Author’s Corner: Former Times News editor writes children’s book about hummingbirds

Holly Viers • Feb 23, 2020 at 9:00 AM

East Tennessee author Ken Mink already has 25 books under his belt, and he isn’t stopping there.

Mink, a Maryville resident and former city editor at the Times News, released his 25th book, “The Adventures of Zippy and Zoomer Hummingbirds,” in December. Thanks to the book’s success, he’s already working on a sequel.

“(The book) is educational, inspirational, and it also provides children a better sense of nature and sociology,” Mink said. “They learn to deal with each other, and they learn about nature.”

What’s your background?

Mink grew up in Hazard, Kentucky, a coal-mining community. He played basketball at a junior college before joining the Air Force.

“While I was in there, I studied journalism, so I worked on the military newspaper for almost four years,” Mink said. “When I got out, I started working on civilian newspapers in 1961.”

Mink worked at a number of newspapers over the years, including the Knoxville News-Sentinel, the Bristol Herald-Courier and the Times News. It wasn’t until he retired from newspaper work that he decided to become an author.

“I like to keep a variety of topics; that’s why I wrote this children’s book,” Mink said. “That was my first stab at that, and it has been surprisingly successful. … It’s been bought in 12 different countries now.”

What inspired your latest book?

Mink got the idea for the book after a visit to see the birds at the Ijams Nature Center in Knoxville. He found the hummingbirds particularly interesting and soon began imagining them in a children’s story.

“I was kind of fascinated with the fact that those birds were so tiny, and yet they were so versatile,” Mink said. “I’d never written a children’s book, but I thought, ‘These birds are so interesting. I could perhaps write a scenario for these two little birds and some of the adventures they could get into.’ ”

What is the book about?

Set in the Ijams Nature Center forest, the book follows two rambunctious hummingbirds, Zippy and Zoomer, on a variety of adventures. The 30-page book also includes photos of other American birds, coloring pages, a map to the nature center and illustrations by John Rose, who also illustrates the “Snuffy Smith” cartoon.

The book sells for $9.50 on Amazon and at the Ijams Nature Center, Mink said. While he’s sold many copies, Mink has also donated thousands of dollars’ worth of books through his Hummingbird Fund.

“It’s a nonprofit fund designed to raise money that I could use to buy all these extra copies of the book, which I’ve been distributing to children free of charge in churches and schools around East Tennessee and Kentucky,” Mink said. “So far, I’ve been able to provide several hundred free books to these children.”

People can mail donations to the Hummingbird Fund at 3866 Legends Way, Maryville, TN 37801 or drop off donations at any ORNL Federal Credit Union location.

What’s next?

Mink is doing research for the sequel to his hummingbird tale and hopes to have that book published by April or May. Titled “Zippy and Zoomer’s Incredible Journey,” the book will follow the two birds on a 3,000 mile-journey over land and sea.

“It’s a story about how they migrate from the Knoxville area down to Florida and fly 500 miles nonstop across the Gulf of Mexico to Mexico,” Mink said, “which is a favorite migration ground for the hummingbirds in eastern America.”