Writing a book that is and is not the story of my father
Author: Pamela Collett
I was born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri. I have a B.A. from Stanford University and a M.Sc. from Cornell University. I have lived and worked in San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland, California as well as in Washington, DC. Outside the United States, I lived and worked in Venezuela, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Uganda, Somalia and Kenya. I currently live in Canberra, Australia.
I edited three books: Bold Plum: with the Guerillas in China's War against Japan by Hsiao Li Lindsay; Peace and Milk: Scenes of Northern Somalia by James Lindsay and Fatima Jibrell; and Solo vale si piensas rápido by Mehedy Lopez, a book of poetry in Spanish. In 2016, I published a book of my poetry and drawings, Silence Spoken.
I have taught communication skills, English as a second language, and English for journalists (in Beijing, China) at university and secondary school levels. I was a features writer for the Daily Journal, (Caracas, Venezuela), and The Chronicle of Higher Education. I am a member of the ACT (Australian Capital Territory) Writers Centre, active in a writers’ group and a contributor to poetry readings, That Poetry Thing, in Canberra, Australia.
Have you heard that expression or did I make it up?
That’s how I felt when I read the positive feedback about my book Tracking the Human in an email from a friend in Kansas City, Missouri, who lives in the neighbourhood where my mother lived.
Here’s what Anne said about Tracking the Human: nobody’s a long time:
“You did a fine job on your book Tracking the Human. What a great approach to telling your father’s story – your painstaking search for facts bring him to life through the device of fiction. Your biography is so readable and so poignant. I’m amazed and moved by what your father – and your mother – overcame. Your depiction of the hobo life is fascinating. What a story of survival.
Your book is a generous exercise in reaching out to the past to understand a man who in so many ways was not kind to you. You too are a survivor. Sending love to you and congratulations on completing this project and doing it so well.”
Many many thanks to Anne. Everyone’s feedback to Tracking the Human is much appreciated.
If you haven’t read Tracking the Human yet, you can purchase a copy on http://www.lulu.com. It’s also available on Barnes and Noble and Amazon websites, but they pay the author very little.
I would like to share information about my book Tracking the Human: nobody’s a long time which I finished writing in January 2020. Because of the COVID19 pandemic there was no possibility of traveling from my current home in Canberra, Australia to the USA to launch the book.
Many years after being disowned by my father and after his death (1971), I made a decision to reconcile with him – with his memory – to construct a portrait of a human being that I could respect. I wrote a novel Tracking the Human: nobody’s a long time based on data I collected about my father’s contacts with the justice system in the USA. He was in and out of jails, prisons and mental health institutions (known as asylums) for many years.
The book Tracking the Human: nobody’s a long time is available on line at www.lulu.com. Also available on Amazon, but they pay the authors very little.
Here’s a comment about Tracking the Human: nobody’s a long time from my friend Martha Woodmansee, Case Western Reserve University Professor of English and Law, emerita.
It being Presidents Day here, I took the day off from politics and paperwork (a euphemism for my present stasis) to read your novel. So delicious! It’s really, really good. I do really wish you’d been able to launch it in Kansas City MO.
If you want to situate your novel thematically in our American literary tradition I’d like to stress its fit into our deeply held embrace of the individualistic self-made man myth — so destructively sexist and racist in my view — as set forth so brilliantly by F. Scott Fitzgerald in *The Great Gatsby.*
A year ending. Over and over again people made comments that this year 2020 was “unprecedented”… Yet there are always precedents… previous bush fires, previous pandemics, previous elections…. This year they all came together in a powerful punch.
I finished a book in January 2020, but because of the COVID19 pandemic there was no possibility of traveling from my current home in Canberra, Australia to the USA to launch the book. I ordered a few copies for myself and put the books in a closet, postponing my plan to launch the book in Kansas City, Missouri, Vinita and Tulsa, Oklahoma.
I had spent a few years thinking, researching, writing, rewriting… a book about my father W. Lon Hutchison… about a person I didn’t really know. To say I should have known my own father is not correct. At the time of my upbringing, (born 1945), at the place of my upbringing, (Kansas City, Missouri, USA), parents were unknown quantities to their children. Parents were power, control, but not people. Children had no “rights” to know anything about their parents. Children were just there to do what they were told to do, go where they were told to go, like objects on a chess board… moved around according to their all powerful, all knowing parents.
Many years after being disowned by my father, many years after his death (1971), I made a decision to reconcile with him – with his memory – to construct a portrait of a human being that I could respect.
I wrote a novel based on data I collected about my father’s contacts with the justice system in the USA. He was in and out of jails, prisons and mental health institutions (known as asylums) for many years.
With the current reality of COVID19, travel from Australia to the USA to launch the book is very unlikely for many months. Meanwhile, the book Tracking the Human: nobody’s a long time is available on line at www.lulu.com.
If you do purchase and read the book, I would very much appreciate your feedback, on my blog or by email at email@example.com.
During COVID restrictions, three of us completed book projects we had been working on. This weekend we’re having a three way book launch in Canberra, Australia, Saturday 7 November 2020, between 3 – 5 pm.
While camping, and relaxing in a hammock (a habit acquired in Venezuela) at Mimosa Rocks National Park, I finished two outstanding books by Australian authors:
The Shepherd’s Hut by Tim Winton
and Stone Sky Gold Mountain by Mirandi Riwoe
When I first began reading The Shepherd’s Hut, I thought, no, too fast, too much slang… I can’t stay with this. But I kept going and going and going until it was over. Some references to plants, land and Aussie slang that I didn’t know, but no matter… a terrific read.
Easier entry to Stone Sky, Gold Mountain, a novel about the incredible suffering of Chinese migrants in the gold fields of North Queensland, Australia in 1877.
Returned from Mimosa Rocks (on the south east coast of Australia) to Canberra, I had several days of not feeling too great – runny nose and congestion. So more reading!
I finished Ta-Nehisi Coates novel, The Water Dancer. Densely written, submerging the diligent reader into the underground war on slavery in the United States. (Look up the Underground Railroad on Wikipedia for information about the underground).
Fourth book: Louise Erdrich, The Night Watchman, a novel based on the life of her grandfather, Patrick Gourneau, who successfully fought to stop the termination of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa tribe by the United States Senate in the 1950s. Gloriously written, with poetic language, memorable characters embedded throughout.
I tend to immerse myself in books, read them very quickly and then regret when they’re finished, as if I’ve lost a good friend.
All of the above HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Joyous reading!