You’re retired now, but your previous career is more colorful and unusual than most. Can you tell us a little about the job you used to do?
I was the Chief of the Airport Police in Grand Rapids for 22 years. I was always in the middle of anything that went wrong or right. We had a 16 person police department and 6 person dispatch center.
I’m sure you’ve collected many stories about your experiences with the airport Police. Could you give us one example? Have you considered writing a memoir?
We received a call from a tenant that a woman was being forced into a Lear jet. She was screaming “Help, I’m being kidnapped!” My Sergeant and I jumped in the patrol car and raced toward the main runway. The aircraft was turning to take off so we drove at them as they started to roll toward us. We turned sideways blocking the aircraft. The doors flew open and people spilled out. Arrests resulted.
Instead of sipping a beer and watching the grass grow when you retired, you wrote a middle grade trilogy. Where did THAT come from? Did you always envision the work as three separate volumes?
My grandmother lived with us when I was little and we were special buddies. She had me make up a new story for her each night before I went to bed. I made my own comics as a child and wrote stories as an adult. I never stopped. When I retired, I decided to go all in with my passion and wrote my first book. The characters in my books had more to say so the series just happened.
You decided to independently publish your novels, and you’ve been unusually successful in marketing them. Without giving too much away, what’s your secret?
Being an unknown, I first needed credibility. I was a reviewer’s choice bookwatch selection from Midwest Book Review and received positive reviews from Kirkus and Writers Digest Magazine.
I wrote books that my MG self would have loved to read. The books are fast moving, with a roller coaster plot. If the books did not engage MG students, I would have died a quick death. If the characters didn’t get wiser, stronger or smarter from their experiences in the first book, they would not survive the next two. My goal was never to be as good as a traditionally published book, my goal was to exceed them. The books are all hardcover, unique original artwork both on the cover and at the start of each chapter, the best paper and a nationally recognized printer. I hired a real editor, proofer and printer.
You do many school visits a year. Again, without divulging any trade secrets, to what do you attribute your prowess with middle school students?
My school visits are very interactive. I create stories on the fly with them just as I did with my grandmother. I do a few magic tricks that go along with the presentation. The real trick is that I enjoy my time with the students and they can see it. I sold 147 books to one grade at one school. I often times break 100. I have no middle man and the printer is located in Grand Rapids so I have no shipping cost. I make about $9.00 for every book that I sell.
You’ve gotten deeply involved in SCBWI and are working on the Advisory Committee planning conferences. What do you find most satisfying when involved in the inner workings of these special events?
These creative types are a pleasure to be around and have become good friends. We all share a love for story creating that binds us.
What are you working on now?
I’ve written a MG story (that has my heart) about a wrestler who enters a worm charming contest called Ripley Robinson and the Worm Charmer. In the past, I didn’t have the patience to take the traditional route. I now have the patience to take that step.
Thanks Dave. For more information, visit Dave's website
Dave Stricklen is one of the co-chairs for the upcoming SCBWI-MI fall conference, the September 15-16 Gathering on the Grand
Charlie Barshaw just finished the first draft of his YA novel Aunt Agnes (working title).He also gratefully accepted an offer to work as an editor on The Mitten, where he plays around with pictures and asks Ruth innumerable questions.