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.

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