I am delighted to host Author Jan Netolicky today. Please give her a big welcome.
Ross Benedict’s life is in the tank.He’s fifteen, in trouble with the law, and has no one to lean on.His only hope may be an old man with his own
The manuscript which eventually became The Skipworth Summer (Wings ePress, Feb. 2012) began as a creative
thesis for my master’s program in English education where my specialty was
young adult literature.But at the time
I wrote it, I wasn’t thinking about earning my degree.I was hoping to create a living legacy for my
own children, a way to keep alive the memory of my beloved grandfather, Luther
Skipworth.While I was in grad school, Skip suffered a
debilitating stoke which eventually claimed him.I was desperate to hang on to him in whatever
way I could.
I wanted my kids to know the essence of this man I adored, a man whose difficult journey
demanded to be told.A biography would not
be the best vehicle to tell that story, however.It would certainly be colored by my loving
bias.Instead, I chose to write a
fictional piece from the perspective of a troubled fifteen year-old boy who
meets Skip for the first time when the teen is at his most vulnerable.The result is a unique work which pays
tribute to a complicated but resilient man, a work which celebrates his heroism
even as it acknowledges his shortcomings.An excerpt follows.
Prologue:Looking Glass, Present
I promised myself I would never go back.But then, I’ve brokenpromises before.Fortified by the enthusiasm of my ninth
graders (Mr. Benedict, Dude, you should SO go), I packed an overnighter, gassed
up the Nova, and headed north.
Highway 7 west of Little Rock through Jasper is a little
piece of motor-head heaven.The views
are incredible and the road fun to drive.Those winding bends never reveal what’s ahead, and then suddenly you’re
practically meeting yourself on a tight, hairpin turn.I took my time, stopping briefly in Harrison
before making my way into Berryville and that little corner building on Church
Skip’s is no longer there, of course.I’ve heard the building has housed everything
from an antiques store to a bait shop over the years.It’s a tea room now, but I’m betting it won’t
last.Nothing does.The Wal-Mart Supercenter on the north edge of
town has sapped the flavor from the old town square.Even so, I could still make out the faded
mural painted on the side of the old barber shop.I ran my hand along the rough bricks, then
walked around to the glass front and tried to peer in.
The place was closed and the dark impenetrable.When I stepped back, though, I could see my
reflection in the glass.Whether it was
a trick of light from the afternoon sun or just a wave of nostalgia, the years seemed
to slip away, and I was just a frightened fifteen-year-old kid with a chip on
my shoulder.I looked down at my hands,
expecting . . .
My grandfather’s shop is an iconic landmark in
Berryville, where he barbered for over 60 years.The faded mural referenced in the prologue
has since been restored by a devoted group of volunteers calling themselves BON
(Berryville Organic News).The picture
below depicts Skip’s shop circa 1942.Much of the action in the novel, set in 1975,takes place here.
Luther “Skip” Skipworth, in his shop on Church
Street in Berryville, Arkansas.
Author Jan Netolicky
Although The Skipworth Summer is my
first novel for young adults, writing has been at the core of my
professional life. I completed my undergraduate program
at Upper Iowa University and earned my Master’s degree in English
Education at Northeast Missouri State.
In addition to the thousands of comments jotted in
the margins of student essays, I’ve written for a variety of purposes and
audiences, including free-lance work for local businesses, university alumni
papers, and amateur theatrical productions. Primarily, I’ve spent 24
years sharing my love of reading and writing with hundreds of students.
They, in turn, have made rich deposits in my writer’s bank of ideas.
Now, following my retirement from the Cedar Rapids
Community School District, I am delighted to introduce The Skipworth
Summer. Although a work of fiction, the story is inspired by the life
of Luther Skipworth who lived and worked as a barber in Berryville for over
sixty years. “Skip,” my grandfather, died before my children knew him
well. I intended, originally, to write the novel as a way of keeping his
memory alive, but the narrative took a life of its own with the
introduction of Ross Benedict, a troubled young man on a path of
self-destruction. The plot weaves real events from Skip’s life with
Ross’s fictional coming-of-age story.
I live with my husband in Robins, IA, where my favorite
pursuits include reading, writing, volunteering, and spending time with my
children and grandchildren. My current project is a novel for adult
readers, We Dare Not Whisper.
Find me on
Facebook or at my website, where you can find links to Wings ePress, Amazon,
and Barnes and Noble.