ANNA MARIA ISLAND -- Kathleen Flinn has a strong connection to Anna Maria Island. It's where her family moved to from Michigan when she was 11 years old and where her mother Irene still lives in Holmes Beach.
Flinn's time living in Manatee County was such a big influence that the author, now 47, included it in her new book titled "Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good: A Tale of Food & Love from an American Midwest Family."
The book, part-memoir and part-family recipes, will be celebrated in two area appearances this week. At 2 p.m. Wednesday, Flinn will be at Selby Public Library, 1331 First St., Sarasota, and on Friday, she's scheduled to make an appearance at Time Saver Food & Wine, 5353 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach. The island event will run from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. and feature a light buffet with foods from the book.
According to Flinn, the book took about six months or so to write.
"I wrote almost the whole thing while I was out on the island," said Flinn, who lives part of the year on the island and the other part in Seattle.
During a trip to the island to see her mother, the author said her mother revealed a box filled with at least 20 stories she'd written over the course of 50 years. The typed stories, which were held in manila folders, were about Flinn's mother and what life was like for her growing up during the Great Depression. There were stories of running a business, and stories of her parents' childhoods.
"She had never really shared those with me," Flinn said. "Those stories ended up forming the core of the book."
In the book's Chapter 15, titled "Sunshine State," Flinn described the week-long vacation that made her parents fall in love with Anna Maria Island.
"In 1976, it was a sleepy place, its housing primarily sturdy, low-slung cinderblock bungalows scattered amid swaying palms," she writes.
After they arrived on the 7-mile-long island, Flinn's parents explored a bit and ended up at the famed Rod & Reel Pier. Flinn's father, Milton, walked out along the wooden planks, she wrote, as gulls swooped by and a dozen people fished quietly. He then told Flinn's mother that he wanted to live there for the rest of his life.
They ended up buying a home on the island during the trip.
Flinn also writes about Cortez, which she said combined two of her father's favorite interests: fishing and history.
"Dad made friends with some of the locals there and sat enraptured by their stories," she wrote. "He'd buy beers and chat with rugged-faced fishermen as they told tales of how the plentiful supply of mullet drew the first settlers well before the Civil War."
When Flinn's family moved to the island, her mother stayed behind in Michigan for the first year because of work.
"It turned out to be a great gift because I had so much time with him when he was sick," Flinn said. "He told me, 'Sometimes you find where your soul is'... he felt that his soul lived on the island."
He later died from lung cancer in 1980.
Though Flinn has lived in London, Paris, Seattle and Chicago, there's no place that compares to Anna Maria Island.
"There's something that changes in me when I cross the bridge to the island," she said. "I feel home."
Flinn said she doesn't know if it's because of the memories of her late father, or because the island is the place she's been tied to for the longest. She even got married on the island.
"I just feel that there's something special about it," she said. "I think a lot of people who live out there feel that way."
Amaris Castillo, law enforcement/island reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7051. Follow her on Twitter@AmarisCastillo.