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Dorie McCullough Lawson is the author of the novel “Along Comes a Stranger.” Her first book was “Posterity: Letters of Great Americans to Their Children,” which was an anthology of the words and wisdom of 68 Americans, including Ansel Adams, Thomas Edison, Sam Houston, Mary Todd Lincoln, Groucho Marx, Clare Boothe Luce and Laura Ingalls Wilder. Her newest work is for children is “Tex” (Trafalgar Square Books).

Previous National Book Festival Appearances

The Scoop

What sparked your imagination for your book – Tex?

I have always been captivated by children of a certain age, usually from about 3 to 5, who in their pretend play become totally transported and transformed by the power of their imaginations. They become what they imagine. The little cowboy, Tex, was photographically interesting and character simply waiting for a book.

What challenges do you face in your writing process? How do you overcome them?

I have to hear a book in my head before I can write and sometimes I have trouble hearing it. If I’m not hearing it, then time is really the only thing that helps me with that challenge. Ideas (and I have many of them) usually have to stew and settle, get disrupted, and then stew again before I am ready to write.

What tips or advice can you share with young students who hope to start writing?

Write about something that matters to you. If you are writing about a subject you don’t know much about, learn about it, study it, look at it until you care about it. You can’t write about anything if it doesn’t matter to you, so make it matter.

Can you suggest a fun writing topic to get them started?

When I was working on my book Posterity: Letters of Great Americans to their Children (Doubleday, 2003) I realized that many of the best letters were written when a parent was very angry or very sad – when emotions were running high. I would suggest writing a letter to someone about a subject that makes you spitting mad!

What is your list of favorite children or teen books?

  • Harry the Dirty Dog, Gene Zion
  • Huge Harold, Bill Peet
  • The Amazing Bone, William Steig
  • James Herriot’s Treasury for Children, James Herriot
  • Old Yeller, Fred Gipson
  • The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Elizabeth George - Speare
  • Where the Red Fern Grows, Wilson Rawls
  • Carry On Mr. Bowditch, Jena Lee Latham
  • The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be, Farley Mowat
  • Light in the Forest, Conrad Richter

How do you decide on themes for your books?

I have written a non-fiction book, a novel and Tex is my first children’s book. Although the three books are of different genres, I would say in each case, the themes have been arrived at by the characters. I don’t choose themes, the characters choose them for me.

How important is research in the development of your books? Can you explain that process as well?

Research is always very important! Authenticity is essential. Authenticity requires knowledge and knowledge is arrived at by research. I consider research to come in all shapes and sizes – everything from digging in archives to simply soaking it up. In the case of Tex, research came in the form of spending years in the west – in towns, on ranches, with animals and with cowboys. The photographs had to be authentic and the language had to fit with the subject and the character.

What is your advice to parents for passing the joys of reading on to their children?

Talk about what you, yourself are reading. Be sure your children see you reading for pleasure and by that I mean reading books – not newspapers or magazine, not on-line, not on an e-reader – BOOKS!

Don’t give up reading aloud when your children are proficient readers themselves! We are always reading a family book. Every night for about a half an hour our whole family sits together in the living room to listen while my husband or I read aloud a chapter or two to the family. Sometimes the older kids protest and sometimes the younger kids don’t understand everything that is happening in the book, but they all hear it. With a family book always in the mix, no matter what is going on we all have something in common and that something is a book.

Posterity: Letters of Great Americans to Their Children

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