Author of the 2.5 Million-Copy Bestseller FRINDLE
To The Readers In Nebraska
I'm so honored that my book Things Not Seen has been selected among so many other wonderful books to be considered for the Golden Sower Young Adult Award. Please thank your colleagues for me.
You asked for answers to some questions:
My other interests include playing the guitar and writing songs; bicycling; hiking; canoeing; woodworking; and of course, reading.
I haven’t meant to, but I have collected a lot of pens (called frindles by some.) I don’t keep them for display purposes, or because they may be rare or valuable, but rather because I enjoy using them. I love to doodle and draw and simply make marks with ink on paper. It’s something I never tire of.
As a young child I loved A.A. Milne's House at Pooh Corner and Margaret Wise Brown's The Five Little Firemen.
As an independent reader I loved Robert Louis Stevenson's Child's Garden of Verses, Treasure Island, and Kidnapped, and also all the books and short stories of Jack London; the Sherlock Holmes mysteries by Arthur Conan Doyle; the original Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Wyss; Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book and later, Kim; and on and on and on.
And then of course, there are the super books, off in class by themselves--the Bible at the very tiptop of the heap, then Shakespeare's plays and sonnets, The Odyssey, War and Peace, and again, on and on and on--but I grew into these books a bit later.
Favorite foods include pizza, steak, boiled Maine lobster, farmstand corn-on-the-cob, homemade blueberry pie after we've picked the wild berries ourselves, and lightly salted tomatoes still warm from the sun.
Blue is one of my favorite colors--ocean, lake, sky, my wife's eyes--it's hard to go wrong with blue.
In grade school I always loved to read more than anything. I did not like to write when I was young because I found writing to be hard work. I like to write now, but it's still hard work for me--and I've found this is true for almost everyone, regardless of age.
By the time I got to junior high and high school, English was my favorite subject because that was where we read books and talked about them, and I had some great teachers, especially in high school. And when I went to college, I studied English and American literature at Northwestern University, and again, I had some wonderful teachers.
It took me a long time to get Things Not Seen written, and even longer to get it published. I actually wrote the first draft of the novel in 1995, right after I had finished writing my very first chapter book, Frindle, and it was not published until 2002. Things Not Seen in its original form was rejected four times before an editor finally said she'd work with me. That work involved essentially rewriting the whole story, focusing on the characters of Bobby and Alicia instead of on the plot. I learned a lot as a writer during that time, and the response to the book has shown me that the hard work was worth it. I'm so glad people have been enjoying this book. I've also learned that Things Not Seen has just won the first annual ALA Schneider Family Book Award, given to this book for it's artistic presentation of what it's like to have a handicap--in this case Alicia's blindness. This is an unintended consequence that grew out of an intentional effort to present a real character.
I think I write for kids for the same reasons that I became a teacher after finishing college: Like teaching, writing keeps me in touch with important ideas; like teaching, writing good books is hard, satisfying work; and, like teaching, writing for kids leaves me feeling that I may have made a positive difference in someone’s life. What more can any person hope for?
If I can be of any other assistance in your good work for kids there in Nebraska, please let me know.
All best wishes,