Making The Most of The Time We Have

Join author, educator, and learner, Annmarie Kelly as she laughs, cries, and kvetches with the writers, musicians, entrepreneurs, and wanderers who inspire all of us to reach beyond our divisions and discover what it means to be wild, precious, and brave.

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Take a Soul Detour with Francisco X. Stork

Take a Soul Detour with Francisco X. Stork

Francisco X. Stork spent thirty-three years working at one job, but felt in his heart he was called to pursue another. He is a grandfather now and has just published his 9th book. Francisco draws upon his experiences as a Mexican immigrant to write captivating stories for young readers. Annmarie and Francisco discuss do-overs, chess, hopeful endings, and how to resist putting a time limit on our dreams.



Episode sponsors:

Aesop’s Fable in Holliston, MA. An independent bookshop with a focus on inspiring creativity and growth in readers of all ages.

The Terrateer Club. A holistic online community helping parents raise kids who will care for the earth and change the world.


A Selection of Books by Francisco X. Stork:

On the Hook

Illegal

Disappeared

Marcelo in the Real World

The Last Summer of the Death Warriors

You can find these books at an independent bookstore near you.


If you are thinking about charging windmills, read Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes to learn more.


Here’s “Let It Go,” from the musical Frozen.



Follow Francisco:www.franciscostork.com

Instagram: @francisco_stork

Twitter: @StorkFrancisco

Facebook: @francisco.stork

LinkedIn: Francisco X. Stork

Annmarie Kelly:
Wild Precious Life is brought to you in part by Aesop's Fable in Holliston, Massachusetts, an independent bookshop with a focus on inspiring creativity and growth in readers of all ages, and by the Terrateer Club, a holistic online community, helping parents raise kids who will care for the earth and change the world.

Annmarie Kelly:
I'm Annmarie Kelly. Welcome to Wild Precious Life, a podcast about dreaming big and making real connections. In each episode, I talk to prize-winning writers, musicians, and entrepreneurs who teach all of us how to make the most of the time we have.

Annmarie Kelly:
There is a saying often attributed to the writer, George Eliot: it's never too late to be what you might've been. I thought about those words throughout my conversation with today's guest, Francisco Stork, who spent decades of his adulthood working at one job, but felt in his heart that he was called to do another. Francisco is a grandfather now and he just published his ninth book. I think for a lot of us, we put our dreams on a timeline. We figure that we need to finish this degree to get to that job or find this partner or make this amount of money. And we believe our paths should be like everyone else's or that we need to hit all the same marks. But that doesn't make any sense, does it?

Annmarie Kelly:
We need to find our own way in our own time. And I think happiness, true happiness, comes from listening to those calls, wandering down those paths we've always wondered about and not putting a time limit on our dreams. Francisco helped me think about that today. I hope he'll do the same for you. Let's get started.

Annmarie Kelly:
Our guest today is Francisco X Stork, author of the young-adult novel On the Hook. At the age of seven, Francisco announced that he wanted to be a writer. So, his parents gave him his first typewriter. When Francisco grew up, he studied Latin American literature at Harvard. However, despite his dreams of becoming a writer, he took a 33-year detour into the law, including 15 years as a lawyer at MassHousing, a state agency dedicated to financing affordable housing for those who need it. Francisco is now retired from legal work. He has recently published his ninth book. And he lives and writes outside of Boston.

Annmarie Kelly:
Francisco Stork, welcome to Wild Precious Life.

Francisco X Stork:
Oh, it's so great to be here. Thank you very much for having me.

Annmarie Kelly:
Absolutely. I'm glad to talk to you. I should be totally honest right off the bat. I read On the Hook recently, and this is a book about violence, addiction, poverty, vengeance. These are not all of our usual things here. They're not all usual themes here on this show, but I want to get into some of that.

Annmarie Kelly:
But first, I actually just want you to introduce yourself. Not everyone will be familiar with you or your work. I'm not talking about the name-tag intro or the book-jacket intro. I'm more interested in the wandering, meandering, longer tale of what brings you here today.

Francisco X Stork:
Well, I was born in Mexico a long, long time ago. I think some of the key events in my life, that through a long time thinking about and self-analysis that influenced some of my work, I think have been my mother was a single mother. I never knew my biological father. And until I was adopted by Charlie Stork when I was seven, the man who gave me the typewriter that you mentioned, I think there was probably some kind of insecurity in my life, growing up without a father. And I noticed that in some of my books, that comes out, the search for the father and the disappointment in the father.

Francisco X Stork:
Probably the other thing that's important for me is that we moved to El Paso, Texas with Charlie Stork when I was nine years old. Didn't know any English. And then I proceeded to slowly learn the language. And I think that for a long time, especially after Charlie Stork died a few years later, I think that for a long time what affected me the most was this feeling of not belonging because I was very at home in Mexico and all of a sudden you're disrupted. And then the father that I had grown to love and befriend died. And so, there followed a long period of searching and of trying to find something in my life that would fill the absence. And I think that that's when I started keeping a journal and I started writing.

Francisco X Stork:
I liked the way you described that, the detour of 33 years that I took. That's a very, very kind way of putting it. I had to make a living. And I'm very happy for my legal profession in the sense that I was able to provide for my family, but it was also kind of a soul detour in many ways. There was a feeling of waste, that I wasn't really utilizing kind of what was given to me.

Francisco X Stork:
So, that period of my life was characterized by kind of finding the time in the mornings and in the evenings after I came back from work to write and to kind of address that other side of me that was the desire to do something with writing.

Annmarie Kelly:
You said a soul detour? S-O-U-L? A soul detour? I love this idea. I think in the last year, a lot of us have taken detours, many of which we have not wanted to take, many of which have led us to places we didn't want to be. But I do also think there's been this opportunity to ask ourselves about our priorities. What is it we love? How can we do more of that? And I think those are soul detours, both into and out of those things. I like the way that you put that.

Annmarie Kelly:
So, you learned English here when you came to the States, around the age of nine, you said?

Francisco X Stork:
Yes. I remember we came in June and then I started school in [inaudible 00:05:50] August. And so, I only had a couple of months before I was in school. And I remember in Mexico, I was kind of hot stuff because I already knew how to read. And the teachers would call me to the front of the room. And I had this facility for telling stories. And all of that was just, poof, gone, the minute I stepped into the class. Immediately, they sent me to the fifth grade instead of being in the sixth grade. And they sent me back a grade.

Francisco X Stork:
And then on top of that, in Texas in those days they had this rule that if you were caught speaking Spanish in the school grounds, they sent you to the principal and you get whacked with this little board with holes in it. So, you can imagine that that didn't do great things for a young person's self-esteem. Here's your language that you've been speaking and you're very good at and then all of a sudden it's like you're punished for it.

Annmarie Kelly:
Oh my gosh. My husband, his family was in the military. So, he actually attended kindergarten... he would tell you he attended several kindergartens because he was held back in Germany. And so, he was sent to school. He didn't know German. He was sent to school knowing the word "toilet" and knowing the word "please". And that was it. And he was held back because he didn't know the language. And he describes that as being particularly terrifying in the beginning. And then once he could overcome it and speak German that it opened up the world to him. But do you have any memories of not knowing how to say words you needed to say? Or do you have a moment when you were stuck between languages? Do you remember anything about that time?

Francisco X Stork:
The first time that they asked me to read in class was very traumatic. The teacher asked me to read something. I think it was history. I tried to do my best, pretend that I knew. It was obvious that I couldn't. And it was just, it was very humiliating.

Annmarie Kelly:
You mentioned that in Texas at that time, people were encouraged to speak English and English only. I think I've noticed that in books as well, that at least now we're encouraged, and I think writers are welcome to include more of other languages in the text. And so, there was lots of Spanish in On the Hook. And it's not like you defined [Spanish 00:08:01] for people who don't know what that word means. We got it from context clues, that if I am a bilingual reader or if I am someone who speaks Spanish I will see myself represented in your book. And I really appreciated that, that the Spanish language permeated this world, that it wasn't just an English-only always translation. Do you think moving around as a child helped you to become a writer?

Francisco X Stork:
Yeah. I mean, I think that to the extent that you have different experiences, that all that comes into play in your writing. It just gives you, whether you're aware of it or not, I mean, just more characters to draw from, more settings to draw from, more situations. So, it's definitely came into play.

Francisco X Stork:
And even when I got into college, it became more moving around and seeking different kinds of settings. And experiences became more of a conscious choice as a way of preparing myself for writing. I remember working with the migrant farm workers in Alabama, and spending a summer in South Dakota with Native American children, and spending two years living with people with mental disabilities. And all of those things, I mean, there was always a sense of like I'm really kind of learning things and I am kind of getting into the mind of people that are very different from me, which had a big role when I started writing and the kind of books that I wrote and what attracted me to different things.

Annmarie Kelly:
Absolutely. I think there's an outsiderness. You talk about wanting to belong as a child, feeling distant from a language or from a culture, but I do think there's an outsiderness that allows you to see something that you might not see if you're within a community.

Annmarie Kelly:
You mentioned three different things that you didn't include in your meandering introduction. So, I would love it if you would tell us about living with the mentally ill or among a Native American population or in, I think you said Alabama. Tell us about one of those. I'd love to drill down a little and hear what you did and what you learned.

Francisco X Stork:
Sure. Well, when I was in college, and I went to a little Catholic school in Alabama called Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama. And at the end of my second year, I got a job with the Alabama Department of Mental Health, living I guess we'd say with five mentally-handicapped, mentally-disabled men in a kind of... they called it a halfway home, which are kind of a midway station between full independence and institutionalization. So, there would be a couple of regular people that would be with them during the week. And then I would go in and give them a break during the weekends.

Francisco X Stork:
And then in my last year, I moved full-time into an organization, it's a faith-based organization called L'Arche. It's formed of communities where the mentally disabled and the so-called neurotypical people live together without kind of too much distinction. The idea is that we learn from each other. And it is kind of fascinating to think of the things that you learn from people that you would not consider kind of intellectual equals in some ways.

Annmarie Kelly:
Absolutely, absolutely. I'm not trying to accuse you of not being YA, but from the sound of your voice, you don't sound like you're in high school anymore. Do you find there are challenges of being an adult writing for teenagers? Or is it freeing? How do you do that as an adult writing for young people?

Francisco X Stork:
Yeah. I think that it just comes natural to me I think to write about young characters. The first book that I wrote, I wanted to write a book for my then teenage kids about a young boy kind of growing up in the projects of El Paso, which is kind of... I wanted them to see a different side of life. Here we were, living a comfortable life in the suburbs of Boston and they were on their way to a very good college. And I just wanted them to see, "Look, this is not all there is." So, the best way that I could do is kind of describe some of these things that I experienced when I was growing up in El Paso.

Annmarie Kelly:
Are you a child at heart? Do you have a youthful... I don't know. Are you playful?

Francisco X Stork:
Yeah, no, I think so. When I play with my grandson, I'm like him. I'm a little kid playing with him. And I think that that's the kind of attitude of playfulness that you have to maintain to be able to pretend you and just to be comfortable pretending. I can't think of a quality for a writer that is more important, the ability to become someone different.

Annmarie Kelly:
Well, then I have to ask you what it was like to spend more than three decades becoming someone different as a lawyer for your job-job. I mean, what was that like to be a lawyer who wanted to be a writer? Or are they the same job, just you're writing different things?

Francisco X Stork:
Well, I think the best way to describe that is... I mean, you called it a detour, but I would say that I was lost, and lost in the sense of forgetting about what my purpose in life was really and then dedicating myself to some other kind of ambition. And so, I got caught up in this sort of working for prestigious firms and the money and trying to look good to these partners and this whole kind of a world that kind of consumes you until... so, I think for a lot of those years, it was very painful. I was in the wrong place. And I would stay in a job for three years or so and then they would ask me to leave, or I would get bored and find something else.

Francisco X Stork:
And eventually, in my 40s, after I started writing, I started looking for these jobs working for state agencies, which were... working for affordable housing, for example, was the best job that I've ever had in the legal profession.

Annmarie Kelly:
Yeah. I actually want to ask you about that because I have to confess that I... my husband went to law school. And I don't always understand what a lawyer does. I know it's important. I know everywhere I look, there are lawyers. But for instance, in the case of your work for MassHousing, what was your role? And how did you help try to make housing more affordable? Because I find this compelling, but I'm not sure I understand. What did you guys do?

Francisco X Stork:
Well, MassHousing is basically like a bank that is funded through the sale of bonds. And what they do is they lend money to developers who are willing to dedicate a certain percentage of their units to people who are below a certain income level. And so, we created what's called mixed-income housing, where it wasn't like public housing that everybody was poor. It was basically 60% paid regular rent and 40% were below. And so, there were good projects. And the idea was there was no distinction really as to who was poor and who was not poor. And so, that was sort of the ideal.

Francisco X Stork:
And what I did was just I took care of the documents, the mortgage, making sure that the sites were environmentally okay, the zoning and the financing documents. So, it was really negotiating and creating documents, but there was a good end at the other end. And I could see my work when I drove by or I visited one of these places.

Annmarie Kelly:
Yeah. So, helping people to get a roof over their heads and to not necessarily have to live in the kinds of... well, I mean, within On the Hook, we see Hector and his family with this opportunity. They're living in a housing development in the projects, they might say. And they have the opportunity to get out and move to a neighborhood that's made available to them by the help of someone Hector's father worked for and his brother worked for. And so, if I were to think about a little bit of autobiographical intrusion into On the Hook, Manny, this character who helps facilitate this opportunity for this family, that's similar to the work you were doing at MassHousing.

Francisco X Stork:
Yeah. I mean, I never thought about it that way, but thank you for pointing that out. That's a nice thing about these interviews. You learn stuff about your books that you never...

Annmarie Kelly:
At one point early in this story, Hector quotes... he's reading an essay for a contest he's won. And it's an abridged quote by Immanuel Kant, and it's the happiness is the fulfillment of duty. And I'm thinking about that with respect to your life story. And I'm wondering, do you think this is true? Is happiness the fulfillment of duty?

Francisco X Stork:
The older that I get and the more that I live, the more I realize that there is, in fulfilling the obligations that life sets out for you, your family, your neighbors, your society, and trying to do those little tasks that come to you, that there is a certain happiness.

Francisco X Stork:
Maybe we have to redefine happiness a little bit in terms of feeling good because sometimes it doesn't quite feel good to do this. I have to get up and go to work jobs that I didn't like for so many years, but there was a sense that I was kind of doing the right thing. You really can't separate the sense of joy from obligation. I guess joy maybe is a little bit better word than happiness.

Annmarie Kelly:
Sure. I can think of some people my age, many people my age, who are fulfilling a duty to their families, who are working jobs, all of us working jobs we don't necessarily love, but that pay for the things that our children need or want. There's a satisfaction that comes from providing for other people.

Annmarie Kelly:
But I think you might be right that true happiness might be more outward-bound and that it comes from serving others, whether it's providing them with a roof over their heads or a story that helps a young person see him or herself reflected on the page.

Annmarie Kelly:
You describe this feeling of the adult prison, you use the word "sinister". And I've been inside of facilities. I did some volunteer training in Los Angeles in order to teach writing in a juvenile detention center there. I worked in a rehabilitative program in Florida for a couple of years. So, I've been inside of the barbed wire. I've heard the sound of the gate closing behind you when you're locked in. But I know a lot of people have not. And I'm wondering how you created a world that felt and smelled and sounded so real. Have you spent much time in facilities? What was your research process for that?

Francisco X Stork:
When I was in Alabama, we used to visit a prisoner who was life in prison. And he would take us to his cell. The scene in Hector where he visits a prison. They're trying to scare him into being good. It's pretty similar to what I experienced when I visited that prisoner in Alabama. The sandwich that tastes like cardboard. And the baloney that, it's probably like three weeks old. But also the sense of, like you say, doors closing behind you and going through corridors that if somebody wasn't there to guide you, you would absolutely get lost.

Francisco X Stork:
And so, in the abstract you say, "Well, I could deal with that," but once you're in there, it's a different sense and you sort of realize kind of the... hopelessness is just a word, but unless you are in a situation where you can actually feel it, you can feel what hopelessness is in your bones. And that's what I kind of try to describe in those books.

Annmarie Kelly:
Being physically trapped somewhere can also lead to being mentally trapped in your mind. And we see this in Hector in On the Hook, that he is a smart kid, a loving kid, but we see after he becomes physically trapped in a place, we see him also be pretty mentally trapped in a loop of violence, and what it means to find balance. And those were some parts of the book that I think I could see resonating with kids in the system. If you've been a victim of violence all your life, then violence could seem like a real answer. If people have hurt you and hurt those you love, then it seems like that would be the answer, to then hurt others.

Annmarie Kelly:
When I entered the world of that story, I felt like I had to put the rules of my world over here, and embrace the world that Hector was learning to live in. And I found myself uncomfortable sometimes with that because I don't want those rules to be right. I don't want, for instance... oh, when you talk about cowardice. I don't actually want courage to be finding my way to live with cowardice, but I know that that's true in your book. I don't want respect and disrespect and [inaudible 00:20:52], I don't want these things to be meaningless, but in the book they really are. Do you think that we're all capable of violence, if we're just pressed?

Francisco X Stork:
When I look out in my world today, I see a prevalence of hatred. We started off by feeling that it was okay to be angry because we were justified at being angry at some of the things that were happening in our world. And then it was okay to say, "Well... " just to hatred, which is just like... it's a personalized kind of anger where you direct it at a particular group. Obviously, that has always existed. It just seems to me that it's more on the surface and more acceptable, if you look at social media and even people... you don't even realize that some of the things that you are saying are tinged with a level of hatred. But for some reason, hatred becomes an energy. And it's addictive because all of a sudden you got a path. You got something to look forward to, something to fight for. And so, the idea is that from there to violence, to actually actualizing the hatred is just a very small step for Hector.

Francisco X Stork:
How is he going to unhook himself from hatred? Because we can't just say, "I'm not going to hate," and that goes away. I think there needs to be a process where you disengage from hatred, a process of self-awareness and of other-awareness. I mean, in some ways, in those things Hector begins to see the humanity in this person that he hates, even though he doesn't want to. The kid's humanity is forced upon him in a way that he begins to see himself in some ways in this other person.

Annmarie Kelly:
I've often thought, working with teenagers, that hatred and anger, when I see those on the outside, I think that's just sadness often on the inside, that it's trying to find its way out, and it comes out... sadness seems too vulnerable, and so it comes out as anger. And in your book you wrote, it's a lot easier to hate than it is to mourn. When something terrible, heartbreaking happens to you, it's much easier to be angry than it is to let that big, sad feeling out.

Annmarie Kelly:
I remember when my father, who has since passed away, but when my father was diagnosed with brain cancer, I took up boxing. I am not a particularly big or violent person, but I needed, physically needed, to hit things. I needed a physical place to put my anger and my rage. And I see this also in your book. Hector and Joey, these two boys who are sent to the same facility, they have that same need. They need to have a physical place to put their sadness, but also their anger and their rage. Do you think that these physical altercations are part of the grieving process, helpful to the grieving process to be physical? Do you think that's a healthy way to move through sadness and anger?

Francisco X Stork:
I think that there's a part in the book where a teacher at the school where Hector and Joey end up, the reform school, tries to teach him this kind of a method of kind of... he calls it dumbbells for the mind or something. And it's basically lifting very light weights and learning to concentrate on the muscles that you're using while you lift. And it's kind of like yoga. Yoga was a meditative practice before it became a very popular exercise thing. But basically, the idea is that you have to train your mind to awareness. It doesn't come easy. And focusing the mind, for somebody like Joey and Hector, focusing on the breath is probably not going to work, but it might work lifting these little weights and jumping rope.

Francisco X Stork:
And there's a sense in which body movement, the basketball, the kind of semi-violent basketball games that these guys have, and even the school, which prohibits violence allows these kind of grudge matches with thick gloves because I think there is a connection that you have to... there's an awareness that comes with the expression of your body.

Francisco X Stork:
I'm not sure that it necessarily cures hatred. I mean, in some ways, for example, I notice that when I feel angry and I let that anger kind of come out in a word or in an act, that I feel worse, you know?

Annmarie Kelly:
Yeah.

Francisco X Stork:
And I wish I hadn't. When I keep it inside, I'm okay. But the minute I just let it slip out, then kind of it's all over.

Francisco X Stork:
I'm not really advocating physical expression of your anger. Maybe go hit a pillow or something. But I do think that awareness comes to us by being aware of the things we want to do with our body and what's behind them.

Annmarie Kelly:
Absolutely. I can see that. There's a point early in the book, where I think Hector says something like, "All will be well." And I picked up this book fully well knowing that all was not going to be well. And yet, I kept reading. And I was wondering why do we like to read about characters when we know bad things are going to happen to them? I picked this up knowing that all was not going to be well, but I kept reading. Why do we want to read about characters who are going through difficulties?

Francisco X Stork:
I think that the only way that you do that is because, even before you realize that things are going to be difficult, there's already a trust that you feel coming from the author. And it's a trust that, despite the difficulty of the subject matter, that this is a hopeful book. And I think that those first few pages, I start reading and I know whether this is an author I can trust or whether he's just there to manipulate me or make a quick buck or something. Or maybe he's just doing it... he's really interested in the movie rights and he could give a crap about me. But within a few pages...

Francisco X Stork:
I mean, the only reason you kept on going is, I'll take full credit for it, is because you trusted that I had a good heart and that I wasn't going to let... and that the book was going to be hopeful. Not necessarily a happy ending, but a hopeful ending in the sense of kids discovering who they are and finding their ways to express courage in a way, in the everyday. It takes a lot of courage to go to school every day. It takes a lot of courage to refrain yourself from doing what everybody else expects you to do. So, that's the kind of courage that I wanted to show at the end of the book.

Annmarie Kelly:
Just in there, I liked that you said there's a difference between a happy ending and a hopeful ending. And I don't think anyone's ever told me that before. I don't think I've ever thought about it before. We've gone to the movies to see happy endings.

Annmarie Kelly:
But I mean, as I just mentioned, my father died of brain cancer last year. That's not a happy ending for him. It's not a happy ending for me. But hopeful endings, right? I mean, Hector loses his brother early in this book. That's not a happy ending for his family, but hopeful endings, that's much more realistic.

Annmarie Kelly:
And I think if I'm a child reading your book in a detention center, or I am someone struggling, I'm reading this book and I'm learning that other people are struggling, a hopeful ending is something realistic for me to strive for and to know that, no, not everything that's broken gets put back together, not everyone who's lost is found, but enough can be fixed and enough of us can meander into maybe a place that we didn't expect to go and that there can be hope on that journey. I love that idea.

Francisco X Stork:
Yeah. I mean, for a lot of kids, it's not possible to jump out of a bad housing situation, for example, or to get out of a detention center. So, what is hope for them? Hope for them has to be some kind of acceptance that they are a good person, despite everything, that their life is worth living and that life is worth trying.

Francisco X Stork:
And so, sometimes I think we have to kind of, just like we have to redefine happiness, we have to redefine hope. Hope is not always the expectation of success at the other end of rainbows. Sometimes hope is just a realization that what you're doing is worth doing, regardless of the outcome.

Annmarie Kelly:
I like that. That's reminding me of the chess allusions in your book. One of the reasons I kept reading is because I like chess. I should be very clear: I am not a chess player. You strike me as a chess player from this book. Are you a chess player?

Francisco X Stork:
I play chess, but not at the level that Hector plays at. I had to do some research for this book.

Annmarie Kelly:
Well, so, one of the things my father was able to do before he passed away was he taught my son, who was then probably seven, how to play chess, which I thought was great. And then I've played chess with my son. My dad gave him a chess set.

Annmarie Kelly:
And in the beginning, of course, with a seven-year-old, you pretend, and "Oh, you got my... " and now, my son is nine so this is a few years ago, but he's nine now. I can't beat the boy anymore. So, there's something about chess that levels a playing field. I have several degrees and I'm a grownup person and I can drive a car, but my nine-year-old beats me at chess.

Annmarie Kelly:
But I'm thinking about your ideas in this book and how to win or lose a game of chess. No one does that without losing many pieces, often important pieces, your rook and your bishop. If you're going to win or lose at chess, you're not going to have all the pieces and someone have none. Even at my worst chess game, that doesn't happen. So, that also seems to factor into what the life is that Hector's living. And even a draw, a good battle on the chess board, those allusions really work in this book. I appreciated them in there.

Francisco X Stork:
Yeah. The idea of sacrifice. Chess and baseball are probably the only two places where those work. Or actually, that's part of the game. Yeah, Hector has to lose a lot of... the main thing that you have to sacrifice I think is some of the ideas about yourself and your expectations and some of the images that you have about who you are. And life kind of forces you in many ways to say, "You're not quite that way," you know?

Annmarie Kelly:
Yeah. I think at the beginning of the book, Hector might've described himself as a chess player who worked at the Piggly Wiggly. And at the end of the book, I won't give the things away, but his identity is going to change because what happens to us changes us. And how we respond to the things that happen to us become who we are. And along the way, you try to hold onto the things that are dear to you or shift and do different things.

Annmarie Kelly:
I'm realizing I didn't ask you this earlier and I wish I had. Forgive me for asking about your age, but how old were you when you published your first book?

Francisco X Stork:
Let's see. I think I started writing it when I was 40. It came out four or five years later. So, I was 45.

Annmarie Kelly:
What did it feel like to finally publish a book?

Francisco X Stork:
Yeah. I mean, it felt like finally I had answered a call that had been there for a long, long time. And I had felt kind of like a little bit of my life had been wasted for not answering that. And so, it felt a little bit like, "Okay, so I am a writer. So, who cares if only three people bought the book?" I mean, I got it... I was proud of the book. And then I realized that I had to incorporate that into my life, make it part of it somehow.

Annmarie Kelly:
I love that. That reminds me of the... it's often attributed to George Eliot, though I don't know if she ever said that, the idea that it's never too late to be what you might've been.

Annmarie Kelly:
Okay. So, I wish I'd get to talk to you forever, but it turns out that's not how it works. So, I always like to close with some introductory questions. So, I'm going to give you some multiple-choice questions, and all you do is just pick one.

Francisco X Stork:
Okay.

Annmarie Kelly:
Are you more of a cats person or a dogs person?

Francisco X Stork:
Dog.

Annmarie Kelly:
How about coffee or tea?

Francisco X Stork:
Coffee, coffee.

Annmarie Kelly:
Mountains or the beach?

Francisco X Stork:
Mountains.

Annmarie Kelly:
All right. Cake or pie?

Francisco X Stork:
Pie.

Annmarie Kelly:
Are you an early bird or a night owl?

Francisco X Stork:
Early bird.

Annmarie Kelly:
Early bird? I'm always impressed at people who are early birds. I know that in my heart... Toni Morrison used to say that she was brilliant early in the morning, that she was... I think she was brilliant all day long, but it turns out the morning is a good time.

Francisco X Stork:
I think my brain quits around noon, so I got to take advantage.

Annmarie Kelly:
Ooh, well, we're running up against the time limit here. Are you a risk-taker or are you the person who always knows where the band-aids are?

Francisco X Stork:
I think I'm a risk-taker.

Annmarie Kelly:
Good, good, good. And these are a few short-answer questions. Who was one of your best teachers?

Francisco X Stork:
Father Hatcher, who was my high school teacher, my high school history teacher and speech coach. And we're still friends. He worked in South Dakota for all his life with the Native Americans. And so, he's a big influence on me. He's retired now, but he worked at St. Francis Mission at the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. And it was a school and a place that served the Native American population there.

Annmarie Kelly:
He sounds wonderful. All right. Shout out to him. What's one of your favorite songs?

Francisco X Stork:
One of my favorite songs would be Let it Go, the song from Frozen.

Annmarie Kelly:
That's a fantastic song. I have tried to karaoke that badly, but my children sing it very well. And what's a book you love?

Francisco X Stork:
Oh, I love Don Quixote by Cervantes. I read that every five years. My wife taught Spanish at Wellesley College for most of her life. And so, she taught Don Quixote. So, she makes me read it to keep me in line with trying to be a good person.

Annmarie Kelly:
I remember this book well because when I was taking Spanish, I had the opportunity to read some of it in Spanish. And I always think about charging windmills and the idea that you should go ahead and pick your windmill. The lesson is not never to charge the windmill or always to charge the windmill, but that if you are going to charge the windmill to pick it and go for it. And how about your favorite ice cream?

Francisco X Stork:
Oh, butter pecan.

Annmarie Kelly:
Absolutely. Okay. And last one. If we were to take a picture of you really happy doing something you love, what would we see you doing?

Francisco X Stork:
Well, I would be with my grandkids doing... I would set up the sprinkler, and we would be running through the sprinkler with my four grandkids.

Annmarie Kelly:
Oh my gosh. How old are your grandkids?

Francisco X Stork:
Well, they range from 9 to 10 months.

Annmarie Kelly:
Oh, that's a great image. I love that, an image of you running through the sprinkler with your grandchildren.

Annmarie Kelly:
Oh, Francisco Stork, I am so thankful that you were able to spend time with us here today. I have some takeaways from this conversation. For anybody who's listening, don't put a time limit on your dreams, folks. Be open to being lost and found. Be open to these soul detours and the idea of if not a happy ending, a hopeful ending.

Annmarie Kelly:
I'm going to be thinking about do-overs and how we're taught in life that there are no do-overs, but I don't think that's true. You didn't love being a lawyer, and now you're a writer. And there's these great lessons in here about it's never too late to be what you might've been. So, folks, who are listening, I don't know what you're waiting for. Think about who and what you want to be and go do it.

Annmarie Kelly:
My guest today has been Francisco X Stork. You can find his ninth novel, On the Hook, at an independent bookstore near you. Here in Cleveland, that might mean Mac's Backs, AppleTree, or Loganberry Books. I'm wishing you, Francisco Stork, well. And I'm wishing everyone who's listening love and light wherever this day takes you. Until next time, be good to yourself, be good to one another. And we will see you again soon on this wild and precious journey.

Annmarie Kelly:
Wild Precious Life is a production of Evergreen Podcasts. Special thanks to executive producers, Gerardo Orlando and Michael DeAloia; producer, Sarah Willgrube; and audio engineer, Eric Koltnow. Be sure to subscribe and follow us on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.

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