The Exodus Revealed: Israel’s Journey from Slavery to the Promised Land for “everyone else” – the open-minded thinkers

Guest Author: Nicholas Perrin


Wheaton College Graduate School/ Dr Nick Perrin
When it comes to miraculous events of biblical history, like the Exodus, three kinds of people emerge. First, we have the skeptics (“We all know that bodies of water don’t spontaneously split. Next topic.”); next come the unimaginative biblicists (“The Bible said it. I believe it. That settles it. Next topic.”); and then we have everyone else, the open-minded souls who are willing to think about it. (Of course, as a blend of the first and third categories, countless biblical scholars claim we’ve “combed” the Sinai Peninsula, haven’t found any debris from a nomadic community the size of a small town that existed three-and-a-half millennia ago, and ergo the Exodus never happened at all. With such self-confident positivists as these, why aren’t we putting these folks on to our unsolved murder cases and missing airplanes?) I’ve written The Exodus Revealed: Israel’s Journey from Slavery to the Promised Land for “everyone else” – the open-minded thinkers.

Ridley Scott recently gave us a movie in which he imagined the Exodus story while taking some significant liberties with the data points. (If you haven’t seen the film, imagine a remake of Pride and Prejudice at many points faithful to the original only except now Elizabeth Bennet is a sexually-promiscuous opium addict.) But of course that has always been Hollywood’s prerogative – to move the data points for the sake of a good story. In this case, however, I think the better story would involve leaving the data points right where they are, and then do the imaginative work of connecting the dots.
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This is more or less what I try to do in this book. On the one hand, as a biblical scholar, I try to take the biblical narrative seriously as history. On the other hand, I try to do history behind the story but in an accessible way. This latter goal allows me to go places that starch-collared biblical scholars like me are not normally allowed to go. But I’ve had readers tell me that my thinking about the Exodus through the lens of modern-day experience has helped them to see things they’ve never seen before.

Often Bible readers, especially People of the Book, are not used to doing that, because many of us unconsciously think of the biblical narratives as fairy tales. When we read Snow White, we are not meant to ask “So what kind of poison was in the apple?” or “How did it come about that Snow decided to live with seven dwarves?” Young children don’t ask those questions; pre-adolescents might; adults don’t because they know that part of the deal with fairy tales is not asking hard questions. Sadly, many readers often treat the biblical narrative that way, but it’s a category mistake. In my book on the Exodus, I certainly don’t claim to have all the answers, but it’s about time we start asking some hard questions … and exploring some answers that might actually make sense.

About Author:
Nicholas Perrin (Ph.D., Marquette University) is Dean of the Wheaton Graduate School where he also holds the Franklin S. Dyrness Chair of Biblical Studies. Between 2000 and 2003, he was research assistant for N. T. Wright and has since authored and edited numerous articles and books, including Thomas and Tatian (Society of Biblical Literature/Brill); Thomas: The Other Gospel (Westminster John Knox); Lost in Transmission: What We Can Know about the Words of Jesus (Thomas Nelson); and Jesus the Temple (SPCK; Baker Academic), the first of a three-part trilogy on the historical Jesus. He is also co-editor of the recently revised edition of Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (InterVarsity).

Arcanum – Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things!

Guest Author: Simon Morden

Simon - CopyHaving trained as a scientist, gaining a PhD and eventually teaching, my writing has often revolved around science and technology – as a matter of course, I’ve tried to make the science as accurate as possible. Arcanum is a very different book, because it involves magic.

When the idea for the story came to me, it was on this basis: here was a society dominated by powerful magic, where every aspect of life was made easier by the use of magic items, from ever-shining lights, through carts and barges that propelled themselves, through to millstones that turned on their own. Science wasn’t so much stagnant as unnecessary. Even that great driver of scientific innovation, warfare, was rendered impotent, because the land was defended by sorcerers of such power that they could destroy invading armies by turning the ground they stood on into lakes of lava. So there is Carinthia, a magical superpower at the heart of a alternative Europe, wedded to the old Germanic gods, a centre for trade, rich and peaceful, surrounded by fractious, envious, warring princes picking up crumbs from the Carinthian table.

But what does a magic kingdom do when it runs out of magic? Surrounded by their enemies, all but defenseless, a social order that has stood unchanged for a thousand years crumbling by the hour, and led by a man brought up to not just believe in, but expect, Carinthian superiority in everything – ruinous civil war, invasion and extinction are the most likely outcomes.Arcanum

The seeds of their salvation don’t lie with the shattered Carinthian nobility, or in the ruined towers of the wizards. They lie in the much-neglected library, created on a whim by a long-dead prince and maintained by poorly paid and poorly regarded librarians who, despite everything, have managed to amass the greatest collection of manuscripts in Europe. Somewhere, hidden amongst the uncatalogued scrolls and books, is the beginning of the scientific revolution, and a whole new way of life, founded not on the strict hierarchy of lord and commoner, sorcerer and mundane, but on a much more democratic order of administrators, scientists and technicians.

Arcanum was always conceived as a story about change, about sweeping away the old and seeing what would grow in its place. What I didn’t anticipate was the profound, passionate ways my characters would embrace that change. These are people whose history and life has told them that everything always stays the same, and when confronted with disaster, quietly and with great dignity they step forward to meet the challenge head on. They know that they might fail, and in failing lose everything – but in Arcanum it all rests on a knife edge. I try to present ordinary people, men and women doing ordinary jobs, being called on to do the extraordinary. Which is where we come in.

About Author:

Simon Morden is the author of the Philip K Dick award-winning Samuil Petrovitch novels (Equations of Life, Theories of Flight, Degrees of Freedom, The Curve of the Earth), as well as Heart, The Lost Art. and Arcanum. He also writes short stories (with two collections, Brilliant Things and Thy Kingdom Come), and often comments about the interface between faith and fiction writing. Several of his essays and some of his short fiction can be found at simonmorden.com

Lao – The Victim Finds a (Crotchety) Voice

Guest Author: Colin Cotterill

photo credit to peter janssen - CopyLaos, in both its royalist and communist incarnations, has ever been the victim of bullies. The Thais had their wicked way with her as its empire expanded. The French forced her to wear a corset of a land border that trussed together some thirty non-harmonious ethnic groups then put a ridiculous ‘S’ on the end of her name. Then the Americans wined and dined her generals and bombed the daylights out of her. After being converted to socialism the Vietnamese took her hand and dragged her unprepared into the new millennium. Currently, the Chinese are invading her one hectare of cash crops at a time. Poor Laos has rarely been the minder of her own destiny.

Dr. Siri Paiboun, its fictional national coroner, brought to life in the award winning novels of Colin Cotterill, is slowly making the world aware of the indignities his country has been forced to put up with. Siri, seventy-four, a frustrated member of the communist party and battle hardened surgeon, does not suffer fools lightly. He says exactly what he feels and is constantly stepping on the toes of his employers with his non-regulation leather sandals. He’s ornery, drinks too much rice whisky, and is prone to possession by more ethereal spirits.

So, what kind of woman could love such a man? In Dr. Siri’sbook - Copy ninth adventure, The Woman Who Wouldn’t Die’, we learn of the history of his new wife, Madame Daeng. The ex-freedom fighter and spy for the underground movement had long been carrying a torch for the old man. She’d first met him upon his return from twenty years of education in Paris and fifty odd years on, her patience has paid off. They have become a devoted couple. But with the release of previously classified documents in France, her identity is revealed and there are those who would seek her out for revenge. Only the doctor stands between her and a horrible death. And then there is a village woman who has come back to life after being burned at the pyre. And then there are ghosts and hidden treasure and boat races, and, of course, a lot of drinking.

But, as in each of the previous tales, it is Laos, the country itself that takes the starring role in these stories. It is 1978 and the administration openly admits its incompetence. It is bound in red tape to the point of inertia and rightly paranoid about the intentions of its neighbours. Movement from one village to the next is virtually impossible and the forced introduction of rice cooperatives has rendered the peasants even poorer than they had ever been during the years of fighting.

Modern crime fiction has educated its readers as to the technological shortcuts and communication innovations available to today’s policemen. But imagine an investigation with no crime scene gadgets, no police records, no cooperation. Imagine an elderly couple attempting to evade an assassin and solve an historical mystery. This is the thoroughly annoying but intoxicating world of Dr. Siri Paiboun.

Exclusive Video Book Review: The Woman Who Wouldn’t Die by Colin Cotterill

Colin Cotterill talks about The Woman Who Wouldn’t Die

About Author:

Colin Cotterill was born in London in 1952. He worked as a teacher and social worker for most of his life before coming late onto the writing scene in his fifties. Since then he has introduced two series, one set in PDR Laos, the other in Thailand where he lives with his wife and a number of annoying dogs.

Guest Author Peter Worley On His Book, “Once Upon An If”

Guest Author: Peter Worley

PeterStories are as old – almost – as breath itself.  Teaching too. And the relationship between the two is just as old. But the nature of that relationship has changed with the times. Once Upon an If: The Storythinking Handbook is a book about thinking with stories and has been written to the tune of ‘thinking with stories for oneself’, in other words critically and creatively.

Having found storytelling to be the most effective way to engage difficult-to-engage classes – as well as getting that message across to any teacher struggling to engage a class – I also wanted to write a book that shared the craft of storytelling, particularly as it pertains to teaching good thinking with stories. The section entitled ‘Sheherazad’s Handbook’, after the storytelling character in The Thousand and One Arabian Nights collection, aims to do just that, as I could not find a similar guide when I needed it. Though the book can be used by a teacher who intends to read the stories (in fact, there’s a section on how to read stories well), the ‘handbook’ helps a would-be storytelling teacher to use (among other things) their voice, body, hands, eyes, props, language, classroom space, person perspective, tenses, pause, movement, gestures, structure and even the senses to help engage a class through storytelling – all skills that can be used in other areas of teaching too.

The book contains, in its third section, a collection of stories,once upon an if each one a  new resource, but also an example of a kind of story and a kind of approach for using stories for teaching and thinking. So, it includes examples of:

  • Stories about stories (‘The Matches’ and ‘Once Upon an If’ parts 1 and 2)
  • Dialogue stories (‘The Cat That Barked’)
  • Parables (‘The Patience of Trees’, ‘The Six Wise Men’)
  • 2nd person stories (‘The Magic Crown’, ‘Flat Earth’)
  • Tall Tales/anecdote (‘Il Duomo)
  • Narrative stories (‘The Sinbad Stories’)
  • Stories in Verse (‘The Luckiest Man in The World’)
  • Allegory (‘Water People’)

The ‘Storythinking’ section equips a teacher with many ways to use stories to help classes think better with and about stories. For instance, when is it best to stop a story and hold a discussion? What are the best questions to ask and how should they be asked? How do you approach the ‘moral of the story’? (This is one of the clearest indicators of how the relationship between stories and teaching has changed over the years.) How can role-play help children face, more forcefully, the horns of a dilemma? ‘The Thinking Kit’ section outlines some original techniques for critical thinking in the classroom developing strategies introduced in the earlier books The If Machine and The If Odyssey. Worth mentioning and of particular interest to teachers who struggle to get children to approach and unpack metaphors is a new procedure called ‘The Concept Box’. This is a tried-and-tested method for getting classes to identify for themselves central concepts and themes in a story or poem (or other things metaphor-related) to enable them to engender discussions around stories and poems without the need for the teacher to intervene in exasperation with such exclamations as, ‘But it’s not really about that!’

About Author:

Peter Worley BA MA FRSA is co-founder and CEO of The Philosophy Foundation, President of SOPHIA, and an award-winning author of five books about doing philosophy in schools.

Peter is resident philosopher at 4 state primary schools in Lewisham, visiting philosopher at Wellington College and Eagle House School, and is a Visiting Research Associate at Kings College London’s Philosophy Department. He has delivered training for philosophy departments across the UK, including Edinburgh, Warwick, Oxford Brookes and Birmingham Universities. You can find more about him at http://www.philosophy-foundation.org/

10 Career Options For Book Lovers

Author: Sherry Helms

sssEvery book lover appreciates the feeling of being surrounded by books all day, and working alongside people who love reading books too! If you are an ardent reader and have always dreamed of working with books, newspapers or magazines, you will be happy to hear that there are a variety of lucrative as well as exciting careers for you. In this post, we present ten fantastic career options for people who really enjoy reading and wish that that could read at work. 

1. Copy Editor and Proofreader

If your eagle eyes can weasel out spelling and grammar mistakes, from typos to punctuation errors, then Copy editing and proofreading could be just the right job for you. You can say copy editor and proofreader as a grammatical gatekeeper, who reads over the content that, called “copy” in industry terms, and correct any mistakes in it. Several book publishing companies hire editors and proofreaders to examine the manuscripts before they are published.

Requirement: Most copy editors and proofreaders have at least a bachelor’s degree, usually, in English or Journalism, however it is a secondary thing. Primary thing needed to become a copy editor and proofreader is a passion for reading, ability to work to a deadline, firm grasp of language and its usage, and a sharp eye for details.

2. Librarian

Library is said to be a book lover’s paradise. So a job as a librarian can be a dream come true for a true book lover and a fan of learning and academia. The work of a librarian is not merely to glance through dusty old stacks to assist readers to get the perfect book –they may also lead community events and activities, keep up-to-date with publishing trends, maintain library catalogs and make them accessible, and also host children’s story times. And in this job, you will be able to get your hands on the forthcoming books.

Requirement: A master’s degree in library science or information studies is required for this job. Moreover, this kind of job would suit someone with superb organizational and communication skills

3. Web Content Writer

Generally those who read more have good writing skills. The job of web content writing is best suitable for them as it is a really flexible career that often provides people a facility to work from home. Since web content writers have to work through computer, therefore it is expected that they must have knowledge of digital content management systems.

Requirement: To pursue this job, a person needs a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism, English or in related fields. This job also requires good writing and grammar skills, the ability to work under pressure and meet strict deadlines.

4. Literature Teacher

Ignite the light in minds and hearts of young generation for reading. Teaching literature is a fantastic job for any book lover, because this will help you to get immersed yourself in books as well as discuss the plot, prose, and character development with students. Literature teachers plan and execute important and engaging lessons to fulfill the syllabus requirements. Also, if you get specialized in a particular genre, it will not only help you to grow your career higher but also help you to publish your own research.

Requirement: College literature teachers basically need master’s degree in English Literature.

5. Book Conservator

It is clear from the name itself that the work of a book conservator is to preserve the classics from being damaged as if they do not keep these books in good conditions, the future generations may never get to see them. So, it makes the work of a book conservator significant as well as accountable. Still not all things are online. There are many people who prefer reading print books rather than eBooks. So it is the work of a book conservator to secure the precious earlier copies of some of the significant works for the future readers.

Requirement: High school degree is the minimum qualification needed for this job. Along with this, love of books and passion to learn something are some of the desirable things looked for in a book conservator.

6. Literary Agent

Book readers can also get a job as a literary Agent. Literary agents are also known as publishing agents who represent author’s works to various publishers and film producers. A literary agent helps the author in the sale and deal negotiation of his work. They make money for their work through the commission they received on book sales they negotiate for their clients.

Requirement: An educational background in journalism, literature, mass communications, business management or similar is required. However, there are no set requirements for becoming a literary agent. Someone who has a wonderful skill to sell books, and who genuinely appreciate authors and their work can be a literary agent.

7. Writer

If you are creative and have a great story telling, writing and grammar skills, you can use these abilities to write your own book. Although it is not easy to find success in this field as the fight is tough yet if successful, with your hard work and discipline, it can be tremendously rewarding. To start your writing career, you can choose any genre from non-fiction and fiction to short stories, from poetry to memoir. There are no shortcuts or sure ways to get published and become an author. If you have a story in your mind to share with the world, write it and once you have your book written, work on finding the right publisher and a literary agent.  

Requirement: The best thing to pursue career in writing field is that you don’t need to be graduate in creative writing, English or literature. Technically, there are no formal requirements to become a writer. Anyone can sit down and write poems, books or screenplays.

8. Publisher

If you love reading books and publications, you will surely like to become a publisher. Publishing is a very safe job that leaves plenty of room for creativity and a publisher can get a decent earning on the sales of books. Some of the responsibilities of a book publisher are to select which book is worth being to be published. Apart from this, finding talents, editing, marketing production, distribution and designing are the other key works of a Publisher

Requirement: A book publisher needs excellent analytical, team working, communication, presentation and problem-solving skills in addition to a bachelor’s degree in English Literature, Journalism, Communications, Business Management, or in a related field. Additionally, a book publisher has an ability to balance multiple projects, meet necessary deadlines and a flair for spotting marketable books.

9. Bookshop Owner

One of the great career options for book lovers is to run their own bookstore.  This will not only help them to earn their living but also give them opportunity to being around books every day. A bookstore owners is the sole proprietor of an independent bookshop which shelve new stock, sell books and help customers to buy books, manage day-to- day accounting and personal taxation.

Requirement: A big advantage of being a bookshop owner is that you don’t need to have high qualifications for this. Good analytical as well as general business and management skills, including usual accounting and sales promotion, will be useful to make your business successful. However, a degree in business management or entrepreneurship can help immensely.

10. Book Reviewer

Anyone who loves reading books can opt for book reviewing as a full time or part time career. Many publishers as well as authors are willing to offer you a free copy of their book and then you will get paid for your writing an honest review without giving away too much of the plot. Moreover, don’t pull your punches in order to satisfy the author. A book reviewer can also set up his own book blog or can join any paid review site to make money.

Requirement: Bachelor of Arts in English, Journalism and Mass Communications and focus on the critical reading and writing skills are required in this field. The best way to enter into this profession is to send your reviews to online or printed publications. Several book reviewers are also work on freelance basis for various magazines, newspapers or publishing houses.

Q&A: Rick Bass On All the Land to Hold Us

123Today, we welcome award-winning author and environmental activist, Rick Bass, to our blog to talk about his book, All the Land to Hold Us. Born in Fort Worth, Texas, United States, Rick Bass worked for several years as a Petroleum geologist before starting his career as a writer. He received several awards including General Electric Younger Writers Award, a Mountains and Plains Booksellers Award, a PEN/Nelson Algren Award Special Citation for fiction, and a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship. His writing has also appeared in several periodicals including Esquire, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, New York Times Sunday Magazine, and many others. Moreover, he has been a contributing editor to On Earth, Big Sky Journal, Sports Afield, Audubon and many more. Rick has been living in Yaak Valley of northwestern Montana with his wife and two children for over 20 years.

In this interview with Rick Bass, we will get to know about the authors that influenced him to become a writer, his upcoming books along with his message for readers about preserving nature.

Let’s get started by asking how and when did you think of taking up writing us your career? When you were young and having the budding desire to be writer, which author(s) you think influenced you the most?

I came to writing when I lived in Mississippi in the 1980s, where I worked as an oil and gas geologist for a small independent company. On my lunch breaks I would visit the fantastic independent bookstores there—Lemuria, in Jackson, and, on weekends, Square Books, in Oxford—where the store owners would recommend great books to me. I’d had a couple of undergraduate classes in literature at Utah State (from the great Tom Lyon and Moyle Rice), where I studied wildlife science and geology—but the bookstores really continued stoking a passion for literature, simply through their keen recommendations, and old school hand-selling.

Writers they suggested were the great short story writers of the 1980s—Joy Williams, Amy Hempel, Ann Beattie, Lorrie Moore, Richard Ford, Annie Proulx, Tobias Wolf, Raymond Carver, Barry Hannah, Tom McGuane, Susan Minot, Alice Munro, James Salter—really, there is no end to the influences from that era—and writers like Barry Lopez and William Kittredge, and so many of the Western writers, and the Southern writers—O’Connor, Welty, Faulkner—John Graves and Good-Bye To A River—and Chekhov and Tolstoy. Lots of poetry—W.S. Merwin, Mary Oliver, Jane Kenyon, Gary Snyder, Pattiann Rogers, Billy Collins, Charles Wright…There’s nothing like a great bookstore! I’ve also been fortunate to work with great editors, among them Carol Houck Smith, Gordon Lish, Tom Jenks, Harry Foster, Camille Hykes, Rust Hills, Michael Curtis, Jennifer Sahn, and Nicole Angeloro.

You have been writing in fiction, creative nonfiction, and journalism categories, which form of writing, you enjoy the most?

Fiction is far and away the most challenging for me, and for that, the most gratifying when it succeeds, though also of course the most excruciating when it does not yet reach the level you want it to. Fortunately, there is no limit on the amount of drafts you get to do, in that attempt to get it right.

You have been acclaimed as “One of this country’s most All the land to hold usintelligent and sensitive short story writers” by New York Times. How does it feel?

Sometimes I wonder what they mean by that—what they are seeing. It would be rude and ungenerous to argue. I suspect they may be talking about a different kind of intelligence than the sort we are most used to thinking of.

Teaching or writing, what do you like the most?

The latter! Though the former is extremely gratifying, particularly as I grow older. It’s nice to pass on one’s values.

If you have to pick top 5 best books written by you and from some other authors what would they be?

I wouldn’t say “best” but some of my durable favorites include Eudora Welty’s One Writer’s Beginnings, Larry Brown’s Joe, Robert Penn Warren’s All The King’s Men, Terry Tempest Williams’ Refuge, Doug Peacock’s Grizzly Years, and Jim Harrison’s Legends Of The Fall. That’s five, right?

Is there any fiction work which you read and wish if you had written that?

I don’t mean to sound boring, but no, not that I can think of. There are books that blow the top of my mind away, but maybe I’m too much of a lightweight to want to be that person who wrote it. Cormac McCarthy’s Border Trilogy, Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain, Annie Dillard’s Teaching A Stone To Talk, Peter Matthiessen’s In The Spirit Of Crazy Horse, John Berger’s To The Wedding—I would much rather read their books, or anyone’s, than write them.

It’s been almost a year now for the book All the Land to Hold Us being published. Can you throw some light on the response you got from your readers and fans for this novel?

A lot of my readers have said it’s their favorite book. And folks like Marie, and like the elephant, a lot.

Our readers would be very much interested in knowing about the storyline and characters of this novel, can you please throw some light on it.

That’s a tough one. It took 16 years and tens of thousands of pages of drafts. To boil it down is almost impossible for me. The influence of landscape and history, the nature of desire and yearning in human (and other) species, the luminosity of the brief condition of life…I don’t know quite how to answer this. It’s a big novel. McGuane says Shakespeare said all literature is about loss or the recognition of loss—though the other side of that same coin is of course the celebration of what is in the here-and-now. It’s safe to say that landscape and its influence on the nature of human imagination is a theme that inhabits much of the novel.

What are you currently working on? Is there anything to be published in near future?

Two big projects: a New & Selected story collection, to be published in 2016, and a big nonfiction project. Eating My Heroes, in which I travel around the world visiting my literary heroes, preparing a nice meal for them in their kitchen and telling them thank you in person: thanking them for their influence on me as a writer, and often for their support, when I was a younger writer. I take my youngest daughter with me to meet them, and sometimes one of my best fiction or nonfiction writing students, to introduce the generation before me to the writers of a generation or more older than me. To help resuscitate gratitude and mentorship. It’s an amazing journey. The writers—my heroes—have all been so generous. I want to celebrate them while they are living. And I find that even mid-career—especially mid-career—I still have much to learn from them. That book will probably be out in 2017.

Can you please let us all know a few best lines from All the Land to Hold Us?

None really come to mind—I worked hard on every sentence in the novel, beginning back in 1997 or 1998. Ideally I’d be able to open a page and point to any sentence and say, “I like that one.” That’s the goal, anyway! Scanning through it, though, I open to page 84, and find one that makes me laugh, not for its precision—it’s windy, for sure—but for its ambition and enthusiasm. It’s probably a pretty typical sentence, indicative of my tendency to want it all:

“She knew the love of her family and of the community, and then, as a young woman in the first year of courtship, she had known the love of a hardworking young man, Max Omo, whom she married at the end of that same first year, with the wedding held late in the breezy springtime, out in the orchards, while the blossoms blew loose from the trees, flashing through the sky like the scales of fish and catching in the hair of the wedding guests.”

Since you are so close to nature and environment do you want to give any message to your readers about preserving nature?

You bet! Get involved with groups—it’s vital, these days, to be part of larger movements. Global warming is obviously a game changer for the life of every living creature—groups such as 350.org are doing tremendous work—but please support small local grassroots groups, who work at the community and watershed level, as well. I’m affiliated with one such group, the Yaak Valley Forest Council (www.yaakvalley.org). They do heroic work, seeking to protect the last roadless areas on the public lands in northwest Montana’s Yaak Valley, and would love your support!

Thank you so much, Rick, for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk with us today. Wish you good luck for your upcoming projects.

A Different Home: A Time of Trauma and Loss for Children in Foster Care

Guest Author: Dr. John DeGarmo

profile pic for newspaper I have had the wonderful opportunity to be a foster parent for 13 years, now, and in that time, I have had over 45 children come to live in my home. For me, one of the most difficult challenges of being a foster parent is the evening the children arrive. After all, these children are ripped from their parents and family, many times suddenly without warning, and placed into a strange home; the foster parent’s home. These children are taken from their family, their sibling, their stuffed animals, their pets, their house, their friends, their relatives, and from all they know.  Before they know it, they are living with strangers, living with people they simply don’t know.  They are confused, anxious, and frightened. For most children, it is a time of fear, a time of uncertainty, a time where even the bravest of children become scared.

What has been difficult for me, though, is the moment when my wife and I say goodnight to these children on their first few nights. Despite all our attempts at making the children feel as comfortable, as safe, and as welcome as possible into our new home, it is during the night time when their anxieties often overwhelm them. When their heads hit the pillow those first few nights, children in foster care often realize that they are not going back home, that they will not be seeing their family soon, that they will not feel the hug and love of the parents. Sadly, it is not uncommon for newly placed foster children to cry themselves to sleep during the first fewa different home nights. 

For more times than I can count, I have held a crying child in my arms those first few nights when they were placed into my home. I have struggled with answers to the same questions, from several children. Questions such as; “When will I go home?” “When will I see my mommy?”  “How long am I here?” Despite all my training and experience as a foster parent, I simply do not have the right answers for these children; answers that will make those first few nights a little easier for them. I do not have the answers that will reassure them that all will be okay. I do not have the answers that will allow them to sleep peacefully at night.

It is for this very reason that I wrote the children’s book, A Different Home: A New Foster Child’s Story. It is my hope that A Different Home: A New Foster Child’s Story is a book that foster parents and caseworkers can pull off the book shelves, and read it to their foster children during those first few nights of placement, those first few nights of anxiety and tears. It is my hope that the book is one that you can turn to as you help children in need face a time of anxiety and fear.

Dr. John Degarmo Talks About His Book, “A Different Home: A New Foster Child’s Story

Dr. John DeGarmo talks about his book A Different Home: A New Foster Child’s Story

About Author:

Dr. John DeGarmo has been a foster parent for 12 years, now, and he and his wife have had over 45 children come through their home. He is a speaker and trainer on many topics about the foster care system, and travels around the nation delivering passionate, dynamic, energetic, and informative presentations. Dr. DeGarmo is the author of several books, including the new book  Keeping Foster Children Safe Online, The Foster Parenting Manual: A Practical Guide to Creating a Loving, Safe and Stable Home, and the foster care children’s book A Different Home: A New Foster Child’s Story. Dr. DeGarmo is the host of the weekly radio program Foster Talk with Dr. John, He can be contacted at drjohndegarmo@gmail, through his Facebook page, Dr. John DeGarmo, or at his website, http://drjohndegarmofostercare.weebly.com.

Creating Mayhem

Guest Author: Sarah Pinborough

640x170 - CopySometimes the best stories can be found just sitting there the dust of years gone by rather than in our own imaginations. Since I was a kid reading Jean Plaidy novels, I’ve always enjoyed historical fiction, but as I grew up to become an author I always vowed I’d never write it. The research terrified me and I am nowhere near a historian. Well, as the old saying goes, never say never, and after reading Dan Simmons’ The Terror when I was coming to the end of writing the Dog-Faced Gods trilogy, I was inspired to try something different. I loved the way he’d blended fact with fiction to create his own take on the fate of those doomed ships, and I really wanted to attempt something similar myself.

Given that my fiction leans towards crime and the darker side of life, the first thing I did was a Google search on unsolved crimes in London in the nineteenth century. (I wasn’t stupid – if I was going to dip my toes into history then I wanted to pick a period I at least knew a little about from films and Dickens’ novels). This very quickly took me to the Thames Torso murders, and from there I was hooked and the seeds for Mayhem and the follow up, Murder, were sowed. For those who don’t know, these gruesome murders took place in London at the same time as Jack the Ripper, and like the Ripper case, the killer was never found. Several of the same people were involved in both cases – Dr Thomas Bond the police surgeon (the first man to ever write a criminal profile), Inspector Henry Moore who would end up leading the Ripper investigation, and several others, who all would become my cast of characters.

The great thing about writing fiction based on real events anddf people is that you have a skeleton already prepared to put the flesh onto. Researching the lives of my main characters fed into how the story would go, and I had a fixed timeline of the murders and the investigation to work with. There is a real satisfaction to weaving your own elements on to those that already exist. I was lucky in that there was a huge amount of information available on the Internet as many of the Ripperologists cover some of the torso murders and could provide detail on instances where the police and Dr Bond overlapped with those (the Mary Jane Kelly crime scene for example), and there were two very good books on the Thames Torso case itself which were invaluable for me. However, I did learn a few useful tips for non-historian diving into historical writing which may or may not be useful but I thought I’d share them anyway. So, here they are:

1. Always do a quick search for important events happening in the year/s you’re covering before you start. I almost missed a dock workers’ strike which would have been terrible given that the docks feature in Mayhem. As with today, important events in the news impact on your characters’ behaviour.

2. Old newspapers are invaluable. Littered between chapters in Mayhem and Murder are real newspaper articles from the time. I got completely absorbed in The Times Archive, keyword searching dates and my characters’ names. You may have to pay for access to some of these, but it’s well worth it.

3. Research as you go! This tip was passed on to me and it’s a great one. Yes, it’s also good to read up on the era you intend to write in (and read other novels set in that period), but if you try and take in too much before you start, you’ll have forgotten it by the time you need it and you can easily feel overwhelmed. Is your character hosting a dinner party? Figure out what food they’d eat when you get to that chapter, not a month before.

4. And finally – and perhaps most painfully – just because you’ve spent hours researching something, it doesn’t mean it all needs to go in the book. Ultimately, people are reading for the story. Don’t bog them down in the detail of getting from A to B simply because you spent two hours pulling your hair out as you researched transport, for example. Add enough flavour to make it realistic, but then get back to the meat of the book.

Anyway, that’s all from me…I have to get back to the 16th Century and ‘The Cunning Man’. Sadly, there are no Times Archives for this one!

 About Author:

Sarah Pinborough is a critically acclaimed horror, thriller and YA author. In the UK she is published by both Gollancz and Jo Fletcher Books at Quercus and by Ace, Penguin and Titan in the US. Her short stories have appeared in several anthologies and she has a horror film Cracked currently in development and another original screenplay under option. She has recently branched out into television writing and has written for New Tricks on the BBC and has an original series in development with World Productions and ITV Global.

Sarah was the 2009 winner of the British Fantasy Award for Best Short Story, and has three times been short-listed for Best Novel. She has also been short-listed for a World Fantasy Award. Her novella, The Language of Dying was short-listed for the Shirley Jackson Award and won the 2010 British Fantasy Award for Best Novella.

My Kind of Risky Business: Curiosity

Guest Author: Michael J. Rosen

nnnI’m a homebody. I’ve spent all my life, save a few years during post-graduate educations, in Central Ohio. I’m not much of a risk-taker, adrenaline junkie, frequent traveler, or lover of extreme…anything, really. So how it is that I am fascinated by others who are? How it is I’ve written a series of books on the most exotic, peculiar, and eccentric “creations” that might be found on earth?

     Indeed, No Way! is a series for young readers that pretty much includes subjects I wouldn’t consider doing or tasting or enduring. For examples: Weird Jobs: Me? An expert at blowing up skyscrapers? Odd Medical Cures: Like I’m going to lie on a train track to see if some electroconvulsive therapy might cure what ails me? Wacky Sports: You’ll find me pumping my legs on a 25- or even a 10-foot-high swing, in an effort to sail 360 degrees up and over the bar? Crazy Buildings: You’ll join me in my 13-story tree fort rising 144 feet into the Russian sky? Strange Foods: Sure, I’m enjoying the Sicilian delicacy, Casu Marzu—a gluey, ammoniated sheep’s milk cheese with live maggots pinging from the surface. And Bizarre Vehicles: No way I’m skysurfing—jumping from a plane with a snowboard in order to twirl, twist, barrel roll, and puke.

      But my armchair curiosity is insatiable. Two things that I devoured as a young reader clearly feed this.

    The first was a book club: The National Audubon Society Nature Program. Each month, our mailbox brought a book featuring one environment (the tundra, the rainforest), or one sort creature (big cats, desert creatures). Most pages featured empty boxes— no, the highlighted animal hadn’t left its cage for a little fresh air. Each volume came with a fold-out sheet of the missing species as stamps: gummed, perforated, and full-color. It was my responsibility as a subscriber and a one-day-I-might-be-a-naturalist, to join in the creation of that book. I had to locate each elusive animal and place it on its rightful page—its niche! (Of course, it never occurred to me that printing full-color stickers separately allowed the book to be printed less expensively in just black ink.)

       Life in the Everglades, Wildlife of Australia, Birds of Prey—I acquired one set after another as if I were traveling the world. I wasn’t just pasting stamps. Slip-cased in a box, these books showcased all the species I’d encountered on my safaris and expeditions and dives…by the age of eight.

        The second: National Geographic maps. This was in the early 1960s. It’s hard to imagine this now, but for a child then, those maps—one in each month’s magazine—possessed the same WOW factor of a witnessing a next-generation videogame or a new 3D movie at the cinema. Each map was overwhelming: vivid, super-shiny colors; chock-a-block with boxes and captions and words with letter combination I’d never seen in English; and even larger than the road maps folded into impossible horizontals in the glove compartment.

      done

  So each month, I’d gently remove the map, unfold it carefully on the floor (the creases were so crisp on that coated paper that they were precariously easy to tear), and then, on all fours, set off on my journey around the border of the map. The map was a hole in the floor through which I could tunnel across the planet.

      Then I’d tape it to my bedroom wall stand before it, my nose touching whatever appeared in that center point where the folds’ creases crossed. I was so close up my eyes had nothing but darkness on which to focus. But then I’d slowly lean backwards telling my eyes not to move, just to see what came into view. And so I’d see just a blur of green, then the outline of a mountain range or a state with border lines. Then I’d take a baby step backwards, and a cluster of countries, a continent, or the edge of an ocean would appear. It was like changing lenses on my microscope! Going from 10x to 100x to 1000x. And a few seconds and steps later, the rest of the map’s universe would gather around from all sides, and I’d find myself in the air above Central America or the Arctic Circle.

      From over 30 years of working with children in hundreds of elementary schools, I know that third and forth and fifth graders, by nature, love armchair “participation” often more than actually trying something new. They share my curiosity about a world that’s still foreign to them in most every realm. My hope is that No Way! can be a way, a real way for young readers to recognize the vast differences that lie just outside their school or city. To respect other cultures and pursuits. I hope they’ll be humbled, as I am, by an appreciation of what others have enjoyed and accomplished—however strange, odd, wacky, bizarre, crazy, or weird—and inspired by that as they make their own way in the world.

About Author:

Michael J. Rosen is the creator of a wide variety of more than 100 books for both adults and children including the recently published NO WAY! series, and a picture book, THE FOREVER FLOWERS. A poet, fiction- and non-fiction writer, humorist, illustrator, and editor, he lives on a 50-acre farm in the foothills of Appalachia, east of Columbus, Ohio. Michael’s Website is www.fidosopher.com.

An Interview with Edward Kelsey Moore on His Debut Novel, “The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat”

Guest Author: Edward Kelsey Moore

ed moore by Laura Hamm photo 2 hi res - Copy It’s no wonder that Edward Kelsey’s Moore debut, The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat, has been well-received by critics and readers. It’s an extremely terrific and intriguing story of three powerful women and their deep friendship. Published in more than eight languages, this debut novel was also praised by Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and Library Journal. Moreover, the novel has also been optioned for the film adaptation, in association of Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Edward Kelsey Moore resides and writes in Chicago, where he has also enjoyed a long and distinguished career as a cellist. He has contributed to several literary magazines, including African American Review, Indiana Review, and Inkwell. Today, we are pleased to feature an interview with Edward Kelsey Moore. In this interview, we will get behind-the-scenes look at how much work went into making The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat, such an amazing novel and who inspires him to write this book, and many other interesting questions. Here are the excerpts:

First of all, congratulations to you for being in the list of NY Times bestselling authors, and winning the 2014 “First Novelist Award” by the Black Caucus of the American Library Association (BCALA). What does it mean to you?

Thank you. I never imagined that I would have a book on the NYTimes Bestseller list. And I was especially thrilled by the award from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association.  Like many authors, I spent many hours in libraries during my childhood, and the librarians I met growing up introduced me to books that changed my life. It was a real honor to know that librarians thought highly of my novel. There is really no way for writers to know if their work will be embraced or ignored by readers. So the success of The Supremes At Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat has been a wonderful surprise.

Your debut novel, “The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat” embraces the lives of three devoted allies in small-town Indiana. How did you first get the idea for this book? What was the inspiration? Is there anything in your book based on real life experiences, or is it all fiction?

The first idea for the novel came from a conversation I had with a friend a few years ago. While we both had great fathers who provided strong male role models for us, we each felt that the bravest person we knew was a woman. That made me think about how courageous men and courageous women are often judged very differently. The same trait that is praised in a man is often criticized in a woman. I imagined what life might be like for a woman who had no fear at all. What kind of friendships, love relationships, and life would she have? That fearless woman I wondered about became Odette, the main character of the book.

The characters and events in the book are all fictional, but I did draw upon my own life from time to time. The relationships between the women in my novel are based upon my memories of how the women in my family interacted with each other and with their friends. The best storytellers I knew as a child were women and I was definitely influenced by them.

Can you tell us a little about your journey to publication, and perhaps the most memorable part of that journey?

I began writing short stories about twelve years ago. Several of my stories were published in literary magazines and I later put them together in a collection. I quickly learned that agents and publishers were not interested in story collections from unknown writers. The agents who were nice enough to respond to me all said that I should write a novel, so I gave it a try. My first attempt was a terrible mystery novel that no one will ever see. Then I wrote The Supremes

I submitted the novel to several agents and each of them rejected it. After each rejection, I revised the book and tried to make it better.  When my current agent read it, he was very enthusiastic and he found the right publisher for it very quickly.

My favorite moment of my writing career is walking from my home to put zczcmy first completed story in the mailbox. I had spent many years starting writing projects and not finishing them, so I was incredibly proud of myself that day. I think of that moment as the official start of my writing career.  Even with all of the wonderful things that have happened since the publication of The Supremes, that walk to the corner mailbox with my first story in my hand is still the most memorable experience.

How did you come up with such an attention grabbing title?

I borrowed the title from a short story that I wrote about a woman sharing gossip with her friends in a diner. I used some of that story in the novel and the title came along with it. To be honest, when I was writing the book I assumed that the title would change eventually. I always felt that I would find a better title for it one day, but I never thought of one.

What is the central theme of the book?

I think it is a book about friendship and how friendships, especially very long-lasting ones, are as important in shaping our lives as any other relationships we might have. 

The book has been highly successful and released in several other countries. How does it feel to know that your work will be read around the world?

The positive reception to the book outside of the United States has been very exciting. The best part of it has been that people have written me from all around the world telling me that characters from this fictional small-town community are just like members of their families. It is a reminder that people really are the same everywhere.

How has your life changed since the book came out?

My life has changed in so many ways that it’s hard to describe how different my life is now. The main change is that I now see myself as a writer. For many years, I thought of myself as a musician with a writing hobby. After the book came out, I began to see myself as a writer who also happened to be a musician. That was a major psychological shift and I’m still getting used to it. 

Your book came out a couple of months ago and it’s been getting really good reviews. What has been the best criticism given to you as an author?

I have read very few of the reviews. The only reviews I’ve read have been the ones that have been sent directly to me in letters and emails. I listened carefully to criticism during the revision process and I used that criticism to make the work better. But after the writing was finished, I didn’t look at reviews. I feel that if I allow myself to be happy about the good reviews, I also have to feel bad about the negative reviews. So I ignore all of them.

What did you hope to educate readers on or achieve by writing The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat?

My goal is more to entertain than to educate. But I am pleased that many readers have come away from reading the book with images of black people, especially black women, that are different from the very limited and often stereotypical images that are so common in American culture.

What are two things people might be surprised to know about you?

Because I am very extroverted and I tend to be the last person to leave a party, people might be surprised to know that I am happiest when I’m alone in my garden. I’m not an especially good gardener, but I love it. Also, I think people might be surprised to learn that, even though I have worked as a classical musician for many years, I always listen to folk music when I am writing, never classical. Folk music is so direct and emotional that it puts me in the perfect frame of mind for writing. 

Do you read in your spare time? What’s your favorite genre to read? 

I read all the time. I don’t really have a favorite genre. What I read depends upon my mood. I enjoy comic writing when I am stressed out. I enjoy mysteries when I’m traveling. When I am writing a lot, I try to read books with denser and more descriptive language because it reminds me of new ways to depict the world.

Can you tell us about what you are working on currently? What books can we look forward to seeing from you in the next year or two?

I am currently writing a book that continues the story of The Supremes At Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat. I hope to finish it within the next few months. After that, I would like to return to working on a play that I began some time ago. I’ve also outlined a novel about two suburban American families—one black, one white—in the 1970s that I’m eager to begin writing.

Any parting words of wisdom for aspiring authors?

Read as many good books as you can. And never give up. If you keep with a project until the end, fantastic things can happen.

Thank you so much for such a wonderful interview.

For more info about Edward Kelsey Moore, Kindly visit his website: http://www.edwardkelseymoore.com/

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