As part of our continuing series of 2010 Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Conference (www.foryoungreaders.com) faculty interviews with interviewer Carol Lynch Williams.
Mike Knudson is the author of the humorous Raymond and Graham series of books for middle grade readers. He lives in North Salt Lake with his wife, Annette, five children and a turtle. Mike writes full-time and visits over one hundred elementary schools each year around the country. When not writing, you can find him coaching little league, swimming with his kids, and annoying his family with his banjo playing.
Carol Lynch Williams: Mike, How did you get started in publishing?
Mike Knudson: I have always had a passion for writing. However, my kids were the influence in beginning my first book. The funny school experiences they bring home would often prompt me to tell them some of my own stories of my school days. At one point my passion for writing seemed to align itself with my story telling and my first book was born. I think there is a time for everything and it all seemed to come together at the right time.
CLW: Why did you choose to write chapter books?
MK: I love the tween years. We see the world so differently at that age. It’s still an innocent age, but we are experiencing social situations and emotions, such as embarrassment, for the first time. Kids just a few years younger seem to have no inhibitions and say whatever is on their minds. My daughter came home from the first grade telling us she got married at school that day. Three years later in the fourth grade she came home mortified when her friend told a boy that she liked him. I just love the middle grade world.
CLW: If you could write anything, would you choose something different?
MK: I have to say that my heart is in the middle grade world. However, that’s not to say that I will not write other things. When there’s a story in me, I will write it regardless of the category. I am actually just finishing a young adult manuscript, which I am having a great time writing. The story was in me and I felt strongly that I needed to write it. I’ll just follow my heart wherever it takes me, though I could never abandon chapter books.
CLW: What does your family think of your books?
MK: Most of my family love the books. My wife and kids love them. However, in my Raymond and Graham series I gave Raymond a mean big sister named Geri. That didn’t sit too well with my real sister whose name happens to be Geri. It was difficult to explain it as a coincidence when I didn’t even bother changing her name. So other than my sister, my family has had a lot of fun with my books. And I even know that somewhere down deep, way down deep, way, way down deep, Geri likes the books. After all I also have two brothers who haven’t make it into the books at all!
CLW: What will people learn in your class at Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Conference this year?
MK: One thing that I believe kids at the middle-grade age universally enjoy is humor. People will learn how to add humor as a one of the main elements in their writing. They will also learn how to use voice, emotion, language and other elements to write to the middle-grade audience. Also, as I visit over one hundred elementary schools each year we will also spend some time talking about marketing and how to literally reach out to your readers.
CLW: Thanks, Mike. I know writers are going to learn valuable information in your class this summer.
Mike Knudson will lead the breakout session “Writing for Boys” on Monday, June 14, 3 p.m. and Friday, June 18, 3 p.m.