I give Kirby credit for being able to staple the word “published” to the third of my life’s named career gigs—children’s book writer. Thank you, Kirby. I’m honored to be here.
The first named career gig, advertising copywriter, came about because a college friend who graduated a year before I did said he was having fun writing jingles in Baltimore. Another big push came because the girl I fell in love with and married was a copywriter at Macy’s, and her father was a high-level ad exec in Detroit. So I became a copywriter. It was easier back in the 60’s to do that. I’m not sure if I it was to impress my wife, or impress my father-in-law, or write a jingle.
At any rate, my second named career gig, elementary school teacher, came ten years later when I realized that survival in advertising meant I had to get serious. Just having fun working with an art director wouldn’t cut it. I never wrote a jingle.
I thought about teaching, so I’d have the summers to figure out my working life. I heard that men were scarce and wanted at the elementary level. Aaah! To be wanted. I had a family. I needed a job. I quit. I got a credential and a job teaching sixth grade. And I loved it!
When I retired 26 years later, my plan was to write novels for sixth, seventh graders. I wrote plenty of pages, pounding with glee at the keyboard, laughing and talking to the computer screen. When I got to 200 pages, more or less, I called it a novel. No one else called it a novel.
After we moved to Vashon, I went back to school to learn how to write that novel--the Writing for Children class at UW Extension. An early homework assignment was to write a picture book. Like some of my sixth graders, I didn’t know what to write. I knew ‘dog ate my homework wouldn’t work.’ And I thought: just don’t show up.
The night before the assignment was due, I woke up thinking about Halloween, and the line, “When nighttime creeps closer to suppertime,” popped into my head. I wrote enough to complete the assignment, and revised it based on teacher comments, then took it to the Great Critique. Kirby, who was the leader of the group, was wonderful. Her suggestions, her encouragement, her help directed me on the path to Candlewick.
They bought the book 11 months later--officially starting my third named career gig—published children’s book writer. Three books now: AND THEN COMES HALLOWEEN, AND THEN COMES CHRISTMAS (just out)--AND THEN COMES SUMMER, out in 2017.
I’m still working on the novel.
Tom and Nancy live in a small house on Vashon with two dogs, two cats, several garden beds, and twenty fruit trees—more than they can handle!