This week on Write2Ignite, we’re excited to have Nancy Rechtman and Bob Shumaker with us to discuss their new book, The Incredibly Amazing and Magical Flying Chair.
Nancy Machlis Rechtman worked for years as a tutor for elementary-school-age children focusing on enhancing reading and writing skills. She’s had stories published in a number of children’s magazines, most notably several in Highlights Magazine for Children, as well as having her work appear in various literary journals and anthologies. She has also had several children’s plays and musicals produced and published.
Bob Shumaker, author of thirteen books, was raised in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, and now lives in Simpsonville, South Carolina, with his wife, Sharon. He retired early from his sales and marketing company to focus on one of his lifelong passions: writing. His ‘Schmooney’ character was selected as the prestigious ‘South Carolina State Mascot for Literacy’ and was also named the ‘City Mascot of Simpsonville, South Carolina’.
Thank you for joining us today, Nancy and Bob!
To start us off, I’d love to know, what is your favorite part of the writing process?
Nancy: I love when the writing flows after the initial planning and research process. When it feels natural, and it all starts coming together and you know you got it right. It’s a combined feeling of relief and triumph that you finally hit on all the right ingredients in all the right proportions, like baking a delicious cake that you know everyone is going to enjoy.
Bob: The creativity flow, or dump, is my favorite part. I thoroughly enjoy dumping ideas and dialogue into a document on the computer and then watching the direction it takes. The process of developing raw ideas and converting them into reality. An idea that evolves into something real. How exhilarating! I’m painting a scene with words that requires undivided attention and all life’s distractions fade away. It’s very peaceful and extremely rewarding…giving life to an idea.
So what idea inspired your newest book, The Incredibly Amazing and Magical Flying Chair?
Nancy: Since this was Bob’s fantastic idea and I’ve been lucky enough to come along for the ride, I’ll let him answer this question.
Bob: Thank you. One of our favorite points when we talk to students about reading is that ‘a book is the second-fastest thing in the universe’. It will take you anywhere you want to go in a matter of seconds. I not only believe that point, but I also experience it daily. If you want to go to Egypt…then go! You don’t need a plane. Go open a book, and there are plenty of them, and visit Egypt from the comfort of your favorite chair. Reading is so powerful. I wanted to share my experiences about the benefits of reading, so I decided to create a story around that concept.
It’s definitely a fun and engaging story! I love how much your main character, Noah, enjoys learning about new places and cultures in this book. If you could visit any place in the world using Noah’s magic chair, where would you go?
Nancy: That’s a tough one because I love to travel and there are so many places I’d still like to see. So, I’d say Australia and New Zealand as my first trip in the magic chair with more to come since there’s so much I want to see there and it would be great to get there so quickly!
Bob: Egypt. Not only present day, but Ancient Egypt. I love learning about Ancient Egypt. Babylonia is considered the ‘cradle of civilization’…I believe it’s actually Egypt. There are so many secrets just waiting to be discovered.
All of those places would be exciting to see! Another aspect of The Incredibly Amazing and Magical Flying Chair that I enjoyed was your wonderful cast of characters. Which character was your favorite to write?
Nancy: Having worked with kids for much of my adult life, I loved writing Noah’s teacher, Ms. Rushmore. She is smart and savvy and compassionate. Nothing gets past her, but she makes it clear that she cares about these kids and is willing to do what it takes to help them succeed as long as they meet her halfway. She won’t put up with nonsense. And she finds creative ways to solve problems. She has all the traits that great teachers should have.
Bob: Noah, because I relate to Noah very well. My father left when I was ten, as did Noah’s. I had to figure things out for myself, as did Noah. Noah goes through a similar process as I did. He wonders why people left him. He feels alone. But, as they say, what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger…and Noah will continue to gain strength. As any reader of our book will realize, this is a journey for Noah. One that will reward him with the answers to the questions that he has been asking…and much more!
Speaking of Noah’s journey, an important theme in this story is honesty and not trying to change who you are to fit in. Why do you think this is such an important topic for kids today?
Nancy: I think our world has a lot of shades of gray these days that can be very confusing for kids. It’s hard enough for adults to navigate all the morally ambiguous parts of our lives with certainty and I think we all crave role models who stand firm and true in their beliefs. Not that we shouldn’t be able to bend when the circumstances call for it because not everything is always absolutely one way or another. But we all need a moral center to set our compass at. And we need to be proud of who we are and our uniqueness.
Bob: Well said, Nancy. I would add that we are made the way we are for a reason. Each of us have been given gifts. Go discover your gifts. Each of us has been given abilities and some of those abilities are unique. We need to discover those gifts and then use them to help ourselves and help those around us. Why change who we are? Just develop yourself based on your abilities. As for honesty. Without truth and honesty, what are we?
Switching gears slightly, can you tell us a little about the coauthoring process?
Nancy: I usually write alone, but working over the years with Bob has been such a pleasure and has opened up my writing process to a whole new way of creating. We each write separately, but check in with each other as we’re going and suggest changes, additions, things that might work better, a new direction for certain scenes, etc. At times, one of us does a complete rewrite and then we discuss, and the other does the next rewrite. The biggest challenge is when we’re both sure we’re right about something but we’re not in agreement about what the right thing is. We have found that if we talk it out and explain our position to each other, we have always been able to not only come to an agreement, but what we end up with is much better than what each of us had tried on our own.
Bob: Writing is a lonely ordeal. Think about it. Stephen King says the first thing a potential author needs is a room with a door and a lock. You need to be alone so you can dump your ideas on paper, then go back and assemble them into what you imagined. You share your inner feelings with the world when you publish a book. That’s the end of the process. But the whole world doesn’t see what you went through to get to that end. That is a very personal journey. When you have a writing partner, you expose yourself totally to that person. They see what you go through…your thoughts…your mind…they see your soul. So, writing with a partner is very much like a marriage. And that is the biggest challenge. Discovering successful compatibility is very hard to find.
So tell us, what can readers expect in the sequel?
Nancy: The funny thing is, this started as a one and done story. But as we finally felt we were done, after a great deal of writing and rewriting over a period of close to two years, we had made it a whole new story and were both happy with it. And then Bob and I talked some more and he said that he felt it should be a trilogy. I was slightly surprised, but not really, because I didn’t want to let it go either. But that meant we needed to change the ending. So we did. And we’ve talked about what we’d like to have happen in the next two books in broad terms. Of course, there will be much more of the Magic Chair and the characters you’ve come to know and love. And more magic, excitement, travel, mystery, and twists and turns. Bob can tell you more.
Bob: I’d love to tell you, but I’m sworn to secrecy. Book 2 is shaping up to provide our readers with a great deal of adventure for our characters. The situations they will face will make you laugh and wonder, and you will feel like you are there experiencing each turn with them. We will introduce some bad guys who don’t play fair. We will be traveling to places that are exotic, dangerous, and very interesting. Our characters will continue to develop into more complex and likeable people worth reading about. It should be very exciting.
I’ll definitely be looking forward to it! As we wrap up, what is one piece of advice or encouragement you would give to fellow children’s book writers?
Nancy: I have one word for anyone who writes – persistence. If you give up, your story ends up in a drawer or a computer file that no one will ever see. No matter how much rejection you face, keep trying. And take the feedback you get to heart if the suggestions are valid, then keep rewriting until you feel there is nothing else to change. And then keep sending it out into the world. Believe in yourself and give readers a reason to believe in you, too.
Bob: I agree with Nancy but let me add another piece of advice. The first piece of advice is to read. We learn through reading. Writers develop their own style by reading other writers’ works. Read as often as you can. The second piece of advice echoes Nancy. Rejection is everywhere. You can’t avoid it. So, prepare for it and deal with it. Try not to let rejection dampen your initiative. Be persistent. Thank you for listening and please be sure to read The Incredibly Amazing and Magical Flying Chair. We would love to hear your comments.
Thank you for joining us, Bob and Nancy!
To learn more about The Incredibly Amazing and Magical Flying Chair, you can find the book on Amazon here.