Children’s author Mike Allegra hasn’t forgotten the magic
I’m not at a loss for words. I’m not as disciplined as I want to be. I’m not a person who misses deadlines. I’m not afraid to rewrite. I’m not always eager to write, but I do it anyway. I’m not afraid of rejections – which is good because I received 114 of ’em before getting my first book contract.
I’m not the kind of person who can function without coffee. I’m not one to refuse a strip of crispy bacon or a nice glass of Chianti. Offer me either one and I’ll prove it.
Ever since you were a small child you’ve loved books. As a kid, what didn’t you like reading about?
The Hardy Boys. I never understood their appeal, which, in retrospect, is peculiar as I read a mystery series very much in the same vein. The Three Investigators (allegedly written by Alfred Hitchcock) was one of my all time favorites.
I don’t remember much about the series anymore, but I do recall that the investigators had a chauffeur-driven limo that drove them around, which, to a kid, is probably the coolest thing in the world.
What don’t most adults remember about life as a child?
Adults forget that, to kids, even the smallest things can be amazing and magical. Children’s minds are so fertile. They can tell amazing stories. They can make a game out of anything. Their creativity knows no bounds.
In my view, the worst thing an adult can do is to force his child to grow up too quickly. You shouldn’t discourage silliness in children.
Granted, you have to discourage it sometimes – you can’t have your kid making farting noises in church – but it’s important to remember that being silly is a child’s job. It’s good job, and the work deserves to be respected and encouraged.
What won’t we find in your office?
Boring stuff. I made a point to fill my office with fun and colorful things: stuffed animals, weighty tomes about Hollywood cartoons, bold posters, crayons and colored pencils, photographs, my son’s artwork, a noisy manual typewriter that I hardly ever use, and a banjo.
I need my banjo. I can barely play it, but I need it.
There’s a lot of talk of how competitive the writing industry is and how making ends meet can be a struggle. But what isn’t difficult about the life of a writer?
For me, I don’t have difficulty coming up with ideas for stories. This makes me unusual, I’m told.
I attribute this absence of writers’ block to my stint as a newspaper reporter. In that job the editors didn’t care about scoops; all they wanted was column inches.
They wanted a certain number of stories every week and it was my job to make sure they got them. In an environment like that you learn how to find stories in unusual places.
The job was not easy. The hours were long and they pay was lousy, but the takeaway was invaluable.
Your first children’s book, Sarah Gives Thanks: How Thanksgiving Became a National Holiday , has just been released. How wouldn’t you describe it?
I wouldn’t describe it as a book you shouldn’t buy. Ha!
Sarah Josepha Hale was not a shrinking violet. She was also not the kind of person to take no for an answer.
When she wanted to turn Thanksgiving into a national holiday she pursued all the angles until she got her way. She was never obnoxious or unladylike, she was persistent.
She’s an inspiration.
Finally, your website heylookawriterfellow has a nice interview with David Gardner, who illustrated Sarah Gives Thanks: How Thanksgiving Became a National Holiday, where you ask him questions submitted by your readers. One question you asked was: “If you weren’t David Gardner, which David would you like to be?” Well, we’d like to turn this one back on you. If you weren’t Mike Allegra, which Mike would you like to be?
I remember trying to answer this question when it was first posed on my blog. It’s a tough one.
Michael Jordan is cool, but I’ve never liked sports much. Michael J. Fox starred in one of the greatest movie trilogies of all time, but now has a terrible, incurable disease.
Michael Jackson was the King of Pop, but was a deeply disturbed individual, to say the least. Michael Bloomberg is a billionaire, but I hate his whiney voice and never cared all that much about money, anyway.
I’m going to say Michael Caine. He’s a great actor. He’s a class act. He seems like a nice fellow. And he’s pretty good at selecting great movie projects. (Let’s just pretend Jaws: The Revenge never happened, shall we?)
Check out Mike’s book Sarah Gives Thanks: How Thanksgiving Became a National Holiday
and take a look at his lovely blog