I”ve always been a dreamer... A few years ago I was at Open School Night for my middle son. His fourth-grade teacher was the same one my eldest son had had seven years earlier and the same teacher I had had some time in the 1950s. The teacher looked at me, smiled, and then told the roomful of parents, “A long time ago, when I had just started teaching, David was in my class.” She smiled again and said, “I went to the principal and asked, “What should I do with Adler? He”s always dreaming.” “Leave him alone,” the principal answered. “Maybe one day he”ll be a writer.””
That”s her story, not mine. But I know I did dream through much of my early school years and I did become a writer. Dreamers become writers, and, for me, being a published writer is a dream come true.
I write both fiction and nonfiction. I begin my fiction with the main character. The story comes later. Of course, since I”ll be spending a lot of time with each main character, why not have him or her be someone I like? Andy Russell is based, loosely, on a beloved member of my family. He”s fun to write about, and the boy who inspired the character is even more fun to know. Cam Jansen is based, even more loosely, on a classmate of mine from the first grade whom we all envied because we thought he had a photographic memory. Now, especially when my children remind me of some promise they said I made, I really envy Cam”s amazing memory.
For my books of nonfiction I write about subjects I find fascinating. I”ve been a Yankees and a Lou Gehrig fan for decades, so I wrote Lou Gehrig: The Luckiest Man. It”s more the story of his great courage than of his baseball playing. Children face all sorts of challenges, and it”s my hope that some will be inspired by the courage of Lou Gehrig.
The Babe & I is fiction, but it”s based on fact - on newspaper reports of a nine-day period in 1932. The book blends my love of history, my love of baseball, and my tendency to dream. In the story, a boy finds a way to help his family survive through the hard depression years and, in the process, comes to believe he”s doing it in partnership with his idol, the Babe.
My book of One Yellow Daffodil is fiction, too, but it”s based on scores of interviews I did with Holocaust survivors. The stories I heard from them were compelling. One Yellow Daffodil is a look both to the past and the future, and it expresses my belief in the great spirit and strength of our children.
In my office I have a sign that says, DON”T THINK. JUST WRITE! and that”s how I work. I try not to worry about each word, or even each sentence or paragraph. For me, stories evolve. Writing is a process. I rewrite each sentence, each manuscript, many times. And I work with my editors. I look forward to their suggestions, their help in the almost endless rewrite process.
Well, it”s time to get back to dreaming, and to writing — my dream of a job.