Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Join The Coffee Pot Book Club in conversation with #YAHistoricalAdventure author, Tom Durwood #interview @TDurwood @cathiedunn

The Adventures of...
Ruby Pi and the Geometry Girls 
Ruby Pi and the Math Girls

The Math Girls

by Tom Durwood

Publication Date: December 22nd, 2022
Publisher: Empire Studies Press
Page Length: 147 Pages
Genre: YA Historical Adventure 

T H E   A D V E N T U R E S   O F

Ruby Pi and the
Math Girls

Young adult fiction featuring gambling, bandits, swordplay, probability and Bayes’ Theorem. An English teacher hopes to engage students with colorful STEM adventures.

In this outstanding collection, Tom addresses the chronic problem of our young women dropping out of STEM studies. His stories lend adventure to scientific thinking.

~ Tanzeela Siddique, Math Instructor

T H E   A D V E N T U R E S   O F

Ruby Pi and the
Geometry Girls

A collection of adventure stories featuring young heroines at turning points in history who use math to solve colossal problems. 
Smart girls take on buried secrets, villains, tanks, mysteries, codes, and economics to save their people. “Stories, mystery and math go well together… a welcome addition.”

~ Jeannine Atkins, author of “Grasping Mysteries: Girls Who Loved Math”

Welcome to The Coffee Pot Book Club, Tom! We’re delighted you’re sharing a cup of nice, strong coffee or tea with us. ūüćĶ

Before we begin, please introduce yourself.

I’m a retired English teacher with a lifelong hobby of writing historical fiction.  

Nine years ago, teaching an 8:00 class of cadets at Valley Forge Military College, I had an acute heart episode. I remember my friend Jerry, the school chaplain, praying for me in the ambulance. I remember struggling to tell him, “I’ve had a good life,” so my kids would know. 

I am very lucky to be alive. Since that day, I have felt sure that it is my mission on earth to bring history to the rising tide of young people. Like my cadets, our students have never heard the story of the Maya codex, or Fordlandia, or the Chinese Famine of 1957. 

It is deeply satisfying for me to craft my odd little adventures around all these impossibly rich episodes. If it takes time for my readers to discover them, that’s okay too. Like my cadets, they will be more than amazed, if I can tell the stories correctly. 

Could you tell us a little about your novels, The Adventures of Ruby Pi and the Geometry Girls & The Adventures of Ruby Pi and the Math Girls? 

Yes, when I came across the mystifying and dramatic drop-off of female STEM students at age 14, this became my challenge. The idea was to write a handful of stories to capture in human terms the wonder of Bayes’ Rule, and the Pythagorean theorem, and the measurement of earth’s curvature. The fact that I know little math has not stopped me. 

The project got out of hand, and when I reached ten stories with nine different girl protagonists (Ruby appears twice), I paused and cut the collection into two volumes to post for readers. Cleverly, I have surrounded myself with very talented people like Sandra Uve (foreword), Mai Nguyen (illustrator), and book designer Ben Kelley. I think the resulting two volumes give readers fair value. 

When researching this theme, did you come upon any unexpected surprises?

Yes!! The true story of the tragic young French mathematician, Evariste Galois, who scribbled his best theories the night before he was killed in a duel at age 20, pointed the way for me. Combining human drama with mathematics can enhance both the math and the drama.    

You say you are keen for girls to get into STEM research and other sciences. Why are you so passionate about this subject in particular?

Because math and science are such difficult and such classic subjects, really. I felt that, if I could craft an honest story about a girl coming of age -- and using math to carve a place in the world for herself and her family -- it would be timelessly relevant. Tying my so-so writing talent to a universal set of rules is a positive.

A second reason for my tackling STEM topics is because I don’t understand them, and I want to.  

Does one of the main characters hold a special place in your heart? If so, why? 

I am deeply connected to each of these heroines. They are versions of my own kids. 

I have progressions of further adventures lined up for each of them!! Sophie from “Mean Girls,” for instance, will need more battlefield math to defeat Boche weaponry. The young Benin Architect must reach for ever-higher geometrics in order to defeat Queen Nala (and find love).  

Ruby is first among equals because I needed a single figure to tie together all of the collections. She lives at the nexus of rising and falling empire and the modern world.  Between her homeland of India and her new life in England, Ruby generates great plot and thematic possibilities.   

The Adventures of Ruby Pi and the Geometry Girls & The Adventures of Ruby Pi and the Math Girls are the first collections in your series. Are you planning any further titles?

Yes!! I have mapped out subsequent collections of historical adventures of Botany Girls, Chemistry Girls, Science Girls, Aviation Girls, and more. I hope to collaborate with other writers on these, editing some and writing some. As I look at the history of each discipline, key moments jump out. 

This is my way of narrativizing science. This is what I have to offer. 

A Ruby story will start each collection. 

And lastly, what are your current or upcoming writing projects about?

I hope the next year will see the completion of an epic, dark sequel to “The Boatman’s Daughter.” This is a decade-long project. Then there are two long-ish and complex stories, one for the Botany Girls collection and another for Aviation Girls, that I have not quite figured out (and plan to). They need to be deceptively simple on their surfaces.   

Thank you very much for this fascinating interview, Tom. We wish you much success with The Math Girls and the other exciting series you’ve planned.

Ruby Pi and the Geometry Girls

Ruby Pi and the Math Girls

Tom Durwood

Tom Durwood is a teacher, writer and editor with an interest in history. Tom most recently taught English Composition and Empire and Literature at Valley Forge Military College, where he won the Teacher of the Year Award five times. Tom has taught Public Speaking and Basic Communications as guest lecturer for the Naval Special Warfare Development Group at the Dam’s Neck Annex of the Naval War College.

Tom’s ebook Empire and Literature matches global works of film and fiction to specific quadrants of empire, finding surprising parallels. Literature, film, art and architecture are viewed against the rise and fall of empire. In a foreword to Empire and Literature, postcolonial scholar Dipesh Chakrabarty of the University of Chicago calls it “imaginative and innovative.” Prof. Chakrabarty writes that “Durwood has given us a thought-provoking introduction to the humanities.” His subsequent book “Kid Lit: An Introduction to Literary Criticism” has been well-reviewed. “My favorite nonfiction book of the year,” writes The Literary Apothecary (Goodreads).

Early reader response to Tom’s historical fiction adventures has been promising. “A true pleasure … the richness of the layers of Tom’s novel is compelling,” writes Fatima Sharrafedine in her foreword to “The Illustrated Boatman’s Daughter.” The Midwest Book Review calls that same adventure “uniformly gripping and educational … pairing action and adventure with social issues.” Adds Prairie Review, “A deeply intriguing, ambitious historical fiction series.”

Tom briefly ran his own children’s book imprint, Calico Books (Contemporary Books, Chicago). Tom’s newspaper column “Shelter” appeared in the North County Times for seven years. Tom earned a Masters in English Literature in San Diego, where he also served as Executive Director of San Diego Habitat for Humanity.

Two of Tom’s books, “Kid Lit” and “The Illustrated Boatman’s Daughter,” were selected “Best of the New” by Julie Sara Porter’s Bookworm  Book Alert

Social Media Links:

Website – The Math Girls

Twitter • Facebook • LinkedIn • Pinterest

Amazon Author Page • Goodreads

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