October 21, 2014

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Author reminisces about childhood in Amherst in illustrated book-length poem

AMHERST — With his poetic and vivid verse, author Mike Finley takes readers back to the place where he grew up, among the apple and cherry trees of Amherst.

Told in a unique, mesmerizing tone, Finley shares with readers his childhood and growing up with his brothers — with particulars and intricacies. He writes about tree houses, lawn mowers and throwing the football over the barn — typical kid stuff.

About his book, “The Orchard,” Finley said, “I wanted to write a book commemorating the sweet and sometimes mysterious things about growing up among a bunch of apples trees in Amherst, Ohio. It’s perhaps the sweetest thing I ever wrote.’’

The endeavor to write this book took some time.

“It took 25 years to write,” Finley said. “I made notes to myself in 1974 about growing up in the apple orchard and mowing over literally a billion apples on 20 acres. I made more notes about 10 to 12 years later, adding memories about playing down by the creek.”

Then Finley met artist and publisher Richard Stephens.

“In 2002 at a party, I met Richard Stephens, who was a publisher looking for a writer to work with,” Finley said.

But after meeting Stephens, the book still took seven years to complete.

“We met maybe 10 times over six years. He was faithful to the project,” Finley said.  Despite the delay, Finley said he felt confident about the project and working with Stephens.

“I had a poem that lends to his illustration ability; he (Stephens) showed care, it took seven years to illustrated by hand, it was a labor of love,” he said.

The book-length poem is as reflective as it is artistic.

“It felt like prose, very long lines — similar to what Walt Whitman used in his career,” Finley said. “Shorter lines wouldn’t feel precious. I wanted (readers) to keep thinking about the sights and sounds.”

In the end, Finley was pleased with the book.

“I really liked the poem and illustrations,” he said, “This poem is more nostalgic than the others I have written. The poem is a wistful look backward.”

Finley said he always knew he wanted to be a writer.

“I always wanted to write, I like journalism and telling stories,” he said. “I had a third-grade teacher who said I was going to be a writer, and told the whole class. The other kids were mad at me. Writers get to go places and do interesting things.”

Author of over 110 books, including about thirty business books, Finley’s writings have appeared in more than 700 publications. “Why Teams Don’t Work,” in collaboration with Harvey Robbing, won the 1995 Financial Times Global Business Book Award for best management book published in the Americas.

In receiving the award for “Why Teams Don’t Work,” Finley said he traveled to London for a presentation that took place in a castle. “That was really cool,” Finley said.

Finley said he misses Amherst.

“I never seem to get back for a high school class reunion, it’s been 20 years, I miss everybody,” he said. “This is a poem about being homesick for Amherst, Ohio.”

Finley is a 1967 graduate of Marion L. Steele High School in Amherst and attended the College of Wooster. His wife, Rachel Frazin, is a physician who works with Eskimo families in the Arctic Circle in Alaska.

‘The Orchard’

“The Orchard” is a limited edition illustrated book-length poem published by Supersession Press.

Only 59 signed copies have been issued and are available at: Supersession Press, 2600 Xenwood Ave., Minneapolis, MN 55416-1727 or (952) 922-8923.

More information about Mike Finley’s books is available at www.mfinley.com.

Contact Rob Swindell at 329-7155 or ctnews@chroniclet.com.