By ANGIE CARNATHAN
Ackerman High School graduate Serina “Shuntel” Bowlin recently had her first children’s book published and will sign copies of it today at the Book Mart on Main Street beginning at 1 p.m.
In high school, Bowlin said she was known as “Shuntel Cork.” She is a 1997 graduate of Ackerman High. Bowlin said she left Ackerman after graduation and served as an Army reservist for five years; she served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and married her high school sweetheart, Michael Holt Bowlin. Bowlin went on to receive her educator’s license from Mississippi University for Women and began her career as a teacher.
According to a release, “Wandering Sam” tells the story of a lonely squirrel who begins a trek through the forest to find friends. Bowlin said she wrote the story for young children up to the second grade level, and the text of “Wandering Sam” flows smoothly in rhymes, generating enthusiasm in the children that read it.
Bowlin said she is not the only local involved in the project.
“I interviewed multiple artists to illustrate ‘Wandering Sam’ and hired Brian Thrasher,” Bowlin said. Thrasher lives in Starkville and attended Starkville High School.
Bowlin said as a schoolteacher and mother of three children, she understands children’s needs for imagination and creativity.
“I was inspired by my children, Jordyn, Dallas and Mackenzie to begin writing children’s books,” Bowlin said. “As a mother and an educator, I try to teach children to appreciate themselves, to be confident and to enjoy life each day.”
Sydney Simpson Pettit, also an Ackerman High graduate, said she was given a pre-release sample to read to her children.
“My children loved ‘Wandering Sam,’” Pettit said. “Its rhythmic verse enthralled my 2-year-old, and the lesson the book provided about the value of friendship made me just as happy.”
Bowlin said her longtime friend and classmate, Kimberly Carlisle Coghlan, serves as her literary agent.
“This is a dream come true,” Bowlin said. “It’s no coincidence that Kim became a literary agent. I still can’t believe we found each other after all these years. I know this is God’s will.”
Bowlin said she hopes to bring positive publicity to Choctaw County and Ackerman.
“It was a great place to grow up,” Bowlin said.
According to the release, Strategic Book Group offered Bowlin a publishing contract last year. SBG has published approximately 3,000 authors with almost 100 new releases per month. “Wandering Sam” is available for purchase for $9.97.
On Sunday, from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m., the Book Mart will participate in Sunday’s “Brunch and Browse” by having two popular local authors back for book signings.
Starkville native Nancy Dorman-Hicks will be sign the book she helped Joanne King Herring co-author, Herring’s biography, “Diplomacy and Diamonds: My Wars from the Ballroom to the Battlefield.” The book tells the life story of Herring, the Texas socialite portrayed by Julia Roberts in the movie “Charlie Wilson’s War.”
A former editor at Southern Living and Progressive Farmer magazines, Dorman-Hickson graduated from Starkville Academy in 1978 and from the MSU Department of Communications in 1982. She worked with Herring for two years to complete “Diplomacy and Diamonds.”
“I think Southerners are much more open; we’re much more empathic with people, and that’s why I believe I was able to find her voice,” Dorman-Hickson said. “I believe that God has given me the gift of being able to talk to people and really listen –– to have a conversation with someone and articulate what it is others want people to know about themselves. And I’m very thankful for that gift.”
Publisher’s Weekly described the book as “an account of (Herring’s) three marriages, experiences with wealth and poverty, steadfast faith, and role in America’s covert aid to Afghanistan during the Cold War … Herring, a natural storyteller, offers reminisces of a life well-lived, as well as many press clippings … A deeply fascinating woman, Herring manages to live her faith without being overbearing in her dogma. Readers interested in the rich, famous and politically influential will love every minute.”
Also in attendance on Sunday will be MSU graduate Stuart Vance, a former Starkville Rotary Club president, who has written a book titled “Aviation in the Golden Triangle.” The book traces the often unknown history of the area’s many contributions to aviation, beginning with WWI right up to the latest unmanned aircraft. He will sign his book today and said the book is ideal for anyone who loves airplanes, American history and the Golden Triangle. Vance said his own interest in aviation in the Golden Triangle began in the early 1960s when he was an early proponent and supporter of the Golden Triangle Regional Airport. He was a founding commissioner of the airport and represented the city of Starkville on the board for 42 years.
For more information on the book signing, call Book Mart & Cafe at 662-323-2844 or visit the store located at 120 E. Main St. in Starkville.