You are here:Liza N. Burby ~ Author, Journalist, Editor, Consultant/Archive for April 2008

        So the trial in the battle between author J.K. Rowling's right to own all works about her books versus a fan's intention to publish a book about them is over. I hope Harry's creator wins. I agree with her that should Steven Vander Ark's book be cleared for publication it would then open the gates for anyone to take the worlds created by authors and profit from them. I suspect that Vander Ark is completely bewildered by this turn of events because he's an avid fan. And apparently he was also a Star Trek fan. There have been countless books and products produced by fans of that show, so I guess it didn't occur to him that there was anything wrong with continuing the tradition by using Harry Potter.  But should he ever take the time to use his own imagination to create a new world and cast of characters, rather than relying on that already created by someone else, he might have more respect for the blood, sweat and tears that go into the writing process. J.K. Rowling hit the big time, there's no doubt about it. But it's her big time, and should remain so. Vander Ark, it seems to me, needs to get a life--real or imagined--of his own.

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        Recently I had the chance to interview Marc Brown, the creator of the loveable Arthur character, which appears in 100 books, and the Emmy award-winning PBS TV show, now in its eleventh season. Not only was the Martha's Vineyard resident a relaxed and friendly phone conversationalist, he was also inspirational. So, I wanted to share with you his advice for aspiring writers. 
        Brown says he wrote his first book, Arthur's Tooth, in response to his oldest son's worry that he was the only one in second grade who hadn't lost a tooth. That was 30 years ago. Brown says it's not like success for him occurred over night. As a matter of fact, this author/illustrator also worked as a truck driver, soda jerk, actor, chicken farmer, TV art director, short order cook and college professor. He joked, "I got fired from most. Nothing else stuck." That resume alone can serve as inspiration for all the writers who work to pay the bills and write on the side in the hope they can one day support themselves solely as an author. 
        Regarding specific how-to tips, Brown reiterated what I tell writers all the time: read as much as you can and study how other people use words for kids. He also suggested keeping a journal or trying the Truman Capote method: Go to a public place and listen to conversations, training yourself to remember them, and then record all the dialogue later. Seems like a valuable lesson to try. 
        Brown also said that talented writers will find their way if they really want it. "It is a little harder to make it then it used to be. Beginning writers might benefit from having an agent who can help them get beyond the slush pile. Editors are very discriminating about who they take on. But success all depends on your drive in the end. I've watched people who had more talent than I do who gave up." 
        To learn more about Marc Brown, visit his Web site at


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April 2008