Archive for the ‘Guest Authors’ Category

My Kind of Risky Business: Curiosity

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

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.

Dead Man’s Time – Life Doesn’t Come or Go

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

Guest Author: Peter James

Peter James - black coat - Copy In July 2011, I was having dinner in New York with a detective friend in the NYPD, Pat Lanigan.  He told me that his great-uncle was Dinny Meehan, the feared and ruthless head of the White Hand Gang – the Irish Mafia who controlled the New York and Brooklyn waterfronts, and much else – from the 1850s until the mid 1920s. It was one of the White Hand Gang’s methods of disposing of enemies in the Hudson that led to the expression, taking a long walk down a short pier.

Dinny Meehan was responsible for kicking Al Capone and other lieutenants of the Italian Mafia, the Black Hand Gang, out of New York – which is why Capone fetched up in Chicago.

In 1920 five men broke into Meehan’s home in the Dumbo area of Brooklyn, and in front of his four-year-old son, shot Dinny Meehan and his wife. The wife survived, and the boy went on to become a famous basketball player. The culprits were never identified. There was speculation whether it was a revenge attack organized by Capone, or a power struggle within the White Hand Gang from Meehan’s deputy, “Wild Bill” Lovett. Meehan’s widow had no doubts, confronting Lovett in a crowded bar, and he was eventually murdered, too.

Pat Lanigan volunteered to let me see the archive material. It sparked an idea which grew into Dead Man’s Time, where instead of become a basketball player, the boy ends up in Brighton as a hugely successful antiques dealer and we pick up nine decades later, when he is an old man, with memories and a still unsolved family mystery.

Brighton, which began life as the smuggling village, Brightelmstone, has always been a magnet for criminals. It holds the unique distinction as the only place in the UK where a serving Chief Constable has ever been murdered – Henry Solomon, in 1844.

If you were a villain and wanted to design your perfect criminal environment, you would design Brighton! 

The city has a large, transient population, making it hard for police to keep Dead Mans Time - Copytabs on villains, and making it easy for drug overlords to replace any of their dealer minions who get arrested.  Sited at on the coast, transients who drift down the country reach Brighton and have nowhere left to go, so they stay. It’s main police station, John Street, is the second busiest police station in the UK.

It is hardly surprising that the term “knocker boy” originated in Brighton. Several former knocker boys helped me in my research, telling me their many tricks of the trade.

In 1996 the Independent ran the following damning headline:

If your antiques have been stolen, head for Brighton – The Sussex resort is now a thieves’ kitchen for heirlooms

Many of the seemingly legitimate Brighton antiques dealers were just as bad as the knocker boys, hiding behind a veneer of respectability. Simon Muggleton, formerly Head of the Brighton Police Antiques Squad, told me that although the police were well aware of the activities of the ring they were never able to make any arrests.

One of the most scary moments I’ve ever had was last April, researching Dead Man’s Time in Marbella, the capital of the so-called Costa del Crime. A British bar owner greeted me by saying he was a big fan of my novel, Dead Man’s Grip. ‘I liked the torture in that one.’ He said. ‘Had a bit of a nasty shooting in here,’ he told me. A dispute between two men over a girl, resulted in the boyfriend being shot in each testicle and another six times in the chest.  I asked the bar owner what the price was for getting someone ‘whacked’ in Marbella. ‘You just have to give a Moroccan a Bin Laden,’ he replied. He explained a Bin Laden is a €500.00 note – apparently as scarce as Bin Laden sightings used to be, and a Moroccan would take a day ferry across from Ceuta, do the hit and be back in Morocco the same day – and could live two years on that money. Life doesn’t come – or go – much cheaper.

About Author:

Peter James is the #1 international bestselling author of the Roy Grace series, with more than 14 million copies sold all over the world. His novels have been translated into thirty-six languages; three have been filmed and three are currently in development. All of his novels reflect his deep interest in the world of the police, with whom he does in-depth research. He lives in England. The 10th novel in his Roy Grace series, Want You Dead (Minotaur) will be published in the US November 18, 2014.

The Work of Art in the World: Civic Agency and Public Humanities

Monday, August 11th, 2014

Guest Author: Doris Sommer

Doris Gazette-1-1The Work of Art in the World is a celebration of art and interpretation that take on social challenges–a text that I hope will steer the humanities back to a productive engagement with the world. The Work of Art in the World is informed by many writers and theorists. Foremost among them is the eighteenth-century German poet and philosopher Friedrich Schiller, who remains an eloquent defender of art-making and humanistic interpretation in the construction of political freedom. Schiller’s thinking informs my call for citizens to collaborate in the endless co-creation of a more just and beautiful world.

In the book, I focus on reformist projects that de640x170velop momentum and meaning as they circulate through society to inspire faith in the possible. Among the cases that I cover are top-down initiatives of political leaders such as those launched by Antanas Mockus, the former mayor of Bogotá, Colombia, and bottom-up movements like the Theatre of the Oppressed, created by the Brazilian director, writer, and educator Augusto Boal. I also offer an overview of Pre-Texts–an international teacher-training program that I created to honor the bond between creative and critical thinking, translating high literacy theory through popular creative practices. Believing that we are all cultural agents, this approach to teaching fosters high-order literacy, innovation, and citizenship through art-making activities that are used as a means for students to gain ownership of classic literature.

About the Author:

Doris Sommer is the Ira and Jewell Williams Jr. Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures and of African and African American Studies at Harvard University, where she is Founder and Director of Cultural Agents: Arts and Humanities in Civic Engagement. She is the author of Bilingual Aesthetics: A New Sentimental Education and editor of Cultural Agency in the Americas, both also published by Duke University Press.

The Birth of: Yoga for Runners (The Book) by Christine Felstead

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

Guest Author: Christine Felstead

IMG_3400 - CopyIn 2000, my interest in yoga overshadowed my identity as a 20 year running veteran. It felt like divorcing one partner in favour of a healthier relationship. This led to exiting the corporate world to become a dedicated yoga practitioner and instructor. Going on a hunch that yoga could help other runners as it had relieved many of my chronic aches and pains, yoga for runners was born. Endless talks at running clubs led to the popularity of yoga classes created specifically for the needs of runners. The results were more impressive than I had even imagined: reduced incidents of injury; elimination of nagging aches and pains, stronger bodies, stronger running and faster race times.

A non-tiring devotion to my passion of making runners healthier in order that they can keep running was continuously fueled by student experience and feedback. 2007 saw the release of my first DVD, the Beginner Program. Circumstances led to a discussion with Human Kinetics, the leading publisher in health and physical education, resulting in putting forth a book proposal.  The acquisitions team declined the proposal citing a few reasons, namely that the market was not strong enough to support sufficient sales and my brand identity was too weak.  I took this in stride, if not a bit relieved at not having to undertake such a mammoth project. 

Timing is everything. I continued to develop and grow my brand – teach,sfsfs spread the Yoga for Runners gospel, train other instructors to teach my method and created an Intermediate Level DVD. The marketplace did its thing – growing the popularity of yoga and running to unprecedented growth levels. To my surprise in 2011, the publisher expressed an interest in revisiting Yoga for Runners.  After months of tweaking the Table of Contents and much work by the acquisitions editor to usher the title through the approvals process, the deal was sealed. I was to write a book and become a published author.  Now I wish I could say that writing a book was something I had always wanted to accomplish – it wasn’t.  However, writing about something that I was passionate about and had become an authority on seemed like a very natural extension.  Nineteen months of pulling hair out to meet writing deadlines, research, organizing photo shoot, documenting and testing many detailed yoga sequences, followed by an intense and yet satisfying editing process finally gave way to the birth of: Yoga for Runners by Christine Felstead. 

Writing this book was one of the scariest and most rewarding experiences of my life. It is daunting to put yourself out there, subject to critique and questioning. Yet the fears have proven to be that voice of self doubt that likes to undermine us at times. Having had the opportunity to fulfill a passion through something that has been my spiritual purpose is a limitless reward. The knowledge that I made the right choice to follow my heart when I gave up by high paying corporate career to embark on teaching yoga is in itself the highest reward. Moreover, there is satisfaction in further spreading the yoga for runners message in the printed medium reaching a broader and more diverse target market. 

Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

About Author:

Christine Felstead has successfully married her twin passions for yoga and running to develop something unique, tested and effective: a yoga program designed specifically for runners. Christine pioneered the development of Yoga for Runners and today is the leading authority on the practice. She presents at international conferences and has appeared in numerous publications. Through her best-selling DVDs, The Essentials:  Beginner Program and Intermediate Program, and her teacher training program her work has spread globally. Her much anticipated book, Yoga for Runners was released in Fall 2013.  For further information:  http://www.yogaforrunners.com  

The Gulf Oil Spill: Capturing the Passion

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

Guest Author: Linda Crotta Brennan

fsfsdfMany people think nonfiction is dry and boring. Not so! When I write nonfiction, I don’t just want to make readers think, I want to make them feel. Like when I wrote a scene describing the first time Dian Fossey’s beloved gorilla Peanuts reached out to touch her, or when I described Mother Bickerdyke telling the Civil War doctor that she was going into that tent to treat her “boys” whether he gave her permission or not. If he threw her out one door, she’d come in another…

But before I can hook into the emotions of my readers, I have to connect with my material as a writer. When I first got the assignment for History’s Greatest Disasters: The Gulf Oil Spill, I wasn’t sure how to approach it. The environment is something I’m passionate about, but how could I share that passion in a book about drilling and oil?

I try to be diligent in my accuracy, kids deserve no less. So before I started nnnto write, I slogged through technical books, struggling to understand exactly how to drill a well into a sea bed two miles below the surface. I waded through the government investigation into what caused the blowout of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Rig on April 22, 2010 (which ironically was the 40th anniversary of Earth Day).

As I was reading the transcripts from the inquiry, I came upon testimony from supervisor Randy Ezell describing the events leading up to the blowout. One of his most trusted men, Jason Andersen, had told him to go take a break and sent him off to eat. A little while later, Randy Ezell got a frantic call from another man on the drill floor, Steve Curtis, telling him that the well had blown out. Ezell was horrified. “Do y’all have it shut in?” he asked. “Jason is shutting it in now,” Curtis replied. “Randy, we need your help.”

Suddenly it hit me. Jason Andersen and Steve Curtis were two of the eleven men who never made it out. I sat at my computer and sobbed, knowing somehow I had to do justice to those hardworking men, and to the ecological disaster they tried to stop at the cost of their lives.

About Author:

Linda Crotta Brennan is the author of over twenty books for young readers, including History’s Greatest Disasters: The Gulf Oil Spill. Some of her other award-winning titles are When Rivers Burned: The Earth Day Story and The Black Regiment of the American Revolution. She’s also a contributor to the American Notable Women series. To find out more about Linda and her books, visit her website at www.lindacrottabrennan.com and her blog at http://lcbrennan.blogspot.com/.

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