Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Frank L. Cole and His Hashbrown World

If only every young or aspiring author had a Frank L. Cole in his or her life. Last summer, I had no idea what to do next in my writing life. I had a completed manuscript and others at various stages, and I’d hit a dead end. That’s when my wife Debbie and I took a trip to Salt Lake City. Debbie had a conference there, and I tagged along to keep her company. Debbie’s days would be tied up with seminars (though we had evenings, wonderful evenings, together for dinner and each other), and so I knew I’d be walking around the city—seeing the temple, attending a Bees game, finding cheap meals for lunch.

My first day out and about, I found a Deseret Book. I walked in and, as is my custom, made my way to the middle-grade (ages 7-11) reading section. Soon, a particular cover had grabbed my attention. A perhaps impish, certainly unfortunate boy with a winter cap on his head begged me with big, pleading eyes to read his story, The Adventures of Hashbrown Winters. I read the first chapter there in the store, and later returned to buy the book. It’s one entertaining story—narrated by a wildly imaginative fifth-grader who dreads his showdown with the school bully even as he dodges acorns the local squirrels throw at him. The author? One Frank L. Cole. When I saw, in the back of the book, that this was Frank’s debut novel, I sent him an e-mail, right there in my hotel room. I asked for any suggestions and any wisdom regarding the writing world. How do I get the right people to read my work? I wanted to know. I didn’t expect an e-mail back anytime soon. How wrong I was. Frank got back to me a couple hours later and offered both advice and encouragement. If it wasn’t for Frank, I wouldn’t be publishing a children’s novel of my own in August. I was that discouraged. He and I have maintained an e-mail dialogue, and he’s been nothing but helpful and supportive.

And now I’ve read his second book in the Hashbrown series: Hashbrown Winters and the Mashimoto Madness. It’s full of the same humor and storytelling glee as Cole’s debut. Which makes sense, given the humor and glee the author has brought to our conversations and to any discussion about writing (and entertaining kids!) for a living. Thank you, Frank, for your entertaining stories and your generosity.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

About This Website

The coolest place I’ve ever read in was Cube City, a wood structure third- and fourth-graders got to use at Stonebridge Elementary. You could read on the ground floor, on the next floor up, or all the way up on the third and top floor. The structure was divided into mini apartments, or cubes—hence the name Cube City—each probably four feet high and four feet across each side. You’d climb ladders of stained wood to get to the upper floors, right next to the ceiling, and you could drag a bean bag up there with you. It was a marvelous place—a chance to get out of school even when they were in school. It felt like another world. Occasionally, students fell off the top floor and got hurt. At that time, though, students, parents, and teachers were willing to take on the small risk of injury in favor of giving kids a special place to visit even as their books spirited them away with the characters they loved. In Cube City, as I read the Great Brain books, the Lemonade Trick series, and anything by the great Roald Dahl, I further fell in love with reading—with where it took me, what it taught me, and above all else how it entertained me. These were the only years of my life when I was often behind on my school work—and it wasn’t because I was goofing around, causing trouble, or rousing rabble; it was because once I entered Cube City and began reading, I just couldn’t go back to a few lousy math problems.

Now I’m months away from seeing my own novel (Dizzy Fantastic and Her Flying Bicycle, Cedar Fort, August 2010) on bookstore shelves. I hope readers enjoy living Dizzy’s adventures, even if their reading spots aren’t as dangerous as my Cube City.

Through this blog, you’ll learn a little about me, read some of my work, and keep up with my publication news.