Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Inspiration for The Gollywhopper Games

Many writers can pinpoint the exact moment they had the idea for their book. Today, Jody tells us her inspiration for the Gollywhopper Games.

I may not have written The Gollywhopper Games if it hadn’t been for a bit of serendipity and especially if it hadn’t been for an unsatisfied 5th grade boy.

I was volunteering in the elementary school library, checking in books and minding my own business ...

Okay, not really minding my own business. As a budding author, I was keenly aware of which books interested the students. I often watched the same books move around classrooms like a hot rumor.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory had been very popular with the 5S classroom that year. Some kids had yet to discover the old version of the movie and the new one was year from being in production. So the first experience they had with the story was directly from the Roald Dahl book.

The young man who returned it that day approached the librarian. The conversation went something like this:

5th Grader: I loved that book. Can you help me find another one like it?
Librarian (moves to the shelves and looks): There’s a sequel called Charlie and the Glass Elevator but it must be checked out. How about one of these. (Librarian pulls out The BFG, Hatchet, and Half Magic.)
5th Grader: They’re not the same.
Teacher (moves forward and speaks in his patented non-library voice): What’s the problem?
5th Grader: I want another book like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Teacher: There are no other books like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but there are other books I guarantee you’ll like. (Teacher leads 5th grader to other shelves and shows him titles I can’t see.)
5th Grader: (keeps shaking his head)
Teacher: But the guy in here ...
5th Grader: (shakes head)

And the scene continued until the end of the period. I wish I could report which book the 5th grader eventually checked out. The fact is, I was too energized by this scene to pay attention. It had led to a decision on my part. I’d played around with picture books and with early readers, afraid to tackle longer works. But someone had to write a story for that 5th grader, and that someone was going to be me.

Now check out the book trailer!

We can't wait to read it and I'm sure fifth grade kids everywhere feel the same way!


Anonymous said...

I LOVE that tale, Jody! I wish you could find him and give him your book. :)

daphne grab said...

what great inspiration, jody! and i love the video!

Barrie said...

Great story and great video!

Jessica Burkhart said...

I love the trailer, Jody! :)

Marissa Doyle said...

He's probably not in 5th grade any more, but I'm sure there are others like him who'll be very glad to have The Gollywhopper Games.

That's such a wonderful motivation for writing a book!

Erin said...

That's so wonderful. I hope you finds your book. :)

M.P. Barker said...

What a great story--how old would that 5th grader be today? And can you find him and put your book in his hands?


Jody Feldman said...

True confessions ... it is physically possible that the 5th grader could have a 5th grader of his own.

Thanks all!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations!! I have a couple of fifth graders who'll be delighted to discover GG (ok, I don't *have* them, in the sense that they're not my kids, but I know about them, and will happily put your book in their hands!)


M.P. Barker said...

Wow! And I thought I took a long time to get my book published--sounds like you've got me beat, Jody! Was all of that writing time or finding-a-publisher time?

I think it took me about 5 times as long to get a contract as it did to write the book (which is now older than the main character, by the way). That makes me think of a conference I went to that had a workshop about "Persistence and Perseverence." Speaker 1 gets up and says "You have to get used to rejection. I got rejected a lot--it took me 4 queries before I got my contract." Speaker #2 gets up and says "I got rejected a lot. I got 12 rejections before I got my contract. It was S-O-O-O-O-O depressing." It was a good thing that my friend and I (with about 150 rejections between us before we got our publishers) didn't have any rotten vegetables, torches, or pitchforks available--and looking around at the crowd, I think we had lots of company. Not that we were jealous or anything (well, okay, maybe a little, (okay, more than a little) but my hat, hair, and scalp are off to anyone who's lucky and talented enough to get a publisher that fast--and can I borrow some of that karma?), but really, who were they to be talking about persistence and boo-hoo-ing about the woes of rejection? Fortunately for speakers #1 and #2, speaker #3 gets up and says "It took me 15 years..." Got to admire her tact--she never once looked at the other two and said "Listen, honey, you don't know what rejection is." My friend and I looked at each other and we said, "All right! She's playing OUR song!"

Jody Feldman said...

All that was learning-how-to-become-a-children's-novel-writer time. The first draft, I'm sure, took me less than 6 months. Probably half that. Then like a good little writer, I started the next book while I sent The Gollywhopper Games out ... then the next ... then the next. There was rewriting involved. And years in the back of the drawer. And learning and learning and learning. Then finally selling.