Archive for Wednesday, March 22, 2000

Children’s book author captivates kids

March 22, 2000

Like iron filings to a magnet, McLouth schoolchildren clung to every word spoken last week by children's book author David Greenberg.

It was several hours of giggles, wiggles and hands waving in the air as Greenberg read his stories to the children and pelted his young audience with questions.

"How many of you have ever dressed your dog or cat?" he asked. "And how many of you have ever put underwear on your dog's head?"

"How many of you have ever spilled juice on the sofa and then turned the cushion over so no one would know?"

Giggles and snickers spread across the room as every hand waved in the air each time.

Greenberg said this is what writing is all about noticing the little everyday things we do and think about and talk about and putting the words on paper.

"Writers are noticers," Greenberg said.

Greenberg, 45, Portland, Ore., got his start in writing the hard way by pummeling book publishers with his stories and refusing to give up.

"My first book, 'Slugs,' was rejected 112 times," Greenberg said. "The 113th publisher, Little Brown and Company, accepted it.

"Slugs" is a story about the many uses and activities for slugs.

Greenberg told the children, grades kindergarten through fifth that you can put a slug on a leash and take it for a walk, you can try them fried for breakfast (nice and crispy, he said), make a slug chocolate shake, and even put Super Glue on a slug and stick it in your sister's shoe.

"I have this book to share with you because I decided to keep trying," Greenberg said. "No one can make that decision for you. No matter how much your parents, teachers or friends care for you, they can't do it. If you keep trying, even in the face of obstacles, it will pay off for you."

Even today, 17 years after "Slugs" was first published, Greenberg said, he's still amazed that Little Brown and Company wanted to publish it.

"It was very much on-the-edge then," Greenberg said, "And it was the opposite of the fluffy the kitten stories that were popular at the time."

Jean Rush, superintendent of McLouth schools, said to prepare for Greenberg's visit, teachers and students had been doing many activities that centered on his writing.

"This afternoon, he'll be working with the teachers in workshops," Rush added.

Fourth-grade teacher Lori Lamborn said Greenberg's visit was the follow-up of a workshop she attended last spring with Sheri Thomas, another fourth-grade teacher.

"It inspired us with the desire to write," Lamborn said.

After that, the teachers decided to try to bring Greenberg, who makes about 30 visits to schools each year, to McLouth.

"I would like to inspire the kids to work hard and to write," Lamborn said.

Lamborn, who has taught at McLouth for 16 years, said this is the first major author who has visited the school.

"It's quite an honor to have him here," she said. "It makes it real for the children to see a face connected with a book."

Altogether, Greenberg has written 10 books that have been, or will soon be, published. His books coming up include, "The Book of Boys for Girls," and "The Book of Girls for Boys," books that Greenberg describes as the children's counterparts to John Gray's book about adult relationships: "Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus."

His favorite among the books he has written is "Miss Behavior's Book of Etiquette for Children."

When one child asked Greenberg how much money he made, Greenberg used the example of "Slugs."

"Slugs sells for six dollars in the stores," he said. "Out of that book, I get 18 cents. On a children's illustrated paperback, there is a six percent royalty. The writer gets six percent and the illustrator gets six percent."

But the money's not why he writes, Greenberg said.

"Every writer I know would like to make more money, but we write because that's our passion," Greenberg said, "We love to write."

Greenberg told the children that when he was their age, he never dreamed he'd be a writer. But later, he realized he was talented when it came to writing.

It's important to use whatever talents anybody has, he told the children.

"Talent is just that. Talent just sits there," he said. "If you want your talent to blossom, you have to write, and writing means sitting down and writing. Writing is hard work."

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