Recalling the Nightmare: Memoir

Mike Hartnett, a retired business magazine editor/newsletter publisher, currently serves as the president of Kansas Authors Club District 2 in Lawrence. At the October convention in Wichita, he will offer a seminar about his memoir And I Cried, Too. The book recalls details about his involvement in four murders that occurred in Central Illinois in the 1970s.

At the time he was an administrator at Lincoln College, in Lincoln, Illinois.  Russ Smrekar, a student there, was caught burglarizing a dorm room. Hartnett expelled him and turned the evidence over to the police. Three days later Smrekar was arrested for shoplifting three pieces of meat from a local grocery store. Long story short: he killed four people who were witnesses to these misdemeanors. Hartnett was very involved with the police, testified to the grand jury, was under death threats, etc.

The college was never the same for him after that. He had been writing part-time for two area newspapers, enjoyed it, and took a job as an assistant editor for a trade magazine. But his head was filled with the murders – things that were never reported. Smrekar was eventually convicted of two of the murders. When he was dying in prison about ten years ago, he admitted to the two other murders. Those remains have yet to be found.

One of the highlights of Hartnett’s life was spending a morning with the late William Maxwell, who was the fiction editor of The New Yorker. He encouraged Hartnett to write the memoir. For a year, Hartnett wrote the saga, but about the time he was almost finished, he was promoted to editor, which meant a lot more work and travel. He put the murder manuscript aside – for about 35 years.

“About a year ago, a police detective in Illinois tracked me down in Kansas to tell me there was a new development in the case,” Hartnett said. New development? Smrekar died in prison years ago after admitting to all four murders. “The detective couldn’t tell me what the ‘new development’ was, but as we talked, it was clear we were in agreement: Smrekar probably had an accomplice for at least some of the murders.”

He decided there might be another chapter to write. Nothing new has developed, however, and he decided he better finish the book before it finished him. If all goes as planned, he will have fresh copies of And I Cried Too at the Wichita event. Coming summer/fall 2019 from http://www.meadowlark-books.com

 

Book ‘Em!

Mike Hartnett

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Writing a Winner: How I Did It

The published book awards offered each year by Kansas Authors Club attract the best writers from around the state. It’s a big deal when a writer sees their work in print, and an even bigger deal to receive recognition for quality work. The KAC Children’s Book award, “It Looks Like a Million” design award, Martin History book award for books dealing with Kansas History, the Nelson Poetry book award, and the Coffin Memorial book award for books of all other genres are vital to the Kansas Authors Club literary contests each year. (Contest guidelines:  http://www.kansasauthorsclub.weebly.com/adult-literary-contest-guidelines.html )

How do winners of these contests approach the task of crafting quality publications? If you are considering entering your recently published book in one of these contests, KAC District 5 has a class for you. For the first time at Kansas Authors Club’s annual convention this year a panel comprised of recent Coffin Memorial Book Award winners will offer ideas for polishing and perfecting manuscripts. Each panelist will share a couple of ideas which helped in writing their winning prose, followed by time for questions from those in attendance.

Panelists include Jean Grant, Gloria Zachgo, and Ann Fell. In addition, this seminar will be scheduled to allow participation by the 2019 winner. As an added bonus, keynote speaker Paul Bishop will serve as moderator for the panel discussion.

Jean Grant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jean Grant, received the Coffin Memorial Book Award 2018, for Flight, a novel set in the chaos of Beirut’s civil war. Finlay Fortin, a professor at the American University, is desperate to take his family to safety. When his wife, a war photographer, insists on staying to document the fighting, Finlay forces his rebellious daughter Anouk to flee with him out of the war-scarred city. As they settle in a remote village in the French countryside, Finlay finds unexpected romance. Fast-paced and suspenseful, Flight reveals how the conflicts between ambition, love, and loyalty affect this family in ways no one could have anticipated.

 

Gloria Zachgo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gloria Zachgo received the Coffin Memorial Book Award 2017, for Hush Girl It’s Only A Dream. Nicki Reed is desperate to find the answers to her past, but someone else is desperate for her to never remember. Shortly after her father died, Nicki’s nightmares started. They were soon followed by panic attacks. Suspecting her haunting dreams were related to her childhood, she sought professional help, but was unable to verbalize any memories she had as a child. When her therapist suggested she write her memories, Nicki started remembering things she had pushed far into the recesses of her mind. She started to doubt her own sanity, and when she began to see a strange woman stalking her, she couldn’t be sure if that woman was real or imagined. Yet, she couldn’t tell anyone, until her own family was threatened.

 

Ann Fell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ann Fell, received the Coffin Memorial Book Award 2016 for Sundrop Sonata. With her passion for helping people, piano tuner Isabel Woods loves her job—but passion can be a dangerous thing. Reluctantly agreeing to harbor a client’s autistic daughter, Izzy’s good intentions unexpectedly expose her own family to a murderous fiend with a chilling agenda. Human trafficking and bio-terrorism are no longer just buzz words from the nightly news. For Izzy, they have become terrifying and real. As the deadly Sundrop Sonata begins to play, Izzy has one chance to save the people and the country she loves armed with nothing more than courage, intelligence, and her esoteric knowledge of pianos.

This October 4-6, come to Wichita and learn tips these award-winning Kansas writers decided were most helpful for the success of their stories.

Hook ‘Em!

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2019 Kansas Authors Club Literary Contest Opens April 1

Every year, all writers in Kansas, as well as any KAC member regardless of residence, are invited to submit work to the literary contest. There are divisions for young writers as well as adults. This year’s contest opens April 1. All entries must be received by June 15.

The youth contest is open to all Kansas students and to student members of KAC. Writers will compete with others at their age level in five divisions, Grades 1-2; Grades 3-4; Grades 5-6; Grades 7-8; and Grades 9-12. The categories include, Poetry, Fiction, Nonfiction, and Spoken Word Poetry. The winning entries (1st, 2nd, 3rd, and Honorable Mention) of each category and age division will be published in a book. Each writer with work included will receive a copy. Additionally, awards will be presented during a special ceremony at the October convention in Wichita.

The adult contest offers a Poetry division and a Prose division. 2019 Poetry categories include Theme (“Hook ‘em and Book ‘em!), Classical forms, Free verse, Narrative poetry, Whimsy, Japanese forms, Performance (spoken word), and a special category for New Poets.

The 2019 Prose categories include Theme (“Hook ‘em and Book ‘em!), Humor, Memoir or Inspirational, Flash Fiction, Stories Written for Teenagers, Short Story, Playwriting, and First Chapter of a Book–unpublished.

For the first time, there is a special category available for Author’s Blogs or Web Sites. To enter this contest, authors must submit the URL of a website they maintain, a “mission statement” describing the purpose of that website, direct links to at least 3 entries or pages that the author would like to highlight, and a short paragraph detailing how and where the site is publicized and promoted.

Each year Kansas Authors Club also sponsors contests for members who have published books during the previous months. Winners of each book contest are awarded cash prizes of $100.

The Kansas Authors Club Children’s Book Award was created in 2018 to honor the best book written with an audience of children in mind.

“It Looks Like a Million” is an award which focuses on the aesthetics of a book published by a Kansas Authors Club member. The book will be judged on cover design, interior formatting and design, and over-all look and feel of the book.

The Martin Kansas History Book Award was created in 2018 as a tribute to Gail Lee Martin, who was KAC State Archivist from 1995-2005. This book award is open exclusively for books about Kansas history by KAC members.

Created by Raymond and Margaret Nelson in 2002, the Nelson Poetry Book Award recognizes the year’s best poetry book by a Kansas Authors Club poet.

The J. Donald Coffin Memorial Book Award was established by Mrs. Bertha Coffin to honor the memory of her husband after his death in 1978. It is intended to honor the best published book for the year written by a member of Kansas Authors Club.

 

For more information on the 2019 KAC literary contests, including guidelines for submissions, see https://kansasauthorsclub.weebly.com/writing-contests—all-ages.html

What are you waiting for? Write, write, write!

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Michael Graves: A Life in the Shadows

Michael Graves recently retired from Emporia State University where he taught Intensive English to international students and TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) courses to teachers in Kansas. He has written two detective novels set in 1937 Wichita: To Leave a Shadow (a Kansas Notable Book for 2016) and Shadow of Death, published in December of 2017. Both books feature the character of detective Pete Stone, created as a memorial to the author’s grandfather. When life conjures its riddles, Mike turns to back roads and baseball for answers.

His grandfather’s last words, uttered over fifty years ago, inspired the author to create a life in honor of a man he barely knew. In his presentation, “A Life in the Shadows,” Graves will read excerpts from his historical novels, To Leave a Shadow and Shadow of Death. He will discuss the story, the character, and the place, as well as the research, backstory, and truth vs. fiction. A Q&A session will follow his presentation.

To Leave a Shadow, introduces detective Pete Stone. He hadn’t always been a private eye. He’d lost his dairy business at the toss of a coin when the depression hit. His children grew up, as children do, and his wife left him for a chinchilla farmer. He had learned to like his solitude. When Mrs. Lucille Hamilton walked through his door searching for her missing husband, Pete was the only one who believed her husband’s death hadn’t been a suicide.

In the next novel, a cop killer strikes Wichita and Pete Stone, Private Investigator, is on the case. He has to be. He wakes up in jail, battered and bruised and accused of a murder he’s almost certain he didn’t commit. He must prove his innocence before he’s abandoned by his clients, his friends, and one special lady. When Stone is not getting knocked around by cops, he’s getting roughed up by love.

A unique opportunity awaits the 2019 conference attendees. Coordinating with the City of Wichita, KAC District 5 is arranging a trolley tour of several settings found in the historical Wichita crime novels. You won’t want to miss the tour, personally guided by the author himself.

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Michael Graves

Fiction on Trial: Curt Bohling

 

The 2019 convention of the Kansas Authors Club welcomes attorney Curt Bohling. He will speak about trial procedures and answer questions about getting legal details right. Bohling has been a federal attorney for over 30 years, with most of his career spent as an Assistant United States Attorney in Washington, D.C., and Kansas City, Missouri.  His cases include the Miracle Cars fraud case that was featured on CNBC’s American Greed; and one of the largest criminal software piracy cases in the United States that also resulted in the tax fraud prosecutions of a Hall of Fame NFL football player and a former NBA basketball player.  In Kansas City he served as the Chief of the Monetary Penalties Unit, dealing with asset forfeiture and victim restitution issues, and Chief of the Appellate Unit.

Bohling is the son of Diane Wahto, renowned Kansas poet, who has served as president of District 5 for three years, as well as KAC awards chairperson and chair of the 2019 convention. With Diane in the family, Bohling has been intimately acquainted with literary pursuits throughout his life.  He taught law writing to beginning law students. When the series Homicide was on TV, actor Yaphet Kotto came to court to observe a homicide case that he was prosecuting. At the Kansas Authors Club convention in October 2019, Bohling will return to his hometown to discuss Fiction on Trial: Can Writing About Law Be Both Accurate and Interesting?

About his seminar, Bohling says, “Lawyers and the law are staples in books, movies, and TV.  Sometimes writers get the legal details (mostly) right, often they get them very wrong.  Do these details matter, or do they just get in the way of a good story?” His presentation will compare the real and fictional worlds of law to find answers to those questions.

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Curt Bohling

Award-winning Author Clare Vanderpool to Speak at KAC 2019

http://clarevanderpool.com/

Clare Vanderpool is the award-winning author of two novels: Moon Over Manifest and Navigating Early.  Moon Over Manifest, her debut novel, was awarded the prestigious 2011 John Newbery Award which is awarded annually by the American Library Association to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. Clare is remarkably the first debut author in thirty years to win the Newbery Medal. Her books have both hit the New York Times best seller list as well as the Book Sense best seller list. The recipient of much critical-acclaim, including seven starred reviews, a top ten Historical Fiction Kid’s Book by Instructor Magazine, a Junior Library Guild selection, and a Golden Spur award, Clare’s writing has connected with readers young and old.  Interviews with Clare have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, and almost all of the media outlets across the nation have covered her writing career.  Most recently, Clare’s second novel Navigating Early was named a Printz Honor Book for Young Adult Fiction by the American Library Association.

http://www.amazon.com/Moon-Over-Manifest-Clare-Vanderpool/dp/0375858296/
http://www.amazon.com/Navigating-Early-Clare-Vanderpool-2014-12-23/dp/B01F7X93F2/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In her early years of writing, Clare set out to write a historical novel set in the fictional town of Manifest, Kansas, which is based on the real southeastern Kansas town of Frontenac where her maternal grandparents lived. Drawing on stories she heard as a child, along with research in town newspapers, yearbooks, and graveyards, Clare found a rich and colorful history for her unforgettable novel, Moon Over Manifest. She says “having lived most of my life in the same neighborhood, place is very important and for me true places are rooted in the familiar—the neighborhood pool, the sledding hill, the shortcuts, all the places where memories abound. But I wondered, what would a ‘true place’ be for someone who has never lived anywhere for more than a few weeks or months at a time? Someone like a young girl on the road during the Depression. Someone like Abilene Tucker.”

Clare has been making appearances at schools, libraries, and conferences around the country and abroad.  She enjoys meeting children, educators, librarians, and parents who have embraced her and her writing.  She lives in Wichita, Kansas with her husband and four children.

At the Kansas Authors Club convention in Wichita, October 4-6, 2019, Clare will present a seminar, Writing in the Crossroads: Where Craft and Creativity Meet. As writers, we all work at the craft—honing our skills in use of language, imagery, detail, and description.  But is there a risk of focusing on the calculated to the exclusion of the creative?  How do we know when it’s time to loosen the reins on plot, character, and conflict, allowing the creative process room to stretch and pulse and breathe life into the bones of the story?  In this workshop Clare will discuss the synergy and struggle of writing in the crossroads — where craft and creativity meet.

In addition, for those who wish to share a lunch with Clare, she will talk about Books I Have Loved and I Swear Loved Me Back: The Transformative Power of Story. (Luncheon provided by Holiday Inn. Tickets available with registration.) We’ve all heard that to be a writer, you must first be a reader.  And we know from experience that stories have power—to touch, to heal, to transform.  In this talk, we’ll journey into our reading past to the books that provided joy, comfort, even friendship in our younger years, and discover how stories become stepping stones in the writing life.

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Hook ‘Em!

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Seminars Offered by Paul Bishop

District 5 of the Kansas Authors is pleased to host Paul Bishop as the featured Keynote speaker at the convention October 4-6, 2019 at the Wichita Holiday Inn, 549 South Rock Road. His planned topic for the Keynote speech is “When Worlds Collide.” For thirty-five years, Paul Bishop pursued two careers—putting villains in jail, and putting words on paper. As a detective with the LAPD, he chased bad guys and solved crimes. Under the cover of darkness, however, he donned his Cloak of Stories, finding cathartic release writing novels…But what happens when the cop and the writer inevitably crash into each other?

In addition, Bishop will offer two seminars at the convention. “Murder and Mayhem for Writers” will explore how to get police procedures right in your next mystery novel.  Veteran LAPD detective Paul Bishop will take you into the world of homicide crime scenes, sex crimes investigations, suspect interrogations, and many other aspects of law enforcement so you can get the details right.

A second seminar, “Getting the Words Right” examines how to trim excess wordage from your drafts. “Do these words make my manuscript look fat?”  Writer, editor, and publisher Paul Bishop shows you how to cut empty calories from your manuscript—words and phrases that will get your stories rejected before the end of the first page. He’ll also explain why putting second things first is important, and how to avoid the deadly sin of info dumps.

A special opportunity for four lucky participants will be a 15-minute private conference with Bishop as a writing coach and editor. District 5 will raffle off chances for these conferences. Win one of four fifteen-minute, one-on-one sessions with writer, editor, and publisher Paul Bishop. Bring the first five pages of your manuscript to battle The Red Pen, scourge of all writers. Get answers to make your manuscript bulletproof. This will be a possibly harsh, but honest experience. However, it could be the fifteen minutes you need to get published.

Contact Paul at http://www.paulbishopbooks.com

Hook ‘Em!

See you in Wichita this October.

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Paul Bishop

2019 Keynote Speaker in Wichita–Paul Bishop!

Novelist, screenwriter, and television personality, Paul Bishop is a nationally recognized behaviorist and deception detection expert. A 35-year veteran of the LAPD, his high profile Special Assault Units produced the top crime clearance rates in the city. Twice honored as LAPD’s Detective of the Year. Paul is the author of sixteen novels, including five books in his LAPD Detective Fey Croaker series. He has written scripts for episodic television and feature films and starred as the lead interrogator and driving force behind the ABC TV reality show “Take the Money and Run” from producer Jerry Bruckheimer. His book, Lie Catchers, is the first in a new series featuring two top LAPD interrogators. The forthcoming sequel is titled Admit Nothing.

Bishop’s books include:

  • Hot Pursuit
  • Deep Water
  • Penalty Shot
  • Fey Croaker: Kill Me Again
  • Fey Croaker: Grave Sins
  • Fey Croaker: Tequila Mockingbird
  • Fey Croaker: Chalk Whispers 
  • Fey Croaker: Pattern of Behavior 
  • Shroud of Vengeance 
  • Running Wylde 
  • A Bucketful of Bullets
  • Nothing But the Truth (Almost)
  • Suspicious Minds 
  • Felony Fists 
  • Swamp Walloper 
  • Lie Catchers 

Bishop wrote three episodes of the TV Series Diagnosis Murder:

  • The Last Resort (1998)
  • Down Among the Dead Men (1999)
  • Murder at BBQ Bob’s (2000)

He was featured as the Chief Interrogator in the 2011 Reality TV Series Take the Money and Run produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and in the 2004 Unsolved History documentary JFK: Beyond the Magic Bullet where he appeared as himself.

Since his retirement as a full-time detective, Bishop has been a featured speaker at law enforcement conventions and writing conventions across the country, including the 2018 Writers’ Police Academy Conference in Wisconsin.

http://www.paulbishopbooks.com

Book ‘Em!

Don’t miss Kansas Authors Club convention 2019, October 4-6, in Wichita.


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Paul Bishop

 

A BRAG Medallion for Sundrop

A week ago I received notification that Sundrop Sonata has been awarded a Medallion by indieBRAG (Book Readers Appreciation Group) with consistent “very good” marks in all the reviewed categories, and some encouraging comments by readers. The event was even more meaningful when I looked up the BRAGmedallion website and learned that “April is Child Abuse Prevention Month and World Autism Awareness Month,” an uncanny coincidence since Sundrop Sonata contains elements of both. The conflicts revolve around saving an autistic child from a life of unspeakable abuse.

My evolution as a writer continues. Having aspired and dreamed of writing books since my grade school days, I was convinced the only acceptable way was the traditional way, through an agent and a publishing house. Self-publishing (indie books) has historically received a bad reputation, reserved for those who don’t make the grade. Mediocre quality at best.

Returning to writing after raising a family, as well as years spent polishing a different trade, I began again under the same illusion about indie books. I wrote seriously, studied with successful authors, revised, trimmed, polished the work. And I ended up with products that attracted the attention of some small to mid-level publishing houses. Rather than signing with them, I ended up revising my opinion of indie books. I sought professional formatting guidance and uploaded my work to the e-book industry, where one can also order a print-on-demand copy, if preferred.

Why the change of heart? I learned that the world of publishing has changed drastically with advances in technology. The big houses have to compete with easy access to online books. There are thousands of people writing books, and for publishers what counts is the return on their investment. Since I’m a nobody out in the boonies, the chances that any major publisher would accept my writing are slim to none.

Even when smaller publishers show interest, their contracts reflect expectations that their writers provide a lion’s share of the work for a fraction of any profit. They expect a lot, but offer little in return. If that is the case, why bother? Throw in the recent awareness that any request for me to speak may be channeled through a publisher who insists on high fees. Who needs that? Why make yourself unapproachable to enthusiastic readers? How much of those exorbitant fees are shared with the writer? I can only guess.

Everything revolves around money.

But that’s not why I write. I write because I have stories in me begging for release. I do my best to prepare them for others to enjoy, and to receive those sweet nuggets of appreciation when someone has enjoyed my work. I derive much pleasure from speaking to fellow writers and readers—often for nothing more than the comradery.

Considering the returns on my personal investment in time and effort, the priceless rewards connected with building new friendships, and my innate tendency to shy away from the spotlight, indie publishing makes a lot of sense. It does not have the negative stigma it once carried. Indeed, some best-selling books are indie books. What is important in reaching readers is to write quality books that readers will tell their friends about. Polish, revise, trim, and seek critical readings until you have the best piece of work you are able to provide. Offer it to the world and get started on your next book.

In promoting and spreading the word about Sundrop Sonata, I have found the growing network of readers and writers to be extremely important. One of my respected colleagues suggested I contact BRAG medallion, the Book Readers Appreciation Group. I took her advice. Sundrop Sonata was offered to a group of test readers around the globe. And they liked it. Now I can say I have been awarded the medallion. If you are looking for good books to read, note those adorned with this seal:

A few comments from Sundrop Sonata’s indieBRAG readers:

“This might be my favorite indieBRAG book I’ve reviewed so far! Title: intriguing and right for the story line. Cover: Makes me want to read the back cover. Plot: The plot and sub-plots were creative, elaborate, well-structured, and unpredictable. The fast pace kept me turning the pages, wondering where this was going. Characters: Multi-dimensional, believable, easy to picture, unique. . .”

“. . . I thoroughly enjoyed the author’s fluent writing style. Intriguing opening chapter. Minimal back story. Excellent flow. No information dumps. The change in POV worked well and was easy to follow. Loved the fast pace. . .”

“I really did like this story and it was well-told.”

“Have you ever wondered what would happen if you crossed Indiana Jones with a piano tuner? Neither had I—until I read this thrilling suspense book. . .When she shows up to tune Nola’s piano, Isabel finds herself urgently asked to take Nola’s autistic daughter and protect her from her father. With great uncertainty she agrees, thus beginning a cross country race against time that combines a bit of Indiana Jones, Deliverance, and international terrorism with a healthy dose of music, compassion, and love. I found myself literally unable to put this book down once I began. It was a joy to read and I highly recommend it.”

I am deeply grateful to the indieBRAG organization whose purpose is to highlight quality independent literature. And I feel energized to renew my efforts to wrap up the next story.

Considering Heroes

Last month, my grandson’s elementary school celebrated “Hero” day. Each student was encouraged to invite a personal hero to share lunch with them at school. For the majority of children, that meant a parent. To children, their moms and dads are real life heroes.

I had to wonder, “What makes a hero?” My dictionary says it’s someone who is admired and emulated for achievements or character traits, someone who shows great courage. To have courage is to hold fast to one’s convictions and remain true to oneself even in the face of tremendous obstacles. Perhaps the definition of a hero could be stretched further to include anyone who makes life better for someone else by example or action.

With that in mind, I suggest there are those among us who quietly set the standard, folks who are easily overlooked because they may not have the appearance of a strong, invincible hero. Their strength lies within. Kevin Olson is one such hero.

I recently heard Kevin speak about his life at a writer’s convention. A man who suffered an irreversible neck injury as a teenager, he’s been confined to a wheel chair for almost thirty years. He remains mobile with the use of a long straw connected to a computerized motor on his electric chair. Exhaling means “go.” Inhaling means “stop.” Other subtle air flow changes create right or left turns.

Through the use of a mouth stick (a long pointer manipulated by his jaws) Kevin wrote a book, one tedious letter at a time typed on a computer keyboard. Learning to Live With It (xulon press, 2013) tells how his accident changed his life. It describes his hopes and prayers aimed at regaining the use of his arms and legs, as well as his disappointment to learn that would never happen. Rather than sinking into despair, Kevin learned to adapt to a future he would never have chosen.

Kevin found meaning in his life, not just in public speaking, but as a tutor and mentor to children. Through their innocence and honesty, he learned important metaphorical lessons as he was helping them learn and grow. In fact, it could easily be that his young friends served as heroes for him, even as he fulfilled that role for them.

Kevin describes several of the big lessons he learned from little people in the second part of Learning to Live With It, as well as several metaphors he’s associated with life in general. The inspirational book is filled with his faith in God and his love for life, though faced with desperate circumstances. We could all benefit from his optimism to face whatever obstacles make us stumble through life.

I highly recommend this inspirational book. It is available through http://www.Amazon.com.