NEXT Up: books, beers and Border Collies with Niki Kapsambelis

It’s a milestone week for veteran journalist Niki Kapsambelis, whose first book, The Inheritance, is being published by Simon & Schuster on March 7. The culmination of years of research, the book follows the true story of the DeMoe family, who was stricken with an extremely rare genetic form of Alzheimer’s disease in their 40s, and who possibly hold the key to finding a cure. A Boston native, Niki worked as a newswoman at The Associated Press for eight years. When not writing, Niki can be found at a hockey rink, on a horse, or playing with her dogs.

Niki Kapsambelis

Photo by Becky Thurner.

Monday, March 6: 

Today is the Christmas Eve of my professional life: My book’s release date is tomorrow. I’ll be up by 6:45 a.m. to see my son, Tim, off to school before diving into the day ahead. I work out of a home office, and every weekday begins with a media report I prepare for one of my freelance clients, Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business.

I’ll spend time scanning local and national news, which has the added benefit of keeping me on top of current events. I also check for any news related to Alzheimer’s or the research and doctors I follow in my book.

At 12:30 p.m., I’m taping an interview with Prairie Public Radio, which is including a segment about The Inheritance for its “Main Street” program.

I’ll recap the interview for my publisher, Simon & Schuster, before taking my three dogsScarlett, Nell and Doveout for a run. All three are alumni of Mid-Atlantic Border Collie Rescue, where I have been a volunteer for 10 years.

Tim has lacrosse tryouts this afternoon. I’ll look forward to recapping our days over dinner.

Tuesday, March 7:

It’s book release day! I have worked five years for this moment, but there is no time to reflect on that just yet. I have a strategy meeting with my friend Joanna Huss, an ace publicist, and I need to put the finishing touches on an essay I’m writing for Pittsburgh Magazine’s “Best Doctors” issue. I’ll check out the selfies the DeMoe family and my friends post with their copies of the book.

Later, Tim has a huge milestone of his own: taking his driver’s license test.

We’ll save our celebratory dinner at Hyde Park until the following week, when my son Bobby is home for spring break from Miami University of Ohio. But I will take a moment to drink a Colorado Bulldog in honor of Gail DeMoe, one of the key characters in my book: It was her favorite cocktail.

Niki Kapsambelis

Niki Kapsambelis with her dogs Dove, Scarlett and Nell.

Wednesday, March 8: 

One of my lifelong passions is riding horses. I’ll head to Bethel Park Stables, where I’ll take the horse I ride, Smokey, out on the trails that wind through South Park. Riding clears my head; connecting with animals and a natural landscape, even one that isn’t quite yet touched by spring, allows me to think more creatively for the rest of my day, and I often work well into the evening.

After lunch I’ll head to Empire Music in Mt. Lebanon, where I take guitar lessons with Brett Pecco. Studies indicate that learning new skills throughout your lifesuch as an instrument or a new languagecan help protect against dementia in old age. I hope that’s true, since I also have a class in Greek at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church tonight. My grandmother, who is 100, is trilingual and my inspiration in this and so many other things. She read an advance copy of my new book, which is dedicated to her and Gail, while also knitting me a gorgeous sweater. Her take: she liked it!

Thursday, March 9:

This morning I am taping a segment at KDKA-TV.

Later I’ll head to Ice Castle for Tim’s Mt. Lebanon varsity hockey playoff game against Hempfield. Both of my sons play hockey, as do I, and I coached many of the kids on the varsity team through the years. It’s gratifying to watch their success.

Friday, March 10: 

In the afternoon, I’m meeting Zana Ikonomovic at Coffee Tree Roasters in Mt. Lebanon. Zana works at Pitt’s Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, and was instrumental in helping me with the logistics of following each family member through their research trips.

Friday night I’ll be joining beer league hockey teammates Craig Brickell, Sam Menchyk, A.J. Peace and Pete Silberman at Cain’s Saloon in Dormont to drink a few stouts while we take in the Pens game. Sam, who owns Your Site Team, LLC, is building my book’s websiteso I guess it technically counts as a work event.

Niki Kapsambelis

Niki Kapsambelis with her sons Bobby (left) and Tim (right) after a hockey game.

Saturday, March 11:

I’ll meet up with friends for Pittsburgh’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration before heading to the Village Tavern and Trattoria in the West End to watch my friend and former Associated Press colleague, Julian Neiser, play a gig with his band Yinz2.

Sunday, March 12: 

Back to the barn for another morning ride, then I’ll take the dogs for a run through South Park to work off some of the weekend’s beer.

I’ll prep for the week ahead, when some of my book’s family members will visit, before settling in with Netflix, a good book and bed.

See who else is NEXT Up here.

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