Vinny Author Reads for Middle Schoolers; Gets Stumped by Probing Questions04:10
My favorite author in the world, Gregory Kemp, the wunderkind behind The Legend of Vinny Whiskers, was kind enough to sit down with me today to discuss his first few readings on behalf on his novel. WEbook lured Greg from his comfy ex-pat environs in Vienna, Austria to promote the publication of Vinny, which officially happens next Monday, June 22nd. He’s in the midst of blistering week of readings at middle schools in and around the NYC area. Initially, he wanted to see a little of the city and tried to run away, but I tackled him around the ankles and had a few burly WEbook staffers hold him down while I hit him (figuratively, of course) with the following questions:
John: So, how did your very first reading go, Greg, my favorite author in the world?
Greg: It's my first novel, my first time to NYC, my first reading. So yeah, no problem, I totally aced it. [Without prompting, one of the WEbook heavies jabs Greg in the kidney.] Okay, okay, I was a bit nervous for that first reading. But then Katie [WEbook’s marketing svengali] gave me a really nice intro, and the kids welcomed me with applause. How can you not love that? I ate it up. It was a blast. Both of the schools where I’ve read so far were a ton of fun.
John: So what parts of Vinny have you been reading?
Greg: I started with the prologue, then I jumped forward reading some of my favorite passages. I read some about the prairie dogs, then a little bit about the rats. I wanted to give them a full taste of the story.
John: And what did they think?
Greg: I think they really took to the idea of a prairie dog hero. One of the students immediately commented on how he liked the idea of the prairie dogs versus rats. He said it was a good matchup! I agreed.
John: And you did a writing exercise with the students, right?
Greg: [Hesitates.] I was really hoping to see some sights in New York. Can't we just do this tomorrow? [A WEbook heavy draws back a fist…] Yes, yes--Katie worked with the teachers to create a writing exercise where the students wrote a few descriptive scenes. The goal was to bring all the senses into play: sight, sound, taste, smell.
John: That's only four senses, Greg. There are five.
Greg: Touch! Yes, I forgot 'touch' while at Fairfield Middle School. I won’t let it happen again. And the kids didn't let it slide, either. They called me on it. They were sharp. Just like you, John.
John: [Pleased.] Did the writing exercise go okay?
Greg: In spite of me, yes. The kids did a really amazing job. There were some promising writers at both schools.
John: What kind of questions did you get?
Greg: All kinds and lots of ‘em. They wanted to know all about prairie dogs, technical stuff actually. I'm no Jeff Corwin, but I was able to answer most of them—what prairie dogs eat, where they live, stuff like that. Katie actually knows a lot about prairie dogs, too. She was able to name the five different types of prairie dogs. I didn't know there were five…[drifts off in thought]…five senses, five types of prairie dogs…I'll remember that now. I promise.
John: Katie tells me there were some tough questions, too, about the title of the book?
Greg: A few kids asked point blank, if the book is about a prairie dog called Boomer, why is the title The Legend of Vinny Whiskers?
John: And what did you tell them…?
Greg: Buy the book and find out, of course.
John: Correct! You are free to go now, my favorite author in the world, and sell more books.