010: I went to the [Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences] diploma ceremony because I knew most of the graduates through my previous work as financial aid coordinator at MSASS. I had transferred to facilities in April but promised the students I would return to see them get hooded. Commencement is always a moving experience, but attending that particular ceremony was my most memorable moment at Case Western Reserve.

4. What is one thing people would be surprised to learn about you?
That I love rock music. As you might guess, I go for the vocals. I love Chris Martin, Chris Cornell and Radiohead, to mention only a few. I also love great guitar solos like Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham on I’m So Afraid or Pink Floyd on The Wall.

5. What is your favorite thing about Case Western Reserve?
Without a doubt, the people I’ve been privileged to meet and work with. I’ve been in three departments and have interacted with many departments across campus and, in all cases, have been profoundly moved by how hard everyone works to achieve a common purpose. Everyone takes their job seriously and performs their tasks diligently but knows how to brighten a hectic day with kindness and humor. Nothing changes a bad day into a good day faster than laughter and smiles.