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Kid on the Go! Blog Tour and Giveaway

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We're back again with another blog tour! This time we're excited to announce the launch of Kid on the Go! by Neill McKee. Kid on the Go! is Neill McKee’s third work of creative nonfiction. It’s a standalone prequel to his award-winning Finding Myself in Borneo. In this new book, McKee takes readers on a journey through his childhood, adolescence, and teenage years from the mid-40s to the mid-60s, in the small, then industrially-polluted town of Elmira, Ontario, Canada—one of the centers of production for Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. 

McKee’s vivid descriptions, dialog, and self-drawn illustrations are a study of how a young boy learned to play and work, fish and hunt, avoid dangers, cope with death, deal with bullies, and to build or restore “escape” vehicles. You may laugh out loud as the author recalls his exploding hormones, attraction to girls, rebellion against authority, and survival of 1960s’ “rock & roll” culture—emerging on the other side as a youth leader. 

After leaving Elmira, McKee describes his intensely searching university years, trying to decide which career path to follow. Except for a revealing postscript, the story ends when he accepts a volunteer teaching position on the island of Borneo, in Southeast Asia.

Purchase your copy now available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Bookshop.org. Make sure to add it to your GoodReads reading list, too.

About the Author, Neill McKee

Neill McKee is a creative nonfiction writer based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He has written and published three books in this genre since 2015. His latest work is Kid on the Go! Memoir of My Childhood and Youth, a humorous and poignant account of his growing up in an industrially-polluted town in Ontario, Canada, and his university years. This memoir is a stand-alone prequel to his first travel memoir Finding Myself in Borneo: Sojourns in Sabah (2019) on his first overseas adventures in Sabah, Malaysia (North Borneo), where he served as a Canadian volunteer teacher and program administrator during 1968-70 and 1973-74. This book won the 2019 New Mexico/Arizona Book Award for Biography–(other than a New Mexico/Arizona subject) and a Bronze Medal in the 2020 Independent Publisher Book Awards (Ippy Awards). 

In late 2020, McKee also released Guns and Gods in my Genes: A 15,000-mile North American search through four centuries of history, to the Mayflower—an entertaining account of how he searched for his roots in Canada and the US, in which he employs vivid descriptions, dialog, poetic prose, analytical opinion, photos and illustrations. In this work, McKee slowly uncovers his American grandmother’s lineage—ancestors who were involved in almost every major war on North American soil and others, including a passenger on the Mayflower, as well as heroes, villains, rascals, and ordinary godly folk. Through his search, McKee exposes myths and uncovers facts about the true founding of America.

McKee, who holds a B.A. Degree from the University of Calgary and a Masters in Communication from Florida State University, lived and worked in Asia, Africa, Russia and traveled to over 80 countries on assignments during his 45-year international career. He became an expert in communication and directed/produced a number of award-winning documentary films/videos, and wrote a many articles and books in the field. McKee is now busy writing another travel memoir on his career. He does readings/book signings and presentations with or without photos. He prefers lively interactive sessions.

Follow the author online at:

Author’s website: www.neillmckeeauthor.com
Kid on the Go! book page: www.neillmckeeauthor.com/kid-on-the-go 
Kid on the go! buy page: www.neillmckeeauthor.com/buy-3 
Author's digital library: www.neillmckeevideos.com/

--- Interview by Nicole Pyles

WOW:  First, congratulations on your newest memoir! What inspired you to write a memoir about your childhood and youth? 

Neill: So many best-selling childhood memoirs are by people who struggled against physical or mental abuse, poverty, racial or cultural discrimination, or dogmatic parents and guardians, but somehow overcame such oppression to get a good education and succeed in life. I experienced none of those conditions, so what could I write about that would tell an entertaining, captivating story? I have clear memories of the adventures I enjoyed in my formative years in my small hometown, Elmira, Ontario, Canada, and always wanted to find time to write about them. I had loving parents and they gave me and my siblings a great deal of freedom. Like many in the 1940s and 1950s, they rose from relative poverty to financial security through their determination and hard work. Nevertheless, I felt that I could translate my memories into a set of universally-appealing stories that would bring back similar memories in the minds of many readers. 

However, I had to have something to struggle against to add conflict and drama to the narrative, and in my case, it was the industrial and environmental pollution I experienced in my hometown. The stinks from chemical and fertilizer factories, the slaughter house, and unpleasant manure smells radiating from Old Order Mennonite farmers’ fields provide the setting for the overall theme of “escape.” But I tried to carry this main theme humorously or poignantly by exploring subthemes such as learning how to reduce the impact of the odors, going on vacations, going fishing and hunting, coping with death in the family, building and renovating “escape” vehicles, learning the value of hard work, dealing with hormonal changes and bullying, fantasizing about girls and sex, fighting the dictates of authorities, joining the rebellious 1960s “rock n’ roll” culture, awakening intellectually and becoming a youth leader, and then when I finally leave to attend university, taking “existential leaps” that eventually lead to me to the verdant Island of Borneo in Southeast Asia, as told in my first memoir Finding Myself in Borneo: Sojourns in Sabah. Kid on the Go! is a standalone prequel to that memoir. 

WOW: You definitely have offered us a unique coming of age memoir we don't usually see! So, You did charming artwork for this book. How did you decide which passages to do art for, and what was your process? 

Neill: Thanks for the compliment in calling my efforts “artwork.” I think of it as sketching. I had no experience in drawing since elementary school, but was inspired by the illustrations of Quentin Blake in Roald Dahl’s Boy: Tales of Childhood. That book is actually written for an older audience, just like mine, but claims to be for people ages seven and above. At any rate, I loved the way the comic drawings complemented the descriptions in the book and wanted to try something similar. I never thought I had any artistic talent, but have a sister who is an artist. I asked her to consider doing it but she turned me down, saying it was not the kind of art she was working on. So, I started to doodle and showed my attempts to my wife, Elizabeth, who does calligraphy and artistic books. She told me she liked my efforts, as did my daughter. I tried again by tracing similar scenes and objects I found online, rubbing lines out, and doing them over again. But I still had an inferiority complex concerning artwork and decided I really needed an artist like Quentin Blake. My daughter put me in touch with Dav Yendler, an illustrator in California and I showed him about 20 of my first efforts. He refused to work for me, saying he loved them and if he did get directly involved, they wouldn’t be very authentic. He gave me a few tips and told me to do more—at least two per chapter. That’s what I ended up doing and so far, I’ve only received positive comments.

I chose the passages to illustrate based on my ability to do the drawings and the effect they might have on embellishing the words. Everything was done is pencil and then scanned and sharpened in Photoshop. No magic process. I encourage others to do the same but be prepared—it takes hours to get them right. 

WOW: Your art is definitely authentic and I'm glad you did them yourself. What did you learn through writing this memoir? 

Neill: I learned that it is possible to write in a child’s voice with the descriptions, perceptions, thoughts, and dreams of a child, accompanied by dialog between me as a child and other children, as well as adults, while also adding a present-day, historical perspective in a more mature voice. I did this by simply putting the latter in brackets. For instance, starting in the 1940s, the chemical factory in our town made an insecticide called DDT and two herbicides, 2,4,-D and 2,4,5-T, which were sprayed on lawns, gardens, and parks—sometimes by enlisting high school students. The town council aimed to make Elmira “the first weed-free town in Canada.” I introduce this in Chapter 1 in brackets because I never knew the exact chemicals when I was a child. I only knew that on many days the town stank! 

In Chapter 14, when I am in high school, I reveal that our chemical factory was one of seven North American facilities that made the infamous Agent Orange used as a defoliant by the US military in Vietnam. Agent Orange was produced by mixing 2,4,-D and 2,4,5-T in equal and high concentrations. It caused thousands of innocent civilians to die or become severely ill and crippled, deformed fetuses in wombs, and produced much long-lasting environmental damage that continues to have effects on humans and animals today. Thousands of American soldiers were also exposed, eventually causing cancers and other illnesses. I didn’t know this was taking place in the early 1960s (as was the case with most residents of Elmira). So, I used that information as a kind of “flash forward” and put it in brackets. I also changed my writer’s voice as I mature in the book and I included a postscript from a present-day point of view to tie up some unsolved issues. For instance, I briefly included my research on my hometown’s involvement in making Agent Orange and other chemicals, such as DDT, and their long-lasting effects on the place. Many reviewers and readers seem to appreciate that I did not leave this hanging. 

After I published this memoir, I contacted the editor of my hometown’s newspaper. His paper had done a good review of my Borneo memoir in 2019 and I wondered if he would like to do an interview or review on this new memoir, since it was about living in Elmira from the mid-40s to mid-60s. The editor and I had a chat on the phone and I asked him to review the book. He did so and came out with this pretty fare write up. No rotten tomatoes yet! 

WOW: That's fantastic and I'm so glad you could re-connect with an editor that grow up in your hometown! How did the pandemic change your writing routine or process (if at all)? 

Neill: Quite frankly, Covid-19 has made me focus on research, background reading, writing, and online promotion. It has been one of the most productive periods of my writing career. I started writing three memoirs simultaneously in 2013, after I concluded my international career, and released the one on my life and times in Borneo in early 2019. Fortunately, by the summer of 2019, I had also finished all of my travel for Guns and Gods in My Genes: A 15,000-mile North American Search Through Four Centuries, to the Mayflower. So, all I had to do was online research, reading, writing, and revision. Once that book was released in late 2020, I concentrated on Kid on the Go! I have done a few zoom presentations on my books, but must say I prefer person-to-person contact. It is difficult to connect and gauge audience reaction on zoom. So, I hope we can say goodbye to the pandemic soon. 

WOW: I sure hope so too! So, why have you continued to go the route of self-publishing? 

Neill: As mentioned above, I had a long career in international filmmaking and media production, including the writing of some technical books and journal articles on the role of communication in changing behavior and social norms in developing countries. When I retired from that at the end of 2012, I started studying creative nonfiction—first at St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland, and then at the English Department of the University of New Mexico. I hired an excellent literary editor, who has also worked on my other two memoirs. I submitted my Borneo manuscript to about a dozen publishers and received two offers from small companies. But both of these excluded any guarantee that they would fund any significant publicity. 

By then I had learned that there are about 1,000 new titles in all genres released daily into the North American English market. Without significant promotion, I knew there’s no way I’d sell books and these publishers were going to take away most of the royalties that I could use in promotion. So, I set up a publishing company, NBFS Creations LLC, hired good cover and interior designers, and publish through IngramSpark, a company that prints and distributes books and ebooks internationally, through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, other chains such as Chapters-Indigo in Canada, and also reaches independent bookstores and libraries. 

In my 70s, I felt I did not have the time or real possibility to become a recognized writer of creative nonfiction by the traditional means. Besides, I did not need that financially. Even through this independent publishing route, Finding Myself in Borneo and Guns and Gods in My Genes have gained many great reviews, and won awards, which can be seen on my website. In these contests I have competed against other self-publishers and large and small publishing companies. So, maybe a big publisher will want one of my manuscripts someday, but I won’t hold my breath! I do love the speed and independence of doing it myself, with competent professional editors and designers. 

WOW: So many authors feel the same way! What's next for you? 

Neill: I have completed over half of the first draft of my next manuscript on my career as an international filmmaker and multimedia producer, working for two Canadian development agencies, UNICEF, Johns Hopkins University, and an agency called FHI360 in Washington, D.C., where I was director of a communication project with 150 staff and a large budget. During my career, I lived for four years in Malaysia, four years in Bangladesh, seven years in Kenya and Uganda (East Africa), and my last overseas posting was in Moscow, Russia during 2004-2007. Besides that, I traveled to about 80 countries on short-term assignments. All this has given me significant experience in learning about the issues within so many fields of endeavor to improve human life in the developing world: volunteering during your youth; the role of science and technology in agriculture, forestry, fisheries and aquaculture; finding solutions for delivering health care, clean water, sanitation and hygiene; empowering girls, women, and young people to take charge of their lives, while attempting to change the behaviors and social norms that restrict them from reaching their full potential. I think there’s a good story here. I’ve set up a website on my main projects, including most of the videos, comic books, and other media products that I have been able to retrieve, so far. 

My challenge is to write about my career creatively and coherently in a way that will entertain and educate—that is, make readers smile, wonder, and think about the present state of our planet. I am also including thoughts on what was achieved or wasn’t achieved in the projects I documented or created, my advancement in skills, personal development, marriage and family life, and memories of many of the people I met in my travels and those who influenced me and propelled my way forward. 

I hope to complete this book by the end of 2022. In the meantime, I also want to begin a new writing project, probably involving travel through New Mexico and America’s Southwest. That project is gradually taking shape through reading and thinking about the history, ethnicities, and cultures I have encountered here.

WOW: I can't wait to see what you come out with next! Thank you so much for your time and best of luck on your book!

--- Blog Tour Calendar

November 8th @ The Muffin
Join us as we celebrate the launch of Neill McKee's newest memoir, Kid on the Go. Come by and read an interview with the author, find out more about his newest book, and enter to win a copy for yourself.

November 10th @ Quiet Fury Books
Visit Darcia's blog today where she features an excerpt from Neill McKee's memoir Kid on the Go!.

November 12th @ Choices
Visit Madeline's blog and read Neill McKee's guest post on surviving the 1960's Rock n' Roll culture.

November 15th @ Bring on Lemons
Visit Crystal's blog today and read her insights into Neill McKee's memoir Kid on the Go!.

November 15th @ Katherine Itacy's Blog
Stop by Katherine and read her review of Neill McKee's memoir Kid on the Go!. You can also enter to win a copy of the book for yourself too!

November 17th @ Beverley A. Baird's Blog
Join Beverley as she features a guest post by author Neill McKee on issues on writing about your hometown. 

November 20th @ Sweet Silly Sara
Visit Sara's blog and read her review of Neill McKee's memoir Kid on the Go!.

November 24th @ Beverley A. Baird's Blog
Visit Beverley's blog again and read her review of Neill McKee's memoir Kid on the Go!.

November 24th @ C. Lee McKenzie
Join C. Lee McKenzie today as she interviews author Neill McKee, author of the memoir Kid on the Go!.

November 26th @ StoreyBook Reviews
Visit Leslie's blog where she shares an excerpt of Neill McKee's memoir Kid on the Go!.

November 30th @ Author Anthony Avina's Blog
Join Anthony as he interviews Neill McKee, author of the memoir Kid on the Go!.

December 2nd @ The Mommies Reviews
Visit Glenda's blog today where she reviews Neill McKee's memoir Kid on the Go!.

December 4th @ Mother Daughter Bookclub
Join Cindy today when she reviews Neill McKee's memoir Kid on the Go!.

December 5th @ Fiona Ingram's Blog
Join Fiona today when she shares Neill McKee's guest post on writing a memoir in a youth's voice but with present-day adult reflections.

December 7th @ CK Sorens' Blog
Make sure to stop by CK Sorens' blog today and check out a feature of Neill McKee's memoir and enter to win a copy of the book too.

December 8th @ World of My Imagination
Join Nicole as she shares her thoughts about Neill McKee's memoir Kid on the Go!. You'll also have the chance to win a copy for yourself too.

December 10th @ Bookshine and Readbows
Join Steph as she shares Neill McKee's guest post about how mentors changed his life.

December 10th @ Jill Sheets' Blog
Join Jill as she interviews Neill McKee and features his memoir Kid on the Go!.

December 12th @ Author Anthony Avina's Blog
Visit Anthony's blog again as he shares his thoughts on Neill McKee's newest memoir Kid on the Go!.

***** BOOK GIVEAWAY *****

Enter to win a copy of Kid on the Go! a memoir by Neill McKee by filling out the Rafflecopter form below. The giveaway ends November 21st at 11:59pm CT. We will announce the winner the next day in the Rafflecopter widget and follow up via email. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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