October 5, 2005: Headlines: COS - India: Writing - India: Buffalo News: Meet India RPCV Nancy Farmer, author of "The Ear, the Eye and the Arm'

Peace Corps Online: Directory: India: Peace Corps India: The Peace Corps in India: October 5, 2005: Headlines: COS - India: Writing - India: Buffalo News: Meet India RPCV Nancy Farmer, author of "The Ear, the Eye and the Arm'

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Meet India RPCV Nancy Farmer, author of "The Ear, the Eye and the Arm'

Meet India RPCV Nancy Farmer, author of The Ear, the Eye and the Arm'

Her own life has been filled with adventure. As a young woman, she joined the Peace Corps and went to India, where she taught chemistry and ran a chicken farm. Later she "caught a freighter to Africa in search of romance and adventure" and ended up staying there for 17 years. She now lives in California.

Meet India RPCV Nancy Farmer, author of "The Ear, the Eye and the Arm'

Adventure calls!

Meet Nancy Farmer, author of "The Ear, the Eye and the Arm'

NeXt Editor

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Author Nancy Farmer has a taste for adventure - whether she's writing about Viking raids on England in "The Sea of Trolls" or three kids endangered by a Mask gang in Africa in "The Ear, the Eye and the Arm" (this fall's choice for the NeXt Book Club).

Her own life has been filled with adventure. As a young woman, she joined the Peace Corps and went to India, where she taught chemistry and ran a chicken farm. Later she "caught a freighter to Africa in search of romance and adventure" and ended up staying there for 17 years. She now lives in California.

"The Ear, the Eye and the Arm" is the thrilling story of three children - 13-year-old Tendai, 11-year-old Rita and 4-year-old Kuda - who leave their protected home in Zimbabwe, Africa, in the year 2194 and are kidnapped and forced to work in a plastics mine. Their parents hire three unusual detectives - the Ear, the Eye and the Arm - to track them down. (The detectives are mutants and each has a special ability: Ear can hear an ant creeping on a sugar bowl, Eye can see a flea on a hawk's feathers, Arm can read people's minds.)

During their adventure, the children end up in a place called Resthaven, a walled-off sanctuary where Africans observe the old ways. They later find themselves the prisoners of a woman named Mrs. Horsepool Worthingham, who serves them stale crackers with fish paste and locks Kuda up in a contraption called a Kiddie Koop.

NeXt was able to interview Farmer by e-mail about the book and about her other award-winning novels for young people including "The House of the Scorpion," "A Girl Named Disasters" and her newest book, "The Sea of Trolls," a thrilling story of a brother and sister kidnapped during Viking raids on England.

What do you like about writing for kids?

They are open-minded, adventurous and like to have fun.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

No, I wanted to study animals like Jane Goodall, but I lacked her drive. I fell into writing after being trapped at home with no job and a small child.

What are you working on now?

A sequel to "The Sea of Trolls" called "The Silver Apples."

How did you end up in Africa?

It was easy getting to Africa. All I needed was a ticket and some traveler's checks. Getting out of Africa was much harder and took 17 years.

What inspired you to write "The Ear, the Eye and the Arm?"

I was writing, off and on, for a publisher of African children's books. My job was to provide things they would read willingly, and they liked science fiction a lot. The original characters came to me in a dream. Occasionally, while I was writing the novel, characters appeared in dreams and told me what to write the next day.

You create a very real fantasy world in your books. Is that hard to do?

Not at all. I live in those fantasies so my readers can, too.

In "The Ear, the Eye and the Arm," Resthaven offers a look back at Africa in the past, but it has lots of negatives about it. What made you decide to offer both past and future in this book?

Resthaven is the African Dream, what Africans like to think of as their golden age. But they forget that this golden age contained things they can no longer tolerate in real life.

The book offers a frightening picture of Zimbabwe's future. Have you been back to Africa in recent years and do you think your dark visions are coming true?

You have hit on the most important theme of the book. The Spirit of Zimbabwe was under attack from the Masks, alien spirits who intended to devour it. This has happened. Zimbabwe is falling apart. The most disturbing developments are a breakdown of the family (due to AIDS), hordes of feral children with no guidance from elders, and a willingness to hurt old people. This is behavior completely at odds with traditional culture, and is a sign that the country is dying.

Does anyone actually use a Kiddie Koop to lock up children?

My mother used one to lock me up. It was based on the Skinner Box of psychology and was very trendy in the '30s and '40s. And yes, it was called the Kiddie Koop. After my sister grew up, she chopped ours into little bits and burned it.

You create some really interesting villains in your books. Do you like to create villains that maybe aren't all that bad? Do you have a favorite?

The minute you start getting into a villain's head, you start understanding him or her. This means you can't have someone who is completely evil. My favorite villain is El Patron (from "House of the Scorpion"), who is a portrait of my mother.

Your books win lots of prizes, but you don't seem to be as famous as some other children's authors. Why is that?

I'm probably not famous because I don't do the marketing many authors do. I hate crowds and being the center of attention.

Is it true that "The Sea of Trolls" was partially inspired by the Sept. 11 attacks?

Like everyone else, I was shocked by the Sept. 11 attack. Then I saw writers cashing in on it, going over and over the tragedy, and inviting children to relive it. This, I felt, was disgusting. I saw children being taught suffering, helplessness and guilt. What they should be learning is confidence, self-reliance, courage and patriotism. So, yes, I looked back to a similar shocking attack and had my characters emerge triumphant.

Do you ever change gears when you are writing a book, and it ends up somewhere you didn't expect?

All the time.

Do you ever scare yourself with your imagination?

Never. But I enjoy scaring other people.



This is your chance to read a great book, write a short review and have it published in NeXt. To be part of the NeXt Book Club, all you do is read Nancy Farmer's "The Ear, The Eye and the Arm," write your review (150 words maximum) and e-mail it to next@buffnews.com by Oct. 20.

Or mail the review to:

NeXt Book Club/Buffalo News/P.O. Box 100/Buffalo, N.Y. 14240.

IMPORTANT: Include your name, age, home address (include town and zip code), phone number and school. We'll print the most interesting reviews in NeXt. All who send reviews will be eligible for a random drawing for prizes including movie passes, NeXt T-shirts and books.

When this story was posted in October 2005, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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Story Source: Buffalo News

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - India; Writing - India


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