Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Rudy Toot-Toot Goes to School

Last week my older son came home from school and told me his teacher wanted me to email her.  Fearing the worst, I pressed for clarification.

"I told her you write books and she said you can come and read one to us," he said. 

Interesting.  Not knowing what he really told her, or what she really said, I took it upon myself to email his teacher and clarify my status as "someone who writes books."  I explained:

My son Max told me that you were interested in having me read one of my books to your class.  I would love to, but let me clarify where I am in my writing career.  I have attached the manuscript for one of my books so you can give it a glance first.

I wrote a chapter book, RUDY TOOT-TOOT, that a literary agent has submitted to several major publishing houses.  I don't have an offer on it yet, but I'm hopeful one will come...

 
RUDY TOOT-TOOT is a 16,500-word (75 page) chapter book. Rudy has a special power, almost like a superhero: he can fart.  It comes natural when you're born on a bean farm.  His talent often gets him in trouble.  After one monstrous emission scares all the customers away from the Toot-Toot family bean market and the bank threatens to take away their home, Rudy must find a way to use his power to lure the
customers back.  As Papa always told him, "There's a right time and a right place for everything."

Un-phased by the premise of farting, she still invited me into her classroom to read to the kids.  She even invited the school librarian.

I love reading to kids.  I have a background in theater and a good amount of experience in public speaking.  Plus I'm totally immature, so I can connect with them on that critical level.

I read the first 23 pages of RUDY TOOT-TOOT to the class.  I had them laughing out loud on page one, and kept their interest until I finished the excerpt.  I left them wanting more.

That was cool, but not as cool as what happened next...

When my son got home from school, he handed me a sheet of paper.  "Ethan wants you to publish this for him," he said, like it's that easy.  I mean, I made it clear I haven't been able to get my own books published...

Ethan wrote a page-and-a-half continuation of my story.  It is one of the coolest things I've ever read.  I emailed my son's teacher to see if she gave them an assignment to write about my story.  She didn't.  He wrote it in his free writing time.  She also said I inspired several of her "non-writers" to write stories.

I never knew how to define success as a writer, until now.  It's not about money, or being a bestseller, or even being represented by an agent or published.  It's about that connection to a reader, and having the ability to make an impact on someone's life.

I am glad to say I succeeded on that level.  It doesn't kill my dreams of actually being a best-selling author, but somehow it makes that part less important. 

I've been invited back to the class to finish the book.  It will probably take two more sessions.  The kids are really looking forward to it...but not half as much as I am.

27 comments:

jbchicoine said...

I can only imagine how great that feels! 'Tis truly an accomplishment--hard to imagine that publishing could feel any better than that!

Michelle said...

That is so cool!

Rick Daley said...

Bridget / Michelle- Thanks! I can't wait until kids have the opportunity to read the book for themselves, too. I hope it gets the same reception as when I read it to them.

Laurel said...

That has got to be the coolest writing story ever. Seriously, Rick, that is full of awesome.

And I am jealous of your ability to read out loud. I can speak in public- not like Maya Angelou or anything, but I don't come down with the terrible stage frights- but I'm terrible at reading aloud. The way I hear it in my head is not how it comes out.

Sharon said...

That is totallly awesome! Maybe you should send the kids extended versions to the publisher too!

Bane of Anubis said...

Thanks a lot, Rick -- just what I need... more competition ;)... Seriously, though, it's always awesome when you can connect with your target audience.

Rick Daley said...

Laurel- I also do funny character voices. Available for parties. Call now for rates and booking info.

Sharon- Some day I'll put up a website for Rudy. I've already reserved the domain. I'd post the kids' fan-fiction there first.

Bane- Don't &^%* with the mer-man ;-) I'd be happy to tell kids to read your books (after they have read all of mine). It's like a marketing agreement. Can work out well for everyone.

Eric said...

This is awesome, Rick. You've achieved that feeling of greatness that all of us are looking for, I'd wager. Not the publication buzz, not the finish-the-book buzz (though of course those are cool too), but just that really good feeling from something truly worthwhile. I'm pretty envious.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

I know, right? It's the most amazing feeling when you know you've had that influence on someone, especially a child. Go you!

I'm gearing up to talk to the 3/4th graders and the 5/6th graders next week. We're going to try our hands at a little flash fiction! Should be fun... :)

Crimey said...

Rick, that's the most endearing story I've heard in a long time. To inspire children is a great gift. You should be so proud. :)

Rick Daley said...

Eric- Waiting on the publishing industry sucks. This doesn't! Keep at it, you'll have a taste, too.

Sue- I was thinking of you because I know you did something like this recently. Good luck in your next session!

Crimey- Thank you. It is a very cool feeling.

Donna Hole said...

Awesome Rick.

Publishing is the ultimate goal. And I've a feeling you could give both Dr Suess and Berenstein Bears a run for the money.

The world of reading changes; and you've gone that extra mile to capture the interest of young minds.

You don't get YA or adult readers without the MG crowd.

Dude, you'll get there in your target audience. Uhm, it looks like you have, in the local group. That's a start.

Keep writing from your heart. What you have to offer is epic in the mind of a 7-12 year old.

How awesome is that??

......dhole

Michelle Davidson Argyle said...

I think this is one of the coolest things I have ever read. Seriously! It's really great and I hope to inspire someone like that in the future with my own writing.

Congrats on this! It must feel really great. :)

Rick Daley said...

Donna- I'm thinking of ways to expand this local network. Referrals and recommendations are important in developing any business, and I do look at my writing as a side business to the day job. One day maybe I will even earn something from it!

Michelle- The experience has made me think seriously about self-publishing. Even if a contract comes through (Rudy has been on submission since February) I don't think it would be available for purchase before 2012. I know kids who want it yesterday!

Michelle Davidson Argyle said...

Is it a picture book or a chapter book?

Rick Daley said...

Michelle- It's a chapter book, but I think it would do much better with some illustrations. That's my main hold-back. The fact that my agent hasn't returned a call or email since May is quite inspiring in regard to self-publishing. It's disappointing because she was great to work with at first, but five months of no reply / no contact makes me want to move on. I'd love to talk to her about it, but the whole "won't return a call or respond to an email" thing makes that difficult.

Teri said...

This is wonderful! It always helps to have an audience sitting on the edge of their seats and/or laughing out loud. Bravo to you!

Rick Daley said...

Thanks Teri. Technically they were sitting on the floor. Next time I might have them sit in seats to see if I can make them laugh so hard they fall out of them...that would be sweet!

Anita said...

Oh my gosh! This is so awesome! And yay little Ethan. I hope he grows up with books on my shelves.

Vodka Mom said...

you kick ass.

seriously.

Anonymous said...

"It's about that connection to a reader, and having the ability to make an impact on someone's life."

Exactly!

Anita Saxena said...

What an amazing experience. This is what writing for kids is all about. Best of luck finding a publishing home for what sounds like a hilarious story.

Rick Daley said...

Thanks Anita. I've been back two times and read through to the end. I have two more pieces of fan fiction, and the kids loved it through to the last page!

I've talked to the school librarian about author visits, working to understand the business of writing from that perspective. It's a really cool experience, I hope to be able to keep building on it.

Dayana Stockdale said...

OH boy! This post made me SMILE!!! Go you. Sounds like you had a very humbling, electrifying experience, the kind that jolts and calms the writer mind all at the same time. Let me say...jealous. I want to read my book to kids! Someday hopefully. :)
And as the suffocating bi-product of a family obsessed with farting humor, I can't wait to recommend your book to my loved ones! The fact that it encouraged kids to write says A LOT, way more than any critic could ever say.

Rick Daley said...

Dayana- Reading for the kids, and getting the reaction I did, makes me realize why I am chasing this dream. The only thing missing was having the book available for the kids to take home.

Caroline Starr Rose said...

How fun is this? My nine-year-old, who loves to write stories, is always asking if his work can be published. I love how authors, editors, and publishers are all a part of our family conversation.

Rick Daley said...

Caroline- it's great you can involve the family in the craft! And it sounds like your kids understand that writing and creating stories can be fun. Sometimes, as an adult and aspiring professional, I tend to lose sight of that. Sharing a story with an enthusiastic group of kids is an excellent way to add a breath of fresh air back into the process.