Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Publishing Prodigy

Gordon Korman is a favorite author among upper elementary and middle school students. His road to publishing is unique. At age 12, he wrote his first novel. He knew that to be published, he had to send it to a publisher. The only one he knew was Scholastic, because he was the Scholastic book sale captain for his class. So he sent off his manuscript, and they liked it! Scholastic released the book when he was 14 and a high school freshman. "I don't know what my friends were thinking inside," he said, "but they didn't make any big deal of it. It was just what I did."

Now age 46, he has written over 60 books--all still published by Scholastic--and won many awards. He told his Plum Creek Children's Literacy Festival audience that his humorous school and family stories are inspired by his own experience. He takes a trait of someone he knows and gives that trait to a character, exaggerating it to make it more humorous. His adventure books come from research. He told about learning about the science behind deep sea diving, including shark behavior, and using that information in his plots for his Dive series. Korman is also one of the authors of the popular 39 Clues series.

See an author interview and learn more about his books here.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Write Now!

The U.S. Senate passed a resolution declaring October 21 the National Day on Writing. The National Council of Teachers of English is sponsoring writing galleries where you can post your work and read the work of others.

You're never too late to start writing. John Erickson, creator of the Hank the Cowdog series, had been told in school that he was a good writer. In his young adulthood as a cowboy, his short stories were published, but he didn't begin writing full time until he was in his mid-30's with a wife and children.

Unable to sell his ranch stories to New York publishers, he invested in creating his own publishing company, and Hank the Cowdog was born. Puffin picked up the series, with Number 54 as the newest addition.

Erickson writes 3 Hank books a year and meets his readers at schools and childrens' lit festivals. At Plum Creek, Erickson taught his audience of hundreds of kids rousing renditions of Hank songs, including "Rotten Meat." Kids shouted out answers to his questions about characters and plot from random numbers in the series. He said he makes the books easy to read because he wants kids to enjoy them, and he was a reluctant reader himself as a kid. From the opening line, "It's me again, Hank the Cowdog" to the end, kids love Hank and his ranch dog adventures.

Erickson advises young writers to "leave your readers better off than they were before." With homespun humor and kid-friendly scenes, Hank books show that Erickson takes his own advice.

You still have time to post in the National Gallery of Writing. It's not too late to write and leave your readers better off!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Footloose! (Or The Library to the Rescue)

photo by the Nebraska Library Commission on flickr

Last Thursday night, I drove to the Plum Creek Children's Literacy Festival on Concordia University's campus in Seward, Nebraska, where I would present on Saturday. It was, as they say, a dark and stormy night and it had been a hectic week. I threw professional clothes in my suitcase and took off.

One hundred miles down the road, my memory clicked. I had forgotten my dress shoes! What to do? I could drive into Lincoln on my way to Seward and see what I could find. I could cut out of Friday's activities to drive to Lincoln to buy shoes. Neither of those options appealed. Then I literally saw a sign--Fremont, Nebraska, was coming up. Fremont was big enough to at least have a Walmart. (You now sense my desperation. White sneakers wouldn't do!) Maybe I could get shoes there and get it taken care of.

The highway went right by the public library. It was 8:20. The lights were still on! I pulled around the corner and into the parking lot. "Yes," the reference librarian said, "we have a Walmart," and she gave me excellent directions. Backtracking, I turned onto another highway. Before I got to Walmart, I encountered--even better!--a Payless Shoes.

I sped into the parking lot with 20 minutes to spare before they closed. I yanked the door open and held up 5 fingers as the clerk asked,"May I help you?" He could tell I was desperate.

"Size 5 Women's." I strode toward the area where he pointed. "Jackpot!" I called. Not only did I find the pair I needed, at their special rate, I got another pair, too.

Once again, the public library came to the rescue. From research to programming to apparel, they know their stuff, and it's there for everyone. Thanks, Keene Memorial! (And Payless.)