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Maybe it’s the pandemic or the creative muse boiling forth as people ponder life in unsettling times. Whatever the reason, there are a number of East Central Illinois residents who have something to say in written form, and it’s showing. Here are a few of them, courtesy Dave Hinton.

TOWNSEND, Tenn. — Urbana native J. Carl Goodman doesn’t often remember his dreams, but when he does, he takes note of them. One recent dream has led to the publishing of his first novel.

“Out of the Fog” tells of senior citizen Harvey England, who passes out, slips into a coma and awakens five months later in an upscale Champaign senior living center. The widower with no children finds his home and all of his belongings, including several Tiffany lamps and collector cars, are gone as is a large investment account.

The book, which Goodman calls “a cozy mystery,” is set in Champaign and deals with England and two friends he meets in the living center who form a team to “investigate and restore Harvey’s life.” The team includes a healthy Vietnam veteran of England’s age and a “slightly younger ... brilliant woman” who is a former editor of the Boston Globe who is confined to a wheelchair but doesn’t let that slow her down.

“None of the medical professionals expected him to survive,” the 72-year-old Goodman said of England.

The novel is designed to bring the plight of many senior citizens to the public’s attention. The senior citizen demographic is the largest-growing one in the country. Goodman said the population segment of people 65 and older grew by 35 percent in the last decade, according to the U.S. census.

Citing National Institute on Aging and National Council on Aging figures, Goodman said one in six people 60 and older living within a “safe and familiar community” is abused. The abuse takes the form of financial, physical, emotional, neglect and sexual. But only one in 14 cases is reported to law enforcement, and only one in 44 cases of financial abuse are reported.

According to the NCO, “Up to five million older Americans are abused every year, and the annual loss by victims of financial abuse is estimated to be at least $36.5 billion.”

Goodman said some of his friends have had such experiences. One said when he put his mother in an assisted-living center, he placed most of her jewelry in a safety deposit box. By the end of the week, all of it was gone.

“As I talked to people ... so many of them have had relatives who have experienced some sort of theft or abuse, so I thought (writing the book) was a poignant thing to do,” Goodman said. “I wanted to do it in an entertaining way” while at the same time bringing attention to the problem.

Goodman made a discovery as a first-time author: “It’s hard to write a book and hard to get it right.”

“Out of the Fog” includes many locations in Champaign such as University and Prospect; Champaign Ford City, where England buys a car; Busey Bank, where he opens an account; and Papa Del’s Pizza.

Goodman served with the U.S. Air Force in Vietnam, where he attained the rank of staff sergeant. After earning a degree from Eastern Illinois University, he worked as a human resources professional for 15 years before forming a consulting firm, The ISAAC Network LLC, in 1994.

He and his wife, Becky, have two children.

Banan Garada, senior at Urbana High School

Title: “I Can Be Well with Mommy, Too”

Genre: Picture Book, Children’s Literature

Summary: Nina and her mother come together on a fun and imaginative “learning journey” surrounding the coronovirus pandemic and lessons of awareness and safety guidance to learn and grow from. When Nina can’t go to preschool because of the pandemic, the mother engages Nina in fun and informative at-home activities.

The mother explains what the coronavirus is and three crucial aspects of protective guidance for Nina and all young children to follow during a pandemic: staying clean, safe and healthy. For some fun at home, the mother and Nina come together to create and enjoy Fruit Kabobs (while remedying any bored feelings) as a healthy and fun at home activity for the whole family.

Is this your first book?

Yes.

What prompted you to write the book?

When COVID-19 hit our nation, I confronted the internal challenge of finding ways to help. Through spending time with my wonderful preschool sister, Nadeen Garada, I recognized a lack of available resources for young children about pandemics. To address this situation, I created the children’s storybook.

This storybook was highlighted by the FEMA administrator, the First Lady of the United States, and sent to the White House after attending a private event in 2020 involving my role as co-chair of the National Youth Preparedness Council. The wonderful illustrations of the storybook were digitally produced by local college freshman Caroliene Animas. The storybook is currently available on Amazon, and I am actively seeking ways to expand its presence as a resource for primary schools and families to benefit from.

Did having more time on your hands due to the pandemic play any role in your decision to write the book?

Yes, a big part of writing a book is understanding the process. Aiming to better my community, contribute to COVID-19 efforts and primary education, I initiated this project by educating myself on the children’s book-writing process. Based on my researched knowledge, I created a four-month project outline. I dedicated four hours every day to achieve my daily goals — a commitment that the pandemic graciously afforded.

Writing the storybook manuscript in less than a month, I reached out to 30 professionals, professors and authors globally (among them was Helen Patuck from the UK who as well wrote a children’s book for COVID-19 titled, “My Hero is You”) to provide feedback on my script. Drawing out rough illustrations accompanied by written layout instructions, I reached out to an amazing friend and artist, Caroliene Animas, to create the digital pictures. I held month-long daily Zoom screen-sharing sessions to actively assist throughout the process.

The First Lady of the United States recognized my storybook and requested it to the White House. Beyond excited, I understood how meaningful ideas could branch out with time and dedication. Coming out of this pandemic, with pen and paper in hand, I hope to continue creating educational and engaging books towards strengthening our community’s next generation of ambitious young leaders.

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Julian Parrott, Urbana resident who grew up in the UK

Title: “Fit for Purpose”

Genre: Romantic spy thriller

Tom and Nia are 40-somethings, both a bit emotionally bruised by life. Their newfound love and lives are threatened when their fates collide with a Russian spy hellbent on assassinating Kremlin critics, culminating in an action scene on a Welsh aqueduct.

What prompted you to write the book?

It is my first novel, but I have begun a sequel.

I have always enjoyed the spy-thriller genre and even taught a few classes at UIUC about Ian Fleming and James Bond. My plot was inspired by real events, ripped from the headlines, as the cliche goes, and I also wanted to set part of the thriller in and around the beautiful Llangollen Canal in Wales, 9 miles of which is a world heritage site. Then, somewhat surprisingly, the romantic element became a bigger part of the plot.

Did having more time on your hands due to the pandemic play any role in your decision to write the book?

I had completed a rough draft of the novel prior to the pandemic. I was fortunate to continue to work from home during the pandemic, so I worked on the editing process during evenings and weekends. I had been inspired by Ian Fleming’s advice to writers to write everyday, so I followed that both in the initial writing process and then throughout the re-drafting and editing. I did, however, grow a COVID beard.

More information on the book can be found at julianparrott.com.

Cassandra Grant of Chicago, formerly of Rantoul

Title: “Stars and Beyond-Color Your Way to Black Heroes in the Sky” for ages 5-9

Genre: Children’s coloring book

What prompted you to write the book?

During the pandemic I was inspired and had the time to write my first children’s coloring book.

I think children are never too young to learn about the contributions African Americans have made in aviation. I also wrote a book for Young Readers, “Stars and Beyond — Stories of Black Heroes in Aviation” for age 9 and older, more history about Black pioneers in aviation and information for those that want to pursue careers in aviation.

What prompted you to write the book?

I wrote my first nonfiction book, “Stars in the Sky,” which tells the history of the first African American flight attendants. I was among the first stewardesses hired for Delta Air Lines. My passion is to tell the world our story, breaking the color barrier and fighting for our civil rights in the sky.

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Sal Nudo of Champaign

Title: “Far From Mars: Nine Creative Nonfiction Stories Featuring People and Places in Champaign-Urbana”

Genre: Nonfiction

Summary: Amazon has the book listed in the genres of “journalism writing reference” and “two-hour literature and fiction short reads.” One of the individuals featured is former News-Gazette contributor Bob Swisher.

Is this your first book?

It’s not. I’ve also written the fictional books “The Newspaperman,” “The Millionaire’s Cross” and “Phantom Reunions.” I have an Amazon author page.

What prompted you to write the book?

I was working on another book project about my time in graduate school for journalism, when it occurred to me that readers of that book might want to know I’ve written actual articles and have some literary journalism chops. So I decided to put out a highly readable book that has nine creative nonfiction pieces I’d written in the past. I still have the digital pictures from those stories so included those with each piece.

Did having more time on your hands due to the pandemic play any role in your decision to write the book?

Like many people, I did find myself with more time on my hands in March and April of last year. I’d always wanted to do a major rewrite of “The Millionaire’s Cross,” so that’s what I did during lockdown. The 2020 version of “Millionaire’s” is much different from what was originally published in 2014, especially the last half of the book. It’s a much better story. I also completely revamped the cover, so I hope people — even those who have read it before — will check it out.

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Brenda Eheart of Champaign

Title: “Neighbors: The Power of the People Next Door”

Genre: Nonfiction

“Neighbors” is the story of the founding residents of the intergenerational community of Hope Meadows in Rantoul. It offers a hopeful template for change where neighbors, by the power of their love and caring, are a powerful asset in strengthening our social safety net.

Is this your first book?

No, I have co-authored two others.

What prompted you to write the book?

I wrote this book for three reasons. First, I wanted to honor the founding seniors, parents and children of Hope Meadows who, through their compelling stories of day-to-day life in this community during my tenure there, provide a humane community response to an intractable social problem. They are true heroes who provide a compelling vision for a compassionate America.

Second, I wanted “Neighbors” to bring the lessons of Hope Meadows into today’s world to address in a new and innovative way (Intentional Neighboring) how to support the wellbeing of certain populations — foster children and their families, for instance, or vets, people living with developmental disabilities, or seniors. But I also wanted the reader to realize this same model creates a lifestyle of meaningful and connected living for all of us — and the sense of belonging so many of us seek.

Third, it is my hope that policy makers, program planners and service system designers who read this book and embrace this idea will find a new tool at their disposal — the power of the people next door.

Did having more time on your hands due to the pandemic play any role in your decision to write the book?

No. Most of the book was written by the time the pandemic started. The pandemic, however, did reveal not only how support systems are breaking down, but also the importance of relationships to our wellbeing, both of which are at the heart of this book. To strengthen our country’s social safety net we must come to appreciate that the people next door can be as powerful as professionals in addressing serious social problems.

Sidenote: The book has been endorsed by Lesley Stahl of “60 Minutes.”

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Cinda Bauman of Mahomet

Title: “Only My Horses Know

Genre: Middle-grade novel

Twelve-year-old Kylie has grown up helping her mom train horses on their Montana ranch. When mom’s illness and odd behavior worry and embarrass her, she confides in her horses because she is afraid to tell even her best friend.

Is this your first book?

“Only My Horses Know” is my first published novel. I started writing it many years ago, learning as I wrote and rewrote and rewrote. Thanks to my great critique group and help from other writers, I never gave up on this story. It is the first of three in the Hope and Horses series.

What prompted you to write the book?

I’ve dreamed of writing and illustrating children’s picture books for years. I’m a self-taught, inexperienced artist, so I knew the chances of that were like winning the lottery. But I loved playing with stories and illustrations. I guess I just wondered if I could also write a novel, so I came up with a character and started putting scenes together, of course missing the most important part — a plot. I enjoyed horse stories growing up, so I knew I wanted horses in the story. Then while watching an old medical series called “ER,” I wondered what one of the character’s lives would have been like as a child. I found my plot. I would tell my version of her story.

Did having more time on your hands due to the pandemic play any role in your decision to write the book?

The pandemic didn’t play a part of me deciding to write this book, but it sure helped with rewriting (again) and creating my first cover art. Gaining nearly an hour from not having to make a round-trip commute everyday, and lunches and breaks right next to my laptop and my art room while working from home have been a huge help.

Our County Editor

Dave Hinton is editor of The News-Gazette's Our County section and former editor of the Rantoul Press. He can be reached at dhinton@news-gazette.com.

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