Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Spunky B.A. (Barbara) Binns Meets Health Challenges Head-On Through Attitude and Writing

B. A. (Barbara) Binns writes to attract and inspire young male readers with stories of “real boys growing into real men…and the people who love them.” This Chicago native graduated from Hyde Park High School and went on to receive advanced degrees from both Roosevelt and DePaul Universities, and then honed her writing skills at Chicago State University and Harper College. Ms. Binns finds writing a major exercise in self-discipline, and the perfect follow-up to her life as an adoptive parent and cancer survivor. She is a member of RWA (Romance Writers of America), the Chicago Writers Association, SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), ALAN (Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of NCTE) and YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association).
Website –

According to the Urban dictionary, (my favorite online resource) a spunky person is “somebody who has attitude, who has a presence,” and is “a cool and awesome person with lots of pizazz.”
Go figure.  
I only developed attitude and presence and pizazz after becoming a senior. No, I’m too cool and awesome to reveal my age. But I will give you a few of the accomplishments I made during those early, non-spunky years.
  • Master’s degrees in both Biochemistry from Michigan State University, and Computer Science from DePaul University in Chicago.
  • Raised a daughter unlucky enough to have both Bipolar disorder and Lymphedema in her left leg which left it permanently swollen.  (Look them up, neither is pretty and you have them for life) That combination produced a load of gray hairs on my head.
  • Retired early.
Retirement was supposed to give me extra time to relax.  Shortly after having being hospitalized with a heart problem,  I went hiking in Utah at Zion and Bryce canyons. A few years ago I had uterine cancer. Within two months after having my insides removed, I went cruising around Florida and the Caribbean and had to fight off alligators. (So what if the gater was small, they still have sharp teeth!) I do spend a lot of time at my local senior center, mostly volunteering to help out at the computer room – they actually think I know something (I’ve got them fooled).  I spend a lot of time sitting, but there is very little relaxation involved. Instead, I decided to exercise my creativity and became. First I became an author – I had my first book published in 2010; and then I decided to become a publisher. (Is there no end to my insanity? No, wait, that’s supposed to be spunkitude.)

Planes trains and Automobiles

 I used to be a homebody. Now I have to do a lot of traveling. In 2012 I spoke at the Illinois Reading Council in Springfield, IL, the Ohio Educational Media Library Association conference in Sandusky, OH, and the Indiana Library Federation in Indianapolis, IN.  I also made an appearance at the YALSA Literature Symposium in St. Louis, MO. This year I have been invited to speak at the Virginia Hamilton conference on diversity in literature at Kent, Ohio; at the NOLA Stars writers conference in Shreveport, LA, at the Romance Slam Jam conference in Milwaukee, WI, at the American Library Association summer conference in Chicago, Illinois, and the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents in Boston, Ma.  Talk about Planes, Trains, and Automobiles! But I get to speak about subjects near and dear to my heart: reaching out to reluctant readers and at-risk youth, and advocating for more diversity in literature.  One symptom of my spunkiness was becoming an outspoken advocate for causes I believe in. And I believe in youth and the future.

A new addition

All the traveling is complicated by the new addition to my home. I acquired a dog a month ago.
Note I say acquired. I did not buy her, nor was she a Christmas present. My adult niece got her from a shelter some months ago as a present for her daughter. Turns out the dog was a little too high-spirited for the girl. So my niece gifted the animal to her aunt, my sister. Who quickly decided taking care of a dog was more trouble than it was worth. She was on the verge of returning the dog to the shelter when I showed up for Christmas.
I took the dog home on a trial basis. It was supposed to be a one-week trial, but I knew as soon as I got her home she was mine.  Don’t get me wrong, she still has some adapting to do. She barks too much, pulls on the leash when we go for walks, and is a picky eater. But she likes to put her head in my lap, and licks at my face and begs me to scratch her ears before lying on the rug at my feet. I guess I’m keeping her.

Becoming my own boss

I am also keeping the company I started, AllTheColorsOfLove press, ( an ultra-small publisher with only one employee, me. I published two books in 2012 and—if I am exceptionally hard-working—will manage two more in 2013 in spite of everything else going on in my life.  The first book of 2013 came out Feb 1. Being God is my second “boy book;” yes, I’m spunky enough to think like a kid and write in the voice of a seventeen-year-old male. Being God is not about religion, but is all about a troubled boy struggling to find a future and re-connect with his family while dealing with his own drinking problem. And there is a little of me in the boy’s parents.
Okay, maybe more than a little.

Using my own life

My teen protagonist’s father and I are both ACOA (adult child of alcoholics). I too had to figure out how real parents react, because I never had a real role-model. I used that figure-things-out-as-you-go-along background to create Dwayne Kaplan, a successful businessman but problematic father who has trouble expressing his feelings for his child.  In his own words:
“Insanity of the mind doesn’t begin to cover the way I was. Am, still, really. I always believed that somehow I made my father drink because I wasn’t a better son. I grew up making excuses for him and doing his work because God forbid the poor man suffer the consequences of his actions. You’d think with my history, I’d have seen what was happening inside my house to my own son.” He sighs heavily. “For a long time I wasn’t sure I knew how to be a real son. Maybe that’s why I never learned how to be a real father.”
I heard someone say once that memoir writing was like cutting open a vein. Being God isn’t a memoir, but the blade I used while writing Being God was exceptionally well-honed. It hurt to write that story, but I’m glad I didn’t short-change the difficulties of the situation. And I listed many of the resources that helped me and my family in the book, hoping readers in need will reach out for help the way my protagonist had to learn to do.

About Being God

Seventeen-year-old Malik Kaplan is the bully of Chicago’s Farrington High School. Malik has a cross to bear, or maybe it’s a Star of David; being the black teenaged son of a Catholic mother and Jewish father frequently makes life confusing. His grandfather, uncle, and older brother all ruled as the BAMFs at Farrington. Only his father is a “forgotten Kaplan,” and seems disinterested in his only surviving son.
Malik is determined to be the worst of the worst and not repeat his father’s mistakes; even if that costs him the people he cares about. At least he can drink. Alcohol keeps him going; alcohol is destroying his life. But he doesn’t see any problem, not even after he finds himself in court, shouldering the blame for someone else’s crime. Suddenly he’s faced with court-ordered community service shepherding an angry ten-year-old who hates the world, an “offer he can’t refuse” from the boy’s gang leader brother, and an opponent he can’t crush: Barney, a fourteen-year-old girl who watched her alcoholic father abuse and murder her mother. She wants nothing to do with any bad boy, especially not one who thinks drinking is the way to forget his sins.
Malik and Barney are forced to work together to help the kid and themselves escape the pull of the gang, and to rediscover the real meaning of family and friendship.
Buy Links
PULL::   Paperback: 

BEING GOD: Paperback: 
Please Welcome B.A. (Barbara) Binns to Spunky Senior Authors and Talents by Leaving a Comment.


  1. That is so interesting! The book sounds great and the dog like she's going to be. :-)

    1. Glad you like the ideas behind the book. Being God took over a year to pull it off. Never, ever try to change a bad boy, even when you created him, it is a long, hard, task.

  2. Welcome to Spunky Senior Authors and Talents, Barbara!
    Your books are so worthwhile!

    Morgan Mandel

    PS Love your doggie!

    1. She loves you too, that girl enthusiastically embraces the whole world. Ad thanks for having me here.

  3. You probably already know this, but you did not acquire a dog. The dog acquired you.

    Being God sounds very interesting.

    1. Tell me about it, Helen My home is no longer my home, and when she decided she didn't like the food I bought her, I ended up running a catering service until I was able to please her.

  4. Wow! After reading about your life and struggles and accomplishments, I am in awe. And your speaking engagements and pub company and dog and traveling - how DO you do it all! What a wonder woman and a super role model for anyone in your family as well as your friends, no matter what age they are!

    1. How do I do it? By being my own worst boss. I'm too frazzled to be a role model, but thank you for the thought, Patti.

      Seriously, I am a slave-driver, and still so much does NOT get done. Right now I am supposed to be teaching an on-line class (my poor students) and prepping for a speech in Louisiana (I hate traveling) and judging a teen writing contest (those kids think I know what I am doing). And let me not forget (because it is really easy to do so) I am supposed to be writing a new book.

      Why wasn't I born a twin?

  5. Hello Barbara, you sure have a lot on your plate but I bet that's what keeps you going with so much spunk.

  6. Your post was inspiring. Thank you for sharing with us!

    1. Thank you for reading. If I managed to inspire anyone to reach for what they want, that is my reward.


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