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Sunday 21 Jul 2024

E L Chappel
dr george pollard

Grub Street Interview Grub Street Interview Grub Street Interview

Here’s an old joke, offensive yet revealing. High school seniors, all young women, take a class called, “Value Emphasis for Women.” The teacher offers two life plans. Plan A is a life of duty, family planning, good character and compliance. Plan B is the chance to drink all you want and be promiscuous. A voice, from back of room, says, “Plan B sounds liberating, it's what guys do.”

“There is work and there is love,” said Sigmund Freud. “Nothing will work unless you do,” said author, Dr Maya Angelou. “The beginning is the most important part of work,” said Greek philosopher, Plato.

From the moment of birth, we begin to learn. The lungs vent. The skin tingles. Why is it so bright? What’s all the noise? Why are my feet in the air?

At birth, we begin to learn how to learn. We also begin to learn what others expect of us. We begin to learn what we might expect of others.

Most parents tell researchers they want a boy, first, although a girl is okay. A second child comes quicker, if the first is a girl. If the first child is a boy, there’s roughly a three-year gap before a second child arrives; roughly sixteen months if the first birth is a girl.

A new born girl may swaddle in pink. This, supposedly, is a passive colour. Pink links with kindness, fostering and love. These links line up with beliefs of what females should do; nurturing, caring for home and family or obedience.

New born boys may swaddle in blue. Some researchers believe the colour blue has a positive effect, in the largest sense. It stands for calm and dignity; sky and ocean, physical and mental gifts. These ostensible meanings imply males can expect to be strong, free to do as they wish and, likely, a leader, of their family, if not a nation or the world.

Swaddling helps create a sense of gender identity. Parents push girls to develop skills for having and raising a family or, perhaps, tolerating an empty job, for exploitive wages, to improve family income. Parents push boys to develop skills for working in groups, planning and control; team sports are an example.

If a girl or boy rebels against the expected, much pressure follows; he or she must fall in line or suffer. A girl can be a tomboy, as long as she also shows signs of knowing what she must do, as a woman. A boy, with cross gender interests, may have a more difficult time; labelled as a sissy, others may exclude him from team sports.

Household chores may support gender roles. Girls, women, clean, cook and care for children. These tasks performed in the private realm, known mostly to family.

Boys, men, take out the trash, mow the lawn or shovel snow. These tasks are physical and out of doors, performed in the public realm, seen by the world. Yet, boys seldom dream of life as a bin man or landscaper. These might be summer jobs, not work or a career.

Tasks splinter by gender, even among middle aged women and men. After the meal, women cluster in the kitchen and clean. Men gather in from of the ninety-six inch television screen to watch a sporting event.

Chores, performed by young women, lead to ideas of a job in food, child care or personal services. The logic is simple, “I’ve been doing such work all my life. Why not get paid for it.” This seldom pans out, as male servers earn more than do female servers and have fewer incidents with problem diners.

Parents give tasks to girls and boys without thought of gender. The gender effects, though unintended, are largely invisible. The effects help shape a life.

Early in life, an interest in some line of work emerges; that is, a set of tasks performed for money and some degree of pride. Gender treatment, from birth, fuels the interest. Boys and girls will thus differ.

At age eight, a boy might want to fight fires or drive a huge construction truck. At sixteen, he wants to be a rock star or race a muscle car. At twenty-four, he’s an architect or financial wizard.

At age eight, a girl might want to be a nurse, mother or teacher. At sixteen, she wants to be a model. At twenty-four, she’s a librarian, an administrative assistant or a server in a sports bar, with two children.

The early interest is partly due to expectations and assignment of chores. Early ideas of work may also reflect an ideal; someone held in high regard or a family friend may prompt a work-related interest in a boy. A girl mostly looks to her mother, sisters or aunts.

Earliest interests involve a concrete line of work viewed as important. A firefighter is typical as is some form of caregiver, such as a mother, nurse or teacher. Service employment, taxi-driver or caretaker, are less likely. These are jobs, that is, largely repetitive, routine tasks performed mostly for money.

Early interest in a line of work is also less likely to involve creative work; sculptor, painter or writer. These are abstract lines of work. Most children overlook creativity as a way to earn a living and few parents say different.

Slowly, facts about the work interest amass. A relevant word heard here or there, maybe on a television show or in a video. A grammar school project might focus on an interest in some line of work.

As facts build up, interest may wane. Fighting fires is dangerous; preparation for such jobs may not be challenging enough. Chiropractors prepare for a long time, five to seven years, which means it takes longer to begin earning a living than in other lines of work, say, an accountant or electrician.

Other interests grow. Engineer or aviator may acceptably balance preparation with gender expectations, character and personality. Interests change many times before settles, firmly, on one; before the effect of realism comes into play.

Realism sets limits for girls and boys, women and men. As technology grows in importance, parents and teachers push boys toward it and girls away from it. Often, higher status work is more suitable for boys and men, not girls or women.

By first grade, most girls and boys have a sense of interest in some form of work she or he might like to do. There is a hidden curriculum in education. In school, children learn the importance of being on time and orderly, forming lines and following rules.

In pre-school, girls and boys play together, as equals, as Sociologist Stephen Richer found. They also express no problem sharing the same bathroom. Mere weeks after entering grade one, girls and boys no longer play as equals; girls usually cheer boys taking part in games. Bathrooms become gender specific domains.

The hidden curriculum also supports ideas of gender and work by steering girls and boys toward suitable lines of work. In first grade, lines of work take on a gender identity. Girls and boys agree plumber or mechanics are jobs, mostly for males; secretary or nurse are jobs only for females.

Girls show more interest in lines of work performed by women. Boys more interest work performed by men. The implicit message is this is what women or men do, which harks back to childhood chores.

Television and cable series support the implicit gender message. The title character of “Ray Donavan” is a Philip Marlow, white-night character of a 1940s ilk; he’s less ethical and more violent, though. His wife, Abby, is conventional; outside home and hearth, she is easily overcome by events.

The hugely popular “Game of Thrones” offers hope for change. Most of the central characters are strong females. Daenerys is a leader. Cersei is a high-end schemer. Sansa, a subtle plotter, is wise beyond her years. Arya is a tomboy, an expert with a sword; she has a kill list that grows shorter.

The main character, of “Game of Thrones,” is a dwarf, Tyrion. He wins by wit, guile and guts. Tyrion out manoeuvres his genetic disadvantage to win.

“Game of Thrones” is an exception. After years of parents and teachers implying the superiority of boys over girls, young men enter the work place with a sense of privilege. Some may enter apprenticeships, such as plastering or land surveying. Some may decide to seek higher education as a route to prestigious and well-paying careers.

How does a girl feel when her interests are more in line with boys than other girls? “Super awkward,” says E L Chappel. “I’m from a traditional family. That made it worse.

“Where do I find friends? I wanted to be around girls, as that was more comfortable. Few, if any, girls wanted to learn to fish or tie knots, as did I.

“The boys are having fun, taking shop class. I told my parents I wanted to take shop. They said, ‘No,’ emphatically. I was to take typing. This is what I was supposed to do”; what a girl does.

“I didn’t understand,” says Chappel. To make it worse, at least for her, she was the shyest young girl on the planet. “I didn’t have words to back me up, at that time. I was so young.” “I didn’t know how to ask, ‘How do you tie a lashing knot or a stopper?’ Now, Chappel is a wordsmith that can tie knots in rope as well as plots.

She wouldn’t join the boys, either. “I stood around, a great deal, wishing I could learn how to fish.” Today, Chappel thinks her childhood years were confusing and frustrating.

Young women are slightly more likely to enter university than are young men. Most women seek a degree in Arts, Humanities or the Social Sciences. Such an education improves the quality of their lives, which they pass on to their children. Fulfilling their intellectual or skill-related interests is another matter, little considered.

“Education is important,” says Chappel. “Last night, I spoke at a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) symposium. I’m delighted there’s a strong initiative for teaching STEM topics to young women.

“There are summer camps that focus on STEM for young women, too. Campers spend a week engaged in STEM-related activities. At the end, of the week, there’s a panel of women and peers, from different industries related to STEM.

“Campers get to ask about women in jobs in one or another area of STEM,” says Chappel. “Often, campers want to know if the women are frightened and what might be the source of the fear. The panellists talk of their fifty-year-old selves versus their fifteen-year-old selves and how to bridge the gap.” It’s a huge leap.

“The panellists confirm a woman can have a life and a family,” says Chappel. “The underlying point is you can do what you want to do, STEM or otherwise. As well, these camps set up life-long contacts that provide support.” Old boy networks are giving way to ageless women networks.

“In a way,” says Chappel, “these camps show young women how to exist, in STEM, which is a world full of mostly men. There are gender bonds that block young women and others from STEM occupations. There are ways to work around these conventions and succeed.” The camps offer hints and strategies for young women with an interest in STEM.

“There was a work in STEM symposium, recently. Afterward, several young women told me they wanted to have a family and a career in STEM. It’s likely the most common concern and it’s possible.

“These young women feel much pressure, from their family,” says Chappel. The pressure is to go to school, work for a while and, at age thirty, say, start a family and be a stay-at-home mother. “This is confusing. Earn a degree in a STEM area, but, when crunch time arrives, be a stay-at-home mother.”

STEM offers careers, a life time of work in one, ostensibly specific area or another for money and much personal satisfaction. “Young women, rightly,” says Chappel, “are concerned about losing out on the chance to have a career. They feel the only acceptable role for them is mother and wife, which is unfair and unrealistic.

“Young women wonder if they are wasting time by training for a career in STEM.” Is it worth it to explore, to get an education, in STEM; to choose a line of work that is different, only to leave it behind? To take a role awarded only by the fact she can bear children? “These are the big questions,” says Chappel.

Scarlett Koller suggests STEM programmes, which show or speak to women only, are problematic.” Young women don’t like that focus. “Programmes, which show and speak to young women and men, are likely more effective in recruiting women.”

Many young men enrol in engineering, architecture or business programmes. Any sense of privilege is evaporates, quickly. The dropout rate in these and related programmes is remarkably high; it’s not unusual for a male student to take the first year courses, in engineering, say, three times, failing all courses, each time. This is what a man does, he thinks, what’s wrong with me.

At university, women take humanities, arts or social sciences. Some women take expressive training in journalism, say. Nursing programmes are mostly women, too.

Few women enrol in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) programmes. STEM enrolment varies, but averages, roughly, seven per cent women. Anecdotally, women are more likely to complete a STEM programme than are men.

“Building an airplane is not what a sixteen-year-old girl does or wants to do,” says Chappel. “Girls are dissuaded from such dreams. I know, as I was one of those girls.

Chappel says she wanted to be an Eagle Scout. “That wasn’t an option for girls or young women, in my day. I didn’t want to sell Girl Guide cookies. The cookies are tasty, but I wanted to learn to tie knots and fish.

“I wanted to know how to start a fire with whatever I could find. I had a warrior spirit. Fortunately, no one doused my dream.”

Subconsciously, we steer women away from STEM, says Karen Horting, CEO of the Society Women Engineers. “Young girls [show] skill and interest in STEM, at a young age. Without the [urging] that boys get, [their] interest fades by high school.”

Scarlett Koller is a recent graduate of MIT, recently hired by SpaceX. Her degree is in aerospace engineering. No one tried to discourage her from an education in STEM.

“I know women that were discouraged,” says Koller. “Someone will say, for example, ‘Engineering is not a good career for a woman.’” The effects, of such comments, depend on the source, of course; the more significant the source, to the young woman, the greater the influence.

If a significant other, a parent, say, voices the discouragement, the woman is likely to find other interests. “Most of the discouragement occurs before reaching college,” says Koller, which is good news, of a sort. MIT, in particular, makes an extra effort to recruit women to its STEM programmes.

JJ DiGeronimo, president of Tech Savvy Women, says “women and girls want to know their efforts create additional value, beyond the task at hand.” Girls, she says, find problem solving more interesting, than building cars or rockets, as seen in the movies.

Women that enrol in STEM programmes face subtle hurtles. Chappel is a graduate of the Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, in Daytona, Florida. From her experience, as a woman student in a STEM programme, she says, “Teachers of aviation for women pilots are typically men; women and men learn differently, but male instructors seldom acknowledge this fact.

“At Emory Riddle, the teachers and the curriculum assumed students had some mechanical skills or inclination. Many young women had not taken mechanics in high school.” Maybe, mechanics was not acceptable for their curriculum. Women students faced disadvantages from day one.

“My mechanical skills were limited to pushing the lawnmower and putting gas in my car,” says Chappel. “When it came to reciprocating engines and air dynamics, I was lost. I had no point of reference.” Yet, she completed the programme and became a commercial pilot.

Nobody wants to go into a training programme they likely won’t complete, successfully. Women, says Chappel, need “gumption to suck it up, push forward and [find] people to help them.” Not all women or men have such intestinal fortitude. “I can imagine there are women [and men] that would abandon such an education,” she says, “many quickly.”

At MIT, says Scarlett Koller, “there are numerous female [faculty] and researchers.” Northrop Grumman, she says, hired several hundred women engineers to intern at the company.” The company is taking a necessary step to included women in STEM.

Outreach programmes, says Koller, must portray female and male STEM workers. To show only girls, she says, makes girls feel singled out and they wonder why. It also suggests girls might be diversity hires.

Chappel does not think STEM programmes need to change. “Adaptation, less than change, seems necessary,” she says. “At issue, for example, is instructor style more than course content.”

Traditionally, STEM programmes excluded women, implicitly or directly. Male instructors, with mostly male students, led to a masculine sub-culture. Women were uncomfortable and dropped out.

Grand Rounds are an important part of a medical education. During rounds, an instructor will call on a male medical student by his surname, “Jones what is your diagnosis?” The handful of women medical students are “Miss Smith,” for example.

If Jones errs, the fault is not in his stars, but with him as a student. If Smith errors, the fault lies with her as a woman and as a student. Discrimination, as Karen Horting notes, can be subtle.

“If you’re female and running for president, you better be perfect.” A headline from the Boston “Globe,” published on 27 July 2016. The head was for an opinion piece by Madeleine May Kunin.

Young women face much pressure when they decide to go to work or seek higher education. In the work place, they find a narrow range of choices; jobs, which they can get, often pay exploitive wages. These lines of work have little future, often becoming a second income that supplements the higher earrings of the husband.

“On the job, there is more pressure on women than on men working in STEM,” says Chappel. If a woman, working in a STEM area, doesn’t present well, it’s a big deal. She knows it and must try harder.

“In my experience, the pilot was a man. He was the boss. Sometimes, I was second seat. Men get away with much more. I felt I had to meet a higher standard, at least at first.

“For anyone that doesn’t become part of the crew, the group, say, there’s more of a spotlight on him or her; much more, if it’s a woman.” Thus, it falls on the woman to find ways to bridge the abyss; put the others at ease, do better than her best.

Chappel tells of the time the male CEO, of the company for which she worked, took her flight. She stood at the bottom of stairs, in full dress uniform. As the CEO walked passed her, he said, “Oh, I see you’ll be joining us tonight. Chappel said, “Yes, I’m the captain.”

Pilots, she says, seldom have the necessary social skills. A woman pilot must excel in those skills, like it or not. “Thankfully,” says Chappel, “I was prepared.”

Training, in any technical area, usually bypasses relational skill development. In any area of STEM, the worker does his or her job. That’s the expectation, not that he or she is a kind person, say.

“The initial expectation, for women, is they’ll do what women do. They’ll keep the group together, resolve conflict and maintain a balanced and steady workplace. That’s the expectation men have of women co-workers; why women are invaluable.

“That I could get along with crusty, old, blow-hard pilots and captains, was a welcome surprise to everyone. Among men, contentious moments are to be won or lost; status won or lost.” Women are not as enamoured with status, as are men, and thus able to overcome.

“There is,” says Chappel, “another concern, a fear, in truth. That is, in almost every company I worked, I was the first woman. That is an incredible, awesome responsibility for a twenty-three year old; to enter an established department of men.

“Most of the men, I flew with, were experienced Vietnam veterans. Men that flew helicopters and turned to fixed wing pilots. Some men were still military pilots; many in the US Air Force or the Military Reserves.

“I thought I already had the skills and the self-confidence to bridge the gaps.” She soon found she didn’t. “I think that is difficult and daunting for women.”

Chappel was a corporate pilot. This led her to identify a third fear. “I was on-call twenty-eight days a month. It was challenging. Once I married and had a family, it was hard to preserve the balance of travelling and being a decent spouse and mother. I also needed time to sleep.

“For many commercial pilots the challenge is that you are gone for three or four days at a stretch. That’s not conventional for the mother, the nurturer or whatever the stereotype. I think it is brain-bender for many women.”

Henry Hyde, a Republican Member of Congress from Chicago, recommended Chappel to the Naval Academy. “I was a babe,” she says. “Hyde planned ahead, as there’s a long waiting list.”

“I was gymnast, in high school,” says Chappel. She had an accident, which healed, physically, but left her less of an athlete, emotionally, than before. “Luckily, I was academically strong,” which opened doors for her.

Her parents worried about her joining the US Navy and the eleven-year commitment, after the Academy. “I knew I wanted to fly,” says Chappel. Still, the Navy offered only a few flight choices for women, at the time.

“Instead, of the Navy, I was steered toward one of the top aeronautical engineering schools, in the USA, Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, in Daytona Beach, Florida. That’s where I went.” Embry Riddle is a STEM school.

It’s a conventional university programme for aeronautics. “Mostly,” says Chappel, “There were courses in air traffic control, maintenance, airport development and specific mathematics. Of course, there was flying. I took a minor in meteorology.

“At the time I attended, Embry Riddle had thirty-five hundred men and maybe thirty-women.” That’s less than one per cent of the enrolment. “There were obviously few women in any class,” says Chappel. “I was prepared for the gender disparity, but it was hard to handle, at first. I came from a mixed high school, of one thousand students, in Chicago.”

Chappel is author of a fictional aviation adventure trilogy, “In the Eye of the Storm.” The first two books, “Spirit Dance” and “Storm Makers,” published in 2015 and 2016. The third instalment, “In the Eye of the Tornado,” is due in 2017. The leitmotif, of the trilogy, is girls and STEM.

In 2003, Chappel moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma, with her husband Don, daughter, Jamie, and son, Eric. Don worked with a woman married to a full-blooded Cherokee. “That family welcomed us,” she says.

“They adopted us. They showed us around, took us to our first inter-tribal pow-wow,” says Chappel. “At the pow-wow, I heard elders talking of the spirit dance, a chance to reconcile with the past. A spirit dance allowed us to speak the unsaid to those that left our lives suddenly.”

Thus, Chappel found the title of the first instalment in the trilogy. “As I was ready to start writing the book,” says Chappel, “I thought how perfect the Native idea of a spirit dance was for a book title. I thought how life, today, was messy, stormy and tumultuous; how life, today, could benefit from a spirit dance.

“Spirit Dance” is the story of Tana Lyre. She’s ostensibly a student at Pioneer Academy. It’s an elite, secretive high school, hidden in the Nevada desert,” says Chappel. After her father dies, Tana swears off flying. Needing to find the reasons for his death leads her back to flying.

“For me, ‘Spirit Dance’ is a journey for Tana. She had a great tragedy in her life,” says Chappel. “As the story moves along, Tana grows and shifts away from the trauma.

In “Storm Makers,” Tana and her friend, Trigger Flough, escape from Pioneer Academy. As they chase a tornado, Tana receives an SOS from a friend left at Pioneer. For Tana and Trigger, getting away doesn’t mean getting off the hook. Guilt travels; they must help the friend left behind.

“‘Storm Makers,’” Chappel says, “allows the reader to see Tana after she completed the great feat, chronicled in ‘Spirit Dance.’ Now, she is steeping back and looking at what she did. Not all her problems have gone away, though.

“Her actions have costs. In ‘Storm Makers,’ Tana realizes she needs help. She can’t work through this by herself,” says Chappel. “She is thinking more clearly, now.

“Still, readers see much of her personality as explosive. This makes Tana able to step up and realise great feats. It’s also her greatest weakness. She is reactive, a little erratic, which causes her much duress, psychologically.”

“There wasn’t a magic wand that got tapped the day after ‘Spirt Dance’ finished. As a great movie, the viewer, the reader, wonders what happens the next day. ‘Storm Makers’ tells the backstory, of her life. Tana is still suffering the effects of seeing this tragedy, the death of her father.

“Tana suffered a huge loss,” says Chappel. “She’s trying to figure how to get back to a place where she no longer suffers symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). She’s trying to repair relations with her mother. She’s also trying to understand herself.

“Where is she now? Where is her moral compass? What does she believe?

“Tana doesn’t want what the world is telling her,” says Chappel. “Naturally, she wants to find the truth. In ‘Spirit Dance,’ Tana and the readers got all the information needed. Now, the question is how to hold someone accountable?

“It’s not good enough to have information about what happened with her father. Tana wants to know why it happened,” says Chappel. “Tana seeks meaning. How does she resolve that, knowing the man that caused the trouble still roams the desert?

“The title, ‘Storm Makers,’ is a metaphor, of course,” says Chappel. “Life is a storm, full of drama, for Tana. In this book, she tries to reconcile life.” She is trying to unwind from the turmoil of “Spirit Dance.”

Tana Lyre, the protagonist of the trilogy, is from a diplomatic family. “When I was thinking about her,” says Chappel, “I was trying to think of girls from such families that I knew. I did extensive research, too.

“I tried to think of what their lives were like. I thought, ‘What is the complete opposite of how these children act?’ I gave Tana many of those opposite characteristics.

“Secretly, Tana wants to be at a formal dinner, jump on the table, thrust her arm in the air and yell, ‘what is all this about,” says Chappel. “Tana questions much. ‘Why do we have to be so perfect? Why do we have to eat in a certain way? Why do we have to follow these protocols? Why can’t we break away from these rigid standards, which have been in place forever?’

“Tana was used to being correct and perfect. Her every word strained through a filed. For a 16-year-old young woman, that’s heavy duty. Most teenagers don’t have filters. They grow into that,” says Chappel.

“I found most of the teenagers, from a family of diplomats, had many filters from a young age. Usually, they don’t express themselves. When they do, it does come out big, huge and, often, out of control.

“I tried to make Tana a symbol of her origins. Tana is a blend of women and men I met in aviation,” says Chappel. “It’s my way of saying everybody has attributes on both sides of the gender fence.

“The blending will be more evident in my novels targeted to adults. Once I finish the final instalment, of the ‘In the Eye of the Storm’ trilogy, I’ll turn to adult books. There are more examples for adult targeted books than for those targeted to young adults.”

Chief McDunny is a different character, in many ways. My favourite villains are those that are bad for a reason. McDunny is one of them.

“McDunny is a prude,” says Chappel, “but he has a story. Not that a story makes acting bad okay. Readers get a little hint, in ‘Storm Makers,’ of what happened to him. “‘In the Eye of the Tornado,’ the final book, in the trilogy, readers will come to understand McDunny more fully.

“I chose to use an Irish name, for this bad man, as I’m half Irish. My dad is an Irish immigrant.” It’s the right name for a character, bad to bone, but for a reason.

“In many ways,” says Chappel, “McDunny represents men and women with minimum education and few opportunities, but deep survival skills. Most of his decisions are about how to stay alive. If a reader doesn’t understand this part of his personality, say, much of what McDunny does seems horrible, self-surviving or confusing.”

Chappel thought long and hard about the McDunny character. “I wanted to make him awful,” she says. “His awfulness is largely unexplained, until the third book, in the trilogy. The lack of information makes him seem even more menacing.

“Most often, I think, the worst parts of a personality are forged from life experiences that are out of our control,” says Chappel. “Some characters, in life or in novels, remain stuck in the aftermath of a bad experience. McDunny is certainly stuck in his past.

“McDunny is a product of his environment. He went off the track, but found a second chance. He chooses to retain his anger and resentment.

“Yet, every character has many sides,” says Chappel. “Not all sides of a character are bad or good.” In the third book, “In the Eye of the Tornado,” the other sides of McDunny emerge.

“Sometimes,” Chappel says, “characters act in unexpected ways. McDunny projected his anger, at the father of Trigger, on Trigger. That caught me off guard. I didn’t see it coming. In fact, it gave me a bit of a pause. I found myself thinking, ‘Oh, can I write this. Is this okay?’

That she wanted McDunny to be a bad guy is true. “We were having lunch, McDunny and I. He told me he couldn’t get all his anger out. The incident, in question, got him kicked out of the military. It’s thus easy to see why his anger lingers.

“McDunny had no other way to vent his frustration,” says Chappel. “His anger had to fall on Trigger. I thought that was interesting. I didn’t expect McDunny to tell me that. I just wanted to make him bad and he wouldn’t let me.”

“I was a withdrawn, when I was young,” says Chappel. She didn’t read much, as a teenager. “There weren’t many books that spoke to me or held my interest.”

“I wrote ‘Spirit Dance’ and ‘Storm Makers’ for readers such as me.” Her idea of an ideal reader is a quiet and introspective young women or man. Someone that enjoys being outside the norm, in mind and body. She or he doesn’t have much patience. Someone that wants to be creative, that wants to do and think what they wish, even if this makes them different.

“I want to acknowledge there are young women and men as well as adults that want to go to the next level,” says Chappel. “She or he wants to understand how and why life and mechanics, say, work. Knowing that something does work is not enough for my target reader.

“What’s the effect of this or that? How do we make this or that better? How do I figure out how to rely on myself, not others?

“I know this seems a little off-beat. Yet, it’s the essence behind some of the things the characters do in ‘Spirit Dance’ and ‘Storm Makers.’ I want to share my early dreams with readers, especially young women.”

The adage, not to judge a book by its cover, doesn’t apply to those written by E L Chappel. She designs the covers of her books. “I don’t do the actual drawings,” she says. “I work with designer.”

Each cover is an intricate précis of the story. “I go to great lengths,” says Chappel, “to make sure each cover has huge significance for the story.”

“We live in a visual world. For the STEM focus,” she says, “I want younger readers to think, ‘Hey, there’s something to that, it’s more than it seems.’ I believe a thoughtful cover helps readers connect more strongly to the story.” “Spirit Dance” and “Storm Makers” connect and engage readers, well.

The cover of “Spirit Dance” tells the story, in the blink of an eye. “The cover is the discovery of the story.” That is her intent.

“I put symbols on the front the book,” says Chappel. “When someone reads the story then looks at the cover, they’ll see every part of the story is summarised on the cover.” The cover introduces the story, well.

“At the top of the cover, of ‘Spirit Dance’,” she says, “the title font blurs, in silhouette. This reflects the mental state of Tana, at the time the story takes place; that is, traumatized. She was a reactive young woman.

“The blurred image is of a broken compass,” says Chappel. “That’s the interior, of that image. The compass reflects a young person developing their moral code. Tana is pulling the parts together, which are not quite fully together, yet.

“The background, of the cover of ‘Spirit Dance,’ is a desert. This is where the storm takes place.” The desert is the emptiness from which a young person emerges, moral code and personality formed.

“Also, on the cover, of ‘Spirit Dance,” Tana is in a cocoon. In this story, Tana was in a prison, of a sort, in a diplomatic compound and the secretive Pioneer Academy. Her protection, a security detail, was under attack.”

The cover images reflect an ageless experience and search. “The story of Tana is timeless,” says Chappel. “The sun dial, in the middle of the cover of ‘Spirit Dance,’ conveys how her journey is part of the human experience.

“‘Spirit Dance’ deals with how she was in a shell, yet growing. There are butterfly images, on the cover of ‘Spirit Dance,’ which point to Tana escaping the cocoon, of her prison. Thrust from the cocoon, Tana landed in the open world and was somehow supposed to come to grips, overnight, with her tragic loss,” says Chappel.

“The butterfly hints at the transition Tana experienced. She went through a metamorphosis that changed her. On the cover of ‘Storm Makers,’ the butterfly is free; life is more manageable for Tana, but her early restraint haunts her, still.”

“On ‘Storm Makers, there’s an airplane. It’s escaping the storm, as does Tana. The covers tell the story.

The third instalment in the trilogy is “In the Eye of the Tornado.” The eye, says Chappel, “is the calmest place in a storm. Everything spins around the eye. If you stay still, in the eye, you’re safe.

“I see the eye of a tornado as a metaphor of life,” she says. “At any moment, we might be in the midst of something we can’t see beyond. We think of what’s happening in that moment as so big that it’s insurmountable.

“If you can hold your position and stay balanced, you find you’re in the eye. Everything swirls around you. In the end, it all works out.”

The trilogy, most recently “Storm Makers,” is an opportunity and a challenge for readers, says Chappel. “The story is different. It’s not a version of what you read before. The chance and the task, for the reader, is to ask, ‘What’s holding me back,’ in life.

“This is the true meaning of ‘Storm Markers’ and the trilogy. Plus, there’s much intrigue and aviation action, in all three books. For me, it was exciting to learn about the characters and the setting as well as write the story.”

Although she claims her novels are mainly Young Adult, Chappel writes to a mature readership. Her backdrop is women, especially younger women, and STEM. Still, the stories are wide enough, deep enough, to satisfy an older reader, male or female.

The main characters, Tana Lyre and Trigger Flough, are teens; sixteen and eighteen, respectively. Does this make the novels young adult. “As I wrote ‘Spirit Dance’ and ‘Storm Makers,’ says Chappel, “I talked with pre-teens and teens, from eleven to nineteen years old. I wanted a sense of what they might be reading; a sense of the intellectual space of this age group.

“I read some of the books those I talked with mentioned. I tried to judge the intellectual space that way, too. The results helped frame the stories.

“Most of my readers are high school juniors and seniors,” says Chappel. “There are some fifth and sixth graders that say, ‘Hey, this book really spoke to me.’ Still, I find many adults reading my books, too.”

What she hears from adult readers is that they want the adventures. Tana and Trigger are fighter pilots, even though they’re teenagers. Adventure is in-built to piloting.

Chappel writes great adventures. “My stories deal with characters finding an obstacle that scares them, at first,” she says. “They face what frightens them. They overcome obstacles.” It’s remarkable life lesson.

“My stories focus on hope,” says Chappel, “with which everybody can identify; young adult or adult. The characters face adversity and overcome. They push through, coming out the other side, intact; better for the experience. I think everybody can relate to the circumstances, in my stories, and the resolutions.”

Editors can turn writers away from his or her inherent natural style. They can redirect a writer to what an editor or publisher likes or believes will sell. Write to sell makes for mundane novels.

“I am a pragmatic person,” says Chappel, “which is reflected in my writing. As a pilot, I am super-analytical. When working, as part of a crew, clear, concise exchanges are important; critical.

“When I started writing, my experience as a pilot came into play. This is especially true in ‘Spirt Dance.’ There were many fragments, of action and dialogue, that weren’t well connected.” Editors jumped on her for the lack of easy flow.

“My writing was criticized, a great deal, for this reason,” says Chappel. “‘Spirit Dance’ was my first novel. I was finding my way through story development and so forth. My mind set was grounded in aviation, being part of a flight crew.” This made her writing difficult for a reader without her background as well as for editors.

Chappel wanted to write the way pilots thought. “Pilots think in short snippets, of information,” she says. “Pilots are greedy with words. Their verbal expression is measured.

“Everybody on a flight crew takes time to think about what she or he says, before it’s said. This is mostly to limit misspeaking when they are flying.” One wrong word or one wrong move, says Chappel, can often mean life or death.

Her writing reflects the personality of a pilot. “My education, training and experience lead me to guard information; keep it close to my heart. Yet, pilots must always on top of all parts of any circumstance. This, too, shows in writing, I think.

“Once I began writing,” says Chappel, “my style emerged from my experience and my goal. I had several editors on my case, all the time. I did try to improve, to grow as a writer,” but her natural inclinations prevailed.

“I probably haven’t reached my potential, as a writer. I am trying to be a more generous, with my words. I try to give readers a clearer picture of the action and emotional state of my characters.

“My writing developed in an interesting way,” says Chappel. “Trigger, for example, grew up in the military. At first, I wrote his dialogue using a military cadence, but it didn’t work. His dialogue changed. I want readers to sense that growth, in my writing and his character, as they read ‘Spirit Dance’ and ‘Storm Makers.’”

Despite editors, her writing engages the reader. She uses short sentences and short graphs to heighten action and build suspense. The reader becomes engrossed, in the story, before he or she knows it. There’s no putting down her novels, once started.

Most writers find a routine helpful. Fiction writing calls for discipline; characters are demanding. A daily writing routine or schedule helps develop a disciplined writing style.

“I absolutely write every day,” says Chappel. “All day; when I’m not writing, I’m thinking about writing. My stories are never out of my mind.”

Chappel tries to write, in some way, up to five hours a day. “It might be the middle of the night,” she says. “It might be early in the morning.” She lets it happen.

“I wouldn’t say I just write, though. I have a life, grown children and all that, but there’s a ticker going, most of the time, in my head. The ticker keeps me connected with my writing.

“I’m always watching people,” says Chappel. “I’m always listening, observing; always aware of my surroundings. I thrive on details, on sounds and smells. I do whatever helps cultivate my writing. Thus, I always think I’m writing, even when I’m not.

“As I write my third book, “In the Eye of the Tornado,” it’s constantly on my mind. Honestly, writing is not an arduous task for me. It’s fun and interesting.

“Sure, writing is difficult sometimes, say, when I’m editing a manuscript for the zillionth time, but I keep going. Most readers are not writers because they dread writing. I don’t.”

Most writers advise new writers to talk of his or her book, all the time. One never knows who’s listening. Dr Ruth Nemzoff, for example, received a book deal, after years of trying; she told someone, at a wedding, of her book and that someone became a book editor.

“I tell everybody that will listen, what I’m writing. I tell everybody how characters are developing and so forth,” says Chappel. “Writing is exhilarating, for me.”

Her most peaceful times are sitting before the keyboard wondering of her characters. “When I’m waiting to discover what comes up, not forcing my characters, letting each one be, is calming. There might be a storm after the calm, though.

“My link, with my characters, is strong. I’m always anxious to find out what they might say or think. Sometimes my characters shock me. I think it’s cool.”

Chappel no longer heads for the keyboard on waking. “I used to do that, every day. I used to read books and writers on writing. One common piece of advice was to get up and head for the keyboard, without breakfast or coffee.

“I took that advice, for a time. My writing was crazy. Then I realized my life was out of balance.

“Now, I usually do a writing exercise before I begin working on what I am writing,” says Chappel. “The exercise centres me. It allows me to go on with my day; writing and otherwise.

Chappel Joneses on writing exercises. “Yes. It’s much the same as women and men getting up in the morning and saying, ‘I can’t do anything until I get a cup of coffee.’ I feel my day has not started until I do a writing exercise.

Her favourite writing exercise involves jumping out of bed, as soon as she awakens, grabbing a notepad and writing whatever enters her mind. “I go for as long as my thought stream takes me,” says Chappel. “I don’t eat; use the bathroom and so forth.” This exercise, she says, often provides her most creative ideas.

“A writing exercise is akin to stretching my creative muscle. Then the rest of the day goes the way it needs to go. I love getting up in the morning and doing a writing exercise.

“I love John Dufresne, author of ‘I Don’t like where this is Going.’ The exercises he suggests help me a great deal.” Writing is sweating blood eased  by writing exercises.

“Moving through the day,” says Chappel, “I try to turn what I meet into a writing exercise. How would Tana deal with the rude person behind the counter or the driver that cut me off? Writing exercises get me over writing speed bumps.

“When I settle down to write,” she says, “I allow myself to stop, if distracted,” says Chappel. During this time, away from writing, she does what Dr Ruth Nemzoff calls, “meditative tasks”; that is, anything other than writing. “Before long,” says Chappel, “I’m back at the keyboard.”

Meditative tasks are helpful. “Maybe I’ll paint doors or go to the grocery store, says Chappel. “I love horses and riding; maybe I’ll take a ride and think for a little bit.

“Maybe I’ll just do a physical work-out. I do what I need to do to balance my whole body as a person. I always come back to writing, after a writing exercise or meditative tasks, with so many ideas.

“What I stumbled over, what made me stop writing, for a while, will be gone after I do something other than writing,” says Chappel. “Often, I go in a different direction than I was going before I took a break from writing.” Meditative tasks and writing exercises are ways to overcome blockages.

Chappel thinks the discipline that comes from being a pilot carried over, at least at first, to her writing. “Still, piloting is a check-list, module mind-set. That doesn’t work, well, for writing fiction.

“For fiction, a writer needs to let go. He or she needs to grow, naturally; let the characters take over. I no longer force myself. I might have to sit and wait for my characters, but that’s okay because it works for me.

“I seem most productive when I wait to see what happens. If I get to a point where waiting isn’t work, I step away. When I return, my characters are waiting.”

A stringer is a writer that plots or blocks out the story before writing; then fills it in. A lumper throws ideas for plot and characters in to a pile and takes out pieces, randomly, in a way, trying to find the story. Raymond Chandler was likely a lumper. Dashiell Hammett, by most accounts, was a stringer.

“I am a hybrid stringer and lumper,” says Chappel. “The pilot in me likes to have a loose idea as to what’s going to happen.” Pilots always need to file a flight plan. “That’s why I was a good pilot,” she says, “my brain works this way.”

She needs to know where her story begins. “I like to know where to start and have ideas of how the story might move along,” says Chappel. “A sense of the climax and ending emerge, as the story moves along.” At this point, I become a lumper.

 “Most often,” says Chappel, “I get to know the characters, first. When I begin a story, I like to know the moral code of the main characters. Where does a character come from? What might she or he do and not do.

“I like when there is a mix of characters. It seems that as I meet people, I am attracted to those similar to me.” She has idiosyncrasies that draw women and men together and forge relations, good and bad.

“That helps me get a point of view,” says Chappel. “It helps me create a story where the characters are unique to themselves. I don’t want to get three or four characters, together, that have the same moral compass.

“Other times, there’s some action I must see through. There are a blind alleys I must follow to see what’s what. This how I discover where the story is going.

Elmore Leonard said never begin a book with the weather. “‘Storm Makers’ begins with a tornado chase,” says Chappel. “I enjoy the James Bond books, by Ian Fleming. He always plunges the reader into the midst of an incredible test, right away. The odds always seem against Bond, but he prevails, as does Tana.

Chappel says she wanted to thrust readers into the storm. “That’s the central metaphor of ‘Storm Makers,” she says. The lives of the characters are messy. The storm is messy and dangerous.

“The storm begins in ‘Spirit Dance.’ It’s massive. Thus, storm needed revisiting, in ‘Storm Makers.’

“I wanted the reader to understand the risk these teenagers were taking,” says Chappel. “Many teens would be scared stiff by the storm and other events, such as the illegal entry at the home of Tana. The personality of the characters can handle much of the mess.” It’s a good lesson for readers.

“Chasing a tornado wasn’t that traumatic for Tana,” says Chappel. “Tana is a pilot, she could handle it. Moreover, she lives in Oklahoma, where spring time is tornado season.

“As a meteorologist,” says Chappel. “I want to chase storms. I want to be the professor that runs the storm chasing team.” She sees to it that Tana does it for her.

Elmo Leonard also said to use “say,” “says” or “said” for attribution of dialogue. His idea, it seems, was to keep readers moving, quickly, from one point to the next. Using words, other than a standardised, “says,” delays readers. They remember ‘John claimed’; not what he claimed.

“All these rules,” says Chappel. “When I started writing, I thought I had to follow the rules. I knew the rules were important. I want to be respectful of grammar and word usage.

“I wanted to write as well as I could. When I paid too much attention to ostensible rules, my writing suffered. Rules can affect my pacing and how I write.

“I don’t think I could apply any rule, absolutely. No rule works every time, in every circumstance,” says Chappel. “I try to write how I hear the story, in my mind, or in a way I know the characters would speak. I know them in life.”

Should readers discover dialogue attributions, without much help from the writer? “I read Lee Child,” says Chappel. “For extended graphs and pages, he uses no dialogue tags. I’m used to his style, now.” Reading is about learning how an author writes.

“When I first started reading Child,” says Chappel, “I kept going backward and forward to find out who was speaking.” She had to find out whose turn it was to talk. “If I read an author, if I like her or his style, characters and story building, I will stick with him or her.

“If I like the story, I don’t worry much about style. I read Craig Johnson; he writes “The Longmire” series. Sometimes, in the middle of his story, I think, ‘Oh my gawd.’ There are some passages that are so life-changing and life-altering. Thus, I’m willing to indulge his style simply because I love his stories.

“I know when my writing is edited, especially ‘Spirit Dance,’ there is a considerable critique about not having enough dialogue tags. Many editors were confused about who was supposedly talking.” Sometimes there are too few such tags.

“With ‘Storm Makers’,” says Chappel, “I tried to be much clearer. I don’t know if that helps. I still feel that if you are enamoured with a story, style is not such a big deal.”

Chappel tries to follow some rules. “I try to limit adverbs.” Elmo Leonard said to severely limit adverbs. “Too many adverbs weaken the text, the story and authority of adverbs, in general” says Chappel. She does understand the importance of rules. “Still, I don’t want to set myself up, using rules, absolutely.” Often, she finds she needs to break a rule or ten for the sake of her story.

Working with editors can be as pulling teeth, for some writers. “I consider it a curious experience,” says Chappel. “I can give the manuscript to three different editors. What I can get back is three completely, and I mean night and day different, points of view. All three reports can be strong, but vastly different in focus.

“The job of the editor is to be hypercritical, to critique everything in the manuscript. The author then faces the difficult task of managing the advice; finding a balance among the reports from editors. This part of writing is hard work.

“When I started to write, seriously, I tried to use all the information from editors. I worked day and night to keep them happy,” says Chappel. Then she discovered she didn’t like the story. Over editing sapped the soul, the life, from her story.

“Characters would change,” she says, “seldom for the better. I decided the editors were the experts. I would read the expert opinion, contemplate it and do what I wanted for the good of the story.” She is the gawd of the story.

“I wasn’t disrespecting the editorial opinions,” says Chappel. “I actively used what worked and dropped what didn’t work, in my mind.” This may be how to handle expert opinion in any context.

Stories influence Chappel more than do particular authors. “I love any good story,” she says. “A good story catches my mind. It makes me think in a different way. It helps me approach my craft in a different way, too.

“Craig Johnson tells great stories. In his first book, ‘The Cold Dish,’ the protagonist, a sheriff, is chasing a criminal up a mountain, in a snow storm. His friend, a Cheyenne Indian, is with him.

“The criminal shoots the Cheyenne. The sheriff must make a decision. Does he arrest the criminal or save the life of his friend.

“I’m not a crier; pilots don’t cry they act. Reading this passage, I cried,” says Chappel. She thought this was the best part of the story. It was the most visually stimulating and heart wrenching part of “The Cold Dish.”

George R Martin, author of the ‘Game of Thrones’ books, tells stories that catch her mind, easily. “I read all the books in the series, multiple times,” says Chappel. “I keep re-reading one chapter, in the first book, ‘A Game of Thrones.’

“The chapter is about Arya Stark, ‘A Girl.’ She’s trying to become a swordsperson, a sword dancer, unlike her more conventionally feminine sister, Sansa. This chapter is serious writing; incredibly visual and so compelling.

“I thought my writing would never be the same after reading Martin and that one chapter. I thought, ‘How did he get there? How did it happen? How and why did it captivate me so, as a reader?’”

Arya might be a metaphor for women interested in STEM. “I have not met George R R Martin,” says Chappel. I do realise, though, that all the girls and women, in his books, are strong. They are running the show,” save, perphaps, for Tyrion.”

The men are fighting all the time, she says. “Yes, the men hold the highest status, usually. Yet, the female characters are worrying or scheming, for good or bad, behind the scenes. The female characters shape the story; they make it happen.

“Daenerys Targaryen is an heir to the throne. She’s one of the most compelling characters in the story,” says Chappel. “It is remarkable for a man to write such outstanding female characters.

“‘Game of Thrones’ is incredibly progressive, especially when it comes to the female characters. I think the story is definitely a metaphor for the effect women have on balancing thought and action, today,” says Chappel.

“Martin writes male characters that recognize the importance of women for everybody to move forward, together,” says Chappel. “His women characters are likely frustrated at the lack recognition.” Cersei Lannister, for example, must act as regent for her son, the king, until his comes of age; she manipulates and manoeuvres, ostensibly on his behalf, to get her way. Brienne of Tarth is a knight.

“The gender balance of core characters is important,” says Chappel. “In the trilogy, I have Trigger, a male that’s a little older than Tana. I didn’t want only girl power.” The strength of the story comes from the gender balance.

“I think the leitmotif, in my trilogy, as in ‘Game of Thrones,’ is that we are all better together than we are separately. I think that’s a cool idea. It’s taught me what I wouldn’t have learned had I stayed in just a conventional female role or worked with only women.

“These are examples of what inspires me,” says Chappel. “Great stories inspire. Great writing inspires me.

“I want to stretch as a writer, a storyteller. I want to get to that point, in my writing, where these feelings well up in me. That’s my goal. Great stories, by other writers, help me reach that goal.”

Is there a mistake Chappel made, when she began to write, seriously? “Yes,” she says, “I changed my stories or characters to fit every piece of criticism I received. The lesson, I learned, is to filter criticism; decide what works and what doesn’t work for your writing.”

What, about Chappel, might surprise readers? “That I cook a meal as great as I cook a story.”

E L Chappel writes great adventure stories. Her novels are bildungsromans. She educates as she thrills, with the stories of sixteen-year-old Tana Lyre, a fighter pilot, no less; a strong role model for young women.

“Spirit Dance” and “Storm Makers” are good reads for anyone that enjoys high-spirited adventure. Both novels are important. Each story underscores the importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

As Tana is sixteen, “Spirit Dance” and “Storm Makers” are supposedly Young Adult books. This isn’t fair to adult readers. They’ll have a hard time finding either novel in the Adult Section.

The eponymous protagonist, of “David Copperfield,” by Charles Dickens, is a teen for much of the story. Few think of “Copperfield” as a novel only for young adults. As “Copperfield” shelves in the Adult Section, of book shops, so, too, should “Spirit Dance” and “Storm Makers.”

A clear depiction, of Tana, sixteen and a fighter pilot, is the educational part of “Spirit Dance” and “Storm Makers.” Chappel shows that STEM can work for women, young or not. Her women are STEM heroes as much as are men.

Women make up roughly forty-five per cent of the USA workforce. Only one-in-seven working women are in a STEM-related career. “We’re missing out,” says Rich Stowell, an author and flight instructor based in McCall, Idaho.

The STEM workplace is difficult for women. Schools, such as MIT, and employers, such as Northrop Grumman, recruit women, actively. Yet, there is much pressure, on women, to assume an orthodox role, by family and co-workers, at a certain point in their lives.

The Idaho Department of Labor reports 3,800 STEM jobs go unfilled, each year. Angela Hemingway, Executive Director, of the Idaho STEM Action Center, says future growth of STEM careers, in her state, is encouraging. Economic Modeling Specialists International anticipates robust job growth in STEM careers in Idaho. By 2024, careers in computing will increased by 14 percent; 9 per cent in engineering and 23 percent in advanced manufacturing. These numbers are realistic, only if young women come to STEM.

“We need to offer [women] scholarships and mentorships,” in STEM, says Hemingway. Young girls need to know STEM is not necessarily desk-driven work. Idaho joined Million Women Mentors to advance interest in STEM.

“It’s a vicious cycle,” says Rich McCall. “Enthusiastically recruit young women to STEM. Then let them down in the workplace and career.”

Can this change? “Yes,” says McCall. “Don’t only bring sons to air shows or other STEM related events; bring daughters, too. Let young girls see what’s what, up close; talk to pilots, astronauts, engineers and mathematicians.”

Increasingly, there are more women role models, in Idaho. “In aviation and aeronautics,” says McCall, “Barbara Morgan was a NASA astronaut. Patty Wagstaff is a visible air show pilot. She’s a three-time U.S. national, unlimited aerobatic champion. Wagstaff was the first woman to hold that title; her airplane hangs in the Smithsonian. Bre Winder is a female helicopter pilot, at Silverhawk Aviation, in Caldwell, Idaho; she started in the National Guard. Katie Baker, a pilot from Midvale, Idaho, co-owns Ag Air Turbines; her company sells, repairs and services turbine engines used in the crop dusting industry.”

Surprisingly, the Boy Scouts of American (BSA) are promoting STEM aviation, actively, for girls and boys. “Aviation,” says BSA spokesperson, Effie Delimarkso, “is one of a dozen career areas BSA supports.” STEM Scout “is a co-ed pilot programme that translates the lessons of STEM education into fun [events]. Scouting brings life lessons through outdoor events, so does STEM Scout.”

“STEM Scouts is different from regular scouting,” says Delimarkso. “Outdoor activities are only a portion of the STEM Scout activities, not the main focus, as with regular scouting. STEM Scouts is more hands-on than regular school-sponsored STEM programmes. There are more field trips and more chances for students to work directly with STEM professionals.”

Roughly half of STEM Scout participants are young girls. As far as STEM-related school work goes, girls and boys are reasonably well prepared for STEM. “Still, research suggests many young girls and boys are not ready to put [their] STEM knowledge to use,” says Delimarkso. “Finding ways to increase familiarity, with STEM, is vital.” STEM Scouts helps fill this void.

In “Spirit Dance,” Chappel created a character, Tana Lyre, which was traditional. “She grew up, overseas and in Oklahoma. In her family, boy roles and girl roles were prominent. Her mother and maternal grandmother were beauty pageant winners.

“Her father,” says Chappel, “pushed her toward conventional female roles as well as away from her natural interests. Yet, in her time off, she learned mechanics and how to fly an airplane. She built an airplane. She developed much confidence, to fly as well as to help others. She could fly away, from a secretive high school, in Oklahoma, to chase storms and help other men and women.”

As a role model for young girls, and women, too, Tana shows what they can do. She confirms it’s not wrong, but okay, to have an interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. They can discard age and gender expectations.

Dreams of aviation, aerodynamics or meteorology are okay for a young girl. Tana, at 16 years old, shows young women can use strategic thinking and problem solving as well as develop the will to act. If not successful, they, too, can re-group and find a way to success.

As Scarlett Koller says, women don’t want to be diversity hires. “Trigger,” Chappel says “shows that not only girls are urged to follow a career path in STEM. The best flying relations, I experienced, involved male and female team members,” says Chappel.

Still, efforts to promote careers in STEM focus on young girls and women. “This is because young girls are least likely to be aware that a career in STEM is okay for them to want,” says Chappel. “They also don’t understand the importance of a mixed gender work team. The goal is to get young girls and women interested in STEM; get to see STEM as a reasonable career option.”

Donald Trump yells, “Only I, alone, can save America.” Hillary Clinton says, “Stronger together.” It’s the age old standard, men alone and women in groups.

The success of mixed gender work teams, in the end, rests with men. “They must keep an open mind, especially when it comes to working women,” says Chappel. Men must realise, as many do, increasingly, that mixed gender work teams usually work best and everyone benefits.


“All Right Now” was written by Paul Rodgers and Andy Fraser, performed by Free on the album “Fire and Water.” Hal Leonard Music Publishing, 1970.
Ashley Montagu (1986), “Touching,” published by Harper & Row.
Stephen Richer (1990), “Boys and Girls Apart,” published by Carleton University Press.

Click here to view the "Storm Makers" trailer video.
Click here to view the "Spirit Dance" trailer video.
Click here to buy books by E L Chappel.
Click here for a list of all Grub Street Interviews.
Interview edited and condensed for publication.
Special thanks to J R Hafer and Dick Summer.


dr george pollard is a Sociometrician and Social Psychologist at Carleton University, in Ottawa, where he currently conducts research and seminars on "Media and Truth," Social Psychology of Pop Culture and Entertainment as well as umbrella repair.

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