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Laura Burroughs: The Foxes of Caminus

Mar 3, 2014 by

foxes

Michael F. Shaughnessy –

  1. Laura, you have just completed a wonderful, magical novel- The Foxes of Caminus. One of its most intriguing aspects of your book is something called the Gengnosphere. Can you tell us about it?

Anya and Harlie Fox, two of “The Foxes” of Caminus, get their first glimpse at what life and learning might be like at Caminus Academy through The Gengnosphere, or Genny, as they know her. When Anya and Harlie walk to the end of a long catwalk, they find themselves in the center of a huge sphere. The space lights up all around them, giving them 360 degrees of space to contemplate. A beautiful voice fills the silence. It’s totally overwhelming at first, but in this sphere, they can interact with a holographic world, moving through it as they choose.

Even though they’re standing together, they are having totally different experiences. Harlie discovers Caminus Academy’s stadium, eats ice cream in Cibus Hall, and flies to the top of Devil’s Rock in a different country while Anya talks to her future dorm advisor, Grace Hayden, and cajoles an English teacher into arranging a meeting with one of her favorite authors, though the author has been dead for many years.

I think the gengnosphere would be a spectacular way to learn, far more inspirational and rigorous because the kids are pushing themselves to learn, to discover and to make choices using the information at their disposal.

  1. The two main characters are twins- was this intentional?

Absolutely. One of the themes in the book is “entanglement.” There’s the scientific concept of the word, and there are the entanglements of paradigms, relationships and expectations. Having twins gives me many opportunities to explore these themes. The twins’ relationship also allows me to use my experience as one of three siblings to craft the characters through their interactions with each other. As I shift the point-of-view from Harlie to Anya, I can easily create conflict and juxtapose their perspectives.

  1. What is this very special school all about?

Caminus Academy is all about the fulfillment of potential, creating and recreating the future by constantly envisioning and seeking it. When the new students accept their batons, the also accept a duty; they must “Learn, to manifest the future.” The curricular philosophy here assumes there are many appropriate delivery methods to teach the content and the depth of material and perspective from which the content is taught should depend on the individual needs of the learner. Neuroscience, biofeedback, meditation, experimentation, metacognitive skills and executive functioning training are part of the curriculum as well. Students have many avenues to find and cultivate their talents, while strengthening the weaknesses that are most likely to keep them from accomplishing their goals.

For Harlie, getting control of his emotions becomes necessary for his and others’ safety. Dona Amazir and a fellow student coach him to keep himself calm in crisis situations. Harlie’s friend, Devlin Hawk, has a photographic memory, so he doesn’t need to study in the classic sense of the word. It’s his responsibility to help other students develop strategies for memorizing things. The students are expected to produce and further knowledge, not just consume it. Students leave Caminus Academy with clear goals, well-developed talents, habits that create opportunities, and the ability to experiment with ideas, consider different perspectives and suspend their biases. That’s an educated person.

  1. What are the lessons that Anya and Harlie seem to learn about developing their own potential?

Anya and Harlie, like all of us, harbor habits and attitudes that keep them from creating their future in a positive way. Once they discover their talents, they still have to develop them and discern what to do with them. Anya must keep her talent from distracting her from other ways she needs to develop herself. She must relearn how to concentrate in classes. She must struggle with ethical issues that her ability creates for her. Harlie faces different challenges: he wants to be admired by his peers so badly it makes him reckless and unhappy at times. He’s just beginning to rearrange his priorities and discipline himself so he can harness and control his talent and make good use of it.

  1. As the story progresses- each of the twins begins to learn something about themselves. Can you give us a clue?

Anya has to learn to act creatively and powerfully in the face of fear, allow her analytical mind to work in tandem with her intuition and open her mind to her own power. Harlie’s task is even harder: he must acknowledge his fear of failure before he can realize his talent. He’s so wrapped up in looking good to his friends that he isn’t paying attention to living with integrity and accepting his responsibilities. It’s not until he gets knocked around a bit, and humbled, that he takes stock in his behavior. That’s when his talent emerges.

  1. Is Caminus based on any real life school- or is it totally fictitious?

I did an enormous amount of research for this book, but Caminus Academy is what I imagine a school should be. Its layout, its teachers and its philosophy, are constructs of my imagination, but they’re also inspired by the creativity of many teachers, thinkers and writers. I originally imagined the gengnosphere when I was teaching the concept of parallax. I wanted to put my students in space to examine the 3-D world.

When I started doing research for my book, I came across the AlloSphere at the University of California, Santa Barbara, the brainchild of Professor JoAnn Kuchera-Morin and architect, Robert Venturi. It does some of the things I envision Genny doing; it’s quite inspiring. I picked up the idea of using lava tubes on a trip to Hawaii. They reminded me of secret passages, catacombs beneath churches and the sewers in Paris, all ripe settings for intrigue. When I was writing the book several years later, I wanted a creepy place to set the tone for dramatic events and it hit me. Lava tubes fit for a school on a volcanic island. They’re the perfect setting for the climax in the story!

  1. How does religion fit into the picture?

Isn’t that a loaded question! Religious extremism is only one exemplar how entrenched paradigms can become destructive when they have outlived their usefulness—and it’s the catalyst that creates the violence in this book. The faculty of Caminus Academy recognizes the inherent power of faith. They open Bethel to everyone in Caminus Academy, whether they espouse a religion or not. The culture here is one that insists that each individual determines his relationship to God (or nature), and practices within a moral code without judging others by his concept of God’s will. In the end, Harlie, Anya, and their friends have to lay their prejudices and fears aside to work with classmates who don’t share their religious views or culture.

They don’t do it gracefully or completely, but they do it, each to their own degree, moving closer to loving others unconditionally. For me, that’s the purpose of faith.

  1. Anya and Harlie seem to be your typical adolescents- but they seem to also have quite different interests and agendas in life. Tell us about these two main characters.

Harlie is in perpetual motion, always finding ways to get into trouble. He’s funny and he loves being the center of attention. At his core, he’s a really good guy, but he’s got a lot of growing up to do. Anya is creative and introspective, but her insecurities and skepticism get in her way. When she makes up her mind about something, she’s a force to be reckoned with. She’s very protective of her brother and tries to keep him out of trouble. In return, Harlie helps her relax, enjoy life, and laugh at herself a little.

  1. Where can readers learn more about your special school and characters? Do you have a website?

My website is a treasure trove of information about the history and science concepts in The Foxes of Caminus. There is also a pronunciation key for words like Caminus and gengnosphere. You can read the first few chapters and buy the book, either the paperback or e-book, directly through the website. Go to www.the foxesofcaminus.com and don’t forget to check out my blog while you’re there.

Published by Jimmy Kilpatrick
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by Education News
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