Like many people, I can picture exactly where I was and what I was doing at key moments in my life. Neil Armstrong’s famous step on the moon – sitting in my then girlfriend’s living room, watching the live broadcast on TV with her parents. The Berlin Wall coming down – in my car, hearing about it on a radio broadcast. The collapse of the Twin Towers – in the school library over the lunch hour, horrified as I watched events unfold on TV with other teachers.
I can also tell you exactly when and where I was when my writing career really started. I was in a barbershop waiting for a haircut after a busy day of teaching 6th graders.
There were a handful of other people in the shop all waiting their turn. With time to kill, I browsed through a stack of magazines on a coffee table. I flipped through pages, scanned articles, then stopped when I came to a full-page advertisement headed by this line: We’re looking for people to write children’s books.
The ad had been placed by The Institute of Children’s Literature in Reading, Connecticut to promote a correspondence course the Institute offered. According to the ad, anyone who qualified and completed the course would be equipped with at least one polished item to publishers by the end of the program.
To this day, I don’t know why I was so intrigued by the ad. Perhaps because I had been such an enthusiastic reader my whole life. Perhaps because I taught children and had two young kids of my own, and figured this would be just an extension of my daily existence. Perhaps because I loved the bond fostered between readers sharing books, and wanted to create something that would have the same results.
I suspect it was all of these. At any rate, I decided to give it a go.
The course involved a series of mailed-out assignments that covered a range of different writing forms and topics. When I completed an assignment, I mailed it to one of the Institute’s authors to be critiqued, then moved on to the next one.
The first few assignments were heavy on fiction, but three or four assignments into the program, I received a different kind of assignment. Write an article for a children’s magazine.
This was non-fiction, and not the kind of writing I envisioned for myself. But I latched on to a subject that I discovered by chance. It fascinated me so much that I continued to research and write about it even as I worked on the rest of the assignments. By the time, I had finished the course I had an almost complete manuscript and I was fully hooked on writing for youngsters.
I am fond of saying that my writing career began in a barbershop which is not far from the truth, and that a serendipitous discovery of an ad in a magazine lead to my first published book which is not far from the truth either. It seems fitting, too, that the topic for the book was also discovered quite by chance, and that my first book was titled most appropriately The Serendipity Effect.
You can read more about my jump-start into writing and the creation of The Serendipity Effect at About Larry