I prefer to not talk about myself. I'd much rather discuss the accomplishments of my family, friends and the incredible people I write about. But I learned after writing my first few books that in order to get their wonderful stories out to the public, some self-promotion was necessary. So, reluctantly, here is a little bit about me. I'll try to keep it light, interesting and provide even those of you who know me well with a few new facts about me.
I was born on the west side of Cleveland, Ohio, and have a younger sister, Lynne. Though I haven't lived there in 25 years, I will always consider myself a Clevelander. I attended St. Patrick School through most of sixth grade, and shared my father's passion for sports as a kid, especially basketball, football and baseball. In fact, I'd say my friend Ken and I, the starting guards on our basketball team in the late '70s, paved the way for famous duos such as Michael Jordan/Scottie Pippen and Isaiah Thomas/Joe Dumars. You'll never hear those guys give us credit, but they're not as humble as we are.
At the end of sixth grade, in 1981, my dad was transferred to Dallas, Texas. We moved to a small suburb called Flower Mound - population 4,500 at the time. Today it's a booming city of about 70,000, and still growing. John and Andy (my two closest friends there) and I considered ourselves the town's pioneers, riding our bikes across every square inch of land. If only we'd claimed all of that land back then…
Just a year later, my dad was transferred back to Cleveland. I attended the end of seventh and all of eighth grade at St. Richard School in suburban North Olmsted. It was there where I met a cute 13-year-old girl with glasses and braces named Debra. I was way too shy to ask her out…but I had time.
I attended St. Ignatius High School in downtown Cleveland. Tuition then was about $1,700 a year (I think it's more than $15,000 today), and my mom told me that if I wanted to go there, I needed to get a job to help pay for it. My grandpa, James Mazzella, hired me to work in his shop at Mazzella Wire Rope & Sling Co., known today as Mazzella Lifting Technologies. I swept the floor and filled small orders for $3 an hour - big money for a 14-year-old back then!
When I was 17, I realized I had a knack for writing when I entered the Cleveland Indians bat boy contest through the Cleveland Plain Dealer. I had to write, in 100 words or less, why I wanted to be the bat boy. I mailed it five minutes before the deadline, and was later told that my entry was one of about 2,000. Out of those, I was one of 25 finalists called to the stadium for an interview. One of the men who interviewed me was PD writer Chuck Heaton, who I could tell was impressed with my answers (he was better known later to some as the father of Everybody Loves Raymond's Patricia Heaton - yes, I'm dropping names here - and I know Patricia, one of my favorite actresses, would have been impressed with me, too…if we'd actually met). In the end, I came in second place behind Carmen Angelo Tedesco of WTAM radio fame today. That earned me the job of ball boy down the right field line for the entire 1986 season, and I worked in the visiting team's clubhouse before and after games. The stories I have of that season are endless - too many to list here. But ask me sometime about how I ended up with Jose Canseco's favorite bat, or how I was partly responsible for Wade Boggs not getting a hit one game.
I ended my time at St. Ignatius by attending senior prom. I got the nerve to call Debra, whom I hadn't seen more than maybe twice since eighth grade. "Will you go to my prom with me?" I asked her. She thought about it…and thought about it…and thought about it. It was literally thirty seconds of dead silence as I waited for her answer. "Sure!" she finally said with excitement. Little did she know my pursuit of her was just beginning…
I attended Ashland University, about an hour south of Cleveland, and majored in radio/television while minoring in journalism. I planned on being a sportscaster and got some incredible experience doing that throughout college, including calling the radio play-by-play of Ashland's Elite Eight appearance in the 1991 NCAA Div. II tournament in Springfield, Mass. But my goals began to change the summer after my junior year when I asked Debra to marry me (she went to school two hours from me, yet we managed a long-distance relationship that seemed to grow stronger the longer we were apart). She said yes much more quickly than when I asked her to prom, and we wed two years later. We started our new life together in Northern Kentucky, where she got a job right out of college.
Over the next decade, I'd run a video production business with my childhood friend, Ron; work as a day trader; work in my grandpa's business in his Cincinnati office; and be a stay-at-home-dad (to all of you fathers: if you've never been a stay-at-home dad, it's the most difficult, yet most rewarding, work you can ever do - try it if life permits). But I was itching to write. I applied for and eventually got a job working at the Recorder weekly newspaper here in Northern Kentucky (after the guy they initially hired failed his drug test). I was there for about eighteen months before moving to the Cincinnati Enquirer, where I started working in 2003. I ended my tenure at the Enquirer on March 27, 2013, to write books full time.
In 2006, after having the desire for years to write a book, I finally found a story I felt was worth pursuing - that of Missy Jenkins Smith. I contacted her, she put her faith in my abilities and we published I Choose to be Happy in 2008 (and updated it in June 2014). I was blessed to have Simon & Schuster publish Angel in the Rubble in 2011, which has since been published in Australia, Germany and Brazil. My book Finding Peace Amid the Chaos with Tanya Brown was published in 2014 and has received a lot of national publicity, such as in People and on Katie and CNN. Expect the Unexpected was published with psychic medium Bill Philipps in 2015 and has sold very well. The Doctor Will See You Now with Dr. Tamer Seckin was just published in March 2016. And Cards for Brianna with the late Heather McManamy was released in April of 2016. It will be published in four other languages in 2017. I am represented by Ronald Goldfarb & Associates Literary Agency.
Today I'm a husband; father of three boys; youth basketball coach like my dad was for me growing up; volunteer for various causes, including making brown-bag lunches for all 300 men in the downtown Cleveland homeless shelter one or two days each year, and organizing a basketball game between my middle school team and a team with the Special Olympics; member of Mary Queen of Heaven Catholic Church; and resident of Erlanger, Kentucky (just south of Cincinnati) where we've been for more than two decades. I'm a huge fan of Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, and Thunder Road is the greatest song ever recorded (that's as much of a fact as everything else in this paragraph). In November 2012, my three boys sang Waiting on a Sunny Day with the Boss at his concert in Louisville after he pulled them up on stage, a moment that is still difficult to believe...but here is a link to prove it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cyfo6d8j21w
As for my name, which has strangely been a source of confusion for some over the years, I was named "William" after my dad and always called Billy when I was a kid since he was Bill. When I got into high school, kids started calling me Bill because they thought it sounded more mature. When I got to college (where maturity isn't really a concern), it reverted back to Billy. Then when I got into the working world, it went back to Bill. The funniest part is that I've never asked people to call me one or the other. They call me what they want, and I'm cool with that. But if those who call me Billy hear someone call me Bill, or vice-versa, they are often perplexed by it. It's like worlds colliding (I had to sneak a Seinfeld reference in somewhere). So to compromise, I put the formal "William" on the cover of my books, which also enables my dad to take credit for writing them. Call me whatever you'd like - I'm still me.
In conclusion, if I had to summarize in a sentence what life is to me, it's all about God, family, serving others and trying to never forget where I came from and those who helped me along the way.
And that's it. If you made it this far, then I guess I didn't bore you too much. Now I hope you'll read about people like Heather, Dr. Seckin, Bill, Tanya, Genelle and Missy, who have stories far more interesting than mine - stories that will hopefully have a positive impact on your life.
Thank you for reading.
-William Billy Bill Croyle