WHICH DISTANCE IS farther: Hollywood to Washington or TV work to swimming lessons?
Bobby Broome has made both moves and more. His latest is a book-and-video series — a third act in life drawn from his first and second.
Broome, who has a degree in radio and television from Grambling State University in Louisiana, spent a couple decades in Los Angeles. He wrote and directed music videos and was an assistant cameraman for gospel and sports programs, hundreds of commercials and the broadcast TV shows “Rags to Riches” and “The Wonder Years.”
But when shared parenthood became single fatherhood, those 13- to 14-hour days wouldn’t do. Broome tried sales but hated it. So, he updated his certifications and returned to his first love, aquatics.
Broome dove into teaching at the East Valley YMCA pool for just $8 an hour. If the choice was sink or swim, he clearly swam: “I was so fulfilled at it, so happy.”
Then the reinvented Broome began making a splash — first as aquatics director at the Y and then in the same job at the famous Lakeside Golf Club in Burbank, Calif., where he trained lifeguards and started the learn-to-swim program. Then came six years teaching swimming, health and safety at Cal State Dominguez Hills while giving private swimming instruction on the side.
“I got tired of repeating myself to the people working under me, and people kept asking my secrets of success at teaching anyone to swim,” Broome says. Plus, he needed a textbook for his college classes. So, he self-published enough texts — about 100 — to supply students and a few clients.
Small as this enterprise was, the photo-illustrated text eventually caught the attention of the American Red Cross in D.C. In October 2007, Broome moved to take a job there as senior associate of preparedness and health and safety.
Though he and his daughter settled happily in Falls Church — Broome plays bass guitar in a band with a Red Cross colleague — he realized that though the original text belonged to him, the nonprofit would own the rights to any related material he might produce while an employee. That was a sticking point.
A year after arriving, Broome took a step toward publishing the book for real: As continuing education for his Red Cross job, he enrolled in a technical-writing course at EEI Communications (703-683-0683). “Very, very helpful,” he says. “It enhanced everything I learned and wrote at the American Red Cross” while teaching him how to work faster and get more details into less space.
In two weekdays, EEI instructor Ronnie Lipton covers “effectiveness in writing in clear, concise, plain language,” she says. The author of three books shows students “how to eliminate the gobbledygook so the content really pops out” in newsletters, manuals, Web sites and more. Students include employees at government agencies, nonprofits, and corporations.
EEI offers more than 140 courses that rotate among sites in Alexandria, Reston, Silver Spring, Columbia and Hunt Valley. Classes range from one to five days and cost $425 to $1,675; “Technical Writing,” which runs every six weeks or so, is $745.
After the course “dramatically improved my technical-writing skills,” Broome put its lessons to work: He found a print-on-demand company, CreateSpace; reedited, designed and formatted the book; procured an ISBN number; and copyrighted the title “The Parent’s Guide to: Water Safety and Swim Instruction.” In February, he left the Red Cross; in March, he registered BobbyBroomeAquatics.com, registered the book with search engines and submitted it to Amazon.com. It’s now available in paper and on Kindle.
But this is just the beginning. With a former colleague, Broome has begun planning an accompanying video. He’ll repeat the process with a second book — on the backstroke and breaststroke, treading water and more — and a third — on the butterfly, sidestroke and other skills, including lifesaving.
“I love adventures because I learn,” Broome says. Giving weekend swimming lessons brings in some cash while he applies for technical-writing jobs. With enough income, he may be able to achieve yet another dream: “I really want to go into neighborhoods where parents can’t afford me to give swim instruction. What can I do to do my part in society and improve other people’s lives?” Everyone into the pool!
Written by Express contributor Ellen Ryan
Photos by Lawrence Luk for Express