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Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Bounce of a Book

If a writer is lucky enough to see their work used as a diving board or a trampoline, that, I think, is a moment to celebrate. Look!  A step, a pause for concentration and now a jump…
It’s all about the bounce.
Pieces and Players is my sixth novel, and I’ve been lucky enough to be a witness to some of the independent life of my books.  When I visit schools, I get glimpses of projects and investigations built on my mysteries.  This is a huge treat.  How exciting is it to actually see your book as a bridge between imaginations -- yours and someone else’s, someone you don’t even know? 
Once a teacher, librarian or kid takes a bounce on a book, the story begins to stretch and breathe.  A breeze enters the room; characters look around.  The book becomes unpredictable, even dangerous – how cool is that?  It’s certainly no longer simply written or spoken words.  Has the story become a tool, a piece of equipment, or perhaps an interactive form of art?  What a dream for a writer, being able to observe some of this leap-and-fly magic!  A bounce on some detail, and whoosh  off these readers go in surprising directions.   What a thrill to see!
All of us readers have taken a bounce on a book, but the writer is rarely a direct witness.   Writing for kids and then absorbing what they’ve taken away from the page is truly an amazing experience.  When making my stories theirs, kids give me so much.  First, they show what they feel.  Next, I hear what they’d like me to tackle and which characters should be involved.  They suggest what I might do differently or what they want to see again.  I love to hear and share their ideas. Writing is a solitary activity, but the bounce of a book is not.
Of course, getting the thousands of letters I’ve gotten over the years from kids has been miraculous, and a different kind of very special experience.  I’ll never take that for granted, and the thoughtfulness of the written word can’t be topped.  I’ve opened and read all of these letters in my kitchen and often shared them with family or friends.  I keep them in boxes.  Yes, really, every one!  Their images and sparkle stay with me.  These are wonderful and often deeply moving bounces, but a different kind of experience from being physically in the same room.
Here are some bounce pics from the past couple of months.
A design project inspired by The Wright 3
A map for Pieces and Players
Kids role-playing Tommy, Calder, Petra, Zoomy, and Early--the panel takes questions from the class
A life-size Mrs. Sharpe

An illustrated excerpt
Humpty Dumpty pops out of Pieces and Players
Another exerpt