David Bruce: The Coolest People in Books — Good Deeds, Halloween, Husbands and Wives

Good Deeds

• J.K. Rowling had some rough times in her life before hitting it big by writing the Harry Potter books. At one point, she and her daughter lived in a mouse-infested apartment. Unfortunately, she was in a poverty trap. She was unable to get a job unless her daughter was in childcare, and because she did not have a job she could not afford childcare for her daughter. Fortunately, she appealed to her lifelong friend Sean Harris, who helped her by giving her enough money for her and her daughter to move into a better, non-mouse-infested, one-bedroom apartment. Mr. Harris is an inspiration for the character Ron Weasley. Ms. Rowling says, “Ron Weasley isn’t a living portrait of Sean, but he really is very Seanish.”

• When African-American author James Baldwin sent his first novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain, to the publisher Alfred A Knopf, Mr. Knopf was interested in it and wanted Mr. Baldwin to return to New York from Paris, France, in order to revise the novel. Mr. Baldwin was willing, but he lacked money to do that. Fortunately, a friend of his, Marlon Brando, who had become famous by starring in Tennessee Williams’ play A Streetcar Named Desire, came through for him by lending him $500, and Mr. Baldwin came back to New York in April 1952. Mr. Baldwin said about Mr. Brando, “Race truly meant nothing to him. He was contemptuous of anyone who discriminated in any way.”

• Theodor Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, gave money to good causes, including sending some high-school students in La Jolla, California, where he lived, to a Science Olympiad. The students had created a machine called the Scrambler that scrambled eggs by tossing them 10 meters into the air. Along with the money, he sent this note: “Scrambling has always been my favorite Olympic event.”

Halloween

• When Christopher Paul Curtis, author of Bud, Not Buddy, was a child, his mother worried about her children trick-or-treating, so instead of letting them go out for trick-or-treat, she made them dress up in Halloween costumes and go from room to room of their house. In each room, she would put candy in their bags.

Husbands and Wives

• After writing her first novel, The Outsiders, S.E. Hinton became depressed and suffered from writer’s block. It was her boyfriend who figured out that she was depressed because she wasn’t writing. Therefore, he came up with an idea to make her start writing again. She would have to write two pages a day. He would stop by in the evening, and if she hadn’t written two pages, they wouldn’t go out. It worked. She wrote That Was Then, This is Now. Her publisher accepted it immediately. By the way, S.E. and her boyfriend, David Inhofe, got married. She wrote her third book, Rumblefish, on Thursday nights because that was when her husband played poker. S.E. lets her husband read her in-progress manuscripts because he always says, “That’s nice, honey,” which is the only thing she wants to hear when she is in the middle of writing a book. They had a son, whom they named Nick, and Nick contributed to two picture books she wrote for very young children: Big David, Little David, and The Puppy Sister. On Nick’s first day of kindergarten, he met a boy named David. Coming home, he said to his father, “Dad, there’s a kid in my class and his name is David like you and he has dark hair like you and he wears glasses like you. Is that you?” His father replied, “Sure, Nick, that’s me. Every day I get little, and I go to school with you.” S.E. helped her husband with the joke. Nick would come home and tell her what had happened at school — for example, that a child named Kelsey had thrown up. S.E. would telephone her husband and give him the information, and when he got home he would say to Nick, “Weren’t you grossed out when Kelsey threw up?” This went on for almost a year. S.E. says, “We figured, heck, we’d given the kid something to tell the therapist when he’s forty.” The Puppy Sister is based on a puppy that S.E. gave Nick. A sibling rivalry broke out, and Nick once accused her of loving the puppy more than she loved him. And Nick once asked her when the puppy would stop being a puppy and turn into a person.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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