DeKalb West School will pitch tents for an event, dubbed Camp Read S‘More on March 1. School officials expect the 3rd Annual Family Literacy Night to be successful as the previous ones.
“I believe most people truly value learning, and literacy is at the heart of learning,” Event Coordinator/School Librarian Amanda Mullinax says of the community response. “I am grateful that families are taking the time to work this event into their already busy schedules!”
Doors open at 5 o’clock. Look for possible guest appearances by The Cat in the Hat, Thing 1 and Thing 2, Alice, and The Mad Hatter. Activities will include a young illustrator, a local puppeteer, an escape game, visit to Wonderland, a book walk and much more. Children’s author Mike Shoulders will be back by popular demand.
His presentation will be educational and entertaining as he reads, raps and does a few magic tricks. At the heart of what Shoulders does is his desire to encourage families to read together.
“Parents are their child's first and constant teachers,” the retired educator adds. “What they do at home is as valuable as what teachers do in school. Families need to celebrate books and not see them as a challenge. There are three ways to have a comfortable life: inherit a ton of cash, win the lottery, or be an avid reader to grab those best paying jobs later in life.”
WJLE talked with Shoulders about entering the world of writing for children.
WJLE: After a solid career in education, why were you interested in pursuing writing for children?
Shoulders: While I was a fourth grade teacher for 13 years, I read aloud to my students every day. Reading aloud to children is the #1 best way to get them to love books and therefore, read books. Ten years before retirement, I began pursuing a personal goal of publishing a book. It took five years, but led to my second career as a children's author. I still see myself as a teacher as I share the writing process with students as part of my employment.
WJLE: You spent many years teaching others and a few years ago it became your turn to learn again in a different area. What did you have to learn to make yourself a publishable and marketable writer?
Shoulders: The first thing I learned is the average "first sell" by an aspiring author is five years. Sure enough, it took me four years and ten months - very close to five years. I guess I'm a "Solid Average" kinda guy. I learned that selling a manuscript was (approximately) 10% writing and 90% marketing. Anyone interested in selling a book has to know which publishers are buying and selling which kinds of books. A writer has to match a manuscript with an appropriate publishing house.
Any time I got the chance, I attended conferences on writing. I heard many editors say they receive a large percentage of manuscripts that are just not right for what they publish. Aspiring authors must research the marketplace.
One of the best pieces of advice I learned is just because your manuscript was rejected doesn't mean it won't be bought by another publisher. It's important to keep a manuscript in the mail. It's just as much about persistence as it is talent. If one is persistent, talent will develop.
WJLE: How does the writing process work for you?
Shoulders: I'm ashamed to say it, but I have to be in the mood to write. On the occasions I'm not in the mood or am not feeling it, I usually read instead...A LOT ! ! ! I fill my day with reading because writers ARE readers. Writing is solitary. Each writer must find where they write the best. I will often get my favorite Starbucks drink and sit near the river or a creek and write. When I'm writing - and in a groove - I'll usually write for about four hours a day. I have other things that occupy my time. I have to make travel plans to speak at schools and conferences. I have hotel rooms to book. I have questions to be answered. J
WJLE: What's your next project?
Shoulders: I'm trying to sell a book about "The Legend of the Christmas Pickle." It's been rejected multiple times already. The way I look at it is I've narrowed down which company is going to publish it by eliminating several companies. Recently, I sent the manuscript to a *former* editor of mine who is no longer editing for a publishing house. She gave me a piece of valuable information to make my story stronger. I resent it to her and she said she loves it. What she was telling me is the manuscript is salable, but I just have to have faith and be persistent.