Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sadness for Liam Neeson and His Boys

In earlier posts I’ve mentioned some of my motion picture production background and how these experiences find their way into the books that I write for young readers. This has also allowed me to work with a number of famous people in locations all around the world.

Many years ago I had the privilege of working on the film, Pilgrims Progress. My responsibilities on this production included the areas of lighting and cinematography. For the kids reading this blog, a cinematographer is the person who actually operates the motion picture camera. Filming took place in Ireland and England.

Pilgrim’s Progress was the first feature film for an actor named Liam Neeson. He wasn’t well known then, but he certainly is today. I remember Liam as a great actor with what I believed would be a bright future. And this certainly proved to be true.

Working with someone on a feature film project, that lasts for several weeks, gives you the opportunity to get to know people and to form bonds. So it was with much sadness that I learned of the accident and ultimately the death of his wife Natash. It felt more like losing a member of my own family.

I wanted to let some time pass before speaking about it here. My thoughts and prayers go out to Liam and his two young sons.

Max Elliot Anderson

Friday, March 27, 2009

Hidden Behind the Wall

This past winter, I passed a certain intersection nearly every day. One morning I noticed that heavy equipment had been moved in overnight, and several large trucks lined the street. I thought they were planning to fix the road, but the next morning revealed a great surprise.

The crew had demolished a building on the corner. This building had been right next to another, and they’d shared a common wall. It’s the wall that was left standing that caught my eye. An old painted advertisement had been uncovered promoting the soft drink, Squirt. The slogan reads, “Squirt Quenches Quicker!”

After a little online research, I learned that the ad dates back to the 1940’s. Interesting that it was hidden behind, and preserved by a wall, for all of these years. I had to return with my camera and get these pictures.

Hope you enjoy it.

Max Elliot Anderson

PS. Squirt has always been one of my favorite soft drinks!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Is technology destroying our kids' imaginations?

This is an interesting article, TV Creates 'No Ideas' Generation, that looks at television and the imagination in children, compared to reading. I hope you find it helpful. http://www.news.com.au/adelaidenow/story/0,22606,25226616-2682,00.html

Each year, when I speak to students in schools, I also stress the fact that their imagination is being stolen by others through technology. http://www.maxbooks.9k.com/whats_new.html

Max Elliot Anderson

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Sports Books for Boys by Mike Lupica

Because I write books for boys, publishers occasionally ask if I’d like to review their books for boys. You can find others who have reviewed these books for story and content, but I want to speak from the perspective of reluctant readers.

Today I’m pleased to introduce a series of sports related books by Mike Lupica. The books I received are:

Long Shot

Hot Hand

Safe at Home

Two-Minute Drill

The covers on these books are dramatic and each catches the action from the sport that is featured in the story. Young readers, especially boys, are sure to be attracted because of the graphics on these covers.

Mike Lupica is a sports reporter, including a weekly appearance on ESPN’s The Sports Reporters. This quality adds to the authenticity of his writing as he captures the flavor of each sport.

His opening paragraphs immediately identify the main character and his circumstances. For example, in the Two-Minute Drill, the story begins, “There were a lot of bad parts that came with being the new kid.”

In Hot Hand, we learn that Billy Raynor’s parents have just separated.

The books have large type, shorter sentences, and lots of dialog. These are elements that I employ in my books, and I’m pleased to see them used here.

Mike’s stories read quickly and should be enjoyed by avid and reluctant young readers, especially boys who love sports.

Max Elliot Anderson

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

When is your next book for boys coming out?

When is your next book for boys coming out?

That’s a question I hear most often from young readers, parents, grandparents, teachers, and librarians. Unfortunately, the answer is out of my hands. So I like to give them an update which I’ll expand on here.

My writing life began at the end of 2001, just after 9/11. Most of my video production clients had pulled back, waiting to see what would happen next, and I was left with the decision of what I should do next.

Through an interesting set of circumstances, I chose to write action-adventures & mysteries, especially for boys. That’s because I had grown up as a reluctant reader.

Very early, I was fortunate enough to be picked up by Dr. Marvin Baker. In fact, he and his partner, Paul Trittin, actually began a publishing company, Baker Trittin Press, in order to release my work. Seven books were released, but there was a problem. I was writing too much material which they couldn’t possibly release.

The picture above shows 28 completed, unpublished manuscripts and 9 published books. One had to be withheld from the market because of some serious errors, and two are now out of print. In addition to this publisher, I also have a short story in a book by Darby Creek Publishing, Lay Ups and Long Shots. This book is going into its second printing.

In all, my books have sold over 19,000 copies.

One would think that finding other publishing opportunities would be easy, right? Then along come the current economic tsunami, and it feels like the 9/11 fallout all over again.

What to do?

I chose to stop writing manuscript-length stories, and to concentrate on platform building. This has included speaking in schools, writing other short stories and articles, and building this blog, which is currently at # 4 on Google.

My agent, Terry Burns, of Hartline Literary, is doing an excellent job of identifying publishers who might be interested in releasing more of my books. Until then, I continue to promote the titles that are already in print, and to increase name recognition. One of my short stories is currently being held by Boys’ Life for possible inclusion in a future issue. Their 1,300,000 circulation would help in this area.

A lot of writers express discouragement when it comes to placing their work. I don’t feel that way. I believe that publishing opportunities will come when one of my manuscripts reaches the right person, in the right publishing house, at the right time.

Max Elliot Anderson

PS. Comments like these are what keep me moving forward:

“Hi, I'm the mom of a 13 year old boy who has a hard time finding books he likes. While browsing the bookstores, I have found so many books that sound like they are right up his alley. The only problem is that almost all the protagonists are girls! How are we supposed to turn our boys on to reading when the main characters are girls? It is well known that girls will read books with boys as main characters, but not the other way around. (Not that I think that's right, just that it is the way it is.)”

“Finally someone has recognized a need and written books for young boys. I mean, a couple of the biggest youth classics of all time were primarily for boys, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.”

“Just finished the manuscript for “Captain Jack’s Treasure” last night. What a wonderful book! The dialog in this one just crackles. The characters are very believable as is the setting of the story.”

“My boys were reading another Christian series (by a well known author) but thought they were too silly. Then when they started reading your books I had to tell them when it was time for bed.”

“You know, my reluctant reader is right at this very moment reading one of your books....and he is very engrossed – keeps telling me about parts of it....likes the humor.....this is unusual for him, so you just never know. I'd say you are onto something here!”

Monday, March 16, 2009

Shuttle Launch

There was a shuttle launch last night. I’ve still never seen one in person, but our daughter lives in the Orlando area, where she teaches 2nd grade. She’s seen several. All she has to do is step out into her yard.

Last night she went out and snapped this picture. She used her phone, so the quality is marginal.

Must be nice to be so close.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

How Pop-Up Books Are Made

This link will take you to Meet Me At The Corner where you’ll find a video about how pop-up books are made.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Confessions of a Reluctant Reader

Confessions Of A Reluctant Reader

By Max Elliot Anderson

My father published over 70 books during his lifetime. Some of his books included a couple of popular kid’s series, yet I never read any of them. I grew up in a family with six other siblings, so it was easy for some things to be missed. In my case, no one noticed that I didn’t spend a lot of time reading. Or, I might just have been good at hiding it.

We lived in a rural area of Michigan near Muskegon. Our home was situated on several wooded acres, with few other houses anywhere nearby. Not far away was Wolf Lake, where I spent endless summer hours. It was common for me to hit the back door, before breakfast, and not to return until dark. And I wonder how many miles I put on that rusty, old junker of a bike back then?

Along with my friends, I used to roam the vast woods surrounding our house. The area included miles of trails, a river, and lots of climbing trees. What boy could be expected to think about reading a book with such a variety of places to run, play, swim, and ride my bike?

Looking back, I can see now that I was a person who learned by watching, as opposed to reading about something. Show me and I get it right away. Read about it and who knows? My friends and I invented a host of pretend characters and situations from cops and robbers, or cowboys and Indians, to war games.

If I wasn’t involved in action, often a little dangerous, I wasn’t happy. Skinned knees, elbows, and knuckles were not uncommon. In some of those situations, my father used to smile and say, “Boys will be boys.” This drove my sisters crazy! But the wisdom of his words still rings in my ears as I observe boys today.

Our daughter teaches second grade in a public school in the Orlando, Florida area. We have had many conversations concerning the boys in her class, and issues surrounding reading. This has provided a real life lab for me to discuss some of my ideas concerning the kinds of material that boys like to read and why. It’s sad to know that so many boys live under a medicated cloud when all they really need, in many cases, is to run, jump, yell, and play until they drop. Whoever came up with the idea that a boy should sit in a chair for most of the time when the sun is up, in a typical classroom setting, just doesn’t understand boys.

Lest you think that my situation is unique, with an author for a father, and not caring to read as a child, consider this. A recent article in People Magazine reported the story of author James Patterson. Mr. Patterson is one of America’s most prolific authors. He has a ten year-old son, and this boy doesn’t like to read. So Mr. Patterson has established a web site at www.readkiddoread.com The central focus of this site is to encourage kids to read, especially reluctant reader boys. I’ve also established a blog, Books For Boys at http://booksandboys.blogspot.com

Later, as I attended school, I found other ways to hide my lack of interest in reading. It was common for me to approach book reports a little differently than other students in my class. I’d read the opening chapter from the book, the middle chapter, and the last chapter. From there I had a pretty good idea who the main character was, and a gist of the story. Then I’d just make things up as I went. A little later on, I suspected that the reports were only busy work so I decided to test the theory. Right in the middle of one of my reports I wrote, “If you’re still reading this, I’ll treat you to a steak dinner at the restaurant of your choice.” If I remember correctly, I got an A on that report which, of course, the teacher never read. I didn’t understand at the time that it was the reading of the book which was intended for my benefit, and the report was not the important part.

In spite of my lack of reading for enjoyment, I managed to finish high school, and graduated from college with a degree in Psychology. It was during my college years that I began to read more diligently, because I loved the subject matter.

It wasn’t until just a few years ago that I began to explore why I hadn’t enjoyed reading as a boy. I visited bookstores and the library where I looked at hundreds of books. That’s where I saw some interesting patterns in many of the books. They had too much detail for my taste. Descriptions of people, places, and things tended to be far more than I wanted too. Large blocks of words, sometimes several long paragraphs together, would have defied me, as a child, to jump in.

Even as an adult, I am easily distracted. If I hear something, I have to look up to see what it is. That causes me to lose my place on a page, and it’s frustrating to go looking for the spot to begin again.

At the same time, I came to understand that reading is one of the most important skills we need in order to prepare for a successful future. Not many people get to grow up like I did, where my dad was also a motion picture producer. I spent as much time as possible hanging around the studio during production. In those early years, I decided that I also wanted to tell stories through film. When I was eight years-old, I was “killed” by a hit-and-run driver, while riding my bike. But…since the movie I was in was being shot in black and white, the blood that ran from my nose, mouth and ear, came from a chocolate syrup bottle.

I found that I could pursue a career in the film and video production world without spending a lot of time reading. Try doing that if your dream is to become a doctor or lawyer. But since I was primarily a visual learner, it made perfect sense for me to find my way into a more visual form of expression. I’ve produced, shot, or directed over 500 national television commercials for True Value Hardware Stores for example. And I’ve told thousands of stories, visually, for industrial, medical, and retail clients in my video production business.

With my new understanding of the critical importance of reading in our education, I set out to write the kinds of books that I would have enjoyed as a child. They are short on detail and description, and contain a lot of humor, action, adventure, mystery, dialog, and heart-pounding action.

My books are 6” wide and 9” high. This is slightly larger than the majority of books. The paper is bright white with larger type. I don’t spend a lot of time on description and detail, so readers won’t be intimidated by those large blocks of type that used to stop me in my tracks.

You might say that I’m on sort of a mission in order to get kids interested in reading, especially our boys. I began a blog, Books for Boys http://booksandboys.blogspot.com And if I can, I hope to encourage parents, grandparents, and teachers in their attempts to help reluctant readers.

The first thing I would say is to let kids read anything that interests them. As a child, I enjoyed collecting coins and stamps. And I could easily spend time reading about those hobbies. No one ever took the time to encourage me to take the next step and find material I could read for enjoyment. So be on the lookout for signs that your children, or students, may not be reading as they should.

In the early stages, don’t worry about what is being read. It doesn’t matter if it is found on the Internet - under supervision of course - or newspapers and magazines. Watch for things that interest your child or student, and then steer them to material on those subjects.

I further suggest that parents look for books that are below grade level at first. There is no hurry in pushing the reading process. What is important is to get it started on a firm foundation. This can include the use of graphic novels, or even comic books. It’s the reading process that matters here.

Parents can try reading together, out loud. In many cases, a child will listen to the first few chapters and, if the story catches their imagination, they’re happy to take it from there. Again, this may happen early on, or it may take several books before the child develops an interest in finding out what happens next.

My books are written so that most of the chapters end in a cliffhanger. The reader simply must find out what happens next. A mother recently wrote to tell me this happened with her reluctant reader son. He came into the room where she sat and slammed one of my books onto the table.

“I know what this guy’s trying to do,” he grumbled.
“What?” his mother asked.
“He’s trying to get me to read the next chapter.”
He went on to explain how the chapter he’d read just ended. Then he picked up the book and read the last line to her.
“See,” he said. “He’s just trying to get me to read the next chapter.”

She was thrilled to tell me that he stomped off into the next room and did exactly that. And I get a lot of emails and letters like this concerning the effect that my books have on young readers.

Some parents have said, “No matter what I do, my child simply will not read.” When you press a little harder, what you find is that most of their recreational time is spent in front of the TV, a computer, playing video games, and watching DVD’s.

My wife and I have raised two children, so I’m not above suggesting a small bribe. Parents forget how much power they have to positively influence their children. I suggest to these parents that they use the TV, computer, video games, and DVD’s, even the cell phone with older kids, as rewards, not rights. So a parent might say, “After you’ve read two chapters in your book, and can tell me about them, then you can…”

Children tell me that reading one of my action-adventures or mysteries is like being in - not reading - but being in an exciting or scary movie. That’s probably because I think visually first, and write like that in my books.

When I’m writing, I like to turn the lights down, and burn a candle next to my computer. This helps to put me in a frame of mind to write. I put props and pictures around my writing room that help further set the mood. In the case of writing Legend of the White Wolf, I tore up a calendar to spread out several pictures of wolves. But probably the most important element I use is music. I always play mood appropriate music for the scene I’m writing. When I speak in classrooms, I demonstrate this technique which never fails to capture the imagination of the students and the teacher.

When I’m writing a spooky scene for one of my books, I will only begin writing after dark. All the lights are off, with just the illumination coming from a candle and the glow of my computer screen. I like to write hot weather scenes during warm weather and winter scenes when it’s freezing cold outside. This doesn’t always work out with my schedule, but it helps me to be as much into all elements of a scene as possible. Sometimes I’ve turned the heat way up in the house in order to feel the heat.

As I write this article, the music of Scott Joplin is playing on my stereo. I have his complete piano works on a four CD set. His music conveys a perfect combination of upbeat, entertaining tunes; perfect for the frame of mind I want to be in when writing abut my books for boys. I say for boys, but I’m happy to report that in addition to reluctant readers, my books are equally enjoyed by avid readers, girls, and even adults.

Finally, if I’ve accomplished nothing else, I hope I’ve encouraged adults, who are responsible for children and their reading, to look for opportunities to match the right reading material with the right child. There is no, “One size fits all,” when it comes to reading. But reading allows children, and adults, to exercise a God-given gift that is shrinking in its use and importance. That gift is our imagination. Too much of what we experience today comes from others who decide, by the music they use and the pictures and words we hear from a screen, what we should think, how we should feel, and what our reactions should be. Reading engages all aspects of our imagination.

In the end, remember that readers are the leaders others follow.

My web sites:

Author web pagehttp://www.maxbooks.9k.com

50 Pages of Reviewshttp://maxbookreviews.blogspot.com

Thursday, March 05, 2009

where you'll find a contest for BOOMTOWN. This is suggested as a great book for boys. If you leave a comment on their blog, you might even win a free copy.

Hurry, before this deal BLOWS up!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

"Green" Books For Boys

Environmentalism used to send a cold chill up my back. That was because I believe that people were worshiping the creation and not the Creator. Then someone showed me how important it is to take care of the resources that God has given us.

Two of my books have the environment as a small part of their backdrops.

MOUNTAIN CABIN MYSTERY $10.95 0-9729256-3-5
Scott and his friends had dreamed and prepared for their first wilderness camping adventure. When they become separated from their group in a mountain fog, trouble begins. There was that bear, the decrepit suspension bridge over a bottomless gorge, the sheer cliff in the dark, those terrorists in the remote cabin, the Army, the helicopter ride, and…

THE SECRET OF ABBOTT'S CAVE $10.95 0-9752880-0-8
A detective, a police scanner, and a cave offered possibilities for danger and excitement. Who are the real heroes in America? Randy and his friends pooled their resources to go cave exploring, discovered the hidden loot from a bank robbery, and learned they weren't heroes at all.

These books might open some interesting discussion. Rest assured that they are not heavy-handed on environmental issues. It's just one element in the background.

Order from Amazon, or email me for details on getting copies signed by the author mander8813@aol.com .

Max Elliot Anderson