Megan's 5 star rated Contemporary Romance

Thursday, 1 March 2012

A Warm Welcome to Jann M. Contento and Jeffrey Ross
Authors of  College Leadership Crisis: The Philip Dolly Affair
'an over-the- top, life-in-the-fun-house look at a community college'

BUY link

While community colleges are currently receiving heightened attention, this novel provides a behind-the-scenes analysis of many whispered truths, those simmering but unspoken workplace behaviors, issues, and machinations every worker (Everyman!) will recognize. A humorous and biting read with a clever mix of satire, political intrigue, failed romances, and tragic-comedy, this novel will open your eyes to the truth about community colleges …

PDA has fun with acronyms, meeting-speak, old and new campus romances, and generally doesn’t hold any punches when it comes to pointing out some funny characteristics about the daily college work experience.  Don’t let the title fool you-- the truth of the matter is this novel is for Anyone, for Everyone, who works in America, and hears the ever-present ‘whispered truths’ about the workplace and management—truths usually denied by the bosses but ultimately irrefutable. Recent ‘events’ in Wisconsin and on Wall Street give new, ‘real time’ meaning to the labor-management discussions in PDA
Review: By Leah Wescott, Editor of Cronk News
The Philip Dolly Affair opens as a higher education satire, providing character studies of familiar academic colleagues, nemeses and campus idiosyncrasies. Soon, however, you're drawn into an Our Town-ish drama that spans beyond the community college political landscape into a tale of actual socio-political irony that provides context for the life and career of the eponymous President Dolly. Love him or hate him, you can't help but feel for him.
The story of Copperfield Community College is told through a melange of genres, including short biographical essays, poetry and even theatrical dialogue. If you're looking for straight prose, you may be pleasantly surprised with the mixed bag.
I was most drawn to the descriptions (regardless of genre) of the no-win conflict real life community colleges face between missions of vocational preparation and ambitions of higher learning. Both visions are ridiculed brilliantly though neither is without merit. Faculty, staff, students and townies are also held under the humor microscope. There's plenty to laugh and cry about as you recognize your community and yourself.
More reviews at amazon
Now to Meet the Authors...
Jann M. Contento has a broad range of experiences in higher education including student affairs administration, athletics, and institutional research. He is currently working in a community college setting and has co-authored several articles on leadership and college culture. 

Jeffrey Ross
, who resides in Gilbert, Arizona with his wife and son, is a writer, rockabilly musician, and former full-time community college teacher. He has had four "Views" pieces published on since 2007, has authored and co-authored several op-ed articles on community college identity, purpose, and culture, and has recently had several pieces published on the Cronk News  higher education satire website.

 I asked them: From where do you get inspiration and what inspired you to write The Philip Dolly Affair?
Jeff: We have had quite a few Op Eds published that deal with the changing culture of community colleges.  Post secondary education has been increasingly influenced by corporate management practices (both good and bad)—and we thought it would be fun to work out some of our ideas in fiction. We also sensed that a comic novel might give us a wider reading audience. We’ve had pretty good response (via blogged comments) on some of the pieces we’ve written in the past—and even received a suggestion or two that we try to write a book. So here we are!

Can you give us a brief description of the main characters and what makes them tick?
 What do you like best/least about them?

Jeff: Dr. Dolly is apparently a power-mad administrator. In many ways, he and the other characters in PDA are victims of a culture (especially at our imaginary Copperfield Community) that increasingly celebrates professionalism and organizational theory more than teaching and learning. Dolly and his sidekick, Dean Preston, are not appealing characters, but they are very good at what they do and are quite successful as careerists because they know how to function, how to behave, within the culture.  McDougal, the bat-wielding apparently womanizing socialist bartender, is a lot of fun. He misses the good old times back in Glasgow at the soccer matches when he could rumble with the capitalists, and he pines for the dear wife (and six kids) he deserted. Barkeep McDougal represents, supposedly, the dreaded socialist menace about to take over America. Hah. His meeting with Dean Preston, in the first chapter of the third section, is one of the great moments in American literature. Maybe. Or Not.

Who controls the story – you or your characters?  
Jeff: Community college culture in the 21s century controls the characters in sections 1 and 3—and most of them should be recognizable no matter where you work. In the middle section, set mostly in Argentina, the politics, ethics, and culture of the early 1960’s scripts our characters’ behaviours. The overall story is repeated, we think, at nearly every community college in America every day. We tend to believe that pop culture and a “follow-the-money” mentality controls most everybody’s behaviours anyway.
Jann: The author most likely has creative impressions, but characters can drive the story beyond the author’s intent. Often “dynamic” or even “flat” characters begin writing themselves, surfacing in unwanted places. 
What do you hope your readers come away with after reading your book?
Jeff: Community college culture is pretty isolated. We would hope our readers learn more about the community college work place and the pressure such schools are under to perform. Plus, we would like to see our readers question the notions of Leadership— what do we really want from those who call themselves leaders? Even so—we hope our readers will recognize PDA’s literary qualities—its symbolism, imagery, metaphors, and rich historical texture—and the failed romances and personal tragedies.

Jann:  I hope readers recognize they are surrounded by a cast of playful characters who cleverly expose societal “whispered” truths. We hope this novel changes, or at least alters, the way one views many institutions

What do you think are the main ingredients for a successful book?

Jeff: I suspect readers enjoy seeing a formula with expected outcomes. Romance is probably necessary—just like big explosions in a movie. We hope the uniqueness of our text (the first community college campus novel) will help it become successful—but we do include romance and intrigue and adventure.  For example, Phil Dolly’s mom, in Argentina, back in the 60’s, is a beautiful dancer and freedom fighter…. I guess we’ll discover what our readers enjoy best-- the romances, the comic policy debates, or   Dr. Dolly’s Abrupt Decline!

What were the advantages/disadvantages of co-writing?
We have written several “academic” articles together. Jann and I have known each other for years, played in several bands together, spent quite a bit of social time together. The process was easier than I expected it to be. The character sketches in the first section developed from a “short story” I had published on back in 2008—“Call Me Phil.” I had a fairly easy time developing additional characters. But Jann gave the novel the plot line, the total Phil Dolly Story, and was instrumental in bringing context and closure to the book. We found having two pairs of eyes very helpful as we edited and revised (a billion times!). I think our common sense of being “outside” social norms  and mores helped us immensely—and we made a genuine effort to reel each other in to keep the book basically family friendly and accurate (in a representative kind of way). But we have always used each other as sounding boards for pieces of writing we have constructed—both together and separately.
Jann: There were many wonderful advantages in having a trusted colleague and friend as a co-writer. This particular writing adventure required an exceptional understanding mind willing and capable of exploring and critiquing creative ideas. Having a co-writer proved indispensably valuable.

Anything special you require to keep the creative juices flowing?
Jann: I find daily physical exercise imperative in maintaining a clear writing focus. Unlike many historically famous boozers, beer and books, alcohol and academics fail me.

What is the best writing advice you have ever received?

Many of my liberal arts college professors repeated the same mantra “read, read, read, write, review, review, review, read, read, read...” An old faded message on a colleagues door keeps me grounded, it reads “Studying the classics teaches one the values one needs to live without the money one gives up because one studied the classics.”

What can we look forward to from you in the near future?
Jeff—I like to write poems that capture brief dramatic moments, but I don’t know if an audience for my poetry exists. I think I will continue working on my Jack Frost poetry. [There are several examples in our novel.]
Jann: I enjoy non-fiction, especially historical biographies and philosophy. There may be in the works, more historical backed satirical fiction. 
How do you like to spend your free time?
Jeff—I try to do things that contribute to my own development physically, spiritually, and emotionally. I’m not one who needs much entertainment. I like to head up to my Quonset hut cabin and putter around, listen to the AM radio, read, write a little, spray weeds. The daily buzz and
TEXT of American life seems like a puppet show, a big distraction, something that seeks to erode my core being. I am not pessimistic or dark or arrogant about this, but I am more interested in my own daily life than what happens in Hollywood or the CMA’s or the NFL. What is the outcome, for your personal life, of eating buffalo wings on Sunday afternoon?
 What would you most like to accomplish this year?
Jeff: I suppose I would like to be recognized as an artist, as opposed to being a craftsman.
What was your favourite book as a child/teen? And as an adult? What are you currently reading?
As a teen I enjoyed J.D. Salinger. We had to read Catcher in high school, and I became hooked on his satirical prose. I really liked his series of short stories, particularly The Laughing Man. In college I fell upon Kingsley Amis’ Lucky Jim and was again hooked.
I am currently reading a contemporary literary novel, The Brothers' Keepers by John Paddison and Charles D. Orvik. The dual author approach shares a sensitive narrative voice in this progressive-minded literary work concerning societal social responsibility. The story is about child neglect and abandonment of five young boys during and after the Great Depression. The text involves the inclusion of numerous letters, which co-author Jeffrey Ross and I also exploited within The Philip Dolly Affair. 
What is your culinary speciality?
: I really don’t spend much time thinking about food (click link)
   Jann: I enjoy preparing Italian cuisine, especially vegetable and tomato garlic tainted sauces.
Here's a Taste of The Philip Dolly Affair
Excerpt One: Mr. Hose made a mistake when computing his retirement pension. He retired one year too early, and this error will cost him 646.40 dollars per month for the rest of his life.
Sometimes, Mr. Hose sits on his back patio and feeds the birds and squirrels. He is always too hot in the summer, too cold in the winter, and too dissatisfied in the spring and fall.
His wife, Myrtle, cooks and cleans and does the laundry. She is not happy with her life, but she has Mr. Hose to take care of now.
Certainly Mr. Hose had a career at CCC. He graded many papers and attended [by his computation] 16,453 meetings during his 17 years at the college. He was never able to pass his CPA exam, and has trouble doing his own taxes.
But he is quite able to measure out appropriate quantities of bird seed for his feathered friends and squirrel buddies. “Come to Daddy,” he says every morning to Snappy the fancy pigeon.
He also maintains an old but pristine collection of Green Stamps.
Some days Mr. Hose just stays in bed, or watches Oprah, or reads from his gaggle of old Tubby and Lu Lu comic books.
Mr. Hose is neither happy nor sad. He had a career at CCC, and then he retired. Now, at 63, he has nothing much to look forward to and he cannot really pinpoint any grand moment from his past life.
Mr. Hose has a pet Duck named Wilbur. Wilbur is white. Mr. Hose keeps a collar and a leash on Wilbur [who spends most of his days quacking around in a small wading pool]. Sometimes Mr. Hose takes Wilbur for a walk around the house while riding in his Lark.
Mr. Hose’s wife smiles at this and knows it is good for Mr. Hose to have a loving companion like Wilbur.
In their frequent conversations, Mr. Hose questions Wilbur about what he likes to eat, what temperature he likes his pool water, and why he doesn’t lay eggs.
Last Friday, he asked Wilbur if he had ever taken a course in Cost Accounting.
When answering Mr. Hose’s frequent questions, Wilbur smiles and speaks without guile or excuse. He is a kind and good hearted duck, and Wilbur has become Mr. Hose’s best friend.
[Wilbur has his own chapter in the novel, too]

Excerpt Two:
Jack’s girl is big... A Poem by Jack Frost, Espanol Professor
She’s got jowls and big hams for thighs...
Poor thing…
Who knows where she finds those jeans.
Her little blue eyes twinkle like chickadees, and her laugh is a stampede
His girl is big…
Oh, Jack hears the whispers and snickers and nasty remarks
About her size and about him and about them
But Jack will tell you.
He wouldn’t trade her for a super model--and here’s why…
She loves him--not in the Hollywood kind of way--she’s no Bond girl--
But in real terms, real simple terms in the way a man wants to be loved--she loves him…and is nice to him.
She is nice to him and respects him.
When they are sitting together in the Copper Coin, blowing smoke rings from their Camel lights, eating pickled eggs, and cheering at the tele, arm and arm, two big bears on tiny stools,
Well, they are happy, my friend, and their little sudsy pint-clover moment is the galaxy--
Time [and space!] has no meaning for these lovebirds.
Every Friday and Saturday, my friends, you’ll see them on the same stools [sometimes three stools!], laughing and loving and putting away fish and chips and drinking and smoking, arm in arm, and loving each other like you can’t imagine…
Jack’s girl is big, and she always asks him how his day at work went--and asks about his problems, and his sadness, and misgivings.
Jack isn’t all that small himself...
And she doesn’t complain or try to control him.
Jack’s girl is big. And he loves her. And she loves him.
And they are nice to each other without script or agenda…
And what you think doesn’t matter to them.
Jack’s girl is big. Jack isn’t all that small himself.
Leave a comment for a chance to win a "chapbook" of poetry "voiced" by Professor Jack Frost

And check out these links: 
Open Salon Blog    Getting to Know Phil Dolly Blogspot     Facebook Page    Video Discussion of Philip DollyAffair (Youtube)   BUY

Thank you, Jann and Jeffrey, for regaling us today. I absolutely love the premise of The Philip Dolly Affair.

It has been a pleasure to meet you. 

click link to follow the rest of the tour


  1. Thank you so much for hosting the Philip Dolly Affair. We are happy to be visiting England!

  2. Thank you for hosting the authors today.

  3. This book starts out very serious, however, I think you have infused it with a lot of humor. My kind of story.

  4. Thank you for this informative BlogSpot. I really find the poetry an effective method in this entertaining piece of fiction. I recently purchased a paperback copy of this novel and am nearly two-thirds through. I am thoroughly enjoying the read. One question, I read a short piece on Times Higher Education about a year or so ago concerning an old professor’s view of education, is this same Jeff Ross?

    1. Thank you for purchasing our book and your comments about poetry and fiction. Mr. Cynewulf, you have an excellent memory. Yes, I am that Jeff Ross. The article title is Embrace an Old Timer Now, published Feb 4, 2010. The article can be read on the U.K.s Times Higher Education (Editor Mr. Phil Baty) at

      Thank you again.

  5. As an ex lecturer, I love the premise of this book. The vagaries of college life sound pretty similar to over here.

    1. I hope you get a chance to read PDA. I must compliment you on the quality of your website-- so nicely crafted. Thanks again for hosting us today and have a great weekend! PS-- what is your academic area?

    2. It's definitely on my tbr list! Thanks for the compliment, Jeffrey, and for such an entertaining blog.

  6. Is the excerpt about Mr. Hose supposed to be depressing? I found it quite sad. Maybe Wilbur's chapter is more upbeat and/or entertaining?


    1. Hi. Good to hear from you. Well, Mr. Hose is a rather odd character.

      Perhaps he is suffering from teacher "burnout." We find it rather contemplative that his best friend is a duck. Character Jack Frost is his other close friend, but they have little communication in the novel. Mr. Hose and Wilbur the Duck are sort of Community Icons. They can often be seen sitting on the Hose residence front porch watching pedestrians and cars pass by.

      One of our favorite questions in the novel, I suppose, whether direct or hinted, is probably---"What is the outcome of [insert favorite dream or activity]”? Hose had a career. Now his closest companion is a duck and he reads old comics.

      Yes, he is a rather sad character. But I am sure Wilbur is happy.