Larry Verstraete (B.Sc, M.Ed.) is a Winnipeg writer and educator. A teacher for 30 years, his experience ranges from teaching university courses to teaching at the senior and middle years levels in public school. An author of books for youngsters, Larry has also written for writer’s manuals, science textbooks, and educational journals, and has conducted sessions in science and writing for youngsters and adults around the country. His writing career began as an off-shoot of his teaching one, and here is his story.....
Picture this. A nine year-old boy asks for and eventually receives a toy printing press as a gift. Next summer, with a sidekick friend, he embarks on an ambitious project to become rich and famous. The two friends scour the neighbourhood, spying on people, filling notepads with facts and observations for a newsletter they’ll grind out on the printing press and sell back to the same spied-upon folks. Yes, fame and fortune - they’re all within reach.
This might sound like a soap opera, but it’s actually a page from my past. I was the kid with a printing press and ambitious goals. But while I enjoyed the spying piece, when it came down to actually writing and publishing the material – well, let’s just say it was more work than pleasure. My friend and I abandoned the project and spent the rest of the summer swimming and biking instead.
Although that venture was a gob-smacking failure, the drive to write and become published simmered for years. One day, older and now a teacher, I spotted an ad in a magazine for a writing course. I enrolled and began to work on the assignments. For one, I was asked to write a non-fiction article for children. I looked for a topic and uncovered a fascinating story about a science demonstration that went totally the wrong way, but led to an unexpected discovery. I was hooked by an idea.
By the end of the course, I had written not just one article for my assignment, but more than 25 short stories, each telling about a breakthrough in science that owed much to a mistake, mishap, coincidence or spectacular blunder. That collection of stories became my first Scholastic book –The Serendipity Effect (later re-issued under the title Accidental Discoveries: From Laughing Gas to Dynamite).
Since then, I’ve published 15 non-fiction books and 2 middle-grade novels. I love science, history, and true adventure so many of my books combine these ingredients. Usually, an intriguing story, event or fact sparks my curiosity and drums up questions that just beg for answers. Writing is my way of figuring them out. I love digging through mountains of research material and pulling out just the right information, then telling a story that hopefully keeps readers like you glued to the page.