Saturday, September 15, 2012

Deaf American Prose 1980–2010

Deaf American Prose 1980–2010, Kristen Harmon and Jennifer Nelson, Editors

From the publisher:
The First Volume in the Gallaudet Deaf Literature Series
In Deaf life, the personal narrative holds sway because most Deaf individuals recall their formative years as solitary struggles to understand and to be understood. Few deaf people in the past related their stories in written form, relying instead on a different kind of “oral” tradition, that of American Sign Language. During the last several decades, however, a burgeoning bilingual deaf experience has ignited an explosion of Deaf writing that has pushed the potential of ASL-influenced English to extraordinary creative heights. Deaf American Prose: 1980–2010 presents a diverse cross-section of stories, essays, memoirs, and novel excerpts by a remarkable cadre of Deaf writers that mines this rich, bilingual environment.
The works in Deaf American Prose frame the Deaf narrative in myriad forms: Tom Willard sends up hearing patronization in his wicked satire “How to Write Like a Hearing Reporter” Terry Galloway injects humor in “Words,” her take on the identity issues of being hard of hearing rather than deaf or hearing. Other contributors relate familiar stories about familiar trials, such as Tonya Stremlau’s account of raising twins, and Joseph Santini’s short story of the impact on Deaf and hearing in-laws of the death of a son. The conflicts are well-known and heartfelt, but with wrinkles directly derived from the Deaf perspective.
Several of the contributors expand the Deaf affect through ASL glosses and visual/spatial elements. Sara Stallard emulates ASL on paper through its syntax and glosses, and by eliminating English elements, a technique used in dialogue by Kristen Ringman and others. Deaf American Prose features the work of other well-known contemporary Deaf writers, including co-editor Kristen Harmon, Christopher Jon Heuer, Raymond Luczak, and Willy Conley. The rising Deaf writers presented here further distinguish the first volume in this new series by thinking in terms of what they can bring to English, not what English can bring to them.
Kristen Harmon is Professor of English, Gallaudet University, Washington, DC.
Jennifer Nelson is Professor of English, Gallaudet University, Washington, DC.

Print Edition
ISBN 978-1-56368-523-1, 1-56368-523-X, 7 x 10 paperback, 320 pages
ISBN 978-1-56368-524-8, 1-56368-524-8

Outcasts and Angels The New Anthology of Deaf Characters in Literature, (September 2012)

Outcasts and Angels The New Anthology of Deaf Characters in Literature, Edna Edith Sayers, Editor
(September 2012)

From the publisher:

In 1976, Trent Batson and Eugene Bergman released their classic Angels and Outcasts: An Anthology of Deaf Characters in Literature. In it, they featured works from the 19th and 20th centuries by well-known authors such as Charles Dickens and Eudora Welty. They also presented less-well-known deaf authors, and they prefaced each excerpt with remarks on context, societal perceptions, and the dignity due to deaf people. Since then, much has transpired, turning around the literary criticism regarding portrayals of deaf people in print. Edna Edith Sayers reflects these changes in her new collection Outcasts and Angels: The New Anthology of Deaf Characters in Literature.
Sayers mines the same literary vein as the first volume with rich new results. Her anthology also introduces rare works by early masters such as Daniel Defoe. She includes three new deaf authors, Charlotte Elizabeth, Howard T. Hofsteater, and Douglas Bullard, who offer compelling evidence of the attitudes toward deaf people current in their eras. In search of commonalities and comparisons, Sayers reveals that the defining elements of deaf literary characters are fluid and subtly different beyond the predominant dueling stereotypes of preternaturally spiritual beings and thuggish troglodytes.
Outcasts and Angels demonstrates these subtle variations in writings by Ambrose Bierce, Isak Dinesen, Nadine Gordimer, and Flannery O’Connor. Stories by Juozas Grušas, Julian Barnes, and many other international authors broaden the scope of this updated inquiry into the deaf literary character. Sayers’ preface and closing essay bring any disparate parts together, completing Outcasts and Angels as a fitting, contemporary companion to the original classic collection.
Edna Edith Sayers is former Professor of English at Gallaudet University, Washington, DC.
Print Edition
ISBN 978-1-56368-539-2, 1-56368-539-6, 7 x 10 paperback, 368 pages, references
ISBN 978-1-56368-540-8, 1-56368-540-X

Lynn McElfresh's, author of Can You Feel the Thunder?(1999), forthcoming publication Strong Deaf

I am really excited about Lynn McElfresh's, author of Can You Feel the Thunder?(1999), forthcoming publication Strong Deaf. Two years ago, almost on the exact date, the author contacted me to review her manuscript. Because I read the manuscript, I don't want to make any further comments until I see the actual book but be sure you'll read more posts from me about this book.

Strong Deaf (November 2012) by Lynn McElfresh
Publisher:  Namelos

Ages: 14 and up
Grades: 7–12
Pages: 172
Hardcover: $18.95
Softcover: $9.95
E-book: $8.95
PDF: $5.00

From the publisher:
Every Friday, we drive two and a half hours to Bradington to where my sister Marla goes to residential school for the deaf. I told Mom that when I go to Bradington, I hoped I would get to stay on the fourth floor just like Marla.

Mom looked at me like I was crazy.

”Silly,” she signed. “You no go Bradington. You not deaf.” Of course I knew I could hear, but what did that have to do with anything?

Jade is the only hearing member in her family. Her older sister gets to go to the school for the deaf headed by her grandfather Gilbert, but Jade feels left out. Marla thinks her little sister is a pest and a brat. When they end up on the same softball team for the summer, neither is happy about it. Jade, the smallest player on the team, is assigned to be the catcher. It looks like it’s going to be a long season. As sisters, they are often at loggerheads, but as team mates Jade and Marla have to find ways to get along. In spite of their differences, they soon discover that each has a lot to offer the other.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

My professional crush on author Brian Selznick especially now that he is taking an intensive ASL class at Gallaudet University

Author Brian Selznick likes R-hand shaped signs such as RULES, an R-lettered word I can't recall, and SARCASTIC (huh? Yep, I think he was just on a roll naming his favorite signs by that point). He does not care for signs on or around the nose liked BORED or FLOWER. How do I know this, you ask? Brian Selznick is at Gallaudet University taking an ASL course. *Insert professional Squeal here*

When I interviewed him in January, I did so via email since he was traveling for the premiere of the movie Hugo. Yesterday was the first time I actually *met* him in person. After arranging to meet for lunch, I bumped into him that morning in the student center while he was studying with a group of ASL students. Instantly it felt like we were old friends hugging for a greeting and laughing from the start. Our lunch date, which I call it that because he IS my current professional crush, would include a juicy insider tip which he quickly noted that I could not blog about... But he didn't say I couldn't blog about not blogging about it so HA Brian Selznick! There! I am NOT telling your secret! To be fair, I told him a little something I wouldn't want him to share either plus I asked for the biggest favor ever and he said no! *gasp* Even after I told him who the girl is in the statue in front of campus **Spoiler Alert for new ASL students doing their homework... Her name is Alice ;p**

Even without promising to take me to any future Oscar red carpet events, I still like this guy! I showed him Gallaudet's infamous "coffin door" after making him climb over a small wall in 90 degree weather. I was in a dress and completely forgot I was a tenured professor and should be acting professional. Selznick looked like any other student-- Gallaudet jacket and Gallaudet hat. He only wore the hat outdoors for the picture. I would like to say that I talked him into posing Nosferatu-style in front of the coffin door because I teach a vampire course but really I just like people to pose silly for pictures. After several *cool* pictures, he fell for my charm (read that as I badgered him into it) and posed.

When I asked him why he was taking ASL classes I wondered if it had something to do with his book Wonderstruck. In fact, it did! After doing research, he has made some close friends who are Deaf and he said he really just wants to communicate with his friends (and potential new friends) using ASL. He talked about the importance of the Deaf Community and Deaf Culture... And again I would like to emphasize my professional crush. *Insert professional Squeal here* For most of our conversation, Selznick used ASL. For a writer of English and a new signer, he seems oddly comfortable using his non-native language.

Selznick is already working on another book but it is probably too soon to tell if a Deaf Character will sneak his or her way into his writing. *crosses fingers* After the success of Wonderstruck and a literal world wind adventure of Hugo the movie, he doesn't have much *time off* so for him to decide to learn ASL on his free time says something about his character; for him to come to Gallaudet for a two week intensive ASL course... Well, that reveals just a little bit more I would think.

He's fun; his books are fun; he's extremely down to earth and humble (He didn't even tell his ASL class peers he was THE Brian Selznick!). And I hope, hope, hope we'll cross paths in the future.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Nice Surprise on my First Day Back to Work!

I'm back on campus to meet the newest group of first year students for a pre-fall program and what a nice surprise to find a copy of SilentStar: The Story of Deaf Major Leaguer William Hoy by Bill Wise (Author) and Adam Gustavson (Illustrator) in my faculty box! I am looking forward to reading this book and interviewing the author.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Silent Star: The Story of Deaf Major Leaguer William Hoy

Silent Star: The Story of Deaf Major Leaguer William Hoy [Hardcover]
Bill Wise (Author), Adam Gustavson (Illustrator)
Hardcover: 40 pages
Publisher: Lee & Low Books (April 1, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1600604110

Book Description
William Hoy loved baseball. Growing up in the 1860s and ’70s, he dreamed of one day playing in the major leagues. A far-off fantasy for many boys, fulfilling this dream was even more of a long shot for William, who was deaf.
Striving to find his place in a hearing world, Hoy became a shoemaker. He took pride in his work, but baseball was still his real love. When an amateur team coach saw him playing behind the shoemaker’s shop, Hoy dazzled the coach with his hard-hitting skills. Moving from amateur clubs to the minor leagues and eventually to the majors, Hoy proved himself again and again—overcoming obstacles and becoming a star both on and off the baseball diamond.
Silent Star: The Story of Deaf Major Leaguer William Hoy is a tribute to one of the most inspirational figures in baseball history. A talented player with a standout record, Hoy is a shining example that success in life should not be measured by differences but by drive and determination.

Interview with author B Roman

Publisher: Lulu February 26, 2012

B Roman is an adolescent literature author who incorporates mystical and musical themes in her work. She describes The Secrets of the Moon Singer as “a metaphysical adventure series which involves a deaf teenage boy who comes to realize over time that his ‘disability’ is also his greatest gift. But this realization does not come easily - or even in the first book of the trilogy” Deaf Character David Nickerson is confronted by a series of family crises: his father's unemployment, his deafness after a serious illness and the disappearance of his sister. David begins experimenting with crystals and even conjures up the Moon Singer which takes him on a fantastic journey. In the "other world," David is able to hear. Roman writes, “My character's deafness is not just a plot device, as readers will discover if they stay with me through the many otherworldly journeys the boy makes. The stories speak to unconditional love, family loyalties, dealing with tragic loss, and experiencing unexpected miracles.” This trilogy is how Roman made her debut into young adult fiction.

SP: What made you decide to make David's character deaf or to even include a deaf character?
BR: In order to answer that, I have to go back to the beginning, and to how I was inspired to write the trilogy itself.  I don't want to get too metaphysical here, but the stories have their roots in my delving into spiritual and supernatural subjects.  I actually own a Singer crystal – shaped like a small sailboat - that inspired the Moon Singer trilogy and its first adventure, “The Crystal Clipper.”  I found this unique crystal at a crystal workshop one day – actually, it found me – which, it is said, is what crystals are preordained to do.  I would hold the crystal up and ponder it now and then, and a story began to take hold in my mind.  Originally, it was to be a children's picture book about a little boy and his magic crystal shaped like a boat that let him sail to magical places.  But then it grew in scope and little by little found its focus. 

Young David Nickerson has come by his own Singer crystal because it was meant for him; he is the one true owner of the Singer, which gives him all of his powers and manifests into the Moon Singer ship which takes him on all of his adventures. David is a hearing impaired young man – normal in every way in his “real life” – who becomes an "action hero" with extraordinary powers in worlds he never knew existed, because of his deafness:  this is an important aspect of young David's character which allows me to demonstrate how he can hear the internal cravings of his soul, understand the hearts and minds of others, and find his own individual power and strength.  Hearing people who meditate are always instructed to do so in a quiet, silent environment - "Be still, and know..."  David just has to learn how to use his natural silence for his own growth and knowledge, and so his "disability" becomes his greatest gift. But he doesn't come by this knowledge easily or quickly.  It takes the three books to solidify. 

SP: What type of research did you do for the book to make your characters realistic? 
BR: I've been a performing artist since I was a child, and in my adult years I also became a song writer and author of non-fictions books on the power of music.  It is no accident of creativity that my music career would carry over into my story writing. A strong underlying theme of The Secrets of the Moon Singer and my other children's stories concerns the power of music to heal, to represent love and truth, to create and sustain life – or to destroy it. Thus, in "The Crystal Clipper" we have Princess Saliana whose song has the gift of healing, and her sacred Rose Crystal Pendant contains the musical codes of immortality.  For David, I researched what kind of illnesses could have caused him to becomes deaf (he wasn't born that way), what types of hearing aids and other devices he could use to function normally in life, and what treatments for his deafness were available - (none of which worked for him, when they would have for someone else, and why they didn't - but that's a major part of the storyline). 

SP: Do you know any deaf people or have you learned American Sign Language? 
BR: I know a few people who have hearing impairments, but with the help of hearing aids they are able to hear quite well.  I have a close friend who is a speech therapist who uses sign language with her deaf clients, most of whom are children.  I have not learned any sign language myself, so my experience with the deaf is very limited.  In fiction, while one can take license with characters and plots, it is also important to make your stories credible and to treat the subject matter with respect. One doesn't always have to have a personal experience to write about it; for example, an author can write a detective story without having been a detective, but the author still has a responsibility to do the research required to make the detective realistic.  Although I've placed my main character, David, in far-fetched situations, I do strive to make him as credible as possible in the way that he deals with his deafness in both the real world as well as the "other world."

SP: What do you hope that readers will learn or take away from the book? 
BR: As the adventures follow David's “coming of age” transformation from a naïve and conflicted boy to a determined and purposeful young man, readers may find themselves able to examine their own lives and work through any obstacles that have been holding them back from realizing their true potential. There is a lot of family angst going on in the stories, and the characters are constantly learning how to deal with these relationships.  I also touch on topical issues such as respect for the environment, ethics (or lack thereof) in business, the misuse of power, the contrast between good and evil, and the importance of personal and Universal Truth and integrity.
As the stories developed, I hoped to reach young boys looking for a main character who triumphed heroically over his circumstances, as well as appeal to young girls who are looking for a boy who will gallantly protect and selflessly nurture them, all the while allowing girls to maintain their individuality and strength of character.  For both genders I wanted to create characters they could respect and whose virtues they would want to emulate.
I realize that teens today are attracted to pop culture that focuses on dark and violent themes, but my mind just doesn't go there in storytelling.  I hope that my stories will offer kids a balance, especially if they are just beginning to ponder ethical, spiritual and metaphysical thoughts and concepts.  Of course, I try to give them an enjoyable, suspenseful, and uplifting reading experience.  It is a trilogy of adventures written to appeal to the youth in all of us, and with a respect for language and prose that hopefully will inspire young people to read material that requires time and attention to spiritual matters. 
In contrast, I try to write very visually.  I am a lover of films, especially good films for kids (of all ages) like E.T., Free Willy, the Black Stallion, etc., that blend the fantastic with the real and where the young main characters find their courage to perform selfless acts. From the beginning, I've seen the Moon Singer trilogy as films because of the many special effects (e.g., a supernaturally-powered clipper ship made of crystal and gold that can sail through the cosmos as well as on the sea) written into the books. In fact, I invite your artistic readers to illustrate and animate my books to their heart's content; maybe we can collaborate on an illustrated version of my books, or on a video!  Any producers out there?

SP: What advice would you give to young people who are reading your books for the first time?   
BR: The Secrets of the Moon Singer books are short, and quick reads.  But, they take readers on a continuing journey through the lives of several key characters that they can relate to emotionally. Their travails, challenges, joys, and moments of insightful discovery are those that most people have encountered in their own lives, while the story environments are those of fantasy.
The main focus of the trilogy is selfless love and being of service to others.  For David, his quest is always to save a life that means more to him than his own, and in doing so he delves into questions about his life purpose and soul mission, while also dealing with very real day-to-day problems.
I'm not quite sure what age group my books are for.  I'm hoping they will bridge the generations from kids to adults.  So, I didn't write "down" to any age group.  I was a voracious reader, especially as a child, and many of the books I read went far beyond just fare for kids my age - great American plays, philosophy, psychology, poetry - so I believe even young kids can absorb sophisticated language.  I loved reading and finding new words, circling them as I read then looking them up in the dictionary and finding new nuggets of language gold.  I still do this.

SP: Since this is part of a Trilogy, can you tell us anything about the next adventure and will David be the main character?
BR: David Nickerson is the main character in all the books.  Adventure Two: "The War Chamber" has David trying to process the phenomenal experiences of Adventure One. As captain of the mystical sailing ship Moon Singer, he had saved his sister's life on the Island of Darkness, and could miraculously hear what others could not. Now, as his home town argues over how to revive a stagnant economy, David despairs that those miracles have dissipated.  He is just as deaf as before, his sister's paralysis has returned, and anguish over his mother's death is overwhelming.  At her gravesite, determined to communicate with her through his sacred crystal, he is instead transported to a strange city caught in a time warp between a hi-tech, militant past and a peaceful, simple way of life. He encounters a revered woman who becomes a surrogate mother to him and helps him understand how his deafness and his mother's karmic mission are intertwined.
Throughout all the twists and turns of plot and story, which become more sophisticated and complex with each adventure, David struggles with the "reason" for his deafness, as well as how he and his family deal with the realities of it.  Adventure Three: The Wind Rose, is into technology, Apocalyptic fears, world-wide disasters, and the power of music as a force of nature.  Ultimately, David learns he must make an extremely difficult decision:  shall he have that operation that will restore his hearing or...? Well, I won't spoil the surprise ending, for I believe it is yet to take me to places even I do not anticipate....
For more information about the author or to purchase the books:

Take Shelter (2011) movie with Deaf Actress

TakeShelter (2011)
Director: Jeff Nichols

Plagued by a series of apocalyptic visions, a young husband and father questions whether to shelter his family from a coming storm, or from himself.

Main character Curtis begins to have bad dreams and hallucinations about an impending story which turns people into zombie-like versions of themselves. Because of a family history of schizophrenia, he seeks medical help and counseling. Simultaneously, he begins rebuilding, and adding to, the storm shelter in the family’s backyard. The cost of the storm shelter is high especially for a working class family who has major medical bills coming due to their Deaf daughter’s Cochlear Implant surgery.

All members of the family use American Sign Language (ASL) and even use the term correctly. The mother signs more fluently while the father forgets signs and asks for assistance. The Deaf daughter is played by Deaf actress, Tova Stewart of Ohio. The young girl received the part after the film’s producer  reached out to the Ohio School for the Deaflooking for a young deaf female student. Tova’s parents are deaf.

Take Shelter premiered in January 2011 at the Sundance Film Festival.  It was also screened in May 2011 at the Cannes Film Festival, where it won the 50th Critics' Week Grand Prix.

Interview with author Michael Thal

Good-ByeTchaikovsky (March 2012) by Michael Thal
Publisher Royal Fireworks Press
Grade:5- 10

Leo Tolstoy writes, “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” This may be exactly how both author Michael Thal and his main character, David Rothman feel. Both are affecting others’ lives with their work, and both did not actively decide to make a change to themselves. Rather, one was decided for them. Author Michael Thal lost his hearing in his forties as a result of a virus and writes, "I was motivated to write Good-Bye Tchaikovsky as a way to heal the pain of my hearing loss”. Thal was a teacher for decades before becoming a writer. Already having touched so many, this book is another opportunity to bring a message to young people. In Good-Bye Tchaikovsky, Deaf Character David is already going through the change of adolescence and the change of receiving world-wide attention; he must now confront his own body that has changed literally overnight. As a violin virtuoso, his performance of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto draws attention from the masses including the Queen of England. On his twelfth birthday, David loses his hearing. Both Thal and his character David could have pitied themselves but instead, they both rose to the meet the changes in their lives.

Below is my interview with author Michael Thal who describes with experiences with his book Goodbye Tchaikovsky.  
(To the right is a picture of the author from last summer while visiting Virginia City, Nevada. Don't worry; he isn't really a jailbird!)

SP: What made you decide to make David's character deaf or to even include a deaf character especially one who could use sign language?
MT: David Rothman, the POV character in Goodbye Tchaikovsky, appeared in the opening scene of the book as he played Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto before a sell-out crowd. The 11 year-old child prodigy was one of the best violinists in the world. The morning of his twelfth birthday the boy woke up to a profound silence. I chose a hearing child turned deaf for my book’s novel because I wanted to explore the emotional effect of hearing loss on an adolescent. I lost my hearing at the age of 44. I was curious what the reaction would have been to a pre-teen and the affect of deafness on his development during his teen years.

SP: How does your experience as a sixth grade teacher help you write a book for a young audience?       
MT: I taught elementary and middle school for 28 years. I understand the age group. This comprehension helped me as an author to develop realistic dialogue and emotional reactions to character life problems.

SP: What type of research did you do for the book to make your characters realistic? 
MT: Before I even had the idea for the book, I studied ASL at a Tripod program in Burbank, California. After the program was terminated I attended ASL classes at Pierce College, in Los Angeles. My knowledge of sign was a huge help when I spent a few days observing classrooms at the Marlton School. This is a school for the Deaf and hard of hearing in Los Angeles where ASL is the primary language used in the classroom. My friend and former ASL teacher, Stephanie Johnson, was kind enough to let me watch her class and introduced me to other teachers at the school so I could observe their classes, too. I also interviewed people who attended Deaf schools as adolescents. My interview with Deaf actor/director Troy Kotsur was a huge help.

SP: Since you have experienced some hearing loss, have you learned any American Sign Language? 
MT: Just for the record, I am legally deaf in my right ear and have a profound loss in my left. After the doctor told me I had a progressive hearing loss, it seemed to me a no brainer to start learning ASL. I’ve been studying the language for the last 18 years. Though I’m close to fluent, I am slow at reading finger spellings and Deaf friends have to slow down a bit. However, I find that I understand them better than hearing people, even with my hearing aides on. I am so glad I learned and encourage all hard-of-hearing people to do the same.

SP: What do you hope that readers will learn or take away from the book? 
MT: I want readers to understand how lonely it is to be deaf in a hearing world. I want them to realize how important it is to look at a Deaf or hard of hearing person and speak slowly. None of us want to be dismissed with comments like, “Oh, never mind.” Or “It isn’t important.” For a time, my own brother wouldn’t talk to me because he didn’t want to repeat himself. Hearing loss is an invisible disability. I hope Goodbye Tchaikovsky takes away some of the screens and adds texture to the problem.

SP: What advice would you give to young people who are reading your books for the first time? 
MT: I hope they enjoy themselves and provide me with feedback. I encourage them to visit my website at or e-mail me at Perhaps they will also enjoy my novel, The Legend of Koolura, a story about a sixth-grade girl who has very cool powers, which she uses to battle a stalker determined on destroying her and her friends.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Good-Bye Tchaikovsky (March 2012) by Michael Thal

Good-Bye Tchaikovsky (March 2012) by Michael Thal
Publisher Royal Fireworks Press
Grade:5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10
Book Description
A twelve-year-old violin virtuoso, David Rothman, is plunged into a deaf world, necessitating him to adapt to a new culture and language in order to survive. Rothman is an overnight success. He performs Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in New York’s Symphony Hall with rave reviews attracting the attention of the Queen of England. His future is laid out for him like a well-lit freeway. Then, on his birthday, David suffers from a sudden and irreparable hearing loss, plunging him into a silent world. Written from his own perspective, the novel shows how an adolescent boy sets about coping with this devastating new condition. It takes time. How will he communicate with his friends? What can he do about school?  How do you deal with unexpected and possibly dangerous situations? What will his future be like?

The author, a teacher who lost his hearing in his forties as a result of a virus, says:  "I was motivated to write Good-Bye Tchaikovsky as a way to heal the pain of my hearing loss. I was curious what it would have been like if I lost my hearing when I was in sixth grade and not as a 44 year-old adult."
Goodbye Tchaikovsky
View more presentations from Sharon Pajka
For more information about the author, check out his website.  

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Secrets of the Moon Singer by B Roman

The Secrets of the Moon Singer by B Roman
Publisher: Lulu February 26, 2012

I will be reading this book next. The author writes that The Secrets of the Moon “is a metaphysical adventure series which involves a deaf teenage boy who comes to realize over time that his 'disability' is also his greatest gift.  But this realization does not come easily - or even in the first book of the trilogy… The stories speak to unconditional love, family loyalties, dealing with tragic loss, and experiencing unexpected miracles.”

Book Description
In Adventure One of the trilogy, young David Nickerson deals with a series of family crises: his father's unemployment, his deafness after a serious illness and now, the mysterious disappearance of his sister Sally, crippled in the crash that killed their mother. Desperate to find her, David experiments with sacred crystals, and conjures up the supernaturally-powered clipper ship Moon Singer, which takes him on a fantastic journey to an uncharted mystical island filled with danger. The people David encounters all have a soul connection to him and their lives are destined to intertwine many times over. When he must rescue a young princess with the gift of healing in her song, held prisoner in a palace tower, David believes he will also rescue his sister Sally. Strangely, too, in this "other world," David finds he can hear for the first time in years. This gift foretells his destiny: to explore the contrast between goodness and evil, and to save a life that means more to him than his own.

Interview with Flying to the Light author Elyse Salpeter

Flying to the Light by Elyse Salpeter
Publisher: Cool Well Press, Inc. (November 10, 2011)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
[Paperback & Kindle Edition available]

How far can you run, until you just can’t run anymore?
Seventeen year old Michael Anderson and his deaf kid brother, Danny, find themselves in mortal danger after their parents are kidnapped by ruthless biophysicist, Samuel Herrington. Michael discovers Danny has a powerful gift-he knows what happens after a person dies-and now others want to know, too. The brothers must outwit and outrun Herrington, the FBI, and even fellow Americans in a harrowing cross-country chase, because whoever gets to Danny first will have the power to control the fate of every person on earth.
Elyse Salpeter’s Flying to the Light is told through the perspective of older brother Michael who until a few days before the story begins is an average high school student with parents who work as scientists and a little brother Danny who just happens to be deaf and uses American Sign Language to communicate. The entire family is fairly fluent in ASL and the characters attempt to gain Danny’s attention through visual clues. Salpeter explains that Danny’s deafness wasn’t intended as a disability. “It is simply a part of who he is, but I do make him special…” In fact, Danny is so special that older brother Michael’s world is completely changed in this science fiction thriller.
Danny has special powers. I won’t give this away but readers discover the impact of these powers through the eyes of Michael who is confused and unsure whom to trust especially because he learns that his parents and little brother aren’t exactly the family members he always though they were. He seeks assistance from friends of the family, and even his teachers but again and again discovers the magnitude of situation.
I am a sucker for supernatural elements and I really, really, really want to tell you about some other aspects of the book but you’re going to have to read this for yourself.
Check out my interview with author Elyse Salpeter whom I learned on her website that she had published a short story in a Vampire magazine. If you’re interested in vampire stories, she co-edited one and was a contributing author to Nights of Blood 2. I will point out that this wasn’t a tease. Flying to the Light does not include any vampires…. Or does it?!? Bwa ha ha ha ha ;)
SP: What influenced your decision to have Danny be a deaf character who uses sign language?
ES: When I was first thinking about writing FLYING TO THE LIGHT, I was staring at a group of birds and imagining this unique idea about them. It was so quiet and peaceful as I watched them and this vision of a little boy came into my head. I wanted to make him special, to have this great ability. When I decided for him to be deaf, it wasn’t because I wanted him to be perceived as having a disability, but simply be a part of who he was. His family and the people around him don’t treat him any differently, they just have to learn how to communicate with him effectively to find out all the wonderful things he knows. I also don’t see a lot of deaf characters in mainstream fiction and I thought it would be a unique and interesting concept for people to read about.
I love the idea of children being able to communicate and while I think lip-reading is a great skill, I always liked the idea of a parent being able to communicate with their children at a very young age. Kids want so badly to express themselves and to be understood, so knowing and using sign language was something I wanted the parents to have used with my character from the very beginning. I explore Danny talking a little bit and lip-reading in the novel, but I concentrate on sign language mostly.

SP: What is your experience with American Sign Language and Deaf people? (did you consult anyone or any websites to learn about deaf people/deaf characters?)
ES: I took ASL classes for two years at Stony Brook University. My professor, who was deaf and didn’t speak, was wonderful and taught us so much. I remember one evening walking to an evening study group and we were all moving through the Student Union building and in one of the side rooms music was BLASTING. It was incredibly loud and my professor started dancing to the beat and I stared at him, confused as to how he could hear the music. He saw my expression and immediately grabbed my hand and pulled me to the floor, pressing my hands against it. The floor was literally pounding and vibrating from the bass of the speakers and we just sat that way for quite a while “listening and bopping to the music” as people walked all around us.  That’s where I got one of the ideas in the book for Michael and Danny to get away, by making a television super loud.
I tried to be true to the character. I remembered things my teacher taught us, I watched videos to learn, read about products and talked to a lot of different folks in the community on Twitter. I’m sure I might have made some mistakes or taken some liberties in the book, but I tried very hard to be as accurate and true to Danny as I could. I’m hoping that if I do finish a sequel, I’ll be even more true to the character.
There are times I utilized my own personal story as reference as well. I have lost about 40% hearing in my left ear. We’re not sure why, but it’s slowly getting worse. I find I have to strain to hear people at times, face them so I can read their lips and see if I can catch all the conversation. It’s a struggle in my own home, especially when my family is calling me from another room, while the television is on, and I’m running water to do the dishes! I have to stop everything, walk up to them and speak to them (geez, you think they’d come to me!). And, if I’m having a hard time falling asleep, I’ll turn to my right side. If I’m on my left side, I can hear everything, but if I turn over and cover my good ear, the house is suddenly very quiet and I fall right to sleep. Not great when I need to hear the kids, though. I used a baby monitor for years after I really needed to, just to make sure I could hear one of my children whose room was on the far side of the house. I also have to be really careful in my office. If I put the phone to my good ear to hear, I have no idea I’m actually speaking much more loudly than I need to. One of my co-workers literally pounds on the wall to let me know I’m probably shouting!

SP: Would you discuss a bit of your process. How do you begin writing? What research did you do?
ES: Writing to me must come first from an idea. I’m always amazed at writers who MUST write a sequel for a book because it’s in their contract. That kind of pressure to find a compelling enough idea and produce something seems overwhelming. For me, it’s like a muse appears… suddenly an idea pops into my head and I’m inspired and just have to get the idea out. With FLYING TO THE LIGHT, I started thinking about birds and maybe they really aren’t what all of us think they are. And then I thought, who could be the hero for this who knows all about these birds? That’s how Danny came into my head. I wanted to make him wonderful and special and just like any other six year old, but to have this powerful knowledge that makes him stand out from everyone else.

SP: What do you hope that readers will learn or take away from the book?
ES: I wanted this book to also be more than just about Danny and his abilities. I wanted it also to be about his older brother, Michael. This seemingly naïve seventeen-year -old boy had a charmed life and suddenly the world was ripped out from under his feet. His parents had been kidnapped, an evil biophysicist was after his brother and he finds out there have been major secrets hidden from him. Through all of this, he had to find reserves in his inner character and I really think readers will enjoy how he matured over a week’s period.
I also wanted to explore the relationship between the two brothers. I believe it’s realistic and the fact that Michael would do anything for his little brother was something I wanted to explore in the book.  

SP: What advice would you give to young people who are reading your books for the first time?
ES: I want young people to realize that within each of us is a special ability. Not everything can be seen on the surface and we must trust in ourselves in all that we do. I really believe when you put your mind to something, you can achieve it and you should never give up on a dream, even if it takes years to accomplish. You must trust in yourself, always.
SP: Do you have any plans for a follow-up?
ES: I actually have written two chapters of a sequel to FLYING TO THE LIGHT. It takes place when Danny is now thirteen years old. It’s in the beginning stages right now, so I’m not even sure if THAT will change, but so far so good. (no pressure, folks!)

SP: Anything you'd like to add?
ES: I have this wonderful little ferret named Whiskers, who is deaf. We didn’t know the first few days we had her, but one morning my twins, who were seven years old at the time, were screaming at each other, right next to the cage. Our little ferret slept through the entire thing. When she woke up, we tried a lot of different things, crumpled paper, turned on the vacuum, squeaked toys and soon realized she couldn’t hear at all. Now we knew why she was so nippy, why she didn’t respond to us, why she was startled at times when we would walk up behind her.
We started our research immediately on how to communicate with her, reading a bunch of sites on how to train deaf ferrets. We began to use some very basic signs for her. If we wanted her to use the litter box, we’d get down to her level and point at it. Then put her in the litter box. She’d come out and we’d repeat it. If she nipped, we held her away from us, her watching us and would put up our finger and shake our head no, with a firm face. We did this over and over and in a few days, she learned that a stern face with a pointed up finger meant don’t nip and if we pointed to the litter box, she’d go in! We try to be respectful of her and not sneak up behind her… in fact, we’ll stomp on the floor a bit, or clap our hands if she’s walking around, just so she knows we’re coming up behind her so she won’t get startled.  
She’s just the greatest little pet and to let us know how much she loves us, she licks our faces, necks, you name it! Just like a puppy! She chases us around the house, steals our socks and gloves and is just the greatest little thing ever.

For more information about the author, check out her website.