I'd like to introduce to everyone Bruce Ray the author of our upcoming book "Blow Wind Blow". I have known Bruce for almost 9 years and have been his biggest fan ever since we met. He is brilliant with so much energy and an insatiable love of discovering the undiscoverable. Bruce is the pastor of a small church in Logan Square with a social mission enacted in the everyday lives of the congregation. On any given day you will find him and or members marching in the streets/passing out flyers/hosting an event/the list goes on, to help those who are below the fray.
When I first read the manuscript of the book (which he had written many years ago), I was so excited about the possibility of publishing it. The story is so unique and truly a tale that will stand the test of time. You can pre-order the book here at growbookspress.com
1. What inspired you to write a children’s book?
I didn't start out writing for children initially. "Blow, Wind, Blow" actually started out as a sermon for my congregation at Kimball Avenue Church. It was a story for adults, kind of in the order of "Who Moved My Cheese", but children really liked it too. Because it was the story of a young boy, it seemed right to adapt it for children. However, adults should read it too.
2. What was your favorite book as a kid?and why?
When I was a child, my family often took long road trips. I vividly recall my father turning the driving over to my mother, climbing into the back seat with my sisters and me and telling us stories that he would make up on the spot. It is one of my favorite childhood memories. Though I no longer remember all the details, my favorite was a story about a little black lamb in a herd of white sheep. Though the lamb is teased for being different, he ends of being the most valuable lamb of the herd thanks to his especially soft wool. I often felt different as a child and the story affirmed my value. Unfortunately, my father never wrote down the story, and though I have attempted to put it down on paper, it never seems quite the same.
3. What do you love best about Chicago?
I love the skyline--especially viewed from the lake. I could sit for hours just staring at it on a clear day. There is no other city quite like it in the world.
4. When did other people start to notice that you were good at writing?
I received a lot of positive feedback in high school when I enrolled in a creative writing course. The encouragement I was given allowed me to dream of publishing a story someday.
5. What kind of encouragement helped you along your road to doing what you do now? For instance was there a pivotal moment in your life that you think led you to doing what you do (as a writer)?
Writers have to have people around them that believe in them. Rejection letters are confidence-killers. I couldn't be where I am today without the support and encouragement of my wife, Karren. She's my biggest fan and I'm very blessed to have her in my life. If it weren't for her, I would have tossed most of my writing into the circular file.
I wanted to post today to all of our readers to save the date September 18th to come out and see us at the 57th Street Children's Book Fair in Hyde Park. We will have our new book Pushie, Jr. for sale as a pre-release item! We are so excited to be a part of this event in its 25th year. Rachel Coulter will be there to sign copies of the books. We hope to see you all there because there are so many of you we have not met in person.
The book fair takes place on 57th Street between Dorchester and Kimbark Avenues and on Kimbark Avenue between 57th and 56th Streets. Kick-off begins with a parade at 1pm. Performers, vendors, and activities take place until 6pm. The 57th Children Book Fair is accessible by public transportation and is free and open to the public.
As promised, I started on my journey to collect houses in my neighborhood last week. During my shoot I had a couple of interesting experiences. The first was with the woman across the street. As I began photographing her house I didn't notice that she was hanging out of her window, which she often does on warm days. I am strangely convinced that she might enjoy the power of "yelling" conversations from above, just as this thought popped into my head, she yelled down at me, "Why are you taking pictures of my house?" I was caught off guard, no one was supposed to care or notice me doing this. I answered her by explaining that I was documenting the architecture of the street, she accepted, with an "oh, ok" and I continued. This quick interaction made me feel as if I was invading the privacy of these very public brick and wood hundred year old houses and I became intimate with the details of the homes using my zoom lens. I proceeded down the street house by house taking photos and increasingly became more nervous that people would wonder why I was photographing their houses, too.
With this project I found myself looking at each house in a different way than I had before and realizing little details. One house, right across the street looks generally uninhabited but that day I saw a glimpse of humanity inside the cracked blinds. If you are like me, I look for any reason to start making up a story about who might be inside and why they are seemingly "hiding". My favorite house of the shoot is the one that you can't quite see because it is hiding behind 2 very large cedar trees. It is like a person who desperately needs a hair cut! You can view the houses on our flickr page...
Here in Chicago, our houses are old. They have provided shelter for many generations of people and as a home owner I know that my home will live on past me and my family. I remember as a child reading The Little House by Virgina Lee Burton, which painted a picture of a house that was loved and cared for and it always made me happy to think of this smiling little house. As an adult, I bought this book for my children and after re-reading it I found that the story is all about how awful it is to live in the city and that the part about "the house being loved" was only a small detail of the larger message.
Being a very proud city dweller, I wanted to hide the book from my children so they wouldn't ever think that living in the city was in fact the dirty, loud, busy world painted by Burton. I resisted the urge and the book has become one of my son's favorites. Now that I have read it over more than 20 times, I am telling the story to my children as a house that was so loved that when it was found neglected by a far removed generation of family member, it was protected and cared for again. This version of the message is the one that I want them to remember as we slowly restore our "old" house.
This story in many ways has influenced me and my work. For quite some time I have been wanting to document all of the houses in my neighborhood. I think I want to do this, to isolate and study each home and reveal how details of time illustrate the home as a character. I realize that I could easily go onto google maps and with street view see every house, but as I zoom past them I see them as representative of a whole. Whether it be a whole street, or whole city, all of the houses start to blur, but each of them is different and unique. I am going to start to post the images of this series which will inform my upcoming doll houses project. My goal is to represent all of the different types of houses we as city dwellers live in and allow our little family members to replicate them for themselves and come to understand this profound love, that I think Burton was talking about.
When winter comes, all of us (I'll take the liberty of representing everyone) here in the city who have kids pray/wish/summon spirits [insert preferred method here] that spring will come early. Around our house the TV is on much more than was allowed in the summer/fall/spring and I find myself hating the sounds of cartoons that are rotting their brains. We are elated for the birthday party at pump it up, a place that in the warm months was nothing more than a breeding ground of bacteria, and waiting for an invitation to come "trash" someone else's house. We all love the snow for about four hours after it has fallen and the kids get so excited about "going out and playing in it". After the first romp in the what was perceived from inside as a wonderland of white fluff, becomes in reality cold, wet and "IN MY SHOES, WAAAAAAA" it is now a long hard road until the first buds appear.
This year I am writing a thank you to the joys of blankets, chairs and magical spaces only my children can enjoy. Over the past 3 months my children 7 and 3 have become masters of fort building. Mostly directed by my 7 year old but executed to perfection. They have played for literally hours in their blanket homes and has become the best "toy" ever invented. It is simply amazing how a "thrifty" parent, like myself, can throw some blankets on the floor and tell them to have fun and they do! Just don't make it collapse because we have not mastered the skill of minor disappointments and "opportunity to adjust the design" in the fallen masterpiece. Maybe by next year we'll get there but for now I am ready for spring!!!