Catfish Dreams: new book details Ed Scott’s place in history

Ed Scott, Jr. was the child of a Mississippi Delta farmer, a World War II veteran who fought alongside General Patton, a Civil Rights activist and the first ever non-white owner and operator of a catfish plant in the United States.

Oxford native and author Julian Rankin has taken it upon himself to put Scott’s life story on the page in his new book, “Catfish Dream: Ed Scott’s Fight for His Family Farm and Racial Justice in the Mississippi Delta.”

“Catfish Dream” centers around the experiences, family and struggles of Scott, who was born in 1922 and lived in Mound Bayou, Miss. According to Rankin, Scott battled long odds and institutionalized racism to carve out of the Mississippi Delta land an “agricultural empire of black self-determination, which flowed out to and benefited his surrounding community.”

Rankin first met Scott in 2013, when Scott’s daughter, Willena Scott White, expressed interest in telling her father’s story. Rankin traveled to the Delta, where he and Scott hashed out the details of his story.

“[White] was really a champion of this story, because she knew it well and had seen it firsthand,” Rankin said. “I sat down with Mr. Scott, and he just kind of walked me through history, all his trials and triumphs. It really is an epic tale, and it dovetails with the American Dream and Civil Rights and what it means to own land in the Mississippi Delta.”

From there, Rankin interviewed members of the Scott family, plant workers, Scott’s lawyer and others to form a complete picture of Scott, who passed away in 2015 at age 93.

Scott’s dream of being a catfish farmer began years after he returned from WWII, where he had dodged Nazi fire in German trenches alongside Patton.

His father, Ed Scott, Sr., was a self-made man in every sense of the word, Rankin said, starting life as a sharecropper in Alabama and going on to own thousands of acres and become one of the first black men to grow rice in Mississippi. Scott took after his father for much of his life, farming soybeans and rice in addition to his catfish operation. His profession is one Rankin said fed the black community, both physically and symbolically.

During the Civil Rights Movement, Scott’s determination to be treated as an equal led him to march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., provide food for those in James Meredith’s 1966 March Against Fear and even give counsel to activist Fannie Lou Hamer when she opened Freedom Farm in Ruleville, Miss in the 1970s.

Being black in the South, especially in the Delta, did not make for an easy life. As Scott found out, being an enterprising black businessman in the catfish business was even harder.

“The agricultural industry shifted away from traditional row crops in the 1970s and 80s. Because people were getting into catfish, [Scott] wanted to do it, but because he was a black man, he ran into a lot of obstacles,” Rankin said. “It obviously led to government discrimination, but what it revealed was a persistence and ingenuity and innovation that the family embodied.”

The book’s title comes from a quote from Scott himself. During one of their conversations, Scott told Rankin, “My motto is, don’t stop chasing your dream. My dream was to grow these catfish, and I did.”

A series of setbacks led Scott to open his catfish processing plant, including loan denials from the USDA, government seizures of his land and worse. Left with only an old tractor shed, the book tells how Scott decided to get into the full-time catfish processing business from 1983 to 1990.

“Against all odds, when most people would’ve gotten out of it, he still hung on and got minority contracts, employed dozens of African-American workers in the community and gave them a dignified job,” Rankin said. “However, he eventually couldn’t keep it going.”

“Catfish Dream” has a happy ending, however. In a fortunate turn of events, Scott ended his life a millionaire. Complete details on this final triumph, Rankin said, will be revealed at the book’s launch at Square Books on July 12.

In 2001, Scott, who cooked catfish for events held by the Southern Foodways Alliance and became friends with director John T. Edge, received the Keeper of the Flame Award at the Southern Foodways Symposium.

“By telling these foundational stories of the South, bringing them out of the kitchen and how the food gets to your plate, you’re able to talk about communities and history and learn lessons about how we can work together,” Rankin said. “It’s giving life to these American ideals that so often are not fulfilled. Ed Scott was able to illustrate that the American Dream is, in fact, possible.”

Do Humans Dream Of Smartphones?

Despite how ubiquitous smartphones are to our waking life, they appear surprisingly rarely in dreams. When Twitter user @BrendanCredence tweeted about the phenomenon, over 56,000 users liked the tweet, and over 20,000 retweeted the sentiment. Other mundane details from our waking life does appear often dreams: waiting rooms, schools, dentist offices. Why don’t our phones?

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According to one theory of dreaming called the “threat simulation hypothesis,” our dreams exist to help us navigate anxieties and fears in a low-risk environment, essentially letting us practice for real life. It’s an evolved defense mechanism, and it means that generally, our dreams are more closely tied to fears that have been around for a long time, fears that could be relevant even to our ancestors. “People tend not to dream quite as much about reading and writing, which are more recent developments in human history, and more about survival related things, like fighting, even if that has nothing to do with who you are in real life,” Alice Robb, science writer and author of a forthcoming book on dream, explains at The Cut.

But of course the hypothesis may not be totally accurate: after surveying over 16,000 dream reports, researchers found that cell phones appeared in two to three percent of dreams — a low number, yes, but at a higher frequency than movies, computers or airplanes appear. (Cars are the most frequently appearing technology in dreams.) In any case: dreams are complex and hard to predict or analyze, and highly dependent on each person’s thoughts or life circumstances. For instance, someone in mourning is likely to have intense dreams, and receiving a call from the dead is not an uncommon dream.

Then again: would it really be so much fun to dream of texting someone to make plans, or checking your email yet again? Perhaps it’s better off that smartphones stay (mostly) out of our dreams.

(source: The Cut)

MFA graduate living her dream | Local

McNeese State University graduate Jenn Alandy Trahan has been awarded the prestigious Jones Lectureship in Fiction at Stanford University. “I’ll be teaching at my dream institution, surrounded by dream colleagues and I’ll have the much-need time to finish my first book as a Stanford faculty member,” said Trahan, a 2015 graduate of McNeese’s Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and Master of Arts in english literature programs.


“It’s a dream of mine to teach at the collegiate level…I aspire to be part of a group that honors the power of shared learning and thrives on bringing different people together in pursuit of a common goal.” 


“My own college years at the University of California Irvine were some of my most difficult years because I was paying my own way through school, working 20-30 hours a week and juggling a full course load,” said Trahan. However, her professors “all played a role in changing the course of my life and I want to pay forward the generosity and kindness that my own college teachers extended me.” 


Trahan was initially attracted to McNeese’s program because of the full-funding available to its MFA students and because of its close proximity to the New Orleans Saints. Recounting the Saint’s Super Bowl XLIV win, she said, “I remember watching YouTube videos of fans in bars cheering on Tracy Porter’s interception…and I thought, ‘Wow, I need to be a part of that culture.’ ”


During her time at McNeese Trahan “had the opportunity to teach 10 course over six semesters” while earning her degrees which served as a catalyst for her career ambitions. “I think all of this in the trenches experience serves as excellent preparation for a teaching career. In fact, I was at McNeese when I realized that I wanted to teach at the collegiate level for the rest of my life.  If I never had the opportunity to teach at McNeese, I wouldn’t have realized this.”


She encouraged aspiring writers to pursue an MFA because it will “give you two to three years of protected time to read, write, grow and hopefully, teach.”  In choosing the right program she urged writers to apply to fully-funded programs like McNeese’s and to “really think about what kind of place will inspire them and their work.”


“Being in Louisiana truly inspired my work…I came into my own as a writer in Lake Charles, Louisiana…If you can go write for two to three years in a place where no one cares that you write or thinks its cool, like Lake Charles, then you’ve got the skin to write. When you strip everything away, writing is ultimately a solitary, lonely endeavor…Which is why you need the right place around you.”


Excerpts from Trahan’s upcoming novel will be published in September’s issue of Harper’s Magazine available on newsstands in mid-August.

Fate doesn’t give up easily | Arts & Leisure

Maria Duffy.


Page Turner / Edited by Peter McDermott

Maria Duffy’s fiction is making the move to America. The Dubliner has become used to reviews that describe her work as, for example, “fresh, zany and, at times, laugh out loud funny” (Irish Examiner). Here, she’s being praised for a “touch of mystery and some beautifully rendered explorations of human connection” (Publishers Weekly) in her debut on this side of the Atlantic, “A Love Like This.”

Duffy said it’s a book “about destiny and fate.”

She explained: “William and Donna are born on the same day in the same Dublin maternity hospital but their lives are very different. Will grows up in an affluent suburb with rich parents but struggles to balance what he wants with what will keep his overbearing mother happy. Donna is raised in poverty by her older sister and often wonders what life would be like without her troubled mother around. Over the years, William and Donna almost meet many times but it seems fate is trying to keep them apart. But it’s only when tragedy strikes for each of them and they head off to explore the world, that they finally meet 10,000 miles from home.”

The author added: “Their connection is very special but unfortunately the timing is wrong and they’re left with the memories of the brief time they had together and the dream of what might have been. But fate doesn’t give up that easily and maybe there’s still a chance for the two of them to find each other again.”

Maria Duffy

Date of birth: 14 April 1969

Place of birth: Dublin.

Spouse: Paddy

Children: 4 children – Eoin, 21, Roisin, 20, Enya, 16, and Conor, 14.

Residence: Lucan, Dublin.

Published works: “Any Dream Will Do,” “The Terrace,” “The Letter,” “One Wish,” “A Love Like This,” “Falling Softly” and “In Search of Us.” All commercial fiction and all published in Ireland, the UK and the Commonwealth. Some have been translated to German, Portuguese, French, Turkish and Italian.


What is your writing routine? Are there ideal conditions?

I try to write when the children are at school and college as that’s when the house is quietest.  So I sit at my desk at around 9 a.m. and try to clear my mind of the hundreds of other things I need to do in the house. Working from home can be both a blessing and a curse.  I often find myself emptying the dishwasher and mopping the floor when I really should be writing.  But when a deadline looms, I can most often be found in my office at 2 a.m.  Writing during the night works best for me when I have a lot to do but in reality, I couldn’t do it every night.


What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

The first thing I would say is to keep at it and believe in yourself. I had no confidence ten years ago. I was writing and keeping it all to myself because I didn’t think anybody would take me seriously.  I didn’t have a degree or had never worked in a library or in the book world so I thought my books wouldn’t even be considered. Now with seven successful books published I’ve finally rid myself of that “Impostor Syndrome”! Just write a bit every day and don’t worry about editing it or making it perfect. The most important thing is to get the words down – they can always be changed at a later stage.


Name three books that are memorable in terms of your reading pleasure.

“Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine” by Gail Honeyman; “Bridget Jones’s Diary” by Helen Fielding; “Me Before You” by Jojo Moyes.


What book are you currently reading?

“ The Trip of a Lifetime” by Monica McInerney.


Is there a book you wish you had written?

Yes. I wish I’d written “Me Before You” by Jojo Moyes. I pride myself on forming characters and as I’m a very visual person, I can picture every one of them in my head. When I read “Me Before You,” I connected with it and pictured the characters vividly.  I think it’s a beautiful, funny and heart-breaking story and one that stayed with me for a long time after.


Name a book that you were pleasantly surprised by.

“Girl on a Train” by Paula Hawkins.  I didn’t think it would be my sort of book and I sometimes hate reading books when there’s a lot of hype surrounding them and you almost know the whole story before you read it.  But I really enjoyed it and couldn’t put it down.


If you could meet one author, living or dead, who would it be?

Without a shadow of a doubt, it would be Maeve Binchy.  She was a brilliant writer and a wonderful woman.  Her books are like a hug that I can pick up and re-read when I need cheering up.


What book changed your life?

If I can say my own book, it would definitely be “Any Dream Will Do.”  For so long, I’d harbored the dream of having a book published but never really thought it would happen.  And when I turned 40, I decided I was going to do all I could to have one published before I was 50.  When I got a book deal the following year and eventually saw “Any Dream Will Do” on the shelves in the shops, it was the most amazing thing ever. It gave me confidence and made me realise that dreams really can come true.


What is your favorite spot in Ireland?

A little gem of a beach called Silver Strand in Wicklow. There are over 100 steps to get down to it and it has golden sand and is sheltered in a cove.  I spent much of my childhood there and it holds a lot of special memories.


You’re Irish if…

“A nice cup of tea” is the solution to all the problems of the world.

Winds of Winter: ‘George RR Martin DONE and writing A Dream of Spring’ | Books | Entertainment

It sounds crazy, and the person who came up with this theory is well aware of that.

But what if Martin finished The Winds of Winter and is already working hard on A Dream of Spring?

As out there as it sounds do have some pretty good reasons to make such a seemingly outlandish claim.

First off they point out that in 2012 – six years ago – the author said he had already completed chapters of the sixth book in 2010.

Not only that, but that he hoped The Winds of Winter would be released in 2014 – yes that’s four years ago.

By early 2015, Martin was saying he reckoned it could be completed in just a few months.

Then later that year he was hopeful it would arrive in early 2016, but that year came and went.

And by January 2017 the author said he intended for the novel to arrive later in the year and now we’re looking at .

Surely there’s something fishy going on when you say you’re only a few months from finishing a book and that was almost five years ago?

The theorist reckons there’s a reason beyond waiting for HBO’s Game of Thrones TV show to end.

Instead they suggest he’s not releasing The Winds of Winter until he finishes A Dream of Spring – the series finale – “in case he runs into any logistical problem with the story.”

They added: “A Song of Ice and Fire boasts an incredible large universe, with so many characters and plots that it doesn’t seem possible to keep track of all of them.

“The closer he gets to the end, the fewer opportunities Martin will have to work his way out of any snags in the canon; less story time limits where he can go.

“Martin may be holding onto The Winds of Winter in case it needs some narrative tweaking based on a problem he hits toward the end of the Song of Ice and Fire epic.

“He obviously wants to nail the landing on the defining work of his career, and this could be the best way to ensure that happens.”

Book It: Four hotels where American dreams do come true

From Disney drenched magic to the rugged Californian coast, welcome the to the land where dreams actually do come true…


The Four Seasons Resort, Orlando

Best for… family luxury

The low-down: There is no better way to experience Orlando than from this sprawling resort within the Disney park. With a lazy river, three swimming pools, waterslides and a brilliantly-equipped kids’ hangout, it’s the perfect post-park retreat. Little ones can splash about in the fabulous paddling pool fountains, while big kids swish down slides and even bigger ones unwind on sun loungers. Cold flannel? Tropical fruit? Delectable cocktail? It’s all coming your way. Disney movies are also played on the huge poolside screen while the audience bob about in the water or kick back under an umbrella.

If it’s serenity you’re after, the adult-only pool might be more your vibe — and of course the magnificent spa. There’s a sprinkling of Disney magic on-site too, with regular visits from Mickey and co at breakfast and views of the nightly fireworks, best enjoyed from your own balcony (if it’s in the right direction) or the fabulous top-floor restaurant, Capa. With an open kitchen serving Spanish-inspired dishes and dramatic interiors, it’s a special night out. In the lobby, Lickety Split serves deli food in quick, slick style while Revello pairs Italian fare with a buzzy vibe. As the resort is officially part of the Disney World complex, guests also have access to the parks in ‘magic hours’ — before the gates open to the public.

Metro Detroit mom turns dream of becoming children’s book author into reality

(WXYZ) – Shannon Gross says she always dreamed of becoming a children’s book author, but never pursued it until a few years ago. She’s a wife and a mother of two who works as a client support manager for a communications company, but she can now add “author” to her list of titles. It all started with a bedtime story she told her 4 year-old son.

Shannon says, “I was telling my son stories at night because I didn’t want to turn the light on. I wanted him to sleep. He said, ‘Mom, would you tell me a story?’ I said, ‘What do you want to hear about?’ He said, ‘mom, would you tell me about a panda and his momma?’ I said, ‘sure!'”

She made up a story and told it often. She says she’d always wanted to be a children’s book writer.

Shannon says, “I was like, I should actually do this, put pen to paper and see what happens!”

Two years ago, Shannon started the self-publishing process for her story “Parker Panda.” She describes the character as a curious little cub who tests his boundaries. Now, ‘Parker Panda Makes His Lunch’ is a book!

Shannon says the book shows what families deal with every day when it comes to food allergies and aversions. She knows about it because her son has a peanut allergy, but she says the book also addresses character values like friendship and love.

The book is $11.99 and you can find it online at Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

Shannon says her son, now 7, loves the book and both of her boys are looking forward to her next story. She says she’s working on the next Parker Panda story and hopes to have it out next year.

She’s also hoping her own story can inspire someone else.

“Just follow your dreams. Find your gifts and talents. Do what you need to do to get it done. You can make the impossible happen.

Dream coming true for 12-year-old poet; budding young Bucks County writer to publish first book of poems | News

UPPER MAKEFIELD >> A 12-year-old poet from Upper Makefield will be publishing her first book of poetry this fall thanks to an outpouring of support on her IndieGoGo crowdfunding page.

Matilda Bray, who just completed the sixth grade at Sol Feinstone Elementary School, said she’s humbled by the response she has received from family, friends and strangers whose donations will make her new book possible.

In just one and a half days she had met and exceeded her initial goal of $1500 – enough to publish 500 books.

“Wow,” she said of the outpouring and support that has come her way. “I was very surprised. “I never dreamed of going this far. Thanks to everyone who are making this possible.”

She also met and exceeded her stretch goal of $2,500 with the money raised above and beyond $1500 being donated to the Children’s Literacy Project of Philadelphia.

“We’re trying to generate as much for the CLP folks as possible,” said her father, Chris, describing the organization as “an A-plus rated, award-winning charity.”

Entitled “Under the Moon as My Sun,” her chapbook – scheduled for publication in September – will include 35 original poems on diverse topics ranging from the Holocaust to lighthearted verses about nature and baking blueberry pies.

The idea for the book was suggested by Matilda’s two mentors – 2010 Bucks County Poet Laureate Lorraine Henrie Lins and founder and Editor-in-Chief of Tekpoet Joanne Leva – who have been advising and encouraging the budding young writer for the past few years.

Matilda met the two at an event at the Michener Museum about five or six years in which poets were challenged to write pieces about selected pieces of art.

“A couple hours later she’s got these two great poems and they were just fawning all over her,” said Matilda’s dad.

About a year later, they ran into Joanne again at a poetry reading in New Hope. That’s where Joanne suggested the idea of being Matilda’s mentor and helping to expand her horizons.

“Before you know it they were meeting together at the Doylestown Library once or twice a month to mentor her along,” said Chris.

During their mentoring sessions, the poets have worked with Matilda on different types of poetry, like limericks. They also helped her condense her body of work into some cohesion for the book.

For nearly seven years, she has been writing poems and short stories.

“When I write, I feel concealed from the rest of the world. When I write, the words flow … every word has a significant meaning. I write not only about beauty and nature but also about great sadness and cruelty,” she writes on her IndieGoGo page.

“I love going outside and observing nature and wildlife, but it always touches me to hear about all the horrible and sad events going on in the world, though I seem to live in a bubble where nothing bad happens,” she writes.

“Poetry also gives me a calmness where I can be anyone or anything. That is one of the great joys of writing and one aspect that keeps me coming back,” she says.

She draws her inspiration from many sources, including people she knows, events in her life (ie. the passing of her grandmother), famous figures, such as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the survivors of the Holocaust, and random people – “sometimes I like putting myself in their shoes.”

She counts Emily Dickinson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Robert Frost, American poet Maya Angelou, Irish poet Seamus Heaney and Edgar Allan Poe among her favorites.

Matilda penned her first poems, “Everlasting,” inspired by Natalie Babbitt’s “Tuck Everlasting,” and “On Being Kind,” which was published in the school newspaper, when she was around five or six years old.

Her body of poetry, now numbering in the hundreds, has earned her second place at the Main Street Voices Poetry Contest and runner-up (by one point) at the 100 Thousand Poets for Change Poetry Slam, hosted by Montgomery County Poet Laureate, David Escobar-Martin.

She also competed against 21 area poets at the Flash Poetry Festival at the New Hope Arts Center for the coveted Flash Poetry Prize and she has read hecr poetry at Farley’s Bookshop in New Hope during National Poetry Month. She also has been published in the Schuylkill Valley Journal and the River Poets Journal.

When her book comes out, Matilda said she will be reading selections at ltocal bookstores, including Farley’s in New Hope and the Doylestown Bookshop. She has also accepted an invitation to read at a New York City school.

And she’s already looking to the future publication of another chapbook along with a book of short stories.

This summer, Matilda, her sister, and their parents, Chris and Tracy Bray will be moving to Solebury Township. That means Matilda will be attending a new school come September.

Matilda said it’s sad to say goodbye to her former school where she said teachers have encouraged her along the way.

“Ms. Sabol helped me publish my first poem,” she said. And gifted support teacher Nancy Stout “inspires me to keep moving on.”

With that thought in mind, she’s looking forward to her new school – the New Hope-Solebury Middle School – and the publication of her book of poetry in September.

For more information and to pre-order a copy of Matilda’s chapbook, CLICK HERE and help make Matilda’s dream a reality.