Faculty Members Mitchell, Smith Team to Add Local Twist to Sasquatch Story

Mitchell and Smith photo

Kentucky authors Marie Mitchell and Mason Smith were at Renfro Valley in November, 2011, when an episode of the TV show “Finding Bigfoot” was taped. Many Kentuckians shared personal accounts of Bigfoot sightings near their home towns.

“We had no idea that Kentucky was such a ‘Squatchy’ place,” Mitchell said, “but it made us wonder what would happen if someone actually had a close encounter with a tall, hairy, smelly Sasquatch.”

The two writers, both Eastern Kentucky University faculty members, considered several scenarios before coming up with the lead story for their latest book for middle school readers: “Squatch Watch and Other Stories.”

“We focus on some geeky teenagers getting ready to start high school at Central in Richmond,” Smith said. “They’re trying to live down the unflattering title ‘Nerd Herd’ from middle school. They don’t want to be anonymous freshmen so, to make a name for themselves, they go on a Squatch hunt at Camp Catalpa, a bird sanctuary near Lake Reba.”

Jered Campbell with Surge Promotions in Richmond “designed an awesome cover for the book,” Smith said. “It completely captures the mood of something dangerous wandering around the woods at night.”

Now that the couple’s on a roll with the Bigfoot topic, they can’t stop.

“We’re working on a play about Squatches in Madison County,” Smith said. “We want to leave a giant footprint in the Squatch universe.”

The two authors have also recycled an idea that they’ve extensively researched: Kentucky’s role in the Civil War and re-enactments held around the state to commemorate the key battles.

Their first book, “The Lost Dispatch,” was set at the Battle of Perryville, the largest Civil War battle fought in Kentucky.

“Participants are so particular about every little detail in their re-enactments,” Mitchell said. “So we wondered what would happen if things didn’t go according to plan.”

That story became “Battlefield Blues.”

“It offers a totally different twist to what’s expected at a re-enactment,” Smith says, “because someone’s trying to rewrite history.”

The third of the 11 stories in the book is: “An Uncommon Crane.” It won honorable mention in short story contests by Writer’s Digest and the Mountain Heritage Literary Festival in 2007.

“It’s about a Japanese exchange student searching for a relative who was last heard from in Kentucky right after World War II,” Smith said.

The story weaves “everything from internment camps in the west to Japanese culture and traditions,” Mitchell said.

The couple is familiar with that culture. A Japanese student attending EKU lived with them for two years, and Mitchell has traveled to Japan on a Lexington sister city exchange and on a 10-day reporting fellowship when she worked at WEKU-FM.

Another short story, “Slipping Away,” was a finalist in the Lexington Carnegie Center’s Flash Fiction contest in 2007.

“It’s about a musical bond between a grandmother with Alzheimer’s Disease and her granddaughter,” Smith said.

It’s one of Mitchell’s favorite stories, blending her love of dulcimers, Kentucky’s state instrument, with a personal connection of having a relative with Alzheimer’s.

Some of the other stories started as Christmas presents to their children.

“Our oldest daughter had a black bunny named Trinity that she adored, so we wrote a story about a brave bunny being a ‘Pet Detective,’” Mitchell said. “It was cheaper than buying our daughter an iPhone at the time.”

“We’re also a soccer family so we had to have a soccer story in the collection,” Smith said. “That story is titled ‘The Last Red Card.’”

The other stories are about fitting in, cultural diversity, birth order and international adoption.

“Each story has some personal link to our lives,” Smith pointed out.

The book, “Squatch Watch and Other Stories,” is published by Muhlenberg Press and is available at Amazon.com. For more information about the authors, visit mitchell-smith.com or their Facebook page at Mitchell-Smith Books. They’ll be among the authors at this year’s Kentucky Book Fair in Frankfort on Nov. 16.

Published on October 02, 2013