Some people snoop in their friends’ medicine cabinet. I prefer to peek at their bookshelves.
If you want to understand someone’s true personality, take a look at his or her library. The books that they read offer a psychological profile of their tastes, interests and values. I believe book-centered rooms are the ultimate escape, the place to head for to think and read, regenerate your spirit and ideas.
· The library is a room of secrets. Add a hidden compartment to your bookcase, something Mr. Holmes would approve of.
· Books you love to read, plan to reread or need for reference, should never be out of reach.
· Standing on chairs or beds is no substitute for a sturdy, stable library ladder.
· Two comfortable chairs and good lighting are the most important elements of a well-stocked library.
Kathryn Knight is an international award-winning author, independent publisher/First Freedom Publishing, genetic genealogist, American historian, keynote speaker, and cemetery preservationist. For over thirteen years, Kathryn documented more than 20,000 hours researching the first recorded Africans to arrive in the English settlement of Virginia in 1619. In addition, Kathryn is a board member of the Florida Authors and Publishers Association.
Tell me about your background. Where you grew up, where you live now, education, work experience? Share some interesting things about yourself that we should know about.
I use the pen name K.I. Knight. My literary works includes Fate & Freedom, a five-star Gold medal historical trilogy detailing the lives of the 1619 Africans, as well as my nonfiction work, Unveiled – The Twenty & Odd: Documenting the First Africans in England’s America 1619–1625 and Beyond, for which I was awarded the Phillis Wheatley Book Award by the Sons and Daughters of the U.S. Middle Passage. I have also written in or contributed evidence for several Historical journals and genetic how-to manuals.
I’m a board member for several national nonprofit organizations and a member of numerous genealogical, historical, and literary societies. I’m a mother of three adult children and live in North Florida with my husband, Tom.
What inspired you to write this book? What is the story behind the story?
Let’s call it an addiction! My addiction began with the realization my husband descends from one of the earliest Africans to be brought to America.
Then I hit a brick wall. A brick wall is a term many genealogists use when they are out of leads or avenues to find a potential ancestor. Thirteen years later and over 20,000 hours of research, I was ready to start writing a historical trilogy most Americans knew nothing about.
What has been your biggest challenge or obstacle?
Biggest problem, there wasn’t a lot of documented evidence. I had to start from scratch!
What has been your biggest “aha” moment or success?
In 2015, I began to collect DNA from descendants who believed they too were related to the first Africans to be brought to Virginia. After three years of collecting DNA and analyzing the genomic patterns, I happened to run my own DNA sample and realized I, too, was related to the same African ancestor as my husband. This ancestor was the heroine in the Fate & Freedom Trilogy. What a surprise this was!!!
What authors do you like to read? What books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?
I read a lot of history books. My favorite historian is John Daly Burke. President Thomas Jefferson gave Burke a special appointment to write The Early History of Virginia. His work is remarkable.
Do you write every single day? Any writing rituals?
I do not write every single day. However, I do work with DNA daily.
What are your interests outside of writing?
I’ve been told I’m an “earthy person.” I spend most of my off-time gardening, taking care of animals, and working Investigative DNA cases.
Share some tips for other Authors or Aspiring Authors: What would you do differently? What would you do the same? Please share anything you think would be beneficial to those reading this.
The Same: The 20,000 hours of dogged research it took to discover a 400yr. old hidden truth wasn’t an easy task. I can only say, when your passionate about something, follow that passion. Hard work pays off in many ways.
Different: Not sure I would do anything different.
Approximately 14 million middle and high school students are on their own after school.
8 in 10 Americans want all children and teens to have some type of organized activity or safe place to go after school.
The hours between 3 and 6 p.m. are the peak hours for juvenile crime and experimentation with drugs, alcohol and cigarettes.
There are more public libraries in the U.S. than McDonald’s restaurants or Starbucks.
Students make 1.3 billion visits to school libraries in a given year, about the same as nationwide attendance at movie theaters.
Research shows that as an age group, teens (ages 12 – 18) receive the least financial support. Government, philanthropic and non-profit spending directed at teens lags far behind what is invested in children (birth through 11 years) and young adults (19 and up)
The one thing I remember most about the south of France is the fragrance of it. Inhaling deeply on a stone terrace in Nice, I discovered the air was scented with lavender and maybe a bit of eucalyptus that grew nearby. It was amazing and left me utterly relaxed! I’ve never found anything like it in a bottle – and I’ve spent a decade searching.
How can simply sniffing something in the air have such an impact?
As The Mayo Clinic points out, some studies have suggested that aromatherapy can benefit our sleep patterns, help us cope with anxiety and depression, and improve the quality of life for those with chronic health conditions and pain. Avid aromatherapy fans use essential oils for a variety of purposes:
Setting a tone of a room (think: relaxing or energetic)
Scent diffusion alternative to candle-burning
According to scientists, when we enjoy what we smell, a domino effect happens because of how the body is wired. Enjoyment of the scent helps the pupils to dilate, and the body will produce chemicals that can encourage the smooth muscle of blood vessels to relax. That’s when your blood pressure lowers, and heart rate slows a little, which is a signal of calmness and relaxation.
A friend (who knows nothing of my quest to duplicate the fragrance of Nice) gave me a candle called RELAX, which is scented with lavender and cedar. I light it while I’m writing and editing. While it may not be identical to the south of France, I’m getting close.
Apart from my Great Aunt Margaret’s stuffing, my favorite part of childhood Thanksgivings in New England was watching the Macy’s parade. My sister and I waited until the end, when Santa Claus arrived to officially open the Christmas season.
In particular, we loved the balloons, but we didn’t know their history. 1927, puppeteer Tony Sarg suggested introducing inflatable balloons to the parade. That year, Macy’s featured Felix the Cat, a 60-foot-tall toy soldier, and a 20-foot-long elephant, all manufactured by the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, in Akron, Ohio. The helium inflatables, a bit more fearsome than those of today, grew larger and more complicated with each passing year. Some contained their own sound effects—like a barking dachshund—and others needed as many as 50 handlers on the ground, with a Pinocchio requiring 20 handlers for his nose alone.
Eventually, the balloons were fitted with slow-release valves so they could be let loose into the sky at the end of the parade, averting a logistical nightmare on the ground and simultaneously creating an airborne sensation.
In another feat of well-calculated promotion, Sarg offered a reward to anyone who returned a wayward balloon to Macy’s. The ensuing races to find and give them back were so heated that they became news in their own right—one woman, trying to catch Felix the Cat on the wing of her biplane while aloft, crash-landed her way onto the front page of the next day’s New York Times.
Thankfully, that tradition ended – like so many others. Today I buy my stuffing at the grocery store, but I make it as I watch the parade. Happy Thanksgiving!
Charles Dickens was right: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
Some of the worst occurred on September 12 as I walked along New York City sidewalks, which were plastered with pictures of missing people. I struggled to maintain my composure as I looked at thousands of faces taped to every available inch of fence, lamp post, mailbox and store window. “HAVE YOU SEEN…” was emblazoned across the top of each poster by relatives or friends desperate for news. The never-ending gallery was heartbreaking.
Late in the afternoon my photographer friend cruised past police barricades to shoot Ground Zero. I walked home with her daughter, Shane, when suddenly the unmistakable hum of an airplane engine buzzed overhead. Without thinking, I pushed the child up against a building and shielded her, while staring upward. People around us on the street also stood frozen with fear…each one thinking, “No, not again.” It turned out to be a military plane, our military, but the incident left us shaking and anxious. The horror was still too fresh.
That evening, I joined Barbara and her daughter at a prayer service in their synagogue. I might have been raised as a Roman Catholic, but that night, I understood Hebrew.
When we returned to their apartment, I made the first of many calls to US Airways to see about retrieving my suitcase, which had been impounded at La Guardia. After hours on hold, an airline employee asked for a description of my bag in order to locate it.
“It’s black,” I began.
“And I bet it has wheels and a pull-up handle,” she said.
This didn’t look promising.
She tried another approach. “Okay, if I open your suitcase, what will I see that tells me it’s yours?”
“Well, I have a pair of black slacks, a black turtleneck…and, um, a black skirt.”
I was in New York for Fashion Week, for God’s sake. Editors wear black, not Hawaiian prints. But I learned a valuable lesson: Something in your luggage must be easy to identify.
Miraculously, the airline found my black-wheeled-suitcase-with-handle in the impounded baggage. However, when I returned to Michigan, I marched into “Frederick’s of Hollywood” and bought the loudest leopard bikini panties – with a strategically placed red heart – that I could find. For many years, they were the final item I packed on every trip. I wanted to be sure that if another airline employee ever asked, ‘If I open your suitcase, what will I see?’ I’d have a much better answer.
Labor Day weekend approaches and a friend of mine expressed a desire to go for a clothing-optional getaway. I, myself, once visited “an adult-only, clothing-optional retreat” north of Tampa – FULLY CLOTHED and carrying a NOTEBOOK – in my role as a reporter for The Tampa Tribune. (I wrote about the clothing store located in the nudist colony.) While there, I discovered most clothes-free destinations have more rules than a boarding school. Here’s the skinny on what you need to know—and what you shouldn’t do—at a nude beach.
It’s not polite to stare.
Once you’re on a nudist beach, don’t stare, gawk, point, or giggle. Obviously, you will be required to look at your fellow sunbathers at some point, whether greeting them or fetching their Frisbee from your beach towel. Hint: Wearing sunglasses helps, but regulars insist that at a certain point, you simply stop noticing all the bare skin.
2. Don’t expect supermodel bodies.
Contrary to popular belief, most nude beaches are not sexy places ripped straight out of the pages of a men’s magazine. Patrons come in all sizes, shapes, and states of physical fitness, and very few look like Liam Hemsworth in the buff. (On my brief visit I noticed a lot of surgical scars, too.)
3. Put your cell phone away.
Never, ever take anyone’s photo without their permission. Many nudist beaches even prohibit photography.
4. Look for posted signs regarding clothing-required venues.
Pack a beach tote with readily accessible garments in case you need to suit up to use the facilities. Most nudist beaches and resorts require you use a towel to sit on public chairs as well.
Finally, don’t forget your sunscreen. Areas that are normally protected by swim trunks and bikinis will need a lot of it, preferably one that’s gentle on sensitive skin.
Have you considered a family book club this summer? Even if it’s hard to get your crew motivated, don’t give up. No matter how much they balk, you’ll have a good time discussing the book (and anything else that comes up!)
It’s a great way to spend device-free time together. You don’t have to choose a serious or literary book. (It can even be one of their required reading selections.) Family book clubs have no rules, except read something and have fun.
Here are a few tips:
Any family member can nominate a book.
The whole family votes on which books to read.
Be realistic regarding the number of books you’ll get through and the length of each.
Make discussions special. Combine it with something else your family enjoys. Go to a restaurant. Have a picnic. Dress in character.
Mixing reading levels is fine as long as the youngest can listen to audio versions of advanced level books, or an older person reads to a younger. Young readers love when older family members read their picks. Older siblings get a kick out of feeling nostalgic rereading kiddie books.
Naughty words and/or scenes are hits.
Take turns leading the discussions. Be flexible, but prepare questions in case there’s a conversation lull. Many books come with discussion guides.
Be open to unconventional genres and reading tools (like audiobooks or e-books).
Don’t cancel, even if everyone hasn’t finished the book.
During the teenage years, enthusiasm for reading can wane. Maybe it has to do with getting smartphones, which provide a different type of entertainment. Or the desire to spend more time with friends. Maybe it’s because they now also have assigned summer reading for school, which sucks a bit of the joy out of this pastime.
If any of this sounds familiar to you, and you’re wondering how to get your kid’s nose back into a book, you’re not alone. One way to encourage summer reading is to make it relaxing and offer some escape, especially after the challenging year we’ve just had. (We all need a beach read sometimes.) So don’t pressure them into anything too challenging. This is a chance to use their imagination. Or break out the Harry Potter set and let ‘em re-read old favorites. And if your summer plans involve a long car ride, try an audio book to make the trip go faster.
Reading has so many benefits, including increasing language fluency and vocabulary. But it also helps our kids to empathize with others by learning about unfamiliar experiences. What better way to spend their summer?
If you aspire to read more books, you may find that reading also can help you relax. Studies have shown that reading for just six minutes can reduce your stress levels up to 68 percent.
So instead of deciding which shows to binge-watch next, head down to the library. Whether you prefer science fiction, romance or a good mystery, devoting even a little time to a book will give you a chance to let go of the day.