Literacy love: Celebrating our local authors

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April is a huge month for literacy advocacy. This month commemorates the 20th anniversary of National Poetry month, National Library Week took place from April 10 through 16, April 12 was National Library Workers Day and World Book Night was April 23. However, the holidays celebrate more that just the written story, but the people behind them as well.

Below are three talented authors from our local community, their books and ways to get your hands on the readings.

Sharon Krager

Sharon Krager is the grandmother of eight grandchildren and also the author of four children’s books: Ethan Scott’s Little Red Box, Sierra and the Bright Pink Umbrella, Bethany’s Birthday Wish for a Fish, and Friends for Josh. Each of them inspired by one of her four youngest grandchildren.

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Author Sharon Krager. Photo courtesy of her.

She has had a passion for writing her entire life, but put it on the back burner to raise a family. She became a LPN in 1989 and continues to still work as a nursing home administrator and substitute teacher at Paris. “I’ve always wanted to write children’s books,” said Krager. “So, in 2013 I decided to just do it.”

Her first book, Ethan Scott’s Little Red Box is about her youngest grandchild Ethan, a collector, who is always trying to find something to put things in.

Sierra and the Bright Pink Umbrella is about the second-youngest grandchild who loves to play outside in the rain. “She is home for several days and it’s raining, so she can’t go outside. Her mother decides to take her shopping and they look for a bright pink umbrella,” said Krager.

Bethany’s Birthday Wish for a Fish is a story about her third-youngest grandchild whose friend buys her a fish for her birthday.

Last but not least, Friends for Josh is about (you guessed it) the fourth-youngest. Josh moves to a new school and meets a boy who decides to make Josh his friend. This opens the door for Josh to make the same kind gesture to another little boy.

All the illustrations were inspired by drawings from another granddaughter, Samantha Davis. Davis is currently a junior at the Paris High School. “I really took a chance at Tate Publishing using those drawings,” said Krager. “We aren’t professionals, but they actually used her ideas in all four books.” Davis will continue to work with Krager on her fifth book, a collection of short stories for juveniles. She hopes to have it completed by the end of this year.

The books are available in several formats: the original printed books, color-me books which have colorable illustrations, 3D pop-up books, and digital download cards for tablets and other e-readers. These books are available for purchase at the Paris Pharmacy, Tate Publishing’s website or directly from Krager.

“I hope to continue to do it for awhile. I’m getting older and I’m getting where I don’t work as much, so that gives me more time to write,” said Krager. “I’m in my 60s and I’m just glad I got the opportunity to do it at all, even as an older person. I’m excited about all of it.”

Please contact Krager at krager.sharon@yahoo.com or on Facebook for any questions or comments.

Charlotte Utterback

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Author Charlotte Utterback and husband Bill. Photo courtesy of Tammy Williams, their daughter.

Charlotte Utterback’s book, Papa Jim, is about her family and memories throughout the years. The book’s title refers to her father whom played a significant role in her life.

“When I was a child my grandparents were all gone.  When I heard other kids talking about their grandparents, I knew very well I had missed out on a lot by not knowing them,” said Utterback.” “My girls didn’t get to know my father therefore I wrote a lot about him and the times in which I grew up.”

The book “reveals how hard he had to work and how hard I tried to find time to spend time with him.  It lets the reader know how difficult life was then but also how the love of a family, blessed with a strong faith in God, survived through the valleys and hills of those days,” said Utterback.

Utterback’s book is published through Daydream Books & Arts and is available for sale through their website or Amazon.

George Hodgman

George Hodgman, 56, is a Paris native and author of a New York Times bestseller: Bettyville.

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Author George Hodgman, www.georgehodgman.com

The New York Times published this Sunday Book Review about Bettyville:

Big-time magazine editor leaves New York City to care for his ailing yet feisty mother in their old-timey Midwestern hometown. The premise sounds like fodder for a laugh-track sitcom. Hodgman’s gorgeously constructed memoir, however, couldn’t be further from a pat Hollywood confection.

In “Bettyville,” Hodgman vividly depicts Paris, Mo., pop. 1,246, a small town easing into obsolescence. Against this backdrop, he creates an unforgettable portrait of his mother, Betty — a strong-willed nonagenarian struggling against the slow-motion breakdown of her mind and body. Hodgman evokes her with wit and tenderness, gently mocking her tendency to eat “enough for a camp of lumberjacks in the Maine woods” or her certainty that she “has not had what she considers a successful hair appointment since around 1945.” Even as they drive each other crazy, their mutual affection is ever-present: “ ‘You’re my buddy,’ I tell her. ‘Am I?’ she asks. ‘You know I wouldn’t want just another damn sweet old lady,’ I say.”

A bundle of contradictions, Betty is both curmudgeonly and compassionate; an irreverent straight-talker who, along with her husband, Big George, can’t bring herself to acknowledge — much less accept — her son’s sexuality. With bracing honesty, Hodgman eloquently chronicles the devastating psychic toll of this silence: He struggles to open up to his romantic partners, and later falls into substance abuse. “Where do the hidden things go? Not away. Nothing goes away,” Hodgman writes. “Shame is inventive,” he recalls reading in a book. “Shame can make a joke. It can reach for a bottle. It can trip you up when you don’t even know it is there.”

Despite his travails, Hodgman writes without an ounce of self-pity or desire for retribution. “I can never be a person who has not made mistakes,” he says. “But I can be someone honest who has lived through them: one of those who look you square in the eye and say, ‘This is how it has been, and it is O.K.’ ”

Hodgman’s book is available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and more. Visit his website for more information.

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