by Cassey Ressler
The Frontiersman Valley Life Editor
Published on Sunday, October 26, 2003
For 12 years, the manuscript for Pythagoras Eagle & the Music of the Spheres sat collecting dust on the shelf of Anne Carse Nolting’s home. Soon, it’ll be sitting on the shelves of local bookstores.
Nolting, the award-winning author of Dear Future People and Rysaland, is releasing her third book, and this one has a new twist — it’s geared toward middle school students, contains a mathematics theme and deals with the strong topic of mental illness.
The story is about a girl, Shawna, who, along with her friends, is offered a math scholarship if they can solve an obscure math problem. Shawna’s uncle is rumored to be a mathematical genius, and the girl travels to Prince William Sound to be with her uncle, and she uncovers a dark family secret that her uncle suffers from mental illness.
It’s a theme Nolting said she was cautious about involving, because of societal views.
“At first I was hesitant because some subjects have always been taboo,” Nolting said. “But so many kids are confronted with so much mental illnesses, and it’s not something they should be ashamed of. It is what it is. The book doesn’t offer a therapeutic solution, but shows that her love for her uncle is enduring, that mental illness doesn’t change her feelings.”
While mathematics is another central theme, Nolting herself admits that she “has a math phobia. My mind goes blank.” She got some assistance from her husband, Joe, who is a math teacher in the Mat-Su School District.
“I’d tell him what situation the characters are in and my husband would come up with fun math problems for that particular situation,” Nolting said.
Like all of her books, Nolting researched the topic extensively, this time digging into the history of famous mathematicians and scientists.
“And it seems like all of the great minds suffered from some form of mental illness,” she pointed out.
She wrote the book a dozen years ago, and then put it on the shelf. A few years ago, she came across the book A Beautiful Mind, about mathematical genius and Nobel Laureate John Nash, written by Sylvia Nasar (which was made into a hit movie starring Russell Crowe). Immediately, she knew the topic well.
“I picked it up and thought, ‘This is Pythagoras Eagle,'” Nolting said. “When you write about a topic, you end up noticing others are writing about it, too.”
Mayhaven Publishing was sponsoring a contest for children’s fiction a short time later, so Nolting dusted off her manuscript and submitted it. She won, with the prize being having the book published by Mayhaven. It’s her first middle school-age book, and the first set in the present. Her previous two books are historical fiction, and she said that’s the genre she prefers.
“Writing historical fiction is so much easier because it gives the imagination some leeway,” Nolting explained. “I don’t think I could do contemporary juvenile fiction because I really don’t know what their dialogue is on a day-to-day basis.”
© 2003 The Mat-Su Frontiersman
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