Local author earns award

Thomas L. French’s collection of short stories has been honored by the Independent Book Publishing Professionals Group.

POTSDAM — “Wind Water Waves,” a collection short stories set in the Thousand Islands, by local author Thomas L. French, has been named by the Independent Book Publishing Professionals Group as one of the best indie books of 2021.

Mr. French’s book is a finalist in the Short Story Collections category of the 2021 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, the world’s largest book awards program for independent publishers and self-published authors.

The winners and finalists will be honored Friday in an online event.

In her review of the book, editor Susan Smith of Thousand Island Life described the stories as “poignant” and said they “touched me as few descriptions of life on the river ever have … The feelings expressed in printed form are precisely what many of us have felt about the Thousand Islands in the St. Lawrence River, no matter what time of year we are lucky enough to be here.”

Ranging in time from the early 20th century to the present, the stories chronicle how a varied cast of characters’ lives are tied to “The River.”

Several of the stories were influenced by Mr. French’s grandfather, Thomas H. Mitchell Jr. Mr. French recorded his grandfather telling stories. Some of the recordings can be heard on Thomas French’s website, Riverstories.org.

“My grandfather was connected to the river from the perspective of someone who saw all the river’s seasons and moods, he said. “He grew up during the depression when living on the river was about survival, getting by, and hardscrabble.

He passed those experiences down to me — fighting storms, filling ice houses, trapping and fishing during all seasons to the point where his ‘hands be numb and stomach would ache from the cold.’”

The book is dedicated to French’s grandfather. Jr., who died at the age of 77 in 1990.

The other stories, told from different points of view, revolve around a group of young adults grappling with the death of a friend while also realizing that their season of youth in a summer play land is ending. As they are forced to limit their time at the river, their relationships with each other are tested.

The Next Generation Indie Book Awards are judged by leaders of the indie book publishing industry, including many with long careers at major publishing houses. Their love of a great read and experience in the publishing arena identify books deserving a wider audience.

Mr. French retired in 2019 after teaching seventh-grade English in Massena for over 30 years.

Mr. French’s book, “River Views — A History of the 1000 Islands in 3-D,” was awarded a Silver Medal for Best Regional Non-Fiction in the Northeast in the Independent Publishers Book Awards of 2012.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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