Today is the second anniversary of the publication of my book Pressing My Luck. I want to thank everyone who has supported me throughout this journey. Sales have naturally wound down however I am still giving book talks when I can.
In 2004 Al Franken wrote in his book Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right, “no matter how dire the world situation is and the crises we face, people are always interested in lottery winners.” He was so right. It’s been 13 years and people are still interested in my story and all the details of how I won.
To my surprise I’m still be asked to give book talks. Yesterday I spoke at the Jewish Community Center in Aventura, FL. Unbeknownst to me the woman who introduced me was Miss Emily a preschool teacher of my children in the 1980s.
On June 20, 2013 my book “Pressing My Luck” was published. It is a memoir of my pre and post lottery life. Total sales – 1160 copies. And it has been a very busy year. I spent as many years writing the book as I did in medical school. What I didn’t know was that the promotion of the book is as hard as the writing. I was interviewed on the Katie Couric Show, JLTV and the Elaine Viets’ Radio Show. I gave talks at book clubs, Hadassah groups, libraries and synagogues. I posted on Facebook, blogged on my website www.shirleypress.com, youtubed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ki1ZCS-fR0k, tweeted on Twitter, and linked up on LinkedIn. I was written up in the Miami Herald, the Brandeis Magazine and the Drexel University Medical School Alumni Bulletin. I also wrote a piece for the Brandeis Alumni Magazine. In addition, last November I had a booth at the Miami International Book Fair. There’s more but that’s enough for now. I thank everyone for your support.
Sales for my book “Pressing My Luck” have slowed down to a crawl which can be expected after seven months. Just when I thought things for the book were over, I was asked to speak at three new venues – another book club, a Hadassah chapter meeting and the Broward County Public Library. Keeps me going.
Good morning! I have a new video on YouTube where I briefly talk about my book Pressing My Luck. Check it out here.
Just when I was feeling down about my book and the falling sales, I received a wonderful book review by Anne Holmes on the National Association of Baby Boomer Women’s (NABBW) website. Here is the link – http://nabbw.com/reviews/book-reviews/pressing-my-luck-a-doctors-lottery-journey/. She captured the essence of my work.
This is when the reality of self-publishing sinks in. Although I’ve sold over 900 copies of my book “Pressing My Luck,” the rate of sales is slowing down. Well that is a euphemism for what is actually happening. It seems to be coming to a halt. I do not have an agent, publishing house or publicist behind me. My agent dropped me because he could not sell my book to a major publisher. Hiring a publicist seems unrealistic for a $7.99 book. So it is me alone. I’ve done my best which I am proud of. I have six more events coming up – Books & Books of Coral Gables, FL will carry my book, I will have a booth at the Miami International Book Fair on Nov. 23 in the writers’ row section, two more talks are scheduled, a few more Facebook ads and I’ve written an essay on how the lottery changed my life for Brandeis Magazine which will appear in Jan. 2014. I’m thinking of a YouTube video. Will keep you posted.
As I mentioned in my prior post, being booked as a guest on the Katie Couric Show provided the impetus to finalize the book for publication in time for the show’s airing – a few weeks away. At the time that I was booked as a guest, my book was undergoing final revisions for submission to Create Space editors. I contacted the editors immediately and was dismayed to find out that Create Space’s turnaround time for editing my book was a month. That was a deal breaker for me and I had to resort to my own resources. Reminiscent of my days as an intern, I stayed up until 4 AM for four days in a row rewriting/editing not to mention numerous days proofreading the final version of the book and then having it proofread by a third party. While that was going on and for the week following, my book cover designer/self-publishing consultant designed and finalized the book cover spread, formatted the print and ebook versions (kindle & epub) and dealt with book submission administration. We had countless progress meetings and other administrative tasks that included creating a publishing company (the recommended option for self-publishing authors) and submitting a copyrighted version to the Library of Congress. On the web end, my web consultant updated my website and create a new website for my publishing company http://re-spinpublishing.com. My website updates were particularly important given that Katie’s staff agreed to provide a link to my site and display a graphic of my book cover during the show.
In retrospect, my book’s publication amounted to four years of working erratically and 10 days of intense focus. The deadline made all the difference. I was exhausted in the end but very content. My deadline was met and I had accomplished my goal.
People are constantly asking me what its like to self-publish. In one word: hard. At least for me, a not so tech-savvy baby boomer, it was. I literally rewrote the book twice with numerous chapter revisions in order to arrive at the final printed version. Writers, editors and a self-publishing consultant were hired to assist me with the rewriting, editing and the digital processing required for self-publishing a book. As for timeframe… My publishing deadline was constantly being pushed back until The Katie Couric Show asked me to be a guest. Who could ask for a better opportunity to announce my book on television? At that point, I decided to go into overdrive and have the book published in time for the show’s airing. The weeks prior to the show were grueling but I met my deadline. The hard work definitely paid off.
When my cousin Susan Kalish was reading my book and in particular the story about surreptitiously entering Paul McCartney’s house in London, she was struck by the fact that she had heard this story before. As it turns out, her friend Barbara Schettini-Barton also broke into Paul’s house when she was a teenager living in London. Susan made the connection between Barbara and I. We spent a half hour talking about our common experience of uninvitedly entering Paul McCartney’s house. In Barbara’s case, the situation took an unexpected turn. After she entered Paul McCartney’s home, he arrived at the house. He asked her and her friends what they were doing there. Quickly thinking on her feet, Barbara replied that they were “cleaning your house for you.” Paul then proceeded to invite the girls to hang out and cook dinner for him. Barbara and her friends complied and became lifelong friends with Paul. A rather remarkable coincidence in my opinion.
I naively thought that writing and publishing my book, Pressing My Luck, would be the hardest part of the journey. As it turns out, promoting the book is just as involved if not more. The appearance on the Katie Couric Show was a lucky break and I have lots of gratitude for the opportunity. However, now I’m back to the challenging task of getting the word out on my own. As you probably know, I never shy away from a challenge and already have a few things in the works. Will keep you posted, so stay tuned.
I’m winding down from my premiere on The Katie Couric Show. It was an invigorating experience and I’m very pleased with how it came out. Lots of positive reviews! Thank you. Now back to the grind of promoting my book Pressing My Luck.
I’m excited (and a little nervous) to see tomorrow’s airing (3pm on ABC) of the Katie Couric show. As I mentioned in a prior post, I was flown out to NYC a few weeks ago as a guest on the Katie Couric show. The episode (Life After Lottery) spotlights lottery winners and how they fared after their lottery win. Here’s a link to Monday’s episode page on Katie Couric’s website.
If you watch the episode, let me know what you think. Share your thoughts and leave a comment.
This photo was snapped on set with my iPhone.
My memoir, Pressing My Luck, is now available in paperback format, in addition to Kindle version. It can be purchased at Amazon (click here). Clicking on the image also will also redirect you to Amazon. The ePub version of Pressing My Luck will be available next week at iTunes and Barnes & Noble.
It’s been a grueling few weeks finalizing the publication of my memoir, Pressing My Luck. With that said, I’m happy to announce that it is finally published! It can be purchased in kindle format on Amazon – click HERE for Kindle edition. The eBook and softcover versions are forthcoming and will be available next week. Stay tuned.
The amount written about the Tsarnaev brothers, the Boston Marathon murderers, seems to be unprecedented. And now I’m even writing about the writing about them. I think that all the media publicity about them is dangerous in that it may encourage others on the fringe to act out their evil fantasies. The victims who deserved to be recognized for their fortitude and struggles are being eclipsed.
Many people asked me how to invest money or how I invest my winnings. Given the unpredictable nature of investments, I feel giving specific advice is irresponsible. I want to help people but would feel badly if I told someone to invest in something and then it went “south.” Generally speaking though, one thing I do buy for myself is municipal bonds. The income is tax free. Municipals on average pay less than regular corporate bonds but more than a money market. They are pretty safe and conservative. Regardless if you do find yourself with a windfall, I strongly advise obtaining professional financial advice.
I was glad to receive this postcard in the mail. The AARP is warning people about foreign lottery scams where you’re requested to mail or wire money to cover taxes and fees related to claiming prize. Emails or phone calls of this nature should be avoided and/or deleted. Do not respond to these solicitations. Please pass this on to friends and family.
Here is another excerpt from my soon-to-be published book Pressing My Luck.
Fifty years before I ever heard of Quick Pick tickets or instant jackpots, I was born in Camden, N.J., the first child of Gershon and Leah Press.
I arrived at 8:42 p.m. on June 2, 1951. There is nothing remarkable about a 6 pounds, 14 ounce baby girl, except that my very existence was a kind of miracle.
My mother had survived Auschwitz, my father, Dachau. They met after both of them came separately to America. They married in 1948. They had defied the odds and now had the never-easy job of raising a child. The next chapter describes a detailed account of their lives.
They rarely spoke of the Holocaust and chose not to burden my sister Barbara, born two-and-a-half years later, and me with the past. They reserved speaking Yiddish, their native language, for private times, of which there were few. At the time, it all seemed so normal. Yet we instinctively understood the precious legacy of survivor children. My parents’ priority was to bring up two assimilated girls in a free land and make a living the American way, yet never forgetting their Jewish heritage. It wasn’t easy.
My dad worked in the grocery store of his Aunt Rose and Uncle Morris Dworkin, who sponsored his immigration to the United States after the war. Aunt Rose was my father’s mother’s sister.My dad was a gentle, even-tempered soul. He always helped people. When he was in a position to do so, he would extend store credit to deserving customers. He would keep each family’s tally on little pieces of white paper. He created an idiosyncratic way of filing these slips, storing them alphabetically on a series of six nails hammered into the wall in the store’s backroom. At the end of each week, customers would come in and pay their tab. I remember him best in his white apron. He had a heavy accent. In addition, until the day he died, he had a full head of brown hair without a speck of gray. I inherited that trait from him. To this day, I have yet to see my first gray hair.
On only a grocer’s salary, we could barely afford our first home, a tiny two-bedroom one-bath brick row house at 1494 Kenwood Avenue in Camden’s Parkside section of town. They paid $8,000 for the house, which was on a typical city block. There was a small grocery store — not ours — on the corner, and a nearby synagogue.
It was a five-block walk to school. We knew many of our neighbors. Two blocks away lived our older cousins, Andrea, who we called Andy, and Mark Dworkin. Andrea grew up to find fame as a writer and feminist. However, as kids, it was Mark we sought out. We spent countless hours entertained by his bottle cap and baseball card collections. In the summer, we would also play in the Dworkins’ inflatable swimming pool while our mothers would talk. I remember Andrea playing the piano, always reading, and talking with the adults. Later in life, we became close.
We always had enough to eat. My mother was a master at transforming hamburger into a variety of different dishes. She was also obsessed with eggs and thought giving us an egg a day would safeguard our health. Her original invention was to wait until she thought we weren’t looking and quietly stir a raw egg into our Bosco Chocolate Syrup flavored milk. We weren’t fooled, but dutifully drank the concoction to make her happy.
It was understood that I would wear hand-me-down clothes from cousins, and when I outgrew them, the cycle would continue with my younger sister. Afterwards, my mother would ship the clothes to our relatives in Israel for another rotation. We lived without air conditioning. The walls in our house were so thin that we were able to play knocking games from our respective bathtubs with our next-door neighbors, Keiran and Trevor Lynch.
My parents could not afford to buy a small black and white television set until 1956, and they purchased their first car, a green Ford Fairlane, in 1961, the year I turned 10. I had no expensive toys but will never forget Susan Serock’s fancy dollhouse in her backyard across the street. Yet, tea parties at the dollhouse were far from my favorite pastime. There were no Barbies on my Hanukkah list. I preferred toys made of rocks, wood or rope for outdoor games like stickball, hopscotch and double-Dutch jump rope or playing in groups of kids that formed spontaneously. We’d play in an alley behind our house. I was generally accompanied by Barbara, a brown-eyed, brown-haired cutie, who I had to drag with me pretty much everywhere. We shared a room and I still remember our matching plaid quilts. I never thought about whether we were rich or poor until Linda Hill, the only African-American girl on our block enlightened me. “Look at the houses on the television and then look at ours,” she said.
The early years were good years, despite money woes. Our neighbor, Jim Serchia, became quite popular for his weekly nickel-and-dime giveaways. He was the original Alex Trebek of Kenwood Avenue, always asking the kids on the block questions about current affairs and rewarding us for right answers. We still keep in touch with “Uncle” Jim; in recent years he has become a close friend to my mother. It was typical of the ’50s that we knew all our neighbors and rarely locked our doors. The only theft I was aware of was when someone stole my bicycle. It was later found up in the branches of an old oak tree. This was the extent of crime on Kenwood Avenue.
We were able to walk without fear each morning to Parkside School. Students were required to go home for lunch. While the other girls went home, I had to eat in the luncheonette section of the local five-and-ten cent store where my mother worked as a sales clerk. She was the only mother I knew who worked outside the home. The little money she made helped to make ends meet. My mother later arranged for Barb and me to eat at my classmate Ina Sirisky’s house. I still keep in touch with her and other friends from the old neighborhood.
A word of advice. Check your own lottery ticket results. Below is an article about how a store clerk told a “customer” (really a police officer) that his ticket was a loser when in fact it was worth $1000. The clerk kept it for himself and then cashed it in the next day. This practice has also been reported on NBC and ABC investigative news. The results for lotteries can be found on-line, in newspapers and in the stores selling lottery tickets. Beware of scams.
Here is an excerpt from Chapter 1 of my forthcoming book “Pressing My Luck”. Enjoy!
Ticket to Ride
As a doctor I’m well aware that the unexpected doesn’t come pre-announced. A person doesn’t wake up in the morning thinking, I’m going to wind up in the emergency room today or I’m going to have a car sideswipe me as I cross the street at lunchtime. As it turns out, the same thing is true when good fortune pulls up a seat at your dinner table. Even moments before it happens, everything seems relatively the same as it has always been.
I was aware that there would be a drawing on the night of September 5, 2001 for what was at that point the largest lottery jackpot in Florida’s history. I fully intended to buy a few tickets that day, as I did nearly every week, but I wasn’t sure I’d be able to fit it in. I’d worked a short shift in the ER that morning, and I had to take a makeup mandatory course on blood-borne pathogens right after that, and then race back to my office to deal with the mountain of paperwork that had been collecting all day. I had already missed the first scheduled class, because my daughter, Sarah, was swimming in the regional U.S. Maccabi Games.
Since I was the director of a pediatric emergency department, many people thought I did nothing but attend meetings from nine to five, but the endlessly growing pile of documents to review, messages to read, and calls to return attested to something very different. In addition, I needed immediate documentation of my attendance so I had to take extra time after the class was over to get that from the lecturer. I really didn’t have a spot in my schedule to buy lottery tickets, but, since I played the lottery so often, it seemed ludicrous for me not to participate in such an enormous jackpot.
The sprawling Jackson Memorial Hospital complex included an arcade with a variety of shops, including a gift shop that sold the tickets. I ducked in on my way back from the lecture and sighed heavily when I saw a line of around ten people ahead of me, all waiting for the single cashier to help them out. This gift shop was never crowded, even when the hospital was very busy. It became immediately apparent that the huge lottery drawing was the reason everyone was queued up here today.
“I’m gonna get myself a gigantic house when I win,” said one woman to another while they waited.
“I’m gonna have steak every night,” the other replied dreamily.
The man in front of them turned in their direction. “I have my eyes on a Maserati. A black one with lots of chrome.”
They all grinned and continued to expand on their fantasies. I could tell from their ID tags that they were workers at the hospital. A part of me wanted to join in on their musing, but I didn’t. I was wearing a lab coat and was obviously a doctor, and they probably figured I didn’t belong on the line in the first place. Most people, even those who work closely with them, are under the impression that all doctors are wealthy. Even though that’s far from true, I felt a little bit out of place.
“I’m gonna get my kids back,” said the woman directly in front of me. Everyone turned in her direction. She told the group that she’d lost her six children due to neglect, but that once she hit it big on the lottery, the family would be together again. That sounded better to me than throwing a few hundred thousand after a car, though the mention of neglect made me wonder if any amount of money could make that family whole.
I didn’t consider what I would do with all the cash. Since I’d never won anything in my life, and the odds of winning tonight’s drawing were one-in-twenty-million, I assumed my losing streak would continue. I just liked to play. What I did think about was everything I had to do when I got back to my office, along with wondering about crises that might have emerged in my absence. The woman behind the counter was doing the best she could, but she seemed to be moving very slowly. Twice while I was waiting, I considered getting out of the line, but I stood my ground. Once I got close enough to see that the store had York Peppermint Patties in stock today – they’re my favorite candy – my resolve strengthened.
When it was finally my turn, I put a Peppermint Patty on the counter and asked for six Quick Pick tickets. I’d read somewhere that more people won the lottery by having the computer randomly spit out numbers than by choosing their own, so I always played this way. I stuck the ticket with my six sets of numbers in my lab coat pocket, opened the candy wrapper, and headed back up to work.
As anticipated there was a tremendous amount for me to attend to when I got back to my office. I soon forgot about the tickets and the drawing that was coming that night, as I dealt with a full day’s worth of administrative duties in the few hours I had left that afternoon. When I wasn’t in a meeting, I had the phone glued to my ear while I plowed through paperwork.
When I got home, a different swirl of activity awaited me. A quick family dinner. Coaxing my teenaged kids through their homework. Relaxing in front of the television for a while. Taking care of a few household chores. At some point, the drawing for the largest lottery jackpot in Florida history happened, but it was the furthest thing from my mind.
It would not stay far from my mind the next morning, though. “Dr. Press, did you hear that someone from Jackson won the lottery?” a nurse said to me as I walked into the clean utility room.
“Wow,” I said, my eyes widening. “Who is it?”
“No one knows. The winner hasn’t come forward yet. All we know is that the winning ticket came from the gift shop.”
I wondered if it could have been one of my line-mates. Maybe it was the woman with the six kids. I continued to assume it wasn’t me, because I didn’t have that kind of luck. In fact, though I’d been playing the Florida lottery for as long as I could remember, I’d never had a winning of more than nine dollars.
On January 31, the New York Times Well blog published my comment on an article written by Dr. Sekeres titled “A Doctor’s Struggle With Numbers”. My comment is actually an excerpt from my memoir, Pressing My Luck. In the comment, I recall an incident that took place in 1976 when I was a medical student at Hahnemann School of Medicine (now Drexel School of Medicine) in Philadelphia. It was my first lesson in estimating a patient’s mortality. I was assigned to take care of a cancer-stricken female patient who had been hospitalized for months. During my round, her husband asked me how long his wife had left to live. In my naiveté, I unhesitatingly answered that she had three to four days left. The man responded that I was the only “doctor” with the guts to provide a straightforward prediction. Just then, I realized I was in over my head. I immediately attempted to retract my comment under the pretense that I was medical student lacking experience. He didn’t care and actually praised my gumption as it allowed him to better prepare for her imminent death. His wife died a few days later as I had estimated.
Today I would not make such a bold prediction. I agree with Dr. Sekeres that the best approach is to provide a patient with a best estimate range and counsel them on maximizing the quality of their life. You can read my comment on the original blog post HERE.
Obesity as the norm in American is of great concern. Over the past 20 years, there has been a steady increase in overweight or obese Americans. From 1994 to 2004, the American College of Cardiology reports that there has been a 150% relative increase in obesity prevalence. As it stands now in the US, two-thirds of adults and one-third of children are overweight or obese. Having worked 31 years as a pediatrician, I have witnessed firsthand the dramatic increase in obesity-related illnesses amongst my patients. A report in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine states that annual healthcare costs related to obesity are an estimated $190.2 billon and projected to rise to $549.5 billion by 2030. Besides healthcare related costs, obesity directly affects our nation’s economic productivity with businesses facing billions of dollars in losses from obesity-related absenteeism. Dire statistics, no doubt…
With the future of the nation’s health and productivity at stake, a multi-faceted systematic approach to obesity prevention is necessary. Why multifaceted? The underlying factors of obesity are a complex web which extends to the societal level and hence must be addressed from a public health perspective. Here are a few non-genetic factors contributing to obesity: not enough or lack of physical activity, unhealthy diets (e.g. high fructose, high gluten, processed foods, etc.), marketing of toxic food sources such has junk food and a need for proactive education of public on health/nutrition.
Fortunately, efforts are being made to tackle this issue. Last May 2012, the IOM (Institute of Medicine) released recommendations on obesity prevention that provides a general framework for tackling the issue. The IOM’s recommendations are:
The recommendations outlined above were based on an evaluation of 800 published obesity prevention strategies. Its intent is to provide a framework for setting policy as well as outlining a base infrastructure for supporting healthier lifestyles.
As a physician, I’m a proponent of these recommendations and encourage being proactive in its implementation. I also welcome and will gladly answer any general questions on obesity prevention. Please feel free to share your thoughts as well.
There has been some discussion among lawmakers in Michigan and New Jersey proposing bills to allow lottery winners to remain anonymous. I agree that these measures would help protect the winners from falling prey to scams, shady business deals, greedy people and violence. On the other hand, the general public may become skeptical of the entire process and doubt the existence of the actual winners. As with a lot of things in life, there is a potential risk in winning the lottery. I think the public deserves to know the names of lottery winners. After all, it’s the public’s money funding the lottery.
Life has a way of constantly presenting challenges. The way we handle those challenges determines our success in overcoming them. Given that, I’m a firm believer in a flexible attitude towards life. I attribute my resilience in bouncing back from temporary setbacks to having a consistently adaptable mindset. For example, I had planned to have my memoir published last year but that did not happen for various reasons – work, family and of course, me. I accepted those challenges, even the smaller ones like procrastination, and moved forward. Last year’s challenges are history and my memoir is now near completion. Mission nearly accomplished.
I decided to start blogging as a means of sharing my interests, explorations and spin on the world. Winning the lottery in itself has been a memorable experience which has taught me numerous life lessons…some good and some not so good. Many of which I will be sharing in my blog as well as in my forthcoming memoir, Pressing My Luck. As a matter of fact, I’m excited to announce that my memoir is in the final editing phase and hence near completion. Stay tuned for updates on its progress!
Thank you for taking the time to visit!