Gloria Squitiro - A Skydiver Afraid of Heights
It’s her calling to make every husband on earth feel grateful they’re not married to her. Gloria Squitiro is the birth mother of Tara and Andrew Squitiro, and the cosmic mother of Alex, Nick, Pipo and Anna. Squitiro is an advocate and a dreamer who takes concrete steps to realize her goals and make a lasting, positive impact. Her passion is to get to the heart of issues so people need not be rescued at all. Gloria has been married to her husband (Funk) for 40 years. She became his campaign manager by default and has the rare distinction of being the only First Lady in America to be legally banned from the City Hall office where her husband, the mayor, worked. Squitiro has a bachelor's in psychology and is published in Harper’s Magazine. Her memoir, May Cause Drowsiness and Blurred Vision: The Side Effects of Bravery, is the first in her three-book C’mon Funk series. As our Author of the Day, she chats about this book and the series.
Please give us a short introduction to what this book is about.
This is the first book in a memoir series with several major themes running throughout the books. I am quite an anxious person. I grew up as a New York Italian, with a lot of inherited anxiety and superstitious ways of thinking. I had to put a lot of controls into place to feel safe. So many controls that I had no life. In the end, I just had figure out a way to suck it up and be ok with being afraid.
This is about my trip to Europe. I wanted to go very badly but was afraid to fly. The book basically starts with me doing prayer in my back yard to gain the courage to leave home and embark on my dream. As I am afraid to fly, we had to take a boat there - a ritual that was designed so that I could become a new and better me as I sail the amniotic ocean. Honestly, it worked. I definitely now have a bigger, more carefree life. Book one is meant to be an inspiration and encouragement, about not letting logistics come in the way - that it can be done. The main theme is overcoming fear.
In book 2 the major theme is that anyone can run and win a political campaign. Our citizens are tired of the top 1% running the country, and yet they keep electing them. I show how I was pretty much apolitical but my husband wanted to run for mayor. So we ran a grassroots campaign (I became campaign manager by default) and we won. The message is that if you know how to run and organize your life as a mother, you have all the skills you need to run and win a campaign.
The third theme is that the inquisition is not over - American women are still an oppressed class, along with economically oppressed people. The third book is about finding your voice and standing in your power, even if you have to pretend that you are confident. Until you wake up one day and discover that you really are.
May Cause Drowsiness and Blurred Vision begins with the trip to Europe and ends with me finding my husband's campaign headquarters for him.
What inspired you to write a memoir? Why did you pick now to do so?
I never set out to be a writer - as with everything that has ever occurred to me in my life, it just kind of happened. On the boat, with five days to cross the ocean and not much else to do, I started to keep a travel journal to preserve my memories. Those notes turned into quotes and in the end, became an actual book. Also, being thrown out of City Hall by the council and having an actual law written about me (to keep me from City Hall where my husband was working) made for a nice three-book series.
Despite spending years in Nashville, Kansas City, and Washington DC, you are still a New York Italian girl at heart. Why?
By nature Italians are passionate people - they live big, talk loud, laugh loud and are very family-oriented. New Yorkers are pretty much the same way. I find in other places in our country, people are more reserved and superficial. And I am the opposite of superficial. I have no problem with being vulnerable with my readers. The only places I ever hold back is when it has to do with sex, as my kids could read it, and I won't want them to go through that.
Why did you title this book "May Cause Drowsiness and Blurred Vision"?
If you're trying to overcome anxiety, you can get so scared that you have tunnel vision. It makes me feel dizzy and my vision all messed up. The original title for the memoir was supposed to be "Come On, Funk Move Your Ass." But as we ended up splitting the manuscript up in three books and this was now the title for the second book, we had to find something else. We went through the book, looking for something that was fitting.
There was one scene in the book, with me being terrified of leaving home, but desperate to achieve this dream. I woke up in the hotel room, before we were about to set sail, and I find that I am excited. I thought that I was going to be in a fetal position on the ground, and I feel surprised, as I haven't been excited in a very long time. I had an acupuncturist who told me to get a seasick patch. And I am afraid of Western medicine, as I get horrible reactions to it - but I feel bold, so I apply the seasick patch... and then I read the yellow warning sticker: "May Cause Drowsiness and Blurred Vision." I found that to be a very fitting title - as for me, the side effects of bravery where exactly that.
You became famous in a negative way as the first wife of a Kansas City Mayor who was banned from your husband's office. Please tell us more about this.
This is back in the day, back in 2007. Currently, we have a saying that something is "fake news." Because you can't turn on the TV and know whether what you are being told is real or made up. I would never have believed that fake news happened, had it not occurred to me.
The real backstory behind it, was not as it was printed in the media - that I was somehow this loose woman running around City Hall barefoot. That's how they portrayed me - it was perverted and sexual. It was unbelievable to me how perverted it was, and how not one woman of power stood up against that. I would have been screaming if that had happened to someone else - but everybody was afraid - they didn't want any of that on them. If I was being trashed in the newspaper, they wanted to stay as far away from it as possible.
Kansas City was almost bankrupt when my husband took office. That's why he decided to run for mayor - he wanted to prevent it from going the same way as Detroit. The reason why Kansas City was on the verge of bankruptcy is that it was very corrupt. Instead of using tax dollars for schools, infrastructure or policing, developers were using it to build yet another new hotel - and nobody comes to Kansas City.
Now when you have people with direct access to money, they don't just walk away when a new mayor comes in the office to come and right that. They come after you. But my husband was such a beloved public official - he served 18 years in an environment where most citizens hate public officials - that they couldn't say too many negative things about them. So it ended up a kind of John and Yoko Ono thing - they came in through the backdoor with me. And that's why I got banned from City Hall. Because Funk was making a difference for regular folks.
The law that they made, within 18 months was overturned for being unconstitutional. But by then it was too late. The damage was done. They broke up a really formidable team. The city was brainwashed. They hated that Funk was letting his wife run barefoot at the mayor's office as the media was claiming. That is basically what happened - it was a power & money struggle, and their strategy worked. Funk only lost the re-election by 1100 votes, but he lost.
One reader says that you didn't consider anything taboo to share with the reader. Was it hard for you to share such intimate details from your life?
Not at all. I have no time for acquaintances, no time for superficial talk, it is either talk about real things or I don't want to talk. Right now in America there is an epidemic of loneliness and suicide. I feel that this is a direct result of people not being real with each other, not having real relationships. Everybody is afraid to say what they really think and feel. I am not. Even on social media, I am completely real. It is not that everything is always perfect. I frequently start posts with "I hate Funk." Or "Having adult children sucks."
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I am an incredible organizer - I can live with filth in my house much better than with things out of place. That's why I made a great campaign manager. It is not really such a high-skilled job as it is portrayed to be - it is just being a good organizer.
I used to be a childbirth educator. That happened because I had two unnecessary cesareans, and when I realized that they were actually unnecessary, I was mad. It was the beginning of me becoming a feminist and steering clear of Western medicine.
People have always, upon first meeting with me, told me their deepest, darkest dirtiest secrets. It happens all the time. And it especially happened when I was holding childbirth classes or attending births - because that is an event where there is really no holding back. The real you is bound to come out.
Readers say that you took them on a roller coaster of emotions throughout the book - from smiling, chuckling, and laughing out loud to being angry and crying. Was this intentional?
Nothing that I write is intentional. I never took the first class in writing - that's why I didn't think I could ever write a book. I sit down to write and I never know what I am going to write until I am typing and it appears on my screen. There's no outline. As I talk is how I write.
Tell us more about the cover and how it came about.
I am not an artist, but I had to convey without having a blueprint. But the cover had to set a mood - I wanted to tell a story through the cover art. The first cover artist that I hired was not able to do this. He was with me for about 3 months, but at end he said "I can not make one more revision, you have to find someone else." I was blown away - I begged him to stay and start over, but he knew that this wasn't working. The best design he came up with, was a prescription pill bottle with the pills spilled out.
This set the publication back as I had to find a new artist. I kind of wanted a woman, but this new guy also suffered from anxiety, much more debilitating than I did, and he could really relate to the manuscript. But he was also struggling to come up with a concept. So I turned to Google. I typed "overcoming fear" in the search box and one of the first images that came up was of a man walking on a tightrope, way high up. I knew that was it. From there came the screaming faces, which is my anxiety, and the sun, which is what I am walking towards. Marching on toward the light, despite my fear, with real murky waters below. The cover artist really resisted, as the cover is way out of genre, but he finally thanked me for pushing him - the cover has since won three awards.
Did you plan from the start to make this into a series?
No - the manuscript came in at 1100 pages, and that does not even include the getting thrown out of City Hall story. My editors said that nobody would read a book that long, so we had to split it up, and what was intended to be one memoir, became a three-book series.
Did you keep a diary, or was it just easy to recall all of these experiences?
It started as a journal during my trip. I wrote a bit on the boat, but what I did not know, was that my father passed away while we were on the trip. I did feel like there was something wrong but didn't know. There was no phone on the boat and I was emailing my mother and siblings, but they decided not to tell me while I was traveling - and I only found out that he had died after I got off the boat. This was very hard to deal with and I was grieving all through Europe, with my husband and kids wanting me to just snap out of it. We had some big fights in Italy (and were getting some funny looks from the locals) but my family decided to go off without me for a day. I was glad to be without them, too and took out the travel journal and just started writing. Much of this eventually became the first book.
After the trip, life was just too fast-paced, so I had very few notes. Most of it was based on recollection, but when my husband read the manuscript, he started remembering things that he had long forgotten. So I am proud to say it was pretty spot on.
Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?
I have never had a problem with writer's block, thank goodness. There are not enough hours in the day to write as much as I would want to. I also run my own online business that provides a salary.
When I wake up, the first thing I do is deal with email. Then I would write for six solid hours - just typing away. After that, I would take a walk, clear my head and take care of some household stuff. Towards the end of the night, I will edit what I wrote in the morning.
My writing sessions are a bit like being on a psychiatrist's chair - making sense of things that happened to me. I really get in the zone, I can write anywhere - on a plane, in a train, in a coffee shop, waiting for the chiropractor.
What are you working on right now?
Book two in the series has been written since 2016 and I am working to get it published. The way I work is I write, edit - go back and edit it again. I have five professional editors for each step of the writing process. I hope to have it completely done by the end of the year and then publish it in 2020. It might only be available in May, as there would probably be a 5 month review period before that. The title will be: "C'mon Funk - Move Your Ass" but the subtitle might change. I currently have it as "how a demure little wife made her husband a big-city mayor", but the cover artist doesn't like the word "demure" - as he says that is not me at all. This title is from an incident where I encouraged Funk to stop lumbering about - someone heard me say that and it landed in the newspaper.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
My website is: http://www.gloriasquitiro.com
Readers can get a copy of the book here:
Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/may-cause-drowsiness-and-blurred-vision-gloria-squitiro/1130380081?ean=9781732721616