Interviewed by Angela Caban
If there is something that former Navy brat Sarah Smiley could tell you is that the military life always comes first! Sarah is a Navy wife, mom of three, and a military columnist. Sarah’s book “Going Overboard” has guided many of us through the many “unspoken” obstacles of the military life, and has offered us comfort in knowing we are not alone. In this interview, Sarah opens up about her life today as well as military obstacles and how she has overcome them.
You grew up as a Navy brat, what do you find was the biggest challenge growing up?
I was often very resentful of the times I missed spending with my dad. He wasn’t there to see me go to prom, to teach me to drive, etc. I clung to these “injustices” for a long time. Eventually, however, I let it all go. Especially once I married my husband and saw everything from his point-of-view.
What are the biggest challenges you face as a military wife?
I have a hard time adjusting to the military’s lack of schedule. And I’ve grown tired of moving around every couple of years. I want to raise my kids in one house, one neighborhood. I have definitely come to a point where I want to provide them roots, but the military and its schedule (or lack thereof) is one giant hurdle in my way.
There is talk that there will be a sitcom based on your columns and book. Are you able to discuss this in more depth?
Kelsey Grammar bought the rights to my book and columns and wanted to develop them into a half-hour sitcom for CBS. Not much more I can say besides that.
Who would you want to play you in a sitcom or movie?
Not sure, but definitely think Ben Stiller would make a good “Dustin.”
How did you juggle life as a mother and wife while writing your book Going Overboard?
It was difficult, and Dustin really had to step up to the plate and help. I was lucky that he was home at the time and had a fairly flexible schedule. Also, my kids were younger then and didn’t have after school sports and activities to be shuttled to. I’m not sure if I could write a book as fast these days.
Knowing that many military spouses go straight to your book for words of wisdom and support, what do you want military spouses to take from your book, “Going Overboard?”
“Going Overboard” is probably best kept as an example of “how not to handle deployment.” Yet, for women in my shoes (at that time), I understand how my story is a source of comfort. It’s the “I’m not alone” sigh of relief. I’m glad that I could put myself out there to provide that. For too long military spouses didn’t talk about the darker side of our lives, but silence never made those parts go away.
What inspired you to write for military spouses?
In the beginning, it was all that I knew. They always say “write what you know,” and so I did. My writing has definitely grown over these last 10 years. It’s funny to go back and read my first columns. I constantly edit myself (“darn, I should have used THIS word instead of THAT word…..”)
What writing advice and tips do you have for the new military writer?
Chicken Soup for the Soul is an excellent way to get published for the first time. You can submit stories directly on their website. And they pay, too! The most important thing is to start submitting your work. The best way not to get published is to not send out anything in the first place.
Tell us a little bit about your life today; is there a new book in the future?
I will probably work on another book once my 3 boys are a little more self sufficient. Currently I’m teaching writing at the University of Maine in Orono. I am very excited about this new direction in my career. Writing is so often a solo profession and rather lonely. I look forward to getting out into the world and teaching other writers.
What advice would you give a military wife, who is going through her first deployment?
Get into your groove. Find a routine. DON’T count the days in the beginning. It will just depress you. And know that homecoming will make it ALL worth it!
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