Farmington HillsAugust 15, 2012
Dunckel teacher publishes his second book
By David Wallace
C & G Staff Writer
FARMINGTON HILLS — Dunckel Middle School social studies teacher Ryan Potter could teach English, writing and publishing, too, after publishing his second novel earlier this summer.
Dave Chomet, a guidance counselor at the school and friend, said Potter’s writing career seemed mostly unknown at the school until now. But Chomet suspects that after Potter appeared on a local TV morning show to promote his new book, “The Cleaner,” more people know about his success with the written word.
Potter appeared on Fox 2 News Mornings July 4, the same day as Nathan’s Famous July 4 International Hot Dog-Eating Contest in Brooklyn, which plays a role in his new novel. “The Cleaner” focuses on 34-year-old Spinks Webb, who lives in his father’s basement and who is afraid to leave Westland, Mich., his hometown (and Potter’s). Webb attributes that fear to a break-up with his fiancée 12 years prior.
Webb has an ability to eat hot dogs and hard-boiled eggs with competitive speed, which might provide the solution to his problems. His best friend, Danny Fleck, aims to help Webb overcome heartbreak and travel fears to earn a spot at the Nathan’s contest, the most prestigious event in competitive eating.
Potter explained that he made Webb quirky because competitive eaters inhabit a quirky world.
“I had to give him a lot of hurdles to overcome,” Potter said.
The idea for the book came to him in 2007 when he and his wife took a trip to New York. They attended the hot dog-eating contest in Brooklyn, where Potter felt incredible energy from the crowd and realized he had the beginning of a story.
He thinks the book will appeal to anyone who likes a good, fast, summer read with an unusual story.
Two years ago, Potter published his first novel, “Exit Strategy,” the traditional way: He sold it to a publisher, which released his book. This time around, Potter decided to take total control and publish “The Cleaner” himself in electronic form on Amazon.com. Just search his name, and “The Cleaner” comes up priced at $2.99 for the Kindle electronic reader.
There is a free Kindle Cloud Reader app available for download to a computer or cellphone browser for people who don’t own a Kindle.
Potter calls the experience an experiment, and he remains open to both traditional publishing and going it alone.
“The thing about self-publishing is you have to be really careful before you press ‘submit,’’’ he said. “So it’s very important that you get outside readers to look at it.”
He had numerous “beta readers” help in that department, and Potter himself read over the text too many times to count. He also said that when self-publishing, one must preview the text from beginning to end to see how it displays.
Chomet, who lives in Berkley, about 10 minutes away from Potter in Royal Oak, read both “The Cleaner” and “Exit Strategy” before Potter published them.
“It’s been great, because I’ve been able to go through the process with him,” Chomet said.
As a Michigander, Chomet likes that Potter’s books take place in Michigan.
“For me, it’s reading a book by an author who’s a good friend of yours. It’s just kind of a cool thing to do,” Chomet said.
Farmington is the only place both men have taught.
“I started with Farmington when I was 22, fresh out of Eastern Michigan University,” said Potter.
He has been with the district for 18 years, all at Dunckel Middle School.
“I think that’s benefited me when I do write for young adults,” Potter said.
“He has, I think, an incredible ability to connect with all kids,” said Chomet, who has spent 16 years at Dunckel, originally as a physical education teacher.
Chomet said Potter creates a warm and accepting classroom with high expectations, and kids respond to it.
Potter’s first novel, “Exit Strategy,” was for young adults, but not for middle school students, due to adult content. He said “Exit Strategy” is for older teens, probably 16 and older.
Every now and then, one of his students sees a copy of “Exit Strategy” at the library — the Farmington Community Library owns two — and mentions it to him. Potter tells them not to read it.
“Hey, I’m glad you mentioned that, but you’re too young to read it,” he said he tells them.
So far, Potter is pleasantly surprised to have about 1,000 downloads of “The Cleaner” since it became available on Amazon.com June 28.
“It’s sold more copies than I thought, which is great,” Potter said.
“The Cleaner” has six reviews on Amazon.com, none from people Potter knows. Five rated his book five out of five stars, and the other gave him four stars.
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