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. Here is a sneak peek at the Beginning Class teachers, Cheri Pray Earl and Rick Walton.
Carol Lynch Williams: Please describe the other person and what they write. Have fun. Make this interesting. And I mean it.
Cheri: Rick is unique. His dream is to be sitting cross legged on the top of a mountain breathing incense and eating Provo Bakery donuts and giving advice to people one by one (or in large committees) as they reach the peak huffing and puffing to lay their problems at his large white . . . shoes. As it is, he writes sage advice on blogs and writers’ lists and in response to inane editorials here and there on the web and walks around carrying a long wooden staff. And he eats Provo Bakery donuts when he can.
Oh—Rick writes picture books, too. Educational and witty picture books.
Rick: In spite of Cheri’s priorities being in the right order, God, family, service, she is still an excellent writer, and a great teacher. Just check her out on “rate my professor.” She is also a perfectionist when it comes to writing, which is why it takes her so long to get her books out on the market. If she’d just be like me, and use the infinite number of monkeys at the infinite number of typewriters approach to writing, she’d have 80 books published by now. They wouldn’t be very good, but there would be 80 of them. But, instead, very soon, she is going to have several very good books published. If she would just send them to publishers! Oh, and she walks too fast. (Cheri, here’s something you could write about me, if you’d like. Or whatever you want. Just some ideas: Rick is obsessive compulsive. He has way more ideas than are good for any one person, or any twenty people, or in fact the entire body of humanity. And he keeps trying to drag me into them. Stop it, Rick! I don’t have time. For that matter, neither do you. Rick can, and will, write any thing for anybody, as long as they pay him. Hold a dollar in front of his nose and he’ll have the manuscript to you within the hour. In the time it took you to read about him in this interview, he’s already come up with forty more ideas (37 of which he’s going to try to make me help him with. Oh, yes, and he walks too slow.)
CLW: If you could be another writer, who would it be and why?
Cheri: Wow—umh, Gary Larson because he’s hilarious and really, really smart (funny people are often smart) and perceptive. And his books have pictures. Or Cormac McCarthy (I’ve only read The Road—so cool). Or Leif Enger (Peace Like a River). Or John Steinbeck (Of Mice and Men). It seems I want to be a male writer . . . a disturbing revelation.
Rick: I would be a rich writer who could write what he wanted. Or I would be the anonymous writer of an anonymous best seller that made a billion dollars and changed the world. Nobody knows who wrote it because he’s anonymous.
CLW: I know you wrote a book together. How did that go?
Cheri: Well, it went quite well once I beat Rick senseless. I’m joking, we had a lot of fun writing the Secrets book. At first, Rick brainstormed secrets ideas so fast I thought I would drown; he had about 536 ideas to my 12 in the beginning (I work at more of a plodding pace.) But once we synced our rhythms and had a DTR or two (and another beating of the senseless), we zipped right along whistling all the way. American Girl is one heck of a publisher to work for. They helped us figure out the format of the book and also zipped right along with the editorial process, on schedule. They were nice, too.
Rick: We’re both control freaks. It took us a little time to work out territories, and responsibilities, but I think we did a brilliant job. We also have some picture books we’re collaborating on as soon as Cheri recognizes that she can write picture books.
CLW: What will people learn in your class this summer?
Cheri: So much. What children’s writing is, the principle age groups and their characteristics of the genre (we’ll truck in lots and lots of examples for this unit), what’s good and what’s not in children’s books and why we think so, what each student’s true voice is in children’s writing, and the process of getting published. We’ll be writing and reading and writing and reading and eating treats (Rick will bring the donuts from you-know-where).
Rick: They will learn what they can write well, and what they can’t. And they will get some direction as to which genre they should put their focus. They will also get a crash course in novel writing, and in magazine writing, and in picture book writing. It will be like the sampler platter at a fine seafood restaurant. So much information that they will need a doggie bag.
CLW: Name three of your favorite books (not including your own or each others).
Cheri Pray Earl will lead a breakout session on Monday, June 14, 4 p.m. and Rick Walton will lead a breakout session on Friday, June 18, 4 p.m.