Posted by Suzanne Costigan
This time around I asked fellow Anita Factor writing group member, Larry, the following two questions:
What inspired you to write your first book?
I was enrolled in a correspondence writing course at the time. For our third assignment, we were asked to write an article for a children’s magazine. I figured lightning would be a fascinating subject for kids. While doing research on the topic, I encountered a story about a weird demonstration conducted by Benjamin Franklin in 1750 that involved zapping a turkey with a powerful jolt of electricity. Things didn’t go as planned. Franklin accidentally touched one of the connections and was sent flying. The loud bang and flash of light produced by the discharge reminded him of lightning. The experience led him to his most famous and dangerous experiment two years later – launching a kite in a thunderstorm to test the properties of lightning.
Right off, I realized that I’d found writer’s gold – a true story so odd and fascinating that properly told, it practically guaranteed the reader’s attention. I abandoned my earlier subject – lightning – and wrote about Franklin and the turkey instead. Then, as I worked on my course assignments, I wrote other science stories with similar mixes where mishaps, mistakes, and unusual circumstances ultimately led to major breakthroughs. By the end of the course, I had a sizeable collection – enough for a decent book. Scholastic published the manuscript under the title The Serendipity Effect. Years later, it was revised and reissued under its present title: Accidental Discoveries: From Laughing Gas to Dynamite.
What are you reading now?
Right now, I am reading a reference book called The Writer’s Guide to Beginnings: How to Craft Story Openings that Sell by Paula Munier, a top literary agent. The book covers much more than just the first chapter, but also what should happen after the beginning. Munier writes with clarity and wit, and she includes numerous examples drawn from a swath of genres. On every page, I find insider tips and valuable information. I’d recommend this book to everyone who writes fiction whether they be novices or seasoned veterans.
Please connect with Larry:
Website/Blog: The Footloose Writer
LinkedIn: Larry Verstraete
Goodreads: Larry Verstraete
Larry Verstraete began writing for youngsters while he was still teaching. He is the award-winning author of 16 non-fiction books for young people and one middle grade novel. His most recent release is ‘Dinosaurs’ of the Deep: Discover Prehistoric Marine Life (Turnstone Press, 2016), a book about the Western Interior Seaway and its exotic creatures. Larry is a frequent visitor to schools where he shares his enthusiasm for reading and writing with students, teachers and parents.
Tags: accidental discoveries, award-winning author, Benjamin Franklin, books, dinosaurs of the deep, electricity, friends, Larry Verstraete, Manitoba, Paula Munier, winnipeg, writers guild to beginnings, writing