Both of our hubbies are docs and work at VA hospitals (hers in Jackson, MS and mine in Memphis, TN) … and actually mine was at the VA in Jackson for eleven years before we moved to Memphis in 1988.
Both of us have a special connection to the Guyton family, and especially Dr. Arthur C. Guyton, the subject of her book, Inventing Ott: The Legacy of Arthur C. Guyton. Dr. Guyton was the inventor of the electric wheelchair, father of ten Harvard-educated doctors, chairman of the Department of Physiology and Biophysics at the University of Mississippi School of Medicine, and writer of the best-selling medical textbook of all times.
“Ott” also designed and built boats, tennis courts, swimming pools and homes. My husband and I used to visit the Guytons at the home they built in Jackson. One of their sons, Robert, was my husband’s big brother in their fraternity at Ole Miss in the late 60s. Another son, Johnny, has always been a good friend. In the spring of 1968, we had our first date on one of the sailboats their family built… with Johnny and his date, on the Ross Barnett Reservoir in Jackson. One summer during medical school (early 70s) my husband worked with Dr. Guyton in his lab. Over the next thirty-something years, we would keep up with various ones of the Guyton clan, with whom we were re-united, sadly, at Dr. Guyton’s funeral in Oxford in April of 2003.
So, you can imagine my surprise when I met Jerusha and discovered our shared involvement with this amazing man and his family. We sat together at Scrooge’s Restaurant the final night of the writers conference–she’s the young one with the rosy cheeks!
SC: Inventing Ott is your first book. How did you decide on this subject? I know it’s written for, what, middle-school students? (which means it’s just right for me!)
JB: When Dr. Guyton died (in April 2003), I lived on the UMC campus, as my husband was in medical school at the time. When the entire campus, and the entire city for that matter, sort of froze in shock at the news, I was confused. In all that time of living so close to greatness, I had never even heard this person on the news.
SC: Your book is wonderfully illustrated with photographs. I read your acknowledgements and picture credits in the back of the book. What was it like working with Dr.Guyton’s children on this project?
JB: As anyone who knows a Guyton will tell you, Arthur Guyton’s children are extremely worthy of his name. Although I cannot possibly claim to have learned all that there is to know about them in the short time it took to research this book (in fact, I did not even communicate with all of them), I can say this. While each that I met was wonderfully unique, there was an underlying Guyton sameness in all of them. This sameness is obvious to nearly everyone who meets them. It’s like a really down-to-earth, familiarity that you feel, even when meeting one for the very first time. It is a quality that must have been instilled by very loving parents, to be so apparent in all of them. Anyway, naturally, they were all quite helpful and easy to work with.
SC: You went to a local publisher, Quail Ridge Press, for publication. What was that process like, and what have you (or they) done to promote the book?
JB: Going to Quail Ridge Press was sort of a no-brainer for this project, since they specialize in Mississippi subjects. Working with them was wonderful, and they have really held my hand through most of the publishing process. They even listened to MY input about nearly every part of the process. I only found out later how unusual that was for a publisher. As for the promotion and marketing, who is ever really satisfied on that aspect? Can anyone ever try hard enough to promote your precious creation? I will say this for Quail Ridge…although promoting children’s books was new to them, when I pointed out a market, they pursued it. They have pretty much followed every avenue I’ve suggested.
JB: With great difficulty. You really have to want it badly to succeed at writing with young children. In fact, you really have to make a gargantuan effort to simply finish a single thought with three youn…..what was I saying?
The trick is to let your laundry pile up into a gigantic mountain! This frees up the time you would have spent cleaning the clothes, while providing a magnificent play-structure for the kids. As long as you’re careful not to lose the baby in the pile, it’s a win-win situation.
JB: Susan, I’m glad you asked! I have just found a publisher who is interested in taking on my next non-fiction book for upper-elementary/middle grade readers called Aquarius: An Undersea Adventure, thanks to all of your wonderful critique suggestions at the Mississippi Writer’s Guild conference. It is non-fiction about the world’s only undersea human habitat! I expect a 2008 publication date.
You can order Inventing Ott at all major bookstores, from Quail Ridge Press or a signed copy directly from Jerusha by sending an email to email@example.com.