COLUMBIANA Author's advice: Read and rewrite
A writer of children's books visited pupils at Joshua Dixon Elementary.
By NANCY TULLIS
VINDICATOR SALEM BUREAU
COLUMBIANA -- J. Patrick Lewis has a large wastebasket beside his desk.
He fills it regularly.
Lewis, author and poet, has published 33 children's books and has many others in the works. His books have been published by nine publishing houses and many translated into other languages, including Japanese.
He told Joshua Dixon Elementary pupils Thursday that a wastebasket is an essential tool because writers throw away much more work than what is published.
"If you want to be a writer, you must read," he said. "Reading is important. If you don't love books, you won't write. The second thing you must do is go out to Wal-Mart and buy a big wastebasket -- the biggest one you can find. About 90 percent of what writers write isn't worth publishing. If you want to be a writer, you have to be a rewriter."
Lewis told pupils it's fun to write, but it's also hard work. He said reading is important because many ideas come from reading what other authors have written.
Many more ideas come from memories, either by retelling a true story or using imagination, he said.
"You can go as far as your imagination will take you," Lewis said.
On days he isn't visiting schools, he's writing.
"I sit in my chair at 7 in the morning and I don't get up until 4. Well, of course, I get up to go to the bathroom," he said, laughing.
An economics professor at Otterbein College, he published his first children's book at 46. He turns 60 Sunday.
"I don't have a favorite book," he said. "My books are like my children. I like them all for different reasons."
Among his many titles are works such as "Ridicholas Nickholas: a book of animal poems," "Freedom Like Sunlight: praise songs for Black Americans," "Long Was the Winter Road They Traveled: A Tale of the Nativity," "The Christmas of the Reddle Moon," "Doodle Dandies: Poems that Take Shape" and "The Shoe Tree of Chagrin."
Lewis earned a doctorate in economics at The Ohio State University in 1974 and taught at Otterbein College in Westerville until 1998.
He has published extensively in the field of economics, has seven short stories and more than 70 poems published in literary journals and was awarded an Ohio Arts Council individual artists grant for his adult poetry. He lives in Chagrin Falls.