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:


A Day Off In Paradise: Re-reading THE HOBBIT

Under the lanai: I sat here today and watched butterflies, the breeze in the palm trees, flowers, and I got into THE HOBBIT
I decided to take a day off today--from writing, from sailing, from teaching, from book promotion. It's pretty warm and humid on Guam, but in this spot under the lanai, there is shade and a breeze, and so for the early parts of the day and into the first hours of the afternoon, it's a sweet spot to sit.
Hadn't read THE HOBBIT since I was in the Army back in 1969. I was in the Signal Corps and stationed in The Republic of China--Taiwan. After reading it, I started in on the rest of the series but gave up after two books of constant sameness--war and war and war. But THE HOBBIT was fun and it is now. It was cutting edge back then and it shows how derivative most fantasy is now: Full of dark lords and magic swords and ugly monstrous creatures. Not much new. But Tolkien started it all.
It's March 30th today. I've been away from my wife and home since the 4th and have moments of sadness and longing. Interesting experience. Like when I went away to Boy Scout camp for a week when I was a kid. Homesick, lovesick, whatever. But I've been working steadily. Sent another piece into the Prague Revue yesterday, this one an existential contemplation of knots. And I sold all the books my publisher sent here and I'm negotiating with someone who wants to be my representative here to get and keep the books in local shops/stores/museums/bookstores.
I've got two more school gigs left next week and I'm very glad to say I am enjoying teaching kids about writing. My break-through discovery: Kids love a good oral story teller.
In the end, I think I'm also discovering we need to escape our comfort zone now and then or we get soft, lose our edge. In a couple of weeks, I'll set out on a 42' sailboat for the 1,300-mile voyage to Cebu, Philippines. I'm dreading it/excited about it. Ten or more days at sea should get rid of the remnants of that comfort zone and then I can go back to my old life refreshed and hardened.

                 I'm living in a Garden of Eden, complete with serpents (brown tree snakes).
Note: I am now a monthly contributor to  THE PRAGUE REVUE. You can read my short stories and essays at: