Author Spotlight no.130 – Phyl Manning

Complementing my daily blog interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the one hundred and thirtieth, is of non-fiction author Phyl Manning.

Phyl Manning started teaching at age 16 in a rural 1-room Nebraska schoolhouse with 18 kiddies, a close “family.” After she had earned her B.A. and big-city teaching experience, she dared to try overseas international schools—and loved them! She picked venues along “paths not often taken” that afforded time and experience in and near such places as Thailand, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Sumatra PLUS a “vacation” in Zimbabwe. Married to another teacher, their two children were raised in West Pacific islands and are now in the U.S., both grown with (also grown) children of their own.

Following 45 years of classroom, counseling, admin and curriculum, she “retired” to writing. Dozens of her articles and stories have been published in the U.S. and abroad, and now books:

1. Kiti on Ice (historical novel) on the Inupiat of Tradition* (2003)

2. Here Is the African Jungle—a rhymed children’s picture book (2009)

3. Arctic Circles (historical novel) sequel to Kiti *(2010 & 2012)

4. Here, There & Otherwhere, Vol. 1, narrative nonfiction (2012) which is top-listed as Finalist with International Book Awards (2012). Note: Vol. 2 of this work is scheduled to come out at the beginning of 2013.

*The traditional Inupiat (Arctic Inuit) are the subject of her doctoral studies (ABD) in cultural anthropology, and she has researched these people for 30+ years.

And now from the author herself:

Following a ten-day writing workshop held in 1953 by Dr. Walter VanTilburg Clark (Oxbow Incident,, he privately conferred with each of the selected ten participants based on that student’s writing so far (not much from me, at age 22). He said, “Phyl, you write very well indeed. Unfortunately, you have nothing to say.”

I have spent much of my adult life trying to rectify that failing.

I traveled. Not wealthy, I looked for (and found) work in faraway places. Where most Americans aspiring to go overseas favor Europe, I looked for service in places not necessarily well known and having cultures and settings far different from my own beginnings in South Omaha, Nebraska. My children grew up on islands in the West Pacific; I feel as if I myself were “born” on the island of Saipan at age 30.

I love the Inupiat of Tradition, a people I’ve studied (through doctoral work in cultural anthropology) for the past 3+ decades, always vicariously—since we of the U.S. and Canada have in the last fifty years busily “civilized” members of this graceful 5,000-year-old culture. But one childhood-until-now and abiding deep-seated and largely informal interest is international wildlife.

And my most recent book, Here, There & Otherwhere, is largely on this latter subject. Spend with me the night before Christmas—all of it!—on a forest machan alone in Southern Nepal, waiting for a tiger but appreciative of other creatures stopping by. Skin dive in a coral basin to make friends with a gargantuan conger eel—or support on the windward side of that island the torso of a distinguished deep-sea photographer who cannot swim. Share citrus with a tiny Tibetan child. Or accompany as “cook” (God help them!) a dozen aspiring junior-and-senior high school student entomologists to go up into Thailand’s (still not thoroughly explored) Khao Yai (big forest) on a Predator-to-Prey Count . . . and more.

Now “retired,” I have both the time and gusto to write about these and other unusual experiences, often in unlikely places. You’d be surprised, Dr. Clark. I am.

What motivation! Thank you, Phyl.

You can find more about Phyl and her writing via her website

Phyl returns on 29th January 2013 for our full interview. 🙂


The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with non-fiction author Jonathan Ledwidge – the five hundred and thirty-first of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything. You can contact me and find me on the internetview my Books and I also have a blog creation service especially for, but not limited to, writers.

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are weekly episodes, usually released Monday mornings UK time, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

Author Spotlight no.64 – Jeff Rasley

Complementing my daily blog interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the sixty-fourth, is of non-fiction and thriller writer Jeff Rasley.

Jeff Rasley is author of Light in the Mountains — A Hoosier Quaker finds Communal Enlightenment in Nepal, Islands in My Dreams, Nepal Himalayas — in the Moment, False Prophet? and Bringing Progress to Paradise.

He practiced law for thirty years in Indianapolis, Indiana and was admitted to the U.S. Supreme Court Bar.  He has an outstanding academic record: graduate of the University of Chicago, A.B. magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, All-Academic All-State Football Team and letter winner in swimming and football; Indiana University School of Law, J.D. cum laude, Moot Court and Indiana Law Review; Christian Theological Seminary, M.Div. magna cum laude, co-valedictorian and Faculty Award Scholar.

Jeff is currently President of the Basa Village Foundation USA Inc. and U.S. liaison for the Nepal-based Himalayan expedition company, Adventure GeoTreks, Ltd.  He teaches classes for IUPUI Continuing Ed. Program and Indiana Writers Center.

For chairing the Indiana-Tennessee Civic Memorial Commission, Jeff received Proclamations of Salutation from the Governors of Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee and Pennsylvania and he was made an honorary Lieutenant Colonel Aide-de-Camp of the Alabama State Militia, a Kentucky Colonel and honorary Citizen of Tennessee.  He was given a Key to the City of Indianapolis for his report on the safety conditions of Indy Parks.  Jeff received the Man of the Year award from the Arthur Jordan YMCA.

Jeff has published numerous articles and photos in academic and mainstream periodicals, including Newsweek, Chicago Magazine, ABA Journal, Family Law Review, Pacific Magazine, Indy’s Child, The Journal of Communal Societies, The Chrysalis Reader, Faith & Fitness Magazine, Friends Journal and Real Travel Adventures International Magazine.  He gives programs about adventure travel and philanthropy to service clubs, community organizations and churches.  He is an avid outdoorsman and recreational athlete.  He leads trekking-mountaineering expeditions in Nepal and has solo-kayaked around several Pacific island groups.  Jeff also loves to read and considers completing Marcel Proust’s 3600-page Remembrance of Things Past as one of his most enjoyable accomplishments.

Married to Alicia Rasley, Jeff is a multi-published author, RITA Award winner, and University professor.

And now from the author himself:

I started writing bad poetry as a teenager and graduated to short stories and feature articles in college.  I honed my craft at feature article writing as much as time permitted through graduate schools, practicing law, domestic husbandry and raising two sons.  My loves other than wife, kids and writing have been sports and what has been called adventure travel.

After one semester I dropped out of college and hitch-hiked across the country.  I spent the next summer traveling around Europe by any means necessary.  The following summer I motorcycled from Northern Indiana to Mexico City.  Career, marriage and kids slowed me down somewhat, but I have set foot in over 40 countries.  I’ve climbed several Himalayan peaks and have been leading Himalayan trekking and mountaineering expeditions for a decade.  I managed to survive an avalanche and getting lost at sea in a solo kayak in the Palau Islands.

Eventually travel for the sake of adventure and personal curiosity was insufficiently meaningful.  I began to “philanthro-trek” – combining travel with philanthropy in the new millennium.   A special relationship developed with a remote Himalayan village.  Two friends and I were only the third group of “white people” to visit the village.  Leaders of the village and I established the Basa Village Project, which has grown into a Nepal-based NGO and a U.S. nonprofit corporation to benefit Basa and other Himalayan villages.

Three of the books I have written tell the story of how I came to have a special relationship with the Rai people and the wisdom I have gained from them about environmentalism, spirituality and community.  I have tried to give a truthful account of the 3 Cups of Tea received from my friends in the Nepal Himalayas.

A fourth book, Islands in My Dreams is an anthology of personal essays about unique island cultures I have experienced in my travels.  For example, Tonga has the fattest kings and the longest ruling family dynasty of current monarchs.  Palau is the most litigious society on earth with three lawsuits for every citizen.  Islands are where dreams and nightmares come true.

False Prophet? is my first attempt at fiction, although it is inspired by a case I handled twenty years ago.  It is an inspirational mystery, romantic suspense and political / legal thriller; a story of love lost and found and a rant against the inequities of the legal system.  The story is gritty but uplifting.  It reveals the seamy underside of local politics in Indianapolis.  But it also shows how white folks and African-Americans can work together for justice.  The love story is one of frustration and self-destruction, but ultimately understanding, reconciliation, renewed intimacy and a baby.

Thank you, Jeff. 🙂 You can find more about Jeff and his writing via his website

The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with editor and novelist Jennifer Ciotta – the two hundred and ninety-eighth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me. You can read / download my eBooks from Smashwords, Sony Reader Store, Barnes & Noble, iTunes Bookstore and Kobo (Amazon to follow). And I have a new forum at