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Dave Mishkin wears many hats: play-by-play broadcast announcer for the Tampa Bay Lightning, website contributor, talk show host, columnist, Tampa Prep Board Trustee and now he’s added first-time author to that list.  Mishkin has written & published Blind Squirrel, a fiction novel about family, loss, love and hope and recently sat down with us to discuss his writing process, the thrill of embracing his creativity and acknowledging that his brain moves faster than his fingers.

TP: Tell us about Blind Squirrel.  Is this your first book?

“Yes, this is my first book. It’s the story of Noah Nicholson, a minor league hockey player silently struggling with his mental health.  When he was twelve, he lost his parents and he has been dealing with mental health issues ever since. He has had a successful career, but he sustains an injury and is forced to retire. It’s at that point that he’s able to begin the healing process.It’s not a hockey story. It’s a love story and it’s also a family story, a character-driven story and a healing story. I can tell you that Noah at the end is in a better place than Noah at the beginning.”

TP: How did you develop the idea for the story?

“I originally had this idea of the basic story arc in the late 2000s. I had never written anything like this before but I thought the idea was compelling. At that time, I didn’t get very far in the writing process. I kept writing and re-writing and got pretty frustrated, because I had hit a road block and didn’t know how to advance the story. I finally just put it away and thought ‘maybe I’ll come back to this someday.’ And, it took about 15 years for me to finally focus on it again. (laughter)
So, it’s now 2022 and the Lightning were down in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs (to Toronto).So, they were facing elimination and I thought it might  be the first long off-season we’d had in a while. We were finally out of COVID at that point and I didn’t have any projects planned, so I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do. It was my wife who suggested ‘why don’t you go back to that novel that you started all those years ago?’
The great thing is that the Lightning came back and won game 6 and then won game 7 and advanced all the way to the Stanley Cup finals.  But, while I didn’t start writing again (yet), I did start thinking about the story. I knew that I needed a flashback chapter or backstory to make it all make sense, but I didn’t have that yet. So, I set that aside and started thinking through the second half of the story, first. And once I started crafting the characters and the relationships that I knew I wanted, those were the first puzzle pieces falling into place. It was like the opposite of peeling an onion. I was actually putting the onion back together and everything started to make sense and the story came together in my mind pretty quickly.”

TP: What is your writing process like? How long did it take from idea to writing to editing to publishing?

“It took a couple of months for the entire story to come together, but it was, at this point, still all in my head.  Once I finally sat down and started writing it, it was probably three and a half months before I was done. Because this is my first book, I can’t say that I knew what my writing process would be like. I know some people can just sit down and start writing, but for me, I needed a beginning, middle and end of the story mapped out in my head before I could sit down and start writing. And, once I had that, the book really poured out of me. The first chapter that I wrote was actually the final chapter of the book. So, I wrote chapter 14 first, then jumped back and wrote chapter 11, which was the most dialogue-heavy, and then moved on to chapter three, which was that flashback/back story chapter that I had been having such a hard time with the first time around. Then I went back through and added details and interesting scenes. So my ‘process’ was kind of all over the place. (laughter). But I am so happy with how it turned out. I wouldn’t have put it out there if it didn’t meet my standards of being worthy of sharing.
The publishing took a lot longer than three and a half months! II worked with St. Petersburg Press, a local publishing house. They were great – a huge help with editing and formatting. I needed some objective feedback because up to that point, only my family members and some close friends had read it. And, the first bit of feedback I got was from a woman at St. Petersburg Press who knew nothing at all about sports and she loved the book. So, that was really gratifying and very beneficial input.”

TP: Did anyone help you along the way?

“Yes! In the writing process, there are some questions that Google can’t answer and you need actual people who are experts in their field. I needed an expert in the field of military. I needed a baseball expert. I’m fortunate that I was able to call on people that I know, whose help was just invaluable to me, when I needed to verify the authenticity of situations in the book.
Also, once the manuscript was written, I was able to ask for great review blurbs on the back of the book. Our web guy with the Lightning helped me with a web site. I had help filming promotional videos. And again, my family and friends who read the book and gave me feedback.”

TP: How does writing compare to broadcasting?

“Well, there is definitely writing involved in my job (I write for the Lightning’s website), but it’s a very different kind of writing than writing a book. People say to ‘write what you know.’ This book does have hockey in it and I knew that I could write about hockey from a place of authenticity. But, I didn’t want to write a hockey textbook. I knew that the readers didn’t need as much hockey knowledge as I have. So, with the parts of the book that involve writing about hockey, I’d write and then take out about 60% of the hockey stuff. I kept coming back to ‘what is needed to advance the story?’ You really don’t need to know anything about hockey in order to enjoy this story.
Also, writing, like broadcasting, has a subjective element baked into it.  Not everybody is going to love you or even like you as a broadcaster, just like not everyone is going to like what you’ve written. So, I was prepared for that. At the end of the day, I believed in the story and I knew that it would resonate with some people in a positive way, which was my goal.”

TP: What was your favorite part of writing this book?

“Well, my brain moves way faster than my fingers (laughter), so the process of thinking about all the different elements of the story and having it all come together was so gratifying. I’ve never had that kind of avalanche of creativity happen to me before or since. At the end of the day, I really just want the book to be read and to hopefully have a positive impact on the people who read it.”

A portion of the proceeds from sales of Blind Squirrel go to Tampa Bay Thrives, a local non-profit organization working to Strike the Stigma around mental health.

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