Sunday, January 20, 2019

Getting excellent advice from some readers

I'm fortunate to be a writer. I never take it for granted. I enjoy every bit of the process. I've worked hard, but I also know that I owe a lot to sheer luck.

I would never even have written my first novel. But I attended a reunion for a theater company where I had been an apprentice. I happened to sit near a children's book agent, Linda Pratt, who happened to  mention that she was always looking for humorous adventure stories. So I wrote one, and she sold it to Random House.

A few years after that, I had a second bit of amazing luck. I joined the Brooklyn Community Chorus. One night at rehearsal, I sat next to Susan Westover. When she found out I wrote kids books, she invited me to Brooklyn New School and Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies, where she is the librarian.

That was eight years ago. Since then I have visited BNS and BCS many times to talk about my books and writing. I've gotten to know the schools' other wonderful librarians, Karen Klein and Amanda Clarke. (Yes, the schools are so committed to reading that they share three librarians!) They're always grateful for my school visits. But I get back far more than I give. Each visit restores me. It's so inspiring to be in schools where teachers care about kids. Kids care about kids. And everybody cares about books.

My current novel is still very much a work-in-progress. But that's when a writer most needs to get a dose of tough love. I asked Susan if she might have some readers who were willing to give me feedback. Susan and Amanda kindly gathered a group of fifth graders and a group of sixth graders. They read the first twenty pages of CITY KID.

The Fifth grade group gives me advice.
One student drew my main character and a logo.

Their comments and their ideas were so helpful to me!

The sixth grade group meets regularly in the library to share their own creative procects.
Of course their enthusiasm for the character made me happy. But I was even happier to get their questions. What kind of person is Peri? How does she feel about her step-dad? Why did she say "no hugging"? Can't she just take a taxi to the theater? What are "cut-offs"?

Lots of helpful comments IN RED

"Does she get to the theater? How? We'll help you write the next page!"

Yes, my friends at BNS and BCS. You certainly will.