North Coast Journal

COVER STORY - DECEMBER 1995


Author! Author!

by Lisa Ladd-Wilson

 

100 Things I'm Not Going to Do Now That I'm Over 50

Wendy Reid Crisp. Perigree Books, The Berkley Publishing Group, New York.
204 pages. $14, hard cover.

It was the 95th one that was the hardest.

Wendy Reid Crisp had sent her finished pages to a friend and trusted editor, and the news was mixed: Good stuff, but you went from No. 94 to No. 96, and so you only have "99 Things I'm Not Going to Do Now that I'm Over 50."

No problem, Crisp thought. The others had come so quickly and easily, and she only needed one more. So she sat down at the dining table in her Ferndale home and began thinking. And she thought and she thought, for hours on end, and couldn't think of a thing. Wasn't there anything else she might refuse to do?

I'm Not Going to Refer to the Second World War as The War.

"It's my favorite," she said of this elusive last refusal, which was inserted into the book as No. 10.

Crisp has been in the publishing world all her life, starting at age 9 when she went to work for her aunt and uncle at The Ferndale Enterprise newspaper.

She left Humboldt County to pursue her career. In fact she was gone for about 30 years, during which time she became editor-in-chief for Savvy magazine and other publications. At one time, she owned and operated a book publishing company. Her writings have appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Working Woman magazine.

But "100 Things" is her first book. The basic premise is that the experience of aging brings with it a stronger sense of self: Although many of the "things" Crisp rejects should be dismissed at any age, it's not until our later years that we feel confident enough to do so.

Size-wise, "100 Things" is fairly small -- 6 inches high and not quite as wide -- a gift book, in the parlance of the publishing world -- but Crisp has big hopes for its financial success.

"We would very much like to have our fences repaired," she said, and ticked off a list of improvements that a hot seller could provide for the family home.

I'm Not Going to Drink coffee from a mug that says "You've been like a mother to me." Or hang in windows or on walls any commercial sentiment about the warmth of my kitchen or the blessings of my home. If we are incapable of intimate expression, ersatz stained glass as a medium is a damned poor substitute. (No. 49)

Regardless of how well "100 Things" does -- and so far it's doing quite well, thank you -- it has provided Crisp with a title of sorts: contemporary female humorist. It's also given her next books an edge in the publishing world, which she knows well to be a place of heartbreak and smashed dreams.

"The vast majority -- 85 percent or more, I think -- of books never sell more than 2,000 copies," she said. "It's very, very tough."

Very tough. Heartbreaking. But then, there's the refusal that became No. 95:

I'm Not Going to Quit. Churchill said, "Never ever ever ever give up," and Joplin sang, "Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose," and somewhere between Winston and Janis is glory. (No. 95)

 

Jalapeno Bagels

Natasha Wing. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, Simon & Schuster, New York.
24 pages. $15, hard cover.

The first time Natasha Wing ever spoke to the person who illustrated her first book, "Hippity-Hop, Frog on Top," was when he telephoned at her McKinleyville home with the news that "Hippity-Hop" had won a prize.

"He said, 'Hi, this is DeLoss. I'm just calling to let you know our book won an award,'" she said last month, a week before she was to travel to Philadelphia to receive the prize bestowed by the Please Touch Museum for children.

It's a peculiarity of the publishing world that a book's writer and illustrator might never discuss their shared product, let alone meet face to face. It seems stranger still upon reading the inside front flap of the cover of "Hippity-Hop": "DeLoss McGraw's bright, bold paintings perfectly match Natasha Wing's hippity-hopping, frog-counting fun." Because, in fact, they do.

"Hippity-Hop" teaches counting through a simple tale about curious frogs, but the success story of the book itself is not as common as 1-2-3. How many authors sell the first work they peddle, and to the first publishing house to whom they peddle it? And how many first books win an award?

Wing is acutely aware of her unusual good fortune. When she talks about "Hippity-Hop" -- how she and her husband had allowed two years' time for her first book to sell, and how she met that goal in a scant six months -- her face lights up even now, a year after the book was published. But she has other reasons to be excited, too.

For one thing, friends in the McKinleyville community pitched in to help her pay for the trip East to attend the museum's award ceremony Nov. 14. For another, her second book, "Jalapeño Bagels," has a March release date. (Yes, there is a connection between this book and the "Los Bagels Recipe and Lore" book in the accompanying story, page 23.)

And lastly, Wing now has an agent who can advise her that the $3,000 advance she received for "Hippity-Hop" was about $2,000 less than she could have expected.

"Oh, well," she says now. "Live and learn."

By the way: Wing hasn't spoken with the illustrator for "Jalapeño Bagels," either. If she gets a call from Robert Casilla next year, it just might be more good news.

 

The Dawn of Liberty

Michael Phillips. Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Wheaton, Ill. 607 pages. $7.99, soft cover.

Michael Phillips doesn't just write a novel; he writes a thick novel. And he doesn't just write a thick novel; he writes a thick novel that is only part of the story: The other parts are broken into several thick novels, too.

So "The Dawn of Liberty" is the final book in the series called "The Secret of the Rose." Before it came "The Eleventh Hour," "A Rose Remembered" and "Escape to Freedom."

"The second one in that series took less than two months (to write)," said Phillips, who also owns and operates the One Way Book Shop in Eureka. "Just kind of 'woof!' and it was there. 'Dawn of Liberty' took probably longer -- about four months."

He's written more than 30 books. Not too shabby for a guy who majored in physics and math, whose first failing grade ever was in creative writing.

Phillips may not be known in the general publishing market, but he is a best-selling author in the "CBA" -- Christian booksellers market. His work is fiction, but with a definitive purpose.

"As I write, yes, I'm on a mission. I have an agenda," he said from his office in Eureka.

"I have a spiritual purpose. I'm trying to change people's lives.

"I have letters on my desk from people in prison -- and they read these (books) and it really makes changes in their lives. So spiritually there is that dynamic that forms the passion and foundation for my writing.

"At the same time, I love a good murder mystery on TV!"

He also loves history and the works of George McDonald, a Scottish storyteller and contemporary of Charles Dickens, whose works Phillips has painstakingly edited. It was, Phillips said, "the most invaluable thing I've ever done," and he recommends such a process for other would-be writers.

"Take your favorite writer and book and retype the whole thing. Retype it. If you interact with every idea this person wrote -- Why did he write this sentence this way? Why did he describe this person that way?

"I don't know if I'd be writing fiction today if I hadn't done this with McDonald's books," he said.

The only fiction writer interviewed for this article, Phillips laughed when told that the other authors found fictional writing so daunting.

"I used to think that, too," he said. "Now I don't know if I can go back to non-fictional writing."

 

Toward a Caring Society: Ideas into Action

Pearl M. Oliner and Samuel P. Oliner. Praeger Publishers, Westport, Conn. 240 pages. $21.95 soft cover; $59.95 hardback

This is the fourth book written by the Oliners, husband and wife and both professors at Humboldt State University. "Toward a Caring Society" (italics prescribed) was born from an extensive book tour for "The Altruistic Personality: Rescuers of Jews in Nazi Europe," a study published in 1988.

" 'The Altruistic Personality' got a lot of attention," Pearl Oliner said as she recounted some of the television, radio and speaking engagements the couple took on. "We would get a wide variety of audiences and the question kept coming up, 'What are the practical implications of your work?'"

Academicians don't usually answer that question, she said; the research is done, the study is published, and readers wrestle with what it all means. But, "We decided that question really needs attention," she said.

As we interpreted it, what people wanted to know was how to make our society a more caring one. This book is our attempt to answer that question. ... Along with many other social critics, we believe that our society is out of balance ... Without a sense of being cared for or caring about others, people will have little reason to feel themselves part of a community or bound by notions of solidarity or group norms.

-- Preface, "Toward a Caring Society"

"We developed a model and said, 'This is a way you can do it,'" Pearl Oliner said. "It's not a difficult model, and it's applicable to wherever you are -- your home, your workplace, your community."

Their model is based on eight "social processes," and each has a chapter. And although the publisher categorized the book as social science, "We wrote it to appeal to the general public," Pearl Oliner said. "We feel it's very readable and not filled with academic jargon."

What it is filled with are examples of caring culled from around the nation. From a Mendocino magazine the Oliners learned of a man running an innovative recycling shop; from another source they found the story of a Lakota woman grappling with responsibilities of both herself and her tribe.

"The Altruistic Personality" was a bit more her husband's book (Sam Oliner was incarcerated in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II); this book is more Pearl's. But all their books are collaborations, which can be very tough, she said. Their writing styles are different, and sometimes, she admitted, "We battle it out."

The results are critically praised and well-received, but not million-dollar sellers. The tabloid-style books coming out of the O.J. Simpson trial, novels written by the likes of Danielle Steele or John Grisham, "they do well," Pearl Oliner said. "Our kind of book doesn't."

Financial success, however, isn't Pearl Oliner's reason for writing.

"For me, the process counts," she said. "Writing is my medium for achieving clarity." Not that she doesn't care if the book sells at all. "It would be devastating not to be read," she said -- "but primarily (writing) is a way of growing and developing."

After four academic books, would she like to try her hand at fiction? Yes -- and yet, no.

"Fiction seems so awfully difficult," she said. "I'm just awed by fiction writers. To be able to create characters and stories ... "

She shook her head. "I can't see it."

 

Juggling Jobs and Kids: A Practical Guide for Today's Families

Tracey Barnes-Priestley. Summer Run Publishing, Garberville.
208 pages. $14.95 soft cover.

Writing a book is a lot like having a baby, as far as Tracey Barnes-Priestley is concerned.

"It's exciting, but there's a lot of anxiety," she said in her Arcata office, which is tucked in the corner of a gray Victorian. "What's (the book) going to be like? How will it be received?"

Barnes-Priestley, a therapist-turned-family education consultant, has written a parenting column for the Times-Standard for eight years. Two years ago it was picked up for syndication and appears in about 40 newspapers across the country. Now, it's coming to a bookstore near you.

"It's a compilation of columns, edited down for the book. It really is for working parents, and it's designed for the quick read because parents today don't have a lot of time," she said.

Although "Juggling Jobs and Kids" looks at the most common problems working parents suffer, at-home moms and dads certainly will recognize themselves in the book, too. How do you know it's time to have a baby? What do you say to a friend who has a miscarriage?

The foundation of the book, and the column, lies in the questions readers send to her. The family has gone through many changes over the last few decades, and today's parents are grappling with issues that their parents never encountered. Juggling issues. (It should be noted, however, that "juggling" is used here as a metaphor. Barnes-Priestley once received a letter castigating her for tossing children into the air, a practice she does not recommend.)

"I guess because I am a parent, my interest is so personal, that I hope this book is a resource that people can go to and use and say, 'Our lives are better. We have a tool,'" Barnes-Priestley said. "I emphasize common sense."

A book is something she's always wanted to do, "but I had lots of trouble visualizing myself there." The column -- which won an award from the California Newspaper Publishers Association a few years back -- provided "a wonderful training ground" for her.

So how does it feel to have her dream come true? Well, there is the baby analogy, that mix of joy and panic. But along the way there was also monotony -- she says going over old columns was "tedious" -- and great fun -- she really enjoyed writing the essay-like introductions to each chapter.

She's already thinking about her next book, "Juggling May Be Hazardous to Your Health," focusing on stress management and parent burnout.

In the meantime, please: Keep those kids on the ground.

 

Lynda's Low-Fat Kitchen

Lynda A. Pozel. Chariot Publishing Inc., Montrose, Pa.
124 pages. $12.95, soft cover.

You want to talk low fat? You can start your meal with an Italian vegetable chowder and three-pepper broccoli salad (with teriyaki-sesame dressing), follow with a spinach feta quiche with phyllo crust, and end with a lemon lime sorbet -- and you still won't have cracked the 6-grams-of-fat mark that is the maximum of any single recipe in this book.

Last year Vegetarian Gourmet magazine asked Eureka writer, gardening consultant and home economist Lynda Pozel if she'd be interested in putting out a book of recipes; this year, she did.

"(The publisher) gave me nine weeks to do 75 recipes. Now the book has 125, so obviously it grew a little bit," she said as she sat in her office inside her home. Her husband, Jack Hopkins, who did the photography for the book, worked in the garden outside.

Pozel began sending articles and recipes to Vegetarian Gourmet a little over two years ago. She often had thought about doing a book, and although this particular format wasn't her vision, the magazine's offer provided the opportunity to learn how it was done.

The magazine wanted all the recipes to be less than 6 grams of fat per serving with a maximum 30 percent of its calories derived from fat. But Pozel's introduction carries a common-sense warning: Pay more attention to the grams rather than the percentage of fat.

The three-pepper broccoli salad ... contains only 1.1 grams of fat per serving. However, 28% of the calories are derived from fat. This percentage is so high simply because peppers and broccoli have so few calories. ... One serving of (almond bread pudding) contains 3.3 grams of fat ... (but) the percentage of calories from fat is only 14%. Anyone selecting foods strictly by percentages would eat more pudding and less salad ...

All the recipes in the book are Pozel originals, although a few are adaptations of other sources (including a revised version of one of her sister's concoctions): Pozel always has cooked with an eye on health and low fat. And all the photographs in the book, except the cover, are her husband's work.

It was a delicious collaboration: Pozel would experiment with a recipe, turning out a final product at about the same time he came home from work. He'd take it into his studio, they'd arrange the set-up and he'd take pictures. Then they'd both sit down to eat, with Pozel taking detailed notes on the couple's assessment of the meal.

So Pozel, in essence, concocted the recipes, cooked the meals, supplied the photos and wrote the book. Now she's taking it on rounds to bookstores, food stores and specialty shops. (It's available at FoodMart and Roberts in Henderson Center, and Pacific Flavors in Old Town.)

"I've certainly learned a lot through this process," Pozel said, knowledge that will come in handy for the next three books she's cooking up.

---

 

Other recently published books by local authors

Beyond Heroics: Living Our Myths

by Madeline L. McMurray, Ph.D. Nicolas-Hays Inc., York Beach, Maine.
216 pages, $12.95 (soft cover).

In a foreword by Dr. Stephen Aizenstat: "The 'heroic attitude' is one of domination and power over our planet (that) divorces humankind from the cycles of nature ... (resulting in) environmental catastrophe." Says the author: "We are a society focused too long on mythologies of the individual and the heroic-warrior-king. We have yet to discover and recover myths that enable future becoming. Wrestling with the problem ... is the primary intention of this text."

 

Los Bagels Recipes and Lore: Recipes from a Multicultural Bakery and Cafe

by Los Bagels. Iaqua Press, Kneeland, Calif. 84 pages, $14.95 (soft cover).

In addition to recipes for bagels, bread, sweets, soups and spreads, the book recounts the history of Los Bagels from inception in 1984, describes a day in the life of the bakery and talks about that weird little animal logo (a chaneco).

 

Songs of Papa's Island

by Barbara Kerley, illustrated by Katherine Tillotson. Houghton Mifflin, New York.
59 pages, $14.95 (hard cover).

Kerley traveled to Nepal and Guam during a tour with the Peace Corps. When her daughter became old enough, she began asking her mother to tell her stories about that time and those places. The book is written as a mother talking to her child.

 

Cover to Cover:
Creative techniques for making beautiful books, journals and albums

by Shereen LaPlantz. Lark Books, Asheville, N.C.
143 pages, $24.95 (hard cover).

As the title suggests, this book by local artist Shereen LaPlantz teaches the reader to make books and such, using step-by-step text, illustrations and photos.

 

Ergonomic Living: How to create a user-friendly home and office

by Gordon Inkeles and Iris Schencke. Simon & Schuster, New York.
189 pages, $16.00 (soft cover).

Is your bedroom bugging you? Is your office irritating? Schencke was part of the team that introduced the ergonomic keyboard at Apple Computer; Inkeles has written health books. Together they give suggestions on configuring your working and living space, complete with product ideas and where to find them.

 

Ararapikva: Creation stories of the people

edited and translated by Julian Lang. Heyday Books, Berkeley, Calif.
110 pages, $10.95 (soft cover).

Lang is the founder of the Institute of Native Knowledge, devoted to learning about and preserving Indian knowledge. The book includes a glossary and pronunciation guide to the Karuk language, and each story is written in three versions: Karuk, the literal English translation and the English adaptation.

 

A Distant Dawn

by Jane Peart. Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Mich.
233 pages, $9.95 (soft cover).

Peart is a Fortuna writer who pens stories that unfold in a series of books. "A Distant Dawn" is the latest novel in her Westward Dreams series. Peart's works, like the books of Michael Phillips (see cover story), emphasize a strong sense of faith and values.

 


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