Sometimes when the world is moving too fast, I like to take a class. The best kind are outside. I headed to Blakeley State Park for a nature journal-keeping class with Nancy Milford.
Nancy gave a wonderful overview on the history, science, and art of field sketching. She also included several handouts with fantastic tips for how to get started, including some simple sketching techniques. As a journal-keeper, the idea of adding drawings to my journals fascinated me. It was also intimidating. That is until Nancy said, “Don’t judge yourself on your drawing.” For some reason, that set me free to experiment.
I found myself in the zone, that place where you’re creating and time slips by quickly. I started with some words, location, date, then I started drawing. When I was sketching, I tried to enter the landscape. The drawing is my interpretation of the experience.
As you can see below, I was joined by some very talented people.
I’ll continue to be a journal keeper because that’s what I do. I bring a journal with me wherever I go. Thanks to Nancy, I’ll be drawing some field sketches too.
So excited to see a review of Stump the Librarian: A Writer’s Book of Legs!
Check out the review at Amplitude, an online and print magazine with the tagline “Powerful, Practical, and Positive Living with Limb Loss.”
Click on the cover below to see Amplitude magazine’s home page, which includes a PDF of the current January/February 2019 issue. The review is on page 7.
I sent out advanced copies of my book to several amputee related publications for reviews. Whatever your subject, find publications on that subject. Submit your book. Also, if you’ve read my book, please post a review on Amazon or Goodreads. A few honest words would be appreciated. Just click on the respective logo on the right. If you have already reviewed it, thank you.
In other book news, I found the children’s picture book Rescue and Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship, by Jessica Kensky Patrick Downes, and illustrated by Scott Magoon, in Amplitude magazine. It just won the Schneider Family Book Award, the American Library Association’s best book for young children with a disability experience. It was included in my Best of 2018 list.
Here’s the best of 2018! By category, only one winner per category, no runner ups, no honorable mentions, no blah blah blah. I’ve culled the list from 427 articles, 119 Youtube videos, 67 books, and 41 movies. Unlike many other best of’s on the internet, I’ve actually read, watched, or listened to the media that tops my list. Enjoy and Merry New Year!
Also a language lesson to everyone not living on Cape Cod. It’s an island, so it’s “on Cape Cod” not as this headline reads “in Cape Cod.” It’s like when when people call the Gulf of Mexico, the ocean. Sorry, rant over.
This past month I’ve been on an incredible journey. Here’s a few photos from Stump the Librarian‘s book stops. Thanks for supporting a local author and your hometown librarian.
I was in great company at my Page and Palette book signing. Frye Gaillard (A Hard Rain), political cartoonist, JD Crowe (Half-Thunk Thoughts), and The Grinch!
The event at Barnes & Noble in Spanish Fort on the 28th was special too. The Brewster family came by and so did a former co-worker and now Spanish Fort Public Library Librarian Zach Basler.
Sue’s always by my side, em well, except when The Grinch is around.
On Thursday, I talked about leg stories and leg history at the “Tea for Two” program at the Fairhope Museum of History. Director Phillip Bolin and Special Projects Assistant Darby Wiik were gracious hosts. The audience had lots of questions, which I love because, questions usually turn into conversations.
Enjoy the holiday season and check my author site to find out where I’ll be signing and telling leg stories next. Thanks for reading Stump the Librarian.
Until then, want to know where you would be cataloged in the Dewey Decimal System?
Take this quiz at Spacefem. It’s fun! You can find Stump the Librarian in Biography, but here’s my nonfiction section. The “What it says part about you” is surprisingly true.
Alan Samry’s Dewey Decimal Section:
997 Atlantic Ocean islands
Alan Samry = 121491385 = 121+491+385 = 997
900 History & Geography
Travel, biographies, ancient history, and histories of continents.
What it says about you:
You’re connected to your past and value the things that have happened to you. You’ve had some conflicted times in your life, but they’ve brought you to where you are today and you don’t ignore it.
I had a room full of family, friends, patrons, and strangers that are now friends attend the book launch for Stump the Librarian: A Writer’s Book of Legs at Fairhope Public Library. Here’s a few highlights of what happened and some incredible library and amputee related stories that have happened since.
Check out the legs on these cookies!
I mentioned Gouverneur Morris, as a guy who most people don’t know. Morris wrote the final version of the United States Constitution, and single-handedly penned the Preamble. He was considered a ladies man, even with a peg leg in his day. Someone in the audience said something like, “that sounds right.”
“That was not my experience,” I said to a roomful of laughs. “But you’ll read all about that in the book.”
I mentioned a few other leg amputees in the book including Henry Highland Garnet, an African-American Abolitionist, a local man named Bob Youens, Bert Shepard, and a few not in the book like Bill Veeck, and a three-legged cat named Tripod.
John Woods, my publisher at Intellect Publishing, and emcee for the evening suggested I mention being in a movie.
“Good thing Rosalie’s not here, she’s always saying how much I’m milking this movie thing,” I say, turning to the audience.
“I was in a movie with Nicholas Cage!” I said, about my role in the movie USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage about the ship that delivered the atomic bomb in 1945 and was sunk by a Japanese submarine, and more than a thousand sailors lost their lives. I recognized the tragedy, but tried not to dwell on it. The book launch was a celebration, after all.
“I’m in it for about 16 seconds. Look for me in the SPAM scene.”
Hmmm…what would be Stump the Librarian’s favorite part of the night?
The Q and A!
There are many amputees in the book, but one I had not heard of and mentioned by an audience member was Peg Leg Bates. I believe it was Elizabeth, who asked me about the new prosthetic cover I was sporting.
Here’s a picture of me at The Gulf, a restaurant in Orange Beach.
It’s from a Canadian Company called Alleles, and pronounced “all Ls” and they are catching on fast. Mine’s the Future Plaid model in cobalt and silver. They are intended to have results like my book cover, to stand out and hopefully, act as a conversation starter.
What’s amazing is the people who came into my circle while finishing the book that have had a personal impact and connection. Jasmine was that person for me, not only did she do a stupendous job editing my book (all remaining errors are mine), but we learned of our common link through Shriners Hospital. I stressed the importance of Shriners in the book and in my life. After the book launch, I heard from people who have given to Shriners, like my retired coworker Darlene. My being a patient provided a connection with donors who now know someone who directly benefited from services at Shriners.
My sister Laurie surprised me! She came down from Massachusetts to celebrate.
Me with John, Susan, Laurie, and Helen
I personalized books for family, several coworkers, blogging friends, Friends of the Fairhope Library, book club members and a bunch of new friends. Bless everyone for your patience. I’m glad I didn’t look up to the line. I learned that children’s author Karyn Tunks (Mardi Gras in Alabama is available now) has a three-legged cat. I’ve known Karyn for five years and was part of a fantastic blogging group with her and others in attendance, including Lorraine, who gave me a fabulous painted rock of my cover that I’m holding below. read more about it here. Don’t you find it strange that I had to write a book about missing legs before Karyn told me about her three-legged cat Hop Along? (Name changed to protect feline’s privacy).
It’s been one heck of an awesome week. Patrons, some I knew, many I didn’t, came up to the desk to share stories.
“Do you know the man who wears an artificial leg that goes to the Methodist Community Center?” I did not.
Oliver told me about a stray his family adopted. “Skippy was part of the family for five years,” he said. I mentioned Skippy when I signed books for Oliver’s grown children.
My coworker Allyson relayed to me that her friends, whose daughter is an amputee, loved my inscription. Allyson is buying another book to give as a gift for someone she knows from her medieval fair circle.
Also, I learned that Fairhope’s famed storyteller Connie Cazort’s father was an amputee. At the desk in the library she remembered learning new words when she was five. I was alongside her as she told the story and also seemed to teleport into the memory of learning the words “amp-u-ta-shun,” and “art-i-fish-ul leg.”
My coworker Kris told the reference desk staff about 2018’s Hero Dog of the Year. Chichi is a quadruple amputee, apparently some person destined for hell cut off all four of this dog’s legs. Chichi has four new ones, including two front legs with wheels almost like Benito Badoglio. Who’s Benito Badaglio you ask? hehe, wait for it…you have to read my book. bwahahaha! Seriously, if you have an amputee in your life or are caring for someone with a limb difference, please tell them about my book. Let’s keep the conversation going.
Where Can I Buy It?
If you want to buy my book, you can find it online at Amazon (print and e-ink) and Barnes and Noble. You can also get it locally at Page & Palette in Fairhope, where I’ll be chatting with customers and signing books Nov. 18 from 1-5 PM. Soon, Barnes & Noble in Spanish Fort will have it and I’ll be signing books there Nov. 25 from 2-4 PM. Of course, you can also get it directly from the person writing these words.
I was giddy bringing my books into Page and Palette and talking with Stacy and Leigh.
Alan Samry’s kaleidoscopic book, Stump the Librarian is at once a glorious compendium of quick biographies of one-legged individuals, a moving memoir, a fascinating history of amputations and prostheses, and a medical investigation of the congenital anomaly that left the author with a disability at birth. Samry, a librarian in Fairhope, Alabama, takes joy in the quest for answers and pursues information with the sublime sense of mission that the best librarians possess. With clarity, candor, and a down-to-earth directness, he takes us with him: fascinated, outraged, horrified, thrilled, and ever curious about a world populated—and profoundly changed—by those who not only get by on a single leg but stand far more firmly than many people with two. Samry weaves poignant personal recollection through his tapestry of information, making Stump the Librarian a must read.
Alan Samry takes readers on his personal journey of curiosity, humor and exploration. In an unlikely narrative readers learn about Alan’s life as a congenital below-knee amputee. In a very delightful and provocative manner, Alan relates his personal memoirs and shares historical and imagined characters who are like-amputees. Alan’s writing style is fascinatingly varied, and insightful into his own self-discovery. He shares intimate details that enable readers to appreciate his story and perspective. This book is a celebration of Alan – his person, determination, and his insatiable desire for truth.
Why Yes, I do, and I’m very excited and humbled to finally share my writing with readers.
What’s it about? (from the back cover)
Stump the Librarian: A Writer’s Book of Legs is a diverse collection of creative writing that explores Alan Samry’s life as a congenital below-knee amputee and a public librarian. Alan’s cross-genre writing in creative nonfiction, poetry, essays, satire, and experimental writing weaves fascinating mythical, historical, and literary figures into his own absorbing story of being a “born amputee.” In the book, with chapters organized as though the reader were exploring a public library, Alan writes about his experiences in an open, insightful, and humorous way. In his search for other leg amputees, Alan finds a new way of seeing himself, and the world around him.
When is it coming out and where can I buy it?
The book, published by Intellect Publishing, will be available for purchase locally, on Amazon, and for libraries through Ingram in mid-October in print and as an e-book.
Stump the Librarian Book Launch Party
Tuesday, October 23, 2018
Fairhope Public Library-Giddens Auditorium
501 Fairhope Avenue, Fairhope, Alabama 36532
More details on the launch party and other author events coming soon.
It was late Sunday afternoon, Susan had already left the house to join the Slow Bike Society on the Eastern Shore for a round trip ride from Mullet Point to the Grand Hotel for afternoon tea and cookies.
Later on, around 5pm, I grabbed my 1980s era Huffy Bay Pointe 3-speed and headed to book club, Drinkers with a Reading Problem. Bikes, books and beer are a few of my favorite things. It started out as a nice leisurely ride to the The Book Cellar, a space next to Page and Palette for adult beverages, book launches, and live music.
As I crested the hill near the tennis courts, I was riding on the shady sidewalk with the whir of distant lawnmower when I heard a Crack! I looked up and saw a dead limb snap away from a pecan tree and it was falling into my path. I quickly rode off the sidewalk and toward safety. It never made it to the ground. Turns out it had fought gravity and won, thanks to it being caught in a cocoon of kudzu. And that was that. I pedaled on to book club and didn’t think anything more about it…but perhaps it was a sign.
At book club, I was enjoying a Grayton Beach Salt of the Gulf and listening to my fellow book clubbers comment on In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead, by James Lee Burke. Just as I was about to spout my thoughts on the book, my cell phone rang. My bride, Susan. She never calls me at book club.
“I’m calling because I knew you’d be mad if I didn’t,” she says.
“What happened?” I’ve already assumed the worst with her intro.
“I fell off my bike, and scraped up my leg and elbow. I’m okay. I’m home. I’m going to take a shower and put some ice on it.”
“How bad is it? Do you want to go to the ER?”
“No, it looks bad, but it’s just below my knee, I’m just gonna rest.”
“Do you want me to come home?”
“No, stay at book club, I’ll see you soon.”
“Thanks for letting me know, and yes I would have been mad if you didn’t call and tell me.”
When I got back to the table at book club, they were still talking about the gratuitous violence, and that the book was well written.
“Irene, (her book pick) I thought with an amputee like John Bell Hood so prominent in this book I thought you picked it with me in mind.” I did enjoy the book, the writing, and yes, especially the confederate dead. I did feel like there were a few too many deaths, i.e. plot points, that made the book about 100 pages to long, but I’ll read more Burke.
When I got home I looked at Susan’s leg and did my best Dr. Samry. Her leg looked like a red raft floating over a sea of skin and she told me what happened.
“I was riding beside Valerie on our way back to Mullet point and I hit a trash barrel with my handlebar. I misjudged how close it was. When I hit the barrel I fell and knocked Valerie off her bike. I’m glad we were wearing helmets.” Valerie had a puncture in her ankle and was able to ride back later with some of the group and thankfully, it didn’t stop her from playing her Monday morning tennis match.
Of course, the slow bikers are all Eagle Scouts, nurses, teachers, and mothers. Not only do they have Band-Aids on board their bikes, they have alcohol swabs and all manner of first aid. I think one of them carries a defibrillator. Everyone, genuinely concerned, including Maureen, Rosalie, Patricia, Liz and others, helped clean and dress the wounds. For some reason I thought of Bill. He’s like MacGyver, I would trust him with a scalpel, needle and thread. Thankfully they didn’t need any of that, no broken bones, nor a trip to the ER. A good Samaritan, Linda an employee from the Grand Hotel who had just finished her shift, stopped to find out what all the commotion was about and gave Susan a ride back to her car. Dadgum, people are so nice here.
My wife, bless her heart, has a history with mayhem. When she was a kid, she ran into the corner of a house. Yes, A house! Can you imagine…”it was during a game of tag,” so her story goes, “another judgement gone wrong.” Anyway, she’s fallen off her bike before too, but when she was a kid, over the handlebars and all. She was even bit by a dog while riding. Yes, while riding, and then she fell off, not wanting to run over the second dog, a pocket dog from the grassy knoll. Honestly, she comes home more battered and bruised from her classroom, no, not physical abuse from her 330+ second graders over the last fourteen years, but from walking into desks, tables, and quite frankly anything stationary. Oddly enough, I think she’s been fine on the stationary bike at the recreation center. Thanks to her cadre of caring cyclists Susan will be back on her Raleigh M-20 bike in no time, but this week she’s back to school. Stepping gingerly around all those desks I hope.
It’s July 8 and I’m still thinking about the American Library Association’s Annual Conference in New Orleans, our Texas vacation, and amputees.
As a first time attendee of ALA’s Annual Conference, here are some moments, now memories from my experience.
Doris Kearns Goodwin
Sue and I had wonderful and close seats to hear fascinating, new, and entertaining insights from America’s foremost presidential historian.
Kearns Goodwin began with her love of libraries, and how they were, even as a child, “a window to the world.”
She has spent the last 50 years with four presidents, who she admiringly refers to as “my guys.”
Her forthcoming book, Leadership in Turbulent Times (September 2018), looks at the leadership qualities of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson.
What I found fascinating is that all four of these greats she said, “were changed by an emotional or physical disability.” Lincoln suffered an early stroke, TR’s mother and wife passed within days of one another, FDR was stricken with polio, and LBJ had a heart attack.
Heard a new word from several different speakers at the convention.
Librarian-y: duties or things a librarian does.
Example from the session on “High Impact Librarianship.”
“I didn’t include creating a Libguide for my students in my portion of the research because that’s librarian-y.”
What’s a libguide? It’s a subject guides that pulls together all types of information about a particular subject or course of study. Click here to see the Libguide I created about the history of Fairhope.
What Every Librarian Should know about Young News Consumers
For those of us with a journalism background the news is not good. In a survey of 4,500 high school and college students from around the country, 82% think memes are news. They also get a lot of news from The Onion. Of course, credible sources are listed like CNN, The New York Times, The Guardian and others according to Alison Head, of Project Information Literacy, which is leading the study. Early results reveal not only how the students get the news but also how the news finds them. They find news through social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube and even Snapchat. “Facebook is dying,” in Head’s survey population, though it’s hard to believe since Zuckerberg just bounced Warren Buffet as the third richest person in America. In a bit of good news, Head explained that more than half of the news students get comes from discussion (actual face to face) with peers. The full study is out October 16.
She and I have something in common. We keep a journal. And more importantly, we encourage others to keep a journal. It’s how she was able to write her memoir, In Pieces, (September 18) Field went back to her journals after her mother died. “To make me go places I didn’t want to go,” she said, was the motivation for her book, and that her journals provided a “string of stories to tell.”
She had her first theatrical role at 12 and she was hooked. When she was onstage, Field saw the “fireflies on the edges of my eyes.”
As a member of the Actor’s Studio she learned the “Craft of auditions,” Of her early Hollywood experience, and for her role as Sybil, she joked, “I was hired over everyone’s dead body.”
A pivotal role, and one she writes about in the book, is Carrie AKA “Frog,” in the action comedy Smokey and the Bandit.
What Sally’s Reading:
Warlight, Michael Ondaatje, The Great Alone, Kristin Hannah and Edith Wharton
New Dawn: A Conversation with Dr. Carla Hayden
The Librarian of Congress, Carla Hayden, in the Libraries Rock Summer, is our Rock Star. She’s also the first woman and African-American to lead the Library of Congress(LOC). In a comfortable Q & A with Courtney Young, a former ALA president, Hayden opened up about her role and what’s happening at the Library of Congress. She praised librarians for being “the first search engines.
Hayden told a powerful story about walking down a row with an archivist and wandered into the Frederick Douglass Collection. With TLC and the approval of every move by the archivist, Hayden finds and holds a letter about Lincoln. It’s about Lincoln’s death and Hayden could see, feel, and touch the deep, angry impressions Douglass left on the page upon hearing that negroes would not be able to attend the viewing of Lincoln’s body.
America’s librarian is also building inroads to legislators with the Congressional Book Club. In a closed meeting, lawmakers go to the Library of Congress to listen and talk with prominent authors.
The most recent book club was a discussion with historian Jon Meacham about his latest book, The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels.
For many lawmakers, Hayden said, “it’s their first time in the LOC.” It provides a chance for her to talk with them in a private setting and explain what the library is, what it does, and how it serves the nation.
She also makes it a point to meet with legislators at libraries in their districts (Many lawmakers are also in their local libraries for the first time). This way she says, “I can stress the importance of local libraries.”
Her term for volunteers is endearing. “Citizen Historians,” she said are working with children to help them read historic documents written in cursive.
Sparks, pinch me moments, the interconnected of things, from experience to research, and collaboration, to the magic of a new way, practical or creative, of doing things was flowing through the ALA, and will continue to flow through me for years to come.
Parkway Bakery and Tavern in Mid-City NOLA is a must for a Po’ Boy!
Our collection includes 65 books for Sue’s classroom library, most signed by the author, “To Mrs. Samry’s Second Grade Class.”
News the missing legged can use
The circulation department staff told me about a new movie I need to see.
Mary said, “So I heard The Rock is an amputee in his new movie.”
“Really,” I said, totally surprised by this.
“I heard he takes off his leg and uses it as a weapon,” Mary added.
“Yeah,” Melissa chimed in, “he also uses the leg for a zipline getaway.”
“Whoa, that sounds too cool. I’ve seen a preview of it but didn’t know he played an amputee, what’s the name of it again?”
Lisa, from the stand up check in computer says, “Rob said it’s called Skyscraper.” The movie is in theaters July 12. Check out the official trailer. It’s part Die Hard, Part Towering Inferno, All Rock!
Civil War Limb Pit
A recent article in the newspaper talked about an archeology discovery at the Manassas Battlefield National Park in Virginia. A national park ranger and archeologist discovered a mass grave where surgeons buried amputated limbs. It’s strange how these limb stories find me. Sue heard about the limb pit story from another shopper at Big Lots.
Remember the Amputee
Amputee stories even find me on vacation. I was in the Capital Visitor’s Center in Austin, Texas when I discovered the name Thomas William Ward in one of the exhibits. Ward immigrated to America from Ireland in 1828. He worked construction in New Orleans and helped organize the New Orleans Greys, a volunteer militia.
In December 1835, the Greys volunteered to fight for Texas Independence. At the siege of Bexar, a cannonball smashed his right leg, and required immediate amputation.
In a bit of Irish luck, he missed the fight, some might say slaughter, at The Alamo in February and March, 1836. Don’t be confused, as I was thinking he fought and died at The Alamo, that was William B. Ward. Thomas Ward was in New Orleans being fitted with a peg, and serving as a recruiter. In May, he return to military service after Texas had gained independence.
Ward was elected Mayor of Austin and served as commissioner of the General Land Office. Read more about Ward here.
The General Land Office was completed in 1857. It’s now the Capital Visitor’s Center and that’s where I discovered Ward.
Vacation: Austin Public Library
The saying that everything in bigger in Texas is true for their libraries too. The Austin Public Library is in the background, just past the treeline. It has an amazing Hogwarts-like staircase, a covered outdoor rooftop area for patrons, and a technology petting zoo. Had such a great time, here’s a list, in random order, of highlights: The bats, Home Slice, Eastciders, The Saxon Pub, Barton Springs Bike Rental, The Capital, History of Texas, The Alamo, LBJ Museum, The Salt Lick, Fredericksburg, Luckenbach, Uncle Billy’s Brewery and Live Music Everyday.