One Book, One Community encourages communities to come together through the reading and discussion of a common book. This year, Orlando Sentinel selected Home Sweet Motel, the first book in Chris Grabenstein’s Welcome to Wonderland series. In anticipation of the event, Chris appeared as a guest on the library’s podcast Shelf Centered. Here are a few moments from that interview.
“I HAVE TO APOLOGIZE TO ORLANDO. I THINK WALT DISNEY GETS A LITTLE BIT OF A DIG IN THIS BOOK.” – Chris Grabenstein
FOR THOSE UNFAMILIAR WITH YOUR WORK, WHAT CAN THEY EXPECT FROM HOME SWEET MOTEL?
I think all of my books are kind of fast-paced and funny, there’s humor and heart. I was what they call a reluctant reader when I was the same age as all the kids who read my books. I like to think I was a super critical reader – I just wanted to read books that weren’t boring! I didn’t want to read the “broccoli books” – everybody said, “This book’s good for you, you should read this book.” I guess I’m writing books for the kid I used to be.
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE INSPIRATION BEHIND HOME SWEET MOTEL?
Whenever I go on the road and visit schools and things, I see kids in motels where I’m staying and they’re having a blast. I realize a motel is one of the best places to be a kid. There’s all this free food – waffles that you put chocolate syrup on, this whip cream you can use. You can jump up and down on the bed and no one’s going to yell at you too much. So, I started thinking what if – because all my stories start with “what if?” – what if I could be a kid who lived in a motel? What could be better than that?
HOW IMPORTANT IS HOME SWEET MOTEL BEING PART OF ONE BOOK, ONE COMMUNITY?
I was overjoyed to hear it. Several of my books have been picked up in other spots around the country, particularly the Lemoncello books, where they’ll do One Book, One Community reads. It’s amazing how much the adults like reading kid’s books. I’ve gone to some schools where everybody from custodians to bus drivers to the staff and kids and kid’s families have read the books and it always gets some neat discussions started. These books are a lot of fun but there are some things in there that make you think a little bit.
I think it’s terrific that parents, kids and people in the community can all share a story in common and have something to talk about. It just makes reading that much when you’re able to talk about what you read with other people.
WHAT WOULD YOU SUGGEST TO YOUNG PEOPLE WHO ARE INTERESTED IN PURSUING A PATH IN WRITING?
I always think of myself as a writer than an author because I think of myself as an entertainer. I think that might be a way to approach whatever you’re writing. By eighth grade I’d made up my mind I wanted to be a writer of some sort. I thought being a writer meant using big words and I asked my parents to give me a dictionary and a thesaurus for my birthday. I wrote these essays with big words that I was using completely wrong, but then I realize that your real job is to grab the reader’s attention and once you have that attention: don’t let it go.
So, I always tell kids when I go to schools, “Write your homework assignments as if your teacher did not have to read anything you’ve written unless you’ve made them want to read it. Because teachers get bored too.”
Chris has done improv with Robin Williams and worked in advertising with James Patterson, to hear those stories and more listen to the full interview at ocls.info/podcast.