Librarians, booksellers, and teachers who spread the love of reading are among the heroes of specfic writers and fans, and in 2011, The Spectacle is pleased to bring you interviews with a few of these special folks.
Our first hero is Chadwick Gillenwater — how’s that for a superhero name? But he’s got an alter ego, too: Professor Watermelon. (Read on for more.) In addition to being a writer himself, Chadwick is a school librarian, creative writing teacher, and instructor of writing teachers. Welcome, Chadwick!
Spec: What age readers are you serving as a librarian, and what fantasy titles are hot in your library now?
CG: My library serves kindergarten through 8th grade. My students love the Fablehaven series and The Lightning Thief series. Harry Potter remains popular, along with the Eragon books.
Spec: How much interest do your readers show in sci-fi vs. fantasy?
CG: To be honest, I think my library lacks in regards to middle-grade science fiction. I would be interested in recommendations from some of your readers in the comments.
Most of my students enjoy realistic fiction and magic realism. That could be because I seem to push those genres, since that is what I like, wink wink.
Spec: As a librarian, what do you wish you had more of?
CG: TIME! I have a hard time keeping up with my reading. There are so many books on my “to read” list! I also need more parents volunteers to shelve books. Actually, I am pretty happy, really!
Spec: As a writer, your work often involves fantasy elements — Why? What do you like about the genre?
CG: I like this genre for the same reasons I like to teach it. I seem to have a better outlet for my wild imagination. My favorite genre is magic realism. I’m able to keep my story grounded in the “real” world but give it the magical twist to keep it different and interesting. This is also my favorite genre to read.
Spec: Why do you think fantasy is a good or common entry point for young authors?
CG: Children love to create new worlds when they write. They like to draw the maps of these worlds and the different kinds of people and creatures that live there. With fantasy, children are allowed to create their own rules. This is important in a child’s life, since their “real” world is ruled by adults.
I often ask students to use their “Third Eye” when writing. With their Third Eye, a chicken egg can become larger than a house. Maybe the egg becomes a planet or a mode of transportation. Can you imagine a chicken egg spaceship? What is steering this ship? Where are they going? What do they want more than anything in the universe? They can find all of this information by using their Third Eye!
Spec: What’s been one of your favorite reads lately?
CG: I’m reading SLOB by Ellen Potter right now. It’s realistic fiction written through the perspective of an overweight middle-school boy. I find myself rolling with laughter but turning the page to something that simply makes me want to cry.
Spec: What’s the most rewarding thing about working with young readers?
CG: I am very grateful for the opportunity to inspire children to discover their love of reading. This love will last them their whole life. I remember the adults that inspired me, and I’m happy to pay it back!
Tomorrow: More from Chadwick’s alter ego, Professor Watermelon, about teaching writing, and teaching teachers how to teach writing.