I connected with Tim through SCBWI, and his unique take on food trivia for kids intrigued me. RUDE DUDE’S BOOK OF FOOD: STORIES BEHIND SOME OF THE CRAZY COOL STUFF WE EAT is now available, and looks like a great addition to K-12 school libraries. Here’s more information:
It’s actually true that Mongol warriors rode with slabs of raw meat under their saddles then ate them that night in camp! It’s actually true that Chinese archaeologists found 4,000-year-old noodles in an overturned cup. It’s actually true that Americans buy $1 billion worth of chocolate each Valentine’s Day. You think food is just stuff we eat!? Come on! There’s a world full of great food stories out there—and Rude Dude’s going to tell them!
Here are Tim’s answers to some interview questions:
According to your website, you are a writer, songwriter, storyteller and teacher. How do all these creative mediums feed one another, and can you tell us more about your journey toward publication?
I can’t imagine not working in multiple genres; I’m very much a generalist. For one thing, I love the variety. One day I’m writing poetry, the next researching a nonfiction piece, and the next at my keyboard or guitar. But what appeals to me most is that I can find a proper home, so to speak, for different ideas that come to me.
I began writing, in grade school, with poetry. (I also began writing songs in upper grade school, but song lyrics are, after all, a form of poetry). Poetry became habitual to me–it was my normal, and exclusive, form of literary expression. As a senior in college, though, I began to notice a certain artistic constriction in my life. I was a young adult, and my horizons were expanding rapidly; the more I learned and experienced, the more varied my inspirations became. And I began to sense that, while some things are best expressed in poetry, others aren’t.
One day I was driving down a neighborhood street and saw a dead squirrel, one that had clearly been hit by a car. I felt a great pathos for that creature in that moment; a squirrel, just like a human being, is simply trying to live its life in the world. But a poem about a car-flattened squirrel? That just didn’t feel right. Suddenly, but rather quietly, it occurred to me that it could play a part in a short story.
But it was a huge shift for me, an opening up, and it allowed my artistic life to expand in a significant way.
My path to publication, at least to some degree, was unusual–I wrote for decades without the slightest thought about publication. It never entered my mind. And then I got married and started teaching, and then we had kids, so I was way too busy to work in a comprehensive way on a career in art. During those years I stole whatever time I could for writing and songwriting. Being an artist was always at the heart of me, always who I was. After many years I began to seek publication. I began with children’s books simply because they were short enough that I could finish them with my schedule. My first picture book was published in 1993. I’ve just kept on from there. And today, with my kids grown up, I have more time.
Your story definitely shows the importance of infusing art in all stages of life. THE RUDE DUDE’S BOOK OF FOOD has some great stories about food and food history. How did it come to you, and what do you want readers to take away when they’re finished?
I was a high-school and middle-school teacher for 14 years, then a university teacher educator for 20, and I now teach in the English department at Santa Clara University. I know kids and I know pedagogy (I learned a tremendous amount about teaching from my amazing wife, Dr. Priscilla Myers, a reading specialist, and also at SCU). One of the biggest problems in education, it seems to me, is that so many students are so often bored. And it doesn’t have to be that way.
What makes lifelong readers? I know many such readers, and they don’t read because they think they should. They read became they want to. What have we as educators accomplished if a kid goes through 12 years of education (or more)–and at the end of that time says to himself or herself, “Thank God that’s over–now I don’t have to read and write anymore.” Many high-school graduates feel this way–and it’s the opposite of our goal!
I’d written a picture book called The History of the World from a Hamburger Lover’s Point of View, which I wrote mainly for the humor of it. An editor who rejected it suggested it might make a good full-length book.
It seems to me that helping young people learn to love books is even more important than teaching them literacy skills. Because if they love reading, they’ll give themselves far more reading experience than we can ever give them, and that in turn will profoundly improve their skills. I want readers to enjoy Rude Dude so much that they learn from it without realizing it. And I want them to take on smarter and healthier attitudes about food and food history, as well as more openness to the fascinations of history in the larger sense.
In helping college-age students with research, I’m always amazed at how bored some of seem. I’m glad that you, and other teachers, are striving to light fires under your students.
According to your bio, you have numerous pieces in children’s magazines. What advice, if any, do you have for writers interested in submitting to these kinds of publications?
I love children’s magazines, and I love writing for them. Seeking this kind of publication can be very helpful for a writer, since it gives you publication credits, and publication experience (which can be more complicated than some people realize), and it can bolster your confidence. There are drawbacks, in the sense that it doesn’t pay much, and of course it isn’t easy to be published in magazines, especially the best ones. But all this, ultimately, is beside the point. Because publishing is publishing, and for a writer, being read is the completion of the work. There’s profound fulfillment in that. I don’t write for children’s magazines merely as a stepping stone to book publication; appearing in Cricket, for example, is a thrill and an honor in itself.
An additional advantage is that some magazines will take work that won’t make it as, say, picture books, and that’s allowed me to express myself publicly in a more varied way, which I deeply appreciate.
As far as advice goes, I’d remind writers to do their homework. You need to know something about the magazine to begin with, and you certainly need to know all the details about how to submit, what kind of thing they’re looking for, etc. And then all the normal advice for the writing life kicks in: being patient–being organized–being persistent–taking rejection in a positive way. And of course the single most important advice: But your main effort into the quality of your writing.
Excellent advice. What are some of your current projects?
I’m always working on a million things, which is how I like it. I’ve recently published a number of adult nonfiction pieces on some great websites like the Los Angeles Review of Books and Electric Literature and in some magazines. I plan to finish a picture book soon, and want to do pieces on some new terminology for issues of racism and for science fiction and fantasy literature. My main project is a realist-fantasy novel for young adults and adults, which I’m still doing research for. It’s thrilling to work on, because I get to build a whole world!
Sounds great! Thanks, Tim, for being interviewed!
To purchase a copy of RUDE DUDE’S BOOK OF FOOD, click on the link below: