By Eleanor Sevigny
Published in The Burg October 21, 2021
You may know Barry Lee Swanson as one of the columnists for The Burg, or as an assistant professor emeritus at Knox College. Maybe you had him as your basketball coach or English teacher. No matter how you met Swanson, you know that he is involved in his community and is an accomplished person.
Swanson’s most recent accomplishment is becoming a published novelist. Swanson’s novel Still Points is currently available on Kindle for $5.99. It is also available for free with Kindle Unlimited. The physical book is set for publication on October 26, 2021. You can preorder it on Amazon.
Still Points is about Philip Zumwalt.
“Philip is an accomplished musician, poet, and idealist—a dreamer. Fresh out of college in 1940, he takes a job as a music teacher in a small, rural Illinois town. His plan is to teach for a few years to save enough money to finance his dreams: go to Chicago to become a professional musician and get his pilot’s license. These dreams dominate his thoughts until one summer night when he meets Elinor Robinson. Based upon the World War II diaries of the real Philip Zumwalt, this debut novel is a bittersweet tale of the transcendent power of love and reminds us of the immense sacrifices made by the men and women of that era.” explained Swanson.
Swanson was inspired to write Still Points when “my father-in-law, Homer Zumwalt, gave me Philip’s (Homer’s eldest brother) diaries on a Christmas morning many years ago. After I opened the gift and realized what it was, he said, “Thought maybe you could do something with these things of Philip’s.” Thus, began the journey to tell Philip’s story. The inspiration came from Philip’s own words and the family legend that surrounded him.”
In addition to the letters Swanson was gifted by Zumwalt, Swanson conducted the research for Still points by “spending countless hours reading historical books recounting WWII and researching the Army Air Force’s role in that war. I wanted to get a sense of what it was like serving in the Southwest Pacific Theater during the war, the intricacies of flying a B-17, and the perfection of the skip-bombing technique. I also researched what being a teacher in a small, midwestern rural village during the school year 1940-41 entailed. I visited the town where Philip taught and spoke to some of the residents of that village. I was most fortunate to find a Payson-Seymour yearbook from 1941 that Homer had saved. I also interviewed a number of WWII veterans and family members. All of my research was essential in making the novel as true to the actual events as possible.”
For Swanson the hardest part of writing Still Points was “the revisions. My original manuscript was over 600 pages. The novel ended up being 387 pages. It “takes a village” to complete such a project. My wife, editorial staff and publisher were all an integral part of the process.”
Swanson would like the Galesburg community to know, “Galesburg will always be my wife’s and my hometown. We cherish the memories of our childhood and raising our own children there. Many of our dear friends continue to live in Galesburg, and we enjoy our visits when we have the opportunity to return. Growing up in Galesburg, being an educator and involved community member there helped shape who I am. Those experiences will always hold a special place in my heart—as will my hometown.”
Swanson will be going on a book tour during the spring of 2022. For information regarding events, book signings, or a preview of future writing projects visit Swanson’s website at: boathouseproductionsnc.com.