MEET THE AUTHORS
Justin VanRiper is an award-winning author, and recently completed studies at Houghton College in Houghton, NY. On Memorial Day weekend in 2012 he was married to Joanna! (you may even meet her at some of his book signings and appearances).
He enjoys hiking (with 10 Adirondack high peaks and counting...); putting together computers (he is currently Senior Certified Technician at Staples in New Hartford, NY); working on cars; wowing his friends and strangers with card tricks (hand him a deck at a book-signing and see what happens!); writing (he is also working on an Adirondack Kids short story); and is a drummer for his church's worship team. Oh - and he has been known to play a few video games as well!
The real Dax is his cat at his year-round home in Camden where he lives - and he spends as much time as he can at the family camp at Fourth Lake on the Fulton Chain of Lakes near Eagle Bay, NY.
Swimming, tubing, boating and attending midnight screenings of new films at the Strand in Old Forge (sometimes with his dad), are among his favorite things to do at camp.
Several of his favorite books growing up have been The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien, Henry Huggins by Beverly Cleary, nearly anything (but especially the Medieval series) by Canadian author Sigmund Brouwer, and the Redwall series by the late Brian Jacques
Gary VanRiper, Justin's dad, is an award-winning journalist, photo-journalist and children's book author.
He became Adirondack 46er #6202 in 2007 having climbed 32 of the 46 high peaks that same year between May and October.
His writing and photographs have appeared in numerous publications over the years including including Adirondack Life, Birders' World, Wildbird, The Conservationist, Farm & Ranch Living, New York Alive, Guideposts, Modern Photography and Petersen's Photographic.. For seven years, he co-published a local community newspaper, The Camden Times & Beach Journal. His opinion column, The Bottom Line and his column on wild birds were regular features.
He is currently the full time senior pastor of Camden Wesleyan Church in Camden, New York and television host for Adirondack Journal, a regular feature on the weekly regional television show, Mohawk Valley Living.
On his "days off", his wife, Carol, has him speaking to children in public and private schools and at libraries throughout New York state about the importance of reading and with advice on how to begin writing.
Gary's personal interests include wilderness hiking, reading, writing, photography, singing and playing guitar. His favorite author is Annie Dillard.
Adirondack Kids Press, Ltd. was established by the VanRipers to launch the Adirondack Kids® book series. To date, more than 100,000 Adirondack Kids books have been sold.
Click on the following links to jump to the Adirondack Literary Awards 2006: Winners named at the Inaugural, to the Albany TIMES UNION article:Adirondack Tales or here to jump to the Rome Observer & Life & Times of Utica: Father & Son team up to write bestsellers article.
Gary and Justin VanRiper are a father and son writing team residing in Camden, New York of the Tug Hill region along with cats, Socks and Dax. They spend many summer and autumn days at camp on Fourth Lake in the Central Adirondacks.
The Adirondack Kids® began as a short writing exercise when Justin was in third grade. Encouraged after a public reading of an early draft at a Parents As Reading Partners (PARP) program in the Camden Central School District, the project grew into a middle reader chapter book series. The Adirondack Kids® is their first book.
Most Asked Questions
- Is Pioneer Village real?
- Yes! Some of the best story ideas come from places and people you already know!
- Is DAX real?
- Yes. Justin loves cats. As were were writing the Adirondack Kids® we knew it would be impossible to tell a story without a cat.
We wanted a calico cat with a certain personality, and so DAX was born...in our minds.
But our illustrators (the people who drew the pictures) for the cover and inside the book wanted to work from photographs. So - we decided to search for Dax. We found her at the Rome Humane Society in Rome, New York. She was the only calico cat they happened to have at the time and when Justin squatted down at her cage to meet her, she came right over to him and started to lick his fingers. She was only a few weeks old. Her name on the card attached to her cage said "Chickadee". She was purrrfect. We named her DAX on the spot and took her home that very day. (Boy, was mom surprised when the three of us walked in the door!)
We took pictures of Dax from the top, bottom and sides. We took pictures of her playing and sleeping and just sitting and looking out the window. Then we gave the pictures to our artists. And in the book, you can see the results!
- Did DAX really jump from a kayak onto the back of a jet skier going by?
- That's our secret.
- Justin (the co-author) is 14 years old. How did he help write a real book?
"Hey Just - why don't you answer this one yourself."
"All right - but this could be a humongous paragraph!"
The Green Wolf and a Looney Tunes story were my Dad's and my first personal stories.
The Adirondack Kids® started out as a normal writing project for fun. But then we decided to make it more like a story. Next up, we thought about getting it published, well, maybe...
After a while, when we got the story really going, we had Glenn (our friend and illustrator) do drawings.
Basically, I did a lot of stuff. One time at camp, Dad thought about changing the mail boat to the pickle boat. But I revolted. After a while of arguing, I won.
Certain times at night, Dad and I would sit at the computer and brainstorm ideas. I came up with half of them. For example, I told Dad how Pioneer Village was constructed and the way the whole thing works.
Lots of times, Dad would type in a word wrong and I would correct him. He got frustrated. (In fact, I'm doing that to him while he's typing this for me right now - and he's going crazy!) And then there were times when Dad would use a word too big or hard for kids to understand and I would think up the right word.
"It was a cold, dark night and Dad came up to ask me for some names"..no just kidding.
The actual way we came up with the character names was when Dad asked me about names I would like for our story. I told him some names of kids in my class, and we really messed them up. Sorry, wrong word. We really mixed them up.
Most of the time, many kids dream about being in their own story. This time, I got to really do it.
- What are your favorite books?
- We read together every night, some nights taking turns.
Here is a list of some of our favorite books:
Henry Huggins (or anything by Beverly Cleary!)
Dinotopia (the series)
Rebel Glory (from the Lightening on Ice series by Sigmund Brower)
Winds of Light (the series by Sigmund Brower)
and many, many more!
- What are the real Justin's hobbies?
- Skate boarding, Snow boarding and Illusion. And he does love animals.
- How long does it take you to write a book?
- The first book took us longer because everything was brand new. Book One took us over a year. After finishing o
ur research, each book now takes about three months to write. But it can be really different for different writers. Huckleberry Finn took Mark Twain more than eight years to write. Some of the Hardy Boys books took only took a few weeks to write.
- What advice to you have for young writers?
- READ! If you are not a reader, you will never be a writer. Every book you read is like taking a writer's workshop.
- Are you going to write more books?
- Yes. We have an outline for an Adirondack Kids® Christmas Story and ideas for more summer adventures. As long as people keep reading, we plan to keep writing.
Reprinted with permission - Rome Observer & Life & Times of Utica, Rome & Utica, New York 04/04/05 by Jennifer Davis
Who better to write a children's book than a child. An eight-year-old who can read, write and knows what other eight year olds like, right? This one does anyway and he along with his father have created a series that keeps the middle level reader asking for more.
What started out as a simple writing project between Gary VanRiper and his son Justin of Camden has turned into a series of books called, The Adirondack Kids. In fact, the book is so popular the newest book #5 "Islands in the Sky" was just released at the end of March.
It all began when Justin, now 15, was in third grade. Gary explained, "It was something we were doing for fun. Justin and I have always read together and this was just another exercise we were doing. We never thought about a book. But, I was in the newspaper business at the time and was asked to attend Parents as Reading Partners. So, I decided to read the story Justin and I had written. Justin introduced the characters and I read a chapter. After that people began to ask when the book was coming out."
The short story turned into a 15 chapter book that the family, self-published. And, then there was a sequel and as Gary says, they haven't stopped yet.
When the first book was printed in February of 2001 they had 2,000 copies made because "we weren't sure if anyone other than our family would want one," said Gary.
By June of that year the copies were all gone and they had to go to press again right away before tourist season.
You see, Adirondack Kids is set, of course, in the Adirondacks and is based on the many days the family has spent at camp on Fourth Lake.
In the first book the main character, Justin, who is fashioned after the author, is heading back to camp to see his summer friends. There is plenty of action, even in the beginning when the family is confronted by a bear on their way to camp. The book keeps the reader interested always wondering what Justin and his friends will be up to next.
After the first book, which is called "Adirondack Kids" there is #2 "Rescue on Bald Mountain," #3 The Lost Lighthouse," and #4 "The Great Train Robbery."
The books are actually fun for the whole family and even if your child can't read alone yet, you will have a great time reading to them and introducing these characters, especially Dax, who is Justin's calico cat. Gary and Justin do a lot of research for their books. If they are writing about Bald Mountain they go there, hike and take notes in order to write the story. Gary remarked that being in the spot they are writing about lets them use all of their senses and really experience the atmosphere. "It is not just what we see and hear, but also taste, smell and touch. We write things down and by doing the research, the things we describe in the story come alive."
It only seems fitting then that when Justin decided there would be a cat in his book, because he loves animals, he and his father would set out to find a calico cat with a certain personality. They found her at the Rome Humane Society and named her Dax.
"Dax was the only calico cat at the humane society and when Justin squatted down to meet her, she came right over to him and started to lick his fingers," said Gary.
Many people wonder how involved an eight-year-old boy can be in writing a story. We will let Justin answer that, "I was able to add a lot of input. For example, one time at camp dad wanted to change the mail boat to a pickle boat. But I revolted, After a while of arguing, I won."
Justin has been equally involved with each of the books. He has learned to think, write, imagine, and articulate. Justin commented that because his family publishes their own books he has even learned a lot about math, marketing and how a book is written from start to finish.
Justin's mother, Carol, says that the father-son combination is superb. "It works well with Gary's expertise and Justin's viewpoint," she said.
The biggest challenge for Justin, according to his mom and dad, is that now that he is 15, he still has to think like a 10 year old.
Carol explained, "Justin's characters are frozen in time at the ages of 10 and 11 and so Justin has to continue to think on that age level in order to keep it authentic to his readers."
With "Islands in the Sky" on its way to bookstores everyone is curious to see what adventure is awaiting Justin and his friends this time. And don't forget Dax, who is simultaneously having his own adventure.
The research for this book took the writers to Algonquin in the High Peaks Wilderness Region of the Adirondacks where Justin and his friends will climb with their grandfather.
"The research is the best part of what we do," said Justin. "The characters have become real to us and it is fun to see what we can get them into next."
Since Justin and Gary were having so much fun, and the books were such a success, Carol decided to get more into the act. She closed her photography studio that she has had the last 23 years and is not only doing all the bookings, but also the black and white illustrations that were in #4 and #5.
There is a lot more to publishing a book than just writing it. It takes a lot of research and editing, but also a lot of public speaking. Carol said she feels that what Justin has learned the most from this experience is how to speak in public.
"When you are standing in front of 200 of your peers you need to feel comfortable and be able to field questions," said Carol. "I remember Justin's first book signing at Borders in Carousel Mall. He was so nervous and the line was a mile long. When he spoke he was very quiet because he was so scared. But, now you would never know that."
The books are very popular and are even being used in schools. Gary remarked that the Albany schools have really picked up on the book, as have the Rochester schools.
How good are these books? A year after the first book came out it was on the best seller list and it is still the #1 regional book. So of course word has gotten out about this series and everyone wants them. They also want Gary and Justin to make appearances at their schools. Not too long ago they went to Ridge Mills in Rome and have even appeared in the Albany and Rochester schools.
In the summer they are even busier with their book tour in July that goes through Lake Placid and Saratoga, and Old Forge.
The pair is averaging about a book a year, and as of yet they have no plans to stop. "It is a lot of work, but a lot of fun," said Gary as Justin nodded in agreement. "It has been a very humbling, but very cool experience."
They never dreamed their writing exercise would become a book. They also have a large fan base. And, they are not just children. Some of their fans are 50 and 60 years old. They say that the books take them back to their childhood.
Fans want to know are there plans for more books? The two say yes. In fact, they are working on a Christmas story.
"As long as people keep reading, we plan to keep writing," they said.
For more information or to purchase a book, call the VanRipers at 315-245-2437 or visit www.adirondackkids.com.
©Life & Times of Utica 2006, REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION. Photo by Gary VanRiper© 2006 Adirondack Kids Press
The following article appeared in the Sunday, March 23, 2003 edition of the Albany TIMES UNION newspaper and appears in its entirety courtesy of the TIMES UNION.
Gary and Justin VanRiper's favorite father-son activity doesn't involve a baseball and glove, but a computer, a note pad and a healthy dose of constructive criticism.
At least once a week, the Camden, Oneida County, authors - father, Gary, and son, Justin, 12 - sit down to work on the nest installment of the Adirondack Kids® books. The lively stories about three friends, exploring the Adirondacks are filled with local landmarks and history made fun. the books capture the essence of the carefree summers amid the lakes and mountains with funny dialogue and charcoal drawings. The third book in the series, "The :Lost Lighthouse," was released this month.
Getting here has taken the patience of a good father mixed with the youthful ideas and confidence of a preteen.
"He's a brutal editor," VanRiper says of Justin, who is known to stand over dad's shoulder at the family iMac pointing out typos and searching for just the right word. "He's very strong willed and has some solid ideas of how he'd like to see things progress."
VanRiper, publisher of the Camden Times & Beach Journal, lends his own expertise as a newspaperman, helping with the writing and adding a few words that will expand the vocabularies of young readers (ages 7-12). Just a few, though.
"I may come up with a word he doesn't think his friends will get," VanRiper says. " I tend to raise the bar a little then Justin helps balance it and keep it at bay."
the formula seems to be working. the self-published books that grew out of a story Justin and his dad read through a Pare Ănts As Reading Partners program in 2000 have sold 12,000 copies in all. The two are planning visits to 10 schools this spring and already have booked school and book store visits for 2004.
Things got started when Justin wrote an essay about adventures at the family's summer camp as a home writing project, says VanRiper. the intent, he says, wasn't to mold the seventh-grader into an author, but to teach him to use language. The skill, VanRiper says, will help him throughout his life.
So when VanRiper was asked to participate in a Parents as Reading Partners event, he brought Justin - and his story.
"I read a section of it as part of the event," VanRiper said. "People asked, 'When's the book coming out?'"
A year later, the VanRipers released "The Adirondack Kids®." Then "Rescue on Bald Mountain". Then The Lost Lighthouse."
"It's been crazy," VanRiper says.
And kind of "cool" to see your name on store displays," Justin says.
"I... never imagined my products being on the shelves of a big store," he says.
The Adirondack Kids® books follow the summer adventures of Justin Robert, 10 (Justin VanRiper's age when he started writing), and his two best friends, Jackie Salsberry and Nick Barnes, on the Fulton chain of Lakes in the Adirondack Park.
The Lost Lighthouse (Adirondack Kids® Press; 87 pages;$8.95) takes the three through a storm that class them off Fourth Lake and into the woods to find a mysterious lighthouse.
Young readers also learn about the real-life Shoal Point Lighthouse on Fourth Lake as well as facts about 23rd President Benjamin Harrison, who had a summer retreat on Second Lake near Old Forge.
All these elements - history, local landmarks and characters kids can relate to - have begun to make a name for the books in local classrooms.
Running with it
"Teachers are telling us it's because the books are regional and kids can really relate to the places," VanRiper says.
Before school ends, Ryan Jock, a second-grade teacher at Boonville Elementary in Oneida County, plans to take his class on a field trip to Old Forge, where they can be Adirondack Kids® for a day. "That field trip's going to be a lot more meaningful to the kids than a museum" says Jock.
The class was hooked, he says, when they read about the Robert family visiting the Pied Piper ice cream stand, a place many of his students recognize.
"Right there it engages them," he says.
"I think it's incredible that they're a team," says Sarah Higby, a reading specialist at South Lewis Middle School, in Turin, Lewis County. "It makes it real for the kids. It uses their language, and to have a young writer contributing, it makes them realize they have the power to create."
Readers of the Adirondack Kids® can learn a bit about Justin Robert, too, through the main character Justin Robert. While the characters in the book are a composite of some of Justin VanRiper's friends and cousins, the main character shares a number of traits with the young author. a love of peanut butter ups, for instance, and cats. Both the real and fictional Justin have a cat named Dax.
"A lot of stuff that I like seems to go in there somehow, one way or another," he says.
Justin says he's learned plenty himself in the three years he's been writing the books. Things that hadn't been touched on yet in class, he says, like writing dialogue. Now, when he visits the Adirondacks, where his mom's family owns a camp on the Fulton Chain of Lakes, he notices the size of mountains, the texture of rocks, how many animals are around and how many people visit the park- all details that might make it into a future book.
Next up for the writing team is Adirondack Kids® No.4, which will involve trains, and an Adirondack Kids® Christmas story.
"We're trying to do one a year as long as he's interested," VanRiper says. "The idea is to keep it fun. We're having fun as a family because we're seeing more of the Adirondacks than we've ever seen before."
by LEE MANCHESTER, Lake Placid News, June 9, 2006
BLUE MOUNTAIN LAKE - The former homesite of Ned Buntline, (in)famous 19th century Adirondack writer and all-around character, played host Sunday to the first-ever Adirondack Literary Awards program, conducted by the Adirondack Center for Writing at Paul Smith's College.
The ACW, now in its seventh year, was represented at the awards ceremo-ny by director Nathalie Thill and board chairwoman Betsy Folwell of Adirondack Life magazine.
Sunday's program took place in the great room of the clubhouse at Eagle Nest, built by W.W. Durant in 1899 as part of his famous golf club on Eagle Lake. Earlier in the 19th century, writer Edward Judson - better known by the pen name "Ned Buntline" - had lived at Eagle Nest, off and on, for some years. Durant's clubhouse was built atop the foundations of Judson's old cabin.
The Eagle Nest property was later bought by Harold Hochschild, founder of the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake. Hochschild's son, Adam, founding editor of Mother Jones magazine, turned the property into the Blue Mountain Center, a retreat facility for artists, writers and activists.
The first ACW Adirondack Literary Awards covered work published in 2004 and 2006. In the future, awards will be given for work published from year to year, according to the group's newsletter. A complete list of nominees for this year's awards can be found on the ACW Web site, www.adirondack-centerforwriting. org.
"There is a long tradition of poetry here in the Adirondacks that starts with Jean Robert Foster," said Folwell, introducing Sunday's program with the poetry award.
The 2006 Adirondack Literary Award for poetry went to "Notes from the Fire Tower: Three Poets on the Adirondacks," by Elaine Handley, Marilyn McCabe and Mary Sanders Shartle.
"Notes from the Fire Tower" is the third cooperative outing for these three Saratoga-area poets, who have been working together since 1998. Their first project, "Three Poets on Themes of Love, Death and Sex," was published in 2000. Later that year, they created a body of poems to be read for an exhibition of work by three painters at the Saratoga Arts Center, called "Three Poets on Three Painters."
Elaine Handley is an associate professor of writing and literature at Empire State College. Her latest project is "Deep River," a novel about the Underground Railroad in upstate New York.
Marilyn McCabe has had her poetry, essays and stories published in several regional magazines, including Blueline and Adirondack Life. She also writes fiction for young readers.
Mary Sanders Shartle is the director of the Saratoga Poetry Zone (www.saratogapoetry.org), which stages readings at the Saratoga Public Library. One of her short stories won a short fiction prize from Blueline magazine. Shartle is currently working on a novel set in the Adirondacks.
Shartle said that the 40-page edition of "Notes from the Fire Tower" that won Sunday's Adirondack Literary Award is only a selection from a much longer manuscript, for which she hopes to find a publisher.
The first Adirondack Literary Award for children's books went to "Islands in the Sky" by the son-and-father writing team of Justin and Gary VanRiper, illustrated by Justin's mom Carol VanRiper. The VanRipers live in Camden.
"Islands" is the fifth book in the now-famous "Adirondack Kids" series, written, published and vigorously mar-keted by the VanRiper family since 2000. The series started with a single story Justin and Gary wrote together for a Parents As Reading Partners pro-gram at Justin's elementary school. The group liked it so much that a book seemed like the next natural step for the VanRipers to take.
The first printing of "Adirondack Kids" No. 1 - 2,000 copies - sold out in less than six months. Since then, more than 60,000 copes of the five "AK" books have been sold.
Photography & art
For the first Adirondack Literary Awards program, Thill explained, photo books and art books were com-bined in a single category, although they may be divided in two in future years.
This year's Adirondack Literary Award for photography and art books was won by Dr. Daniel Way, a Glens Falls family physician, for his collec-tion of photos and essays, "All in a Day's Work: Scenes and Stories from an Adirondack Medical Practice."
"My book really started with a pho-tographic exhibition at the Blue Mountain Lake Center for the Arts in 1999," Way said Sunday as he accept-ed his award. "When people saw that, they kept encouraging me to write."
Among those encouraging the good doctor was fellow Hudson Headwaters physician John Rugge, himself the co-author of several books on canoeing, including "The Complete Wilderness Paddler."
In his foreword, Rugge compares Way's book with the work of photogra-pher Walker Evans and writer James Agee, whose1939 photo essay, "Now Let Us Praise Famous Men," docu- mented the life of Alabama sharecrop-pers during the Depression.
Like "Now Let Us Praise," "All in a Day's Work" uses portraits and essays to tell the tales of people living in the economically depressed Adirondacks. Dr. Way also throws in a good, healthy dose of excellent land-scape photography, balancing the extraordinary beauty of our natural sur-roundings against the challenges of the people about whom he writes: his patients.
Renowned Adirondack photogra-pher Nancie Battaglia, one of this year's judges for the Adirondack Literary Awards, said that Way's book caught her attention as "a heartwarm-ing book blending nature and people - and the nature of people. There is a great vision expressed in this book, pictorially and verbally."
The fiction category was obviously a tough one for the judges in this first rendition of the Adirondack Literary Awards, with two novels being strong favorites. One was given a Peoples' Choice award at the end of the afternoon, while the other won this year's ALA fiction award: "The Darling," by Russell Banks.
Banks and his wife, poet/publisher Chase Twichell, bought a house in Keene in 1987, when both were teaching at Princeton University. Though the couple still has a "satellite house" in Saratoga, Banks says that Keene is home to them, especially with Banks' mother living in Keene Valley's Neighborhood House.
"Affliction," "The Sweet Hereafter," "Rule of the Bone," "Cloudsplitter" and, most recently, "The Darling" - all are recognizably placed in Essex County, and all are peopled by Adirondack characters.
"The Darling" tells the tale of Hannah Musgrave, for several years the 60ish operator of an organic farm in Keene Valley. What no one in the North Country knows about Hannah, however, is that she spent about a third of her adult life hiding from federal authorities as a member of the radical Weather Underground. Neither does anyone know that, for another third of her grownup life, Hannah lived in Liberia, the wife of minor cabinet minister Woodrow Sundiata and the mother of three boys. The story begins as Hannah is contemplating a return to Africa to search for her sons, displaced during Liberia's horrendous civil war.
For the past two centuries, Adirondack literature has been dominated by nonfiction writing, much of it about either fishing and hunting, hiking or touring. The same still holds true, as evidenced by the nominations for this year's Adirondack Literary Awards. The nonfiction category had, by far, the largest number of nominations - just one shy of the total number of nominations in all four other categories combined.
The inaugural ALA nonfiction award went to "Grisha: The Story of Russian-American Cellist Gregor Piatigorsky," by Margaret Bartley of New Russia.
"They say that you should write what you know," Bartley said after accepting her award, "but I didn't know a thing about Russia or the cello when I started this. All I knew was that I wanted to write about Piatigorsky."
The exiled Russian musician had once lived in Windy Cliff, one of the Otis Mountain camps, directly across the Old State Road south of Elizabethtown from the farm where her husband had grown up. The more this history teacher heard about her husband's famous childhood neighbor, the more intrigued she became.
In 2001, Bartley wrote a story about Piatigorsky for Adirondack Life magazine, "Sanctuary Among the Birches." The process, however, didn't satisfy her; she had much too much to say about the master cellist to restrict herself to a four-page magazine article, she said Sunday - which is why she wrote the book and, to ensure its publication and marketing, set up her own small publishing operation, Otis Mountain Press.
Lifetime Achievement award
The two big favorites of the Adirondack Literary Awards audience last Sunday came at the end of the afternoon. The first was a Lifetime Achievement Award honoring the late Barbara McMartin.
McMartin, 73, died Sept. 27.
Between 1972 and 2006, McMartin wrote 25 books, including the popular 11-volume "Discover" series of hiking trail guides. She was also a dedicated historian of the Adirondack region and the Adirondack Park whose work set the standard for her field.
McMartin was more than a hiker, researcher and author. She also served in a variety of leadership and policy positions in the Adirondack Park, including posts on the DEC's High Peaks and Forest Preserve advisory committees and terms as vice president of the Adirondack Mountain Club and the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks. In 1992, she chaired the state's Adirondack Park Centennial celebration.
Folwell said that the posthumous award would be delivered to McMartin's husband, Walter Alexander Reid.
Peoples' Choice award
The final surprise of the evening was the ALA Peoples' Choice Award. "This is a book that has been a long, long time coming," Folwell said in her run-up to the announcement. "In fact, by the time this book got into print, I had been debating with the author about the characters in it for 20 years."
The winner was "Florida," a novel by Long Lake's Mason Smith. Smith's dense, highly literary story is set in the fictitious "Olmstead County," a place that's "wedged in between St. Lawrence and Franklin counties," according to the author, a kind of Yoknapatawpha County of the Adirondacks.
Born in Gouverneur, Smith left the North Country for 13 years while attending college, serving in the Navy and completing an English Ph.D. at Stanford. He taught at Potsdam and Clarkson before setting up shop as a boatbuilder in Long Lake, where he created a hybrid rowing craft called the Goodboat.
Smith's literary career began at Stanford with the writing of two North Country plays and a critically acclaimed first novel, "Everybody Knows and Nobody Cares," published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1971. Since returning to the North Country, Smith has written widely for Adirondack Life, Sports Illustrated, Wooden Boat, Outside and Gray's Sporting Journal.
All the while, however, Smith had another project cooking on the back burner: his second novel, "Florida," which he had started shortly after his first novel hit the bookstores and the Big Time in the early Seventies. He took so long with the book, however, that his editor at Knopf, Bob Gottlieb, retired, and his agent, Candida Donadio, died.
Finally, Smith decided to publish "Florida," himself, using the Xlibris print-on-demand service. The book has been in print since early last summer - and a big favorite with those in the Adirondack literary community who watched him struggle over the years with a project of such obvious value. Mason Smith Barbara McMartin
SYRACUSE, NY - Justin and Gary were recently guests on Bridge Street, WIXT Channel 9's new Central New York morning talk and entertainment show, co-hosted by Rick Gary and Julie Abbott.
Guest co-host, Karen Franklin, sat in for Julie Abott the morning Justin and Gary were in the studio.
During the live broadcast, Justin explained how The Adirondack Kids® grew from a home writing project into a chapter book series and how he helps write the books. He also stressed the importance of reading.
The writing team later appeared on MountainLake PBS in Plattsburgh.