29 February 2012

Blog Hop: The Philip Dolly Affair

Welcome, welcome, welcome! Guess what? It's Wednesday, and while that usually means flash fiction I've scheduled a guest or two for the good ole blog today. Their names are Jeffrey Ross and Jann Contento, and they're here to entertain with an interview, excerpt and fun prize!

That's right: He'll be giving away a fantastic and unique prize to one lucky commenter. I'm talking a character from the Philip Dolly Affair reading poetry, just for you! Comment away, and don't forget to check the event page for the next stop here. Enjoy!


Welcome aboard! Tell us a little about yourself, please.

Jeff: I’m older than you think. Much of my life has been spent riding motorcycles or fishing. I play bass guitar in a rockabilly band and also in a blues project. I enjoy solitude very much and have tried to ignore much of the noise generated by daily American life. I would rather be known for my poetry than my fiction and essays, but I don’t have an MFA in Creative Writing so . . .

What about your latest release?

We have had some success writing Op Eds about community college and Higher Education issues for Insidehighered.com, Times Higher Education, Academic Leader, and The Axis of Logic. Our novel, College Leadership Crisis:  The Phil Dolly Affair (CLC: PDA), is an attempt to fictionalize many of our ideas and concerns.

Certainly we would like to reach a larger audience. There is a novel genre known as the Campus Novel or Academic Novel—some of the classics include  Absalom Absalom , Brideshead Revisited , Zulieka Dobson, Campus Novel , Gaudy Night , Jude The Obscure , Lucky Jim , Portrait Of The Artist As a Young Man , The Secret History , This Side Of Paradise , College News , Faculty Towers, and the recent Fight For Your Long Day [the adjunct’s novel]. But we really think CLC: PDA is the first community college Campus Novel ever written.

So much of American life has been commoditized and scripted—we see clearly predictable and repetitious behavior in the work place everywhere—and our novel is a chance to provide some comic relief about the whispered truths everyone recognizes but represses day to day. What is the final desired outcome of American daily life?

Ok, let’s get down to the fun stuff. If you were stranded on a lush tropical island, and all of your basic needs 
were met, what two items would you have with you? What person would be with you? Remember, you’re stuck there for an indefinite period with only each other to occupy the time.

Jeff: I would have a guitar and a laptop. Hopefully I could be alone.

Jann: The first item would be John Wiseman’s SAS Survival Handbook: For Any Climate, in Any Situation, the second, a case of 16 year old scotch. I would probably be with the fictional TV character MacGyver, (not the real life actor Richard Dean Anderson).

If you could play opposite any of your lead characters, which one would it be and why?

Jeff: I would like to be Jack Frost—he struggles so much with his love for Julia Flowers and then finds redemption. I suppose I am still waiting for some sort of redemption, some separation from the puppet show, as well.

Jann: I’d like to play opposite the lyrical philosophizing custodian, “Guitar” Bob Zontarg. I’d like to talk with him about his music, the band, his poetry, his stint with Buzz Clocker and Dr. Emmie Seemy. Maybe Bob would allow me to sit in with his band sometime?

If you could lead any of your secondary characters, which one would it be and why?

Jeff: This is a little rougher. I really like Father John—his commitment to his students and his cause (the Food Bank) is very commendable to me. We use quite a bit of religious images in the book, hopefully seen in a playful way, to work on our redemption themes.

Jann: Mr. Allworthy, Professor of Philosophy seems like a pleasant chap, a bit delusional maybe, but hard working middle class hero. His notion of community college motivational mores interest me, and his lovely wife Alice, well, I’d like to taste her meatloaf. I also wonder whether she uses real butter in her baking.

You’re locked in a closet with Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, three paperclips and a string. How do you get out?

Jeff: I’d probably enjoy the lock up with Kate. I can’t imagine being near the other two. Most actors frighten me. Who are they really? Sometimes I marvel that Hollywood has become such an integral part of American life.   Hah. I would probably begin discussing my concerns with Pirates of the Caribbean movies, my fascination with Edward Scissor Hands, and my general lazy attitude about movies in general. That might get the two fellows to throw me out. [I don’t really know who Colin is]. But Kate— Oh lad, she’s a looker--with that red hair, sure she’s from the Scootland, I thought I saw her once walking near Bowness-on-Solway near Hadian’s Wall--ach she is a beauty—oops, wait, I am quoting McDougal, the overtly socialist bartender, a major player in the Phil Dolly Affair. ACH! Now what could I do with that string and paperclip? Go fishing!

Jann: Well, if Johnny Depp is alive and well, and what he knows he’ll never tell, I’d start up a brand new band, with lead guitar by scissors hand…then I’d take a paperclip and see if Colin has a grip, and with the string I’d try once, maybe twice, to see whether Kate is really nice. Naaaa, I’d attempt to configure a paperclip in the door handle area to jar open the door for a safe escape.

Name five things you can do with a pencil.

 Jeff: Write poems, sign debit card receipts, sharpen their points, tap on a table, stick behind my ear….

Jann: Write, wrestle, whittle, twirl, and poke

Who’s your favorite character from your book(s)? Why? Don’t worry, we won’t tell.

Jeff: I really like Elena Vasquez. She is a bright, beautiful, strong, student-centered, articulate woman who is not comfortable always expressing her values and beliefs within the repressive culture of Copperfield Community College. Many of our characters are victims of the system. Her situation, her two apparent romances (one with the married Dean, the other with Dashika (!) seem troubling and difficult for her. She is smart, vibrant, intellectual, and lovely. Each time I read her chapter I am more taken with the richness of her life and the chaos of her journey….

Jann: Jack Frost, the Anglo Espanol Professor from The Philip Dolly Affair. He’s a deep, complex, curious powerful poet, and surviving romantic. He’s also quite troubled; he suffers, smokes too much, he rides a Harley Davidson, and committed himself to lifetime fitness. What’s not to like?

Where can we find you around the vast interwebs?

Jeff: I maintain a blog on Open Salon and Writers Network—mostly for my poems and developing essays. We have established a BlogSpot blog for the Characters of Copperfield Community College. If you Google Jeffrey Ross College Leadership—you’ll probably find a few references to me (or the Comedian Jeff Ross.) Oh—we are also experimenting with talking avatar movies—here is a sample, “Discussing the Philip Dolly Affair.” (you tube).

Jann: Mostly high, dry and tangled.

What about your books? Where are they being sold at? 

Our books are available at the Rogue Phoenix Press website, Book Rack book stores, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble on line.  

Thanks for dropping in! Any last words?  

Jeff: This novel is a satire, a spoof, but it has a great deal of verisimilitude. We write about a community college, because this is what we know. But hopefully the book has more general, more expansive, meaning, than just what goes on at the college down the street.

If any of you have ever worked or gone to a meeting, you will recognize our characters—both those that are secondary and flat, or primary and developed. It seems like everyone in our society calls himself/herself a leader these days— in actuality, so few can be followed. We offer a different model, we think, and enjoy using hyperbole and exaggeration to entertain our readers. PS—we are  working at being artists rather than craftsmen in this book. I suppose our readers will let us know if we have succeeded. Thank you.

Jann: 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 …


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 …


JB O Connor, Student

JB had just left the Student Success Center [housed in the Teaching Learn-ed Center] at Copperfield Main.

He had taken a battery of academic placement, career guidance, political party proclivity, student government group and organization interest inventories, and TB tests….

He had spent about 20 minutes with a lady counselor [d--- she’s hot!] making course selections and was now walking over to the Business Center Complex to pay his registration fees.

JB had come to this venerable institution of higher learning for various reasons. [But mostly because his dad told him to go back to school or else.] About two days ago, he quit his job at the Sticky Mart and thought he might like to lounge around the house for a while. That same afternoon, while he was home watching the TV and drinking an ice cold beer, his dad, John, strode into the house and told him he had to get another job, or join the military, or go to college, or get out of the !%$^@! house.

Basically lazy and not suited for menial labor, JB had been out of high school for two years now, and had never really thought about going on to school. But, none of the armed services wanted him because of his inability to read... so college seemed like a good possibility.

Assorted Links:

College Leadership Crisis: The Philip Dolly Affair
By Jann M. Contento and Jeffrey Ross


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 InsidehigherEd.com 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.

Online Presence and
Social Media Links

Face book Info Page

Getting to Know Phil Dolly Blog

Twitter Account @SalinasChick

Jeffrey Ross Creative Efforts  Home Page on Web Eden (Music and More)

Jeffrey Ross Open Salon Blog—other poetry and essays


Goddess Fish Promotions said...

Thank you for hosting this tour today.

MomJane said...

If your story is as much fun as the interview, it is a must read for me.

Jeffrey Ross said...

Thank you so much for hosting our Philip Dolly Affair novel on your blog site. We had fun answering your interview questions!

Allworthy said...

Thanks so much for the entertaining author interview. I can't wait to read about the characters noted here. Community colleges may very well need, and deserve some comic relief.

Catherine Lee said...

Your profile of JB is spot on. I have worked MANY Registration days when "JB" shows up to register because his parents "made him."

I have read your article in Axis of Logic. I'm fortunate to have experience working at Universities, Colleges, and Community Colleges, so I might have a different perspective. I DO wholeheartedly agree with your conclusion, that the "uniqueness of the community college position in American education should continue to be critically defined" and nourished.