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An Interview Update: Author Rose Marie Kern

Retired air traffic control specialist Rose Marie Kern is a New Mexico Master Gardener, a beekeeper, and a solar chef. She is a popular speaker at aviation events and also gives lectures on microclimatology for gardening groups across the Southwest. In addition to publishing five nonfiction books, Rose has written over 1,000 articles on topics ranging from solar energy and organic gardening to those focused on aviation. Her first book, The Solar Chef (2009), is in its seventh edition and is the most popular solar cookbook in the United States. Creating Microclimates for High Desert Gardening (2019) is her most recent release. Visit Rose on her websites at and Read more about the author and her writing in her 2017 and 2019 interviews.

Who is your target audience for this book?
Gardeners. The kind of person who cringes when leaves get crinkly or limp and can hear the poor little things sobbing in distress.

What is a microclimate, and why is it important to high desert gardening?
First you have to understand what the climate of the region is and how it affects plants. Not just extreme temperature variations (such as New Mexico experiences) but air pressure at high altitudes, rainfall, and windflows. Then you can either take advantage of—or create—conditions in your yard that will enhance the plants’ abilities to flourish when temperatures climb to 100 degrees, 50 knot winds rip through, or monsoon hail threatens.

What was your greatest challenge in putting this project together and bringing it to publication?
Of the five books I’ve written, this was the easiest for me, because it combined my two lifelong occupations: gardening and the knowledge I gained from working as an aviation weather briefer. I have given lectures on the topic to Master Gardener programs in New Mexico and Arizona for the past 14 years. The biggest challenge was determining how much to include. I also traveled to other gardens in central and northern New Mexico and Arizona to gather photos and speak to those gardeners about how they tackle challenges.

How did the book come together?
I have a large garden, and I like to experiment. I also incorporate elements of sustainable living techniques by creating garden beds from recycled materials. Photo documentation of all my gardens through the years provided a plethora of images for the book. Articles I’ve written have appeared in several venues: Mother Earth News (composting), the Master Gardener Newsletters, and on the Solar Ranch website.

You seem to have a knack for filling the gap in a niche market. What is your process for discovering your next writing project?
For some reason I can see when something is needed by a group or groups of people. My next nonfiction project is a historical look at the Flight Service division of Air Traffic Control which began in 1920 and now, 100 years later, is fading away. During its heyday it was the general aviation pilots’ most-valued service.

If time and money were not a concern, what one skill would you like to learn?
Fiction writing, stained glass, and pottery.

What can nonfiction writers learn from fiction writers?
Nonfiction requires that you create an outline of what you need to include—for me this is simple. My greatest difficulty in writing fiction is expanding beyond dry factual information. I so admire those who can weave a tapestry of words which ensnare a reader’s senses. This is what I need to work on.

What writing projects are you working on now?
Other than the nonfiction project already mentioned, I am attempting a novel—a murder mystery featuring a woman who investigates aircraft accidents.

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kathy posts to a speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

Author Update: Rose Marie Kern

Retired air traffic control specialist Rose Marie Kern is an award-winning author, a popular event/conference speaker, and an active member of SouthWest Writers (SWW). In addition to penning four nonfiction books, she has left her byline on hundreds of articles covering topics ranging from solar energy and organic gardening to those focused on aviation. Her newest release is Stress is Relative: Memoir of an Air Traffic Controller (2018). You’ll find Rose on her website Visit her SWW author page for all of her books. For more about the author and her writing, read her 2017 Interview.

What would you like readers to know about Stress is Relative?
The minute I tell people what I did for a living they normally say, “Oh! I hear that job is really stressful!” This book tells the story of a young, single mother of two little girls with a deadbeat ex-husband, who works two jobs trying to make ends meet and discovers a completely different career opportunity after watching the evening news. The story follows me from that moment through a 34-year career with drama, conflict, and humor.

What challenges did this work pose for you?
The first, and biggest, challenge was deciding the tone of the piece. A woman in a job that was 94% male in the early 80s…that was really secondary to the fact that only one person in 3,000 applicants makes it all the way through training to begin with! I did not want this to be another complaining piece about what was holding me down. Rather I wanted it to ride with me as I succeeded and matured over time.

When did you know you wanted to write your memoir, and what was the push to begin the project?
The very first day I arrived at the Air Traffic Control Academy in Oklahoma City I was walking through a parking lot full of cars from every US state (plus the territories) knowing that all these people were basing their entire futures on this three-month screening process. Even then I thought it was a naturally dramatic situation and started taking notes. I began putting the book together the day I retired.

How long did it take to complete the book?
In essence it took 34 years. In practice, about four months for the first draft, another month to get feedback from four editor/critiquers, and another month for the rewrite.

What makes Stress is Relative unique in the memoir market?
As far as I know there is no other memoir from a female air traffic controller.

When did you know the manuscript was finished and ready for publishing?
When I looked at it and my gut said “done.”

What was your favorite part of putting this project together?
I write for a lot of aviation magazines, and their editors publish reviews. I love that both men and women have felt the need to contact me out of the blue to tell me how much they love the book and that they have a hard time putting it down.

During the process of writing your memoir, did you worry that you were revealing too much about yourself and your struggles?
For the most part I limited the book to the career story, with little other information. I changed the names of those individuals who tried to make me fail, but gave credit to those who believed in me.

Of the books you’ve written, which one was the most challenging, and which was the easiest to write?
The most challenging was FUNdraising Events! for small to medium non-profits. The easiest was my solar cookbook, The Solar Chef.

What advice do you have for writers just starting their memoirs?
Do the research and take notes just as if you were writing any other expository piece. Don’t dwell on the negative.

What first inspired you to become a writer?
Office supply stores. All those reams and stacks of blank paper just begging for the touch of a pen.

Is there something you absolutely need in order to write?
Classical music.

What are you most happy with, and what do you struggle with most, in your writing?
I am best at educational or expository nonfiction. I am in awe of truly great fiction writers but despair of ever attaining that pinnacle.

What writing projects are you working on now?
I have several. My monthly columns on aviation keep me busy. My next aviation book is a history of the Flight Service Branch of ATC, and I am slowly, laboriously attempting a fictional mystery—also based in the world of aviation.

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kathy posts to a speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

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