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Published: Wednesday, 10/12/2011 - Updated: 2 years ago

Sandusky English teacher’s persistence pays off with book deal

BY ROSE RUSSELL
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Local author Ty Roth. Local author Ty Roth.
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Talk to Ty Roth before learning what he does for a living, and you would declare that his work must require the affable personality of someone who talks fast and has substantial energy.

Which makes it even more surprising to find out that he teaches high school and college English, has published his first novel, and is hard at work on his second.

While not shortchanging any aspect of the writing or teaching professions, the English language or literature, or Mr. Roth for that matter, the fact is that he initially comes across far different from what most people might think of as the typically laid-back, sanguine writer or contemplative teacher or professor.

It’s intellectually stimulating just to talk with the life-long resident of Sandusky whose first book, So Shelly, was published earlier this year by Delacort/Random House books. He hopes his second novel will be on the publisher’s desk by the end of the year.

The debut novel has captured significant attention. The American Booksellers Association has listed him among the best “New Voices in Young Adult Literature for 2011.” The American Library Association has named the novel one of the top 10 romances for 2011.

Book cover of 'So Shelly' by local author Ty Roth. Book cover of 'So Shelly' by local author Ty Roth.
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Mr. Roth will speak at the University of Toledo at 5 p.m. Thursday in Room 1019 of the Driscoll Auditorium.

A teacher for 27 years, Mr. Roth is a graduate of Xavier University in Cincinnati. He holds masters degrees in education and English literature from Ashland University and the University of Toledo, respectively. He teaches English at Port Clinton High School — where his students earn credit at Owens Community College — and world literature at the Bowling Green State University’s Firelands branch campus in Huron, Ohio.

The year 2000 was a turning point for Mr. Roth. He stopped coaching varsity football after being head coach for Sandusky Central Catholic from 1991 to1995 and for Port Clinton High School from 1997 to 2000. He said he was unable to turn around a “perpetually losing program at Port Clinton. Ironically, my failure, which was crushing at the time, led to my success as an author, as my retirement gave me the time to devote to my writing career.”

Nevertheless, his first two attempts at novel writing went nowhere.

"I wrote two novels and got nothing but rejections," he said. "With the second book, an agent who rejected me said that with my experience and background, she suggested I try writing for young adults. At that time it was a burgeoning market, so I thought, 'What the heck? Give it a shot,' "

And though his third novel was also rejected, it garnered more interest, but not a book deal. He went back to his laptop and pounded out a fourth novel that turned out to be a winner, making his five years at the task worth the effort.

English lit readers of So Shelly will recognize the names of main characters: John Keats and Gordon Byron and their friend Shelly -- think Percy Bysshe Shelley and his second wife Mary Shelley, a novelist. Mr. Roth casts the Romance poets born in the 18th century as modern teenagers. The author said many of his readers are adults. However, he hopes his work will pique young adults' interest in English literature.

At a time when numerous writers are self-publishing, Mr. Roth did not consider that route. Instead, the married father of three sons was compelled to find an agent to connect with a publisher.

"If I had known when I started how difficult it is to get picked up by a major publisher, I don't think I would have started," he said. "I realized that in writing and researching that agents are gatekeepers: You can't get a foot in the door [without them]. You might be able to directly submit to smaller publishers, but mainstream publishers only take from agents," he said.

"I wanted to win the game according to the rules. I didn't think I would feel validated unless the system or establishment embraced me."

Also, as a published author, his stature increases with his students.

"They see me in a different light as an author. It validates me in their eyes as a teacher to see me as a published author," he said.

Though he is stunned by the recognition from the literary outfits, his love of teaching remains his top priority.

"If you met me at a cocktail party and asked what I do, I'd say I'm a teacher," he said.

During the school year, Mr. Roth writes when he can. If faced with the choice of preparing for school or writing, his schoolwork takes priority. But it's different during the summer: He writes about nine hours a day, three hours each in the morning, afternoon, and evening, six days a week. He credits his wife, Julie, who also is a teacher, for giving him that freedom.

Though his second novel is also for the young adult audience, Mr. Roth wants eventually to move from that genre for the sake of his own growth.

In the meantime, though, his readers can be assured that the next novel will not be a sequel.

Contact Rose Russell at rrussell@theblade.com or 419-724-6178.



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