Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Tag: The Dread Crew

The Dread Crew and Skype Calls

dread

On Wednesday, I wrote about meeting Ms. Kate Inglis in Chicago during BlogHer.

Recently, I received her first novel, The Dread Crew:  Pirates of the Backwoods, in the mail.  I was quite surprised by the book’s appearance.   As you may recall, I had described Kate as one of those angelic-looking women surrounded by a constant glow.   So why was she writing about a band of dirty, smelly, and belching pirates?   Was this smudge-lover the same sweet woman I met in Chicago?

The Dread Crew is a “rollicking” pirate story for smart kids and adventurous adults about a very unusual band of hooligans in the Nova Scotia area of Canada.  These rowdy and rude pirates travel in a giant crumbling woodship that rumbles through the forest, destroying everything in sight as the group searches for junk.  Their lives are turned upside down when this mean-spirited bunch meet their most formidable nemesis yet — Grampa Joe, another junk collector, albeit a more successfully one, who wins clients over with his sunny disposition.   Before you know it, Grampa Joe becomes the teacher, showing the “pirates of the backwoods” a new approach to piracy, a “nicer” one.

The humor and sarcasm of Kate’s writing would have made this book a favorite of mine when I was a boy.   The tone reminded me of those oddball adventure books written by Roald Dahl.    “The Dread Crew” turns piracy on its head in unexpected ways.  Pirate unions?   Pirate junk-collectors?   Pirates roaming in the forest?!

This novel has a strong sense of place, that of the Maritime Canadian woods, and at first, it seems like a strange place for a “pirate story.”  On further research, I discovered that there is a whole tradition of Atlantic Canada pirate adventures, and clearly Kate is playing with — and against — this long tradition, even presenting her readers with a very modern environmental message underneath all of the “heap o’ splinters” and maggots in beards.

Some younger kids might need a bit of guidance with this book because the pirates are nontraditional.   Don’t expect the Pirates of Penzance/Pirates of the Carribbean type of pirates.   These are Canadian Pirates of the Backwoods!  Our friends up North do things differently.

After I finished the book, I gave it to my mother to read, hoping to share my enjoyment.   After she read a few pages, she came into my room, asking, “What kind of pirates are these?  They don’t go on the water?”  Luckily, the beautiful illustrations by Sydney Smith help clarify what the pirate “ship” looks like on land, and how it travels through the forest.   Once my mother “got it,” orienting herself to the time and location, she loved the novel as much as I did.

I love stories that go against the clichés, and this novel does just that.   These unique pirate characters make this young adult novel a special one.   Each character is quirky in his or her own way, and the illustrations are beautiful.  I read it in one sitting, admiring the clever dialogue between Grampa Joe and the pirates.

Kate is an amazing writer, particularly in her descriptive powers.  You can smell the lousy odor of the pirates in her words, and hear the burps of Captain, Hector the Wrecker Gristle, in the sentences.

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SPECIAL TREAT JUST FOR READERS OF CITIZEN OF THE MONTH!

Last night, I was able to get Kate to do an impromptu “interview” with me about her book.   One caveat — even though she is now a professional novelist now, I am NOT a professional interviewer.  This is less of an interview than a recording of our Skype conversation as some handyman was fixing the roof in her home.  The interview is fairly long.  I promised her that I would cut it down, but well… I lied.   Maybe next week when I have a chance.

(jeez, just listened to the recording.  I talk WAYYYY too much for an “interviewer.”  As usual, she sounds like an calm inspirational angel and I sound like an overbearing New York cab driver from 1940.  Try to skip me and just listen to her.  Also, the nonsense in the beginning was because I was confused over Kate’s last name.  Even though it is spelled Inglis, it is pronounced “Ingels.”)

Here is the unedited version of the conversation —

Part 1

Part 2

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If you want to learn more about “The Dread Crew: Pirates of the Backwoods” — or how to order it online, you can go to the book’s website.   Check it out.   It is gorgeous.

Meeting Kate

Tomorrow, I will writing a review of The Dread Crew: Pirates of the Backwoods, written by Kate Inglis, who blogs at Sweet l Salty. I wanted to use today’s post as a disclaimer, explaining to you how I got to be reading this book about Canadian pirates, as well as to assure you that that I did not receive any money or sexual favors in return for giving this blogger any special attention.

Basically, it is the story of how I met Kate.

But this is more than a story about one blogger. It is a tale about online relationships. I could write a post like this about so many of you. I’m the one always complaining about the lack of real contact online, and you are the ones always scolding me, insisting that relationships online are as valid as those in real life. So, if we are going to consider these virtual friendships as “real,” no matter how limited they are because of the great distances between us, what is wrong with retelling our stories of first encounters in the same way that we do those cherished stories of meeting a IRL buddy in that sixth grade gym class?

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Last spring, Sophia and I took a trip to Las Vegas. One night, we had dinner with BHJ, the talented writer/blogger, and his cool wife, Jenna. At the time, I was a little testy at this blogger because even though he had only been blogging for six months, he seemed to know every big-shot writer in the blogosphere. I noticed that my readers were attracted to his writing. There was a meme going around where you were supposed to list “the five bloggers you most want to have dinner with at a private party.” Let’s just say that I noticed that he received a lot of dinner offers while I wasn’t even invited to share a foot-long sandwich at Subway.

At dinner, we talked about blogging, much to the boredom of Jenna and Sophia.

“Do you know X,” he asked.

“No,” I answered.

“Have you ever chatted with Y?”

“Uh, no.”

“Have you read Kate at Sweet l Salty? Isn’t she great?”

“Who?” I asked.

“She’s Canadian.”

“Bleh.”

I had absolutely no interest in reading another Canadian. I already had plenty of Canadians on my blogroll, and I promised myself to only “Read American” from now on.

A week later, I caved in and read Kate’s blog. It was very well-written I particularly liked that she separated her ideas with “+++,” something I blatantly stole from her blog without her permission.

I left a comment on her blog. Days passed and there was no response.

“Bitch,” I muttered to myself.

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I knew this “type” of literary snob who never returned a comment. I was an English major. She was clearly the type of snooty priss who only dated the guys in the berets who wrote about “inner pain,” and wouldn’t be caught dead interacting with a guy who talks to his Penis.

I hated her.

I secretly read her blog a few more times, without commenting. I thought of becoming a troll, but I was afraid that she could follow my IP address back to Queens.

In August, I attended BlogHer. Kate was involved in a session with Kelly about “writing passionately.” Kate was an amazing speaker, and as she talked about the tragedy of losing a child, the entire audience was in tears. There was something different about this too-pretty, too-educated literary snob bitch. There was a white glow surrounding her, protecting her from evil, and she seemed to spread a message of goodness, reminiscent of the heavenly aura around the virginal Lady of the Lake as she rose from the deep to protect the young King Arthur. During this one hour session at BlogHer, I went from intense hate to wanting to be her BFF!

The next day, Amy and I were slated to do our own session on Storytelling. Unlike Kate’s heart-felt dialogue, our talk was filled with comic shtick and “story structure.” I wanted to scrap the entire script and rewrite it. I wanted to be as inspirational and honest as Kate was that morning.

During lunch, I saw Kate on the other side of banquet room, and decided to approach her. I was nervous. The lunch that day was sponsored by Ragu. The entrees were lasagna and spaghetti. The tables were decorated in the colors of the Italian flag. I had spilled some tomato sauce on my faux bowling shirt, so I walked with my hand to my heart, like Napoleon, trying to hide the stain.

“Hello,” I said to Kate, my voice wavering in fear, much as it did on the infamous afternoon when I tried to talk to Tammy Weingold in high school about pairing up for the math team together.

Kate and I stood directly under a huge plastic sculpture of a Ragu tomato sauce jar that was propped up on the lasagna table, next to a stack of coupons offering a free sample of Ragu’s new “Spicy and Hearty” sauce. I will never forget this giant Ragu jar for the rest of my life. This is where I had my first real conversation with Kate Inglis. The setting was as dramatic as when Humphrey Bogart said goodbye to Ingrid Bergman at the airport in Casablanca.

“I loved your session,” I said.

I told her how I was going to change my session, because it was “a superficial pile of shit compared to what you did.”

Kate sat me down in front of the giant tomato sauce jar and told me NOT to change the session. She said that in writing, structure is as important as passion.

“You can’t write a story without a beginning, middle, and end. I’m looking forward to being there!”

I could not believe that she was coming to our session!

She told me about this book she had just finished. She was about to enter the “promotion” part of getting a book out and self-promotion did not come easy to her. She had barely mentioned the book to anyone at BlogHer.

I related to this writer. I have a huge fear of self-promotion. On the other hand, pushing other shy folk into promotion mode is a great joy for me, as long as they are the ones suffering, not me. For the next two days, whenever I passed Kate in the hotel, I bugged the hell out of her.

“Tell people about your book!” I would say.

I grabbed strangers to tell them about Kate’s book, even though I wasn’t quite sure what the book was even about, or when it was coming out.

I grilled Kate with questions.

“Do you have a website for the book?” “Can I read it?” “Can I review it on my blog?”

I saw myself as her Mister Miyagi and she as my Karate Kid, even though in the real movie — Mister Miyagi actually had some KNOWLEDGE. I knew nothing about book promotion, but I knew Kate had to step up to the plate. She was an amazing, passionate writer – and I wanted this woman standing next to the Ragu jar with the halo around her head, this blogger who I once thought was a snooty bitch, to succeed.

Tomorrow: The Book Review

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