Monthly Archives: January 2007

BOOK BEAT 29 – Erin Rabon

BOOK BEAT   Naples Sun Times   January 31-February 6, 2007 

by Philip K. Jason      

By the age of three, Rockford, Illinois native Erin Rabon was entertaining her parents by making up silly tales. Older and wiser now, Erin still allows a streak of silliness in the tales she writes for children. More than that, there is educational value and excitement. The Great Monkey Adventure, illustrated by Jeff Kriberscheck, is the first of her books for children to appear, launching a venture that she hopes will bring joy, especially the joy of reading, to many youngsters.

The writing bug infected Erin when she took her first journalism course. Upon graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in 1996, she worked as what she calls “odds and ends” jobs before moving down to Southwest Florida. Here, she worked in advertising with Mike Romano & Associates and then as editor for what was then a start-up lifestyle publication, Bonita Life, in 2003. Several years into her successful career in magazine publishing, Erin decided that she would pursue her long-held goal of creating a children’s classic. The Great Monkey Adventure is the result, and Blue Monkey Publishing is the vehicle. 

The mission of Blue Monkey Publishing, says Erin, is “feeding imaginations and instilling a life-long love of books.” She and Jeff Kriberscheck “want to get kids excited about books and reading—not just for their childhood, but for their entire lives.” To help fulfill this mission, Erin visits elementary schools, reads The Great Monkey Adventure to the students, and entices them to make reading time a part of every day.

Jeff Kriberscheck moved here with his family over twenty years ago as a middle-schooler. This Lely High School graduate honed his artistic talent at the Ringling School of Art and Designed and learned commercial (read “income-producing”) skills in graphic design at the Tampa Technical Institute. Jeff served for a while as Advertising Art Director at Gulfshore Life and also was involved in Mike Romano’s enterprises, where he and Erin met.

Both business partners have enjoyed the process of discovery as they put their company and their first publication together. For Jeff, illustrating a children’s book is the fulfillment of a dream. For both, especially Erin who is a self-confessed control freak, the independence of doing it all themselves is more valuable than the compromises necessary in working with an established publisher. Furthermore, they did not want to go through the submit-and-wait routine. Erin’s experience in marketing and publishing combined with Jeff’s raw talent and design ability give them the combination of ingredients that they hope will make for success.

And the Blue Monkey? Well, he is a mischievous fellow who is always searching for his beloved bananas and encountering many slips along the way. And each slip brings him from the branches above to an obstacle below: a lion, a crocodile, a hippopotamus, a snake, and a tiger all stand in the way of Blue getting his banana – but he is able to escape each confrontation. The book’s simple diction and artful repetition of phrase teaches language, the names of animals, and also colors. But whimsy is the hallmark of the book – a wonderful adventure realized in words and in the bold, cheerful watercolor and ink artwork by Jeff.

Erin has already dreamed up future titles, but she and Jeff are hoping that Blue Monkey Publishing becomes an outlet for the work of other creative writers and artists who share their vision about what creates a commitment to reading. At bottom, the goal is to bring joy to young readers. Part of that joy is to engage pre-readers in the repeated rhythmic patterns so that they can contribute by having memorized some of the text. In this way, a positive relationship with books begins and reading is encouraged.

Visitors to the Naples Writers Conference and Authors & Books Festival are likely to see Erin and Jeff on February 25. If you miss them there, catch up with the Blue Monkey team on March 17 at the Southwest Florida Reading Festival in Fort Myers.

The Great Monkey Adventure is available through and You can also find it at Arabesque, Attic Toys, Cottontails, and Learning Express. The press also exhibits at the Open Air Market in Sugden Regional Park the first and third Saturdays of every month (through April 7).

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BOOK BEAT 28 – Julie Palella

BOOK BEAT   Naples Sun Times January 24-30, 2007

by Philip K. Jason

Once San Jose native Julie Palella began reading, she never stopped!  After moving to several states during her childhood, she began to write short stories. Her first full length novel, MacGregor’s Curse, completed later in life, collected dust for quite a while before publication. Her second published novel, Whispers by the Sea, was picked up – like the first – by a small publisher. Being in sales most of her life, Julie knew that her writings would not make much of a impact unless she attended to the necessary business of marketing – and more marketing. 

Her marketing efforts paid off when a high profile agency became interested in another one of her manuscripts – a thriller set in Naples. Julie hopes that the agency will sell this thriller to a large trade house. The sequel is underway. Julie is fortunate to have three siblings, all obsessive readers, who offer lots of feedback on her work. Her husband, Michael, is extremely supportive of her writing career, and her daughter, Rosalynn, is also a writer. 

PKJ: How did you get interested in making Ireland and Scotland the settings for your first two novels?JP: I received a diary from an ancestor of mine that was passed down through the centuries from my mother’s side of the family. Her name was Lottie Hunter and she lived in the Highlands during the turbulent 13th century. A lot of it is hard to read, but I got the dialect from her in her writings and the sense of fear that the clans felt. A lot of the sentences are in Gaelic, but some are in English, with the dialect. This started MacGregor’s Curse. The things she wrote were so natural and just a part of her every day life, and, to me, it would be almost impossible to carry on and endure the hardships. I wondered if a modern day woman could actually do it. The character pretty much walked me through that one, and I started to find strength in human nature and the will to survive as my character, Elizabeth, took me along her journey. Although she suffers in the book (some fan mail that suggests she suffers a bit too much), I tried to make it as realistic as possible.

My grandfather is 100% Irish and comes from Brittas Bay, Ireland. I studied his family and the land and thought it fascinating. Although Whispers by the Sea is contemporary, there is so much tradition that the Irish still follow that I couldn’t resist throwing an American woman into a small town to see how she’d fit in. 

PKJ: What kind of research do you perform to give historical narratives authenticity?JP: The Internet is extremely helpful visually, and I print a lot of things out to get an idea of clothing, settings, etc. Research is actually my worse enemy. I spend so much time researching and find it so fascinating that I literally have to tell myself to stop and that enough is enough. I needed more of the dialect for MacGregor’s Curse, so I watched Braveheart a lot and Rob Roy and just kind of worked it in. Dialect is hard because you can’t use too much of it or the book is just too hard to read and you can’t really “hear” the characters because you are too distracted by the dialect. I only used that in MacGregor’s Curse, and although I have a few Irish words in Whispers by the Sea, it is just assumed that they have an Irish accent. The local library is my favorite hang-out. That is where I do most of my research before starting any novel.

PKJ: Who are some of your favorite writers?JP: Dean Koontz, Stephen King, John Saul, Peter Straub.  Now, I know you are thinking: Why are you writing romance? There’s a reason for that. For women writers, it’s much easier to get into the romance genre than the thriller genre. Now that I have these two books out, I’m currently in the editing process of a thriller . . . and I have an agent for this one. My true love is mystery/thriller.
PKJ: Have you found networking and support groups valuable?

JP: Absolutely! In my opinion if you want to get anywhere in the writing world it is imperative to network.  Support groups are helpful with editing, critiquing and just how it sounds….support. The Southwest Florida Romance Writers (our local RWA chapter) has been extremely valuable to me. I’ve made some great friends and they are all supportive.  It’s too easy to give up without people urging you on, and when you need help, they are there, giving you advice and pushing you along. I couldn’t do it without them.

Julie Palella is the new president of the Southwest Florida Romance Writers group.  Anyone interested in joining SWFRW can reach her at or visit the website That site contains information about the group’s upcoming “Author & Agent Day,” February 10, at the Grandezza Country Club in Estero. Guest speakers will be mystery series writer Hallie Ephron and literary agent Christina Hogrebe.

 Julie’s books are available from online booksellers and via her website:

Philip K. Jason, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of English from the United States Naval Academy. A poet, critic, and free-lance writer with twenty books to his credit, this “Dr. Phil” chairs the annual Naples Writers’ Conference presented by the Naples Press Club. Send him your book news at

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BOOK BEAT 27 – Sheila Hebert Collins

BOOK BEAT   Naples Sun Times   January 17-23, 2007

by Philip K. Jason

Perched in a display bookcase in the media center of Manatee Elementary School out on Route 41 East are several of Sheila Collins’ books. They are only there because the school principle suggested that the modest Sheila let others know of her accomplishments. The same bookcase holds books created by students in the school with her encouragement. Sheila and these students are readers and writers together.

Sheila, born in Abbeville, Louisiana, is an authentic Cajun. Her mother’s and her father’s lineage both trace back to Acadie in Canada. As a young girl, Sheila grew up proud of her Cajun culture. In Louisiana, Sheila taught the lower grades for twenty years and developed a love for children’s literature. That passion for children’s literature, combined with her Cajun Pride, motivated her to rewrite cherished fairy tales with a Cajun twist. These fairy tales were designed to teach younger children French, as well as to develop Cajun pride.  

Sheila didn’t start her writing career until she retired from teaching in 1989. In late 1993, as Sheila Hébert-Collins, she published her first Cajun Fairy Tale. It was Jolie Blonde and the Three Héberts (pronounced A-Bears), a Cajun Goldilocks. By 1996, this fanciful writer she had published four books and had visited over 120 schools and many public libraries in Louisiana, reading her Cajun fairy tales and promoting cultural pride. Some of these early titles were first privately published, but later brought out by Pelican Publishing – a small trade publisher in Gretna, Louisiana. Other Collins titles are John-Paul Hébert Was There; ’T Pousette Et ’t Poulette: A Cajun Hansel and Gretel; Petite Rouge: A Cajun Twist to an Old Tale (Little Red Riding Hood, of course); Les Trois Cochons (her Cajun take on the Three Little Pigs), and Cendrillon: A Cajun Cinderella. 

Sheila’s name appears on the Louisiana State Artist Roster as an author and Cajun storyteller. She has made presentations for the Louisiana Reading Association’s local and state conventions. She has also made presentations for the Florida Association of Media Educators, Lee County Reading Festival, Naples Press Club Authors and Books Festival, International Reading Association, and Florida Gulf Coast University.  She has continued to visit schools in Southeast Region and libraries throughout Louisiana and Florida.

In 2000, Sheila became certified in library science, and by 2002, she was working as a media specialist at Manatee Elementary. Working in such a culturally diversified school has given her more cultures to learn about and more reasons to promote cultural pride. This is exactly what she encourages students to do – to create variations of popular children’s stories and fairy tales through the lens of their own cultures. If Sheila can inform and entertain with Jacques et la Canne a Sucre: A Cajun Jack and the Beanstalk and Blanchette et les Sept Petits Cajuns: A Cajun Snow White, young writers can take the hint and retell these and other tales in ways that celebrate their own cultural heritage. In fact, she encouraged the third-graders to collaborate on a “Florida Snow White,” whom they named Tan Girl! Because the students are an inspiration to her, Sheila dedicated one of her recent books to Manatee Elementary and its students.

Several of Sheila’s children’s tales are available in audio cassette versions. These recordings testify to her great abilities as a story-teller – a compelling, distinctive voice fully adept at reaching her young audience.

Sheila Hébert-Collins has two manuscripts ready to go. One is a poem modeled on “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” and the other is a story modeled on “The City Mouse and the Country Mouse.” In the latter, readers will learn not only some French vocabulary, but some Spanish as well.

To invite this lively author-storyteller to your school or special event, see the contact information on her website:

Philip K. Jason, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of English from the United States Naval Academy.  A poet, critic, and free-lance writer with twenty books to his credit, this “Dr. Phil” chairs the annual Naples Writers’ Conference presented by the Naples Press Club. Send him your book news at

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BOOK BEAT 26 – Rabbi Irwin Kula

Rabbi Brings Jewish Wisdom to the Public Marketplace of Ideas

BOOK BEAT   Naples Sun Times   January 10-16, 2007

by Philip K. Jason

One day, Rabbi Irwin Kula had a question put to him by a supporter of the organization that Kula leads – the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership headquartered in New York. The man asked what he planned to do with his life: “What’s your vision for the organization?” Rabbi Kula did not have an answer at first. But after a few weeks of discussion and questioning, he knew: “I decided that the mission of the organization would be to take Jewish wisdom public, to offer a philosophical, spiritual, and psychological life-approach that could benefit everyone, whether they were Jewish or not.”

Many projects followed from this decision. These included writing and being featured in the documentary Time for a New God, hosting the 13-part national public television series “Simple Wisdom with Irwin Kula,” and becoming a public figure through appearances on The Today Show, Oprah, and many other local and national broadcasts on both radio and television. In the process, Kula gained a reputation as one of the new leaders helping to shape America’s spiritual landscape. He is an iconoclast who explores the wisdom of an ancient tradition and brings it to bear on the challenges of modern life.

Rabbi Kula at Book Signing

Recently, Kuka was named one of the “Forward 50” – Jews who are making a difference, as determined by the newspaper The Jewish Daily Forward.

Says Kula, “The freedom and openness of America invites us to bring our traditions to the marketplace of ideas. The challenge is in translating these wisdoms into American idioms that are accessible.”

Kula’s latest attempt to meet this challenge is the book Yearnings: Embracing the Sacred Messiness of Life published by Hyperion. There is also a related 2-hour PBS special, “The Hidden Wisdom of Our Yearnings,” that is being show across the country as scheduled by local PBS outlets. In both the book and the broadcast, Kula draws upon ancient wisdom texts, Old Testament and Talmudic teachings, Buddhism, modern literature and contemporary life stories, explaining how to celebrate, embrace and grow from the paradoxes, contradictions and “sacred messiness” of life.

For Kula, it is important for us to realize that we are imperfect, striving creatures who nonetheless have much to celebrate if we will open ourselves up to the inevitable friction we encounter in pursuing our goals. He asks us to find a balance or creative oscillation between the extremes of defeatism on the one hand and an illusionary perfectionism on the other. Kula asks us to experience fully the striving itself, to embrace it, for that is where we will find – often enough to sustain us – the joys and satisfactions we seek. Our yearnings are not our problems but our means to fulfillment. “Our yearnings generate life. Our desire animates us.”

In Yearnings, Kula explores these seven fundamental areas: Yearning for Truth, Yearning for Meaning, Yearning for the Way, Yearning for Love, Yearning to Create, Yearning for Happiness, and Yearning for Transcendence. Each section of the book examines these issues by meshing often neglected aspects of traditional wisdom stories and teachings with everyday struggles in intimate relationships, child-rearing, job performance, and almost every problematic aspect of contemporary life. On several occasions, the real life dilemmas confronted in the book are Kula’s own. In sharing them, in identifying with his readers, Rabbi Kula demystifies the process. He, too, is working through and with the yearnings we all experience.

Rabbi Irwin Kula will be speaking in Naples on Tuesday, January 23 at 7:30pm. His presentation will be held at the G & L Theater, Community School of Naples, 13275 Livingston Road, just north of Pine Ridge Road. A reception and book signing will follow the talk. An $18 donation is suggested, and copies of Yearnings are available for advance purchase as well as at the event. For more information and to make your reservation (seating is limited), call the sponsoring organization, Beth Tikvah, at 434-1818 or visit the website

Philip K. Jason, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of English from the United States Naval Academy.  A poet, critic, and free-lance writer with twenty books to his credit, this “Dr. Phil” chairs the annual Naples Writers’ Conference presented by the Naples Press Club. Send him your book news at

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BOOK BEAT 25 – Karna Small Bodman

BOOK BEAT   Naples Sun Times   January 3-9, 2007

by Philip K. Jason

With settings in the White House and other government offices, the suburban research facilities of defense contractors, fashionable Georgetown, remote and exotic Kashmir, and New Dehli and other locations in India, Karna Small Bodman has fashioned a fast-moving political thriller. Terrorist plots, government in-fighting, and corporate rivalries all play important, intertwining roles in this remarkable first novel – Checkmate. Bodman’s book is published by Forge imprint of Thomas Doherty Associates. The book launch is a private party at the prestigious Cosmos Club in DC on January 9.

At the center of the story is Dr. Cameron (Cammy) Talbot, an attractive scientist who has been working on a new, low-cost guided missile defense system. Her computer-based brainchild can seize upon and redirect the directional programming of incoming missiles, making the costly defensive missile concept (launch a missile to intercept a missile) obsolete. At least in theory. As the novel progresses, mounting tensions arise from a fast-approaching deadline to perfect the new system. Set against her are government skeptics, those who have a vested interests in the old technology or the companies that thrive on it, and those who would wish to thwart or steal her technology.  In the latter category is the young Islamic terrorist who makes several attempts to murder Cammy and put an end to her project.

That same terrorist, working solo in the U. S., is part of a group that has stolen three Pakistani missiles. The first missile has been successfully fired with a conventional weapon warhead, demolishing an army base on the Indian side of the Line of Control in Kashmir. This attack, quite intentionally, has set the stage for retaliation and thus for nuclear war between Pakistan and India. One of the remaining stolen missiles has a biological weapon warhead. Can further firings of the stolen missiles be checked? Can the U. S. thwart the terrorists’ plan to take over Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal? And will Cammy’s tenuous romance with arms control and strategic defense specialist Hunt Daniels bloom? You’ll have to buy the book to find out. 

Born in Wilmette, Illinois, Karna Small Bodman (then Karna Small) received her B.A. degree (with honors) from the University of Michigan and studied journalism and television news in the graduate schools at Stanford and San Francisco State Universities.

She began her career as a television reporter and later as a news anchor in the San Francisco area. She continued her career as a television journalist in other markets, most importantly in Washington, DC where she anchored the late news on Channel 5 and hosted a nationally syndicated program on business and economic issues. She also hosted a three-hour news/talk radio show.

During the Reagan administration, Bodman held several posts. She was selected in 1981 to be the deputy to Press Secretary James Brady. Soon afterward, she became Director of Media Relations and Planning for the White House Office of Communications. Later, she became Senior Director for Public Affairs at the National Security Council. In this role, she attended arms control talks, briefed the leaders of heads of state, and attended the Geneva Summit. She had a first-hand view of White House operations and security issues. Upon her departure from government service in 1986 to become Senior Vice President of a Public Affairs firm, Bodman was the highest ranking woman on the White House staff.

What should be obvious, then, is that Bodman knows national security issues and the politics that shape them inside out.

She also knows how to put a thriller together. Checkmate is built on brief chapters with shifting perspectives. Sometimes we follow Cammy, sometimes we follow the terrorist who is trying to destroy her and her work, sometimes we follow the womanizing Congressman Davis Metcher as he trades favors to advance his career and satisfy his lust. Bodman uses a sort of roving “camera-eye” technique that keeps the reader off-balance at first, but still turning the pages. It would not take much effort to turn Checkmate into a gripping movie, since the rapid scene shifts and pacing already approximate cinematic story-telling technique.  

Like many Neapolitans, Bodman began her relationship with our town by becoming a regular visitor in 1988. She purchased her first home here in 1993, and she made Naples her primary residence in 1996. Mr. and Mrs. Bodman divide non-Naples time between Washington, DC and Jackson Hole, Wyoming.


When I met with her a few weeks ago, Bodman shared the initial book tour itinerary for Checkmate, which already had about 60 appearances packed into the first three months. One of these is on January 24 at noon, when she will be speaking at the Friends of the Library of Collier County luncheon at the Hilton Naples and Towers. Call 262-8135 for details. Discover more about this fascinating media personality, government official, and novelist at her website

Philip K. Jason, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of English from the United States Naval Academy.  A poet, critic, and free-lance writer with twenty books to his credit, this “Dr. Phil” chairs the annual Naples Writers’ Conference presented by the Naples Press Club. Send him your book news at

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