Recently I had the honour to review a fantastic book, A Giant Pencil, by young author Connor Wilson. By young I mean way younger than my 17 when a traditional publisher published my first fiction. Connor was just 8 years old when he sat down to write his first book, A Giant Pencil, and finished it at age 9. The book was released before his 12th birthday, making Connor the youngest, traditionally published fiction writer in America. Awesome, right? And Connor has agreed to share this amazing chapter of his young life in my Guest Interview!Isn’t that exciting?
Read on. Note: this interview has American spelling when Connor is speaking, and Australian spelling when I am.
Guest interview: CONNOR WILSON
Ia: Connor, would you be so kind to give readers a one-sentence synopsis of A Giant Pencil?
Connor: A GIANT PENCIL is a children’s book about a kid who finds a giant, magic pencil that allows him to erase his problems, but also teaches him about how important his friends and family are.
Sorry, that was kind of a long sentence!
Ia: It’s imaginative, and it has depth 🙂
Who or what inspired you to write this book, Connor? When did you first know you just had to write?
Connor: My Dad is a writer and he definitely inspired me to write a book. He also is the one who made me believe I could do it. There wasn’t a certain time that I decided to write, really. I have kind of always loved to make up stories, even when I was just a little kid. I used to write out pictures in notebook and tell stories about them to my dad. In school, whenever we have to write a story, the teacher would usually use mine as an example, which I really hate because it’s so embarrassing. It did kind of teach me that I am pretty good at writing, though.
Ia: You certainly are!
How long did it take you to write the book?
Connor: It took me about three months. I would write it in my notebook and work for maybe an hour a few days a week.
Ia: How did you come up with the title?
Connor: I don’t know. The story is sort of about this magic giant pencil so it kind of made since. I actually called it THE GIANT PENCIL but for some reason the publisher changed THE to A.
Ia: What is your favorite line in the book?
Connor: Wow, that’s kind of a hard question. Maybe my favorite was the last one I wrote because that was when I was, like, “Wow, I wrote a book!”
Ia: Who would you say have been the most influential authors in your life? What strikes you about their work?
Connor: I really like all of Jeff Kinney’s DIARY OF A WIMPY KID books. He writes about being a kid. I figured, since I like to write, maybe I could write about being a kid really well—since I am a kid!
Ia: How has your published work affected teachers’ and friends’ attitude towards you? Are you fussed at more than other kids?
Connor: Well, there was a bunch of articles in the school newsletter. All my friends were really cool about it, but to me it was kind of embarrassing. There were a few kids early this year that treated me differently because I had been on TV and in the papers and everything, but it didn’t last long. My friends are still the same friends and nothing really is changed. We don’t talk about it. Mostly we just talk about sports and skateboarding and stuff. My teachers kept telling me how proud they were of me, but now it has pretty much died down. The school is really cool about when I have to miss school for a book signing or an interview or whatever. Most days, it’s no different than before I wrote a book.
Ia: What story would you like to share about the joy, challenge, or hardship of writing?
Connor: Well, I think most people could write a book if they really want to. Especially kids, because I think we have lots more imagination than some adults. Or maybe we just use our imagination more or something. I guess the big thing is if you want to do it, just do it and don’t give up. Writing is great fun. It’s the editing that is hard.
Ia: I think most people could write, but it takes talent and determination to reach the finish line. Who gives you the most encouragement?
Connor: My Dad probably gives me the most encouragement, but I think it’s because he is a writer and kind of gets what it’s all about. My whole family encourages me and tells me they are proud.
Ia: They must be.
And what are you working on right now? Tell us your latest news.
Connor: Right now I’m working on a new book about starting middle school. It’s about the funny things that happen, and getting used to not being in elementary school—things like that. There are a few friends who have these school adventures and things. I hope it will be the first book in a series of chapter books, for kids in middle school.
Ia: Do you see writing as a future career?
Connor: It’s kind of hard to say because I’m only 12. I don’t really know what other job I might have when I grow up, but I know I will always be a writer no matter what else I do.
Ia: About you. How much do you have in common with Billy?
Connor: I think most kids feel picked on when they are little, like in elementary school, like Billy is. Most people have days when they would like to just erase the things that make them feel bad, so I guess I’ve had days like that.
Ia: What are your hobbies?
Connor: I love to play basketball and I’m on the junior varsity basketball team for my school. I love video games and would play all day on weekends if my parents would let me (which they don’t—maybe I should erase them 🙂 ). My favorite thing in the world is skateboarding. I love to ride at home with friends or spend a few hours at the skate park shredding it up. It was really cool that one of my magazine articles put a picture of me skating. I spend a lot of time playing with my little brother and sister.
Ia: With the worries about starting middle school, studying for tests, finishing your projects and trying not to kill yourself on your skateboard, when do you find the time to write?
Connor: It has been really hard to write this year, because middle school is way harder than elementary school. I have found time to outline my new book and stuff when I’m not studying for tests. I write some on the weekends. I’ll do a lot more over thanksgiving and Christmas break, but it is really harder this time around.
Ia: Good luck with that.
Now, tell us a bit about Jack and Emma, your little brother and sister.
Connor: Jack and Emma are total, crazy freaks! They are five (Jack) and four (Emma) and they NEVER stop wanting to play.
Ia: And you must have indulged them. You’re the world’s best brother, I hear. Good on you, Connor! Now tell us one important thing that you’d like readers to know about you.
Connor: I guess mostly that I’m just like every other twelve-year-old kid. I totally get what being a kid is like and I try to write about that, especially in the book I’m working on now.
Ia: Brilliant. You also know your strength and you care about what others want.
Do you realize that you are a good role model for other kids? What advice do you have for them on reading and/or writing?
Connor: I guess so. I never really thought about it. I’m just doing something I really like to do. I guess my advice is if there is something you want to do, try your hardest and you can do it!
Ia: Thank you, Connor. You will inspire many young readers. When I was about your age, I read about a 15-year old who won a writing contest. His interview still inspires me.
Now fun questions to your fictional character, Billy:
Ia: Hey Billy, does cereal shaped like teddy bears taste better?
Billy: No, not when your brothers and sisters tease you!
Ia: Wanna make these? Tell us if good-looking vegies taste better.
Ia: How real is Jimmy Barton? Do you think bullies like him should be sent to Connor’s next stories?
Connor: I know some real bullies. Maybe something funny will happen to them in my new book
Ia: Haha. Nobody will get injured, I hope 🙂
Now in middle school, Connor lives in Southwest Florida with his family. When not skateboarding, playing video games, playing with his little brother and sister, or doing homework, he is hard at work on his next book. And he reviews children books too! Connor is a book reviewer at his website and at BookPleasures. His are reviews from a kid for other kids—since he is a kid and knows what intrigues young minds.
Find out more about cool kid Connor from these links:
Book Title: A Giant Pencil
Author: Connor Wilson
Illustrator: Alyssa Machette
Publisher: Magic Dreams Publishing (August 11, 2012)
52 pages, $12.03
My review: 5.0 out of 5 stars There Is No True Joy, When There’s No-One To Share, October 22, 2012 By Ia Uaro (Sydney, NSW, Australia) This review is from: A Giant Pencil (Paperback)
“This remarkable story hits me right on the mark, and could have been written specifically for me. Alas, Connor Wilson wasn’t around to tell me when I was 13, embarking on a journey that would take me away forever, from my family and friends, from my home and all that I knew.
A GIANT PENCIL is Billy’s story. Young Billy is not happy. He gets picked on and fussed at by his family and friends all the time, every day. One afternoon, when he is in trouble at the Principal’s office, he sees an object falling from the sky into the woods. It turns out to be a giant pencil that is visible only to Billy.
Billy discovers that the pencil gives him the power to erase every annoying person around him–which means everybody. He has so much fun deleting his family and the whole school. He plays video games, eats junk food, and nobody fusses that he doesn’t do his duties.
But all too soon, he learns that family and friends matter a great deal to him.
Written for 7 to 12-year-old readers, A Giant Pencil is so much more than just an entertaining read because it reminds every one of the importance of family and friends. It will amaze you no end that this fascinating read—well written, deftly plotted, and well-structured—was produced by an 8-year-old author. Watch out for his future work!”