Our guest on this episode is not only interesting but smart as well. Her name is Sheila Grinell and she has had a successful 40-year career as the creator of science museums. Before entering her second act of life, following her mother’s heart attack and stroke that led to losing memories, words and a sense of herself, Sheila felt compelled to write her mother’s story down. She then realized she wanted to write more. Not analytic material like she did at the museum, but something looser and broader. And so, she wrote a novel called “Appetite”
Coming to you this time from the Boomer Broads Self-Realization Center
About the Book
The book is about the conflict between Boomer parents and Millennial kids and how you should lead your life. It’s told from the point of view of the parents. The mother is a suburban housewife, and the father a cancer biologist who runs a lab in Manhattan. Their marriage has become tired over the years. They suddenly find out their 25-year-old daughter wants to run off and marry a man from India who is a guru. Naturally, the parents freak out. We won’t tell you the rest. You’ll have to read the book.
Sheila would love to know what you think of “Appetite” and speaks at book clubs via Skype or Facetime. She lives in Phoenix and if you are located there, or in Tucson, she would be happy to show up in person.
She asked some of her friends a question. When you were young and growing up, did you identify as the Roadrunner or the Coyote? Most say the Roadrunner, but as we get older, we start identifying as the coyote, because we’ve fallen off many cliffs in life. What about you? Who do you identify with? Please leave a comment below. Sheila believes you need both the Roadrunner and the Coyote to have a good story.
The book is called “Appetite” but isn’t focused on food. It was given that name because people have such a wide range of appetites. The cover is an empty plate with a window that looks out under stormy distance.
She compares the Boomers with the Millennials and finds that in some way we are the same and in others very different.
Sheila Grinell – Math and Science Major
Sheila went to the Bronx High School of Science in New York City and she was picked to be in an experimental math program for three years. Her teachers and the program was outstanding and she absolutely loved it.
She went to college with all sorts of math and science. However, because she loved math, she thought she’d have to take physics. Electricity and magnetism stumped her and she became overwhelmed. Because of it, she changed her major to English composition.
She realized that what she liked about math and what she liked about poetry was the same thing. Each case is like a little language. A poem or math is in a box and there are operations you can do with each. When you get really good at it, you can jump out of the box. She found it was all about learning how to learn so it didn’t matter what she majored in.
After college, she went out in the world with her education in math, science, and humanities but felt she didn’t know how the world works. She decided to enroll in graduate school and major in sociology. Because she had grown up and went to college on the east coast, she went to California for graduate school where it was “all happening.” It was right after the summer of love. She loved it because it was so interesting. She soon realized that she was not an academic by temperament. Despite that, she finished graduate school and then moved to San Francisco.
Science Museum Creator
Sheila Grinell ran into Frank Oppenheimer, the brother of J. Robert Oppenheimer of the Manhattan Project. He was trying to start an alternative type of science museum. They hit it off and began working together to create a hands-on museum. It became a 40-year career. Theirs was one of the early alternative museums and since then, many other museums have copied what they did. One was a lazar demonstration that is now used in over 600 museums around the world.
She helps start the Exploratorium and then helped restart another one in New York. She ran a professional association for a while and wrote one of the leading books in the field.
She finally moved to Arizona and became the founding CEO of the Arizona Science Center. After 12 years there, she realized that the 40 years had been spectacular, but she was done. Institutions need to keep changing with society but she wasn’t the right person to do it anymore. She believes that they should now be run by digital natives.
Her mother’s illness began to take over. Her mother was back east with her sister and she was in Arizona so she had to travel frequently to visit her. As her mother began to lose her memory, Sheila would tell her about her life story each time she visited. After a while, she had to do it in chunks until finally, her mother couldn’t string the chunks together. That’s when she realized she had to write her story. She got help from a mentor at Arizona State and finished it.
That got her into writing into writing novels rather than technical books. She took writing classes. Appetite was started in 2009 and she finished the first draft in 2013. Her last science consulting job ended in 2014. Listen to Sheila Grinell talk about her process of writing her novel by clicking on the player above to listen to the podcast in its entirety. It’s truly fascinating.
Past Life to Current Reinvention
Because of her previous career at the science museums, it taught her how to tackle projects. She knows how to stretch something out over 5 years and be able to move it along. She has so much material from all the different people she has interacted with. She also doesn’t suffer from writer’s block like many new writers. She believes that comes from fear. Having already had a successful career, she feel vaccinated against writer’s block. Even if it was a terrible flop she still feels like she is a worthwhile person. The only disadvantage of starting so late is that you started so late. (only if you have 14 years of ideas and not that much time.)
Sheila is currently working on her second novel.
You can find Sheila Grinell on her website by clicking here.
Her book is available on Amazon – click here to purchase – and at many other book outlets both online and off.