I am thrilled to present author Jerry Cesak for our latest Author Spotlight segment. I have listened to the “Jeff & Jer” program for years driving the kids to school. When I discovered that Jerry had written a children’s book, I thought it would be exciting to feature him on our blog. I had a chance to meet Jerry at the Children’s Book Festival in La Mesa and found him to be very kind and gracious. I invited him to share a little time with us on the sidewalk.
Jerry graduated as a theatre major from the University of Maryland after which he took a short thirty-year diversion into radio. He’s been waking up San Diegans on the top-rated “Jeff & Jer” morning show since 1988.
For as long as he can remember, Jerry’s been passionately involved in campaigning for animal protection. He is a member of the Board of Directors of The Humane Society of The United States and founder of The Unicorn Foundation which raises money to fight animal cruelty.
Jerry is a produced playwright and author of dozens of short stories and screenplays.
He and his wife Pam live in La Jolla, California in a house owned by six cats.
In the picture with Jerry is the “real” Aja, whose prima-diva personality inspired his book “My Personal Panther.”
WOTS: Can you tell me a bit about your writing process? Do you plot or not?
JC: I always know the first line of anything I write. Even if it’s dialogue that starts the story. And I always know the very last line. That leaves me with this inconvenient thing called “in between”. I do plot, but in arcs. I’ll have an umbrella story arc and then fill in with arcs that get me from one end to the other, like stepping stones.
WOTS: Are you working on any new projects that you can tell us about?
JC: Like everyone else who lives in Southern California,(in accordance with a law passed in the 1950’s I think,) I’m working on a screenplay. It’s called “Old Rock Stars” about four guys who used to be in garage bands in the 1970s. Now they suddenly find themselves being the biggest rock act in the world. I also have a play in progress called “The Lobby”, and of course, another “My Personal Panther” book–the prequel.
WOTS: Describe your studio or usual work space for us.
JC: Great question. I love to know where people work. For me, it’s at home in my office with the door shut. It’s away from the rest of the house. My wife Pam gave me an office makeover for my birthday several years ago, so all the furniture is custom built-in and my desk is enormous. I usually have music on. Lots of jazz/rock stuff like Donald Fagen (Steely Dan). If I’m stuck I’ll put on Van Halen or Motley Crue. If I really need to concentrate I turn everything off. When a project is nearing completion, I’ll have it on big cards like a storyboard spread out all over the floor with me on my knees in the middle. I finished up “My Personal Panther” on the floor of our room at the Beverly Hills Hotel. I had to tell the maids “don’t clean the living room”!
WOTS: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
JC: I’d like to be a locomotive engineer on a steam tourist railroad like “The Strasburg RR” in Pennsylvania.
WOTS: What’s one thing that most people don’t know about you?
JC: I cry listening to music a lot. Henry Mancini, Gino Vanelli, Sondheim, Jerry Herman and 50 others. Their music is so beautiful.
WOTS: What was your inspiration for My Personal Panther?
JC: We have 6 cats, all rescues, or course. During a check-up, our vet, Patty Unger of Kensington Veterinary Hospital casually mentioned to me that a house cat is physiologically no different than a lion. Same thing – just smaller. I thought “Hmmm…what if a little girl and her cat both thought the cat was a panther?”
WOTS: How did you team up with Terry Naughton to illustrate the book?
JC: It easily could not have happened. About 15 months ago on The Jeff & Jer Showgram, I casually mentioned I was writing a children’s book an needed an illustrator. I asked anyone who was interested to send me a sample of their work. I thought I’d get 3 or 4. About 50 people send me stuff. One of them was Terry, and I instantly knew he was the guy. Interesting thing though: Terry wasn’t listening that morning. A friend of his was though, and called him.
WOTS: Can you tell me a little bit about the work you do for animals?
JC: I am on the Board of Directors of the Humane Society of the United States, which is the largest, most effective animal protection organization in the world. Wherever there are animals suffering, on factory farms, behind the doors of research laboratories, in the middle of the ocean, in dog fighting rings, puppy mills, – wherever cruelty happens, HSUS is there to confront it. Pam and I also work locally. In 1989, we founded The Unicorn Foundation which raises money for animal protection.
WOTS: We here at Writing on the Sidewalk tend to procrastinate with our writing, where do you fit in Procrastinator or Proactive?
JC: Ahh! Let me share something Paul Theroux (yes, Paul Theroux) told me one night while he and Pam and I were at dinner. (Another story for another time). What he said changed my writing life forever – despite having read or heard everything else about “writer’s block” and “putting it off”, etc. He said to me: “Amateurs wait for inspiration. The rest of us just go to work every day”.
Thanks Jerry for spending some time with us today.
If our readers would like to learn more about Jerry and his book please check out his “Personal Panther” site. We’ll keep you posted on his next book as well.
Writing on the Sidewalk