Changing Shoes, the book, is about staying in the game as you go through life. Diminishment and fading away are turned upside down with funny stories from, Guiding Light, the soap opera she was on for 26 years. Changing Shoes adds levity to the time of life when one can feel overlooked. Tina shows how to stay forever frisky in all areas of life —laughing and admitting her foibles as she goes.
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Reading Group Guide and Author Q&A for Changing Shoes by Tina Sloan
When Tina began her amazing career as an actress on Guiding Light, she was the star of the show. As time marched on, Tina became the mother of the star and then the grandmother of the star. By then, Tina's character had no story line of her own, and all of her lines were about the other younger characters. Although discouraged by what she called, "the diminishing" (p. 80), Tina decided to stick it out and reinvent herself on set in order to keep the career she loved so dearly.
Tina faced accelerated aging on Guiding Light but nothing prepared her for the painful reality of the actual aging process. On the show, she had expert hair stylists, make-up artists, designer clothes, and lighting professionals to make everything look just so. In real life, no longer able to recognize herself, Tina had no one to guide her. She was forced to reach into her past to remember a mentor whose advice still rang true.
When Tina was in her twenties, she spent a summer in France with a family friend who taught her a thing or two about shoes. In fact, she took her shopping for her first pair of designer shoes—black Chanel pumps. Along with the shoes came this timeless advice: "…always make sure that the shoes you wear are your own. That way your feet will know where to take you" (p. 5).
At 48, Tina had long forgotten the advice from her youth. She felt like she was invisible. "Everywhere I turned, there seemed to be signs that my life was changing, and not for the better: My parents' health was in decline. My son had recently joined the Marines and would be going to Iraq. My skin was duller. My body softer. My role on Guiding Light had been fading away right under my nose" (p. 8). Gone were the Chanel pumps—Tina's go-to shoes were now a pair of scuffed and broken-in black flats with Dr. Scholl's insoles. Something had to change.
Charmingly written and humorously honest, Changing Shoes is the story of one woman who refuses to let her light be dimmed. In a warmly relatable way, Tina tackles the issues all women face—eventually—including weight gain, caring for aging parents, evolving romantic relationships, and adjusting to aging looks and a diminishing career. Tina not only shares stories, she provides practical advice learned in the trenches. Changing Shoes excites a wide range of emotions: laughing, crying and a realization that everyone faces real life drama—plus Tina provides the tools to deal with it. Changing Shoes is an inspiring guide to adapting gracefully to life's changes.
- How have you stayed in the game? What have you done to keep up with society's ever changing standards?
- How have your romantic relationships changed over time? What have you done to keep the passion alive?
- Have you had a "Tina" moment, where you asked yourself, "Where am I? Has anyone seen me?" (p. 82) If so, what did you do to find yourself? What led you to the point of realizing you had lost yourself?
- Can you relate to Tina's experience of sticking out her career on Guiding Light? How did you change your attitude? Did you have the same success as Tina?
- What do you feel is the purpose of your life? Has it changed over time? Did you ever have a time in your life where you struggled to find your purpose?
- Do you have intergenerational friendships? If so, how do you relate and communicate with these friends? What does the relationship add to your life? Does it change your perspective on life or how you feel about yourself?
- Have you ever had a mentor in your life? Discuss how this relationship helped you navigate through life's unknown times. Have you ever mentored someone? How did this relationship change your sense of self?
- How have you coped in times of crisis? Looking back, do you feel like you dealt with the situation well or would you have handled it differently?
- How do you feel about Tina's "When List"? (p. 146 – 148) Do you feel prepared? If not, do you feel motivated to take some of Tina's suggestions? If so, which ones?
- What walls have you hit in your life? (p. 164) What made you keep going? Were you able to scale the wall or did you have to readjust your goals?
- What fears have been keeping you from doing something you've always wanted to do? If you have conquered fears in the past, discuss how this made you feel and what you were able to do.
- Have you ever used something like a new pair of shoes to transform your outlook? If so, what was it that you used and how did it change your perspective?
SHOE PARTY Turn your Reading Group into a "Shoe Party"!
- Bring a pair of shoes that has an important meaning to you. Share that story with your reading group.
- Bring pictures of the shoes in your closet or cut out pictures from magazines that represent different shoes you have owned to create a shoe collage.
- Bring a new pair of white canvas shoes and different colored fabric pens. Have every guest of the Shoe Party sign each pair of shoes with a special message for each member of the group.
ABOUT TINA SLOAN
For twenty-six years, Tina Sloan, played the role of nurse Lillian Raines on Guiding Light, which aired its final episode in 2009 after a seventy-two-year run on radio and television. Tina has appeared on many other television shows, including Somerset, Law & Order: SVU, and in a variety of feature films, including The Brave One and Changing Lanes. She is currently shooting two feature films and touring nationally in her acclaimed one-woman show, "Changing Shoes." She lives in New York.
A CONVERSATION WITH TINA SLOAN
- Q. Did you always want to write a book? What gave you the idea and the perseverance to finish once you had begun?
- I've been writing books for decades. They are all hiding under my bed like the shoes hiding in the bottom of my closet. The idea for Changing Shoes came from when my parents were getting very old and I had no idea what to do to take care of them. So as I learned the answers—and it was a long journey—I decided to write them down to share with others. It just grew into telling people the other lessons life taught me such as how to stay forever frisky and the importance of staying in the game.
- Q. What made you decide to take your "shell of a book" (p. 90) and transform it into a play before you finished and had the book published? Looking back, are you happy that you did the play first?
- I realized that I was an actress, what could be more fitting than turning my idea into a play. I could take the words I'd written and give them life on stage. That in turn made the words in the book livelier as I re-edited and re-wrote. It made the scenes come to life by prompting me to add new anecdotes that I discovered while writing and performing the play.
- Q. How did it feel to not be able to find a mentor or role model when you turned fifty? How did this experience change your perspective on helping others? How does it make you feel to be a mentor through Changing Shoes?
- When I turned fifty there was no one I could turn to for advice when I had to deal with my parents aging and this was devastating. I learned through trial and error. One day when I was in the eye doctor's office, two sisters came in. They were in their mid-forties and were with their elderly mother who was having trouble seeing and hearing and walking. After she went in to see the doctor I turned to them and said, "I hope you have power of attorney and a living will for your mother," they looked at me flabbergasted as I explained what was ahead for them. They begged me to come over to their apartment and talk to them about this. I realized how necessary this book was.
- Q. If you had to pick one pair of shoes, which pair would be your lifetime favorite? Why did you select that pair and what stage in your life did they signify?
- The strappy sexy heels! Because they are carefree, happy, joyous, and flirty! They signify falling in love and getting my first jobs as an actress. They signify beginnings and sometimes I just put them on because I still believe there are always new beginnings in our lives.
- Q. What "risks" do you have lined up in the near future?
- Hmmmm—How about doing the play all over the country and the book coming out!
- Q. You have a Twitter account, @tinasloan. How does your Twitter account fit into "staying in the game?" Have you enjoyed being on Twitter?
- Twitter certainly is fun; it is instant gratification and I have made lots of new friends! That's staying in the game—making new friends. I love Twitter!!!
- Q. How does it feel to write about so many personal details of your life? Did any of your friends or family object to any aspect of the book? Did your play, Changing Shoes help you become more comfortable with speaking about your own personal struggles in public?
- I have never been afraid of putting myself "out there" if it could help people "change their shoes." I was willing to say or do or share whatever to help others let their feet take them where they should go. My wonderful friends and family have always been supportive!!
- Q. What was the most challenging part of writing this book?
- Re-writing, re-writing, and re-writing.
- Q. What part of the book or play have you received the most response to?
- The part about my parents has affected my friends with aging parents. The part about my son has affected people who have sons in the military or who empathize. The part about Guiding Light has touched all the fans. The part about my body falling apart has resonated with everyone!! I've gotten letters from people after the play saying they really did change their shoes and they really did take some risks—I want this book to have the same effect.
- Q. Do you think making lofty goals and tackling them is the best way to force personal growth? What do you think your life would be like if you hadn't faced your fears?
- I always wanted to be an actress so I started pounding the pavements in pursuit of an agent—I kept at it and succeeded. And it took a long, long time. But I persisted—to me, that was a lofty goal. It certainly brought personal growth by teaching me to just hold on and do it and it taught me to face my fears of rejections. Aut nunc, aut numquam—"If not now, never." This is a great way to sum up how I did it. If I hadn't faced my fears I wouldn't have become an actress, written this book, done the play, had my child—as I had 8 miscarriages before his birth. I was daunted but kept on going.
- Q. When it comes to your relationships, you seem to have a strong perspective on their worth that propels you to put everything you have into them. How do you think this outlook has sculpted your life? How have your friends and family helped you to achieve your goals?
- By allowing me the time and the space to do my work—my husband encourages me to rehearse in the living room and to write in the dining room. My son is proud of me and gives great feedback and ideas. My friends love me enough that even though I haven't been around as much while I was writing the book—they never forget to include me. And, in return I am fiercely loyal to both my friends and family.