Geoff Armstrong began his teaching career in 1965 after receiving a teaching diploma from McGill University’s Macdonald College. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Montreal’s Concordia University in 1967 where his major field of study was history. Armstrong credits writers such as Bruce Catton, and Thomas B. Costain, as well as the encouragement of his father who had little formal education, but a deep love of reading and of history, as the inspiration for his own life-long interest.
Throughout a 25-year teaching career he taught history at several grade levels and learned quickly that to reach the hearts of his students, history had to be made immediately and deeply relevant and accessible: that some event that took place centuries before those students were born had a direct and profound influence on every aspect their lives. He also learned that talking down or writing down to his students was a recipe for defeat. It is this awareness, shaped by a quarter century of teaching and countless questions by thousands of intelligent young people that has informed and shaped his writing.
His latest book is Moments That Made America: From the Ice Age to the Alamo.
You can visit his website at www.MomentsThatMadeAmerica.com.
What first inspired you to write or who inspired you?
When I was about 5 or 6 years old I found a book in our small family library that had been awarded to my mother for an essay she had written at the age of 9. I was shocked. I was completely unaware that mothers were ever 9 years old, let alone that they won writing competitions. She had read to my brother and me from the time we could barely understand our own language, so reading was always accepted as extremely important and enjoyable, but the discovery of my mother’s talent added an entirely new set of challenges because she had noticed that I often made up silly stories to tell my younger brother. I don’t know how old I was when I started reading, but certainly before first grade. Teaching me to read was Mom’s idea and self-appointed task. Instinctively understanding the concept of the “teachable moment” she added the job of teaching me to write. I’m sure the stories I wrote for her were less than professional, but she seemed to enjoy them. A little later in my elementary school career she encouraged me to enter the school’s fifth grade writing competition. I won a whopping $5.00. In 1952 that was a fortune, but I was hooked when the three winners read our stories to an audience of parents and the audience laughed when I read a part I thought was funny. At ten years of age, that was a moment to remember.
At what age did you know you wanted to be a writer?
While still in elementary school.
Do you have a day job? What do you do?
I am 76 years old and still have a day job. I work as corporate secretary for two public companies and have done so for almost 30 years. In addition to preparing all the securities exchange filings and internal corporate documents I either write or edit all communications and news releases. Writing never ends.
Can you name three writing tips to pass on to aspiring authors?
1. Enjoy what you are writing about.
2. Find a different way to tell your story.
3. Write because you really want to – forget about paying the mortgage.
4. If you choose a controversial topic, talk with people who disagree with you.
What hours do you write best?
As far as hours are concerned, generally prefer to write in the late afternoon or late evening, but I find that I do more writing in the spring and in the fall. I’m not sure why that is. Perhaps it’s because the changing season sets up an expectation that something different is about to happen and that expectation carries over into the act of bringing a writing project to completion.
How often do you write?
What are you currently working on?
I am working on book number 3 in my 3 volume American history series. Book three is titled “Moments That Made America: The American Century. The first book, “Moments That Made America: From the Ice Age to the Alamo” is available now. The second book, “Moments That Made America: From Civil War to Superpower” is with the publisher and scheduled to be released in July.
From its geological birth during the breakup of the Pangaea supercontinent millions of years ago, through the nation-shaping key events that led to its political independence from the British superpower, and other crucial, sometimes miraculous events that worked to create the nation, Moments That Made America: From the Ice Age to the Alamo explores those defining moments, both tragic and inspirational that profoundly shaped the nation and its people - crucial turning points that worked inexorably to mold and make America. These pivotal "tipping" events formed America's geographical, sociological, political and historical landscape. Part 1 culminates with the discovery of gold in California and the role it played in fulfilling America’s dream of Manifest Destiny.
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