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Behind the Covers: Whistle For a Possum

Friday, October 14, 2016 10:29
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Though it has been available for a few days, Whistle for a Possum has gained the attention and praise of many readers.

In a recent interview, author Barbara Lunow revealed her inspiration for penning the book and offered a glimpse into her personal life.

Author Barbara Lunow with Holly and Hercules

Author Barbara Lunow with Holly and Hercules


Please tell about your book, Whistle for a Possum.

My book is a unique collection of stories, myths, language exercises, which tell all about the culture and life of the Sougb people of Papua, Indonesia. It includes stories of how the gospel entered this primitive tribal people and changed their lives, giving them hope for the future. Each story section is followed by thought questions and challenges for the reader. The stories will entertain as well as inform all ages, children to adult.    

What was your inspiration for writing it?

I first collected the stories through interviews of the old people of the tribe and printed a Sougb language reader for them. None of their history and culture had ever been written before and it was being forgotten by the young people. I translated and edited the reader into English and the result is “Whistle for a Possum,” a multicultural book for the Western reader.

It is worth noting those interviewed for the stories have now passed away, including Dessy, the young girl who introduces each section.

Your book has an interesting title. How did you come up with it?

The title is one of the stories in the book, about a young boy who goes out hunting possum with his bow and arrows. I chuckle at the idea of whistling to get an animal’s attention. How clever is that?

What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?

My favorite parts were “Sneezes, Belches and Hiccups”, “What Time Is It?”, and “One Finger, Two Toes”. They are fun sections, yet give a feel for how creative and beautiful the language is.

I wrote the last story, “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow”, from a compilation of conversations and experiences with the Sougb people. It gives me the greatest joy as I look back at where they were, living in fear and dread of the spirit world around them, and through the coming of the written Word of God in their own language, they now have a hope for the future found in the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet, their unique tribal culture and language remain. 

How long did you live among the Sougb?

My husband and I served as Christian missionaries in the fields of medicine, linguistics & translation and in church leadership training. We Iived among the Sougb thirty-five years, plus. The plus comes from continued involvement through translation projects and trips back and forth for several months at a time since we officially left Papua to live in the US.

What was your favorite part of the experience?

My favorite part was getting to know and appreciate the Sougb people. I learned to love them, especially the women and children. They became my sisters, my children, in the Lord.

Why did you become a writer…was it a dream of yours since you were younger or did the desire to write happen later in your life?

I always liked writing non-fiction essays, articles and reports as a child. My writing broadened when I began writing regular letters, articles from our experiences in Papua. The letters eventually developed into stories of the people and their culture. Many were publishedin our mission magazine. I kept journals all through the years.

When I write things down, it helps me to sort my thoughts. I am free to express what I feel, what’s in my heart. I love seeing the written word on paper, computer, holding them in my hands.

Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?

My mother was the greatest influence in my love of stories. She always read to us at night before going to bed. How I enjoyed her wonderful re-telling of movies that she saw.

When I was in high school, a Dutch lady in our church let me borrow missionary books from her extensive library. Missionaries like: Mary Slessor, Robert Frazier, Hudson Taylor, became old friends as I soaked up their life stories.  Isobel Kuhn’s books about the tribes people in Southeast Asia greatly influenced my direction in life.

The top book that influenced me and gave me direction for life was the Bible. Through reading it, God spoke to my heart, inspired and challenged me to choose to live my life in His service and to tell others about Him.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

I don’t know that it’s a quirk, but I write everything in longhand first. I always envision a person to write to, like I am sharing information or carrying on a silent conversation with them. Writing longhand allows me to write with my feelings.

If money wasn’t an issue, what you being doing right now?

I would travel more, see my children and grandkids.

However, I’m content where I am. Since finishing our translation projects, I have the time to write for myself and that’s what I want to do. I’m enjoying it.

Do you have any pets? What kind and what are their names?

No pets for me, but I frequently dog-sit for my granddaughter’s two dogs. Hercules is a Maltipoo and Holly is a Morkie.

List 10 things no one knows about you, beginning with number 10 leading up to the drum roll at #1!      

  1. I played violin in elementary school.
  2. As a child, I was the best tree-climber of my five other siblings. My mother always asked me to hand pick the fruit trees.
  3. My brother and I got caught on a little island in the middle of the river when they opened up the dam up river from us. We were hunting for fossil rocks and had to be rescued by the fire department.
  4. I always got car sick when I was little, yes, even threw up. Mom let me stay home, a lot.
  5. My favorite meal from Iowa where I grew up: fried chicken, sweet corn and watermelon, and mom’s homemade apple crisp.
  6. Things I’ve done that I never knew I would/could do: butcher a pig, stitch up a head wound with a needle and thread, ford a raging river on a singlewide pole and vine bridge.
  7. I flew around the world three times in my missionary travels.
  8. I can speak and write in the Sougb language.
  9. I have 5 children, 9 grand children and 2 great grand children.
  10. I proudly claim a great-great grandmother who was full blooded Cherokee.

Thank you for your time Barbara. It was a pleasure to hear about your book and learn more about you.

Whistle for a Possum can be purchased on the publisher’s (Dancing With Bear Publishing) site, through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-a-Million and all other online book stores.

Connect with Barbara by sending her an email to or finding her on Facebook.


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