Monday 6 March 2023

An Interview with Don McLeese

Don McLeese is the author of Slippery Steps: Rolling and Tumbling Toward Sobriety (Ice Cube Press), which Kirkus Reviews called “A raw, painfully honest memoir rendered in assured prose.” His work has appeared in Rolling Stone, The New York Times Book Review and The Washington Post. He is an Associate Professor of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Iowa. 

McLeese will be the featured reader at the Final Thursday Reading Series on March 30 at the Hearst Center for the Arts in Cedar Falls, Iowa. The in-person open mic takes place at 7:00 p.m. and Don McLeese takes the stage at 7:30. McLeese’s reading will also be simulcast on Zoom. Click HERE to register for a Zoom link. 

Interview conducted by Sierra Nemmers. 

Sierra Nemmers: You've had a career as a journalist and journalism professor. What made you decide to write about your personal involvement with alcohol and sobriety?
Don McLeese: I thought it would make a good story that would connect with readers and might help some of them. On a professional level, continuing to write as a productive journalist is part of my job. On a personal level, I thought it would help me connect some dots and fill in some blanks, to figure out for myself how I got to where I am now. 

SN: Since your book revolves around a heavy topic, especially one that is personal to you, did you find any of the writing process difficult despite your background in writing and journalism? Did you have to do anything to prepare for the heaviness that would come with reliving this part of your life?
DM: I've never written anything so intensely personal, but I've long drawn from personal experience in my journalism. In some ways, I approached it as I would any journalistic challenge—focusing and framing, trying to write a story that was as true, clear and compelling as I could make it. 

SN: Did you anticipate a certain reaction to the book? Did anyone’s response to your journey surprise you?
DM: When I was writing it, it was almost as if I had to act as if I were writing it for me, to figure out myself for myself, and to pretend that no one else would ever read it. So there was definitely an adjustment when others started reading and responding. I've been gratified by how positive and supportive most of the response has been. I've had plenty of readers tell me how powerful they found the book and how much it helped them.