By: Keri Luise, Assistant News Editor and Meg Clark, Contributing Writer
This week’s cover is a joint story about two different TU community members who have recently published books. The top story is Keri Luise’s article about Catherine Wijnands, and the bottom story is Meg Clark’s article about Bryan Andrew Moore.
Sitting in her living room with the television on in the background for a bit of noise distraction, Professor Catherine Wijnands stretches her arms over the cat on her lap and starts to type away on her computer. After a long day of teaching college students the vigorous lessons of anatomy and physiology, she falls into her imaginative writing style to unwind.
Wijnands has been a professor of Anatomy and Physiology at Towson University for 13 years and is a recently published author of fiction novels “Barnabas Tew and The Case of The Nine Worlds” and “Barnabas Tew and The Case Of The Missing Scarab,” with a third book of the series to be published in the spring.
“I’ve always been a big reader and when I was a kid, I even tried to write a couple little story books for children that were absolutely ridiculous,” she said. “I always wanted to be a writer, but it wasn’t my career path I guess until after I became a professor here and I had some spare time just to kind of blow off steam. I started writing short stories and then a few of them got published and I thought I should write a novel, so I did.”
Wijnands grew up thinking that she couldn’t make a living out of being a writer so, in college, she majored in environmental science and chemistry for her undergrad and biology for graduate school.
“I really enjoy teaching,” Wijnands said. “And I like the balance of being able to teach students on some days and then other days I write and it’s a completely different sort of thing, a little less intense writing than teaching. So, it’s my way of relaxing and getting a good balance.”
Alyssa Probst, a Towson biology major and former student of Wijnands, admires her former professor’s positive energy.
“She is an excellent professor,” Probst said. “Anatomy and physiology can be daunting classes, but she always presented the material in an engaging and manageable way.”
“As writer she’s quite a wordsmith, choosing the most interesting words as descriptors. As a professor she has an extremely kind demeanor, is passionate about the subject, and also encouraging to students.”
Wijnands, who uses the pen name Columbkill Noonan, has a unique style of writing that is mostly speculative fiction. She said she loves old classical literature and formal prose, but also enjoys the humor in life.
“I think I’m the same person as a writer as I am in real life,” she said. “I’m a little goofy and I like to laugh, and I see the ridiculous of life a lot.”
Wijnands’ writing reflects these characteristics strongly.
“Cathy is unconventional and always has been,” said Nichole Leavy, an artist who has been friends with Wijnands for over 30 years. “She is compassionate, fearlessly creative, smart about surprisingly obscure topics and she has a wonderfully weird sense of humor. It all comes out in her writing. She is unabashedly herself.”
Wijnands’ book series are a humorous take on British detective stories.
“The main character is kind of like Sherlock Holmes, but not really good at doing what we does,” Wijnands said while laughing. “He gets in all sorts of shenanigans. But also, I didn’t want the books to be just straight mystery. I wanted it to be a little more fantastical, so I ended up making it sort of a combination of a detective story, but set in different mythologies.”
In each of her books, Wijnands’ main character, Barnabas, is sent to a different mythological afterlife. Barnabas has been to an Egyptian afterlife and a Viking afterlife, with more to come in future books.
“I get to research all the different mythologies and put this really kind of uptight British Victorian detective who’s in over his head and then throw him into this crazy stuff,” Wijnands said. “It’s just a lot of fun.”
Wijnands’ idea for her main character came from a previous short story she wrote for an anthology. The story was supposed to be paranormal, but humorous at the same time.
“I thought, ‘well I’ll put it in a mythology,’ so I thought Egyptian mythology is fun,” she said. “I made a pharaoh who had died, and he went to the afterlife and everything goes wrong for him and I had so much fun writing that character, that I thought I needed to make him into something. So, I just turned him into a Victorian British detective, but I still put him in the same afterlife and same kind of personality.”
Leavy feels that Wijnands has a talent for juxtaposing elements to make a story that is unique from others.
“She writes a lot about characters who are trying to make the best of things as they find themselves suddenly thrown into a very strange, and often scary, new reality,” Leavy said. “Then, she treats those characters with empathy and humor, embracing their foibles and giving them a ‘win’ once in a while.”
With her books, Wijnands doesn’t have a particular target audience. She sees her writing appealing to anybody.
“The books are very light-hearted, so, there’s nothing upsetting or traumatic in there that a younger person couldn’t enjoy,” Wijnands said. “But the vocabulary is more adult. So, I would think anybody from a very smart middle school aged person up to an old lady would enjoy them.”
Wijnands has contracted for her third and fourth book to the series and plans to continue writing until she runs out of ideas and mythologies. For her books, Wijnands has been working with a small publishing company called Crooked Cat Books.
“Catherine found us,” said Laurence Patterson, a designer with Crooked Cat Books. “She understands her audience, a diverse mix of readers and, through her writing, attempts to reach them.”
Wijnands said the toughest part of getting published is meeting deadlines.
“For the first book I didn’t have a deadline for because I didn’t have a publisher yet, I was just writing on my own time, so it took me about a year to write,” Wijnands said. “And for the second and the third book, there are deadlines all of a sudden and just knowing that I have to do something at a certain time frame has made it a little more challenging.”
But all of it is worth it in the end for Wijnands.
“I think the most rewarding thing was the first time I saw a review on Amazon that was from somebody I didn’t know,” Wijnands said. “Within a couple weeks of the book coming out and I looked it up and that person gave me a nice review. And I still feel that way every time a review comes out, I still feel giddy that somebody read my book and I didn’t make them. They just chose it and they read it and they liked it. That’s really rewarding and exciting.”
Wijnands’ literary goals are to continue writing what she enjoys as she expands on her series.
“I want to keep being able to be true to what I want to say rather than writing for what somebody else wants me to write,” she said. “I like how the publisher I have now just lets me be me. So, I just hope that I can always have it be an enjoyable process for me.”
Wijnands’ books are on sale on Amazon and in Towson’s University Store.
TU alum Bryan Andrew Moore finished his schooling at Towson in 2012 with a newfound outlook on life. He also left with a yearning to become a published author, a goal that is now a reality.
“You’re Still Not Doing This?!” is a first edition self-help book written by Moore and illustrated by Jen Aranyi. The short chapter book, published by Wakebridge Publishing earlier this year, gives readers a conversational and casual approach to dealing with topics surrounding mental health.
Moore, a South Carolina native, attended Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina before coming to Towson in 2007 to begin his graduate studies. After obtaining his masters degree, he went on to work at John Hopkins School of Medicine, where he currently works as a research compliance monitor.
His path to professional penmanship didn’t begin until after his time at Towson.
“It’s something that I kind of fell into,” Moore said. “After graduate school at Towson, I published a couple of papers on some psychology research I had done while I was there. That’s when I really started to get into writing. I realized how published works could reach a large audience and potentially impact a lot of people.”
Moore’s decision to write a self-help book came from his own encounters with the topics of mental and emotional health.
“I have a number of close friends and family members who have struggled with mental health issues, including a cousin who took his own life,” Moore said. “Some people really struggle with mental health and they don’t always know what they can do to get better. I wanted to remind folks that there is hope.”
Moore added that his prolonged interest in the mind combined with his background in psychology helped him settle on what to write about.
“I’ve always been interested in self-improvement, well-being, and optimal functioning,” Moore said. “For years, I’ve studied how people can enhance their lives. Writing a guide about holistic health and wellness just seemed like a natural thing to do.”
“You’re Still Not Doing This?!” gives readers 25 “well-established ways to elevate your health, happiness, and overall awesomeness.” Each one-to-two paged chapter contains how-to’s for every suggestion Moore makes, as well as research the author referenced to support his claims.
Moore prides himself on his book being more than a typical self-help book. Besides the researched chapters, Moore and Aranyi give readers a dash of sarcasm and humor.
“I think that many people equate seriousness in non-fiction with boring-ness,” Moore said. “We wanted to create something that was fun, short, and easy-to-read but that also contained useful information.”
TU senior Charlotte Smith said she felt skeptical about self-help books, but how Moore’s conversational style would bring her to read the book.
“I think I’m usually turned off to self-help books by their peppy, overly optimistic and unrealistic tone,” Smith said. “A book with more humor and colloquial language sounds refreshing.
According to mentalhelp.net, self-help books are popular in the psychology world due of their ease of use and affordability. These books are able to assist those needing advice without help from a medical professional.
Towson student Alexander Jones agreed that self-help books can be useful when they successfully connect with their modern-day readers.
“I think the self-help books can be very helpful,” Jones said. “Especially the motivational ones and not the Victorian ones. I don’t think we all want to end up a prude.”
Psychologist Rachel Richardson, who works for Kaiser Permanente based in California, agreed with the usefulness of self-help books, stating that a good self-help book will give the reader similar benefits to seeing a psychologist in person.
“Bibliotherapy (i.e. treatment by books) is increasingly being promoted…in partnerships between health providers and public libraries,” Richardson said.
She explained that a good self-help book will create a relationship with the reader. The only downside Richardson highlighted was that a book cannot treat a patient to their unique needs, despite such a relationship.
When it comes to the serviceability of “You’re Still Not Doing This?!” and its tips, Moore spoke on how each piece of advice will work to truly help the reader, so long as they actually follow it.
The book, which was published in July of this year, has had positive feedback so far. One Goodreads user, Kat Ice, shared how the book’s brevity didn’t stop her from enjoying reading it.
“ I really loved this book,” Ice said. “I loved that it had jokes. [It] made it so much easier to fly through. I think this is the type of book everyone should read!”
Despite the positive reviews, Moore shared how it’s not about how big his book becomes. He ultimately wants for the text to make a meaningful impact on those who read it.
“The scientific and historical evidence support [the tips], and I can attest to a lot of it, too,” Moore said. “A lack of well-being is so common these days that sometimes it seems to be the norm. If this book helps even one person become a little bit happier and healthier, I’m counting it as a win.”