Tuesday, January 29, 2008
By Devin Scillian
Illustrated by Chris Ellison
Young Moses and his family are barely scraping by. He helps his father in their fish stall selling each day's catch to passersby but times are hard in 1889 Baltimore. It's difficult to provide for a family of ten. But when they hear of free farmland out in Oklahoma, it sounds like the answer to their prayers. The family sells all they own and heads west to fulfill a lifelong dream.
Their wagon journey, however, is plagued with troubles from ice storms and flooded rivers to diminishing supplies and sickness. Yet Moses and his family persevere. They arrive in time to take a place along the boundary line that marks the staging point for the Oklahoma Land Run. But after making it this far, will even more bad luck prevent them from realizing their dream of owning their own piece of America?
Evocative paintings and spellbinding storytelling bring the Oklahoma Land Run to vivid life for young readers.
Meet Author Devin Scillian!
Web site: www.devinscillian.com
If you know Devin Scillian at all, you get the feeling that "down time" is not a phrase that he's heard.
Devin anchors Local 4 News at 5, 6 and 11 p.m. on Local 4 and hosts WDIV's weekly current event news program "Flashpoint." He joined the WDIV team in August 1995.
Growing up, Devin was always on the move -- he's a self-described "Army brat." He considers Kansas and Oklahoma his neck of the woods. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Kansas in 1985.
As an adult, Devin still can't be still -- whether jetting all over the world covering major news events, or "relaxing" by singing in front of hundreds of thousands of people.
His Web site, www.devinscillian.com is subtitled "An American Storyteller." And, that couldn't be more true. Devin's stories have weaved their way from metro Detroit to vast corners of the world.
Devin's favorite book seems to be his passport. His news career has taken him all over the world, from the World Trade Center to the Red Sea, from Moscow, Russia to Sydney, Australia, from the streets of Port Au Prince, Haiti to St. Peter's Square at the Vatican. Whether it's the Olympic Games in Athens, Greece or the birth of Daimler Chrysler in Stuttgart, Germany, Devin has been there. His recent trip to China led to groundbreaking
reports on the crisis in American manufacturing.
However, both the proudest and saddest time of his career was for an event where he didn't have to go anywhere. Devin was a news anchor at KFOR-TV in Oklahoma City at the time of the Murrah federal building bombing. He describes the traumatic explosion (and its aftermath) as "a study of despair" but it was also a "life-changing lesson in the power of love and kindness." Devin helped the station win a prestigious Peabody Award for its coverage. He says the honor "remains for me a symbol of the marvelous potential of television news."
Covering events like that are Devin's favorite parts of the job. He says "having a front row seat for history and writing the first draft of history" give him the most pride.
His on-air career has not been without its embarrassing moments, though. Most memorable to Devin was the one night when he raced out of the newsroom into the studio just as the newscast was starting and grabbed what he thought was his suit jacket. It wasn't. Devin landed in his seat just as the camera came up on him wearing a size 38 regular coat. Devin's normal size is 44 long. In terms of how he looked, Devin says only, "it wasn't pretty."
Devin met his wife, Corey, in high school in Junction City, Kan. They are the parents of four children: Griffin, Quinn, Madison, and Christian. They also have a "flop-eared" rabbit named Pikachu and a golden doodle named Darby.
Devin's definition of "free time" might be considered work to others.
Devin has become a fixture in the children's section of your local bookstore. He's the author of ten books including "Fibblestax," "Cosmo's Moon," "P is for Passport," and the national bestseller "A is for America." In 2004, Devin was invited to read from his books at the White House. His newest book is "Pappy's Handkerchief," a tale of the Oklahoma
Land Run published by Sleeping Bear Press.
Devin is also an accomplished singer and songwriter having won the prestigious Detroit Music Award for Best Country Performer. His album "Tulsa" led to four singles on the European country music charts and the song "Half Past You" hit number one in Denmark. His children's album "A is for America" was a companion to the best-selling book. He has opened for the likes of Toby Keith, Reba McEntire, and LeAnn Rimes.
He's appeared on stage at Detroit's famous "Downtown Hoedown." His music has also aired in numerous television specials.
Devin, his wife and occasional co-author, Corey, live with their four children in Grosse Pointe Park, Michigan.
Featured book: Pappy’s Handkerchief
Q: How do you hope to influence today’s young readers through this book?
A: I'd love for today's young readers to develop a sense of the kind of "all or nothing" decisions our ancestors made in settling our nation. As someone who's spent a lot of time Oklahoma, the Land Run is rather iconic to me. But I'm not sure there's a widespread understanding of what it was all about and how dramatic it was. And I'm hoping to shed
some light on the very unique history of African Americans in Oklahoma. The promise of free land is big enough, but it takes on an added depth when you think about the families of former slaves giving up everything to stake a claim on land that would be their own. At one time, there were more all black towns in Oklahoma than any other state. That's
something even many Oklahomans know little about.
Q: What books influenced you most of all when you were growing up?
A: The stories of Dr. Seuss always resonated with me. And later, the books of Shel Silverstein. But my favorite book was "My Side of the Mountain" by Jean George. Loved it, loved it, loved it. I also had a love affair with the set of encyclopedias in my house.
Q: Where do you get most of your ideas?
A: I'm really not sure. But I have to come to understand that a book's title is of critical importance to my writing process. With every one of my ten published books, the project began with a title. I find that when I come up with the right title first, it seems to jumpstart my imagination and the story tends to fall in line. It doesn't always happen quickly; I had the title "Cosmo's Moon" floating around in my head for years before the story finally took shape. ("Cosmo's Moon" was a line in the film "Moonstruck," so I suppose it's a reminder that a good idea can come from anywhere if we're paying attention.)
Q: Share one tip you’d like to give about gathering notes during the research process of writing a book.
A: If you had told me before I started, I'm not sure I would have believed that I would turn out as many nonfiction titles as I have. I really hadn't thought about the kind of research my books have required. Fortunately, the internet means you have the world's largest library at your fingertips. But I would point out two things that have become
really important to my process. First, while the standard kind of information is always important to develop, I think it's always important to find a scrap or two that seems new. (If the author is learning something, the reader may be, too.) Second, I try to keep
notes not just of data or information, but of small bursts of thought about how that information can be used. I can make a note that says "More than a billion people live in China." But more importantly, I need to note the thought that "In China, when someone says 'You're one in a million,' it means there are a thousand people just like you."
When I'm writing, I'll probably have clear recall of the hard data, but I'll need the note on my little whiff of inspiration to make that data come alive.
Posted by Nancy I. Sanders