‘Meet the Author’ with Dan Scanlan
July 11, 2018
The Union sat down with local author Dan Scanlan to talk about his book, "How to Play the Ukulele." What follows is our Q&A with Scanlan about his life and his first "how to" book.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I'm the oldest of nine siblings, born in Los Angeles, received a BA in English and Communication Arts from Loyola University of Los Angeles in 1965.
I taught high school English, reported for several Los Angeles daily newspapers, data analysis and software programming, ran an automobile repair shop and a publishing service company.
I have been playing ukulele and guitar since 1961 and have been teaching ukulele since 1984. I currently have more than 6,000 online students in 82 countries and directed the Strum Bums Ukulele Extravaganza Rescue and Relief Band of Grass Valley.
What brought you this area?
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When my twin daughters, Summer and Leona, were born in Sacramento in 1980, my wife and I elected to raise them in the Sierra Nevada.
We had friends in Nevada City and we moved there in 1981.
How did you get into writing?
In the seventh grade, a neighbor gave me an old typewriter, and I started turning in my homework in typed form. About that time, I realized that I was a good speller and could construct a decent sentence. And I liked it.
In high school I edited the school paper and yearbook and created a senior class bulletin. In college, I edited a monthly newspaper for resident students.
What is your favorite book or who is your favorite author?
I read a wide variety of books, sometimes dabble in detective stories, but mainly history and social studies. I have great respect for David Talbot, Daniel Sheehan, Ralph Nader and Howard Zinn.
What is your book about?
My book is meant to not only give people of all ages who aspire to play the ukulele a bump start, but to provide them with the tools they need to keep growing as a musician.
What inspired you to write this book?
An acquisition editor of Adams Media, an imprint of Simon and Schuster, approached me about writing a "how to" book on the ukulele.
She had been to my online course and said my attitude in the course was the one they wanted in their book. I was excited to write it and loved doing so.
What do you find most challenging about writing a book?
Since the publisher wanted some of the songs in the book to be originals, I had to commit my selections to sheet music. This was a task I should have started in college!
I sought help from friends familiar with the task and eventually got the hang of it. Since finishing the book, I have continued to convert my original tunes to sheet music. I just can't stop!
What is your key takeaway or message you hope readers find in your book?
Have fun playing music. Don't beat yourself up because there's some aspect you cannot conquer. The learning never stops and there is no end to inspiration.
Where can people find your book?
Most book and music stores and online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble et al.
How would you describe your own perfect day?
A headline that reads, "Arctic Refreezes as Melting Subsides."