Amy Waters Yarsinske is the author of several best-selling, award-winning nonfiction books, most recently An American in the Basement: the Betrayal of Captain Scott Speicher and the Cover-up of His Death, and while it has led to major media interviews and speaking engagements across the country, it importantly continues the national conversation of POW/MIA accountability. The book won the Next Generation Indie Book Award for General Non-fiction in 2014. Amy’s new books include an historical series based on her favorite Virginia, North Carolina and Washington, D.C. locales and historic sites, the first of which, Norfolk Through Time was published on the spring list this year; a whistleblower’s story set against the backdrop of rampant scientific misconduct; the biography of one of America’s greatest twentieth-century aviators; the story of a murder in Tehran that would change the trajectory of history, two more narratives that will make it clear that America still has a crisis of accountability for its missing service members, and the story of Norfolk Botanical Garden, a Virginia Historic Landmark that is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Amy’s research, most especially interviews, has taken her to many far-flung and often unexpected places to get the material for her books – that’s the adventure of investigative journalism. Sometimes, she would be the first to say, you expect one result and get another. This was never truer than for her most recent An American in the Basement and her 2002 award-winning, bestselling No One Left Behind: The Lt. Comdr. Michael Scott Speicher Story, as she investigated and chronicled, in both books, the disappearance of a Gulf War navy pilot and uncovered his fate.
To those who know this prolific author, it’s no surprise that this Renaissance woman became a writer. She learned at an early age that self-expression had to be forceful, accurate and relevant. This drive to document and investigate history-shaping stories and people has already led to over 60 nonfiction books, most of them spotlighting current affairs, the military, history and the environment. Amy’s work on the POW/MIA issue, from the Speicher case to those presently in the works, has honed her expertise on the issue. “The American POW abandoned by the government is so synonymous with Vietnam that is seems in-congruent to consider this symbol for other wars. But Amy Waters Yarsinske, a former U.S. Naval Reserve intelligence officer,” according to a Richmond-Times Dispatch review, “…gives compelling evidence that the military abandoned one of its own during the Gulf War. The Tampa Tribune called her No One Left Behind “a disturbing and frustrating tale of how one mistake or misstatement started a series of events that placed Speicher’s life in jeopardy.” The Times [of London] called “[Speicher’s] story at best one of excessive American caution… At worst it is one of lies and cover-up. Either way, it amounts to an extraordinary betrayal of the U.S. military’s proud boast that ‘no man is left behind.’”
Amy recently completed work on a screenplay for a feature-length theatrical motion picture with co-writer Michael Stephen Myers, and has been seen more recently on C-SPAN and in the series debut of the Investigation Discovery Channel’s new series Fatal Vows “Dead Silence.” Another screenplay, this time an adaptation of her book An American in the Basement, is in the works.
Amy graduated from Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in Lynchburg, Virginia, where she earned her Bachelor of Arts in English and Economics. She earned her Master of Planning from the University of Virginia School of Architecture, where she was a DuPont Fellow and Lawn/Range resident. She also holds numerous graduate certificates, including from the CIVIC Leadership Institute and the Joint Forces Staff College, both headquartered in Norfolk, Virginia, and from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for a military course completed at Suffolk, Virginia. She is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA), Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE), Authors Guild and the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association (NCLHA), among her many professional and civic memberships and activities.
Amy has been published since graduate school, and her book proposal technique was featured in Peter Rubie’s Telling the Story: How to Write and Sell Narrative Nonfiction; this is Yarsinske’s writing style and Rubie was Yarsinske’s first literary agent. In Telling the Story, Rubie tells us what writing narrative nonfiction – the novel of true events – is really all about and, importantly, that it is not nearly as simple as it seems. “You have not only to construct a strong narrative with characters who readers care about emotionally, but also to pay attention to the veracity and integrity of your narrative.” He further notes that the success or appeal of narrative nonfiction… is that ability to pounce on an untold or barely told incident and pry it apart, searching for a way to understand, in the microcosm of the story, more about the microcosm of our world – who we are and why we do the things we do – while at the same time giving us a rattling good yarn. When Rubie interviewed her about her proposal for No One Left Behind and the subsequent book, she told him: “The Speicher book was fatefully a marriage of author to subject from the beginning. I follow a subject (in this case Scott Speicher’s initial loss in January 1991), and if it keeps returning to me again and again as a powerful subject and one that required the unique abilities I have as an investigator and writer, and I adjudge that I can handle it, I’ll press on and do the book.” But importantly, she told him: “…the story [has to transfix] the reader, you have to come out powerfully from page one.” Narrative nonfiction writers have to walk the line with impeccable detail gleaned from thorough research while telling a story that is ultimately the seamless marriage of fact told in the riveting fashion of great fiction.
In addition to the books she has written, a select number of which are on the Web site, Amy has edited over 24 books, drafted jacket copy for numerous others, and had her work cited in many writers’ books, papers and presentations. She is also an experienced media marketing and publicity coach, newspaper and magazine writer, and president of her own company. Amy has also served her country both in uniform and as a civilian senior intelligence adviser.
Yarsinske lives in Norfolk, Virginia, with her husband and three children.
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