Shannon Hodges: The Interview
I recently blogged on my more successful -- and more handsome -- younger brother Shannon Hodges, who has just published a book that seems to be doing well: 101 Careers in Counseling. I probably should have read it before choosing my own career as a historian, except that it obviously didn't exist when I was a young man considering my future. Anyway, in contemplating his success, I was struck by the thought that an interview with him might be interesting, partly to find out what he thinks about his career. Shannon was amenable to the idea, so we worked through a long-distance interview these past few days. Here's a brief official bio to acquaint you with Shannon before we get into the interview itself:
Shannon Hodges (Ph.D., LMHC, NCC, ACS) is an Associate Professor of Counseling at Niagara University. He has over 20 years' experience counseling in community agencies, university counseling centers, and residential living communities. He is a former director of a university counseling center and clinical director of a county mental health clinic. In addition, he has 20 years teaching experience and has authored numerous professional publications, including books, book chapters, journal articles, and essays. Shannon has been awarded for his research and his teaching. He has also served on national committees, most notably The ACA Publications Committee and the ACA Ethics Review Task Force along with serving on the editorial review boards of several journals including the Journal of Counseling and Development, Journal of Counseling and Values, Journal of Mental Health Counseling, and the Journal of College Counseling. Shannon is a longtime member of the American Counseling Association (ACA), the American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA), and several ACA affiliate divisions.I didn't know all that! I assume that readers of Gypsy Scholar didn't know either. Well . . . now that we all do know who my brother Shannon is and what he has to offer, let's see what he's got to say for himself:
Shan, you've recently published a book titled 101 Careers in Counseling. I was curious about the title, or rather, the number: "101." I imagined you originally writing 100 Careers in Counseling, before realizing that you could add one more, namely, a career in writing books on careers in counseling. But I suppose you had a different reason. Perhaps you could elaborate?
Actually Springer, the publishing company, had a 101 series going on (101 Careers in Mathematics, 101 Careers in Psychology, etc.) and they wanted one in counseling. So, 101 was the established. In the U.S., 101 tends to be a cultural cliche.
How is the book doing? Is there a lot of interest?
Well, the book went on the market just one month ago today. It seems to be doing pretty well. It is being advertised in all the right places (e.g., Springer, Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, and many small book sellers). One of my colleagues at the University of Wollongong in Australia just notified me he'd bought one and will encourage his students to do so as well. It also helps that the practicum and internship text I wrote with Springer is one of their best sellers. I'll know more in six months but I'm pretty optimistic regarding sales as the book also has broad appeal (high school students, undergraduates, grad students, people in the counseling field, those considering a career change, etc.) I think a couple of organizations will do book reviews on it as well and that always helps sales.
Any plans for a follow-up? 101 More Careers in Counseling?
In a few years as different counseling careers come to the forefront of the public I imagine I'll update the book.
What other counseling books have you published?
The Counseling Practicum and Internship Manual: A Resource for Graduate Counseling Students (Springer also), A Job Search Manual for Counselors and Counselor Educators: How to Navigate and Promote Your Counseling Career (American Counsleing Association Publications), Peer Mentoring: Helping Relationships in the Everyday Experience (Cummings and Hathaway -- out of print). I am also in the process of writing The College and University Counseling Manual: Essential Services Across the Campus, also with Springer.
By the way, City of Shadows is, in a sense, a "counseling" book as the main character is a cousnelor at a small college. Just yesterday, I completed the first draft of my follow-up novel to City of Shadows, with the same character, but at a different location (he's at a different college). I have yet to title the second mystery novel. These are not professional books or textbooks, but they certainly involve the counseling profession.
Yes, I learned quite a bit about counseling from that novel. I want to return to your fiction shortly, but what about future nonfiction counseling books?
I also have a couple of other outlines for professional books. One will involve the philosophy of counseling.
What part of counseling do you find the most interesting?
Individual counseling has always been what I enjoyed most. I have a lot of group and couples counseling experience, but individual counseling, whether mental health or career is what I most enjoy. I'd say teaching future counselors is co-equal to counseling clients.
What drew you to counseling? I recall you first studied chemistry, then literature, before ending up with a doctorate in counseling. Could you explain that sequence?
I entered the counseling profession purely by serendipity. I had completed a bachelor's in English with a minor in Political Science at the University of Arkansas. I matriculated to graduate school at Oregon State University and was enrolled in a master's in Liberal Studies (studying literature, political science and education) with the intent of earning a doctorate in literature. But, I took a course titled, Counseling for Teachers, did very well and the professor suggested I consider the field. Given that I was becoming increasingly aware of the challenges in landing a full-time position in English, it seemed a prudent move. I also believe the fit was very natural for me. I must say however, I would have enjoyed teaching classes in literature. Perhaps my fiction writing is a substitution for the career I jettisoned.
Yes, let's now return to that topic. I want to emphasize for our readers that you're still very interested in literature and that the novel you've published, City of Shadows, is an interesting mystery novel. I've read it, of course, and can identify with it since its setting is a university. I found the dialogue, description, and characterization well done. The plot was intriguing . . . if a bit complex. Your main character is a counselor with a doctorate who's trying to find a university to fit into. Did you draw much on your own experience?
Somewhat, as higher education is enamoured with elities. In fact, elitism is the last "ism" higher ed is finally getting around to acknowledging. Growing up in very impoverished circumstances in a poor region of the country as you and I did, I became acutely as I moved through graduate school that professiorial and higher administrative ranks were chock full of the privileged classes (upper middle class and above) and had little representation from lower middle class and below (and frankly, little empathy. I often refer to this as "faculty lounge liberalism" where one says the "right" things but does little else). Basically, wealthier students attend better school, work less hours in college, have family connections, better medical care, etc. In fact, the strongest correlation to ACT and SAT scores is income. So, my main character, an orphan from the rural Ozarks, runs head-long into this. I also, have grappeled with elitism throughout my educational career. Bob Gifford, the main character, and I are also very different.
How is the novel doing? I understand a second edition is coming out soon.
Sales have been modest. But, I have always believed that my professional books and writings could serve as a boost to my fiction writing. I think that will begin to be the case soon. The 101 book and my monthly column (50,000+ readers of Counseling Today) and other articles will help. I can also remember when no publisher wanted me to write counseling books. That has changed. Over time I hope that my professional books and magazine writing, and professional journal articles will create a nexus for the fiction. In addition, I will be more active in promoting my fiction in the future. By the way, self-promotion is something our grandparents would have frowned upon!
Yes, there's a second edition. Also, as I mentioned in a previous question, I just completed the first draft of another novel yesterday. Editing will take some time, but it should be ready in less than a year. Frankly, I have too many writing projects. This February, I commenced my monthly column in our national counseling magazine, Counseling Today. Too many projects!
What do your counseling colleagues think of this second career? Or is it one of the 101 possible careers in counseling and thus acceptable to everyone?
I had planned to have "Counselor as Author" as one of the 101, but pulled it out as the number of authors in the counseling profession (counseling as separate from psychiatry and psychology) is about a handful. So, I will wait and put it in the second edition of the 101 book. My colleagues have been very supportive of my writing. The Niagara University library just picked up a copy of City of Shadows and several people on campus have read it. So far, the feedback has been positive. I must add that Niagara University is the type of institution that supports both my professional writings and my fiction. Large, research institutions would likely frown upon a professor writing fiction.
Do you plan to write many sequels? I want to know what happens to the main character.
The novel I just completed the first draft on is a sequel, of course. I always planned on a serial character who could grow with each book. In the follow up novel, he's taken a counseling job at Wells Springs College, a very remote location roughly 70 miles north of Big Bend National Park (Note: I have taken geographic liberties in the location of this sessing). Wells Springs is a tiny (approximately 800 population both in the "town" and the campus) college (fictitious) and a member of the work college consortium (which includes The College of the Ozarks, Blackburn College, Warren Wilson College, Sterling College, and Berea College), and it is an innovative campus. Unlike Bob's previous employes, elite Biltmore College, Wells Springs College is glad to have Bob. This is almost unique as Bob has had little success in employment sectors. In this book, he stumbles into the thick of things during a counseling session with a student.
What about other novels? Any plans?
Yes, there will be a lot of novels. I have a fiction novel I completed in the early 1990s but was unable to get a publisher. I'm going to get back to it in a couple of years and rework it. I'll be able to get it published in the future. I have also written some short stories and eventually I'll find them a home.
Let's get back to your main career. You seem to be enjoying a degree of professional success -- which I envy, of course -- so you must be somewhat satisfied with your life. But I suspect that you have goals still to be achieved. Could you talk about those?
I have always thought you were far too hard on yourself for what in actuality was a steep drop in the humanities job market. Basically, virtually no one gets a full time job in the humanities in disciplines like religious studies, philosophy track these days. I was fortunate to have gotten into a field that was primed for expansion. So, yes I have worked hard and have had success both as a teacher and scholar. But I have to be honest and state the growth of the profession has made it less difficult for me that yours has for you.
My future goals would include more professional books, fiction (novels and short stories), and confining my interest in the international counseling profession. Regarding books, I have spoken with my editor about a book on the philosophy of counseling. The next novel would be to rewrite one I wrote in in early 1990's.
Of course global travel is always a goal. This December Shoshanna (my wife) and I are traveling to several countries in southern Africa.
That brings us to a more personal level. I have noticed that you and your wife, Shoshanna, do like to travel. What's your favorite place to visit so far?
Seeking the Tree of Knowledge?
We definitely are travelers! Both of us were denied travel growing up. We have traversed the globe and will continue to do so (God willing!). Her favorite spots are in Central and South Amnerica and a lot of that has to do with her love of the Spanish language. My favorite place has been Western Australia. It's remote and possessed of very unusual beauty. Australia is the oldest continent and due to its isolation from other contiguous land masses, has wildlife found only there. One evening at dusk, we stopped just outside Margaret River, Western Australia and stood in a field of around 200 Kangaroos! In Shark Bay, we stood as a family of Emu strolled casually past. Then, lying down in the desert outside Alice Springs, I stared at the Southern Constallations for hours. While living in Fremantle, I used to spend Saturdays cycling for hours along the Indian Ocean. An amazing continent, really!
Snakes on the Brain?
Any possibility of visiting Korea again? We can show you two more of Seoul next time.So . . . there it is, the interview with a man you might be hearing more about.
Yes, I will get back to Korea in the future. I'm not exactly not sure when, but I will return. Perhaps readers will buy my books and I'll get back sooner!
This next question is premature . . . but where would you like to retire? Someplace you've visited? Probably not our hometown in the Ozarks, given the hot, humid summers.
I hope to work full-time until age 70. (about 19 more years) We likely won't retire to one specific place, but will move around through Central and South America and Australia. I alo will spend time in the Ozarks each year.
Finally, as an open-ended question . . . is there anything else you'd like to say to the readers of Gypsy Scholar?
I would say "Thank you" for taking time to read this interview and encourage them to continue reading Gypsy Scholar. Also, thank you Jeff for providing me this opportunity. I have been reading Gypsy Scholar for several years.
You're welcome, Shan. Thanks for taking the time.