DA Kentner writes the column THE READERS' WRITERS for the (Freeport) Journal-Standard and GateHouse News Service. My alter ego KevaD lives under a stairway of dreams where he writes stories and grumbles about everything. Click the pic to visit KevaD's blog.
Drop me a line at dakentner@yahoo.com

I invite you to read my award-winning short story posted on Calliope Magazine's web site.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Best-Selling Author Charlaine Harris

Yes. Charlaine Harris is a New York Times best-selling author. Yes. She is quickly becoming a household name in conversations from quilting circles to high school hallways both through her writing and the advent of HBO’s “True Blood” series based on her Sookie Stackhouse novels. Yes. It “only” took her a quarter century to attain this level of popularity. And, yes, she is talented - - very, very talented.

But did you know, besides her husband, children, dogs, and one duck (I don’t know why only one either), the Mississippi Delta native now living in Arkansas is passionate about improving the lives of people at home and around the world?

Ms Harris is an advocate for Doctors Without Borders, Habitat for Humanity, the ASPCA, and the Crime Lab Project. The Crime Lab Project promotes bringing crime labs into the modern age - helping law enforcement and victims identify and capture criminals. CSI is TV, folks - - fiction.

If you really want to help make a difference, join with Ms Harris in support of organizations such as the Crime Lab Project. http://www.charlaineharris.com/

Q) DEAD UNTIL DARK, the first in the Sookie Stackhouse series, broke traditional genre boundaries and started an avalanche of new authors for enthralled readers. But all writers share a love of reading. What books or stories first captured your interest and inspired you to write?

A) DEAD RECKONING will be on the shelves in May, but THE SOOKIE STACKHOUSE COMPANION won’t be available until August 30. It wasn’t shaping up as quickly as we wanted, and I had some family things to deal with, so it got moved back. HOME IMPROVEMENT: UNDEAD EDITION, the latest anthology edited by Toni L.P. Kelner and myself, will be out August 2. I’ll have a story in DOWN THESE STRANGE STREETS (edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois) in October. That’s my publishing year.

I loved Poe when I was very young, and I read broadly, anything I could get my hands on. I loved “Jane Eyre,” still do. I’m a great Jane Austen fan. But I also read lots of mysteries and lots of science fiction, particularly Ray Bradbury and H.P. Lovecraft. I was born wanting to write, I think.

Q) I’m sorry. I have to ask. What went though your mind when you learned HBO was interested in Sookie? She is, after all, your creation, a part of you.

A) Very fortunately for me, there were a lot of people interested in Sookie at the same time. HBO was not involved then; the interest came from Alan Ball, who later made a deal with HBO. I’m sure all of the parties involved would have done a good job, but of course when Alan expressed an interest, I was very excited. He’s such a great talent.

Q) Sookie is becoming a much beloved character. What do you think it is that draws people to her, and what was the inspiration that first penned her?

A) When I was framing Sookie’s character, I started with the basic premise that only a woman with some kind of disability, or severe problem, would date a vampire. I build her personality and her circumstances around that central core. I wanted to care for her, so I made her interesting to me, sympathetic, and fallible. I’m not interested in writing perfect people or superheroes. I think people like Sookie because she always tries hard to do the right thing, though she’s not always sure what the right thing is.

Q) Sooner or later, the other characters in your mind will demand their stories be told. Is there a particular one taking the forefront you can share with us at this time?

A) Ahhh . . . no. Those who talk, don’t do.

Q) Your passion and compassion for others is admirable and commendable. Is there a person in your life you attribute your caring heart to?

A) Absolutely. My mother, who died last September, was a great woman and a great Christian. Everything good in me comes from her and my father.

Q) With the current turmoil in the publishing world as it adjusts to the reality and future of Ebooks, what advice can you offer aspiring authors?

A) With the Borders closings and the advent of Ebooks, the future of publishing and writing is certainly changing month by month. We can either insist that the old ways were best and go under, or we can go with the flow and learn new ways of marketing and selling our work. I am a dinosaur in the publishing world; I’ve been on the shelves for over 30 years now. I urge aspiring authors to become wise in the ways of new technology, but not to ignore the basic premise that if you produce a really good book, someone will be interested. It’s all too easy to decide to skip the sometimes tedious and terrifying process of submitting your book to accredited publishers in favor of publishing your own work. This is both a good thing and a bad thing. It’s a good thing if you treat the e-process as respectfully as you would hardback publication with a major house. It’s a bad thing if you use it as an excuse to submit a sloppy manuscript with so many errors in grammar, punctuation, and content that the reader can’t see the bones of the story.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Author Judith Leger

Judith Leger's personal essay "A Heart of Compassion" appeared in "Chicken Soup for Mother and Son Soul," and again as one of the 101 Best in "Chicken Soup for the Soul: Tales of Golf and Sport."


Yet, surprisingly, this talented writer's preferred genre is paranormal/fantasy romance. From the mysterious specters in "Heart's Reunion" to an exotic white dragon living on a desolate world in the soon-to-be-released "Dragon's Wish," Ms Leger explores magic, illusion, relationships that should never be, and how love can overcome all obstacles – even death and planets a universe away.

Residing in Louisiana with her husband and family, Ms Leger is also a gifted artist who readily shares her love of horses through her artwork. And, she is a lady who isn't the least bit shy – about anything. Ms Leger can be found chatting on facebook or any number of blogs and Internet chat rooms. But, that's what's so special about her. In an age where the world has shrunk to a pinhead, Ms Leger remains approachable and always willing to take a few moments and talk with her readers or folks who simply have a question she might have the answer to. http://judithleger.weebly.com/index.html

Q) It took you 1½ years to submit "Dragon's Wish" for publication. What was it about this story that was so hard for you to part with?

A) Each author has a book of their heart. One that is more special than any other of their works. To me, Dragon Wish is that book. The story evolved in so many ways during the years I worked on it. I love the characters and the story. I hope once it's released the readers will fall in love with them too.

Q) Where does your intense interest in magic and paranormal come from?

A) My mother believed in the meaning of dreams. I followed in her footsteps. I am a deeply religious person but that is very personal and private to me. Not sure how I came to love magical things but I read Tolkien back in the '70's. When his other books came out, I was ecstatic. I wanted more. Deep down inside, I believe in magic and I wanted that magic to become a part of my writing.

Q) "A Heart of Compassion" is a piece of your life. How difficult was the decision to share that look inside you with the world?

A) At first I wasn't going to submit it to a publisher, but after several friends read it, they persuaded me to send it to Chicken Soup. It was contracted after about a year, then after the book was released Chicken Soup contacted me again to notify me that the story had been selected to appear in their 101 best sports book. I was so thrilled. The story was my mother’s day gift from my youngest son. Not a physical gift but one of the Spirit. Those you never forget and will always cherish.

Q) As a child, what books captivated your imagination and inspired you to write?

A) LOL, why Nancy Drew and Trixie Beldon, of course. What young girl in the late 60’s and early 70’s didn’t love those teen mystery solvers? I guess you’d call them the "Twilight" of their times. I really adored Trixie’s stories because there was an underlying hint of romance in the story, too. I suppose this is what prepared me for discovering romance books.

Q) You have two teenage sons at home yet. How do they feel about "Mom" writing tales of romance?

A) They think my friends on line are a part of my imaginary characters I write about. They just go with the flow as far as my writing goes. I guess they consider it one of their Mom's hobbies. Little do they know.

Q) You are so pleasant and outgoing. How many hours a day do you spend writing, and, how do you balance your writing career and family?

A) Why, thank you, David! That’s a wonderful compliment coming from a man I greatly admire. I promise you, balancing family, work, and writing is not an easy task. As an author, I have to set time aside for the writing. I usually do this at night. Some evenings, I can write for several hours, others, I’m lucky to manage fifteen minutes. Is it worth it? Oh, yes, always. I love to tell my stories and hopefully, I will continue to do so for many years to come! Thank you, David for having me here today.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Actor, Singer, Gentleman, Richard Pryor Jr

"My name is Richard Pryor Jr. I am the son of Comedian Richard Pryor. It has taken me years being comfortable saying my complete name when meeting individuals."


Those sentences sum up the core of the man the child has become. Richard never assaulted the world with expectations of entitlement. That's not who he is, nor wants to be. He is a quiet, gentle man, until he's in front of a jazz band. It's then his soul releases a voice filled with his love of life and the music he can barely contain. Whether in a small club in Saginaw, MI, or the Trump Plaza, the man can make any song, from "Georgia on My Mind" to "I Feel Good," his own, and leave an audience on their feet, begging for more.

An extremely versatile actor, Richard recently completed filming the raucous comedy "College Debts" in which he costarred with Oscar-winning actress Celeste Holm, the psychological horror movie "Beyond the Basement Door," and a pilot for the TV sitcom series "Lizards" in which he plays the lead role as himself. He recently contracted a voice role in the upcoming animated feature "Storks" starring Ed Asner along with Joyce DeWitt and Kim Fields. Richard is also set to begin filming in March the zombie film "Meat Locker" with a tentative fall release.

Still, Richard remains the everyday man who says "Good morning" as he passes by on the street, pauses for that photo or autograph, and patiently waits in line to be seated at his favorite restaurant. He does these things because it's who he is. He is Richard Pryor Jr.

Q) Thank you for taking a few minutes to speak with me, Richard. You are such a passionate singer, where do you believe your love of music comes from?

A) I believe my passion from music comes from my spirit. I have been singing for years. As with most African American artists, I started at a young age in church singing gospel music and recorded two choir albums with the City of Refuge and Sounds of Deliverance both located in my hometown of Peoria, Illinois. I feel like I am breathing life into my body when I sing.

Q) Given your background and busy lifestyle, how do you remain so grounded?

A) That would be my mother Patricia Price's doing; when she was alive she always kept me down to earth. Even when I would visit my father's during the summer when he toured and had housekeepers and staff, I would come back home to mom and have to take out the trash and do the dishes. I totally respect her for giving me that.

Q) When you need a break, what do you do to get away and unwind?

A) Actually, cleaning and cooking is my comfort, especially during hard and difficult times. What a great way for me to unwind. I also love to attend comedy shows in the area to see "what's up" and coming.

Q) Having acted in film and plays, which do you prefer and why?

A) That is a hard question, I love them both. Anytime I can be on stage or in film I can just release and be someone else with a little bit of me intertwined within. On stage you have to project what you are portraying. In film you can totally lose yourself into that role; that is what I love about film. Having a director that will allow you to improv is also an asset. You identify with a role and pull out what is in that role that is a part of you.

Q) Where would you like your life to be in twenty years?

A) Not in a casket...LOL Actually, just being comfortable with a roof over my head, food in the fridge and taking care of or helping my family.

Q) At the end of the day, how would you like to be remembered?

A) He is Richard Pryor's son, but he is his own person with talents to stand on his own accord. He is Richard Pryor Jr.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Author, Journalist Margaret Rose

Many writers say how they have wanted to write their entire life. Multi-published author, journalist, advertising manager, copywriter, editor, wife, and mother Margaret Rose has done just that. By the way, she also raises roses.
Her first published piece appeared in McCall's Magazine – while she was in grade school.
After many years of writing magazine articles, Ms. Rose ventured into, and found, a successful niche in romance. However, she is so much more than a superb romance writer. Ms. Rose loves and is totally devoted to her family. And she isn’t the least bit shy about saying so.
As such, drawing on her love of her children, she has recently seen her initial children's book "First Spring" published, with more on the way. Simply put, her children have inspired Ms. Rose to share with the world the joy they have instilled in her heart.

"First Spring" is a poetic story of a toddler discovering the wonders of a world previously hidden under layers of snow. Marina Movshina's eye-catching artwork completes a recipe that produces a reading experience children and parents will savor again and again. http://margaretrosewrites.blogspot.com/

Q) You open your life to the world, not just through your stories, but on your blogs as well. There isn’t much a reader can't learn about you. Why is sharing who you are so important to you?

A) Thank you very much for inviting me to share my books and ideas with all your readers.

I hope there is a lot of information my blogs and websites don't divulge! However, the Internet has created an opportunity for people to connect. My life is so much richer for many of the people I have met online. Many are now friends I send Christmas and birthday cards to. I've had lunch with some and even vacationed with them. They teach and support me, which is crucial. The readers, authors, and friends I reach out to don't want to have my latest book promotion crammed at them constantly. That's why we fast forward television commercials and switch radio channels! Having a very good understanding of how to use social media enables me to become as real as I want to be in an online community or to an individual. I am not a character in my books. Writing is what I do. If I can get you to know me as a person, I think the propensity to look at my promotional posts, and yes, even buy one of my books increases.

Q) Considering how much your children inspire you, why did you choose to wait until now to publish your first children's book?

A) *laughs* I've been busy raising those little monsters! In all honesty, I never dreamed of publishing a book of any sort. I'd had it drilled into my head in college that I was no good at character or plot development. I found the methods taught for play writing to be tedious and restrictive. In short, I believed that professor. I'd followed my dream to become a professional writer many years ago. Four years ago, I finally eked my way into fan fiction and then romance. With a small amount of success under my belt, I took out First Spring on a whim and submitted it. Lucky for me, Guardian Angels Publishing snapped it up.

Q) Your life is so busy, how do you set aside time for your family?

A) It's always a pleasure to get to know new people. When the boys were younger, I did most of their outings and school things with them. Now that they're older, my husband does a lot of those things. He definitely pulls his weight around the house and with the family. Some things are sacred to me, however. Meals together, tucking them in and waking them up, sending them off to school and greeting them personally when they come home are things I do every day. We go to church as a family and volunteer there. My husband I attend their concerts and events, and volunteer for their activities. We feel strongly that we shouldn't just drop our kids off and never become involved.

Q) There is a surge lately in books infusing young adult novels with sex. As a mother and author, how do you feel about this?

A) I'm planning a YA book this summer, but there's no reason for this particular story to include sex. These books can be highly entertaining without it, but publishers will confirm and I won't deny, that sex sells. Many of these young adult books are wonderful if you choose age-appropriate stories. Pre-read the book or at least scan it beforehand, and discuss it afterward if you've given the green light to read.

As parents, we have boundaries in our home about how sex affects our children. I think a lot of the YA books coming out discuss sexual identity and acceptance. I'm supportive of that as long as my child understands that their questions should come to us. Even the questions that make me squirm or angry. I don't want my child to think letting him read a book about sexually active teenagers is also giving him some sort of unspoken permission to behave similarly. I won't abdicate my parenting responsibilities by giving my child a fiction book to teach life lessons instead of giving my time.

Q) For the countless mothers who have cooed and whispered impromptu poems and stories in their child's ear, and told they should be a writer, what advice do you have for them?

A) Write these poems and stories down. First and foremost, they are a gift to your child, precious beyond any kind of fame you might experience should they be published.

Second, learn the mechanics of good writing, so if you decide to submit your work to a publisher, you won't be rejected on poor technical skill.

I don't recommend writers to collaborate with an illustrator in advance. It's hard enough to get your manuscript contracted without worrying whether the publisher will also like your art.

Publishers are extremely busy, and children's publishers even more so. Many children's book publishers are closed to submissions because of extremely long backlogs, many require an agent, others accept submissions only certain months of the year. You must put your very best foot forward and be prepared for rejections. Many of us are willing to help newbies navigate the terrain. Publishing is complicated and fast-paced. Reach out.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Educator and Author, Dr. Kieran Egan

Concerns surround the educational evolution of today's learning institutions. It is a topic widely discussed both publicly and privately.

Dr. Kieran Egan has proposed a solution for raising the quality of learning within our schools – completely rebuilding the education system.

Dr. Egan has been spreading his message of the need for improvement in our children's learning behavior for decades, but it was the release of his book "The Future of Education: Reimagining Our Schools from the Ground Up" which caught the attention of the general public. "Learning in Depth: A Simple Innovation That Can Transform Schooling" is scheduled for release March 15th and has already stirred much debate and controversy.

"Imagine a future in which it would be routine for schools to randomly assign 1st graders one topic to study through grade 12, along with the regular curriculum. Students would learn about birds, apples, the circus, railways, the solar system, and so on… Each student, by the end of his or her schooling, would know as much about that topic as almost anyone on earth."

While educators and parents react to and debate Dr. Egan's philosophy, what no one can deny is Dr. Egan's heartfelt concern for the educational needs of future generations. www.educ.sfu.ca/kegan/

Q) There are those who decry your work as individualization, the antithesis of perspective. How do you respond to those who believe your concept would tunnel the vision of students?

A) Well that might make sense as a criticism if the students did ONLY the "learning in depth" (LiD) project and stopped being involved in the rest of the curriculum. But LiD is designed as a small add-on to the regular curriculum, in which students might meet with their teachers for an hour a week or less. Much of the work would be done outside of school, like a hobby. I introduced the idea to some students in 2008. Two of the students, who were also teachers, decided to give it a try in their own classes. So in 2008/9 school year there were about 30 students working on portfolios on their topics. In 2009/10, there were more than 2,000 students involved, and this year there are many more, not only in the US and Canada, but in Greece, Romania, Australia, Iran, Japan, England, and other countries.

I confess I am puzzled by the notion that learning a lot about something like apples or beetles or railways or birds will somehow damage students' minds and make them "narrow." Humans like to learn, but the institution of the school is not always hugely successful in harnessing this engagement with knowledge. The LiD project is one of the few things students do in schools that is not coerced. It is entirely voluntary and students can stop at any time, and there are no tests. So far, I am not aware of any student dropping out or wanting to change their topic. In fact, for very many students, their LiD study is one of their favorite school activities.

Q) How much, if any, did the philosophies of Eastern European education influence your work?

A) I suppose this depends on whether you are classifying Vygotsky as eastern European. If so, then yes, I have found Vygotsky's work stimulating in a number of ways. But I confess to much ignorance about other eastern European philosophies.

Q) No one can work 24 hours a day. What relaxes you when you step out from the halls of Simon Fraser University?

A) I like to kayak, I have built a couple of Japanese gardens (see www.educ.sfu.ca/kegan/Japangardenhome.html --where you can read, and see pictures of, the slightly crazy construction of a Japanese-style garden and "tea-house" at the back of our yard. Originally called "Building a Japanese garden--the Irish way," the eventual publisher of the book, Houghton Mifflin, changed it to the--I thought--uninteresting "Building my Zen garden." I also enjoy traveling to exotic places giving talks: Tbilisi, Cluj, Sao Paulo, Kyoto, T√łnsberg, Falun, Pittsburg, etc.

Q) You are a dynamic and energetic speaker. In fact, one commenter compared you to a Monty Python performance. Who instilled such enthusiasm in you?

A) Well, that may be an overly kind observation. I think we come with a package of dispositions that either get supported by early interactions with the world, or they get discouraged, deformed, frustrated, whatever. I like Philip Larkin's response to a similar self-addressed question about basic characteristics: "They're more a style/ Our lives bring with them: habit for a while/ Suddenly they harden into all we've got/And how we got it." Elsewhere he is even more eloquent in response to a similar basic question, and this encapsulates my answer better: "Beats me."

Q) Without significant change, where do you believe North American education will rank in the world in twenty years?

A) In a companion book to the "The Future of Education," called "Getting it Wrong from the Beginning" (also published by Yale University Press), I argued that current US thinking about education remains imprisoned by 19th. century beliefs, influentially articulated by Herbert Spencer. If American educationalists continue to believe that the dominant forms of educational research will yield them knowledge about how to educate better we will continue a gradual decline into increasing ignorance, triviality, and lack of understanding of both our cultural heritage and the complexity of modern forms of life. But I don't think North American education is unique in the kinds of defects I try to point out in the two books mentioned above, so in a comparative sense we may not seem to slip much further down some league table. But we will have a hard time, and will likely have to import expertise, to sustain our technological culture and economy--we are not producing enough sufficiently skilled, competent, and knowledgeable people. This failure might bother people in terms of our economic future, in competition, say, with China and India, but it ought to worry us more about being able to sustain democracy and civility. Ignorance has never been the best guarantor of freedom and democracy.

Most of my work, and that of my colleagues in the Imaginative Education Research Group (IERG) http://www.ierg.net/ is concerned with showing how we can engage students' emotions and imaginations in learning the contents of the curriculum. The current obsessions in North American education with pseudo-scientific educational research and stretching implications from that to practice, and then testing students on shallow performance of simplistic tests can only make trying to show that everything in the curriculum is full of wonder a really tough struggle.