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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Rodman Philbrick

Rodman Philbrick

A few years back, I was invited to speak at the Virginia Educational Media Association (VEMA) conference and during the conference was fortunate enough to be able to hear Rodman Philbrick -- wish you had all been there but thought you might be interested in a summary. He's such an interesting author.

Picture a longshore man, carpenter, -- a man who loved mysteries and who had been writing since 5th or 6th grade. Along the way, at about age 50 he thought he would try his hand at writing mysteries, he did and was marginally successful -- he had been writing seriously since he was 16 years old. Nobody would buy a book from him. He wrote for 11 years without even getting a marginally positive rejection letter (BTW the same year he wrote his first novel -- age 16 so was a writer from Oklahoma writing - -S.E.Hinton. Her book was submitted but someone bought it.)

Eventually he did get published in the adult market. He fashioned himself as a mystery/suspense writer which he was -- but as I said marginally successful. Then one day he was at a conference and got this idea for a story - -a story that was really precipitated by his meeting of a young man who had been brilliant, small in stature, friends with a big guy who sometimes carried this slightly physically handicapped guy on his shoulders. This young man -- had been, first sighted by Rodman years before when he observed him and his large friend in the small town where they grew up. One day Rodman's family was invited to dinner at the young man's house and he met the young man face-to-face. He was brilliant. They came to know one another but then the young man died too young -- age 22. Rodman was driving back to his home one night with his wife, and suddenly the characters came to him -- he started writing but alas a scream brought him back to reality -- HE WAS DRIVING. His wife suggested he pull over, she continued to drive and he continued to write down his first few paragraphs.

Do you know the book yet?
The writing of this book went much faster than he thought -- he even put aside a suspense novel he was writing (an adult book as that is all he was writing). This new book was a YA voice, it was a ya book. But now Philbrick had no agent. His adult agent had been "let go." He only knew adult editors -- no one who dealt with children's/YA books. But then he thought of Kathryn Lasky - -a writer friend who he sometimes met at adult writer's conferences. He knew she also wrote in the children's market. He called her up, half thinking she would be insulted that he would think he could write a children's/ya book. But he called, she didn't laugh. She reminded him of an editor they both had met -- and Kathryn knew well, at the last conference. The editor had mentioned a particular book that she had liked of Philbrick's. Kathryn offered to call her -- she did and the editor called Rodman back within 8 hours. She said send the manuscript FEDEX and she would read the mss on the plane to California. He did, she did, and when she landed in California she called with an offer to publish his book -- he knew was going to be a YA author -- things were changing.
By now you might have guessed that the book is Freak the Mighty.
Read more about the author at and get acquainted with other his books -- "The Young Man and the Sea" and "The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Pigg."

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