Thursday, December 5, 2013
Most of us dream about retiring. We think about that time when we can sleep late if we want, enjoy a leisurely day with someone we love (or tolerate) and plan our lives around our desires.
Maybe we'll do volunteer work, travel to interesting places or build something with our hands. We will learn new skills, develop new interests. Maybe we'll learn to paint.
It's kind of like winning the lottery. It's a dream, and as real as it is for many people, it's elusive to a lot of folks.
Two new books by South Portland-based Sellers Publishing are designed to help people make those dreams come true and get the most out of them. The first, "65 Things to Do When You Retire," offers a road map of ideas to maximize the retirement years. It includes essays by "notable achievers" who offer examples, advice and ideas about retirement. Among the contributors: former President Jimmy Carter and social advocate Gloria Steinem.
The second, "65 Things to Do When You Retire: Travel," follows a similar format, only it focuses on ideas for things to do away from home, from physical adventures and spiritual journeys to sightseeing in exotic places.
It also introduces a new word to the lexicon: "glamping," which blends glamour and camping, for those among us who are not willing to give up comfort while communing with nature.
The books are geared squarely at boomers. Editor Mark Chimsky notes that 10,000 Americans will turn 65 every day between now and 2030. Many of them have time and money, and are looking for ways to spend both. This book is for them.
We spoke to Chimsky by phone.
Q: I have to start by asking something about you. What is your idea of retirement?
A: That's a good question. I wasn't sure when I began working on the first retirement book what retirement would mean nowadays. Retirement is in the future for me, and I knew I wanted to do things that were personally meaningful, whether that would mean getting involved in local political campaigns, which is something I have done in the past, or doing more in the way of traveling. But until I started working on the first book, I had no idea of the universe of ideas available for people and their retirement.
Q: What do you mean by a "universe of ideas?"
A: Retirement is no longer about recreation, it's about re-creation. It's about rediscovering who you are and what you are all about. People have to figure out their own identity in retirement, and it's often different than their identity before retirement. What I wanted to do with both books was create a road map into retirement. You can do anything, from going on a spiritual journey or doing a lot of volunteer work, which is a major trend for a lot of retirees. I find that very heartening. People use the skills they have learned in their working life and transferred their skills to volunteer efforts.
I think it's safe to say that the idea of retirement for us is so much different than what it meant to our parents.
Q: How old are you? When do you plan to step down?
A: I'm 58 years old, and I probably shouldn't say this, but I have no plans to retire. I love working on books, especially books that help the boomer market find ways to have a meaningful retirement.
Q: Why are these books timely?
A: There are 10,000 people who turn 65 every day in the United States. That is a huge market. What I hear from retirement experts is that a lot of them are having a great deal of trouble finding ways to make their lives meaningful in retirement. They are searching for their own identity again. The trappings of their work life are gone, and they have to start rediscovering themselves.
Q: So you assembled some books to help?
A: Yes, we did. Exactly.
Q: When you launch a project like this, how do you identify contributors you would like to use? And after you do that, how do you recruit them? What is your pitch? In other words, how do you get people like Jimmy Carter and Gloria Steinem on board?
A: I go on the Internet looking at every retirement website I can find. I am looking for retirees who have compelling, inspiring stories and who also have the ability to write well. And I also find retirement experts who have something new to say.
It takes about nine months for each book, and I send out 200 requests. Many do not know me at all. I am calling cold. I just ask if they would be interested in contributing an essay. With Jimmy Carter, I found an essay he had written 10 years ago about his stellar retirement for Business Week. I asked his press secretary if we could use it, and she said not only could we use it, but he would update it. So that was obviously great. It was something fresh and different.
Q: You seem to be getting some national attention. What sort of buzz is there about these books right now?
A: The Wall Street Journal did a story after the first book came out last year. The story ran in December 2012, and when that story hit, we were already in our fourth printing. But it brought a lot of national attention to this book as well as the travel book. We've done a lot of media lately. We're getting a lot of attention. We're hearing from a lot of media sources, which makes sense. The topic is timely and interesting to a lot of people right now.
Q: It must be good for Sellers Publishing. I know you used to be on Commercial Street in Portland, because I drove by your building almost every day. Where are you now? How long have you worked for Sellers? What is its niche?
A: We're out on John Roberts Road in South Portland now. We're comprised of three divisions: Books, calendars and greeting cards. In our book division, we do only nonfiction, and our categories include lifestyles, gift books, craft books and books that could be given as gifts, things like that.
I started with Sellers in January 2008. We're an independent publisher, and we were cited by Publishers Weekly for being the among the fastest-growing independent publishers in the country, four years in a row. So things are going pretty well right now.
Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or: