Reagan students meet children’s author

Children's book author Allan Woodrow visited Reagan Elementary School Monday to talk about the books he's written and his writing process and to take questions from students. This was a class of fourth graders. (Ruth Campbell|Odessa American)

Hundreds of students at Reagan Elementary School were treated to a visit by children’s author Allan Woodrow Monday who talked about his journey to becoming a writer.

This was Woodrow’s first time in Odessa. In one session, he faced about 110 fourth graders, involving them in the discussion, taking questions, sharing some of his biography and asking about what they like to read, what elements a book needs and asked them to help him write a short story.

“I always wanted to be a writer ever since I was in elementary school. That was the dream that I’ve had. I enjoy writing. I first started writing children’s books when I had young kids of my own and they were reading children’s books. I hadn’t read a children’s book since I was a child and I was really impressed. They have come a long way since when I was in school. They were well-written; they were funny; they were interesting and it really got me excited to try writing them myself,” Woodrow said.

He added that his path to becoming a children’s author was very short.

“In less than a year, I had a four-book contract with HarperCollins and had publication dates ready for books, which is really rare and I don’t know really anyone else who had that kind of immediate success. I had been a professional advertising writer my whole career, so I was a good writer. I knew how to write, but I did not know how to write children’s books until I decided to try it,” Woodrow said.

With book covers in the background, children’s book author Allan Woodrow reviewed his career for Reagan Elementary students Monday in the library. (Ruth Campbell|Odessa American)

He added that his advertising background helped in that he had writing ability, but he also had a lot of experience writing with other people and working with professional editors, so he knew how to process criticism.

“Although this didn’t help me get my first contract, once I got my contract, it really made the process a lot easier because I could take the criticism or comments from my publisher and from the editor and translate that really well onto the page.” Woodrow said.

He has had 30 books published, but there are others that he set aside.

Woodrow said he writes about whatever pops into his head. He also writes for the Cartoon Network and some direct to classroom books. There are books he uses a pen name for as well.

“I’m constantly thinking about ideas, most of which are bad, but occasionally because one pops up and when it does, I have to just make sure that I capture that idea and don’t lose it because ideas come to everyone but they’re fleeting. So unless you can grab that idea and put it on paper, you’ll probably lose it forever. Really one of the main differences between a professional writer and someone who’s not a professional writer is recognizing those moments and grabbing onto them rather than letting them float out of your head forever,” he added.

His first book was The Big Cheese, written in third grade. The book has Hank Burch’s name on it, but Woodrow said he didn’t do anything. His second book was Attack of the Monsters which was illustrated by his best friend at the time.

Using his experience playing baseball as an analogy, children’s book author Allan Woodrow encouraged students to try and follow their dreams. (Ruth Campbell|Odessa American)

Along with books like Class Dismissed, Woodrow has written The Rotten Adventures of Zachary Ruthless, the world’s most evil fourth-grader, and Werepenguin books such as The Curse of the Werepenguin, Battle of the Werepenguins and Revenge of the Werepenguin. The description of The Curse of the Werepenguin says “Bolt Wattle is a 12-year-old orphan sent to live with a Baron in the far-away country of Brugaria. Unfortunately, the evil Baron turns into a sinister penguin at midnight, and bites Bolt. As far as families go, it’s pretty much rock bottom. Bolt has just three days to figure out a way to break the curse and defeat the Baron or he’ll become an evil penguin creature forever and the Baron will conquer Brugaria with his evil penguin army.”

Fourth graders Rory Leal and Lincoln Notley, both 9, said they thought the visit from Woodrow was very cool.

“I thought it was pretty cool,” Leal said. “I think I’m going to check out his book.”

Notley said he doesn’t always know the series until the author comes to visit. After Alan Gratz came to visit, he read a whole series of his books.

Warrior Cats are Leal’s favorite books right now and Notley’s is the Wings of Fire series.