Dear Mr. Brimner: Now I know two famous authors, you and Mark Twain. What’s Mark like anyway?
All of Larry Dane Brimner’s fictional characters are real to him. So real, in fact, he sometimes takes on the characteristics and mannerisms of his characters as he writes about them. “I think it’s probably difficult to live with writers; they’re surrounded by people who don’t exist.” For his nonfiction sports books, like Rock Climbing,Snowboarding, or Mountain Biking, Brimner often tries out the sport before writing about it. But even with practical experience under his belt, Brimner gyrates and contorts at his desk chair to get just the right feeling, the right descriptive words to describe a particular move “If I weren’t a writer, I’d probably be locked up!”
Brimner has written more than 60 books for children. His work includes picture books, easy readers, chapters books, and a variety of nonfiction for all ages. “I’ve always wanted to be a writer. Having spent the first five years or so of my life in Alaska where there was no radio or television, books and telling stories were an important element of our entertainment.” While Brimner taught high school in Southern California, he began his formal writing career with nonfiction articles for newspapers and magazines. But he didn’t consider writing for children until he enrolled in a graduate writing program at San Diego State University. “I fell in love with Corduroy [by Don Freeman] and the McBroom series by Sid Fleischman, and I realized this was the sort of thing I wanted to write.” Brimner paid his dues in the children’s writing world by completing writing courses, attending conferences, and accumulating three large boxes of rejection letters with which he considered wallpapering his home.
Brimner’s first children’s stories were published in Jack and Jill and Turtle magazines, but he was still waiting for that first book. One editor who rejected his manuscript suggested the key was finding the right publisher. “I went to the children’s room of the San Diego Public Library to find the right publisher. I sat down in the middle of the sports section and pulled all the books off the shelves and I stacked them all according to publisher.” It worked! BMX Freestyle sold to Franklin Watts in 1987, the publisher Brimner had chosen.
Dear Mr. Brimner: What’s is like to live in a mansion?
Brimner’s ideas come from everywhere. For one book, Brimner was intrigued by his Chow Chow, Buddy’s fascination with things that fly. As he watched Buddy study birds and airplanes, Brimner wondered, “What on earth is going through his mind?” If Dogs Had Wings was born. Rolling. . .In Line sprang from a student at a Davis school who asked why Brimner had never done a book on rollerblading.
Now that Brimner has proven himself, editors also approach him with ideas such as The Official M&M’s Book of the Millennium. But books that are assigned are much like homework—they both have deadlines! In only two months, Brimner read a stack of research material four feet high on time keeping and produced a publishable manuscript. “This book can more appropriately be titled ‘How I Spent My Christmas Vacation’,” quips Brimner now that it is all over.
Brimner divides his time between San Diego and the Rocky Mountains, and frequently speaks at conferences for writers and teachers, and visits schools. He was recently involved in a project that paired him with a Maryland student enrolled in a summer writing class. For two weeks, Brimner critiqued one of the student’s stories via email, providing guidance on plot and character development.