Wednesday, July 17, 2024

 bill berry, jr.

Publisher and CEO, aaduna &
Member, Rockford Kingsley's Advisory Board
Ami M. Danett

"If I could share anything more with you and your readers, it would be the same that I tell my students on the last day of class. Keep reading, keep writing, keep dreaming. Never be afraid to share yourself with others - more often than not, you will find a kindred spirit. When we say that we are trying to make the world a better place, that means that we don’t see that it is already a wonderful place – we are the ones that must become better in order to recognize and embrace that. Don’t wait too long for “someday” because not that long ago today was “someday.”



Visit aaduna's Web Site

and Read

Ami M. Danett's Essay

Titled: I Am White 

Which Appeared In

 Winter 2012 Issue 








Interview With Ami M. Danett 
bill berry, jr.

Ami Danett is in a committed relationship and regards herself as being old enough to know better, but still young enough to want to try.  She hints at being in her mid-thirties with one younger brother.  Interestingly, her children are four-legged and fuzzy.  She describes them as one regular cat, one obese cat, one Labrador and then there is that one fish.  She enjoys reading just about anything; writes mostly fiction and listens to music.  She is a classically trained violinist who dabbles in fiddle music.  Her other interests cover a wide range of areas: the American Civil war, classic cars, fine wines (she is epicurean in general), boating, spending time with friends and finding new hobbies and interests.  Ms. Danett believes in making the most out of life!  She currently resides in South Florida.        


Ami, thank you for taking the time to chat with me since I suspect people want to know more about you and what motivates your writing and sensibilities.  Start us off by talking about your childhood, how you grew up, and share one “growing-up” memory that you still fondly cherish.      
Thank you for your time, Bill. I am very excited to be a part of aaduna.
I started this journey in Ohio, and then my family moved to Colorado when I was seven. I had a great childhood, although if you asked me at the time, I had lots of worries. Such is the way of it. I grew up in the suburbs of Denver and lived there until I went away to college and then subsequently moved to Florida. I don’t believe that there is anything remarkable or different about my childhood. In fact, I am grateful that I had a comfortable home, family, friends, and a good education. We spent summers traveling throughout Colorado when we could. When I was in the mountains with my family (even with my stinky little brother), I was the happiest.
As far as my fondest childhood memories, though, those are the memories in which I was with either my dad or my grandfather. They are my first true loves, and they taught me how to love life and everyone in it.
As far as a particular memory, though, I do have one from a long time ago when we still lived in Ohio. My grandfather’s house was on a hill covered with a forest. There were neighbors nearby, but not on top of each other as we often are today. One of his neighbors had blackberry bushes on his property and told my grandfather to have as many of the berries as he liked. I remember one day that my whole family walked through the woods to his neighbor’s to pick blackberries. We may not have spent more than an hour or so, but to a four to five-year old, it was the whole afternoon. I think I ate as many as I picked. We had such fun doing this simple task. When we went back to the house, my grandmother made blackberries and cream for us. She also made a cobbler for dessert that night. We spent the evening after dinner as we always did, sitting on the porch in the dark, smelling the woods mingle with my grandfather’s pipe, and listening to the sun set in the forest. My grandfather would tell stories of the war, or of Indian folklore, about our family, or tell jokes, and then go back and forth with my grandmother about the details and who actually remembered it correctly.
I know this is very simple and perhaps not the stuff of a best-seller, but I am sure that many people’s fondest memories are like that. Our lives have become so busy and complicated and dictated by technology that I try to remember every moment that I can that life is about being with the people who are with you in the now, not ignoring them to send a text to someone else.
I suspect you are put off by the incessant need of some people to text or use a cell phone regardless of the context they might be in with another person or situation. Is this just bad manners or something deeper within society’s psyche?  
Ah, I wish that my students were as astute as you are.
I have heard it said that Narcissus did not keep looking in the mirror because he was vain; he kept doing it to make sure that he still existed.
Our world is becoming increasingly regulated, overpopulated, and impersonal. There is no better way to make sure that you still exist than to send a note out into the universe and have that tangible vibration or chime in response. It doesn’t really matter from whom or what it says, really. It need only acknowledge you. If our phones stopped buzzing, the world would forget about us. We would cease to be.
I feel also that there is a root of this behavior that is as simple as Pavlov. A bell rings and the brain reacts, causing voluntary and involuntary responses. A phone rings, the brain is immediately disconnected from the surrounding environment, and the instant motor reaction is to reach for the phone to answer the text, no matter what. That behavior has never been curbed. I have started to ask my students if they realize what they are doing when I see them reach for the phone and answer their texts. Many of them don’t even have enough cognizance of their actions to hide them from me (or perhaps they don’t care, branching into the question of manners). From their responses, I have gathered that for the most part they really don’t have the conscious thought of “I just received a text, but I am in class. I shouldn’t answer it, but I am going to ignore that and answer anyway.” As with any population, there are those that do ignore their texts and then there are those that are consciously answering and ignoring my request and good manners in general, but for the most part, I have gathered that it is compulsive and largely an involuntary and only partially conscious reaction.
We no longer program our technology, it has programmed us – the tail is wagging the dog.
I wouldn’t necessarily say that incessant texting and calling is aggravating “regardless of the context,” because there are times when it is necessary, convenient, or more efficient. I would argue, however, that our society has an addiction to their gadgets and it is certainly exacerbating other issues that are of concern. Yes, there is an element of bad manners, but it goes further into learned social behavior, communication, and mental capabilities. As an educator, I can see first-hand the effects that technology has on the mind, and I have gathered that there is a growing sense of alarm among a number of my colleagues and in the field in general that for all the benefits that technology has, overuse of it is compromising our intelligence.
My students were perhaps eight or nine when the technological communication revolution started. Those are naturally very formative years. They do not remember a time without cell phones, the internet, and texting. It may not be that they don’t know any “better,” it might be more that they don’t know anything else. Because of this, educators at all levels are especially challenged in reaching students. From my personal experience, I find that some students have difficulty forming and expressing complete thoughts (verbally or in writing), they don’t contribute to class conversation and if they do, it often falters, they cannot focus or stay on topic, or they don’t know how to take a position and argue it effectively. Much of this, of course, can be expected to a point. They are still young and they are attending the university to learn these very things. I do, however, feel that the rudimentary elements of these skills should have been cultivated in them long before they reach a university classroom. They have spent their most formative years in an environment in which there is a constant distraction and cause for mental disconnection and that is harmful, especially for a young mind. They don’t know how to live in the now. They don’t know how to focus on what is really happening in the moment. Their reality is centered more in this “cloud” reality that they access through their technology.
It wouldn’t be as alarming if there was evidence that they would “grow out of it,” but I witness people of all ages engaging in this compulsive behavior. I could go on, but I am afraid that this simple response would turn into an exhaustive psycho-analysis of modern social behavior. I shall leave it at this for now and put the idea on my “to do” list.
And as much of you that your response reveals and the temptation to delve even deeper, I’ll move on…somewhat.  From the perspective that you just shared, where and how do the Humanities fit in within such a technological world?  How did folks of your generation create or craft appropriate niches to handle such a machine driven society (or maybe they have not); am I sounding somewhat alarmist?
I am somewhat of the wrong person to ask as my heart lies in medieval studies, mythology, and 19th century British Literature (among a number of other things). I am aware, however, of the exciting things going on in areas such as Cyborg Theory, Steampunk, and similar nascent areas. There is also a lot of activity in the field in exploring technology as a medium for creativity and a way to accelerate the spread of ideas, which is an enormous positive.
From the phrasing of your question, I gather that you would like to address the issue of the perspective that seems to be held by a majority of the population – that humanities and technology are mutually exclusive. Sadly, this is why funding is often pulled from the arts and directed toward the sciences. There seems to be a perception that only engineers, computer programmers, and mathematicians can come up with the technology of tomorrow that will keep our country on the cutting edge. This is not to say that this is not true to some extent, nor am I saying that science-minded people have no imagination. I do feel, however, that we have forgotten that the ideas of the humanities often pave the way for the realities of the future. Knowledge of and participation in the humanities cultivates technological minds. The reverse is true as well. Knowing what is being done in science and technology and how it is done makes a great foundation for incorporation into works of art that take those ideas further and suggest what else might be possible. I believe that this illustrates the beauty and the importance of the humanities – they can have a firm grasp on the past and its importance, but also be part of the very cutting edge of the present. They also play a large part in shaping the future, whether we realize it or not.
Consider not only the effects of Star Trek, Star Wars, and the like of recent history, but also the work of Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Mary Shelley, and even more going back through the history of science fiction and fantasy. Many of these writers foresaw the possibilities of imagination paired with science and some of their visions have become reality. Today’s technology is inspiring our artists, and those artists are imagining things that inventors will make into tomorrow’s reality.
As Sinatra said, “you can’t have one without t’other,” and this certainly applies to the humanities and the sciences.
Your response brought several things to mind in a much broader sense.  I am reminded what some innovative chefs are doing with culinary arts by incorporating science and technology into creating a different perspectives on food preparation and what we eat.  However, I need to stay focused.  How does your interest in myths and those things medieval shape your writing?  Were you born in the wrong time?  [I just thought about Woody Allen’s last movie, “Midnight in Paris” about a writer existing in the wrong time and space.]
I have been hearing a lot about “Midnight in Paris,” and it is on my list to watch someday when I have this thing called “free time,” whatever that is. I am a Woody Allen fan, so that will tell you a lot about me right there. I am also a fan of food (as noted by “epicurean” above). I am fascinated by the considerations that go into culinary arts and how it works on multiple levels as an experience, not just making something to eat. I am also interested in food preparation as a cultural expression and experience. A lot can be learned about people by experiencing what they eat and how – this ties to ritual, which is also very enlightening. I’m sure this sounds as if I analyze everything I do, but I am into dining for the joy of the experience and the camaraderie of the people that I experience it with (which is perhaps more important than anything else!).
There have been some points in my life when I may have felt that I was in the wrong time, but as I get older, I know that such a thought is based on a personal perception of an ideal. I am grateful to live in a time and place in which there is air conditioning, hot showers, a grocery down the street, available medical care, and that I can have an advanced education, a voice, and the freedom to make my life whatever it is that I wish. That doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy flights of fancy and wish that I could step into the worlds that I read and write about, but considering the options, I know that I have what many others dream about (past and present) in their turn, and I recognize that.
It is very easy to wish to physically experience the times and places that we read about, but even if they are based in the “real” world, it is still fiction. That is not to say that we shouldn’t entertain those fantasies; in fact, I feel that it is necessary for us to do so. If you or your readers are interested, I highly recommend reading J.R.R. Tolkien’s essay “On Fairy-Stories” which started as his contribution to the Andrew Lang series of lectures at the University of St. Andrews in 1939. The book version edited by Verlyn Flieger and Douglas A. Anderson is particularly well done. Among other things, Tolkien laments the fact that fantasy has been relegated to the nursery and dismissed by adults. He argues that fantasy is very much an important part of life for all ages and is necessary for cultural and personal identity and expression. This is not speaking of the “bang-wow” version of fantasy that we have in today’s movies. That is largely a medium for displaying really neat visual effects, not so much a platform for the deeper elements that myth and fantasy embody.
This might seem to be a digression, but I am addressing your first question. My interest in medievalism is a specific point of focus that holds personal appeal, but it is part of the larger context of my interest in the human narrative. I am fascinated by the myths and stories that accompany belief systems and the fact that many of them are essentially the same narratives despite thousands of years of history and physical distance between them. There is something in myth structures that is essential to the human psyche. If the story that is within a writer taps into that, they likely have the potential to record a good story. This doesn’t only apply to fantasy, either. Myth may be a bit harder to find in other genres, especially modern/post-modern works, but it is actually alive and well; it is just not so obvious, perhaps.
The work that I submitted to aaduna, for example, has a post-modern structure, but it addresses the myth of race, social constructions, and human relationships predicated on physical appearance. It is attempting to show that collective acceptance and adherence to this myth makes for a very concrete reality that is doing nothing more than reinforcing the myth. Myth is meme theory in action and I find it fascinating. I find that my fiction works tend to explore what existence would look like without certain prevailing (and oftentimes flawed) memes and my non-fiction wants to dig to the roots of those memes to find out where they started, why it is that they persist, how they have evolved, and what other memes they have perhaps replaced through time. Essentially, I’m the little kid that never learned to stop asking “Why?” over and over. It so much more satisfying to keep searching for answers than to just accept the first answer that is given.
So, what specific style genre does most of your writing fall into, and if you had to evaluate your work, what would that critical analysis tell us? 
At the moment, my work falls into scholarly non-fiction, but that is out of necessity as all of it is for class requirements or inspired by class discussion. I do enjoy the scholarly work very much and plan to continue it as part of my career, but my heart is in fiction. The biggest work that I have completed is a science fiction piece that bridges over into fantasy (a la Piers Anthony in a way). My flashes of inspiration cover a broad range of genres. As with a lot of writers, it is hard to assign my work to a definitive genre as each piece has elements of other genres to some degree. The primary genres, though, tend to be science fiction, fantasy, romance, historical fiction, and military fiction.
I would be interested to see what critical analysis would say about my work. As the vessel for its manifestation, I am too close to it, so I don’t know that I could provide an objective analysis. I assume that you are curious as to what an analysis would say about me, which I would be interested to hear, but I would also like to see what an analysis by a follower of the school of New Criticism would say as well.
Taking a guess, though, I think (hope?) that an analysis of my work would reveal someone who values honor, love, courage, knowledge, equality, and who believes in the potential of all of these things that mankind holds collectively and in each individual. The issue and exploration lies in how we reach that potential and how they are something to be achieved and earned. They are not simply inherent or given to us and it is worth the struggle and the journey to earn them.
I feel that a lot of literature, truly great and powerful literature, addresses these very things. The fact that the works of Homer survive and are generally known attests to that. Why else would these themes exist through the history of literature and continue to this day? I am certainly not comparing myself to Homer or such writers, but it touches on the same things as I mentioned to answer your last question. There is something in the human psyche that needs to hear these things. We need heroic epics, we need the Romances, we need the fairy-tales, we need myth - we need fiction because it gives us hope about reality. We want to hear of those that have achieved great things and emulate them so that we can try to be just as noble.
In the past few years, writers who delve into fantasy/myth pieces have captivated the imagination of young people, as well as adults and have been enormously successful in a commercial vein along with some critical artistic merit.  I sense you are moving towards a scholarly career (college teaching and research) yet it appears that you also want to be prolific in terms of writing for a broader audience.  How far am I off base with your career trajectory?
That pretty much sums it up, Bill! I am interested in a lot of things and I would like to be versatile in my work. I would like to balance the work that I do between academia and commercial fiction. I do my best to blend the two when I can, adding intellectual ethos to my fiction and adding the flavor of fiction to my scholarly works. It is something I am in the process of learning and developing. I admire authors that write in such a manner. I find that their work is fulfilling to me as a reader. I would like to create the same feeling in my readers. If my readers can have fun reading, but come away from it having learned something, I would find that satisfying and I would feel as if I had done some good with what I do. 
I suspect you will do more than good!  Well, it has been a real pleasure chatting with you.  Thank you for taking the time and for all of your sharing.  In closure, do you have any words of wisdom that you want to share with the Rockford Kingsley readership?
It has been a pleasure, Bill. I look forward to hearing about all of the exciting things that aaduna will be doing. I appreciate the opportunity that you have given me by sharing my story and our conversation with your readers.
If I could share anything more with you and your readers, it would be the same that I tell my students on the last day of class. Keep reading, keep writing, keep dreaming. Never be afraid to share yourself with others - more often than not, you will find a kindred spirit. When we say that we are trying to make the world a better place, that means that we don’t see that it is already a wonderful place – we are the ones that must become better in order to recognize and embrace that. Don’t wait too long for “someday” because not that long ago today was “someday.”
I wish all of you the very best.
Copyright 2015 by Rockford Kingsley Ltd.