Ainsleys First Day of School (I am a STAR Personalized Book Series 1)

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Or has he become that ickiest of terms, an author? Some of my favorite writers have gotten sucked into teaching jobs and become authors, never or only rarely returning to their careers. Assuming the new one is a normal length of 70, words, the math tells us that she was writing at the breakneck pace of words per month, or 18 words per day.

Another strange thing about Wolfe is that he never wrote in a series, which is a bit of an anomaly for a bestselling fiction author. Going all the way back to James Fenimore Cooper, you can see that series have always been a popular vehicle for writers. Even the Nobel Prize-winning Southern Gothic whiskey-swilling mad genius William Faulkner wrote in a kind of series, knitting all of his work together in the imaginary setting of Yoknapatawpha County.

But Wolfe never did anything like that. He was my biggest inspiration as a writer, by far, nobody else was even close—and this series has been my attempt to carry his intelligent, funny, entertaining style into new places. I mean places quite literally. Wolfe is still living rent-free in my mind as I visit and research locations such as Uruguay and Argentina and Puerto Rico and Portugal and many, many more yet to come.

In fact, he drilled the importance of research in every interview he ever gave.

On Second Thought

I look for a situation, a milieu first, and then I wait to see who walks into it. All of this leads to a single question that has been circling my head for the last two decades: What would Tom Wolfe do if he were trying to make it as a writer right now? This route would mean less money early in life no advances from traditional publishers , but more money later in life, since books sell eternally now that the produce model has disappeared. James Michener displayed huge ambition and obvious work ethic, but I always found his fiction to be honestly boring.

Take my opinions with a grain of salt. But Tom Wolfe was a complete writer. Reading his passages over and over particularly those in Bonfire taught me how to write fiction—not from a methodical standpoint, but just through sheer osmosis. At risk of sounding like a vegan yoga teacher, I caught his vibes, man.

Then I made them my own.

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People older than myself swear by The Electric Koolaid Acid Test , which was linguistically revolutionary but too druggy for me. In fact, I blame that book for kickstarting my small obsession with modern architecture. As time went on, of course, I slowly grew apart from his work. You could say it was because I was changing. You could say many different things. We lost a big one today. Anthony Bourdain — was a hero of mine. I never wanted to be him — a former heroin addict and fairly unhappy chef — but I wanted to be like him, if that makes any sense.

I think millions of people probably felt the same way. As a television host, he and his team wrestled Parts Unknown to the ground and made it the best program on all of television. I really mean that. It was one of the only television programs that successfully dismantled the myth of the Ugly American — and tried to teach Americans not to be scared of other people.

You can read thousands of gorgeous remembrances of him all over the interwebz, but nonetheless let me share one more piece. My own. Here it is again:. He used to be a good cook. You saw this exhibited best in the Sardinia episode, years ago, the skinny dude in the black Ramones t-shirt, crouched on a rock, unleashing his sarcasm-plated tongue on the local caper farmers — until they reamed him for using utensils. The former junkie putting his own needs above others.

You may remember the Brazilian episode, in Sao Paulo, in which — confronted with a really nice woman and her stew — he finally let down his guard, shed the New York tough-guy shell. It can be seen in other episodes too, when his empathy quietly emerges, especially during segments with troubled people. Those are my favorite moments. And you should still see it all. Without Bourdain, however, that task has just become a little bit harder. This is a global promotion. New readers in the U. The Puerto Rico Pearl has never been discounted before, and remember … it will only last one week.

Catch it while you can! Soon she finds herself on another runaway adventure—one that propels her from wealthy art museums to abandoned sugar mills, from colonial-era cities to buried pirate chests on abandoned naval bases. Along the way, she discovers joy, pain, friendship, danger, the limits of her endurance—and the fact that things are never quite as they seem.

Have you ever read a novel that, when it ended, you could remember more about the best friend than you could the main character? To explain, let me pull back the curtain. Most stories are about ordinary people going through extraordinary situations. Protagonists tend to be simple vessels for our empathy, and not very much more.

This is especially true on the big screen. The guy literally has amnesia. A sharp sidekick stands out in a sea of ciphers like a bright fork in a tray of pudding. Because of this, fictional friends often live longer and more intensely in our collective imagination than heroes do. You can find hundreds of examples of this dynamic in every branch of storytelling. Prince Hal is just a prince, but Falstaff is so vivid that his name has become an adjective.

Some of these friends come prepackaged as archetypes.

Say what you want about them, but archetypes exist for many reasons. In fact, you can usually describe their personalities in adjective-noun pairs, such as the narcissistic salesperson. I dislike Sex and the City for a lot of different reasons, but the series does perfectly illustrate this principle. All we really know is that she loves spending money on shoes. Around her is an orbit of three stalwart friends: the intelligent libertine Samantha , the traditional naif Charlotte , and the cynical careerist Miranda. Note the adjective-noun for each.

Carrie spends every episode trying to find her own identity, but her friends have already discovered theirs. As a side note, did you ever notice that the exact same four characters are found in The Golden Girls?

Q&A with Dana Ridenour

The two casts parallel each other almost perfectly. When you read it, you realize that other people, smarter people, walked the path of storytelling long before you ever did. His book is a reference point for all writers, in every genre, in every format. Allies in fiction suggest alternate paths for problem-solving and help round out the personalities of heroes, allowing expression of fear, humor, or ignorance that might not be appropriate for the hero.

We can hear the protagonist narrating all of her thoughts. They have to use awkward devices, such as voiceover. Or the producer hopes and prays that a brilliant actor will sign on to the project.

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The woman has opinions. This is the benefit of using the third-person limited perspective. We only know what she wants to tell us. Think back to the series. She never reveals anything about her early life—not her birthplace, not her mother, not her siblings, not her extended family, not her education.

But that would remove some of the mystery.

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  • Spoiler alert! Both friends serve different purposes. Both are static characters.

    Their personalities are set in stone. Meanwhile, Ainsley plays the dynamic character as she tries to achieve two goals: one external find the gemstone and one internal find her identity. But sometimes the peripheral characters are the dynamic ones, and the main character remains static. The Puerto Rico Pearl is a good example. In this book, Ainsley befriends Luis, an unemployed poet and handyman who drives her around the island searching for the brooch. She also meets Orlando, an obese scholar of Caribbean pirate lore who is trying to free himself from his enormous private stash of historical documents.

    Ainsley remains the same, beginning to end. In The Spain Tourmaline , however, Ainsley returns to claim the role of the dynamic character, as she slowly must confront her hostility to the killing of animals.

    J.A. Jernay | It's a big world. Let's go see it all.

    I actually wrote this three-step ladder of escalating internal conflict before I knew anything else about the story. He exists to carry her along this path of self-discovery. It keeps things unpredictable.

    Personalized Books from Usborne Books and More allow each child to be the Star of the Story!

    Some writers set their series in the same location say, a small town , and are therefore able to revisit the same cast of characters in book after book after book. Many readers love this, as they get to visit old friends with every new title.

    Reading, Writing and In-between

    Still, it seems a shame to dream up and portray a compelling friend—and then abandon that character forever after one book. It could be a great way for you readers to revisit some of your favorite characters from the series, and it could be a great way for me to revisit them too.