The Next Big Thing Blog Tour

The “Next Big Thing” is a global blog tour to showcase authors and illustrators across the globe and their current work. I was tagged by the delightful Pittsburgh writer, Kate Dopirak, author of numerous personal essays and the forthcoming You Are My Boo from Beach Lane Books. http://www.katedopirak.com/214/
I’ve chosen to answer the suggested questions, but I don’t think others must follow this pattern. And my most recent sales are not book-length works, but a personal essay to Cicada magazine, How to be Blind, coming out in the September/October, 2013 issue, and an article entitled, Ten Writing Lessons from Disability, to be published soon in The Children’s Writer. Here are two other personal essays, recently published:
Risking Absurdity http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/opinion/perspectives/first-person-risking-absurdity-656394/
Rscued: A bus Driver Saved Me http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/opinion/perspectives/saturday-diary-rescued-a-bus-driver-saved-me-a-blind-woman-whod-lost-her-way-676518/
Now to the questions:
1. What is the working title of my next book?
What the Thunder Said: Blind Tom: First African-American Musical Super Star
2. Where did the idea come from for this book?
My husband found an article about Thomas Greene Wiggins in a PMLA journal. Though the article would turn out to be full of errors and myths about Blind Tom, i.e., that he only had a 100-word vocabulary, for instance, it hooked me; I wanted to know more about this historic person.
3. What genre?
Nonfiction biography—middle grade
4. What actor would I choose to play the character of Blind Tom in a movie?
As someone blind for over 40 years, this is probably not my best question to field. Still I, ahem, do “listen” to movies all the time, but because I’m substantially deaf, I don’t even get all the audio. Nevertheless somehow, despite these limitations, I’ve lusted after Denzel Washington, although I don’t think he’s tall enough for me! But Blind Tom wasn’t ever portrayed as exactly sexy, so that rules out Denzel. He was African-American, so that rules out Tom Hanks, who otherwise would do a very good Blind Tom. So I’m thinking that Jamie Foxx might be the one I’d tag. And I’d definitely want Tommy Lee Jones to play his slave master, General James Neal Bethune.
5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of the book?
This is the biography of the rise to fame of Thomas Greene Wiggins, 1849-1908, who was blind, autistic, and enslaved, yet rose to become the first African-American musical super star.
6. Who is publishing your book?
Ah, alas. At the moment it is at Charlesbridge books in Watertown, Ma. Please keep your fingers crossed.
7. How long did it take to write your draft?
I am probably still writing it. And like the Laura Bridgman book before it, She Touched the World: Laura Bridgman: Deaf-Blind Pioneer, 2008, Clarion, I think I’ll be still writing Blind Tom’s story in the nursing home. I tell my husband, “If I ever talk of writing another biography, shoot me.”
8. What books would you compare yours to?
At the risk of sounding self-promoting, She touched the World. But I like to think it compares to Phillip Hoose’s Twice Toward Justice or my friend Vaun Nelson’s Bad News for Outlaws.
9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
My husband Bob. Not only did he give me the idea, but his academic mind and positive outlook made me believe that I, and adventitious reader who came to loving mental and intellectual challenge in my adult blindhood, could tackle something as daunting and rigorous as a biography.
10. What else about the book might pique a reader’s interest?
Blind Tom was so complex and controversial. On the one hand, he raised millions of dollars for the Confederacy, despite being a slave, and on the other hand, he inspired and was a hero to W.C. Handy, father of the blues, and other African-Americans, because he jumped all the Jim Crow laws restraining them.

For the next “Next Big Thing” by July 22, please look at my friend, Liz Jones’ blog, http://lizjonesbooks.livejournal.com

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About Sally Hobart Alexander

Blinded at the age of twenty-six, I left California and elementary school teaching for life in Pittsburgh, Pa. There, I met my husband, got a Masters' degree in social work, had two kids, now 35 and 32, and became a writer. Surprisingly, the writing career led me full-circle to teaching, and I teach in Chatham University's M.F.A. program and lead two writing critique groups. Always, since the age of 26, I have traveled, not in the stereotypic darkness attributed to blindness, but a mist. My blog then, "traveling through the mist" will deal with issues in my culturally different life as a blind writer, teacher, speaker, and human being.
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