Thursday, January 19, 2017

Literacy Night Talk

I'm Kevin Coolidge. I work at From My Shelf Books in Wellsboro with my wife Kasey.

I'm here tonight to let you in on a big secret. You can't tell anyone. It's top secret. Are you ready?

Are you sure? OK? Don't say I didn't warn you. Your life is never going to be the same....Cats are trying to take over the world!

Did you ever notice how terrible cats are at spelling?

Now, if you have a cat at home, you may have suspected this already.

This is our cat Gypsy, who stays at home all day. She's head of the Cat Board.

Have you heard of the Cat Board?

I'm not surprised that you haven't. It's a super-secret organization run by cats from around the world.

So, who is going to stand against this super-secret organization run from the shadows?

Why, the Totally Ninja Raccoons of course!

The Totally Ninja Raccoons have decided they are not meant to be ordinary bandits, but rather carry the potential to be something extraordinary--ninjas.

In the Totally Ninja Raccoons Meet Bigfoot, the raccoons begin their ninja training, and meet their first potential employer--Gypsy the Cat. Yes, this Gypsy:

Gypsy sends the Raccoons on their first mission, to capture the elusive Bigfoot.

Things aren't what they seem to be. Bigfoot isn't a monstrous beast, as he's been portrayed. Gypsy isn't the benign employer. Cats want to take over the world, and it's up to the Ninja Raccoons to do something about it.

The Totally Ninja Raccoons learn that sometimes you have to choose your own path if you want to choose your destination.

I don't see any cats or ninjas around. So, I'm going to read you the first chapter of The Totally Ninja Raccoons Meet Bigoot. Don't tell Gypsy! the first chapter

A furry head pops up from a trash can, the lid tilted on his head like a hat. It's a raccoon, and he's holding a box of Chinese takeout. "Someone ate all the pork out of this pork-fried rice, and there aren't any chopsticks!" says Kevin.

Now, you might not believe cats want to take over the world, or that there really are ninja raccoons, though I think we can all agree that Chinese food will make you hungry soon after you it it. I made up the story about the Ninja Raccoons. I created them with the power of my imagination. I'm a writer.

Well, maybe there are ninja raccoons...

I'm here to talk about the writing process. I've heard that you've done some fiction writing with your teachers. You've probably been told to "write what you know"....well, I write where I know, and I make the rest up. The Totally Ninja Raccoons are set right here in Tioga County. You might recognize the front cover of The Totally Ninja Raccoons Meet Bigfoot as being at the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon.

It is true, however, that it is easier to write about something you know. Now, I don't know any raccoons, or if Bigfoot is real or not, but I know cats, and mine can be pretty bossy, especially around dinner time.

I like to joke and say the cats are in charge, or would like to be, but we all know that cats sleep a LOT.

Cats would love to be in charge, but they don't want to do the work involved, and so they would have to find someone to do the hard work. Hmmm, who would cats hire?

Dogs already have jobs.

Monkeys want too much money...

and possums don't understand the question.

Why, raccoons would be perfect. They already have the masks and the skills to be ninjas.

...and the Totally Ninja Raccoons came to life! Ideas for stories are all around you!

Remember, the man with the broom called the Totally Ninja Raccoons "thieves", but the man had thrown his leftovers away. The raccoons decide that they are not going to let someone else chose what they are. The raccoons can be anything they want. They already have the masks. They chose to be ninjas!

Have you ever had anyone call you something that you aren't, or tell you that you can't do something? Well, if raccoons can decide to be ninjas, then you can decide to be a writer.

One of the great things about being a writer is that no one can stop you. No one can keep you from being a writer. You may not be tall enough to play professional basketball, but to be a writer, all you have to do is write.

There are books about everything, and you can write about anything you want--ninja raccoons, giant chipmunks, that the pizza in the lunch room tried to eat your homework...

...anything. You don't even have to write a book. Do you love movies?

Movies have to be written. The actors are told what to say and do. It's called a screenplay, and somebody has to write it. Why not you? There are all kinds of writers. People who write directions on how to put a bookshelf together,

to what's on a cereal box...

.... to real life stories like who was George Washington, to how to best train puppies.

You can write about anything.

Yes, you can write about anything, but it doesn't mean that people will want to read it. I remember the first time I wrote something. It wasn't very good, but I kept writing. To be better at writing, you have to write, just like you get better at playing the piano by playing the piano.

Writing can be a lot of work. Once you write the story, a writer goes back and edits the story. You have to correct the mistakes, make sure words are spelled right, and that everything makes sense to the reader. There are people who have the job of making suggestions to writers, these are called editors, and sometimes make corrections the writer didn't catch, or make suggestions to make the story even better.

Writers can run into other problems. I love to write, and I wanted to write about ninja raccoons, but I knew the stories about the Totally Ninja Raccoons would be even better if there were pictures. I don't draw very well, but I didn't let that stop me. I have a friend who loves to draw and is great at art.

He was interested in drawing the Totally Ninja Raccoons. I described what they looked like, and he helped create what the raccoon would look like.

Early Concept Art for the Totally Ninja Raccoons

He even added some of his own ideas. It was his idea to give one of the raccoons a Mohawk haircut. I loved the idea.

The Totally Ninja Raccoons stories have them foiling the plots of the Cat Board, but they also come across many strange creatures in their adventures--such as werewolves!


and Thunderbirds!

What creatures do you think the Totally Ninja Raccoons should encounter next?

Take some suggestions from the crowd. Have Kasey write them down...

Oh, those are some great suggestions. That will totally keep the Ninja Raccoons busy for a long time.

You can read all about the adventures the ninja raccoons have all ready had

and right now I am working on The Totally Ninja Raccoons and the Secret of Nessmuk Lake. That should be out in May.

Do you have any questions for me about writing, raccoons, cats or Chinese food?

Thanks for listening about the Totally Ninja Raccoons and remember The Cat Board won't rest until cats rule the world, but maybe just a little cat nap first...

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