Tuesday, July 2, 2013

In Chicago for Book fo the Year Awards

In Chicago with Jennifer Szunko of ForeWord Reviews

For a writer, there are few things more thrilling and satisfying that having your work recognized. We work alone in dark rooms, muttering and moaning over our keyboards, while everyone else is outside having fun. 

It is that bad, really. Think about it. Poor us. And you are never sure whether or not what you are banging out on the blank screen will make any sense to anyone but yourself. You self-confidence all depends on your mood and how all that coffee is hitting your blood stream and if that nightmare you had last night that lingers in the air around your head is a good muse or just a terrorist.

So, when I got word that my novel, Brothers of the Fire Star, had been selected as a Finalist in a Book of the Year competition, and that the final awards would be announced in Chicago at the annual convention of the American Library Association, I was determine to be there. A couple of thousand dollars and a few terrifying airline flights later, I was.

This very nice person, Jennifer Szunko, who is with ForeWord Reviews, sponsors of the awards, found a Finalist sticker in a box under the table in her booth and let me put it on my book. Thanks, Jennifer. I've order a couple thousand more.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Brothers of the Fire Star: 2012 Book of the Year Finalist

I had just gotten back home to Virginia in early May after completing a 1,250-mile voyage from Guam to the Philippines in a forty-two foot sailboat when I got the news that my novel, Brothers of the Fire Star, had been selected by ForeWord Reviews as a finalist in their 2012 Book of the Year awards.The winners will be announced in Chicago on June 28th at the annual convention of the American Library Association. I plan on being there.

This recognition was both ironic and wonderful because during night watches on that twelve-day voyage, I spent a great deal of time staring up at the stars and in particular at the star called Antares--the heart of the constellation Scorpio, which is the "fire star" in the book. As we made our way across the great blue Pacific, steering by a modern GPS that constantly provided our position with an accuracy of a few feet, I was always aware of the mind-bending skill of the indigenous Pacific island seafarers who, since ancient times, have navigated across hundreds of miles of ocean without so much as a compass.

The novel, Brothers of the Fire Star, tells the tale of two boys, teenagers of different cultures and races, who must learn to live together and respect each other while mastering the secrets of the ancient navigators if they are to survive World War II in the islands. And it is immensely gratifying for me to think that word about the book is spreading among readers in the very islands where the book is set.

Before setting sail for the Philippines, I was on Guam for a month where I was the keynote speaker at a meeting of the International Reading Association and in the weeks following, I visited middle schools and high schools and talked to students about this rich heritage of theirs and how I came to write such a novel. It was a wonderful experience.

During the process of writing Brothers of the Fire Star, I flew back to Guam and interviewed my friend and mentor, Manny Sikau, a 7th generation master navigator or pwo from the atoll of Polowat. Here we are sitting in a canoe house or utt where proas are built and stored, and where men meet to talk about the business of navigating. Manny passed away in February, 2103, just a couple of weeks before I returned for my book tour.