Basketball player’s book to inspire children to ‘dream big’ | Great Yarmouth News

PUBLISHED: 13:17 12 May 2018 | UPDATED: 13:17 12 May 2018

Patrick Manifold hopes his new book will inspire children to dream big. Picture: @PatrickManifold

Patrick Manifold hopes his new book will inspire children to dream big. Picture: @PatrickManifold

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A basketball player from Great Yarmouth has written a book designed to inspire children to “dream big”.

Patrick Manifold hopes his new book will inspire children to dream big. Picture: @PatrickManifoldPatrick Manifold hopes his new book will inspire children to dream big. Picture: @PatrickManifold

Patrick Manifold, 31, has competed professionally in leagues across the world, living in seven different countries across three continents in the past five years.

On top of this, the former St Mary’s Primary School pupil has founded his own company, Manifold Motivation – and when he is not on the court, the 6ft 7in athlete is often giving motivational speeches or providing personal coaching, earning himself a sizeable social media following.

Now, Mr Manifold is back in his hometown, fresh off the back of a season in Italy and the launch of his third book, Be All You Can Be: The Cool Kids Guide To Success In School and Life.

Mr Manifold said the timing of the launch is not coincidental.

He said: “When I heard about Great Yarmouth being the least active community in all of England I thought this is something these kids need to hear.

“I really want to push this book while I’m home because the kids here perhaps don’t have the same opportunities as other places, but they should do.”

Mr Manifold, who went to Notre Dame High School, used his nieces and nephews as soundboards during the writing process and he believes the book could really resonate with eight to 16-year-olds.

He said: “It’s got three key parts. Firstly, I’m trying to teach them that things like hard work, perseverance and dedication will help them to be successful no matter what they want to do.

“I’m also trying to inspire them to dream big. I got laughed at for having my dream and I wanted to create something that would open the door of possibility for them.

“I want to get across that it is important to be a good, kind person too, because that often gets left out.”

Mr Manifold, who will be heading back to his base in Canada in a few weeks, is keen to visit schools to promote his message while he is in the town, free of charge.

He also has 100 signed copies of the book available for the discounted price of £8.

To get your singed copy or arrange a school visit, email [email protected] or get in touch via social media, @patrickmanifold.

The book is also available to order from Amazon.

Local, military authors hold book signing | Enterprise Ledger

Enterprise’s Rawls Hotel and Restaurant library was host to a book signing Tuesday evening for a locally-penned novel that has already achieved great acclaim.

“The Terminal List,” co-authored by Enterprise resident Keith Wood and retired Navy SEAL Jack Carr, was written primarily in Coffee County and features a central character whose hometown is Enterprise. According to Wood, the novel contains elements that will be familiar and relatable for many Enterprise and Fort Rucker-area residents.

“One of the central characters, Elizabeth Riley, is an Enterprise native turned Army Aviator who trained at Fort Rucker,” Wood said. “I think a lot of folks in our community will identify with her. We also weaved the 1979 murder of Sheriff Grantham into the narrative as a tribute to his family and our community.”

Jack Carr added that the newly-completed book fulfills a lifelong dream of his, and Coffee County provided a great place to bring that dream to fruition.

“Growing up, I wanted to do two things: become a Navy SEAL and write fiction,” Carr said. “After 20 years in the Teams, it was time to fulfill that second dream.  As I was transitioning out of the military, my friend Keith Wood and I teamed-up and this book is the result. It’s great to be back in Coffee County where most of The Terminal List was written; writing this book at a farm near Elba got us away from the normal distractions of life and gave us the peace and quiet we needed.”

Though “The Terminal List” was first published on March 6, it has already garnered significant media attention and was featured on “The Today Show” with Megyn Kelly March 20. The May 8 book signing at the Rawls was met with similar success; Wood said that dozens of local residents turned out to meet and greet the authors and purchase signed copies of the novel.

For those interested in picking up their own copy of “The Terminal List,” the novel is available in hardcover, ebook, and audio book formats wherever books are sold. A brief synopsis states that it is “a ‘ripped-from-the-headlines’ revenge novel drawing from the real-life experiences and emotions of Carr’s 20-year military career.”

Navy SEAL sniper Jack Carr spent led special operations teams on four continents as a Team Leader, Platoon Commander, Troop Commander and Task Unit Commander before his retirement. Keith Wood currently lives in Enterprise with his wife, Emily, and their three children.

A Girl Dreams of Battling Aliens in This Exclusive Excerpt From Brandon Sanderson’s New Fantasy Epic, Skyward

A preview of the cover for Brandon Sanderson’s Skyward.
Image: Charlie Bowater/Regina Flath (Delacorte Press)

Acclaimed epic fantasy author Brandon Sanderson is known for the Mistborn series as well as The Stormlight Archive—including last fall’s hugely popular third book in that series, Oathbringer. But the prolific writer has a new YA book on the horizon, called Skyward, and io9 is happy to exclusively share the announcement trailer and a special excerpt.

Here’s a summary of Skyward, which Sanderson calls “a book I’ve been wanting to write for a very long time.”

Spensa’s world has been under attack for hundreds of years. An alien race called the Krell leads onslaught after onslaught from the sky in a never-ending campaign to destroy humankind. Humanity’s only defense is to take to their ships and combat the Krell. Pilots are the heroes of what’s left of the human race.

Becoming a pilot has always been Spensa’s dream. Since she was a little girl, she has imagined soaring above the earth and proving her bravery. But her fate is intertwined with that of her father—a pilot himself who was killed years ago when he abruptly deserted his team, leaving Spensa’s chances of attending Flight School at slim to none.

No one will let Spensa forget what her father did, but she is determined to fly. And the Krell just made that a possibility. They’ve doubled their fleet, which will make Spensa’s world twice as deadly… but just might take her skyward.

Skyward was born, much like Mistborn, with me taking two ideas and mashing them together to see where they went . . . and they went someplace incredible,” says Sanderson in a press release. “I saw in this project a chance to both play in a space I loved and do some very interesting things with story and theme. It wasn’t until this year that I got the personalities of the characters right, but I really got excited when I found a place for this in the lore of stories I’d been creating.”

And here’s the full cover:

The full cover of Sanderson’s new book. Jacket art by Charlie Bowater, design by Regina Flath.
Image: Charlie Bowater/Regina Flath (Delacorte Press)

Skyward is set to be released November 6, 2018 and you can pre-order it at this link. Publisher Random House will be posting content regularly in the weeks leading up to the release on BrandonSanderson.com and the Underlined online teen community. Each week the author will also participate in an online book club Q&A on Underlined. Enjoy the excerpt below!

Excerpt copyright © 2018 by Dragonsteel Entertainment, LLC. Published by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York.


PROLOGUE

Only fools climb to the surface. It’s stupid to put yourself in danger like that, my mother always says. Not only are there near-constant debris showers from the rubble belt, but you never know when the Krell will attack.

Of course, my father traveled to the surface basically every day—he had to, as a pilot. I suppose by my mother’s definition, that made him extra foolish, but I always considered him extra brave.

I was still surprised when, one day after years of listening to me beg, he finally agreed to take me up with him.

I was only seven years old, though in my mind, I was completely grown up and utterly capable. I hurried after my father, carrying a lantern to light the rubble-strewn cavern. A lot of the rocks in the tunnel were broken and cracked, most likely from Krell bombings—things I’d often experienced down below as a rattling of dishware or trembling of light fixtures.

I imagined those broken rocks as the broken bodies of my enemies, their bones shattered, their trembling arms reaching upward in a useless gesture of total and complete defeat.

I was a very odd little girl.

I caught up to my father, and he looked back, then smiled. He had the best smile, so confident, like he never worried about what people said about him. Never worried that he was weird or didn’t fit in.

Of course, why should he have worried? Everyone liked him. Even people who hated things like ice cream and playing swords—even whiny little Rodge McCaffrey—liked my father.

My father took me by the arm and pointed upward. “Next part is a little tricky, Spensa. Let me lift you.”

“I can do it,” I said, and shook off his hand. I was grown up. I’d packed my own backpack and I’d left Bloodletter, my stuffed bear, at home. Stuffed bears were for babies, even if you’d fashioned your own mock power armor for yours out of string and broken ceramics.

Granted, I had put my toy starfighter in my backpack. I wasn’t crazy. What if we ended up getting caught in a Krell attack and they bombed our retreat, so we had to live out the rest of our lives as wasteland survivors, devoid of society or civilization?

A girl needs her toy starfighter with her, just in case.

I handed my backpack to my father and looked up at the crack in the stones. There was . . . something about that hole up there. An unnatural light seeped through it, something wholly unlike the soft glow of our lanterns.

The surface . . . the sky! I grinned and started climbing up a steep slope that was part rubble, part rock formation. My hands slipped and I scraped myself on a sharp edge, but I didn’t cry. The daughters of starfighters did not cry.

The crack in the cavern roof looked a hundred feet away to my eyes. I hated being so small. Any day now, I was going to grow tall, like my father. Then, for once, I wouldn’t be the smallest kid around. I’d be tall, and I’d laugh at them from up so high, they’d be forced to admit how great I was.

I growled softly as I reached the top of a rock. The next handhold was just out of reach. I eyed it. Then I jumped, determined. Like a good Defiant girl, I had the heart of a stardragon.

But I also had the body of a seven-year-old. So I missed by a good two feet.

A strong hand seized me before I could fall too far. My father chuckled, holding me by the back of my jumpsuit, which I’d painted with markers to look like his flight suit. He pulled me onto the rock beside him, then reached out with his free hand and activated his light-line.

The device looked like a metal bracelet, but once he engaged it by tapping his thumb and little finger together, the band glowed with a bright molten light. He touched a stone above, and when he drew his hand back, it left a thick line of light, like a glowing rope, fixed to the rock. He wrapped the other end around me so it fit snug under my arms, then detached it from his bracelet. The glow there faded, but the luminescent rope remained in place, attaching me to the rocks.

I’d always thought light-lines should burn to the touch, but it was just warm. Like a hug.

“Okay, Spensa,” he said. “Try it again.”

“I don’t need this,” I said, plucking at the safety rope. “Humor a frightened father.”

“Frightened? You aren’t frightened of anything. You fight the Krell.

He laughed. “I’d rather face a hundred Krell ships than your mother on the day I bring you home with a broken arm, little one.”

“I’m not little. And if I break my arm, you can leave me here until I heal. I’ll fight the beasts of the caverns and become feral and wear their skins and—”

“Climb,” he said, still grinning. “You can fight the beasts of the caverns another time, though I think the only ones you’d find have long tails and buckteeth.”

I had to admit, the light-line was helpful: I could pull against it to brace myself. We reached the crack, and my father pushed me up first. I grabbed the lip and scrambled out of the caverns, reaching the surface for the first time in my life.

It was so open.

I gaped, standing there, looking up at . . . at nothing. Just . . . just . . . upness. No ceiling. No walls. I’d imagined the surface as a really, really big cavern. But it was so much more, and so much less, all at once.

Wow.

My father heaved himself up after me and dusted the dirt from his flight suit. I glanced at him, then back up at the sky. I grinned widely.

“Not frightened?” he asked. I glared at him.

“Sorry,” he said with a chuckle. “Wrong word. It’s just that a lot of people find the sky intimidating, Spensa.”

“It’s beautiful,” I whispered, staring up at that vast nothingness, air that extended up into an infinite grayness, fading to black. It was darker than I’d imagined, but enormous blocks of light shone here and there far above, providing light to the surface. There was nothing between us and them. “There’s so much of it. But it’s also empty.

He knelt beside me. That darkness above, the shifting mass of black shapes that included some blocks of light, must be the rubble belt. Our planet, Detritus, was protected and hidden by a huge veil of broken refuse that was way up high, even outside the air, in space.

It was left over from some great space battle from a long time ago. And there were tons of layers of it, the junk all rotating, churning, colliding. I saw lights shining down from some chunks, so some things up there still worked, providing illumination to a surface where nobody lived.

“The Krell live up there?” I asked. “Beyond the debris field?”

“We assume so,” Father said. “Nobody knows for certain. So much was destroyed during the wars before we fled to this planet.”

“How . . . how do they find us?” I asked. “There’s so much space up here.” The world seemed a much larger place than I’d imagined in the caverns below.

“They can sense when people gather together, somehow,” Father said. “Any time the population of a cavern gets too big, the Krell attack and bomb it. They have devices that can collapse caverns even far beneath the surface.”

The only way we survived was by splitting into small clans and constantly staying on the move. Never stopping in the same cavern for too long.

Except for the starfighters, who were gathering and building a base. Fighting back.

“Where’s Alta Base?” I asked. “You said we’d come up near it. Is that it?” I pointed toward some suspicious rocks. “It’s right there, isn’t it? I want to go see the starfighters.”

My father leaned down and turned me about ninety degrees, then pointed. “There.”

“Where?” I searched the surface, which was basically all just blue-gray dust and rocks, with craters from fallen debris from the rubble belt. “I can’t see it.”

“That’s the point, Spensa. We have to remain hidden.” “But you fight, don’t you? Won’t they eventually learn

where the fighters are coming from? Why don’t you move the base?”

“We have to keep it here, above Igneous. That’s the big cavern I showed you last week.”

“The one with all the machines?”

He nodded. “Inside Igneous, we found manufactories; that’s what let us build starships to fight back. We have to live nearby to protect the machinery, but we fly missions anywhere the Krell come down, anywhere they decide to bomb.”

“You protect other clans?” I asked, frowning. I didn’t know a lot about this—everyone tried to keep it secret from me and ignored my questions, even though I was basically grown up.

He turned my head toward him and raised his finger. “To me, there is only one clan that matters: humankind. Before we crashed here, we were all part of the same fleet—and someday, all the wandering clans will remember that. They will come when we call them. They’ll gather together, and we’ll form a city and build a civilization again.”

“Won’t the Krell bomb it?” I asked, but cut him off before he could reply. “No. Not if we’re strong enough. Not if we stand and fight back.”

He smiled.

“I’m going to have my own ship,” I said. “I’m going to fly it, just like you. And then nobody in the clan will be able to make fun of me, because I’ll be famous.

“Is that . . . is that why you want to be a pilot?”

“They can’t say you’re too small when you’re a pilot,” I said. “Nobody will think I’m weird, and I won’t get into trouble for fighting, because my job will be fighting. They won’t call me names, and everyone will love me.”

Like they love you.

That made my father hug me, for some stupid reason, even though I was just telling the truth. But I hugged him back, because parents like stuff like that. Besides, it did feel good to have someone to hold. Maybe I shouldn’t have left Bloodletter behind.

Father’s breath caught, and I thought he might be crying, but it wasn’t that. “Spensa!” he said, turning me again. “Look!” He pointed toward the sky. Again, I was struck by it.

So BIG.

Father was pointing at something specific. I squinted, noting that a section of the debris field was darker. No, not darker . . . was it missing? A hole in the sky?

In that moment, I looked out into infinity. I found myself trembling as if a billion meteors had hit nearby. I could see space itself, with little pinpricks of white in it, different from the enormous lights shining to illuminate the surface. The pinpricks sparkled, and seemed so, so far away.

“What are those lights?” I whispered.

“Stars,” he said. “We used to live out there. I fly up near the debris, but I’ve almost never seen through it. There are too many layers. Once in a while, you get a glimpse, though—and I’ve always wondered if I could get through.”

There was awe in his voice, a tone I didn’t think I’d ever heard from him before.

“Is that why you fly?” I asked.

My father didn’t seem to care about the praise the other members of the clan gave him. Strangely, he seemed embarrassed by it, and talked about just wanting to get back into his ship. I never understood it. Wasn’t the way everyone treated you the point of becoming a pilot? Stupid Rodge McCaffrey said it was.

My father drew my attention back to the hole in the sky. “Our real home,” he whispered. “That’s where we belong, not in those caverns. The kids who make fun of you, they’re trapped on this rock. Their heads are heads of rock, their hearts set upon rock. Set your sights on something higher. Something more grand.”

The debris shifted, and the hole shrank, until all I could see was a single star, brighter than the others.

“Claim the stars, Spensa,” he said.

The debris finally covered up the hole, but I remembered how it had looked. I was going to be a starfighter someday. I would fly up there and see those stars again. I just hoped my father would leave some Krell for me to fight when I—

I squinted as something flashed in the sky. A distant piece of debris, burning up as it entered the atmosphere.

Then another fell, and another. Then dozens.

My father frowned and reached for his radio—a super-advanced piece of technology that was given only to pilots. He lifted the blocky device to his mouth. “This is Chaser,” he said. “I’m on the surface. I see a debris fall at heading 605 from Alta.”

“We’ve spotted it already, Chaser,” a female voice said over the radio. “Radar reports are coming in now, and . . . Scud. We’ve got Krell.”

“What cavern are they headed for?” my father asked. “Their heading is . . . Chaser, they’re heading this way. They’re flying straight for Igneous. Stars help us. They’ve located the base!”

My father lowered his radio.

“Large Krell breach sighted,” the woman’s voice said through the radio. “Everyone, this is an emergency. An extremely large group of Krell have breached the debris field. All fighters report in. They’re coming for Alta!”

My father looked at me, then took my arm. “Let’s get you back.”

“They need you! You’ve got to go fight!” “I have to get you to—”

“I can get back myself. It was a straight trip through those tunnels.”

My father glanced back toward the debris. “Chaser!” a new voice said over the radio. “Chaser, you there?”

“Mongrel?” my father said, flipping a switch and raising his radio. “I’m up on the surface.”

“You need to talk some sense into Banks and Swing. They’re saying we need to flee.”

My father cursed under his breath, flipping another switch on the radio. A voice came through. “—aren’t ready for a head- on fight yet. We’ll be ruined.”

“No,” another woman said. “We have to stand and fight.” A dozen voices started talking at once.

“Ironsides is right,” my father said into the line, and— remarkably—they all grew quiet.

“If we let them bomb Igneous, then we lose the Apparatus,” my father said. “We lose the manufactories. We lose everything. If we ever want to have a civilization again, a world again, we have to stand here!”

I waited quiet, breathless, hoping he would be too distracted to send me away. I trembled at the idea of a fight, but I still wanted to watch it.

“We fight,” the woman said.

“We fight,” said Mongrel, the man who had spoken earlier. I knew that name; he was my father’s wingmate. “Hot rocks, this is a good one. I’m going to beat you into the sky, Chaser! Just you watch how many I bring down!”

The man sounded eager, maybe a little too excited, to be heading into battle. I liked him immediately.

My father debated only a moment before pulling off his bracelet light-line and stuffing it into my hands. “Promise you’ll go back straightaway.”

“I promise.” “Don’t dally.” “I won’t.”

He raised his radio. “Yeah, Mongrel, we’ll see about that. I’m running for Alta now. Chaser out.”

He dashed across the dusty ground in the direction he’d pointed earlier. Then he stopped and turned back. He pulled off his pin and tossed it—like a glittering fragment of a star—to me before continuing his run toward the hidden base.

I, of course, immediately broke my promise. I climbed back into the crack but hid there and watched until I saw the starfighters leave Alta and streak toward the sky. I squinted and picked out the dark Krell ships swarming down toward them.

Finally, showing a rare moment of good judgment, I decided I’d better do what my father had told me. I used the light-line to lower myself into the cavern, where I recovered my backpack and headed into the tunnels. I figured if I hurried, I could get home in time to join my clan as we listened to the broadcast of the fight on our single, communal radio.

I was wrong, though. The hike was longer than I remembered, and I did manage to get lost. So I was wandering down there, imagining the glory of the awesome battle happening above, when my father famously broke ranks and fled from the enemy. His own flight shot him down in retribution. By the time I got back, the battle had been won, my father was gone.

And I’d been branded the daughter of a coward.

1

I stalked my enemy carefully through the cavern.

I’d taken off my boots so they wouldn’t squeak. I’d removed my socks so I wouldn’t slip. The rock under my feet was comfortably cool as I took another silent step forward.

This deep, the only light came from the faint glow of the worms on the ceiling, feeding off the moisture seeping through cracks. You had to sit for minutes in the darkness to adjust your eyes to that faint light.

Another quiver in the shadows. There, near those dark lumps that must be enemy fortifications. I froze in a crouching position, listening to my enemy scratch the rock as he moved. I imagined a Krell: a terrible alien with inhuman features, all tentacled and slobbery.

With a steady hand—agonizingly slow—I raised my rifle to my shoulder, held my breath, and fired.

A squeal of pain was my reward.

Yes!

I patted my wrist, activating my light-line—the very one my father had given me. It sprang to life with a reddish-orange glow, blinding me for a moment.

Then I rushed forward to claim my prize: one dead rat, speared straight through.

In the light, shadows I’d imagined as enemy fortifications revealed themselves as rocks. My “enemy” was a plump rat, and my “rifle” was a makeshift speargun. Nine years had passed since that fateful day when I’d climbed to the surface with my father, but my imagination was as strong as ever. It helped relieve the monotony to pretend I was doing something more exciting than hunting rats.

I held up the dead rodent by its tail. “Thus you know the fury of my anger, fell beast.”

It turns out that strange little girls grow up to be strange young women. But I figured it was good to practice my taunts for when I really fought the Krell. Gran-Gran taught that a great warrior knew how to make a great boast to drive fear and uncertainty into the hearts of her enemies.

And who knew for sure what the Krell looked like? I’d always imagined them as having tentacle faces, but maybe they looked like rats. I grinned at that idea, and tucked my prize away into my sack. That was eight so far—not a bad haul.

It was probably time to turn back. The bracelet that housed my light-line had a little clock next to its power indicator, and I needed to return to Igneous before I missed too much of the school day. I slung my sack over my shoulder, picked up my speargun—which I’d fashioned from salvaged parts I’d found in the caverns—and started the hike back home.

I climbed up through cavern after cavern, following notes and maps I’d made in my small notebook. A part of me was sad to leave these silent caverns behind. They reminded me of my father, and though I rarely dared go up—near the surface—I liked it down here. I liked how . . . empty it all was. Nobody to stare at me, nobody to whisper insults until I was forced to defend my family honor by burying a fist in their stupid face.

I stopped at a familiar intersection where ancient metal broke the worn stone of the left wall: one of the enormous ancient tubes that moved water between the caverns, cleansing it and using it to cool machinery. A seam dripped water into a bucket I’d left, and it was half full, so I took a long drink. Cool and refreshing, with a tinge of something metallic.

I poured the rest into my canteen, then replaced the bucket and moved on. I could hear distant thrumming, and my path led that direction. To my right, the same pipe occasionally peeked from the stone. Eventually, I approached a break in the stone on my left, one that light poured through.

I stepped up and looked out onto Igneous. My home cavern, and the largest of the underground cities that made up the Defiant League. My perch was high, providing me with a stunning view of a large cave filled with boxy apartments, built like cubes splitting off one another.

My father’s dream had come true. Dozens of clans had gathered and colonized this one shared cavern. We were still divided in some ways—for example, I went to school only with people from my old clan—but we viewed ourselves as one. A single nation of Defiants.

Towering over the apartments of Igneous was the Apparatus—ancient forges, refineries, and manufactories that pumped molten rock from below, then created the parts to build starfighters. It was amazing; it barely needed maintenance, and could build any parts we needed. It was also unique; though other caverns had been found with machinery that provided heat, electricity, or filtered water, only this one could be used for complex manufacturing.

Heat poured through the crack, making my forehead bead with sweat. Igneous was a sweltering place, always hot and humid, with all those refineries, factories, and algae vats. And though it was relatively well lit, it somehow always felt gloomy inside, the orange-red light from the refineries overwhelming the lights of streets and buildings.

I couldn’t get in through this crack, not unless I wanted to lower myself on my light-line—which wouldn’t be a terribly bright idea. Instead I walked over to an old maintenance locker I’d discovered on the wall here. Its hatch looked—at first glance— like just another section of the stone tunnel. I popped it open, revealing my few secret possessions: some parts for my speargun, my spare canteen, and my father’s old pilot’s pin. I rubbed that for good luck, then placed my light-line, map notebook, and speargun into the locker.

I retrieved a crude stone spear, clicked the hatch closed, then slung my sack over my shoulder again. Eight rats could be surprisingly awkward to carry, particularly when—even at seventeen— you had a body that refused to grow beyond five feet.

I hiked down to the normal entrance into the cavern. Two soldiers from the ground troop corps (which barely ever did any real fighting) guarded the way in. I knew them both by their first names, but they still made me stand to the side as they pretended to call for authorization for me to enter. Really, they just liked making me wait.

Every day. Every scudding day.

Eventually, Aluko stepped over and began looking through my sack with a suspicious eye.

“What kind of contraband do you expect I’m bringing into the city?” I asked him. “Pebbles? Moss? Maybe some rocks that insulted your mother?”

He didn’t respond, though he did eye my spear as if wondering how I’d managed to catch eight rats with such a simple weapon. Well, let him wonder.

Finally, he tossed the sack back to me. “On your way, coward.”

Strength. I lifted my chin. “Someday,” I said, “you will hear my name, and tears of gratitude will spring to your eyes as you think of how lucky you are to have once assisted the daughter of Chaser.”

“I’d rather just forget I ever knew you. On your way.

I held my head high and walked into Igneous, then made my way toward the Glorious Rises of Industry, the name of my home neighborhood. I’d arrived at shift change, and passed workers in jumpsuits of a variety of colors, each marking their place in the great machine that kept the Defiant League—and the war against the Krell—functioning. Sanitation workers, maintenance techs, algae vat specialists.

No pilots, of course. Off-duty pilots stayed in the deep caverns on reserve, while the on-duty pilots lived in Alta, the very base my father had died protecting. The base where I would live, once I took the test tomorrow and became a pilot myself.

I passed under a large metal statue of the First Citizens: a group of people holding tools and reaching toward the sky in defiant poses, streaks representing ships shooting out behind them. Though it was supposed to represent those who had fought at the Battle of Alta, my father wasn’t among them.

The next turn took me to our apartment, one of many cubes sprouting from a central square. Ours was small, but big enough for three people, particularly since I had a habit of spending days at a time out in the caverns, hunting and exploring.

My mother wasn’t home, but I found Gran-Gran on the roof, rolling algae wraps to sell at our cart. That was how we made a living without an official job. Real work was forbidden to my mother because of my father, and Gran-Gran . . . well, Gran-Gran was special. She spurned regular Defiant jobs as a matter of principle.

Gran-Gran looked up, hearing me. She was practically blind, and had been from birth, with a clubfoot and sticklike arms. But she was strong. So strong.

“Oooh,” she said. “That sounds like Spensa! How many did you get today?”

“Eight!” I dumped my spoils before her. “And several are particularly juicy.”

“Sit, sit,” Gran-Gran said, pushing aside the mat filled with wraps. “Let’s get these cleaned and cooking! If we hurry, we can have them ready for your mother to sell today.”

I probably should have gone off to class—Gran-Gran had forgotten again—but really, what was the point? These last few days before graduation, students were just getting lectures on the various jobs one could do in the cavern. I had already chosen what I’d be. The test to become a pilot was supposed to be hard, but Rodge and I had been studying for ten years. I was confident. So why did I need to hear about how great it was to be an algae vat worker or whatever?

Besides, as I needed to spend time hunting, I missed a lot of classes, so I wasn’t suited to any other jobs. I made sure to attend the classes that had to do with flying—ship layouts and repair, mathematics, war history. Important things like that. Any other class I managed to make was just a bonus.

I settled down and helped Gran-Gran skin and gut the rats. She was as clean and efficient as ever as she worked by touch.

“Who,” she asked, head bowed, eyes mostly closed, “do you want to hear about today?”

“Beowulf!”

“Ah, the King of the Geats, is it? Not Leif Eriksson? He was your father’s favorite.”

“Did he kill a dragon?”

“He discovered a new world.”

“With dragons?”

Gran-Gran chuckled. “A feathered serpent, by some legends, but I have no story of them fighting. Now, Beowulf, he was a mighty man. He was your ancestor, you know. It wasn’t until he was old that he slew the dragon; first he needed to make his name by fighting monsters.”

I worked quietly with my knife, cleaning the rats, then slicing the meat and tossing it into a pot to be stewed. Most people in the city lived on algae paste. And most real meat—from cattle or pigs raised in caverns with special lighting and environmental equipment—was far too rare for everyday eating. So they’d pay for rats.

I loved the way Gran-Gran told stories. Her voice grew soft when the monsters hissed and bold when the heroes boasted. She worked with nimble fingers as she spun the tale of the ancient Viking hero, who came to aid the Danes in their time of need. A warrior, not afraid to speak of his accomplishments. A hero everybody loved; one who fought bravely, even against a larger and mightier foe.

“And when the monster had slunk away to die,” Gran-Gran said, “the hero, he held aloft Grendel’s entire arm and shoulder as a grisly trophy. He’d made good on his boasts and had avenged the blood of the fallen, proving himself with strength and valor.”

Clinking sounded from below, in our apartment. My mother was back. I ignored it for now. “He ripped the arm free,” I said, “with his hands?”

“He was strong,” Gran-Gran said, “and a warrior true. But he was of the oldenfolk, who fought with hands and sword.” She leaned forward. “You will fight with nimbleness of both hand and wit. With a starship to pilot, you won’t need to be ripping any arms off. Next time, let me tell you of Sun Tzu, the greatest general of all time. He will teach you tactics. He was your ancestor, you know.”

I smiled: Gran-Gran often told me of Sun Tzu. Her memory could be fickle—she remembered every story, every history, and every genealogy, but sometimes she forgot what she’d said and when.

“I prefer Genghis Khan,” I said.

“A tyrant and a monster,” Gran-Gran said, “though, yes, there is much to learn from the Great Khan’s life. But have I ever told you of Queen Boudicca, defiant rebel against the Romans? She was your—”

“Ancestor?” Mother finished, climbing the ladder outside the building. “She was a British Celt, Mother. Beowulf was Swedish, Genghis Khan Mongolian, and Sun Tzu Chinese. And they’re all supposedly my daughter’s ancestors?”

“All of Old Earth is our heritage!” Gran-Gran said. “You,

Spensa, are one in a line of warriors stretching back millennia, a true line to Old Earth and its finest blood.”

Mother rolled her eyes. She was everything I wasn’t—tall, beautiful, calm. She noted the rats but then looked at me with arms folded. “She might have the blood of warriors, but today, she’s late for class.”

“She’s in class,” Gran-Gran said. “The important one.”

I stood up, wiping my hands on a rag. I knew how Beowulf would face monsters and dragons . . . but how would he face his mother on a day when he was supposed to be in school? I settled on a noncommittal shrug.

Mother eyed me. “He died, you know,” she said. “Beowulf died fighting that dragon.”

“He fought to his last ounce of strength!” Gran-Gran said. “He defeated the beast, though it cost him his life. And he brought untold peace and prosperity to his people! All the greatest warriors fight for peace, Spensa. Remember that.”

“At the very least,” Mother said, “they fight for irony.” She glanced again at the rats. “Thanks. But get going. Don’t you have the pilot test tomorrow?”

“I’m ready for the test,” I said. “Today is just learning things I don’t need to know.”

Mother gave me an unyielding stare. Every great warrior knew when they were bested. I gave Gran-Gran a hug and whispered, “Thank you.”

“Soul of a warrior,” Gran-Gran whispered back. “They’re all looking to be gears in this grand machine they’ve created. My little warrior, don’t be ashamed if you, instead, are too sharp to be a gear.”

I smiled, then went and quickly washed up before heading off to what would, I hoped, be my last day of class.

2

“Why don’t you tell us what you do each day in the Sanitation Corps, Citizen Alfir?” Mrs. Vmeer, our Work Studies instructor, nodded encouragingly at the man who stood at the front of the classroom.

This Citizen Alfir wasn’t what I’d imagine a sanitation worker to be. Though he wore the jumpsuit and carried a pair of rubber gloves hooked to his belt, he was actually handsome: square jaw, burly arms, chest hair peeking out from above his tight jumpsuit collar.

I could almost imagine him as Beowulf. Until he spoke. “Well, we mostly fix clogs in the system,” he said. “Clearing what we call black water—that’s mostly human waste—so it can flow back to processing, where the Apparatus reclaims it and harvests both water and useful minerals.”

“Sounds perfect for you,” Dia whispered, leaning toward me. “Cleaning waste? A step up from coward’s daughter.”

I couldn’t punch her, unfortunately. Not only was she Mrs. Vmeer’s daughter, I was already on notice for fighting. Another write-up would keep me from taking the tests, which was stupid. Didn’t they want their pilots to be great fighters? How were we supposed to practice?

We sat on the floor in a small room. No desks for us today; those had been requisitioned by another instructor. I felt like a four-year-old being read a story.

“It might not sound glorious,” Alfir said. “But it’s a vital part of the Defiant war effort. Without the Sanitation Corps, none of us would have water, and we’d quickly grow sick from contamination. The war against the Krell would be lost in a day or two. We’re in some ways the most important part of the system.”

Though I’d missed some of these lectures, I’d heard enough of them. The Ventilation Corps workers earlier in the week had said much the same thing about their job. And the construction workers from the day before. And the forge workers, the cleaning staff, and the cooks. They all had practically the same speech.

Every person is some important gear or cog, I thought, anticipating what he’d say next.

“Every job in the cavern is a vital part of the machine that keeps us alive,” Alfir said. “We can’t all be pilots, but no job is more important than another.”

It’s essential, I thought, that you learn your place and do your job well. Precision is more important than grandstanding.

“To join us, you have to be able to follow instructions,” the man said. “You have to be willing to do your part, no matter how insignificant it may seem. Remember, obedience is defiance.”

I got it, and to an extent, agreed with him. Pilots wouldn’t get far in the war without water, or food, or sanitation.

Taking jobs like these still felt like settling. Where was the spark, the energy? We were supposed to be Defiant. We were warriors.

The class just clapped politely when Citizen Alfir finished. Outside the window, more workers walked in lines beneath statues with straight, geometric shapes.

Sometimes we seemed far less a machine of war than a clock for timing how long shifts lasted.

With the presentation over, the students stood up for a break. I strode away before Dia could make another wisecrack. The girl had been trying to goad me into trouble all week.

Instead, I approached a lanky boy with red hair at the back of the room. He’d immediately opened a book to read once the lecture was done.

“Rodge,” I said. “Rigmarole!”

His nickname—the callsign we’d chosen for him to take once he became a pilot—made him look up. “Spensa! When did you get here?”

“Middle of the lecture. You didn’t see me come in?”

“I was going through flight schematics lists in my head.

Scud. Only one day left. Aren’t you nervous?”

“Of course I’m not nervous. Why would I be nervous? I got this down.

“Not sure I do.” Rodge glanced back at his textbook.

“Are you kidding? You know basically everything, Rig.” “You should probably just call me Rodge. I mean, we haven’t

earned callsigns yet. Not unless we pass the test.” “Which we will totally do.”

“But what if I haven’t studied the right material?”

“Five basic turn maneuvers?”

“The reverse switchback,” he said immediately, “Ahlstrom loop, the twin shuffle, overwing twist, and the Imban turn.”

“Average seconds to blackout at F-G?” “Fifteen and a half.”

“Engine type on a Poco interceptor?” “Which design?”

“Current interceptor.”

“AG-113-2. Yes, I know that, Spensa—but what if those questions aren’t on the test? What if it’s something we didn’t study?”

I felt, at his words, just the faintest seed of doubt. While we’d done practice tests, the actual contents of the pilot’s test changed every year. There were always questions about engine types and maneuvers, but technically, any part of our schooling could be included.

I’d missed a lot of classes, but I knew I shouldn’t worry.

Beowulf wouldn’t worry. Confidence was the soul of heroism. “I’m going to ace that test, Rig,” I said. “We two, we’re going

to be the best pilots in the DDF. We’ll fight so well, the Krell will raise lamentations to the sky, like smoke above a pyre, crying in desperation at our passing!”

Rig cocked his head. “A bit much?” I asked.

“Where do you come up with these things?” “Sounds like something Beowulf might say.” “Who?”

Okay, so maybe he didn’t know everything.

He settled back down to study, and I probably should have joined him. But there was a part of me that was fed up with studying, with trying to cram things into my brain. I wanted the challenge to just arrive.

We had one more lecture today, unfortunately. I listened to

the other dozen or so students chatter together, but I wasn’t in a mood to put up with their stupidity. Instead, I found myself pacing like a caged animal, until I noticed Mrs. Vmeer walking toward me with Alfir, the sanitation guy.

She wore a bright green skirt, but the silvery cadet’s pin on her blouse was the real mark of her achievement. It meant she’d passed the pilot’s test herself. She must have washed out in flight school—otherwise she’d have a golden pin—but washing out wasn’t uncommon. And down here in Igneous, even a cadet’s pin was a mark of great accomplishment. Mrs. Vmeer had special clothing and food requisition privileges.

She wasn’t a bad teacher—she didn’t treat me much differently from the other students, and she hardly ever scowled at me. I kind of liked her, even if her daughter was a creature of distilled darkness, worthy only of being slain so her corpse could be used to make potions.

“Spensa,” Mrs. Vmeer said. “Citizen Alfir wanted to speak with you.”

I braced myself for questions about my father. Everyone always wanted to ask about him. What was it like to live as the daughter of a coward? Did I wish I could hide from it? Did I ever consider changing my surname? People who thought they were being empathetic always asked questions like those.

“I hear,” Alfir said, “that you’re quite the explorer.”

I opened my mouth to spit back a retort, then bit it off. What?

“You go out in the caves,” he continued, “hunting?” “Um, yes,” I said. “Rats.”

“We have need of people like you,” Alfir said. “In sanitation?”

“A lot of the machinery we service runs through far-off caverns. We make expeditions to them now and then, and having someone in the corps who is familiar with caverns could be a boon. If you want a job, I’m offering one.”

A job. In sanitation?

“I’m going to be a pilot,” I blurted out.

“The pilot’s test is hard,” Alfir said, glancing at our teacher. “Not many pass it. I’m offering you a guaranteed place with us. You sure you don’t want to consider it?”

“No, thank you.”

Alfir shrugged and walked off. Mrs. Vmeer studied me for a moment, then shook her head and walked away to welcome the next lecturer—someone who was going to tell us about the Algae Vat Corps.

I backed up against the wall, folding my arms. Mrs. Vmeer knew I was going to be a pilot. Why would she think I’d accept such an offer? Alfir couldn’t have known about me without her saying something to him, so . . . what was up?

“They’re not going to let you be a pilot,” said a voice beside me.

I glanced and saw—belatedly—that I’d happened to walk over by Dia. The dark-haired girl sat on the floor, back to the wall. Why wasn’t she chatting with the others?

“They don’t have a choice,” I said to her. “Anyone can take the pilot’s test.”

“Anyone can take it,” Dia said. “But they decide who passes, and it’s not always fair. The children of First Citizens get in automatically.”

Everyone knew that. They deserved it, as their parents had fought at the Battle of Alta. Technically, so had my father—but I wasn’t counting on that to help me.

Still, I’d always been told that everyone found their place, and rank—or status—didn’t matter, so long as you showed aptitude. The DDF didn’t care who you were, so long as you could fly.

“I know they won’t count me as a daughter of a First,” I said. “But if I pass, I get in. Just like anyone else.”

“That’s the thing, spaz. You won’t pass, no matter what. I heard my parents talking about it last night. Admiral Ironsides gave orders to deny you. You don’t really think they’d let the daughter of Chaser fly for the DDF, do you?”

“Liar.” I felt my face grow cold with anger. She was trying to taunt me again, get me to throw a fit.

Dia shrugged. “You’ll see. It doesn’t matter to me—my father already got me a job in the Administration Corps.”

I hesitated. This wasn’t like her usual insults. It didn’t have the same vicious bite, the same sense of amused taunting. She . . . she really seemed like she didn’t care whether I believed her or not.

I stalked across the room to where Mrs. Vmeer was speaking with the woman from the Algae Vat Corps.

“We need to talk,” I told her. “Just a moment, Spensa.”

I stood there, intruding on their conversation, arms folded, until finally Mrs. Vmeer sighed, then pulled me to the side. “What is it, child?” she asked. “Have you reconsidered Citizen Alfir’s kind offer?”

“Did the Admiral herself order that I’m not to pass the pilot’s test?”

Mrs. Vmeer narrowed her eyes, then turned and glanced toward her daughter.

“Is it true?” I asked.

“Spensa,” Vmeer said, looking back at me. “You have to understand, this is a very delicate issue. Your father’s reputation is—”

“Is it true?”

Mrs. Vmeer drew her lips into a line and didn’t answer.

“Is it all lies, then?” I asked. “The talk of equality, and of only skill mattering? Of finding your right place and serving there?”

“It’s complicated,” Vmeer said. She lowered her voice. “Look, why don’t you skip the test tomorrow to save everyone the embarrassment? Come to me, and we’ll talk about what might work for you. If not sanitation, perhaps ground troops?”

“So I can stand all day on guard duty?” I said, my voice growing louder. “I need to fly. I need to prove myself!”

Mrs. Vmeer sighed, then shook her head. “I’m sorry, Spensa.

But this was never going to be. I wish one of your teachers had been brave enough to disabuse you of the notion when you were younger.”

In that moment everything came crashing down around me. A daydreamed future. A carefully imagined escape from my life of ridicule.

Lies. Lies that a part of me had suspected. Of course they weren’t going to let me pass the test. Of course I was too much of an embarrassment to let fly.

I wanted to rage. I wanted to hit someone, break something, scream until my lungs bled.

Instead, I strode from the room, away from the laughing eyes of the other students.


Excerpt copyright © 2018 by Dragonsteel Entertainment, LLC. Published by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York.

Pressed for Success – Erie Reader

Nick Warren

Pressed in the Greengarden Plaza is representative of the quiet renaissance that independent booksellers have enjoyed since 2009. The newly-opened store encompasses 4,000 square feet of u201cpure book bliss.u201d

Tracey Bowes is blonde, brightly blue-eyed, and stands maybe 5 feet and 3 inches tall. She’s very fit — she says she enjoys running and playing tennis. Her voice is soft and unassuming. She is a self-proclaimed book snob (she’s currently reading an advance copy of a novel entitled Baby Teeth) and enjoys playing cards (euchre and spades to be exact).

It’s hard to imagine her yelling, or demanding in a courtroom, but before she sold her soul to the world of bookselling, she was a successful litigation lawyer in Pittsburgh and Erie, later taking time off to focus on raising her children.

Eager to jump back into work now that her kids are older, she’s opening Erie’s newest independent bookstore, Pressed, in the Greengarden Place plaza, situated across from Frontier Park and directly next to Romolo Chocolates. The store is nestled amongst three other female-run and owned businesses: PopLuck Gourmet Popcorn, Trellis, and Donatos Pizza.

“I sort of always wanted to open a bookstore but in the vague way that everyone who reads thinks would be a fun dream job,” she recollects. “I’m in a book club, and we would talk a lot about what was going on in our personal lives and mine was, ‘what am I going to do next?’ It was just perfect timing that we had space and it was available. It was now or never.”

The store, which also hosts unique gifts for people of all ages, opened April 25th (just in time for this year’s Independent Bookstore day the following Saturday) and has 3,000 square feet of pure book bliss, with another 1,000 square feet dedicated to the attached café that her husband Casey, who owns the plaza, insisted they include in the store — which will also host unique gifts for people of all ages.

After a few minutes it becomes clear that Bowes is smart, articulate, and well-read. She’s deeply dedicated to providing Erie with a quality shopping experience. There is a sense that she puts this much intensity and energy into all of her endeavors.

Of course she’s a lawyer. Never judge a book by its cover.

The bookstore includes 1,000 square feet of children’s books where a small tree house is tucked in the corner. Bowes has gone out of her way to decorate the room with whimsical wallpaper equipped with ceiling lights that look like the tops of trees.

In fact, the entire open-concept store is rife with details. There’s a lime green accent wall by the bathrooms that hosts book-printed wallpaper, checkered black-and-white tile in the café (a design aspect her husband actually chose), and clean Scandinavian lines throughout.

“We started this over a year ago; it’s been a long time planning” she says laughing, perhaps in awe of her own endurance. “This was just a blank space, which is great because you can make it your own, but on the other hand, nothing’s done, so every little thing has to be picked out and made.”

Although one bookstore doesn’t constitute a grand resurrection, it does speak to the quiet revival of independent bookselling in the United States. And it’s the community-based, brick-and-mortar shops that are on the upswing, not the presumed, large book chains.

This is an ironic turn from a few years ago, when publishers and consumers alike projected that the rise of big, online shopping sites like Amazon, and also the digital era of book reading, would obliterate independent bookstores. Instead, the American Booksellers Association actually reported a 20 percent increase in independent bookstores from 2009 to 2014 (during the recession).

Meanwhile, Barnes & Noble is a decaying entity, reporting to the U.S. Census Bureau a 6.4 percent decline in sales during the 2017 holiday season, and Borders (R.I.P.) went bankrupt in 2011. (It should be noted that there is a similar trend in music sales. For the first time in two decades, the U.K. saw vinyl sales surpass digital music sales in 2017.)

Bowes mentions our culture of screen fatigue. “People are starting to seek out tangible experiences again,” she states. The tech era — where digital copies of magazines and music are as common as Trump saying his name and Google glasses were believed to be a good idea — dare say it, isn’t cool anymore.

People want their pages back. They want to go to a physical store and walk around, because online retailers cannot offer this experience; you’re less likely to happily stumble upon a new author or publisher while searching Amazon, you have to know exactly what you’re looking for. It could be argued that part of the evocation of literature is partially the buying process itself — the art of browsing!

“I want to make it pleasant and satisfying, and more of a fulfilling experience, to actually go into a store and talk to a person and look around,” says Bowes.

Future plans for the store include a children’s story time, birthday party rentals, author book signings, and readings from local and national writers. “One thing that has struck me about the bookstore community is that everyone really wants to help and see each other succeed,” says Bowes. “It’s not at all competitive or cutthroat.” This sentiment most certainly differs from the courtroom.

Brianna Lyle can be contacted at [email protected]

‘Ragtime’ explores American dreams and nightmares with Asolo Rep | Arts and Entertainment

In 1975, novelist E.L. Doctorow wrote a very big book called “Ragtime.” In 1996, playwright Terrence McNally, lyricist Lynn Ahrens and composer Stephen Flaherty, adapted it as a very big musical. If you’ve read the book, it seems like odd material for Broadway musical theater.

Doctorow’s sprawling novel unfolds at the dawn of the 20th century. On the surface, it tackles America’s class and racial struggles. But that’s like saying “Gravity’s Rainbow” is a novel about rockets. “Ragtime” is a post-modern shaggy dog story, stuffed with a multitude of historical and imaginary characters. It’s not a tale, but several intertwining tales, often contradictory. How could you possibly turn it into a musical?

McNally stripped it down to three key stories …

There’s the all-American success story of Tateh, a Jewish immigrant who flees to America with his daughter from the pogroms of Latvia. He starts as a starving artist selling paper silhouettes for a dime. His cutouts evolve into photo flipbooks, and Tateh makes the jump to motion pictures to become a Hollywood pioneer.

There’s the story of an upper-class, W.A.S.P. family living in New Rochelle, New York. The unnamed characters (Father, Mother, Mother’s Younger Brother, and the Boy) feel like refugees from a Thornton Wilder novel. Their all-American family business is as patriotic as it gets. They’ve grown rich selling fireworks and flags.

The private uprising of Coalhouse Walker Jr. is the central narrative. He’s a gifted, African-American pianist who believes in the American Dream. Initially, Coalhouse’s dream comes true. He’s a successful musician who can afford a brand-new Model-T. But Coalhouse’s dream shatters when a group of thuggish volunteer firemen block the road and trash his car. But that humiliating, racist incident is only the beginning of sorrows. Tragedy follows. And Coalhouse turns from ragtime to revolution.

Jade Turner and Alfie Parker Jr. perform in Asolo Rep’s production of “Ragtime.” Photo by Cliff Roles

Apart from these characters, the novel’s packed with turn-of-the-century celebrities: Emma Goldman, Henry Ford, Evelyn Nesbit, Henry Morgan, Harry Houdini and Booker T. Washington, to name a few. The musical gives them a few walk-on parts. Doctorow’s surreal, R-rated weirdness stays on the cutting-room floor.

Ahrens and Flaherty made a brilliant, if obvious, musical choice. They filled “Ragtime” … with ragtime. Their songs aren’t blatant rip-offs from Scott Joplin, but syncopated sound-alikes. The upbeat, bouncy tunes change the tone of the tale. Doctorow’s darkly comic jeremiad feels like a parade. Or a cakewalk.

It all comes together in this boisterous, inventive Asolo Rep production. It’s a reprise of director Peter Rothstein’s “Ragtime” revival at Theater Latté Da — a lean, mean version of the original Broadway show. (Here, you see a cast of only 17, as opposed to 44.) Instead of overwhelming you with a grand scale, this redux of “Ragtime” draws you in with a more intimate, personal style of storytelling. It’s effective.

Without elbowing you in the ribs, Rothstein makes clear connections between 1908 and 2018. The musical seethes with racism, immigrant-bashing, class warfare, and hypocrisy. The director’s obvious conclusion? The more America changes, the more it stays the same.

Britta Ollmann performs in Asolo Rep’s production of “Ragtime.” Photo by Cliff Roles

Michael Hoover’s set is minimal and powerful. He keeps the stage mostly bare, except for a grand piano (which doubles as Coalhouse’s Model-T and a hearse), a few chairs and some movable stairs. The backdrop is a gritty brick wall, complete with pop-open doors where Henry Ford, Harry Houdini and other figures occasionally appear. Trevor Bowen’s period-accurate costumes instantly telegraph the class-distinctions of this world. Kelli Foster Warder’s choreography is integral to the production’s playful approach to time and space. In a nod to Tateh’s silhouettes, Warder punctuates the action with high-stepping, silhouetted dance lines. It’s as if, at some level, it’s always the Fourth of July.

Music director Steve Orich delivers on the promise of Ahrens and Flaherty’s excellent songs. The nine-piece orchestra below the stage is nothing less than flawless. The same applies to the singing actors …

Jared Joseph portrays Coalhouse as an incandescent talent who was born too soon. In early 20th-century America, he’s got everything going for him except the color of his skin. Coalhouse’s heart overflows with love and music — until it’s broken. Joseph delivers an affecting, sympathetic characterization. (The musical’s creators carefully insulate your sympathies by keeping Coalhouse’s bombing campaign off-stage.)

Danyel Fulton plays the love of his life, Sarah. She’s an unmarried African-American woman who gave birth to Coalhouse’s child and abandoned the infant in the garden of a wealthy white family. Fulton brings fire and depth to what could’ve been a two-dimensional victim role. Britta Ollmann’s Mother is the musical’s moral center of gravity. She discovers Coalhouse and Sarah’s newborn baby in her garden. Instead of calling the authorities, she opens her home to both mother and child. (And then lets Coalhouse win Sarah back over the next two months after he’d abandoned her.)

Jared Joseph and Danyel Fulton play new parents Sarah and Coalhouse Walker Jr. in Asolo Repertory Theatre’s intimate cast of “Ragtime.” Photo by Cliff Roles

Bret Shuford is effective as Father, a man with a defective moral compass who thinks he’s one of the good guys. David Darrow is incisive and nuanced as Mother’s Younger Brother. He’s a man whose conscience is working perfectly — and won’t let him stay on the sidelines. (Darrow’s energized performance reminds me of a young Steve Buscemi at the height of his game.) Sasha Andreev’s Tateh is always a crowd-pleaser. Like Coalhouse, his character is another talented artist who refuses to quit. Kudos also to Leslie Becker, Benjamin Dutcher, Rod Singleton and Billie Wildrick for their portrayals of Emma Goldman, Booker T. Washington, Harry Houdini and Evelyn Nesbit.

Expect to be entertained. The talents are stellar—and the musical is great on its own terms. Those are the only terms that count, although literary purists might object.

Milos Foreman’s sharply cynical 1981 film adaptation was truer to the detached, satirical spirit of Doctorow’s novel. The musical adaptation plucks at your heartstrings in a way the novel never tries. It’s an understandable choice — with precedent. Walt Disney famously said that Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” was clever but “lacked heart.” McNally evidently felt the same way about “Ragtime.” The book is a literary mirror maze. The musical strives for emotional connection. It’s full of human warmth. And there’s even a dash of patriotism.

Where the novel felt like a requiem for the American dream. This musical adaptation ends on an optimistic reprise of “Wheels of a Dream.”

You’ll feel like saluting, even if you have read the book.

Q&A with Lidia Bastianich, author of ‘My American Dream: A Life of Love, Family, and Food’



Lidia Bastianich

Lidia Bastianich

Lidia Bastianich connects to people through the food of Italy. Her new memoir, “My American Dream: A Life of Love, Family, and Food,” tells how life as a refugee and immigrant led to her career celebrating the food and culture of a country that was sometimes out of reach.

The award-winning television host, author, and chef was born in 1947 in Pola (now Pula), a former Italian city on the Istrian peninsula that was annexed by communist Yugoslavia after World War II. It is now part of Croatia. When she was 9, Bastianich’s family escaped across the border to Italy, where they lived in a refugee camp for two years before ultimately receiving visas to emigrate to the United States. After settling in New York, Bastianich was free to return to Italy and began reconnecting with family, immersing herself in the culture, studying the country’s food.

Bastianich credits her audiences with encouraging her to tell this story. “There seems to be such a connection between my viewers, my readers, my customers. I think I took them to a trip of their own — different ethnicities, not only Italians — which is wonderful because it tells you how universal this message is,” she says.

Bastianich spoke on a recent visit to Boston, where she hosted a book signing at Eataly Boston, the Italian marketplace in which she is a partner.

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Q. Has your experience as an immigrant always been a story you tell?

A. Being an immigrant, you want to be assimilated. I remember being a young teenager, all I wanted to do is have the bobby socks, dance the rock ’n’ roll like the rest. . . . As I began to write books and cook, I had a medium where I connected. My stories were always in the background because I said nobody is interested in that. But food reflects a culture, a topography, a climate, and so I would slowly put it in. I was kind of enlightened that I could release this secret, if you will, of being an immigrant. Oddly enough, it fits into today’s situation.

Q. How did growing up under Yugoslavian rule affect your Italian identity?

A. We were Italian at home. To this day, I speak Italian with my mother. In [Pola] there were the Italians, the fascists, the Nazis came down, the Croatians, and everybody was against each other. It was kind of this neighbor against neighbor, not unlike what’s happening now. You know, you were afraid.

Q. Do you think being separated from Italy is why it looms so large in your life and career?

A. You know I actually never thought of this until you brought it up. But I have this need not to miss Italy and what it’s up to. I need to go there and see what the Italians are doing. I felt like my home was beyond my reach, our reach, our control. The forces came and went kind of like the wind and pushed us here. There was not the appreciation for allowing different ethnicities to coexist like they did.

Q. When your family made it to Italy, it was as refugees. Why was that?

A. We had no papers. They couldn’t go and check in Yugoslavia because when the Yugoslavians came they changed our name. So, the only option was to stay in the [refugee] camp and to wait without citizenship until somebody accepted us. But the rules were such that we weren’t immigrants, we were refugees. If we had the Italian citizenship, we had to stay in Italy. We couldn’t have gone anyplace else. And I think it was a choice of my parents to just go on. So, it’s one of those complicated decisions that one makes in life. I’m grateful for it.

Q. Your mother kept wanting to repay Catholic Charities for their help after you settled in New York.

A. She thought it was going to haunt her. She thought it was building up. I think that’s valiant. I personally think that sometimes today there is an abuse of the goodness of America. I really do. There’s no place that does better, that stands by the people in need. And, you know, I think that things like that should be respected. If somebody gives you a chance and you make it and you become something, it’s not all yours to keep. You have to give something back.

Q. After moving so much, when did you finally feel like you’d found home?

A. When I turned 18, six years after I came here, the first thing I did was I applied for my citizenship. I just wanted to make sure that nobody’s going to take me away from here. And I remember that as being one of the most joyous moments in my life, kind of a relief. . . . I have a home. I’m accepted. I am like everybody else here. And from then on, I just kind of grabbed on to being an American in every single way and [took] every opportunity that came along. And I still do. You know because, as strong as I am in the Italian [culture] . . . I am an American.

Interview was edited and condensed. Michael Floreak can be reached at [email protected].

Sumter resident publishes children’s book

BY IVY MOORE Special to The Sumter Item

Ashley Denmark has recently added “author” to her list of accomplishments, with the publication of her first book. The Missouri native lives in Sumter and works as a family medicine physician at McLeod Hospital in Florence.

“I recently wrote my first STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) children’s book called ‘Olivia’s Doctor Adventures,’ which was inspired by my daughter, who is a first-grader at Sumter Christian School,” she said.

Denmark said her 6-year-old daughter Olivia had surgery when she was 3, “and she saw all different kinds of doctors in the hospital. As she got older she made doodles about her experience, and she said, ‘You should make this a book.'”

And so her mother did just that.

Denmark said the book is filled with colorful illustrations by Mike Motz and text by herself “that teach children about different types of doctors, such as anesthesiologists, surgeons, pediatricians, dentists, ophthalmologists, obstetricians/gynecologists and much more.”



“Olivia’s Doctor Adventures” not only teaches children about what doctors in different fields of medicine do, she said, but also “I wrote it to inspire them to dream.”

The book is for everyone, not just girls, Denmark said. “It’s for people like (the readers) to see it’s possible to become whatever they dream for.

“My mission is to let the next generation of doctors know that no matter where you come from, your dreams can come true.”

While kindergartners and first-graders can gain understanding of the roles of different medical specialties, Denmark said parents reading “Olivia’s Doctor Adventures” to their children can pick up information, too.

“Medical jargon can often be hard to understand,” she said.

Denmark’s husband is in law school in Charleston, so the couple decided to settle their family in Sumter, where they’ve lived for three years.

“It’s got everything we need,” she said, ” and if I am able to plant the seed of endless possibilities in one child, in the place I call home, I will consider it a mission accomplished.”

“Olivia’s Doctor Adventures” can be purchased through Amazon.com and at www.oliviasdoctoradventures.com. More information about the book can also be found on the website.

Animals of the Delaware Museum of Natural History « CBS Philly

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — At the Delaware Museum of Natural History, “we’re a picture to the past,” said Austin Conley, the museum’s tour and outreach coordinator.

Austin said he spent many a day here as a kid. Now it’s his full-time job.

“We’re the only dinosaur exhibit in the state of Delaware,” Austin said as he showed Meisha the Dino Hall.

museum of natural history Dream Drives: Animals of the Delaware Museum of Natural History

Credit: (CBS3)

“Holy smokes!” Meisha said as she looked up at a Yangchuanosaurus skeleton towering over them.

Don’t recognize the name Yangchuanosaurus? “He’s actually an Asian relative to the Allosaurus, which is a lot more common knowledge,” Austin said. “Some people think they hunted in groups, which is a little terrifying when you’re having something that big coming after you, with more than one of them.”

The museum has an active collections and research department upstairs, with specimens of more than two million species of mollusks and more than 100,000 birds. Upstairs is also where the museum stores some of its overflowing supply of taxidermied animals.

“I wasn’t really expecting to see these kinds of animals here,” Meisha said.

Dream Drives: Ghost Stories At Creeper Gallery

Austin said the animals had been collected over the years, and some were too large or too beat up to display in the main galleries. However, they can be seen during behind-the-scenes tours at special events.

“It really is kind of a hidden gem up here,” Meisha said.

Visitors should look for Dude the Cat, a real cat who is the unofficial mascot of the museum.

“He was found by our maintenance manager,” Austin said. Dude is so popular, he is the star of several children’s books.

Then there are the other live animals. Austin brought out Maisey, a corn snake whose scales are a deep red.

“I am so obsessed with what we are looking at right now!” Meisha said. “When kids come in and these reptiles and amphibians all the animals are here, what do they get to do?”

Dream Drives: The Tales of Baldwin’s Book Barn

“They do get to touch them,” Austin said. “We have animal shows in The Nook, and we have animals that make the rounds in The Nook. We have a really cool new uromastyx lizard (named Moto), which looks like a little dinosaur. There is a 3-toed box turtle. Right now, we have a bald eagle’s nest on the camera so kids can watch these birds grow up.

“It’s just a cool place to interact with things that normally you can’t see,” Austin said.

The Delaware Museum of Natural History is open seven days a week. It’s at 4840 Kennett Pike, Wilmington, DE 19807.

5 Reasons to Read ‘I Still Dream’ by James Smythe

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Still Dream James Smythe

James Smythe is one of my favorite authors. I Still Dream is the first adult novel he’s written since I wrote this piece for GeekDad, and, as ever when reading a favorite author, I opened the pages of the book with the nagging doubt of “What if it isn’t as good?”

I needn’t have worried. I Still Dream is speculative fiction of the highest order. Smythe has a way of cutting to the bone with his observations and extrapolations. His books do not paint a happy view of society and human nature, often making for uncomfortable reading.

Smythe has carved his niche by examining the effects of social media and technology on society. His novels usually take a technology on the cusp of realizing its potential and imagining what might happen to the world if it went wrong. His novels are Black Mirror in literary form. Running alongside this, usually, is the theme of memory and the persistence of consciousness. His books are often bleak, but never dull, and I find them all utterly compelling. I Still Dream ranks alongside The Machine as one of my favorite Smythe books.

Here are my five reasons to read it.

1: The Structure

Each section of the book takes place ten years after the previous one. This gives us a snapshot of characters lives, and the wider world, with a decade between each. The book opens in 1997 and with the exception of one flashback moves forwards in 10-year increments, through 2017 and into the future. In 1997, main character Laura is a teenager, and we see her grow up over the course of the novel. By using these 10-year increments, Smythe shows how much things change, but also how things stay the same.

Smythe uses his device to demonstrate how we are products of our existence. How our hopes and fears, actions, and reactions are all informed by our experiences, with none being more influential than those we have as children. The novel’s structure also allows Smythe to show how our use technology has changed over time. As the novel progresses, this backdrop provides a framework onto which Smythe hangs his extrapolations for the evolution of the technology as he looks to the future.

2: Nostalgia

Nostalgia is very important in all of Smythe’s novels, none more so than in I Still Dream. The pop-cultural references are seeped into the fabric of his stories. They’re not just plot devices, where references are chucked at you in a “Remember X? Remember Y?” manner, often without artifice (Ready Player One, I’m looking at you). Instead, Smythe crystallizes the importance of music, film, and books to our personalities and the way in which we interact with the world. In Smythe’s world, nostalgia is not something used to elicit a connection with his reader, it is something integral to the psyche of his characters.

When Smythe talks about 1997, he doesn’t just remind you of the great bands and films of the time. He captures what life was like, particularly from a technological standpoint. Life before fast internet connections and ubiquitous mobile phones is expertly captured and portrayed.

3: The Music

Much of the novel’s nostalgia comes from its references to music. They permeate the book, acting like a nostalgic glue that binds the novel together. The references are never too overt but they’re always there. Laura is a Kate Bush fan, thanks to her time with her now absent father. Her own music taste then extends to Radiohead, a band ideally suited to a novel about the evolution of artificial intelligence. Laura has a talent and passion for the making of mixtapes, possibly the most resonant cultural reference one could make about that period of time. Even in a world where cassette tapes are a thing of the past and making a playlist is as effortless as breathing, mixtapes still hold an almost mythological resonance and Smythe channels that to good effect.

4: The Depiction of AI

With its ten year increments, I Still Dream looks at the evolution of technology and AIs, examining how they did/do/might help us. I can’t go into too much detail without spoiling the novel, but the book postulates different evolution pathways for AIs. Are we going to end up with a Skynet situation? Smythe doesn’t think so and has compelling reasons as to why not. Nevertheless, he posits very definite reasons why the education of AIs should be handled carefully.

Whilst looking at technology in 1997, 2007, and 2017, Smythe looks at how our relationship with technology has changed for good and ill. He treats us to a delightful potted history of attitudes and aspirations of Silicon Valley and the nature of coding as a profession. For anybody who works in that arena, I Still Dream will make for fabulous nostalgic reading.

5: The Persistence of Memory

The nature of memory and how it makes us who we are is a repeating theme in Smythe’s books. The idea that we are the sum of our memories and that these memories degrade over time, morphing into something else. The parts that we hold on to, whether we recall the accurately or not, then go on to shape the type of people we become. Our evolving use of technology means that more and more of our memories are captured, altering the manner in which we see ourselves. There is no self-editing when everything is captured in real-time.

Is this a bad thing? There are, of course, a range of opinions about this. The news tells us that, as a collective, most of us give this information away with almost no thought to the consequences. Smythe makes no comment on the rights and wrongs of data collection, but he does offer a couple of alternative possibilities of the consequences of doing so.

The other strand to the novel’s memory theme fits alongside Smythe’s excellent novel The Machine. (Go read it now!) As time progresses, the characters in I Still Dream inevitably grow older, as do those close to them. Smythe examines the loss of memory that goes with growing old and wonders whether AIs might help us come to terms with loss and loss of mental faculty. This sets up a hopeful yet heartbreaking ending that is completely fitting with what has gone before.

Still Dream James Smythe
The UK hardback edition. With and without dust jacket.

Those are my five reasons for reading I Still Dream, but there is one overriding reason. The novel is excellent. If you have any interest in speculative fiction, AI, coding, or just the passage of time, this novel will not disappoint.

You can pick up a copy of I Still Dream here, in the US, and here, in the UK.

If you enjoyed this review, do check out my other 5 Reasons to Read posts.

Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this book in order to write this review.  

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Gary Moore: Is fear keeping you from living your dream? | Local Columnists

I recently was stopped in the grocery store by a man who wanted to tell me he enjoyed my column. During the brief discussion, the person asked, “Do you have a degree in journalism?”

“No,” I responded, “My degree is music education.”

“How did you become a columnist?”

“I decided I wanted to write a column. I wrote a few samples and submitted them to the managing editor at the Daily Journal.”

“And they said, ‘Yes,’” I responded.

The man had a confused look on his face then asked, “Weren’t you afraid they’d say no?”

Fear for many, is debilitating. Fear keeps people from pursuing their dreams and traps them into living the life they are given rather than striving for the life they want. I think legendary motivational speaker Zig Ziglar nailed it when he said …

Most fear is only false evidence appearing real

Some fears are healthy. It’s natural to experience fear when we are in a life-threatening situation and fear is a useful tool to keep us from placing ourselves there. That type of fear was defined by Walter Bradford Cannon as “Fight of Flight” fear. It kept the caveman from being eaten by the sabre tooth tiger and keeps “most of us” from doing dumb and dangerous things. Fear of some situations and circumstances are both normal and healthy. So, when someone tells you to live without fear, that might not be the best advice. However, most other fears are unrealistic and even irrational. They are often triggered, as Zig stated, by false evidence appearing real and can keep us from realizing our dreams. So, what should you do?

The voices in our head often are untruthful. Many, if not most, of our fears are rooted in our insecurities and lack of faith in our abilities. The voices in our head that tell us we are not smart enough, good enough or talented enough, create the insecurities that manifest themselves into unrealistic or irrational fear. If the voice sounds familiar, it should … it is yours. Your internal voice raises the doubt that turns into fear of acting, while discouraging you from venturing out from the life you have into the life you want.

Author and medical professional Bronnie Ware writes in her book, “Regrets of the Dying,” that two of the top five regrets are cause only by our fear. No. 1 is “I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me” and No. 3 is “I wish I had the courage to express my feelings.” Fear of what others might think triggers both.

Authenticity takes courage …

Being who you are meant to be takes courage but even more so in becoming who you aspire to be.

I’m fortunate. I grew up in a home where there was no money for college. I had to take a job selling vacuum cleaners, door-to-door on straight commission to earn money for tuition. I was frightened almost beyond my ability to cope. The irrational fear of knocking on doors almost brought me to tears during my first few weeks, but I quickly learned that almost all the things I was afraid would happen, did not. Under most circumstances, I would have given up before I started, but my fear of not attending college was greater than my fear of having a door slammed in face. I survived the summer and earned enough to pay a year’s tuition, then came back for more each summer until I graduated from college, debt free. Along my journey, several of my friends saw the money I was earning and decided to give selling a shot, but most gave up before the first day ended. Their fear kept them from the success they could have enjoyed.

I believe that our life’s destiny is discovered on the other side of fear

If it’s worth having, it’s worth overcoming your fear to obtain it. My column now is in its second year, but I still experience the moments of doubt every Monday morning as I press the button to submit this to Mike Frey and Tim Yonke, my contacts at the Daily Journal. After three successful books, two screenplays and 53 columns, I am sure Tim can still tell you all about my writing insecurities and fears. Regardless of self-doubt, anxiety and yes …. fear, every Monday morning, like clockwork, I defy the lie and nervously press “send” and submit my column for the masses to judge. The same is true of my new video blogs on my Gary W Moore YouTube Channel’ When we produce or create work that comes from our head and heart, then put it out there for others to experience, there always will be those who disagree or criticize what we do. That’s life. At those moments, I always remind myself that no one ever erects a statue of a critic.

Former Speaker of the House Sam Raburn is quoted as saying, “Any jacka– can kick down a barn but it takes a good carpenter to build one.”

Anyone can criticize, and they will. Some will ridicule and tell you are not capable. It’s easy to tell others they “can’t,” but to accomplish something that matters, you must overcome your fear.

Be positive. Take risks. Ignore the external critics and the internal voices in your head.

Gary W. Moore is a Kankakee native and current Bourbonnais resident. He is an entrepreneur, business executive, motivational speaker, sales trainer, musician and author. He wrote the critically acclaimed book, “Playing with the Enemy,’’ winner of the 2006 Military Writers Society of America Book of the Year. Contact him at garywmoore.com.