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The Book Report Network aims to solve these reader dilemmas, with thoughtful book reviews, compelling features, in-depth author profiles and interviews, excerpts of the hottest new releases, literary games and contests, and more every week.
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1. Would you pay for an author event?

I read a piece in the New York Times yesterday about how some indie stores are now charging for store events. You can read it here. As many times I am not purchasing the book at an event, as I already have read a publisher or author-supplied advance reading copy, I realize that I am just like the customer they are referencing who is using a store for entertainment, but not supporting them with a purchase. Sure, I am a member of the media, but I also am a reader, and I have to say that plunking down a fee to hear an author I love would be something I would not dismiss. Below are some select reader responses. What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below!

Anne from Austin, TX

I would not be interested in paying a fee for the privilege of hearing an author speak.

As much as I love going to hear authors speak at local appearances, I'm afraid I would not be interested in paying a fee for the privilege. I have often already purchased and read the book, usually a coincidence because I don't know the schedule for author events. In fact, I'm more likely to attend an author event if I HAVE read the author's book. It is usually the reading of the book that makes me curious to hear an author's speaking voice, wonder where he/she comes from, and it creates a curiosity to learn more about the inspiration and the story behind the story.

At our local bookstore many author events are already very poorly attended and I think charging a fee would kill off attendance completely except for the really big name authors whom people are anxious to meet and collect their autographs.

I'm sorry we've come to this position and hope booksellers and authors will find other ways around it.

Frances rom Wisconsin


Got the Reading Group News today and looked at the article in the New York Times about indie book stores charging for author events.

My two local indie stores have charged for a couple of years now. Not EVERY event, though. It's a way to get a handle on how many people to expect. Sometimes they charge a nominal $5 and that includes refreshments (wine or coffee, and dessert). Sometimes they charge $30 and that INCLUDES the price of the hard cover. Mostly they do this for very popular authors who usually draw large crowds. As an added bonus, each ticket (whether $5 or $30) is numbered, and your number gives you your place in line for the book signing.

It's a good thing, I think.

Mary from Avon, CT

I do feel when going to hear an author review a book, it is acceptable to buy a ticket in advance for a slight fee. Often this ticket price allows you quick entrance and many times the price paid is deducted from the purchase price of the book.

My objection is the outlandish fee charged by the author at speaking engagements. Usually the entire talk is promotional in nature and used as advertising their latest book. The fee for this should be minimal. 

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2. Scott Gummer: Doing What You Want to Do

Scott Gummer's debut novel, PARENTS BEHAVING BADLY, is a suburban satire about overzealous adults and youth sports. Scott has also authored two golfing books and contributor to over 40 magazines. As the final contribution to this year’s Father’s Day Blog, Scott shares the tale of how he got his start in writing --- and how the support of his (non-overzealous) father allowed him to do exactly what he wanted.
Photo: Scott (right) with his father. 
scott photo resized.jpgA college summer spent assembling diesel truck brakes was my dad’s greatest contribution toward my becoming an author. It was hot, grueling work, facts not lost on my father. He started on the assembly line when he was in school and worked his way all the way up the ladder. A co-owner and CEO when he retired, my dad never cashed a paycheck from another company.
Upon returning to the University of Oregon for my junior year, I never blew off another class. Shortly before graduating with a degree in journalism I asked my dad about going into the family business. I recall his response because he did not cite my lack of business and engineering qualifications, but rather he said, “It’s not what you want to do.”
I wanted to go to New York and work in advertising, and after 18 months toiling as a Madison Avenue peon I’d identified one more career that was not right for me. I hooked a gig freelance fact-checking at GQ Magazine. That led to a staff gig at LIFE Magazine, back when LIFE still mattered. That led to 20 years of writing for 40-plus magazines, which led to writing two nonfiction books, which ultimately led me to write my first novel and the place I feel I was ultimately meant to be.
I have periodically detoured from writing in search of a steady paycheck and benefits for my family, but each time I have failed quite spectacularly. In the mid-90s I spent three years as a marketing product manager with EA SPORTS; my last job review echoed my father’s sentiments about my going into the family business when my boss, still a friend, said, “This is the worst review we have ever given anyone and not fired them. Go back to writing.”
book cover resized.jpgMy dad did not influence my becoming an author so much as he modeled for me what it takes to become a success: discipline, sacrifice, integrity, ingenuity, elbow grease, a sense of humor and, most importantly, perspective. Family always came first.
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3. Steve Berry: My Father, the Man Who Made it All Possible

Steve Berry’s Cotton Malone thrillers, among other novels, have earned him worldwide praise. His most recent addition to the series, THE JEFFERSON KEY, sees former Justice Department operative Cotton at dangerous odds with the Commonwealth, a secret society of pirates first assembled during the American Revolution. Today, on Father's Day, Steve discusses the man behind the infamous Cotton Malone --- his very own dad.
Photos: Steve and his father during Steve's childhood
Steve and Dad01.jpgMy father is a reader. Always has been. When I was a kid we lived in a small house in southeast Atlanta and my hangout was the basement. For a little guy, it was a cavernous place which sometimes could even be a tad scary. But the basement was where my father kept his books, stacked on metal shelves, the only light that of a bare bulb with a pull chain. Hanging from floor joists all around those shelves were clothes, stored there by my mother, each bundle protected by those plastic sheaths that still come from the laundry. I can recall many times pulling the string for that bulb, hearing that thin plastic rustle, then plucking a book from those shelves.  
My father liked everything. Fiction, biography, humor, sports. You name it, he read it. He was a salesman and traveled for his work. He left every Monday morning and returned on Friday afternoon. Most times he'd bring home new books. My mother wasn't always thrilled, as space Steve and Dad02.jpgwas limited, but that never stopped him. The books kept coming. And I kept reading.  
It would be about 25 years before I actually wrote my first word of fiction, but its seed was planted there, in the basement, beneath that bare bulb.
My father's name is Harold Earl Berry. Everyone calls him Sam and no one has ever really explained why. When I created Cotton Malone, I decided to name him Harold Earl Malone but to have everyone call him Cotton. I say all the time that there's a lot of me in Cotton Malone, but the truth is there's a lot of Harold Earl Berry in him, too. Cotton is strong, loyal, with a sharply defined character. He's also relatively mild mannered and practical and possessed of a B.S. tolerance level that generally hovers around zero.  
That pretty much sums up Sam Berry.  
My father played professional baseball in his younger days, so athleticism was also a part of his make-up. He could have made it to the majors, but a wife and child came along and ball players didn't make a whole lot in the early 1950s, so he hung up his glove and spikes and became a husband and father.  
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4. Karin Slaughter: A Modern Day “Daddy’s Girl”

Karin Slaughter may be a New York Times and #1 internationally bestselling author, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t daddy’s little girl. Her latest crime novel, FALLEN, comes out on June 21st, and while Karin jets around the world reading pages and answering questions, she always makes time for her father. Today, she reflects on what she calls “the southern woman’s benediction” --- the “okay, daddy” and “yes, daddy” answers that keeps the world turning as it should. And whether it's fixing toilets or talking crime, Karin can't help but feel she learned it all from her dad. 
KSlaughter3.jpgWhen you think about being a published author, you never consider that one day you'll be sitting outside an old prison in Denmark, waiting to speak to a group of avid readers gathered for the crime festival inside the gates. It's very surreal, especially when there's a Johnny Cash impersonator on the lawn singing “Ring of Fire” in a weird mixture of Danish and English. But, that's exactly what I was doing a few months ago when my father was admitted to the hospital to treat his bacterial pneumonia. 
Not that I had any idea at the time I was blissfully tapping my toe to the music while they rushed my dad into the emergency room. He didn't tell me he'd been ill until a couple of days after I landed back in Atlanta, and then he pitched it to me like this: “Well, the doctor said I could probably sleep it off if I stayed home for a week, or he could put me in the hospital for a few days and knock it out fast.” 
Setting aside the fact that I (1) write thrillers where one of the main characters is a doctor and (2) have a brain in my head and know that even Medicare doesn't let you check into the hospital like it's Club Med, my response to this ridiculous story was, “Okay, Daddy.” 
“Okay, Daddy.” The southern woman's benediction. It absolves our daddies of all blame. It keeps us warm at night. It makes our rose-colored worlds keep turning. 
I like to think of myself as a modern day Daddy's Girl. I know how to jump a car battery and change a tire, but I also know how to flirt with a man to get him to do it for me. I suppose you could say there are no feminists in the breakdown lane, but that sounds like the talk of a woman who has never had to change a tire in the middle of a busy freeway in 100-plus degree temperatures. The simple fact is I know how to perform basic car repair because of my father, and I know how to let a man do it for me because of my father. And while I might see an easier way to change a water filter, or know that my dad is not following the directions as outlined in the owner's manual when he does so, I like letting him do things for me. I think it makes us both feel useful. In a wo

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5. Gregg Hurwitz: Writer as Dad, Dad as Writer

A bestselling writer of crime novels and comics, Gregg Hurwitz’s forthcoming title, YOU’RE NEXT (to be released on July 5th), is dedicated to his daughters. . .the daughters who continually teach him how to look at things from different angles. For Father’s Day, Gregg humorously reflects on his own role as father, and the great responsibility that comes with it.
rsz_1rsz_gregg_hurwitz.jpgWhen my eldest daughter was five, she had a school project for which she’d have to stand up before the classroom and tell everyone what her parents did for a living. So at dinner, we gave this a dry run.
“Honey, what does mom do for work?”
“She teaches college.”
“Excellent. And what does daddy do for work?”
She screwed up her five-year-old face for a moment, contemplating. Then she replied, “He goes to the gym.”
Okay. Fair enough. I suppose the main times I left the house with any sense of purpose were when I was heading off to exercise. And going into another room in the house and typing hardly seems like, well, work.
But I wanted to make sure that this confusion didn’t perpetuate, so when my next was born, she was made aware that when I was in said office, I wasn’t merely playing Angry Birds or surfing YouTube clips of skateboarding squirrels.
And so when she reached the same age and was given the same assignment by the same teacher, we had a second run at the same dinner conservation.
“What does your mommy do for work?”
“She’s a professor.”
“Good. And what does your father do?”
“He writes books.”
A flush of pride. But before I could render praise, my wife asked a follow-up question: “And what kind of books does daddy write?”
A thoughtful pause, and then my daughter replied, “Boring books.”

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6. Meet Jim Brozina: Father of Alice Ozma

A no-brainer for our Father’s Day Blog series, THE READING PROMISE is Alice Ozma’s recent memoir chronicling not only her personal coming-of-age, but the literal promise she and her single-parent father made when she was a child. The tables have turned this month, however, as the father so heavily featured in THE READING PROMISE answers our questions about his daughter, and sheds even more light on their bond.
Photo of Jim, Alice, and their books, taken by Ryan Collerd
Can you talk about reading to your daughter as a child?

I guess, through Alice, that the up-to-date book buyers of the world know by now that I read to Alice quite often until she was in fourth grade and at that point I proposed we make a reading “streak.” As a result of that bargain, I never missed a night of reading to her until her first day at college --- a total of 3,218 nights in a row, by my calculation. We read pretty nearly everything that was in print, hundreds of titles, some up to four times each. I had to read aloud to Alice each night for a bare minimum of ten minutes, and often much longer, each night to fulfill my end of the bargain. No exemptions were allowed to us; each day the reading had to be done.

Did Alice have a favorite series or author growing up?

Alice and I are both partial to the works of L.Frank Baum. He not only authored fourteen Oz books, but many other fantasy titles as well. We became members of the International Wizard of Oz Club because in those days it was much harder to know which Baum books were still available. We both were thrilled as each new title arrived in the mail.

When did you know that Alice was going to be a writer?

Alice used to dictate stories to her mother or I. We were then obligated to print these out on the computer. The vast bulk of her work, which in my humble opinion is quite good, still exists. I kept those papers in plastic bags which now occupy a place of honor in my storage shed over by the pickle jars. She had a poem published in Children's Playmate Magazine while still in elementary school that must have sent their circulation skyrocketing.

the reading promise.jpgDid you read advanced copies of THE READING PROMISE?

Alice asked me from the get-go not to ever read THE READING PROMISE unless I become terminal and only then, when I reach the last stages of mortality, will I be permitted to page through her work. Her writing, about her formative years growing up with me as a single parent, is too personal, so she says. Still, I would have to say that THE READING PROMISE, second to the Bible, is my favorite book. Not withstanding that I have not read a page of the thing.
Have you ever introduced your daughter to any books as an adult?

Since my taste tends toward books about the life of Elvis Presley, it has been an ordeal to try to bend her into that persuasion. I have a

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7. Joseph Monninger: Goal!

Joseph Monninger has published 17 books, among them ETERNAL ON THE WATER --- a timeless story of true love's power --- and THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT, slated for release in October of this year. In the tear-jerker below, Joe conveys the way multiple generations have connected through sports, and how his experiences as a father help him to better understand his own dad.
Photo: Joe and his son across the field
pic smaller.jpgSeven years into his sports career, and several thousand car trips later, my son scored a goal for his eighth grade soccer team. I watched the ball knock off a defender, saw my son’s eyes go sharp, saw the goal loom open, and saw his leg cock. His arms went out for balance, and his left leg planted. 
We had been down this road before. He had launched a dozen or more shots on goal for his Thetford team, but not one had found its way into the net. But against Rivendell, on an October afternoon so beautiful it nearly hurt, my son snapped his foot into the black and white soccer ball and sent it hard and high into the opponent’s net. No one else might have kicked it; no confusion about scoring muddled the moment. The ball went in cleanly and I felt such pride I could barely clap.
He got a hug from his teammate and another slapped him on the back, and he ran up the field, his hair a little shaggy, his stride smooth and efficient, his body as faultless as it will be in this lifetime. How beautiful he looked. How beautiful all the boys looked as they trotted back to position, unaware of their youth and so absurdly confident in their health that you could not help but admire them. The game did not hang in the balance, and my son’s goal was the seventh or eighth for the Thetford team, but on that exquisite October afternoon one great good thing had gone right for my son and I was grateful for the chance to see it. 
As the game wound down --- Thetford has a dominant team this year and Rivendell was no match --- I felt an odd sense of dislocation. 30 years before, on similar autumn afternoons, I played quarterback for a state championship team in New Jersey. I was older than my son is now, a high school senior while my son is only a middle schooler, but my parents, in like fashion, stood on the sidelines to watch me play. And though I often pretended annoyance or embarrassment at their presence --- true adolescent that I was --- I counted on them being there. Through hundreds of little league games, through countless junior high games and summer American Legion games, I waited to see my dad’s old Buick pull up, waited to see my mom set up her lawn chair. And though I rarely acknowledged their existence, I knew exactly where they sat at every game. Afterward I rode home in the cavernous back seat wearing baseball hose, or shoulder pads, the taste of my mouth guard like chalk in my mouth, the green shine of grass stains slick on my pants. 
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8. Bobbie Ann Mason: Honoring Her Fathers

Bobbie Ann Mason is the author of several acclaimed books and short stories --- her next novel, THE GIRL IN THE BLUE BERET, will be published on June 28th. Bobbie Ann turned to her father-in-law, who served in WWII, as inspiration for this unforgettable story of love and courage. Below, Bobbie Ann discusses both her father-in-law and her father, comparing two of the most important men in her life.  

Bobbie Ann Mason © Lanelle Mason.JPGMy father died 20 years ago, but for 14 years after his death, I had the privilege of having an alternate father --- my father-in-law, Barney Rawlings. They were much alike, although they seemed startlingly different. Daddy was a Kentucky farmer who knew all about the earth and cows and dogs, and Barney was a pilot for TWA, living on Long Island, where he could drive easily to Kennedy Airport. He didn't care for cars. The majesty of the airplane was what counted, and he lived to soar through the sky.
For Daddy, a car was his Pegasus. He was fond of small foreign cars, and he bought the first Volkswagen in the county. Over the years he was proud to own a Fiat, a Renault, and a Suzuki, in succession. As a farmer, he was tied to the daily chores, but every day he would jump in his car and hit the road. It was this routine, his "little run" to town, that liberated him, much as Barney's flights to Cairo or London did him. World travel meant for Barney the flight itself, not the Pyramids along the Nile. Daddy felt that freedom in his car. He always knew where home was, and the delight of going away made home worth returning to.
Both fathers served in World War II, and the John Wayne stereotype of that generation applied. Barney was affable enough, addressing his passengers from the cockpit, but he was coolly reserved, kept his own counsel, and wasn't close to his family. Daddy was withdrawn, secretive. He found it painfully embarrassing to talk to anyone outside his own community of country people. When I came home from college, I was full of ideas that I could not share. I didn't know how to explain, say, James Joyce's stream-of-consciousness or nature imagery in LOLITA. The gulf between us widened. But in the last years of his life we found common ground as I gravitated back to the land. We shared a love for animals. He liked to have a small dog with him in his car, so they could go motivating down the road listening to Chuck Berry. I got my musical tastes from him.
blueberet.JPGDaddy died too soon, and we never got to the point where we could have the ultimate conversation we both wanted. Barney, my father-in-law, was forced to retire from flying at age 60. This was potentially devastating for him, but he surprised us. Folding his wings wasn't the end of the world. He began writing novels. And he wrote a memo

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9. Tom McAllister: Father(s) and Son All Grown Up

Tom McAllister’s debut, Bury Me in My Jersey: A Memoir of My Father, Football, and Philly, is pretty self-explanatory. Tom shared his love of sports, and of Philly, with his now deceased father, and this memoir serves as a coming-of-age tale many can relate to. Below, Tom discusses the joys of forming adult relationships with parents, and reflects on both his father, whom he misses, and his father-in-law, who has made Tom feel like his very own son. 
Photo of Tom sandwiched between his father-in-law and his wife.
pic smaller 1.jpgOne of the primary rewards for surviving adolescence is that you get to form real adult relationships with your parents. As you move out, get married, acquire a mortgage, and generally mature, you can relate to your parents in ways you never have before. You can have a beer with them and talk to them like real people, and they feel more comfortable revealing themselves to you, filling you in on previously unshared personal histories. They want to hear your stories. They begin to ask you for advice.
I'm closer to my mother now than I've ever been, but I never had that opportunity to bond my father as an adult. He died eight years ago, when I was a junior in college. Cancer, details too familiar to recount. Years of bad judgment and various personal failures followed.
We were close, and I respected him while he supported me and imbued me with enduring loves for reading, writing, and football. But I was only beginning to really know him, late in his life, when he, probably sensing or at least fearing his impending death, recounted stories from his past. When he let me drink a beer with him even though I was underage, and we talked casually as if we'd been pals rather than occasional adversaries throughout high school and college.
So I obviously miss him on Father's Day, but am fortunate that that day has been salvaged for me. Because one thing I've done right over the past decade is I got married to a supernaturally supportive and compassionate and forgiving woman, and in the process of building our shared life, I've become a part of her extended family. Instead of sulking and wallowing in sadness because my father is gone while so many other families get to enjoy Father's Day in the presence of three or even four generations of fathers, I still have reason for celebration.
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10. Mary Doria Russell: A Cop’s Daughter

In Mary Doria Russell’s latest novel, DOC, she seamlessly blends fact with fiction to recreate one of the most infamous gunfights in history, and to redefine two major icons of the American West: Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp. Such a feat may not have been possible without the influence of her strong father, who not only taught her to shoot, but instilled in Mary the confidence necessary to pursue her dreams.
Photo: Mary on a horse, taken by Kari Burkey
Mary Doria Russell (cropped) © Kari Burkey.jpgWhen I began researching the life of Wyatt Earp, I knew almost immediately that I would be able to present Wyatt fairly and compassionately in my novel, DOC. You see, I actually believe in honest cops. I'm realistic, but not cynical about that.
I'm a cop's daughter. Among other things, my dad was a Marine MP during the occupation of Japan. In civilian life, he was a town constable, a uniformed patrolman, a plain clothes detective, and an undercover narcotics officer. He capped his law enforcement career with five terms as the Sheriff of DuPage County, just west of Chicago. Police work was dinner table conversation in our house. I understand the tedium and the crappy pay and shift work, and the constant threat of danger. I am familiar with the way cops divide the world into three categories: Cops, Citizens, and Idiots.
To my father's continuing astonishment and chagrin, I was evidently born a Democrat, but I grew up with guns and that experience has influenced me in unpredictable ways. One of my earliest memories is my father taking me out into a stubbly cornfield in November. I must have been about four. He knelt down behind me and put the shotgun to his own shoulder, but showed me how to sight the gun and squeeeeeze the trigger. I don't remember being frightened by the bang. I just remember his body cradling mine, and the sense that if my dad said something was okay, I was safe.
Doc Mary Doria Russell.jpgBy the time I was 13, in 1963, I was spending Saturdays with Dad at the police range: firing off a box of cartridges with a bunch of macho guys who were impressed that I could “qualify” with a .357 magnum, a handgun that weighed almost as much as I did. In the 1970s, when the women's movement for equal rights was picking up steam, I was already comfortable with men; it felt natural to compete with guys and to win sometimes. I expected to earn their respect and to enjoy their camaraderie.
As my dad himself could testify, I take crap from nobody, but I try not to ascribe to mali

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11. Nancy Thayer: Her Father as Inspiration

Among her many novels, Nancy Thayer has penned The Hot Flash Club series, as well as HEAT WAVE, a perfect book for summer that's hitting bookstores on June 21st. Below, Nancy turns her attention to her father, from whom she learned the power of writing. Not only would her father run the car for her during blizzards, but he also inspired several characters in her novels.
Dad.jpgHere’s a photo of my father as a child. I’m sure the book was a prop, because Bill Wright was an only child and a mischievous one, more likely to play tricks in his small Kansas town than sit reading. He grew up, went to college, and became a policeman in Wichita, Kansas, where, when he and his partner got bored, they put on their siren and lights and raced the full length of Kellogg, the longest street in the city. Then he went to Officer’s Training School and entered World War II.
After WWII, my father remained extremely involved in the American Legion and town politics. He was patriotic, he was always an usher at the Methodist Church, he loved his family and he adored my mother. He had sparkling blue eyes and he made us laugh a lot. He bought me a car during high school and, in the blizzardy Kansas winters, he went out while I was having breakfast and started the car so it would be warm when I got in it to drive to school. When I was twelve, in 1955, my father got me front row seats at the Orpheum Theater for my friends and me to see Elvis Presley. I got to run up to the stage and touch Elvis’s shoe --- and it was attached to Elvis! I thought our family was boringly average.
When I was in high school, my father became an officer for the Highway Patrol. He had a uniform, a squad car, and a gun. You can imagine the effect this had on the guys I brought home. Later, I discovered --- why didn’t I realize this before? --- that because of his law enforcement network, he always knew exactly where I was, in whose car with which boy, and for how long.
heat wave smaller.jpgMy father had to go overseas during WWII when I was a child, and it was from him I learned the power of writing: how it can transform any given moment of life. I have next to me the album my mother put together of photos and letters my father sent her from Europe. He was the commander of a tank battalion, and he saw a great deal of fighting, but his letters were always cheerful and emphasized the beauty of the countryside or a feast of fried potatoes in a newly occupied house.
He wrote this about an enormous statue of a lion at the Barrage de la Gileppe: “The lion, at least 200 feet high, sits on a large dam and is looking out over a deep valley. On the other side is a large lake bounded by beautiful snow-capped mountains. I drove down from the mountain, across the dam, and down the other si

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12. Wilbur Smith: The Greatest of All My Heroes: My Father the Lion King

Wilbur Smith has subtitled this essay “Or how the man who has sold 80 million books only has to think of his fearless father to find inspiration”. . .and that certainly seems appropriate! His first novel, published in 1964, was also called WHEN THE LION FEEDS, after which Wilbur wrote 30 novels. His most recent book, THOSE IN PERIL, came out this past month. The essay below needs no better introduction than the one Wilbur already offered. . .though it may make you envy his truly adventurous childhood.  
Those_in_Peril.jpgFrom the times of BEOWULF and Homer’s ILIAD and ODYSSEY, heroes and heroines have lit up an otherwise drab world. The hero and heroine of my latest novel, THOSE IN PERIL, are Hector Cross and Hazel Bannock. I deliberately named Hector after the hero of THE ILIAD. Like many of my heroes, he is a professional soldier, in charge of a global private security company. I have built Hector, and the lesser characters in his employ, from the profiles of men I have known. Men who carried out their deadly business in Afghanistan and the Gulf, in South America and Central Africa.
However, much of my life, and indirectly my writing, has been informed by the first real hero I ever knew: my father. He was a man of action, who worked with his hands as much as he did with his head. He started off in life with nothing but a set of artisan’s tools and another set of courage and determination.
When I was a small boy he had already built up a thriving sheet metal manufacturing company on the Copperbelt in what is now Zambia, where he used to make piping for the ventilation system that took fresh air down deep into the copper mines. The mines needed thousands upon thousands of feet of this piping and he made it for them. From my infancy our family lived well and my father was devoted not only to caring for his family but also for the land and the people in the villages that surrounded us.
One of my most vivid memories of him from those days was the night when three man-eating lions broke into our camp. Four days earlier, a runner had arrived from the District Commissioner’s Headquarters 50 miles away. He carried a letter that warned us that a pride of man-eaters was on the rampage through the district. They had already killed over 20 defenseless villagers, women and tiny children among them.
My father’s reputation as a good shot and hunter was well known and the District Commissioner had written to ask him to eradicate this menace if he was able to do so. My dad did not have to wait too long for an opportunity to perform his duty. The smell of fresh meat drying in the sun and the shrieking of hyenas brought the lion pride to our camp.
I was eight years old at the time, but I remember it as if it were only yesterday. I woke in my

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13. Amanda Hodgkinson: Her Father the Non-Reader

In her debut novel, 22 BRITANNIA ROAD, Amanda Hodgkinson delivers a tale of a family desperate to put itself back together after WWII forces them apart. Below, Amanda speaks about her own father; a father who preferred to do rather than to read, but who still instilled in Amanda the desire to take risks and become a writer.  

Photo: young Amanda and her father.


My father has never been a great reader. He has always liked doing things, not reading about other people doing things. Growing up, I remember him as a talented builder, a carpenter, potter, and an artist. He was big-hearted, a hopeful dreamer, an impatient schemer. A man full of wild, ambitious plans. A man who probably believed he could turn back tides if he ever put his mind to it. 
As I child I loved to watch him work. When he re-roofed our house, it was quite natural for me to shoot up the ladder behind him and sit, aged eight, astride the roof apex, handing him tiles, the world very far below and no rope or safety harness to hold me. Actually, this memory alarms me slightly now. I can’t even imagine my own daughters climbing on high rooftops at that age. . .
My father wanted a daughter who was brave, a Calamity Jane of a girl. I was determined to be that girl. A girl who thought nothing of leaping onto the back of the wild-eyed, unbroken gypsy pony he bought for me, clinging on for dear life, galloping it along the seawall and riding it bareback into the sea, my father yelling encouragements from the shore. 
I think my father would have loved to have been a 19th century pioneer, a man who had to build his own log cabin in the wilderness and protect his family from wild bears and marauders. As it was, he began his working life as a high school art teacher in the early 1970s, a hippie who had to wear a shirt and tie to work. A man with four children to support and a gentle, shy wife who often spoke of having even more kids.
When we had all left home and he had grown older, my father became a little deaf. He still does not admit this and is defiantly young at heart. Today he is a wiry, muscular old man, still restless and unlikely to be found sitting around. When he suffered a mild heart attack a few years ago, the one thing he worried about, lying in his hospital bed complaining in melodramatic tones to my mother, was that he had never been white water rafting. . .

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14. Meet Mark Sellers Jr.: Father of John Sellers

There is no greater tribute to one’s parent than writing a book about them, even if the title of said book is THE OLD MAN AND THE SWAMP: A True Story About My Weird Dad, a Bunch of Snakes, and One Ridiculous Road Trip. John Sellers has written about pop culture in magazines like The Believer and books like PERFECT FROM NOW ON: How Indie Rock Saved My Life, but THE OLD MAN AND THE SWAMP reveals his true journey of snake-searching with his eccentric father. Below, this father has some things to say about his equally eccentric son.
Photo: young John and Mark
Did you read to your son as a child? What did you read?   
Yes! I read to him mostly at night --- adventure, animals and sports books. One of his favorites was THE COMPLETE TALES OF UNCLE REMUS because he liked the silly voice I’d do for Br’er Rabbit. 
Did John have a favorite series/author growing up? 
As a pre-teen, he loved comic strips (especially Peanuts) and would scour books about baseball for hours on end. As he got older, he shifted more into fantasy --- J.R.R. Tolkien being the big one.
Did you have any book or reading rituals in your house?
I’d drive John and his brothers to a used book store every weekend, where he’d load up on comic books, baseball cards and humorous novels. One book in particular that I remember him buying was something called THE STAINLESS STEEL RAT. I have no idea what it was about, but I loved the title!
When did you know that John was going to be a writer? Can you remember what his early writings were like?
When he was 20, he self-published a book of his essays, stories and humor writing. But I had an idea that he’d become a writer before that. His earlier material --- battle stories and other fantasies he wrote for friends --- was written just the way he talked.
Do you read advance copies of his work?
Yes, the last two. Not surprisingly, both discuss me quite a bit!<

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15. William Kent Krueger: Bedtime Story

William Kent Kreuger’s Cork O'Connor novels have won him a number of awards, not to mention fans. VERMILION DRIFT --- his 10th novel featuring Tamarack County, Minn. PI, Cork O'Connor --- comes out in paperback today. Below, Kent tells the tale of how an insipid children’s book, and his father’s imagination, inadvertently pushed him to become a teller of tales, and a successful writer. 
vermilion-cover-175.jpgWhen I was a kid, my father, without knowing it, gave me something special, a gift that’s been tremendously important to me in my development as a writer.
In my very early childhood, among my favorite books was one published as part of Simon and Schuster’s Little Golden Book series. It was called THE HAPPY FAMILY. The title said it all. It was about an impossibly contented family. There was a father and a mother, a boy and a girl, a cat and a dog. They lived in a nice little suburban house. They even drove, I believe, a station wagon. Nothing much happens in THE HAPPY FAMILY. There’s a birthday party in the back yard, and the family goes on a beach outing. With the exception of some ants that try to get at the birthday cake, both events occur without remarkable incident. In terms of story line, it’s terribly insipid. So why did my siblings and I clamor for my father to read that book to us night after night?
If my father had read the story as written, we’d have quickly tired of THE HAPPY FAMILY. But he never did. He would read the first couple of lines as printed, then he would take off on his own, and God alone knew where we’d end up. In his telling, for example, the ants at the birthday party weren’t just regular ants, they were giant ants! And they weren’t just after the birthday cake; they were after the happy family! As for the beach outing, those gentle waves lapping against the shore were, in my father’s telling, apt to become a tidal wave that swept up the family, so that they had to fight for their very lives!
The end of the story was always one of my favorite parts. As I recall, in the book as written, the father puts the children to bed, turns out the light, and says something like, “Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite.” My father never ended the story that way. In his telling, the story would wrap up: “And Father turned out the light, and said ‘Goodnight, sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite.’ But when he came to wake the children in the morning, the bedbugs had gobbled them all!
My father’s inspired riffing on this most uninspired of stories was a tremendous gift to me, as I developed as a writer, because what it taught me was simply this: A story, once begun, can go anywhere. Y

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16. Robert Dugoni: Fatherhood: The Write Stuff

Robert Dugoni’s David Sloane series has branded him “The undisputed king of the Legal Thriller.” Tomorrow, on June 7th, the fourth in the series --- MURDER ONE --- hits book stores, much to the excitement of his readers. To kick off Bookreporter.com’s Father’s Day Blog Series, Robert is sharing his experience of fatherhood, and the personal philosophy that caters to both the craft of writing and the craft of parenting.

Photo: Robert and his kids, Joe and Catherine

rsz_1with_joe_and_catherine.jpgHalf a dozen years ago I awoke to my two kids jumping on the bed in our Florida hotel. “Let’s go. Dad, let’s go,” they repeated, laughing.

We had arrived at Disney World late the night before, had a quick bite and went to sleep with only a quick peek out the window at the twinkling lights of the happiest place on Earth.
With all the travel arrangements and logistics getting out of town I had little opportunity to consider the actual vacation before that moment. As my head bounced up and down on my pillow and my daughter squealed with delight and my son tried to touch the ceiling with his fingertips, I had a peculiar epiphany. Though I had already been a father eight years, I distinctly recall realizing: This is your job. You are their Dad. This is your responsibility.
When my own father passed away on Father’s Day three years ago, I had a similar epiphany. I realized I was no longer the kid. I was the Dad. More to the point, I realized my children’s happiness was largely my responsibility. I brought both these human beings into the world (okay, actually my wife gets most of the credit for that) and it was our job to give them each every opportunity to succeed, as my father and mother had done for me. But I also realized that, as a good friend of mine likes to muse, “When you buy a car, or a boat, a vacuum, even a radio, it comes with a detailed owner’s manual with instructions on what to do and what not to do. But there is no owner’s manual that comes with a child. ”
For this reason I have often found myself telling Joe, the oldest, “You’re the guinea pig. I make all my mistakes with you.” Luckily he’s somehow managed to survive. At 14 he’s blessed with good looks and an infectious personality and easy going manner that makes him well liked among his peers. Yes, he takes after his mother. Catherine, my 11 year old, has never taken a bad picture, and is fiercely competitive, intense and independent. In other words, their personalities couldn’t be more opposite. So, much of what I’ve learned raising Joe hasn’t necessarily translated to Catherine.
Over the years, I’ve developed a nice career teaching writing and speaking at conferences and I’ve come up with a philosophy which has served my writing career well. It started out as “Mastering the Three P’s: Perseverance, Persistence and Patience.” Then I added a fourth, Prayer, a fifth, Perspective,

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17. IndieBound Next List --- June

indie.jpgCheck out IndieBound's Next List for the month of June! Find your local IndieBound store to get more information, check out the book, and take it home with you! Some great titles, including Tayari Jones' SILVER SPARROW, the latest Bookreporter.com Bets On pick!

-Click here to see the Next list.
-Click here to find yuor local IndieBound store.

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18. Elena Gorokhova: A Medal for My Mother

Elena Gorokhova is the author of the breathtaking memoir A MOUNTAIN OF CRUMBS, one of The Christian Science Monitor’s “10 Best Mother’s Day Books of 2010,” which is now available in paperback. Today, she shares the incredible story of her award-winning mother, who has dedicated her life to the service of others.
Photo: Elena and her mother.
elenamom.jpgI thought that A MOUNTAIN OF CRUMBS, my memoir about growing up in Soviet Russia, was my memoir. I didn’t know that it was my mother who would become the center of the story. My mother, a mirror image of my Motherland: overbearing, protective, difficult to leave. She was a survivor of the famine, Stalin’s terror and the Great Patriotic War, as WWII is known in Russia, and she controlled and protected ferociously. What had happened to her was not going to happen to us.
Almost 70 years ago, in the spring of 1942, a woman carried an unconscious nine-year-old boy into the make-shift hospital where my mother was a surgeon, one kilometer away from the front. It was April, and when the ice on the Volga turned porous and frail, mines frozen into the river began to explode, touched off by the slightest shift, sending flocks of birds into the air and schools of fish to the water’s surface, belly up. Locals with buckets, driven by wartime hunger, waded into the river to collect the unexpected harvest floating among the chunks of ice, setting off more mines.
It was prohibited to treat civilians in a military hospital, but my mother unbuttoned the boy’s quilted jacket and muddy pants and carefully pulled them away from his perforated flesh, revealing blind belly wounds: entrances of shells with no exists. She lifted a scalpel out of the boiling water, made an incision, and pulled apart flaps of skin, exposing multiple intestinal wounds, big and tiny holes in the coils of the boy’s belly. Then she removed each piece of shrapnel, rinsed the boy’s intestines with antiseptic, and sewed up the holes, one by one. 

mountain.jpgEvery day of the war, the soldiers came in trucks from the front, and although she scooped the lice out of their wounds with a teacup and cleaned the flaps of torn tissue as diligently as she could, lice festered in layers of dirty bandages, keeping the wounded awake and screaming throughout the night. They were younger than she was, those wounded boys --- her brother’s age --- and she peered into their dusty faces, clinging to a shred of hope that, in some miraculous way, her brother, who was stationed on the Polish border when German tanks crossed into Russia on June 22, 1941, would be brought into her hospital for her to heal. She hoped her brother was not among the thousands of bodies she knew had been plowed into the warm summer earth of western Russia. She hoped for a quick victory in the Great Patriotic War. 
Her brother never came home, and the Victory took five long, excruciating years.
May 9th is the a

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19. Eileen Dreyer: A Tribute to Her Mom, Who Understood That “Life’s a Banquet”

A New York Times bestseller occasionally known as Kathleen Korbel, Eileen Dreyer is the author of NEVER A GENTLEMAN, the latest installment of the Drake’s Rakes series, which hit the shelves on March 29th. Below, she shares a touching tribute to her late mother, who taught her how to live --- and even more importantly --- how to share.
Photo: Eileen's mother
phpPT06avPM.jpg"Life's a banquet, and most poor bastards are starving to death." The line is from Auntie Mame. The sentiment is my mom's. How did my mom influence me toward my life as an author? She died never knowing that I dreamed of being a published author. In fact, it was her death that inspired me to get off the pot, as she used to say, and give publishing a try. So, what did she contribute to my career?
She inspired me by that quote. That sentiment. My mom didn't just repeat Mame's words, she believed them. She only lived 56 years. She never saw a foreign country, or headed a corporation, or ran for office. But it will always amaze me how much my mom squeezed out of what many would call a small life. She lived her motto so thoroughly that recently, when my dad died almost 30 years to the day later, we got almost as many reminiscences of my mom as we did my dad.
There’s another quote I like to use, which is from Secondhand Lions. "They lived. They really lived." Change the pronoun, and it would have been a perfect eulogy for my mom.
My mom's choices were constrained by economy, tradition and need. My mom was a writer, too. But she was also a child of the Depression. Depression children tended to set aside dreams in favor of making sure the house was paid for. So with her family's blessing, she became a nurse. After all, nurses could support themselves. And as anybody who's ever tried to get published knows, the same can't be said for us.
She did write. But it was church bulletins and parish plays, and the most amazing letters. And even though seven children pretty much defined where her life would go, she never stopped learning. She had an appetite for life that was unmatched. She read voraciously and sang at the top of her lungs (she always said that, since God gave her a voice, He had to listen to it), and she loved her children loudly. And she had an amazing way of sharing everything she learned or experienced or believed, which, if you come down to it, is what a writer does.
My mom taught me to be hungry. Not for food (although I have an exceptional talent for that); for knowledge. For experience. For living. I, too, became a nurse because it paid the bills. But I became an ER nurse, because I knew that I would experience more there, learn more, feel more. And as an author, I've been lucky enough to share it all.
I've learned from Olympic skiers, film directors, FBI profilers, fertility specialists, reenactors, forensic psychologists, Hindu holy men, army nurses, forensic anthropologists, tall ship captains, New Orleans cab drivers --- well, I could go on forever. Technically, I interview them for my books. But every time, I learn something new, or have a new experience (For one book, I took the training to become a medic on a SWAT team

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20. Meet Harriet, Mother of Bethany Maines

With a black belt in karate and a penchant for exotic travel, Bethany Maines isn’t too far off from the female spy in her books BULLETPROOF MASCARA and COMPACT WITH THE DEVIL. Below, her mother discusses their early family reading tradition (which didn’t involve spies or ninjas), and spills info about Bethany’s latest project.
Photo: Bethany and her mom taking a break from reading.
mom+me1980.jpgDid you read to your daughter as a child? What did you read?
Our family didn’t have a TV (by choice) until our children were in late elementary school so I was the family reader. Reading time was family time and my husband joined Bethany, her older brother Lyle, and me on our reading adventures. 
We read everything from Babar and Winnie-the-Pooh, through a variety of series like Trixie Belden and Dig Allen Space Explorer, all the Anne of Green Gables books as well as Tolkien and Mark Twain.
In fact we read through the Tolkien trilogy three times over a period six years. My husband had never read them and his birthday was the same as Bilbo’s and Frodo’s: September 22. So, on September 22, when Beth was three and a half and Lyle was six, we started THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING and probably finished all three books some time after Christmas. I’m sure the first time through, the kids didn’t get all of it and I know, in parts, I just gave my husband the abridged version, but they loved the story and the language. It became a family tradition for Dad’s birthday two years later and two years after that.
How old was Bethany when she started reading?
Bethany was five and I had been working to help my son with his reading. He is Dyslexic. Beth had been hanging around watching and finally I realized I couldn’t slow her down any longer. I remember asking her, “Do you want to learn to read today?” She thought she might like that and an hour or so later she was officially a reader. 
Did you have any book or reading rituals in your house?
We always read and we always talked about the books we read. We still do.
When did you know she was going to be a writer? Can you remember Bethany writing as a child?
Bethany started writing about the time she started reading but she was also an excellent visual artist so I just tried to encourage her creativity however it emerged. She wrote stories and kept journals throughout her childhood. In fact, she is not only a writer, but she has a degree in graphic design.
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21. Meet Patricia Abu-Jaber, Mother of Diana Abu-Jaber

With three praised novels and a memoir under her belt, Diana Abu-Jaber will release BIRDS OF PARADISE --- a multilayered novel about a family that comes apart at the seams --- later this year, on September 6. Today, her mother recalls Diana’s early talent, and cautions those with writers as children!  
ORIGIN.JPGDid you have any book or reading rituals in your house? 
Books have been a huge part of our family. Diana's father always boasted that his mother was the first woman in Jordan to have her own library. She brought her books with her when, as a refugee, her family fled Palestine to live in Jordan. Her maternal grandmother was the first, and the only, one of her six brothers and sisters to go to college and become a teacher.

Did you read to Diana as a child? What did you read?   

As a child, Diana would sit with her precious bunny, while I read my own favorite book, THE VELVETEEN RABBIT, to her --- it’s a story about a toy rabbit that is loved so much, it becomes real. Once Diana learned to read herself, there was no stopping her. She entertained us with stories and jokes during our long ride from Syracuse to New Jersey to visit grandma.

When did you know she was going to be a writer?

I knew Diana had real talent when her high school social studies teacher wrote her a letter thanking her for a report she had done. She had written it through the eyes of two camels. She and her cousins were inspired by "Jesus Christ Superstar," and they wrote a play that they acted out at home. She also entered a writing contest as a junior and won an invitation to attend a month-long workshop at Wells College in Aurora, NY.

What authors, besides your daughter’s books, do you read?
Since then, she has only become even more creative and proficient. Although Diana is my favorite author, I also enjoy classic stories, such as novels by John Steinbeck. I especially like the descriptive writing about the settings and the history of the people and places, along with the strong stories.
What’s it like being the mother of a published author?

It's amazing and awesome to have a brilliantly talented child, but I offer a note of caution: One never knows when something you have said or done will end up being written on a page for all the world to read.

Diana Abu-Jaber is the award-winning author of several novels, including the highly anticipated BIRDS OF PARADISE, which will be available in stores

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22. Jayne Ann Krentz: Thanks, Mom

The author of a string of New York Times bestsellers --- her latest book in the Looking Glass Trilogy, QUICKSILVER (published as Amanda Quick), hit stores April 19 --- Jayne Ann Krentz uses three different pen names for each of her three "worlds” of romance novels. Today, she hones in on the world of her childhood, and a mother who read to her when she was in the cradle.

quicksilver.jpgI learned pretty much everything I needed to know in life from Mom. She was a believer in the whole karma thing –-- what goes around, comes around --– long before karma was cool. She held strong convictions on the importance of not overcooking vegetables. And she never neglected her standing appointments at the hair salon and her weekly manicures which ensured that, until the very end, she always looked twenty years younger than anyone else at her retirement community.  

But most of all I learned that reading was not a spectator sport.

Television, on the other hand, was a spectator sport so the rule was that when you watched TV you were expected to do something else at the same time. You ironed or folded laundry while you watched TV. You knitted while you watched TV. You made up a grocery list while you watched TV. Yep, Mom was into multi-tasking before there was a name for it. But, then, what mom isn’t?

Reading, however, was different. Mom read to us kids while we were in the cradle. And it was clear from the very start that reading was not a spectator sport. When you read a book it was understood that you were expected to be wholly engaged.  Mom taught by example that reading for pleasure --– unlike watching TV --– was an entirely legitimate pursuit.  One did not have to justify what one read. Nancy Drew or Shakespeare, reading did not require any apologies. The concept of a book club struck her as very odd. She read what she wanted to read, not what someone else told her she should read. She was delighted to talk about books but she did not view them as an excuse to socialize. When she wanted to be with other people, she played killer bridge or went out to dinner or to a concert with friends. 

Mom read widely, non-fiction and fiction. With non-fiction, she expected to learn something. When it came to fiction she demanded two things from a book: a good story and a happy ending. See, Mom was an optimist and a big believer in the power of positive thinking. She saw no point in filling her very creative mind with negative energy. There was enough of that in the daily news.

I have always read the same way Mom did and for the same reasons. And that is also how I write. I tell the story to myself, first, last and always.  If I tried to write for someone else –-- an imaginary reader, for example --– I wouldn’t be able to get past the first sentence. Writing --– like reading –-- is not a spectator sport.

And I want the same thing Mom did from fiction, whether I’m reading it or writing it:  a good st

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23. An Interview with author Rae Meadows and her mother, Jane

Rae Meadows' novel MOTHERS AND DAUGHTERS deals with the complexities of family bonds through three generations. In this interview, Rae and her own mother, Jane, discuss their relationship over the years.

Jane, after reading Rae’s novel, do you feel like you have a different sense of the complexity of the relationship between the two of you? Rae, did you think differently of your relationship with your mother after you had spent so much time with Iris, Sam, and Violet?  

mothers.JPGJane: I have always thought my relationship with Rae was pretty straightforward. However, it occurred to me at one point while reading MOTHERS AND DAUGHTERS that since Rae‘s characters had complicated relationships with their mothers, that perhaps complexity had been part of our relationship, at least for her, and that I had been unaware of its presence. The self-reprimand soon followed that if indeed this was a factor, then I should have caught it and tapped into it. 

Rae:My mom and I have had a remarkably un-fraught relationship, but I did think about her often while I was writing this book. She has lived so much life --- she ‘s a beautiful and amazing eighty-one --- and I think in pondering questions for the characters, it made me wonder what it would be like to see my mom as a young single woman or newly married or a first- time mother. This past Christmas she mentioned that she once had dated a professional hockey player named Moose, and I was reminded of how even though I have heard a lot of stories about her life, there is an endless supply of things I don’t know. 

Do you think (as Iris mentions) that having children is a way to try and understand one’s own mother? Jane, did you learn a lot about your mother when you had children? Rae, did you?  

Jane:Perhaps many might find this to be helpful, but personally I never sought to better understand my mother. I didn’t need to. She was an honest, loving, demonstrative being whom I loved and trusted. 

Rae: Although for me it wasn’t a conscious thing, I feel like I have learned so much about my mom since becoming a mother. That intense, unfailing love mixed with worry that she exuded is something I know now on a gut level. My mom had breast cancer when her daughters were eight, five, and three, and I don’t think I fully understood what strength and courage this required until I became a mother and tried to imagine myself in the same position. 

The existence of the orphan trains is such a fascinating, yet seemingly forgotten part of American history. Rae has said that you introduced her to the subject, Jane, which sparked her to write Mothers and Daughters. How did you hear about the orphan trains? What was your initial reaction to this piece of history?  

Jane:I was waiting for Rae to arrive at the airport in Cleveland, and I struck up a conversation with the woman sitting next to me who was also waiting for her daughter. She mentioned that her daughter had done some research on the Orphan Train Movement of the early part of the twentieth

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24. Chelsea Cain: Hide Money in Books, and Other Things My Mother Taught Me

New York Times bestselling author Chelsea Cain --- whose latest thriller, THE NIGHT SEASON, hit stores on March 1 --- was not your ordinary child. Below, she honors the mother who left little treasures between pages, and who documented Chelsea’s childhood days in the jackets of her books. 


That first word I learned to write was “flower.” Lame, right? It was the seventies, what can I say? Most kids learn to write their names. Not me. My teacher wrote the word “flower” on an index card and gave it to me. She gave me a word. I felt like Moses. The first thing I did was write a book. It was a simple narrative. Just the word flower, over and over again. I stapled the pages together, and illustrated it. Sales were disappointing, but the reviews were solid. 

Despite this early promise, my plan was not to become a professional writer, or a world famous horticulturalist. I was going to be a firedog. My parents supported this. Neither one pointed out that I was not a Dalmatian. They were hippies, and I guess didn’t want to be buzz kills.

I continued to write all the time as a kid. I was always storming off into my room to “work on my novel.” But I never imagined that I would be an author. A firedog, yes, but an author? That seemed unattainable. 

In retrospect, it amazes me that I ever thought that I’d do anything else. 

Here’s why. 

My mother hid money in books. If you want your kid to read a lot, I really suggest you try this. Opening a book at our house was always a thrilling proposition because I never knew what would flutter out of it: a two-dollar bill, a pressed flower, an old postcard. The flowers and postcards went back in the pages. But the cash went straight to the candy store. Talk about positive reinforcement. I couldn’t wait to pull a book off a shelf. 

Even at our food-stamp-free-lunch poorest, my mother bought books. She found them at thrift stores, garage sales, and used bookstores. Do not dog-ear books, she told me. Do not read them in the tub. This from a woman who wrote in every book she ever gave me. The inscription would include when they were given, the occasion, what we’d been doing that day, where we’d come from, where we were going, why that book at that time. I never kept a journal, but I can pretty much piece my life together reading what my mother wrote on the inside of the book jackets of my childhood.

My mother tricked me into loving poetry. She appealed to my competitive instincts by instituting a mother-daughter poetry slam. We each memorized poems. She from THE NEW YORKER BOOK OF POETRY, me from A CHILD’S GARDEN OF VERSES. Then we’d re

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25. Erica Bauermeister: On a Different Kind of Mother Bunny

Bestselling author Erica Bauermeister’s forthcoming title, JOY FOR BEGINNERS, is a book about women, for women. Below, she thanks her own mother for showing her that reading was a free pass to privacy, and for introducing her to a very special --- and rather feminist --- children’s book that would later appear in her first novel.

joy-for-beginners.jpgI was the fourth daughter in six years; my brother arrived eight years later. Suffice to say, my mother rarely had time to read unless it was to us. But I knew she loved books from the ones she read aloud or put into our hands as we got old enough to do the job for ourselves. I was a cautious child and she gave me Laura Ingalls Wilder and Anne of Green Gables, girl characters from Indonesia and Africa and Europe, from my own time and long ago, road maps for a more confident life.

In the midst of a house full of people, reading was a free pass to privacy. On long road trips, my mother allowed me to hide in the far back of the station wagon, surrounded only by luggage, slipping deeply and blissfully into my book of the moment. She gave me what I’m sure she almost never had for herself –-- a room of my own –-- and taught me that it didn’t have to be a physical space.  

Then I hit adolescence, and just like so many of the characters I had read about, I lost sight of how intelligent my mother was. I went to college and graduate school and became inflamed with frustration at the lack of women authors represented in the literature classes I took. I set out to counteract a deep injustice –-- one that I was quite certain I had discovered all on my own. I co-authored a book called 500 GREAT BOOKS BY WOMEN, and then, with my own daughter in mind, I set to work on a reader’s guide for children called LET’S HEAR IT FOR THE GIRLS. In the process I got to revisit Laura and Anne; I got to find books about girls from around the world. And in the midst of that research I came across a book that I had forgotten all about –-- a children’s story of a country bunny and gold shoes.  But this time I read it as a mother and it stopped me in my tracks.  

There is a moment in my novel, THE SCHOOL OF ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS, when Isabelle is remembering her life as a young mother, when she would read to her daughters “the story of the country bunny, until they quieted into sleep and she sat and thought about having golden slippers that would let her fly around the world and do extraordinary things and be back by morning.” I didn’t include the title of the book on purpose --– the scene was, among other things, a love note to my mother. I figured if readers caught the

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