Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Nancy Stewart a Featured Author at Hernando County Reading Festival, Brooksville, Florida

Meet Nancy Stewart at the Hernando County Reading Festival.  Purchase an autographed copy of One Pelican at a Time and/or Sea Turtle Summer.  Fun pelican and sea turtle fact sheets will be given away.

Time: 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
Date: Saturday, March 3, 2012
Location: Nature Coast Technical High School
Cost: FREE admission and activities; Food available for a nominal fee

Distance: Brooksville, FL is approximately 1 hour north of Downtown Tampa
What’s Doing?
What better way to celebrate reading than with a Reading Festival! The Hernando County Public Library System would like to invite you to enjoy games and activities, face painting, door prizes and much more. You will also have a chance to meet authors of children’s books as well as authors of other books and Bay News 9 meteorologist Brian McClure.

Event Schedule:
— 10:15-10:45 a.m.: Christine Van Horn will present “Books We Love To Sing”
— 11:15-11:45 a.m.: Enjoy storyteller Windell Campbell, who uses puppets and props to captivate the audience.
— 12:15-12:45 p.m.: There will be a presentation by author Brenda Darnley Martin

Don’t forget the camera for photo opportunities with the St. Petersburg Times’ mascot Spot the Newshound and the Chick-fil-A Cow. Tony the Balloon Guy will be available to turn something simple like a balloon into something amazing like a monkey in a tree.
Even Better! If your child is one of the first 300 children to attend, they’ll receive a FREE goody bag!

Nature Coast Technical High School
4057 California Street
Brooksville, FL 34604

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Contraband Slaves at Fort Monroe the Focus of New Children's Book, Under the Freedom Tree

A new children's book, Under the Freedom Tree, addresses an overlooked aspect of Civil War history, the contraband slaves who risked their lives to seek protection behind Union lines.  They labored for the Union cause, and launched the beginning of slavery's end. Written by Susan VanHecke and illustrated by London Ladd, Under the Freedom Tree will be issued in February 1, 2014 by Charlesbridge  Publishers.

Emancipation Oak
On the night of May 23, 1861, three slaves held by Confederate forces constructing artillery emplacements in what is now Norfolk, Virginia escaped, stole a skiff, and rowed across the harbor of Hampton Roads to the Union-held Fortress Monroe. It was a bold and courageous act; the men risked brutal, even fatal, punishment for the hope they saw on the other side.

Had they escaped days earlier, they would have been returned under the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act. But Virginia had just seceded and was no longer a part of the United States. Thus the Union commander at Fortress Monroe, Maj. Gen. Benjamin Butler, declared the slaves enemy "contraband" and refused to return them to the Confederates.


As word spread, hundreds and, ultimately, thousands of runaway slaves made their way to the refuge of Fortress Monroe. While technically the fugitives were not free, “contraband” was preferable to “slave” and a step closer to freedom. The contrabands labored for the Union forces and lived in camps they built themselves just outside Fortress Monroe in Hampton, Virginia.
Hampton University: Virginia Hall, Hampton Institute (now Hampton University)
Virginia Hall
Hampton University
There, under the shade of an enormous live oak tree, slave children learned to read and write, taught by Mary Smith Peake, a local free black woman working with the American Missionary Association. The open-air education defied longstanding laws against teaching slaves or free blacks to read or write. These classes are considered the first at what is now Hampton University.

In 1863, under that same tree, the Emancipation Proclamation was read to the area's black community, guaranteeing their eventual freedom. Some historians believe it to be the first reading in the South of the proclamation. The tree, which still stands on the Hampton University campus, is now known as the Emancipation Oak.

Susan VanHecke of Norfolk, Virginia, is an author of fiction and nonfiction for adults and children. Her books for young readers include Raggin' Jazzin' Rockin': A History of American Musical Instrument Makers (Boyds Mills, 2011), a 2012 American Library Association Notable Children's Book; An Apple Pie for Dinner (Marshall Cavendish, 2009); and Rock 'N' Roll Soldier (HarperCollins, 2009), with Dean Ellis Kohler, foreword by Graham Nash.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Bumper Crop of Green Sea Turtles in the Philippines

Turtle-tracks-X2Female turtles crawl out of the water, usually at night, to dig a nest and lay their eggs. The entire process can take one to two hours. Turtles reach sexual maturity between 20 and 50 years old, and can live up to 200 years.

“1.44 million eggs is an astounding number and it presents great hope for boosting green turtle populations,” Romeo Trono, CI Philippines Country Executive Director, says.

Hatchling-on-its-way-to-sea-X2A one percent survival rate sounds pretty awful, so it's no wonder so many eggs are required to maintain a stable population of these turtles.

The 36-hectare Baguan in southern Philippines is one of the nine islands of the Turtle Islands Heritage Protected Area (TIHPA), a unique protected area jointly managed by two countries: Malaysia and the Philippines. It is made up of six islands of the Philippines’ Turtle Islands Wildlife Sanctuary, where Baguan is located, and three islands of Sabah’s Turtle Islands Park (TIP).

After emerging from their nests, hatchlings immediately make their way to sea, starting a journey that may take them right back to where they hatched, where they will then lay their own eggs.

Baguan’s nesting records have been declining and dropped to as low as just over 4,000 nests in 2003. Poaching by foreign fishermen, egg harvesting by local communities for food and trade, destruction and disturbance of habitats through illegal fishing methods and weak law enforcement were identified as the causes of the decline in the sea turtle population in the sanctuary.

“The increasing nest numbers show that when turtles are protected on their nesting beaches and in the water for long enough, they will recover,” said Bryan Wallace, director of science for the Marine Flagship Species Program at CI. “The Turtle Islands are a globally important area for green turtles, especially for the West Pacific population, because of the relatively high abundance present and because of increasing protections for turtles in the area.”

Turtle-measuring-and-tagging-X2Wardens assigned to the sanctuary live in the Turtle Islands field station for months at a time, patrolling against poachers and doing data monitoring activities like turtle tagging.

“These partnerships with other agencies like the Coast Guard and Marines provide a big boost to law enforcement efforts in the Turtle Islands,” said Mundita Lim, director of DENR’s Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau. “We also enjoy a good working relationship with our Sabah counterparts in charge of managing their side of the Turtle Islands. Turtles nest throughout the entire area, regardless of political boundaries. That is also the approach we are using in managing these islands through productive partnerships.”

Turtles can be a prime ecotourism attraction, and it is hoped that in future, tourism income will help support conservation efforts for Turtle Islands Wildlife Sanctuary.

My second book in the Bella and Britt Series, Sea Turtle Summer, describes how the girls help save a Loggerhead sea turtle's best on the beach one summer day.  It's a great teaching tool for kids, especially with Earth Day, just around the corner!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Gorilla Doctors Make a Difference in Africa, and We Are All Enhanced

I am fortunate to have visited sub-Sahara Africa many times.  When one spends much time in this amazing place, the plight of animals always comes in focus.  One of the most noble groups in saving animals of Africa is The Gorilla Doctors.  I salute them in this post.

(Please see the video of The Gorilla Doctors in action at bottom of post.)

The Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project's Gorilla Doctors are dedicated to saving the mountain gorilla species one patient at a time. They are the only group providing wild mountain gorillas with direct, hands-on care.

 Research has proven that by intervening to save sick and injured gorillas, the Gorilla Doctors have helped the overall mountain gorilla population to increase. Learn more at

Ndeze and Ndakasi are the two Mountain Gorilla orphans who were transferred from Goma to Senkwekwe at Rumangabo, Democratic Republic of the Congo.  (I blogged about them and a children's book, Ndeze and Ndakasi's New Home, written about them earlier in the month.) 
The are being looked after by the Gorilla Doctors. They will continue their routine health checks to be sure they stay healthy, and to maintain a good relationship with Ndeze and Ndakasi.

The Gorilla Doctor Team
Your generous donation will directly support gorilla monitoring, life-saving medical interventions, and health studies to save the critically endangered gorillas. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Signal Hill School Days

A walk down memory lane today, dear reader.  But the message is much more important than a bit of self indulgence.  In this age of disrespect for one's school and for schooling in general, I'll speak of the inspiration my elementary school, Signal Hill School, was and still is for me. 

Signal Hill School
Photo from a painting by Marjorie Smith
Signal Hill, a public school and the only one in the district, was built in 1909 for an expanding population of families wishing to live close to the bluffs formed by the Mississippi River, on the Illinois side, with Missouri on the other.  The school, even in its earliest days, enjoyed a reputation of excellence.

My father attended Signal Hill, and both my parents wanted me to have the same experience he had there.  And that's where my love affair with learning began in earnest.

That quest for learning is an intangible thing and, coupled with curiosity, is a life changer.  How do we make the intangible, tangible?  The teachers then, as today, were paramount.  Almost to a person, and whether I liked them or not, they demanded respect, and their expectations for us were high.  And most importantly, these expectations were consistent, never wavering and usually fair. 

Nancy at Age Nine
(Newspaper Article Photo)
As I progressed through Signal Hill, I clearly remember that absolute quest for knowledge continued to grow, and it was always satisfied by being in the classroom, listening to the teachers, reading  books that were assigned, joining in quality discussions and being in the moment of the experience at hand.  For me, those moments grew exponentially into a love of learning that has taken me to this moment.

No apologies for high rhetoric here.  Signal Hill gave me tools with which to live my life, both structurally and academically, as these two components work together.  In conducting my professional life and raising my three sons far away from Signal Hill School, the spectre of those days returns again and again as a model for excellence.  I try to reflect its standards in the fabric of my life. 

 I want to thank Signal Hill School for trying to do the best for each child, knowing there were, as with anything, some failures along the way.  But there were many more successes, and for that I salute you.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman

For decades, book publishers have profited from the self-doubt plaguing many middle-class American mothers.   The media spurs the notion on.

With the economic downturn making "opting out" from the workplace a bit less attractive – or affordable - publishers have hit gold by terrorizing American mothers with a new fear:  Are foreign mothers better?

Last year, Amy Chua's Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother set off a furious debate when her book was excerpted in The Wall Street Journal under the headline, "Why Chinese Mothers are Superior." The child of Chinese immigrants, the Yale Law School professor sounded like a maternal Ming the Merciless as she detailed how she demanded excellence from her two daughters. 

The book spent nine weeks on USA TODAY's Best Seller list, peaking at No. 21.

Now it's the French whom Americans should emulate, according to Pamela Druckerman's new Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting.

In an excerpt Saturday in The Wall Street Journal under the headline, "Why French Parents are Superior," Druckerman describes how no-nonsense, in-charge French parents teach children self-control. The result: patient kids who sit in restaurants without annoying the other diners, parents who can talk to other adults without interruption, and calm homes where quiet children entertain themselves.

Again, there's a furious debate. But while Chua's book triggered an intense discussion over whether Americans were raising underachieving academic sloths, imperiling the nation's future, Druckerman's book has incited a more entertaining controversy in the blogosphere.

On one side, there is the Francophile unit applauding Druckerman and those disciplined, thin Frenchies. On the other side, proud Freedom Fry eaters who ask why would we even want to emulate that nation of "cheese-eating surrender monkeys," as one Simpsons character called France.

Other topics include: if French children are so well-mannered, why do they grow into such rude adults? Is it the French or the Chinese who are truly superior?

Some have recommended that the author, an American journalist who lives in Paris with her British husband and three children, should perhaps have spent more time in the American South before pronouncing that all U.S.- born children throw public temper tantrums like Druckerman's before she learned "the wisdom of French parenting."

The controversy is driving sales -- Bringing Up Bebe is No. 5 on Amazon.

What is your opinion about this, readers?  Parenting is such a personal and hot button topic.  I'd love to have your feedback.  Please send a comment!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Where Does One Begin in Creating a Media Kit?

Today, my friend and colleague, Donna McDine, does a guest post here on the necessity for an author's media kit. She has much experience in this area and owns her own firm, Author PR Services.  Donna is also the author of the award winning children's book, The Golden Pathway. We are delighted to welcome her to the blog!

Media Kit? Why would I need a media kit, I’m not even published yet? To be quite honest with you it’s never too soon to start. To begin now will make it much simpler to add to as you move forward in your writing career. The essential components in creating your media kit are:

About the Author or Writer (Bio):This one pager consists of your current bio, education, current work-in-progress, and contact information (email, blog and website addresses). After you become published update your bio to reflect each success.

Appearances: Appearances may include volunteer reader at your local library and/or school visits and later on as you become published you will be known as the local children’s author, which then will open up doors to school visits.

Interviews (online and in-person):Before I became published - myself and fellow aspiring writers interviewed each other for our blogs to get our names out there. It’s fun and simple. Contact a fellow writer and exchange questions and there you have your first finished interview.

Awards and Publishing Credits: This may be blank for now, but create the page with this heading and you can fill in your information as you go along. Your publishing credits include no-pay, low-pay, and paying markets both online and print.

Media Releases: Even without publishing credits you can create a media release about upcoming interviews and book reviews on your blog and of course tying in with interviews make sure you write up a media release about your personal interviews. It’s important you send out your media release to your network and post on free media release sites such as For a detailed list of the services I utilize visit:

Book Reviews: Yes, even if you don’t have a book published yet do not forget this important part for when you do so you can place excerpts of book reviews for easy reference.

Some of your pages will be blank for now, but you will be surprised how quickly they will fill up. All of my pages started out blank and are now filling up. My book review page is still blank and I’m eagerly awaiting reviews to fill in below the title. The saying from the movie The Field of Dreams… “Build it and they will come” is true for your media kit too. The intention and creation of blank titled pages will bring it to fruition. Oh and yes, working at your writing craft is essential too.

If you have any questions I’d be happy to help. Feel free to email me privately at You may also view my media kit at

Ordering details:
Donna McDine is an award-winning children's author, Honorable Mention in the 77th and two Honorable Mentions in the 78th Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competitions, Preditors & Editors Readers Poll 2010 Top Ten Children’s Books, Global eBook Awards Finalist Children’s Picture Book Fiction, and Literary Classics Silver Award & Seal of Approval Recipient Picture Book Early Reader ~ The Golden Pathway.

Her stories, articles, and book reviews have been published in over 100 print and online publications. Her interest in American History resulted in writing and publishing The Golden Pathway. Donna has three more books under contract with Guardian Angel Publishing, Hockey Agony, Powder Monkey, and A Sandy Grave. She writes, moms and is the Editor-in-Chief for Guardian Angel Kids, Publicist for the Working Writer’s Club, and owner of Author PR Services from her home in the historical hamlet Tappan, NY. McDine is a member of the SCBWI.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Goosebumps Galore--Yep, I'm Talking about R.L.Stine!

When he does school visits, the kids expect someone with fangs, wearing a cape. And he has sold more than 350 million in his Goosebumps series alone, making him at one point the bestselling children’s series author of all time. (He’s now No. 2, right behind J.K. Rowling.)

Of course, I'm speaking of R.L. Stine, kids' author who has scared (in the nicest way possible), a whole generation of children who are wanting a safe fright. He has a successful thing going, and he's sticking to it!

He begins a book with the title.  "That's the inspiration," he says. “You want to know where ideas come from—for me, they come from the title.” For instance, he was walking his dog around New York City, and he thought, Little Shop of Hamsters. It just popped into his head. He liked it, so he came up with a story to bring it to life—What can I do to make hamsters scary? OK, a boy goes into a strange pet shop. It’s all hamsters, and there’s something wrong with one of them …
“Most authors I know work backwards,” he says. “I can’t do it.”

When he was a kid growing up in suburban Columbus, Ohio, Stine’s mom had a rule: Never go up to the attic. He obeyed—but he’d lie in bed at night and wonder what horrifying things might be up there, and the monster in the attic found its way into the scary stories he and his brother had a habit of trading at night.

Eventually, he faced his fears and climbed the stairs. He was 9 years old, and no monsters were lurking about. His mom just didn’t want him going up there because the floorboards were rotting.  But he found something life changing.  He found a typewriter!

He began to write. “My parents didn’t understand it at all,” he says. “You know, some guy staying in his room typing. And my mother would say, ‘Go out and play, go outside—what’s wrong with you?’ I’d say, ‘It’s boring out there.’”
So, he’d stay in his room and create. And as the years went on, he never stopped.

“People say, ‘What advice do you have for people who want to be writers?’ I say, they don’t really need advice, they know they want to be writers, and they’re gonna do it,” he says. “Those people who know that they really want to do this and are cut out for it, they know it.”

How to Be FunnyAfter he graduated from Ohio State in 1965, he moved to New York City to fulfill his dreams of working for a magazine.  He was told to make up interviews with celebrities for fan magazines. So he did—he (faux-)interviewed all the greats, from The Beatles to Diana Ross, and he sharpened both his speed and his imagination in the process.

Following a short time working in the Soft Drink Industry, he was hired by Scholastic, where he’d spend the next 16 years, mastering the art of writing at different grade levels, and presiding over his kids’ humor magazine, Bananas.

His debut book, How to Be Funny, followed in 1978—under the name “Jovial Bob Stine.” He wore bunny ears to his first signing.

At a fateful lunch with Stine’s Scholastic friend, Jean Feiwel, she asked him a simple question: Have you ever thought about writing young adult horror? And she made an equally simple suggestion: Go home and write a book called, Blind Date.

“I said, ‘OK, sure, no problem,’” he recalls.
book cover of 
Blind Date 
R L Stine
And the amazing thing is—and this is a hint at what makes Stine stand out from millions of other writers, a testament to how much of a born storyteller he truly is—he actually did it. He outlined for a month. He wrote for three. He spent a month revising. He sent it in. It came out in 1986, and became an instant bestseller.

During the writing process, he developed his trademark cliffhanger chapter structure—something he picked up in his humor career. In fact, Stine says the line between humor and horror isn’t all that distinct—horror is like a rollercoaster in which the intention is to laugh and scream simultaneously. And a cliffhanger is a lot like a punch line.

“I think after I came up with that, it was easy,” he says. “Then, it was storytelling.”

More books followed—notably his breakout series, Fear Street (the title just popped into his head, so, of course, he wrote the books to accommodate it). Novels began pouring out of him at a monthly rate.

How’d he match the demand? “Writing is the only thing that ever came easily to me,” he says. “It’s the only thing I’m really competent at. And I never had trouble. I was always confident about it; I could always sit down and write 10 pages. In those days, I could write 20 pages a day.”

Welcome to Dead House (Goosebumps, #1)He wrote the first Goosebumps book, Welcome to Dead House, in just over a week. It was released in 1992. Two more books followed, to little fanfare. And then kids found it.  Readers told readers—the best advertising an author can get.

Many books followed. T-shirts. TV shows. A Goosebumps attraction at Disney World. Overall, he attributes the series’ amazubg success to the fact that it was the first to get equal amounts of female and male readers.

“It was unbelievable for me—you just never dream of having something like that,” he says. “I don’t know if it taught me any lesson; it was just lucky, I think. The only lesson is, you gotta keep at it.”

Stine is still writing. A lot. He’s written about 100 Fear Street books and about 105 Goosebumps. He sits down at 10 a.m. and writes six days a week. He does six new Goosebumps a year, which he has described as “like a vacation,” compared to his previous output. His method?

A Goosebumps manuscript is 120 pages. He has his title. He doesn’t really do research, preferring to work off his imagination. He creates a character list and takes two to four days to outline—extensively (which he says also prevents him from getting writer’s block). The outline has dialogue, every chapter ending, and so on, up to 20 pages. And then, when he returns to the book, all the work is done. He writes 10 pages a day, does a second draft for a couple days, and turns it in. Grand total: About three weeks.

How does he pull it off  “I?’m cut out for it,” he says. “I’m cut out for working at home: I don’t get distracted, I’m very disciplined.”

When asked if he’s gotten tired from producing such a massive output for so many years, he laughs.

“No, I still enjoy it. I still look forward to it in the morning. It’s gotten harder to come up with new ideas. It’s more challenging: new kinds of scares, new chapter endings …”
Of course, while writing may seem like the only thing Stine does, he lives a normal life in his beloved New York City home, devoid of the capes and fangs some of his readers expect: He goes to the theater and opera, he walks his dog in the park, he takes vacations.

He says of Goosebumps:

 "I love it. It’s a wonderful thing. I feel so lucky. I would never resent it in any way. I’ll always be Goosebumps Author R.L. Stine. I’ll always be called that. Always.”

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Interview with Award Winning Author, Gerald Duff

Where does one begin introductions with a talent such as Gerald Duff's?  Perhaps with the Washington Post's, "...wildly funny, dead-on satire..." or Publisher's Weekly's, "wit and subtlety as satisfying as a tall cold one on a hot Gulf Coast afternoon." Whether it's one of these or one of the many more, Gerald Duff's award winning books are stellar, indeed. On a personal level, Gerald was my provost, and I count him as one of my dearest friends.  I am so pleased to feature him on this blog and hope you enjoy his wit, humor and insight as much as I do! 

NS  You grew up in east Texas.  How did those formative years influence the writer you were to become?

GD  Growing up in East Texas and on the Texas Gulf Coast created an ongoing tension in the way I perceived the world and my place in it. East Texas proper represented the culture of the Old South, settled as it was by those who came from the deep Southern states of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and the others during and after the Civil War.
It was a society which depended on an exquisitely demarcated system of rank. All classes from the poorest to the most affluent learned soon where they "belonged" and how to conduct themselves appropriately. You might not like where you were, and you might chafe against how you were categorized, but you had to recognize the strength of the social ranking which defined you.

Blue Sabine The Texas Gulf Coast was newer in its sense of self. It was devoted not to an agricultural sense of social rank but to an industrial one: the petro-chemical world of big oil, its production, its refining, and its selling. Every worker, every family, every child was pretty much the same. Not many worried about where they ranked, since all were relatively equivalent. The tensions between these views of the self, the society, and reality were ripe for a writer. What impels a writer are conflict, disagreement, disappointment, resentment, and attempts to change. That stew was in abundance where I grew up.

NS  You’ve written many books during your career, and the topics you use are eclectic.  What’s the inspiration behind what you choose to pursue in a new book?
That's All Right Mama
GD  What I choose to pursue in a new book as I try to get started is generally a small idea or situation or dilemma. I start writing not with a view of where I'm going, but with an uncertain sense of wanting to see where I'm led. A writer, for the most part, discovers where he's going by going there. The world of a new work of fiction for me has always been cloudy, undecided, unexplored, but intensely inviting. An example: my sister a couple of years ago told me she had discovered where our uncle had played professional baseball. It was in the Evangeline League in Louisiana in the 1930s. I never had known that before. So I began reading about the league, looked up my uncle's statistics as a pitcher for
the Rayne Rice Birds and became more and more interested the more I learned. What if a Native American young man of the Alabama-Coushatta Nation in East Texas (here's my youthful experiences popping up) had come to Louisiana to play professional baseball in the Evangeline League? What would happen? How would he have learned about the league? How would he have traveled to get there? What would he see? How would white players see him? What if an African-American player pretending to be a Cuban was a teammate. How would he relate to my young player? What are the problems my player would face? As I try to answer those and similar questions, my narrative begins to form. The next thing I knew I was trying to imagine scenes that would help me answer these questions. I was off to the races with Dirty Rice: A Season in the Evangeline League, which will be published, by the way, on Opening Day of the baseball season in 2012.

A writer, for the most part, discovers where he's going by going there.
NS  We know that short stories are notoriously hard to publish, yet yours always succeed, as in, Fire Ants:  And Other Short Stories (NewSouth Books). What makes them so salable?

Fire Ants and Other Stories by Gerald DuffGD  Short stories are hard to sell as a collection in a single book. But they're much easier to place in magazines, whether traditional or online. People like to read short stories still, and they will do so. But publishers insist that they will not buy collections. I have had some success in placing short stories in magazines, and I've published a collection Fire Ants and Other Stories and have another slated to appear in 2012 as Decoration Day and Other Stories.  But I must confess that the chances of publishing books of stories is much narrower than that of publishing a novel. Both are difficult and becoming more so, but a short story collection will seldom be even considered for promotion by agents or acceptance by publishers. You very kindly say my stories "always succeed." Would that it were so!
All that finally works in selling short stories is blind persistence, stubborness, and a refusal to face reality. William Faulkner once said after having a very poor response by bookbuyers to one of his greatest novels, "I feel free now to write only what I want to.  I don't have to worry about pleasing the taste of anyone but myself." That's a brave but highly irrational statement. Those are the adjectives that apply to true writers, though. You've got to be a little crazy!

Coasters NS  In terms of career, you have been a university professor and  administrator, both very full time jobs.  How did you manage to also write the prolific amount of books you’ve done and keep everything on track?  (My readers always want to know this about other authors.)

GD  The way I learned to turn out books as I worked fulltime at my day job (my family and I always wanted to eat, have a place to stay, buy cars, go to college, wear clothes, stay warm, continue to live!) was to develop a process of discipline. I made myself write two pages a day, five days a week, and I embraced guilt like a lover. If I didn't work, I learned to flagellate myself for laziness. And it was well-deserved, that self condemnation. I learned that it was not easy being a writer, and that what a writer does is write. He or she can't afford to preen in the role of "writer." Do that and you won't get anything done. And the payoff for learning discipline is that after I wrote my daily two pages, I always felt wonderful, no matter how bad the product was. It was there! I did it! It was the best drug imaginable.

Home TruthsNS  Home Truths:  A Deep East Texas Memory, (TCU Press) is, I think, is your pièce de résistance.  Rob Forman Dew said of it, "Gerald Duff's stunning memoir is brilliant and remarkably compelling.”  Tell us about it.  Was such a personal book difficult to write? How do you feel about having done it now that it’s out with such rave reviews?

GD  My memoir Home Truths:  A Deep East Texas Memory was hard to write, in some respects. The easy part was that I had a lot of  material to work with: all I could remember of my experiences growing up, working at a career, living a life, and attempting to see why I was what I was and how where I had come from had affected me. The sense of self we all have of ourselves comes from learning to lie when needful, I discovered as I wrote. When reality is hard to bear, we must find ways to get around that. I did it by creating a reality that never existed but which satisfied me emotionally. The difficult part of writing my memoir was deciding what to put in and what to leave out. We can never tell ourselves all the truth about ourselves. If we did, we'd die. Not necessarily literally, but in selfhood. "Tell all the truth, but tell it slant," Emily Dickinson said. "The truth  must dazzle gradually or every man be blind.

Memphis Ribs
NS  What can we look forward to in your next book/s?
GD  I described Dirty Rice: A Season in the Evangeline League, in an earlier question. That's my next book, and it'll be out from the University of Louisiana Press in April. My most recent books are my memoir, out in September, 2011 and a novel Blue Sabine out in December, 2011. My website is and it contains up to date information about my books, current reviews, and things to come, if you'd like to visit.
NS  Thank you so much, Gerald, for visiting the blog today.  This was a real treat, and I'm sure my readers agree.  All best wishes with Dirty Rice. I'll be reading it as soon as it's launched!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Happy Chinese New Year (January 23 to February 6)

Chinese New Year celebrations, often referred to as the Lunar New Year, are happening now. It’s the Year of the Dragon, which is said to be an especially lucky year in the Chinese Zodiac. The 15 day festival ends with the Lantern Festival (February 6th this year), where families come together, eat yuanxiao (a glutinous rice ball), hang colorful lanterns and solve riddles on them.

Here are some children’s books that celebrate Chinese New Year:

The Runaway Wok: a Chinese New Year Tale by Ying:

Chang Compestine, illustrated by Sebastià Serra
On Chinese New Year’s Eve, a poor man who works for the richest businessman in Beijing sends his son to market to trade their last few eggs for a bag of rice, but instead he brings home an empty – but magic – wok that changes their fortunes forever.

The Star Maker by Laurence Yep:

Item imageWith the help of his popular Uncle Chester, a young Chinese American boy tries hard to fulfill a promise to have firecrackers for everyone on the Chinese New Year in 1954.

A New Year’s Reunion by Yu Li-Qiong, illustrated by Zhu Cheng-Liang

Little Maomao’s father works in faraway places and comes home just once a year, for Chinese New Year. At first Maomao barely recognizes him, but before long the family is happily making sticky rice balls, listening to firecrackers, and watching the dragon dance in the streets below.

Chinese New Year by Alice K. Flanagan, illustrated by Svetlana Zhurkina

This book explores the history, customs, and symbols of Chinese New Year. Learn how Chinese New Year has changed over time and how it is celebrated around the world.

Chinese New Year CoverThis beautifully illustrated history is also filled with interesting and unusual facts about the holiday such as what foods can be found on the Tray of Togetherness and why the color red is important.

I hope you have the opportunity to read at least one to your young readers, so they can enjoy the New Year celebrations, too!