Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Reaching Readers: Through Sports and Humor with Timothy Tocher


Timothy Tocher is the author of several short stories, novels, and nonfiction books for middle grade and young adult readers, including Chief Sunrise, John McGraw, and Me, which was named a 2005 Best Book for Young Adults by the American Library Association. His short story “Sgt. Monday of the Enchanted Kingdom Police” won the 2003 Magazine Merit Award for Fiction granted by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Most recently, the 2015 February issue of Cricket Magazine featured his short story "Captain Monday of the Forest Rangers," a fun fractured fairy tale about a hard-boiled policeman living in fairyland. In this post, Timothy shares with Kidliterati the various ways he reaches his readers.

Your books share sports, and baseball in particular, as a common theme. Which readers do these books reach, and what are they connecting to the most?

TT: My goal is to demonstrate to sports-oriented readers that the excitement and enjoyment of athletics can be found on the printed page. It is almost as much fun to read a well-written story as it is to score a key basket or deliver a game winning hit.

Male middle grade and young adult readers are often considered difficult to reach. What are your thoughts about this and how have you been successful in doing this?

TT: Humor and fast-paced stories appeal to all readers, but especially males. Some boys prefer to read small amounts in a single session.My nonfiction book Odd Ball: Hilarious, Unusual, and Bizarre Baseball Moments is designed to fill that need. Using black and white comic strips, each anecdote is a single page long.
 
In what ways has publishing short stories influenced your connection to readers?
TT: I enjoy writing short stories, and it allows me access to varied markets. Contributing to middle grade anthologies like Newfangled Fairy Tales and Girls to the Rescue (#6 and #7) led to Bruce Lanky at Meadowbrook Press publishing my first two novels. My work in Cricket Magazine has generated fan letters from as far away as Singapore. Short stories also enable me to reach adult readers. I’ve been published in the Saturday Evening Post, Chronogram (2008 fiction contest winner), and in baseball magazines such as Elysian Fields Quarterly and Spitball.

Sample 1920s Baseball Glove
Your calendar is filled with appearances at book festivals. How do you reach readers at these events?

TT: Book festivals are a great venue for meeting readers, teachers, and fellow book lovers. Children’s books have enticing covers and kids can see at a glance whether or not they are interested in the type of book I write. My historical, baseball novels take place around 1920, and I bring a replica of the most popular fielder’s glove of the era. Compared with a modern mitt, it looks like a small, inexpertly made toy. If the ball didn’t land in the pocket, you weren’t catching it.

You were a teacher formerly. Please tell us about your approach to doing author school visits and how you keep the entire class engaged.

TT: Interactive presentations work best. I provide Readers’ Theater scripts for excerpts from my novels and fairy tale parodies. Most of my poems are short enough for individuals to read them aloud. The youngest children act out the poems while I read them. My audiences enjoy singing along to parodies of well-known songs.


Tell us about the humorous poems on your website that teachers request permission to use in their classrooms.

TT: The one line that never fails to get a laugh is from a Christmas poem I wrote called “Help Wanted.” The premise is that Santa needs new reindeer since the original team is ready to be put out to pasture. The line “Prancer’s sick of staring at Dancer’s big behind,” gets them every time. There’s a great bulletin board based on the poem at a site called Creative Lesson Cafe. Another class created a video of the poem and posted it at Schooltube.com for sing-alongs.

As a sneak preview for our readers, can you share with us about any upcoming projects?

TT: Come say hello to me at the Millbrook Literary Festival on May 30th. This free event features more than 50 authors with presentations for all ages.

Thanks so much, Timothy, for such a fun and interesting conversation. We can’t wait until your next book and short story come out! Click here to find out more about Timothy Tocher’s books and activities. All the best, Chris Brandon Whitaker!

2 comments:

  1. I love the idea of readers' theater scripts to get kids involved! Thanks for this great interview!

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  2. It concerns me that a lot of young male readers are not getting into reading as much as they should. I really support your efforts at getting them involved.

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