Today we are talking with James Bennett, the author of To Catch a Tiger.
So Jim, tell us something unexpected about yourself!
I worked as a middle school math teacher and as an artist for many years.
What kind of books do you write?
I’ve written a number of how-to books (Calligraphy For Dummies is an example) and also teachers’ guides describing creative ways to teach math. However that’s largely in my past. Presently, I am writing my second creative non-fiction book. My first book in this genre, To Catch a Tiger, is based on actual events when I was growing up in the South during the time that my hometown was torn apart over integration-segregation. I’m intrigued by exploring the complexities of the human side of the story.
What inspired you to write?
As far back as I can remember I’ve loved books. That love grew into an admiration for authors and an appreciation for their writing skills. I can remember in fifth grade creating my own handwritten and illustrated stories. Writing and illustrating have always been a part of who I am.
What makes your writing stand out from the crowd?
The one thing that I think makes my writing stand out is the unique stories I have to tell. I’ve lived through a lot of unique experiences. Frequently, when I’m telling someone about some experience I’ve had, a common response is, “That’s a story that needs to be told.”
What is the hardest part of writing – for you?
The hardest part for me is focusing on one project – or at least managing several writing projects simultaneously. I’m also a nut for research which can become a huge distraction. Focus is a challenge. Right now, I’m working on three books.
Where do you like to write – what is your routine?
I have an office – studio where I can work without interruptions. I write in the mornings. My routine is to get started at 7 o’clock, write for a couple hours, grab a bite of breakfast, and then finish up by noon. That’s my schedule every day. I set weekly goals of how many words I will write.
What do you do when you are not writing – do you have a day job?
I’m retired from full-time teaching. When I’m not writing (which is afternoons and evenings), I like to spend time with my wife who is also my editor. Used bookstores are our favorite places to explore. We also enjoy movies and travel.
Do you work with an outline or just write?
I work with an open-ended outline. Open-ended because it can change as the story takes shape and the characters develop. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of excitement I experience when the characters take on a life of their own and introduce elements into the story which were not part of my initial outline.
What advice would you have for other writers?
Write! Write every day. Set goals. Write! Share.
How important is marketing and social media for you?
It’s very important to me that I share what I’ve done with others. I want people to read what I’ve written. Facebook and Twitter are two of the primary ways that I spread the word.
What’s your next step?
I am working on a creative non-fiction/fiction project. It involves two stories – one true and the other a complete creation of my imagination. At times the true story will seem to be so outrageous that it couldn’t possibly be true. The true story is about an eccentric millionaire who buries a fortune. The fictional story is a hunt for his treasure. The two stories are intertwined in such a way that the line between what is real and what is imaginary is blurred.
To Catch a Tiger by James Bennett is available here.
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At the end of World War II, more than 79,000
soldiers were still missing and presumed dead.
My uncle, Sgt. James Savorski of the 36th engineers, was listed as missing in action on May 25, 1944 at Anzio. Some time after the war he was declared dead, killed in the line of duty. There’s a picture of him visiting us on leave. Tall and thin and 23 in his uniform, balancing me on his right shoulder. I am fat, bald and ten months old, and my name is Robert Svenson. My mother, his sister Agnes, 24 and very pretty, is smiling with her arm around his waist. I wish that hairstyle would come back.
I learned from my father that Jim had been a real hell-raiser as a boy. I suppose there’s an uncle like this in a lot of families, but what makes Jim unusual is that in August 1987, two months after my mother died, I got a Christmas card from him. It was a bright Italian card with a chubby Gesu Bambino in his mother’s arms on the front. Inside, across from the big BUON NATALE greeting, were these words:
Very sorry about Agnes, your mother and my sister. I thought the world of her. I think she liked me and that wasn’t easy. I ought to be dying shortly, so I guess you’ll be getting my stuff. The cash anyway. Hope you like the picture on the front. That’s how I remember you.
Your Uncle Jim Savorski
Being the one responsible for putting food on my family’s table gives me a sense of pride, and it is how I express my love for those who gather at my table.
Because it is a matter of love and affection when I prepare meals, I tend to add ingredients on whim and whimsy rather than according to instruction. That is to say, I do not typically follow formulas, but rather instinct and experience.
I do not record my recipes (actually, I have never in my life written one down until now), nor do I ever really look at other recipes for inspiration. I suspect many home cooks operate the same way: add a little bit of this or that and adjust according to taste.
So, why am I now gathering a collection of recipes that have been in my family for generations? In part, it is because of the name of the coauthor on this book, my son Frank.
I have happily spent a lifetime preparing food and caring for my family, and so when he approached me with the idea of recording my recipes, I saw it as an opportunity to spend time with my son while enjoying a lifelong passion. It would be a blessing if anything, that what I have learned over the years could be useful to someone else.
There is perhaps a notion of legacy in these pages, as well. The recipes I present here have gathered in my memory for decades; each one has at one time or another been prepared for my family or loved ones. I am humbled to remember those moments of satisfaction my children or my husband (or whomever I was cooking for) felt when they ate my food. And so, I associate memories with the meals I have prepared, and this collection is a way to honor those memories.
The other aspect of legacy is that now that I have this collection, I have something tangible to pass forward to my children and to others who may be interested in reading about the art of Italian cooking. I was not fortunate enough to have such a guide when I learned to cook, and so if these recipes are at all a help to the at-home cook, I am more than happy to share a few of my secrets.
Ci siamo. E partiamo dalla più straordinaria delle penitenze dei giochi dei nani, dopo dire e fare e prima di lettera e testamento. Parto da qui, dunque, dal bacio, perché non si può parlare di sesso senza tirare in ballo il bacio.
Il sesso senza baci è un piatto di spaghetti al pomodoro fresco e basilico, senza spaghetti. E senza pomodoro fresco. E alle volte senza nemmeno il basilico. Resta solo il freddo della ceramica, o della porcellana, che è fredda uguale, ma è più cara.
Quindi è da qui che si comincia, dal bacio, da quella che è la più intima delle unioni tra due corpi e l’anfiteatro, tempestato di fuochi d’artificio e inondato da fiumi di acquolina, del piacere.
Quando ci baciate, entrate dentro di noi, e se vi permettiamo di farlo, ci aspettiamo che ci piaccia. Tanto. Da morire. Bella forza, direte voi, ma come cazzo facciamo a sapere come vi piace essere baciate? Non è che siate tutte uguali, no?
Vero. C’è a chi piace 5000 benzina, di quelli con il rombo, che le incolla al muro e le sciarpa due metri di lingua fino a solleticare l’ugola, senza nemmeno lasciarle il tempo di un “Ciao come stai”. A una, invece, piace lungo, intenso da morire ma diesel, che parta piano e vada in crescendo e pure in aumentando. All’altra, piace Visitors, a colpetti veloci, malandrini, furbetti. A un’altra ancora, magari, piace in balconata: con le lingue che si sfiorano, ma con le bocche di là dalla ringhiera. E poi ci son quelle a cui piace più il desiderio del bacio, che il bacio in sé: quelle così diventano sceme per il bacio che ci gira intorno, si fa aspettare, poi le sfiora, si sposta, sfugge e ritorna, in un crescendo di tensione e umidità da clima pluviale, in agosto, coi monsoni.
Il segreto, l’unico e solo, è ascoltare. È sentire. Ascoltare con la pelle. Sentire con gli occhi. Toccare con mano (spesso e volentieri). Se la donna che state baciando piano piano, o forte-forte, o un po’ piano e un po’ forte, non si scioglie come burro nell’anti-aderente, tocca cambiare ritmo. O modo. O tecnica. O pathos.
Come diventare un Cesare – Amazon US or Come diventare un Cesare – Amazon UK
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