What does an author visit, boogers, and John Wick all have in common?

Read on to find out. About a month ago, I shared how my daughter captivated an audience with a tale about a star stealing ogre, a rap-battling prince, and a quest to save bedtime. The story is called Ferdinand & the Stars in a Jar, and we co-authored it together. Her experience, and my blogging about it, led to a guest author opportunity at her elementary school last Friday.

It was a lot of fun.

After introducing myself to the 4th graders, I shared a joke my 4th grade teacher told me. Let’s just say the joke involved a lady on a bus, a couple of wacky characters, and a booger. Enough to get the kids laughing and to make them receptive to what I had to say. From there, I talked about how writers are simply day-dreamers, and that if they can day-dream, they can write a story. I transitioned into the three main ingredients of story–character, setting, and plot–and called on kids to answer my questions. I concluded by inviting my daughter up on stage, and together we read our story Ferdinand & the Stars in a Jar. The kids laughed at all the right moments. The adults, too. And I left beaming with pride knowing my daughter will always remember the day her author daddy visited her school.

But the goodness didn’t end there. When I got home later that day, my daughter had a gift for me. Her class wrote thank you cards. We enjoyed reading everyone’s appreciation of my visit, chuckling when one kid called me Mike Douglas, another Mrs. Douglas–and a third said I was the Surfside Book Man. I’ll cherish their cards for years to come, even the one who called me a woman.

Finally, I’ll end with a funny moment that occurred as I was leaving the school. A kid asked me if I was an actor. I told him I wasn’t, and he narrowed his eyes and said, “Are you sure? Because I swear you’re the guy who played John Wick.” Hmmm…

Sorry, dude, I’m not Keanu Reeves. But I am a huge fan of his movies. And on second thought, what the heck is a 4th grader doing watching John Wick movies? Double hmmm… Ah well, that’s not for me to decide.  All in all, it was a great author visit, made even more memorable because I got to enjoy the experience with my wonderful daughter.

Advertisements

New Medical MECH Fan Art!

Medical MECH Fan Art -- Axel, Jazz, & Lizzy (art by Andrea).JPG

Medical MECH has a wonderful cast of characters–from Riley, the thirteen-year-old hero of the story, to TV Boy, a towering red robot who enjoys Starbucks coffee. Among my favorite are Axel, Jazz, and Lizzy. They’re a gang of misfit musicians who arrive mysteriously in Riley’s small town of Wood Dale, Illinois. What’s their connection with Medical MECH?

You’ll have to read the book to find out.

In the meantime, enjoy this fan art from a student of mine named Andrea. She is super talented and I’m stoked to see my characters come to life!

Failure is a motivator. Success is a paralyzer.

You’ve heard it before, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Or, if you’ve never failed, you’ve never tried anything new. Several years ago, I remember seeing a poster in a classroom I was observing that talked about how people who fail are in good company. The poster went on to show famous failures from history. It was pretty cool. Check it out:

Famous Failures

Anyway, yesterday I attended a school inservice with motivational speaker Salome Thomas-El, a school principal from Philadelphia. Principal El has appeared on Dr. Oz, and is an author to boot. He is renown for giving his inner-city students the game of chess and, with it, the power to escape the hard knocks of urban life. Cool guy. He talked a lot about caring for at-risk kids and reaching them on their level.

Great stuff. During his talk, he said something that stuck with me all day long: “Failure is a motivator. Success is a paralyzer.” Now, I already knew how failure can motivate you to succeed. But I hadn’t heard how success can paralyze you. He explained how his chess students, after learning the game, began to win. Tournaments would approach, but the kids wouldn’t practice because they believed they were already good players. It wasn’t until the kids started losing that they became motivated to become better. Failure was the key.

Of course, as a writer and a person who is driven to succeed, I wondered how I can apply Principal El’s concepts not only to my students but to myself. And not only that, but where would I want to apply those principles? The obvious answer for me was with my writing. I crave success beyond the small measurable amount I’ve had over the past several years. I would be thrilled to have my work represented by a literary agent–my next goal. The road to reaching that goal, however, will be paved with failure. Does knowing this make the trial seem easier? I don’t think so. Failure is a tough pill to swallow. Nobody wants to be rejected. It hurts.

Recently, a fellow author I admire named Kathy McManis Holzapfel, who writes under the pen name, Cate Noble (check her out here), shared a video of a conversation between two blockbuster authors: Stephen King and George R.R. Martin. Within their conversation the authors talked about their projects and writing processes, but one story shared by Stephen King was an eye-opener.

He talked about failure.

In his bedroom when he was just starting out, Stephen King hung a nail in his wall. On that nail, he would stick all his rejection letters to it. He wanted to see his failure so it would motivate him to succeed. Eventually, the rejection letters became so heavy that the nail came out of the wall and fell to the ground. So what did he do? He went and bought a bigger nail. Holy cow! Talk about motivation. If you’d like to see the video, check it out below. It’s lengthy, so if you simply want to see the part of the conversation I’m referring to, it’s around the 21:19 mark. For my young readers out there, there is a little bit of language between the two authors. They are Stephen King and George R.R. Martin, after all.

So, what’s the takeaway from all this? I’d say, for me at least, that I need to buckle down and prepare for rejection. I plan to send out my work to countless literary agents soon. Could be good. Could be hurtful.

But I’ve bought a big nail.