By Paul Czajak
Just recently I was interviewed by the Boston Herald about my series Monster&Me. Specifically Monster Needs A Costume, since it will be available in Target stores starting August 2014. The interview was great! The reporter asked me several questions and during the interview I was thinking, “Wow this is going to be a two page spread with the number of questions she is asking!” But of course even reporters have word counts and editors, and the article was not as extensive as I thought it was going to be. I am not complaining, even a little publicity is good publicity. Plus, it gives me a chance to talk about some of the questions the reporter asked that did not make the article. One question in particular really struck home because I hadn’t been asked it before and it made me think.
The question was, what do you want your books to have?
Now this seems like a bit of an odd question because I could have answered it in many different ways. I could say, a good moral message, or comedy, or bright illustrations and strong vocabulary. But when I thought about it, I remembered the books that I grew up with, the ones that I bought and read to my kids because I loved them when I was young. What made me grab those books again, well over thirty years later? What did those books have?
I couldn’t tell you, because I don’t know.
But that’s what I want my books to have. I want my books to have the staying power. Like these two:
I want a child today to read Monster Needs A Costume and then thirty years later want to read it to their child. I know that isn’t too much to ask, right? But let’s be honest: isn’t that what we all want our books to have, that “it” that resonates with someone for the rest of their lives? What that “it” is, I wish I could tell you. For me, sometimes it was an illustration, like the The Berenstain Bears’ Picnic. I specifically remember a two page spread of mosquitoes chasing the Bears out of a swamp where they were picnicking. Other times it was the story, I loved Harry the Dirty Dog because I could relate to the dog getting dirty and thought it was hilarious. How did these authors create this staying power with their books in a time where word count is cut to the bare minimum and illustration tastes have changed dramatically? It is mind boggling when you think about.
I will make a deal with all the readers of this blog, if I figure out the secret recipe for longevity I will let you know it here at Writers’ Rumpus, but then you have to do the same. Let us know with your comments. What do you think the “it” is?