Blog Archives

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

An Interview with Author Rose Marie Kern

Before retiring in 2017, author Rose Marie Kern was an air traffic control specialist for over 30 years. Besides being a popular speaker at aviation events around the United States, she writes monthly columns for several aviation publications and is an active member of SouthWest Writers. The newest of her nonfiction books is Air to Ground, an anthology of the articles she has written since 2006. You can find Rose on her website at

What is your elevator pitch for Air to Ground?
“Air to Ground” is a phrase used to describe the frequencies used by the pilots when they speak to Air Traffic. My book, Air to Ground, gives pilots a glimpse into the cold corridors of Air Traffic and allows them insights into the people who work in an environment so critical to their own. Intermingled with the technical information are stories and snippets of humor collected over the last 33 years. These little bits exemplify what happens in the Air Traffic workplace when the microphone is not keyed, humanizing the disembodied voices the pilots hear. Air to Ground contains current and historical data on the National Airspace System, the Air Traffic Control System, and aviation weather in a way that is friendly, easily readable and understandable to even the most novice pilot. It is not meant to replace the government’s directives, but to supplement them.

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
Aviation is a niche market—if you can call a quarter million pilots across America a niche. Because of that, getting a major publisher interested wasn’t worth the effort. I decided from the beginning that this book would be self-published and marketed through channels I’ve developed over the last 34 years.

How did the book come about?
Two years after Ronald Reagan fired 11,000 air traffic controllers, I entered that profession. Over 34 years I’ve been given three national awards and several regional ones by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and later, Lockheed Martin. I’ve worked in all divisions of Air Traffic Control (ATC) so I know how they all connect with each other and with the pilot community. Because of that knowledge base, I began writing articles 12 years ago about ATC, aviation weather, and the FAA. Now I have monthly columns in several publications and occasional pieces in other magazines. My editors say I get the most fan mail of any of their writers. One commonly expressed theme is they wish all the information I give out in my articles could be found in one place. Air to Ground is that place.

What was the most rewarding aspect of putting the book together?
The pilots and the editors of aviation magazines who have been behind me 100 percent.

Do you have a favorite quote from Air to Ground you’d like to share?
“Stress is relative.”

You’ve written two other nonfiction books besides Air to Ground (FUNdraising Events and The Solar Chef). How did writing/publishing these earlier books help with the Air to Ground project?
Both of those were also niche markets and also self-published. The Solar Chef was my first book—it was the only cookbook that focused exclusively on how to cook using only sunlight. I learned a lot about using existing interest groups as a marketing vector and how important it is to interact with your target customers. The Solar Chef is now in its 7th edition with an 8th on the way. FUNdraising Events was born because I’ve managed many such events for small to medium non-profit organizations over the years, and in every case my events have resulted in significant donations. Like Air to Ground, it was written at the request of those I’ve worked with. Working on those books gave me a lot of insight into Indie publishing, copyrights, and self-marketing.

What is the best compliment you’ve received as an author?
Several pilots have told me that when they get their copies of magazines, the first thing they do is open it to my column. One pilot even told me he’d recently cancelled all his magazine subscriptions except one—and he kept it because he really enjoyed what I had to say.

What are your hobbies or creative outlets?
Organic gardening, cooking, working with various green/sustainable living organizations, and donating my talents to SouthWest Writers.

Do you, or have you wanted to, write other than nonfiction?
Yes, I’d love to write fiction but despair of ever attaining the ability of my literary heroes to create whole worlds out of thin air.

What writing projects are you working on now?
In addition to my monthly articles, I am currently writing three more books. The first is my memoir: a young, divorced mother of two stepping into a totally unknown career with no prior experience after the ATC strike. The second is a college level text on the History of Air Traffic Control to be released in ATC’s hundredth anniversary in 2020. The third is a booklet on regional variations in aviation weather specifically for hot air balloon pilots.

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

Sign Up for Elerts  Stay Connected

SWW YouTube Videos

Search Posts


More information about SWW Programs can be found on WhoFish.