Act 2: You're On!

The Leap from Contractor to Children's Author: Matt Rufo

July 11, 2022 Kate & Rhonda Season 2 Episode 8
Act 2: You're On!
The Leap from Contractor to Children's Author: Matt Rufo
Show Notes Transcript

Are you someone who has an idea to make something, maybe publishing, composing, designing something? Can you envision this something and is it completely different from what you are trained to do? Well, this is a great podcast for you.

Matt Rufo is from Framingham, Massachusetts, and is the owner and operator of Everything Quality Construction. Matt is also a children's author with three published works and one more soon to be released. Despite the rigors of construction and the time consuming nature of owning a business, Matt has found time to write out often short stories. His wife Tara, an elementary school teacher, pushed him to continue writing. When schools and businesses shut down at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, Matt told stories to his four year old daughter and then Freddy the Frog was born…not to mention Amanda the Anteater. Listen in to learn more about this fun loving amphibian and this hardworking and creative businessman who defied his college advisor who told him to give up on writing! Kids and teachers everywhere are so happy he has kept his passion for writing alive and you will be, too.

Enjoy this wonderful reinvention story embedded with great life lessons, persistence, the humility to grow, and homage to family - not to mention Matt’s major principle and how to live a full and fulfilling life.

Highlights:
“I actually had a guidance counselor in college that sat down and told me that UMass Amherst, I don't remember the name, but this person said, you maybe should think about a different major. This really isn't for you. So, it's always been in the back of my mind for everything that I do, where I'm like, “You know what, I don't care if someone says you can't do it.” It just makes me want to go - you know, try to do it more… the whole never give up thing. It doesn't matter if maybe you're not that good at it, you know, you can keep trying harder, keep working at it….”

“Never give up on whatever your dream is. Even if it's something you have, you might not even know anything about what the actual thing is, like a children's book or writing a song or, you know, whatever, it really doesn't matter. You just always have to keep going. You fail, you get up, you fall, you fail  -but  you get up. It doesn't matter how many times that you fail. And I feel like every millionaire failed like 100 times before they made that if that's your goal, but whatever your dream is, whatever your thing is, you just have to put yourself out there and give 110% and sometimes more than that, too. But always  - never give up.”

For more information about Matt:
Website: https://authormattrufo.com/
Instagram:https://www.instagram.com/kidsauthorrufo/

Support the show
Rhonda: Welcome to Act 2:

You're On! Join Us Weekly at our studio roundtable as Rhonda and Kate invite spectacular guests to weigh in on staying vibrant and healthy. Launch your next great act with authenticity and purpose.

All:

Summon your courage superstar and step into the limelight. So grab a coffee

Rhonda:

or a martini

All:

and let's set the stage for a grand entrance. It's Act Two. You're on.

Rhonda:

Greetings friends. I am Rhonda Garvin Conway Welcome to

Act 2:

You're On! and I'm joined today with my amazing cohost

Kate:

Kate Leavey and we are also joined by our talented producer behind the scenes - Cathy Carswell.

Rhonda:

Welcome everyone. Today's guest has an intriguing reinvention story.

Kate:

Those are my favorite.

Rhonda:

I know mine, too. When we look around, it seems like the time we're living in is inviting new ways to think about the work we do and what we create. Are you someone who has an idea to make something, maybe publish compose, design something? Can you envision this something and is it completely different from what you were trained to do, or today's podcast is for you? Matt Ruffo is from Framingham, Massachusetts, and is the owner and operator of Everything Quality Construction. Matt is also a children's author with three published works and one more soon to be released. Despite the rigors of construction and the time consuming nature of owning a business, Matt has found time to write out often short stories. His wife Tara, an elementary school teacher pushed him to continue writing. When schools and businesses shut down at the onset of the corona virus pandemic, Matt told stories to his four year old daughter and then Freddy the Frog was born. And I think there's also Amanda, the Anteater Ah, yes. Let's learn more about this fun loving amphibian. Welcome, Matt Ruffo.

Matt Rufo:

Thank you. Thank you happy to be here. Appreciate it.

Rhonda:

Oh, this is exciting. We want to know, construction children's author, how do those things go together? Elaborate for us on how you grew this idea and how you grew this part of

Matt Rufo:

Yeah, they have nothing to do with each other. yourself? And clients when I show up when they hear about it after the fact that like, What do you mean? Kids books? When? When do you do that? How do you do that, you know, that kind of stuff. But, you know, I was an English major, briefly way back in college, you know, at the turn of the century. And the, you know, I always had a love for writing back then. But I actually had a guidance counselor in college that sat down and told me that UMass Amherst, I don't remember the name, but they said, you maybe should think about a different major, this really isn't for you. So it's always been in the back of my mind for everything that I do, where I'm like, You know what, I don't care if someone says you can't do it, it just makes me want to go, you know, try to do it more, you know, that whole never give up, it doesn't matter if maybe you're not that good at it, you know, you can keep trying harder, keep working at it, you know, just like with the contract, because this too, like I was a salesman outside of college for about nine years. And I just decided I didn't want to work for anybody else. So I decided, hey, I'll start my own business. And that's been going great ever since that's been going for about 10 -11 years now. But the writing I always did in my spare time. I never thought of it as really - a job. You know, it wasn't work. It was oh, I have some free time. I enjoy this. I'll do this. And being home with my four-year-old at the time, she was doing remote learning in preschool, which was ridiculous. So it got me back into you know, trying to occupy her time, you know, working on words and all that sort of stuff and bringing back the stories and I would always tell her stories at night before bed. So I thought well, Geez, why not take some of these stories and start putting them into actual books. My wife, she has a degree and a master's degree in linguistics. So, I had this idea. When I wrote the first Freddy the Frog flying frisbee, which I have right here. I actually have props.

Rhonda:

Good, because we want to hear about that a little bit as we go on. Yeah, keep going.

Matt Rufo:

So, the idea was, she told me I didn't know what alliteration was to be honest. And she said all the stories based on alliteration, it's a great way. That's how little kids learn. And so that's that's where the first three books came from. They were all based on alliteration. But there was always a tie to family, and, you know, respect and care about you know, your friends and your community. There's always that theme in all of my stories. And the fourth book that that's coming out is a break away from the alliteration. A more grown up story, but still for kids. It's how mydaughter dealing with losing her grandmother and my wife losing, losing her mother recently, and how that all, you know ties into - for any kid or any family, anywhere and how we all stick, you know, stick together and take care of each other and all that sort of stuff. So it was an emotional story for me and her and Samantha to hear and see me work on it. But again, it's it's just been a lot of fun, you know, they really enjoy it. It's really just my free time is limited, but it's it's a fun part of my free time, you know, when I when I come up with the new stories. So that's I hope that answered the question.

Kate:

Absolutely and what a renaissance person to have with us. I love all these different parts of your life that have come together. And my most favorite part is proving that terrible advisor wrong - published author, there's so much to us. And I'm glad that you are living into that truth for yourself. And I can't wait to read those that book that you popped up before. We'll talk more about it in a little bit. It's beautifully illustrated too. But this is such a great story, great story of resilience and reinvention. Your wife's encouraging you and thenthe invention that came out of the pandemic. And I think a lot of people have discovered different ways to kind of express themselves and be artistic. And this is very encouraging for folks who might be out there thinking about maybe they're toying with writing a children's book, and I wonder if you could share with us maybe something that that folks could learn from your experience.

Matt Rufo:

It's like any, it's like breaking into any new industry. Like I still am constantly learning new ways of doing stuff and, and always listening - I actually really learned a lot to how to take criticism, I was never really good at that, to be honest. And like now that was where so much of it started from just my wife has been teaching for like 17 years in Framingham public schools. And so all her friends and even my mother's she's been teaching for like 40 years. So most of that how to you know what kids like? That kind of thing. I took cues from from them and friends of ours, their kids, my daughter, because you know, I'm around contractors all day on a regular basis. Still, that's not really you know, there's plenty of inspiration for funny stories. Don't get me wrong.

Kate:

You probably couldn't put them in children's stories though.

Matt Rufo:

No, it would be total but all everybody wants to be a character cheese. That'd be the can I be the silly lion can you know it's when is there going to be a plumber

Rhonda:

Such material.

All:

It's so much material. So I have a friend who I work with. He owns a carwash in Framingham Leyland street carwash and you want to see funny stories, just plant yourself that a carwash all day and the things you'll see you'll never see anywhere else. Most of it is not for kids book. But in theory, it's fine.

Rhonda:

I love this. I mean, it's like you draw inspiration from the world in which you live. You don't need to necessarily go too far or research to bring your the world around you into what you love doing.

Matt Rufo:

Yeah, no, it's true. It's true. I mean, I have tons of friends that are police officers and firemen. And actually in Freddy, there's I, I always as a kid, and my daughter loves little it's Curious George. So the fireman in Freddy the Frog plays Frisbee - he learns how to throw a Frisbee with his fireman friend, Frank. So I had that title like the man with the yellow hat and Curious George how they started, you know, in his first books, when they came out, I had that idea in my head. You know, similar to that. So that's kind of all I try to keep everything kind of really traditional. And in the family, family based, you know, all that sort of stuff. And friends matter. And we have great friends and great family. So they're been a big help all along the way to support them and trying to get the word out buying books and giving me their feedback and all that sort of stuff. So yeah, I mean, without your friends and your family. I mean, what else you got? You know,

Rhonda:

How did you figure out how to do it? Can you have an idea you make up a story with your daughter? This sounds like a fairly simple process, right? You put some words on paper, you sketch something out, I imagine it's a bit more involved in that. So how did you know what to do or what you didn't know?

Matt Rufo:

So I tried to self publish a bunch of different times and work with, you know, freelance artists, people, and it's just never it just never worked out. Unfortunately. I came across this publishing company that did the last three books and they actually had Calpart who was the illustrator on all of them, too, that did them. So they worked with me on all the art and distribution like they're all available on Amazon and they're available all throughout the world. Like if you're in Germany, if you look up one of the books that shows up in German, you know, for an example, or wherever, I think the toughest thing that I still haven't figured out, and if anybody knows, I'm not Julian Edelman, you know, who played for the Patriots, and he wrote a kid's book, you know, I mean, I didn't even know he could read, to be honest. I'm just kidding, if he's watching this, totally kidding. But, you know, he has the name recognition. Like if Tom, if Tom Brady wrote a kid's book, it doesn't even exist. Yeah, I'd go by it. I mean, in a heartbeat. Yeah, exactly. So that's always the challenge. But, you know, it's the challenge. I feel like with any business, like, when I started my contracting business, no one knew who I was, you know, for that. And it was just a matter of get, you know, talking to people, networking with people, and you can take that for any business, you know, I've found it's you get out there, and you get in front of as many people as you possibly can, if the product is, is decent, more than likely someone's going to get by it is the way I kind of look at it. But you know, we try to try and make everything 100% Great, whether it's the contracting business, or the books, or whatever I'm doing, to try to go above and beyond all the time, as much as possible, then you stumble and you make mistakes, and you know, you fix it, but I mean, that's kind of just, that's kind of like life in general anyway. I mean, everybody makes mistakes all the time, every day. Some like me make more than often, you know, but I always I always tell my, my daughter, I'm like, Hey, you made a mistake, fine, fix it, and move on, you know, it's gonna happen another million times. So you know, don't worry about don't dwell on it, it'll just keep you down. If you keep dwelling on the mistake,

Kate:

Such wisdom, because you know, those are life lessons, mistakes are often our best teachers. And I really appreciate that you're, you're talking about the struggle, but you also mentioned that you've had to learn to take feedback. And that's one of the greatest skills that you can learn in life is to take feedback. And it also kind of opens you up to saying, "Okay, well, that idea didn't work. But I'll try this idea or the next trade idea and it kind of spurs the creativity, but I'm wondering how that how how writing came back to you and come back into your life and how rewarding that must be to incorporate that back into your everyday living.

Matt Rufo:

It was great, and I got it from my grandfather's as a little kid. Like real little, he's been gone a long time. But he, he published poetry and, and stuff like that way back when, and I kind of always got it from him, he was always kind of like the dreamer, he always said he was going to win the megabucks, you know, every week, when I remember, as a little kid, just always the same idea. He's gonna be a famous writer, hopefully, you know, I won't be like Shakespeare, where it'll be like, 300 years from now. And then, and then someone will care one way or the other. But I forgot what the rest of the question was, to be honest.

Kate:

I think you're saying that, like how rewarding it is to have writing come back into your life.

Matt Rufo:

Yeah. And that's the thing that, I guess that's what I was gonna say is that it never really left. It was always there, it just kind of got put on the side, because of the daily rigamarole of life work, etc, etc. But I mean, like in college, like I used to write poetry all the time, then short stories, and all that sort of stuff. But my attention span is tough. So I've never even dreamt of trying to write a novel or getting into more grownup style kind of writing. For that reason. It's also drawn me back into like music, which I always liked. We had this idea, I started writing a song for each book, so that eventually it would be we're working on putting together the final kids kids album, where I've been working with a great pianist, and she's been slowly teaching me how to play the piano a little bit, but I'm a horrible singer. So she's doing the singing. So there's, there's a Freddie song, and there's an Amanda the Anteater song, we have a few other songs that we're working on, we're kind of figuring that whole industry, how to get the music on these platforms and get it out there and at the same time, figure out how to do that more with the books too, as well. Because also as soon as you probably like social media, like Facebook, and, and those things there are so many people that are that I feel like that I know, that are overwhelmed on those platforms, there's so much stuff so you miss 90% of everything that goes through and and it's funny we always joke around we miss the old days when people would like sit down and talk to each other even like this. I mean, at least we're talking you're a real person. You're not texting me it's not a text interview. If those olden days where people would stop by your house you know what was the last time you had someone just knock on your door and I haven't seen in a while, Rhonda ,you know, do you mind if I come? Yeah, come on in for coffee and sentiments, you know, yeah,

Kate:

Just being fully and completely present to each other. I feel like the longer we talk to Matt the more skills and hidden secrets we're gonna find out The music is, I mean, I think this is just tremendous to have this part of you just on fire, and it generates new thoughts and creativity. And I have to imagine that, you know, it blends into, like, all of the creative artistic stuff also lends itself to the other work that you're doing. It's just good energy.

Matt Rufo:

Thanks,

Rhonda:

I'm totally struck by your bravery in learning how to do the piano and create music. And I'm also taken, because like this, I hear an homage to family in the fourth book in talking about your grandfather, how this all came to be with telling stories to your daughter, this is clearly something that's important to you, and a major principle and how you live your life. Could you share a little bit more about the experience of writing that fourth book and the significance of it for you and the people you love?

All:

Yeah, it was, it was, it was tough, because I knew my wife was going to be really emotional about it, you know, in a good way. And in a sad way, obviously, too, because when her mother passed away, it was during all the COVID rules, so she couldn't see her. She had to say goodbye to her over a zoom call.

Rhonda:

That is hard. I'm so sorry. Thanks.

All:

Yeah, my daughter did too. And the whole family and they're, they're a big Irish Italian family, mostly Irish, most of everybody's in Connecticut, than in New York, mostly as a few scattered elsewhere. But yeah, it was it was just terrible to see everybody to drag it all out, you know, for like a year and a half, you know, even after she was gone having to wait, you know, for the to do the funeral, there's a way to do you know, that closure, you know, closure is, is the biggest thing, if you don't have closure, you can't move past anything. So that was that was a that was a big part of it. And we saw other people go through the same thing. During that time, it was a horrible time for everybody. Everybody had stuff that they were dealing with, that you couldn't do a lot about the whole point of this story on the lower end was to, you know, maybe help kids that had something like that happen, maybe simplified a little bit or make it easier for them. Because when the story is out, it's it's it actually occurred in my my daughter, when she was going to bed one night, she was thinking of her grandmother, and she wanted to say a prayer to her, you know, and we're not overly religious or anything like that. I'm not going down. You know, that kind of road. But uh, you know, she wanted to say a prayer to say goodnight to her, because she said that, uh, you know, her grandmother was, you know, probably watching her. And anyways, that that's a that's a that's where the story, the actual story came from was her talking or her grandma. And it's good that when the art comes out, it's, it took actual pictures that I gave them, turn them into, like, cartoon versions of me, my daughter, which is really cool. I've never seen a cartoon of us. And I was like, I said to her, I was like jeez, could I lose about 10 pounds? I don't know if I like that one of me. And she was like, Oh, I'm sorry. Go to the artists. I was like, no, no, no, I'm just kidding. But you know, she gave me a little less gray hair, my beard. So that part worked out good.

Kate:

I think about that terrible advisor and what they didn't know that you're calling would be to be a children's author. And one of the most fascinating things about children's literature is that they often have like this disparate topic or something that's very scary, or something that's sad. And sometimes people wonder why are those elements there, but it prepares us for when we face our own monsters, or when we face the death of someone that we know that's close to us. And that's, that's a beautiful, powerful part of children's literature, and also embedded in the morals and these lessons that you're trying to teach. It's a great tribute. And thank you for sharing what I know, is a very hard, very hard but beautiful story. In speaking of your stories, what you showed us that they're beautiful, that's beautifully illustrated. They're bright, lively colors, and I'm wondering if you would be willing to read a favorite part from one of your books?

All:

sure. I'll do I'll do Amanda the Anteater. She stopped Yes, eating ants. It's the letter it's the letter A?

Rhonda:

I'm sorry listeners. You're gonna have to wait for Friday the frog today. It's all about Amanda.

Kate:

I know. We'll have links in our in our newsletter

Rhonda:

For sure. Absolutely. We're all there.

All:

Oh, I can read Friday. I can. Oh no, I'm teasing.

Rhonda:

You know whenever you want a man ever you've got

All:

okay. Okay, so at about 8am Amanda the Anteater was accustomed to awaken at almost the same time every day, Amanda and all her anteater friends always awoke with ants as their most important agenda item of the day. They anticipated the anteaters with animosity and they aggressively ran hid. Actually, I really,

Kate:

You can't see this - this is beautiful artwork,

All:

there's, there's a there's a man, oh,

Rhonda:

Friends, if you're listening by they are the most adorable characters,

Kate:

I always buy these kinds of books and have them in my closet so I can have gifts to give the kids. Absolutely by me. They're beautifully illustrated, but just adorable. I love it. We are going to learn some A letter words.

Rhonda:

In that brief read the vocabulary was incredible. So your advising from your wife was spot on, that's going to help a lot of learners and young readers for sure.

Matt Rufo:

Oh, and the other thing that's cool that we did in all three of the books is there's actual learning activities at the end of each book. And I always forget to say that,

Kate:

No, that's actually really good to know and good for the educators out there to have in their school rooms, helps them do their job. So fantastic. Your wife is a brilliant woman she is a great advisor

Matt Rufo:

She definitely is I give her all the credit. She's the smart one in the group, I always say

Rhonda:

Matt, you've taken a really interesting path, combining your work as a business owner and pursuing this art and creating and publishing children's literature. So I'm guessing and we've already heard quite a bit so far that you have learned many a lesson, what would you offer to our audience today for golden nuggets, something you could impart upon us so that we can do life a little bit better,

All:

I would say never give up on whatever your dream is. Even if it's something you have, you might not even know anything about what the actual thing is, like a children's book or writing a song or, you know, whatever, it really doesn't matter. You just always have to get up. You fall, you fail, you get up. You fall, you fail you get up. It doesn't matter how many times that you fail. And I feel like every millionaire failed like 100 times before they made that if that's your goal, but whatever your dream is, whatever your thing is, you just have to put yourself out there and give 110% and sometimes more than that, too. But always never give up, I guess is the biggest thing, whatever it is that you want. And just keep trying. And eventually you'll get it if you if you give all yourself to that thing.

Kate:

Oh, that's a good nugget. Great advice for folks who are listening, if anybody's ever sort of been negative about your dream or told you you couldn't do something that was really deeply embedded in your heart, you need to excise that they like let that go and say oh, yeah, well watch me now. I'm a published author. And that is excellent role modeling. So thank you for sharing your really fascinating, but also very vulnerable story. And I have to say I like to be the golden nugget, but they often make me the timekeeper around here. So I'm the timekeeper. Which means that we're almost the end of our time together. But before we go, we're wondering, Matt, what comes next for you?

All:

Well, like I said, the fourth book will be out and hopefully you'll see a music album that'll be out to hopefully iTunes and Amazon music and places like that. And then hopefully a fifth book and so on and so forth.

Kate:

Terrific. What is the name? What's the name of the fourth book? Do you have a title? Yeah,

All:

Yeah, It's Good Night Grammy.

Rhonda:

Well, that's a story that deserves to be told. And friends, you can find out about what Matt is bringing to the world at author Matt ruffo.com. That's authorMatt ruffo.com. That's the website that you can keep track of all the great works he's doing. And again, very big Thank you, Matt, for being with us for this conversation. It's been a pleasure. And I can't wait to just stay tuned for what's going to come next for you, because everything you've done is pretty heartwarming.

Matt Rufo:

Thank you. Appreciate it.

Kate:

Great story. Thank you. And of course special thanks to our talented and skilled producer behind the scenes - Cathy Carswell.

Rhonda:

And so it is left for me to say go forth. Be brave, live well and do good. It's Act 2...

All:

You're on

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Rhonda:

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Kate:

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Rhonda:

Oh, Kate - thanks for listening everyone