About Phyl

Phyl Manning (1931-2014)

We will be hosting a modest Memorial Celebration in Phyl’s name on Saturday, April 5, 2014, at the Kirshner Wildlife Foundation: 4995 Durham-Pentz Rd, Oroville, CA 95965. We’ll start at 3:00pm, and everyone is welcome to speak, read, sing, or otherwise join in. (If you have a picture or two to share, please send those to Kent ahead of time—we’ll have a video projector set up.) In lieu of any flowers, please consider a small donation to the Kirshner Wildlife Foundation, an effort that was dear to Phyl’s heart. In addition, a memorial near her home in New Hampshire will be announced soon, tentatively scheduled for May/June. Details will be posted here, or contact Doug directly.

ShirlyTempledPhyl was born in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1931. As a naturally-curly toddler, she once won a Shirley Temple lookalike contest. Her first public writing was a poem for a contest to win a dollar and a giant bag of potato chips. (She did.) She lost her Protestant minister father when she was young, and Phyl grew up a self-reliant depression-era kid raised by her single school-teacher mom. Summers were spent with her Aunt and Uncle on their small Sedalia, Missouri farm. Alongside her cousin Bill Moore, she explored the hills, woods, and Muddy River, igniting or fueling a life-long fascination with animals.



pjmCollege-Skipping two-and-a-half grades, her first full-time job was as the teacher in a one-room school where she was younger than some students. Along with her gal-pals Sally and Pat, they married and started families. Later Phyl became the English and creative writing teacher at Thomas Jefferson High School in nearby Council Bluffs, Iowa, also serving as yearbook and prom advisor, and hosting an annual and semi-legendary squirt-gun graduation party for her students.  She was one of the three high school English teachers selected to help develop (in Iowa City, summer of 1964) a framework for the then-new concept of Advanced Placement (AP) classes in English.

Phyl often said her life began at 32. Fortunately for my sister and me, that’s not literally true. But at 32, our family moved to Saipan, Mariana Islands, in the US Trust Territory of Micronesia. She and my dad were contracted to teach high school. It was the family’s first flight on a plane, 7,000 miles on a Boeing 707. Along with teaching, she worked with the University of Hawaii to help build a curriculum which—in cooperation with the University of Illinois—would ultimately become TESL, Teaching English as a Second Language. hopwoodMore personally, over the course of that two-year contract she discovered an underwater world, skin and scuba diving with her trusty Calypso camera. She also discovered that in terms of her husband, she had made a huge mistake.

At the end of that contract, temporarily back in the states, she grabbed her kids and left him. It was not an amicable split, and during the Great Airplane Strike of 1966, there was a lot of sleeping in airports on our secret way to Honolulu, Hawaii. At the university there she picked up a key certification to take a new contract at the Micronesian Teachers’ Education College, in Ponape. That’s in the Caroline Islands, currently part of the Federated States on Micronesia, for the Atlas curious. ponape

Eventually my dad and what passed for a legal system out there caught up with her. They divorced, and for a year Phyl had my sister Karol, while I (her son Kent) lived with my dad on Yap, a “neighboring” Micronesian island. But contracts were completed, and everyone headed back to the states where the US courts reunited Phyl with both us kids. Temporarily back in Omaha, Phyl took an in-service heavy contract working with Nick Wilson in building a literacy foundation for the Iowa School for the Deaf, and served as a consultant on several Indian reservations to construct a culture-friendly English curriculum.

ivanPhyl married again, to Ivan Manning, a professional journalist with an ex-Navy concept of household discipline.


The new family settled in California. First around Ventura, where Phyl and Ivan met life-long friends John and Bonnie Milroy. Eventually the family settled in San Diego. Phyl worked as Vice Principal at both middle and high schools. To her considerable pride and life-long mystification, in 1973 she was chosen to lead the Poway Unified School District’s first implementation of COMPUTERS in the schools, initially for flexible class scheduling at the high school.

asiaCover3Once her kids had graduated, Phyl went back on the road. This time it was as Girls’ Dean at the International School Bangkok, where she stayed for five years. In addition to chaperoning school trips into the jungle, she became a regional speaker on behalf of the Myers-Briggs personality testing, for a time a very hot psychology and staff development tool, which enabled her to travel all around Southeast Asia. Bangkok was home base for travel adventures to Sumatra, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Nepal, even Myanmar/Burma. She wrote about it, including a feature and cover picture for Asia Magazine.


Phyl headed back to California in the early 1980’s. As principal at Los Molinos Elementary School, she launched a variety of school-community programs, and recruited a colleague from Thailand, Jenny Kay as a teacher. Her daughter married Mahmut, and south in San Diego her son Kent married Gingerlily. Along with a growing list of articles and short stories, Phyl wrote a musical adaptation of THE SNOW QUEEN (first by Magic Machine, later by MiraCosta College). Then Phyl was off again.


After considering both Costa Rica (access to health care?) and Alaska (“Bring your rifle to work. There are bears.”), she accepted a contract at the American School of Milan, Italy. Milan became home base for excursions and/or articles at the Ferrari factory (a memorable test drive for Ivan), Rome, and the perpetual adventure of driving in Italy.

sultanaKaliWith grandkids growing, Phyl returned to Chico, California, and retired from education. She bought a house with her daughter Karol, and the family Christmas get-togethers actually occurred more or less at Christmas. She got started with 6Meet and other writers. She also began volunteering at the Kirshner Wildlife Foundation, a remarkable operation caring for primarily lions and tigers and other big cats. (Kirshner.org) sean-small

books_first3Then Phyl really went to work. First she wrote KITI ON ICE, a novel based on doctoral research into pre- and early contact Inupiat culture she had done years earlier. Her lifelong fascination with animals led her to self-publish a children’s picture book, THIS IS THE AFRICAN JUNGLE. She published articles, short stories in other people’s anthologies, and occasionally poems. She finished ARCTIC CIRCLES, even as prospective publishers came and went.

afroMomAfter her husband Ivan passed away peacefully at home, Phyl began planning for her next Great Adventure. Harkening to photo-safari pioneers Martin and Osa Johnson, her distant relatives, after years of planning Phyl travelled to Africa in 2002. Never entirely comfortable with digital technologies (despite the faith of the Poway school system and the decent DSLR her children bought her for the trip), it is possible she single-handedly kept Kodak film in business for an extra year or so.

IMG_6002Then at merely 77, Phyl fell in love with Doug. They met through COMPUTER dating. Seriously.

In 2009 Phyl moved in to Doug’s home in New Hampshire, embraced by his grown kids as their WSM (“wicked step mother”): Irene, Carolyn, Eric and their families. She and Doug started the TAT writing group in town, plus she joined the online writing collective TNBW.

Each year since the move, after actual Christmas in New England, Phyl returned to her California family for a few weeks. Also to check on Chicki, visit Roberta and the cats, and catch up with 6Meet, Mary and Clideen, JC and SE and the rest.

With the support of an ambitious new publisher who released ARCTIC CIRCLES and republished KITI, in 2011 Phyl anthologized her travel writing into HERE, THERE AND OTHERWHERE. Before it was published, it had to be subtitled “Volume 1.” Even as Volume 2 was on the presses, that publisher collapsed. So in 2013 Phyl and her son Kent founded Kalana Press (named for Phyl’s granddaughters, Kalí and Sultana) and republished all four books under that imprint. (PhylsBooks.com or KalanaPress.com)

Phyl’s semi-autobiographical novel WINDOWPANES is being submitted to larger publishers, or will be published through Kalana Press. Her latest visit to California was to be extended by several weeks in order to compile material for a planned biography of Roberta Kirshner, of the Kirshner Wildlife Foundation.windowPanes2

On December 29, four days after arriving in California, Phyl was admitted into Enloe Hospital for emergency surgery due to a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm. Within days she recovered enough to sell two books, and edit a paper for one of her nurses. A week later she was recuperating at home, making plans to get started on her Kirshner book. Friday afternoon, January 10, she suffered a massive stroke and returned to the hospital.

Phyl never lost her ability to understand or respond to speech, and she always participated during visits by Doug, her kids and grandchildren, and friends. Over the next few weeks her condition relatively stabilized, and she was moved out of the ICU. However, she never recovered the ability to swallow or speak, or to visually recognize words or letters. Faced with steadily escalating medical challenges (requiring sedation and increasingly invasive interventions), and bleak prospects for recovery, on February 7 Phyl instructed her physicians to change her treatment to palliative care. The following morning she said goodbye to her children, and via Skype to Doug. That afternoon she drifted off to sleep and never awoke.

We miss you, Mom. But that’s quite a life.

–Phyl’s kids, Karol and Kent (KLBrisby@gmail.com)



16 Responses

  1. Mike Jackson
    Mike Jackson March 27, 2013 at 3:14 am · Reply

    Hi Phyl.

    Thanks for the contest invite; I might enter.

    Yep, I like coffee–probably too much!

    11/27: November 27. That’s my birthday.

    I’ll browse for a while and get back to you.



  2. Jim Smith
    Jim Smith April 9, 2013 at 1:20 am · Reply

    You mean I didn’t respond to your comments on the website? I KNOW I did on email. Anyway—I’ve been editing for me and (seems like) for everybody. Both Volumes 1 & 2 of HERE, THERE & OTHERWHERE are in process RIGHT NOW of being printed. FINALLY, on Volume 2!!!

    I need inspiration (and time) before I can put up Blog #4. HELP!

  3. Mike Jackson
    Mike Jackson April 9, 2013 at 2:18 am · Reply

    Hi Phyl.

    I have a question about editing stories. I know that it’s only common sense to edit until the story is at its best according to the writer. Maybe this is a silly question, but how many times(if you were to guess), typically, do you edit a story?

    I hope I haven’t committed a faux pas by asking this question here.



    1. Phyl Manning
      Phyl Manning April 27, 2013 at 5:29 am · Reply

      Now that I have a place and means to reply—Mike, the writers I know (maybe 10 who are published) and I as well
      edit and edit as they go along, then do a thorough line edit when (they think) they’re finished.

      And THEN they give the work to a line editor. A writer (and most writers as well as [probably] ALL publishers will agree about this) believe that the author should not do a “final” edit on his or her own work. What has gotten past me all these months while my work has been “in process” is NOT likely to be visible suddenly NOW. HowEVER: the author (in my experience) does get the final “say” on the (doubtless many) “corrections” made by the line editor. YOU have the last word!

      Are you a writer, Mike? And of course I’m curious about your present posting. What are you DOing for your “minimum wage”?
      Phyl Manning

  4. Annelie
    Annelie April 17, 2013 at 6:25 pm · Reply

    Hey Phyl,
    so THAT’S what you were doing 🙂
    Very nice webpage!

    1. Phyl Manning
      Phyl Manning April 27, 2013 at 5:16 am · Reply

      Annelie, congrats on your publications! And re your info on lactation I moderated my story accordingly. Email me, and we’ll talk a bit.

  5. Mike Jackson
    Mike Jackson April 20, 2013 at 12:59 am · Reply

    Hi Phyl,

    How’re you doing?

    I’ve just completed three weeks of orientation for veterans transitioning back to work. BORING! Anyway, Monday, the 29th, I’ll be working at a site somewhere in Hines VA hospital, here in Illinois. This position, which won’t pay more than minimum wage, will last for six months, and during that time I’m required to look for a permanent position.

    Take care,


  6. Phyl Manning
    Phyl Manning April 27, 2013 at 5:13 am · Reply

    Mike, I wrote quite a long response to your first contact but as the result of my imperfect website AND my own lack of technical savvy, I had no way to get the words TO you. How about you email me, ask the questions or chat again, and I WILL respond promptly.

    Thanks for trying again!
    Phyl Manning

  7. Mike Jackson
    Mike Jackson April 30, 2013 at 12:36 am · Reply

    Hi Phyl.

    No, I don’t write for a living. The job I’m presently doing for minimum wage is at Hines VA hospital in Hines, Il. I’m a vet and I work under Personal Property Management, and I’ll be doing this for six months(I’ll be finishing in October). During that time, my case manager at that hospital wants me to look for permanent work(good luck to me!). The program I’m in is designed to help vets get back on their feet.

    As for writing, I’m rather new to it–at least to SERIOUS writing. I’d say I’ve been writing with more desire and aim for about three to four years.

    Thanks for the advice on editing!!



  8. C Lee Brown
    C Lee Brown July 19, 2013 at 5:14 pm · Reply

    Thanks for the invite over at TNBW. I really like your page here and I’ll consider a short story about an elephant set in my fantasy world. It may be a while though, got a lot on my plate right now. Lee

  9. Wilma Bailey
    Wilma Bailey August 20, 2013 at 3:36 pm · Reply

    Since my writing is mostly all memoir-based, but fictionalized to some extent, I might not be able to come up with something with an elephant theme, never having seen one except on National Geographic channel. However, it might be a good exercise in thinking/witing outside my comfort zone. I am envious of your travels and teaching career. I enjoy your blog, glad I found your reference to it on TNBW! Harriett

  10. Wilma Bailey
    Wilma Bailey August 20, 2013 at 3:37 pm · Reply

    Forgot to check the “Notify” boxes. So here’s another comment for that purpose.

  11. Mike Jackson
    Mike Jackson August 21, 2013 at 2:28 am · Reply

    Hi Phyl

    Been meaning to get back to KITI. I enjoyed the poem that related to it and the first chapter.

    I’m all over the board with my reading and reviewing on TNBW. I can’t seem to stop becoming fans of so many writers on the site! So, I guess I’ve swamped myself.

    I’ll try to get back to KITI tonight.



  12. Mike Jackson
    Mike Jackson August 21, 2013 at 2:37 am · Reply

    Hi Phyl

    This is prob. a weird question, but did you ever dive with anyone who visited a shipwreck? I’ve always been fascinated–morbid as that is–with them. Not so sure I’d want to actually dive down very far–I’d freak inside a submersible as it was navigated around and through the Titanic, but it is kind of fun, IMO, to watch you tube pieces on it, the Lusitania, and other ones.



  13. Ron Van Sweringen
    Ron Van Sweringen March 1, 2014 at 1:51 am · Reply

    I knew Phyl through e-mails on the TNBW site. She was a warm and caring person and a fine writer. She helped me a great deal with my writing but her greatest gift to me was her encouragement. I think of her often and the first story of hers I read, about an eel that live in a secret cave under the sea. I loved that story except for the ending when a spear fisherman killed it. I wrote my first e-mail to Phyl and gave her hell for killing the eel. I was surprise she answered me. Our friendship grew from there. It is truly amazing when someone wonderful passes through your life. I will never forget you Phyl. Ron Van Sweringen RLVS

  14. Louis Bullard
    Louis Bullard March 1, 2014 at 3:23 am · Reply

    My family and I lived across the street from Phyl and Doug in New Hampshire just as they got married. It was a pleasure to have met her. Thank you for your biography of her life. I’m sorry that we did not get a chance to know her better.

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