From Avi: As I did last summer, I’ve invited 13 admired middle grade authors to write for my blog for the next three months. I hope you’ll tune in each Tuesday to see who has answered these three questions. You should have a list of terrific books to read and share and read aloud by the end of the summer … along with new authors to follow!
Your favorite book on writing:
The book on writing that I most frequently recommend to beginners is Story by Robert McKee. Though it’s based on McKee’s famous three-day workshop for screenwriters, I have found it enormously valuable for my own work in prose. I first took the course (I’ve taken it twice!) when I had already been publishing for over a dozen years, and for the first few hours I found myself thinking, “Why am I here, I already know all this!” By the end of the weekend I had taken forty pages of notes … and started applying some of the things he had taught when I went back to work on Monday morning! And I’m still using them. McKee’s thoughts about creating a narrative are universal, profound, and easily applied.
Reading aloud from my books:
During my years as a classroom teacher, reading aloud to my students was my favorite part of the day. Because of that, I have always written my own books with the conscious hope and intent that they would be fun for parents and teachers to read out loud … which means that they should flow easily and smoothly when someone was doing so. Which is why I always read my works in progress out loud to myself, in an attempt to avoid ungainly prose or phrases that would make the tongue tangle.
My personal choice for which one that is most fun to read aloud has to be Goblins in the Castle … a choice that seems to be echoed by many teachers, as I have wonderful letters from educators about how they read it every year. Part of what makes it so much fun to read aloud is that it has vivid and wacky characters that cry out for the lector to create voices for. And let’s face it … creating voices is one of the great joys of reading aloud to kids!