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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Pam Bitterman and Her Children's Book, When This Is Over, I Will Go To School, And I Will Learn To Read; A Story of Hope and Friendship for One Young Kenyan Orphan

Talk about a heart of gold, Pam Bitterman shares her story of her time in Kenya, and a small boy that touched her heartstrings. I think you will enjoy getting insight into this author.

I grew up in a gentle little mid-western lakeside town. My childhood was exceptional only in the degree to which it was charmed. My family was intact, my parents loving. My early experiences were Norman Rockwell dream-like and my development was wholesome, happy and filled with endless possibilities. Not your stereotypical tortured fodder for germinating heavy literary creativity. 

Then came the sixties! And boy, was I ever a proverbial child of that illustrious era. I had been raised to question, and at a time when so much of what was happening gave rise to conscientious objection verging on vehement rejection; a commitment to making a difference became cemented in my psyche. Counter-culture and anti-establishment causes became my bailiwicks, voluntary simplicity and feeding a voracious appetite for independence and adventure, my chosen lifestyle. With respect to “making love not war?” Well, suffice it to say, I did my part. Consequently, my wild, free and daring journey began auspiciously, sometime in my late teens, and has carried on to this day.

Besides being a world traveled adventurer and a writer, I have been a counselor for troubled youth, a naturalist, a teacher, a mediator, a mom, and a wife. I am 60 well-earned years old.


In what genre do you usually write?

I have, thus far, written primarily non-fiction. I learned early on that one should write what one knows. I have been extremely fortunate to have been able to “live a big life” as my dad used to say; I have seen a lot, done a lot, and survived a lot. I feel compelled to share my stories, and to memorialize them in print. The challenges of writing well in this genre are that there is often a great deal more research, fact checking and vetting that is required. Also, being the narrator, I am able to write as who I am, in my own voice, and that has huge rewards.  

My Writngs:


My own experiences are the subjects of my nonfiction. My first book, Sailing To The Far Horizon; The Restless Journey and Tragic Sinking of a Tall Ship, (November 12, 2004; Terrace Books/University of Wisconsin Press; ISBN: 0-299-20190-2; Hardcover; $29.95) was my first true story that was dying to be told. It was own story of life, loss, and survival at sea. I toiled mightily at learning how to be a writer simply so that I could tell it. Gratefully, however, I think the tale itself was too grand for me ruin. It was ultimately published by an academic press, not with the expectation that it would make it onto OPRAH or any best-sellers lists, [although it would make one helluva film!] but rather that it would be proudly circulated to universities and libraries world-wide, as well as book stores, and that it would never go out of print.
I am extremely proud of that, as I am of my other two published non-fiction manuscripts; Muzungu; A-Frican Lost Soul’s Reality Check, Newly released in eBook format; ISBN# 978-1-4566-0090-7. http://www.ebookit.com/books/0000000120/Muzungu.html, which details my months spent living and working in a mission hospital and orphan-feeding program in Kenya.
I am on rounds in the hospital talking to a burn victim whose wounds have healed so tightly that she cannot move the upper half of her body. Her little 2 yr. old daughter is the hospital mascot while I am there, toddling happily around and being looked after by everyone. Of course, when a parent or guardian is in the hospital, the children move in also. There is nowhere else for them to go and no one to look after them. We were all asked, several times each, to take her home with us to America, as the woman said her husband would no longer take care of them because she was now disfigured. Requests of this type were a common occurrence.  
I am in the "theatre" at the Maseno Mission Hospital recording in print and with photos, the events of a procedure taking place. In this instance,( they all tend to meld together in my memory) I believe a young boy was having his withered polio leg amputated. I was always allowed right in. The child was a street boy, abandoned and living with one of the street gangs in the city of Kisumu. I believe someone from one of the local Christian churches brought him in, and either paid for the operation, or the volunteer doctors were performing it gratis. He went back to the streets a few days later.
I am on rounds in the hospital talking to a burn victim whose wounds have healed so tightly that she cannot move the upper half of her body. Her little 2 yr. old daughter is the hospital mascot while I am there, toddling happily around and being looked after by everyone. Of course, when a parent or guardian is in the hospital, the children move in also. There is nowhere else for them to go and no one to look after them. We were all asked, several times each, to take her home with us to America, as the woman said her husband would no longer take care of them because she was now disfigured. Requests of this type were a common occurrence.  

This photo is of me interviewing Apollo Bwonya Orodho, Doctor of Agricultural Science, in the village of Ekwanda. He established the Farmer Field School where he teaches the local villagers how to get the greatest yield from their plantings, and how to store the grain properly to insure there is still food during droughts and floods. 



My children’s book When This Is Over, I Will Go To School, And I Will Learn To Read; A Story of Hope and Friendship for One Young Kenyan Orphan. Published in eBook format by eBookIt.com http://www.eBookIt.com ISBN-13: 978-1-4566-0322-9 was also from that experience, and was illustrated by the village children with whom I worked. The proceeds from the sale of that book are promised back to those children.
An audio version of this book has also been produced. Both the audio version and the book are now available for purchase at (https://www.ebookit.com/books/0000000660/When-This-Is-Over-I-Will-Go-To-School-And-I-WillLearn-To-Read.html). Book trailers for all three books have been produced, and can be accessed at these links: Photos To-Music Book Trailerhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8M5owy_L4cU, and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w6sI2hj-v5w.
I have also had a homily titled Child, You Are Miracle, published by World Vision. The link to that piece is November 2010 magazine. www.worldvisionmagazine.org http://www.worldvisionmagazine.org/stories/child-you-are-a-miracle/ This is a message of hope to all children everywhere who are suffering, frightened, or alone.
My favorite thing about my books:
It is that they tell a story that I believe needs and deserves to be told. I am proud to have lived the experiences, proud to have had the fortitude to record the events, and proud to be able to share them. And yes, it is of course wonderful to have these works published. But please understand. I firmly believe that the journey is the journey. And the writing is a glorious journey all of it’s own. Getting or not getting published does nothing to diminish either of those accomplishments in my mind. Yet if we are genuinely confident that we have something of real worth to share, then I do acknowledge full well how seriously good it feels to be able to shout it from the rooftops.
The Why, When and Who of my writing:
My mom said I’d be a writer - of children’s books most specifically.  I think she always knew. I’m glad she lived just long enough to see me try. As I said, I began to write because I had a story that needed telling. I wrote in whatever quiet moments I could steal while raising our children. Now I have all the time in the world, and I  do my best and most cohesive writing in the early hours of the morning, as though I still have to steal those moments.
I need peace and solitude for my best writing:
I need peace and solitude for my best thinking!  Nevertheless, I write all the time; in my head, on scraps of paper wherever I find them, in my pocket moleskin, in my dreams even. Ideas, notions, feelings, revelations, they are forces of nature that I try to grab hold of whenever they nudge me. The writing then revolves around them. It is far easier for me that way. I cannot imagine having to “come up” with a story line. That would be like work. For me, writing is pure joy - the expressiveness aspect of it, that is. The technical details of writing are work, sure, but writing is not just a discipline, it is an art form. And art can be pretty holy stuff!
Projects in the works, and plan for the future:

I hope to keep living and feeling and learning and growing, and writing about it all. At present, I am working on a new children’s book titled “Where Do You Go My Darling?” about make-believe, as well as an adult fiction titled She, a collection of heartfelt, insightful vignettes about life from the perspective of the child, the girl and the woman. I am really only calling this one adult fiction because then I get to let loose with all sorts of stuff I might otherwise think twice about putting into print. I am finding that writing fiction can be very liberating.

Advice for writers:

Write! Everyone should. It is ridiculously therapeutic! Do it for yourself, not for some publisher’s approval or bottom line.  You will be doing your best and most original work that way, anyway. Let it be raw. That way you have already won, no matter what anyone else thinks.

When I’m not writing,

I live! I travel, I spend time with my family, I immerse myself in nature, I challenge myself, and I take leaps of faith. I watch people, and I study them. I help others however I can. I read! Then I write about it all.  All these glorious moments are my Made It Moments, as well.

Please visit my web site www.pamelasismanbitterman.com for more information and updates, or to leave comments. On the site there are links to how to purchase all three of my books, as well as links to stirring photos-to-music book trailers for all three books.

Thank you! This was fun!
Pam Bitterman

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Wonderful interview. You sound like an amazing woman Pam and it was great to hear your journey.

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