“Six Innings” in Paperback: Questions, Answers

Good news for cheapskates: After two years in hardcover, Six Innings will be available in paperback in Spring, 2010. It will be published under the Square Fish imprint, under the direction of Feiwel and Friends. To make the paperback even more enticing, they will add bonus material in the back of the book, including a Q & A with the author.

Some of that material was originally accessible here. But here’s a an excerpt of yours truly answering a few new questions . . .

Where do you find inspiration for your writing?

Since I usually write realistic nonfiction, I try to begin with an accurate understanding of a child’s world, often by sitting in on various classrooms in my community. I have three children, ages 8, 10, and 16, so that helps me stay connected. I don’t think you can examine something like “childhood” under a microscope, like a lab technician in a cold, white room. For a writer, you’ve got to feel it; and for whatever reason, I still somehow remember.

Do you use real life in your books?

Yes, all the time. My experiences, thoughts, feelings, dreams –- my life is the primary source for everything I write. Could it be any other way? I can’t imagine it. For Six Innings, I drew upon a lifetime of experiences. Yet surprises still came in the process of putting words on paper. One by one, different characters stepped forward. One boy, who served as the book’s “play-by-play man,” was very sick. To be honest, it was territory I resisted visiting. A place I didn’t want to go. Because it was personal, something we experienced in our own family, something still raw and heartfelt, something that was not mine to own. It was my son Nick’s journey, reinvented and relocated, yes, but in every meaningful way true to the core. You learn surprising things during a time of serious illness, unexpected “gifts” arrive in many forms. Oddly, you come away enriched, the heart bursting. And when you feel something that powerfully, well, that’s always a good time to write.

Why children’s books?

Anyone who works with children –- or, for that matter, any parent, or anyone who has ever spent time with children –- knows that kids give back. They respond, purely and directly. You get an immediate response from children that is so satisfying. Today I get fan letters that amaze me. At some point kids figure out that the book in their hands was written by a real person (not, as I once imagined, beamed down from another planet). Sometimes I’ll walk into a classroom and can see it in a few sets of eyes: A reverence. I am not foolish enough to believe that they are in awe of me — I’m just a guy –- but they love and respect books, and the thought of actually writing one seems like such an impossible, miraculous thing. My goal is to de-mystify the process. And in short order, after spending only a few minutes in my presence, the awe quickly fades away. To be clear: I don’t believe in the cult of celebrity, but I am still awed by books, still feel the wonder of stories, the life-changing power of words. I am grateful to have played a small role in that Great Conversation between reader and book.

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