Three Books By Four Babes: Armstrong Kicks Literary Ass

By Ayanna Thompson, Staff Writer

Dr. Elizabeth Desnoyers-Colas, author of ‘Marching As to War,’ Dr. Nancy Brandon Remler, author of Dunaway’s Crossing, and the author-illustrator team, Dr. Joshua Williams and (student!) Meghan Ramsey, creators of It’s Raining Hippos all lit up the room as they shared their work.

Marching As to War by Dr. Elizabeth Colas

This book is a compilation of military stories all too often underrepresented. Included are thirteen untold personal narratives, including her own, of African American women who served in the Gulf Wars.

Readers can expect to get “a good understanding of what it’s like to serve, despite their personal backgrounds, and also an understanding of the sacrifices that people make in their lives to serve. They will also gain an appreciation for the history of black women’s service. And the importance of storytelling and keeping history.”

When asked about her inspiration, Dr. Colas explained, “Chapter one outlines my inspiration. It has to do with Shoshana Johnson, who was the first African American female prisoner of war, period. She [was] captured in the recent conflict in Iraq.”

This passion-filled project took six years, start to finish. Dr. Colas stated, “I wouldn’t trade it. It was really important to me to get this out.”

Finding a publisher was her greatest struggle. Unfortunately, many were unable to look past the exclusive nature of her narratives as they pertained to African American women. Her greatest accomplishment was finishing the book and taking it out to share. “When you live with a work for so long, you don’t really know what kind of response you’re going to have […] I started to feel like my work was worth it[…]It really ties me in with something I spent fifteen years doing,” Colas said.

Dr. Colas is the assistant professor of communications at Armstrong and also the faculty coordinator of MOVE, a program geared towards the personal, professional and academic well-being of African American males on campus. She is a retired U.S. Air Force Major.

Dunaway’s Crossing by Dr. Nancy Brandon Remler

“It’s about love and survival in rural Georgia during the 1918 influenza pandemic,” explained Remler. Dunaway’s Crossing is a dreamy yet skillfully thought out interweaving of history and fiction.

“Readers will get lots of history during that time period. They will get lots of detail of rural Georgia. They will read romance. They will read adventure. The ideal audience is women between twenty five and sixty. Although I have had men read it and come and tell me they enjoyed it too.”

“[The inspiration is] two-fold, actually. I’ve always been fascinated with that moment in history. It took place during the First World War. It is the worst epidemic this world has ever seen. Twenty million people died[…] Another inspiration is that when my great grandparents, who were alive during the epidemic, were trying to avoid getting the flu and they had to move away to a country cabin to [avoid] contagion. I just took that concept and wrote a work of fiction about it.”

Dunaway’s Crossing took Dr. Remler three years and a few rewrites to complete. She admits modestly, “It was a lot of work but that’s what writers do.”

“Deciding that is was ready to go. I knew it was ready to go but there was something that was stopping me from putting it out for other people to see.” This is a struggle I’m sure most creatives can relate all too well with.  “The greatest accomplishment is that once I did put it out there, people liked it. [It’s] really gratifying. It still amazes me but it makes me feel good to hear that. [She also learned that] writing a good story is a matter of creating this character and then making her suffer.”

Dr. Remler is the Associate Professor of English and also the Program Director for English Education at Armstrong.

It’s Raining Hippos by Dr. Joshua Williams & Ms. Meghan Ramsey

It’s Raining Hippos is a children’s book about a little girl’s search for her missing water hippos at bathtime. It’s a book with a simple storyline however its truest purpose is to encourage interaction between children and their parents.

Williams: “It’s a book that allows for, not only interaction with parents, but it allows for parents to have a scenario where they can actually help children pick out colors, learn words.

It’s Raining Hippos was initially a project that Dr. Williams and his father wrote together. Dr. Williams studies three month old infants and how they learn to reach for toys. When Dr. Williams had Ms. Ramsey in his class however, he noted her unique skill for illustration and sought her help with bringing his words to life, visually.

The book took the team two to three years to bring into fruition.

Meghan: “[…]figuring out what the illustrations were going to be. It was a relief when she figured out how she was going to organize the illustrations and what she could eliminate. “All together, I think it came out pretty well.” Williams: “I’d say the greatest accomplishment was Meghan’s ability to put the pictures to the storyline because that’s a hard thing to do.”

Dr. Williams is the Assistant Professor of Psychology at Armstrong and Ms. Ramsey is a BFA major concentrating in illustration at Armstrong.

Hopefully, the Annual Book Signing is an event that will continue to provide the Armstrong community with a sneak peek into what our writers are up to. I would definitely encourage everyone to come check it out next year!