Douglas Arvidson is a past winner of the WICE/Paris Transcontinental International Short Story competition. His short fiction has been published in Paris, Prague, and in literary magazines in the United States and he was recently invited to be a staff writer for the Prague Revue, a cutting-edge, online literary journal ( The novels in his fantasy series, The Eye of the Eye of Stallion, include The Face in Amber, The Mirrors of Castaway Time, and A Drop of Wizard's Blood. His new novel, Brothers of the Fire Star, was selected as a finalist in the ForeWord Reviews 2012 Book of the Year national awards and as a finalist in three categories in the 2013 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards: Action Adventure Fiction, Historical Fiction, and Young Adult Fiction. It has become part of the pantheon of Pacific literature and is now included in school literature programs. Brothers of the Fire Star is an adventure story set in the Pacific during World War II and concerns two boys of different races and cultures who escape the island of Guam in a small sailboat when the Japanese army invades. They must then struggle to survive as they master the secrets of the ancient Pacific navigators. Appropriate for young adults as well as adult readers, Brothers of the Fire Star is available on Barnes & Noble, ( and Visit the author's website:

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Talking About Writing and Life to Kids in Prison: How to Make Money and Be Famous by Telling Great Lies

We are all in prisons of our own making.
I'm on the island of Guam for two months promoting my new novel and teaching middle and high school kids about writing. Yesterday I had an odd and powerful experience. I visited a youth detention center where I spoke to young offenders--10 to 16 years old--about my new novel, Brothers of the Fire Star.
To say they were a captive audience is too glib, too easy, so I'll say there were a wonderful audience. Whatever demons lurked behind the smiles and the innocent faces were well behaved and kept quiet. These prisoners, in for anything from vandalism to drugs to rape, were attentive, they were inquisitive, they were insightful. They looked just like all the other young teenagers I've been teaching the past two weeks in the public schools.
This is how it came down: A friend of mine had spent a career teaching reading to these corrupted youth. She recently retired but when I sent her a copy of my new novel, she read it and later told me, "I just knew I had to teach this book to these children. It is so relevant to their lives."
So she did just that--went back into the prison classroom. The kids reacted enthusiastically to the book and so she invited me in so they could meet the real author.  I did my usual presentation. We talked about fiction versus non-fiction, about what genre is, about how to be a good writer you need to be a good liar. They liked that. I asked how many liars where in the audience. Hands shot up. I said that those who didn't raise their hand were real liars. They laughed.
I showed them my short video clip of men sailing an outrigger canoe--a proa--out at sea and catching fish. I shared with them the wonderful news that they--every atom in their bodies--were made of star dust, that they are part of the Universe and the Universe is part of them. And then I showed them, via slides, how their ancestors used the stars and the sea and the sky to navigate across the vast Pacific Ocean.
We talked about the characters in the book, Joseph and Napu, about how they first hated each other and how they realized, finally, that they needed each other to survive but it took a hell of a fist fight to understand that. These kids relate to this: fighting to survive.
When I was finished, I was left with the good feeling teachers sometimes get and writers, too: that I maybe I had made a difference in a young life, that some few of the corrupted can be uncorrupted, that there is hope.

Note: My new novel, Brothers of the Fire Star, is available on I am now a regular contributor to The Prague Revue an online literary journal:


1 comment:

  1. Thank you for posting this blog. You have validated my teaching yet again. In every troubled youth there is a child. They make their choices, but still need guidance and someone who cares. There is still hope, for as long as they are in our care or under our tutelage, that at some point something will "click" and even if they are not fully redeemed, they will at least glimpse a possibility of what life could be like if they choose a different path than the one they believe is set before them.

    Your novel shows these boys their history, their culture, their heritage. Some of them might have lost sight of that, and "Brothers of the Fire Star" gives them a doorway to a new path.