Letter from Texas . . .

I’ve just returned to my lodging from the first two days of the Texas Librarians Association meeting in Dallas. Wow . . . My head is spinning from sensory overload. I’ve met so many cool people, some wonderful writers and many fantastic librarians. I’m sure many of them will use me for programs this next year. Though most of my time was spent signing books at the Pelican Booth, I did spend a great deal of time playing music for one of my sponsors, The World and I. I’ll talk more about Mr. Kim the publisher and this stimulating online program in future posts. Go to this site for a quick look at his wonderful product, an interactive and online encyclopedia (http://www.worldandischool.com/). One vendor took me to dinner at Dakota Steakhouse and another (Mr. Kim) to an authentic Korean restaurant. Here is Mr. Kim, his beautiful worker, Elizabeth, and myself.

world and I

Tomorrow, I’ll be at the Grapevine Books-A-Million for a signing. Of all the BAM’s I’ve done, I expect this one to be the best. More later. It’s raining and hailing here in Dallas, so I better post while I can.

Thoughts on the Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

Tonight, I’m in my lodging in Lafayette. In an earlier post, I had made mention to Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns. As good as that read was, I enjoyed the Kite Runner far more. I finished it tonight. As Isabel Allende said of Kite Runner, this is “one of those unforgettable stories that stays with you for years.” The novel will teach you the beauty and uniqueness of the Afghan culture. The novel’s themes that relate to guilt, friendship, betrayal, the ghosts and power of memory, family, and history will stir, perhaps even break your heart. If you’ve ever lived with a secret sin, with a tortured conscience, you will weep. If you’ve ever wondered how bad life is under the Taliban and how right we in the West are to resist them, this novel will answer those asked and unasked questions in a bone and soul-jarring manner.

Here are some lines that stood out to me:

“[I]t’s wrong what they say about the past, I’ve learned, about how you can bury it. Because the past claws its way out” (1).

“It may be unfair, but what happens in a few days, some even a single day, can change the course of a whole lifetime . . .” (142).

“I wondered if that was how forgiveness budded, not with the fanfare of epiphany, but with pain gathering its things, packing up, and slipping away unannounced in the middle of the night” (359).

The narrator says that Sohrab’s silence was “the silence of one who has taken cover in a dark place . . . He walked like he was afraid to leave behind footprints. He moved as if not to stir the air around him” (361).

The novel Kite Runner is a New York Times Bestseller and my edition (Riverhead Books) comes with study questions. I’d have to say this is one of the better reads of my life.

Book News

My new Scottish Alphabet book is now being sold on Amazon! Here is the initial information! It will retail for $15.95, though you can purchase it cheaper online. That Amazon link is http://www.amazon.com/Scottish-Alphabet-Rickey-E-Pittman/dp/1589805968/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1208185455&sr=1-1I can’t wait for it to come out. I’ve already started pre-selling the book. See details of the pre-sale offer below:

Reading level: Ages 4-8
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Pelican Publishing Company (September 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1589805968
ISBN-13: 978-1589805965


*Order now and a signed copy will be sent to you as soon as the book comes out (in August or September). The book is a collection of poems, each poem based on a letter of the alphabet, and the price is $16.00. You can also pay my email address, rickeyp@bayou.com via PayPal. (Shipping is paid by me!) Contact me at rickeyp@bayou.com if you need more details. Order directly from me at the below address. I’ll send you a printed or email receipt for your order immediately:

Rickey E. Pittman

1105 N. 8th Street

Monroe, LA 71201

Many people collect alphabet books. Librarians and teachers love them because they are an effective way to teach children culture, facts, history, and the rhythym of language. I dedicate the Scottish Alphabet children’s picture book in this way: “To the children of Scotland, wherever God has placed you.”

My artist is Connie McLennan, a freelance illustrator. She is a member of the San Francisco Society of Illustrators, the Northwest Air Force Artists, and the Picture Book Artists Association. She has won awards from both the San Francisco Society of Illustrators and the Sacramento Ad Club. She is also a founding member of OASES, a parent advocacy group for children with special needs. McLennan creates and sells “daily paintings” via her painting blog and through eBay.Here is another sample of her artwork in this book:

scot book sample

Book Signing News: A Long Weekend

 Ah, so this is what the life of a writer is, at least one with limited resources who is trying to establish himself.  It is very busy and tiring. I spent the night Thursday with friends in Alexandria, Louisiana, then up at 4:00 a.m. to drive on to Lake Charles. I was at Le Bleau Elementary all day Friday, and I must say that this program and presentation was a wonderful experience for me.  The students were absolutely wonderful, the teachers far above average, and Adrienne Oakley, the librarian in the photo with me below, a fantastic lady.  I do hope I can come back to this school, as I loved these kids and beautiful teachers so much.


From Lake Charles, I drove to Baton Rouge on Friday, where I was to meet my fellow musician, Tom McCandlish. We were guests of the Scottish Society there, and had a late night at the society’s house on Airline.  Thanks to Mark and Tasha Ferguson for their hospitality this past weekend.  They are generous, and they love things and people Scottish with all their heart.  Below is my friend Tom, and though he is very Scottish, he is reminding us of how multicultural he can be!  I’ve forgotten when and where I took this photo this weekend! Ahem . . .


Saturday morning, Tom woke me up much earlier than I wanted, and we went to the Swamp Celts Festival in Gonzalez, Louisiana.  We had a great day and I certainly will post more photos of this event in the near future.  I made two story-telling presentations for the festival, and I also had a booth where I signed and sold my books.  The festival staff was fantastic and with their help I was able to have a very successful day of signing and selling books.  I am indebted to all the festival staff there, and with all my heart I thank them for allowing me to read some of my writing and have  a table there. Below is a photo of Shannon, one of the festival workers I met last year and am in debt to. We decided that our picture together at this event would be an annual tradition, so here is our second photo together.

shannon 08

I’ll certainly have more to say of this weekend in the future. Mark this link and check it in the near future for more photos of this wonderful festival.  http://swampcelts.com/ 

This week, I’m going to the Texas Library Association conference in Dallas. This too will be a long week, but I’ll make as many posts as I can.

Some Texans of the Civil War

I’ve been remiss in my blog duties, but I’ve been buried in book editing for days. I’ll be in Lake Charles at a school Friday, and performing and signing books at the Swamp Celts Festival in Baton Rouge on Saturday. In other words, I’ll be swamped with work.

Here is something I put together for TGIF about some little known Texans during the War Between the States.

Some Texans Worth Remembering . . .

In More Generals in Gray by Bruce Allardice, printed by LSU Press, I found the names of several Texans who served the Confederacy during the War Between the States. Here are a few of the men mentioned in the appendix of this book and a short description of each man:

Frederic Samuel Bass, (1829-1897) was a prewar teacher in Marshall Texas. As a colonel, the notes said he commanded Hood’s Texas Brigade near the end of the war.

August Buchel (1811-1864) was a colonel of the 1st Texas Cavalry, a native of Germany, and a soldier of fortune. He was promoted to Brigadier General just before he was killed at the battle of Mansfield.

Thomas Jefferson Chambers was a colonel of the 14th Texas and was briefly governor of Texas in 1861 and promoted to general late in the war. He too resided in Marshall, Texas.

George M. Flournoy (1832-1889) was a colonel of the 16th Texas Infantry and prewar attorney general of Texas.

William Harrison Hamman (1830-1918) was a Virginia-born Texas lawyer of Robertson Texas.  He was appointed brigadier general of Texas state troops in December, 1864.

David Bell Martin (1830-1892) was a brigadier general of the 10th Brigade of the Texas Militia and later commandant of conscripts in Texas. Before the war he worked as a merchant in Cherokee County.

Hugh McLeod (1814-1862) was a West Point graduate and colonel of the 1st Texas Infantry. A New York-born Galveston resident, McLeod had been Texas’ secretary of war.

The more I study Texas history, the more fascinated I am.  If you’ve heard of these men or are related to them, drop me a note at rickeyp@bayou.com

Talk of the Town by Lisa Wingate, a Review

Talk of the Town by Lisa Wingate: A Review

I said before on this blog that Lisa Wingate is a Texas version of Carson McCullers.  I just completed her novel, and I now believe that statement even more. Having been raised in Texas, with grandparents in Rochester, a town in West Texas, I was surprised to find another author who loved that part of the country as much as I did. In Talk of the Town, author Lisa Wingate has created a story that is so true-to-life and so depictive of the people in West Texas that it rattled me. More witty than the Don Johnson movie Hotspot, the story not only revealed the culture and people of a small Texas town, but it reminded me of the many reasons why I love West Texas and the people who live there.

The plot is more complex than one might think at first glance, leading the reader on to discoveries about the characters and the town of Daily, Texas.  And in the process, the reader learns much about him or herself, discovering that fame is highly underrated, compared to the joy of finding true love.

The story is told in alternating chapters, using the voices and point-of-views of the young Mandalay Florentino and the older Imagene Doll.  At first, I was not interested in Imagene’s POV, but as I read on, I realized how important she was to the story.  Mandalay caught my attention from the first, perhaps because I had met the author and identified that voice with her.

The author is an expert of the similes and metaphors contained in the language of Texas residents. One could almost create a lexicon of West Texas idioms from this novel. The novel is also an expose of the “reality” shows, revealing gimmicks and reminding the reader to not believe that what we see on TV is always the “real” thing. However, with the depiction of Amber, one is led to think that maybe, just maybe, there are some people who have not sold out to Hollywood (or other places) and that if there were more people like Mandalay, our entertainment would be of better quality.

Here are two of my favorite lines:

“Those dreams, the ones that are dreamed for us, not by us, are the truest of all” (242).

“It made me wonder what else I might of missed, just because I was afraid” (122).

If you want to learn more of Lisa Wingate and her writing, go to http://www.lisawingate.com/

Women of Magdalene: A Review

Rosemary Poole-Carter’s novel, Women of Magdalene, was a moving read for me for many reasons. First of all, I read everything I can that touches on the Civil War, and though this novel’s setting is after the War, the War has deeply affected the novel’s characters. The writing is rich in allusions. The author reveals extensive research, not only into matters that concern the war, but research of a neglected part of Louisiana history and the life of its residents in a post-war setting. The novel also moved me because of the subtle and beautiful way its lines touched the life-issues of family, love, women’s rights, medical practice, including especially our treatment and view of “the insane.”

If I were asked to express what the possible themes/messages of this fine novel might be, I would suggest these:

1)  Robert, the protagonist, has been as scarred internally by the war, as scarred and maimed as the hundreds he feels he maimed as a physician. He is a tormented soul who finally finds redemption and peace when he finds something and someone worth dying for. The story is told masterfully from his point of view.

2) This is a story about our need and our search for healing through true love. Robert and Effie’s love is a pure one, so unlike the lust or power-driven relationships about them. When one discovers that kind of love, then like Robert he or she can say, ” I will ask for nothing more.”
3) This is a story about madness, about the madness in each of us, about how close to the edge of madness we all are. The story is also about masked madness, the hidden insanity of those who have no conscience, those who judge, define, use and control those deemed to be mentally incompetent, especially women.

To learn more of Rosemary Poole-Carter and her wonderful fiction, go to http://www.poole-carter.info/ 

Assorted Thoughts

After I completed my second day of Civil War programs at Hallsville, TX Junior High yesterday, I drove to my Delta Community College class, arriving at exactly 5:00 p.m., which is when my class starts.

I had a grand time with these students at Hallsville, and it seemed that as word spread through the junior high grapevine, the students’ energy (who began rather reserved) greatly increased. Likely that’s typical for junior high kids.

This weekend, I’m off to Oklahoma to visit my parents and help them prepare their garden, and I’ll also be working on a book I’m editing.  The author is Bob Boan, and it’s entitled, Williams Lake Was Once The Center Of The Universe.  I think the author has a winner here. I’ll give it a little review after I’ve finished my editing.

A Song about Catalina: A friend read my post about my Catalina Island visit and sent me these song lyrics. Evidently the island is much more famous than I realized.

(Words and Music by band members Glen Larson and Bruce

Twenty- six miles across the sea
Santa Catalina is a-waitin’ for me
Santa Catalina, the island of romance, romance,
romance, romance

Water all around it everywhere
Tropical trees and the salty air
But for me the thing that’s a-waitin’ there-romance

It seems so distant, twenty-six miles away
Restin’ in the water serene
I’d work for anyone, even the Navy
Who would float me to my island dream

Twenty- six miles, so near yet far
I’d swim with just some water-wings and my guitar
I could leave the wings but I’ll need the guitar
for romance, romance, romance, romance

Twenty- six miles across the sea
Santa Catalina is a-waitin’ for me
Santa Catalina, the island of romance

A tropical heaven out in the ocean
Covered with trees and girls
If I have to swim, I’ll do it forever
Till I’m gazin’ on those island pearls

Forty kilometers in a leaky old boat
Any old thing that’ll stay afloat
When we arrive we’ll all promote romance, romance,
romance, romance

Twenty- six miles across the sea
Santa Catalina is a-waitin’ for me
Santa Catalina, the island of romance, romance,
romance, romance

Twenty- six miles across the sea
Santa Catalina is a-waitin’ for me
[these lyrics are found on http://www.songlyrics.com]

Notes from Hallsville, TX

These East Texas schools keep surprising me. I had a WONDERFUL day with the 8th Graders at Hallsville Jr. High. These kids are sharp, civilized, polite, and eager to learn new things. This has to be because of the fantastic teachers here. A few of the 8th grade teachers and I gathered at Papacita’s, a Mexican restaurant in Longview where my lodging is. Here is a photo of Mary Beth, Rachel, Melissa, Margaret, and myself after our meal.


Librarians continue to be my favorite people, and Terri Nalls has a fantastic library. In tomorrow’s post I  need to tell you more about her program, and especially her co-workers, Sarah Roberts (one of the most committed librarians I’ve ever met) and Tom Campitillo who is a parent who volunteers to work in the library. And I must mention her very diligent student workers.  Meeting them, I am convinced that students who WANT to work in a library will be on the sharper side of the human race.

With librarians who believe in the power of books, librarians like Terri, these young readers will be sure to grow intellectually and emotionally.  Tomorrow, I have another day with the 8th graders at the school, again presenting my Civil War program. More later then. Make music, make peace, make the world a better place.