Way back in January, 2000 we convened a panel of science fiction mavens to share their forward-looking impressions on how futuristic and imaginative writing would fare now that the 21st century had actually come into view. Whatever other observations they might have propounded that afternoon, the one certainty was that our newly-established "forum for writers from our region" would have a future of its own. The program was called OFF THE PAGE and it gave time and space for authors and ideas, and an opportunity for listeners to ask questions and add their comments. We usually spend an hour (well, 53 minutes actually) with an individual writer, plenty of time for the conversation to be deep or expansive or playful, or all of the above.
So a retrospective is due. We don't have time for all the authors who have visited WSKG, but this anniversary special is a sampler of memorable moments and a review current literary activity in the Southern Tier. Selected from among more than 200 broadcasts in the series, the program includes:
- Kevin Maney, a native Binghamtonian who now writes on technology for Conde Nast Portfolio. He was one of the first to have access to the personal papers of IBM founder Thomas Watson, Sr. Maney's "The Maverick and his Machine", evokes the glory days of IBM in the Triple Cities, the growth of an industrial giant and the boy from rural Steuben County who rose to be the highest-paid executive in the United States.
- Tina Field Howe lives in Corning and is both a writer and an artist. Her book "Alysa of the Fields" was the first in a series for young readers and is part fantasy/science fiction and part coming-of-age story in a world called Xunar-kun. "Alysa of the Fields" was one of three books featured on OFF THE PAGE to be highlighted in an on-line summer reading feature by National Public Radio and those books can be found here.
- Michael Blaine lives in Delaware County, far from the gritty 1890's of New York City that is the setting for his powerful novel "The Midnight Band of Mercy". This fictional adventure of a freelance reporter was written following extensive research, including perusal of the popular newspapers of the day.
- Rev. Victor Achima Owan is a Catholic priest from Nigeria who was among the third-world clergy assigned to an American parish (in his case, St. Mary's in Oneonta) by a church suffering a shortage of native-born prelates. Father Owan documented his experiences in upstate New York in "A Handbook on Cultural Shock", a book that is insightful, inspiring and frequently hilarious.
The record-holder for the greatest number of phone calls and e-mails received on one OFF THE PAGE program is technical writer Dave Dowling from Owego, author of "The Wrong Word Dictionary". It is a book that was clearly needed, listing 2,000 of the most commonly confused words in the English language (discriminate/distinguish, blatant/flagrant...).
The tragic fate of the Pontic Greek people wasn't widely known until Broome County resident Thea Halo wrote about her mother's experience during the second decade of the 20th century in "Not Even My Name". Her book is both a history of genocide and a personal memoir, for she and her mother journeyed to Turkey to seek the location of her obliterated village. Sano Halo, now 98 years old, joined our discussion on the phone.
Many poets have appeared on OFF THE PAGE during these past nine years. Two of the best were Liz Rosenberg of Binghamton and Jay Leeming of Ithaca, who appeared jointly (and meeting for the first time) during April 2004 to say their poems and discuss with callers the hard work of writing a good poem.