LongTales for ShortTails Stories
Conversation with Children Author Duane Lance Filer
Duane Lance Filer is a retired funkster extraordinaire, writer, painter and musician who grew up in Compton, California with six brothers and sisters. He and his wife, Janice, have two adult children and currently reside in Carson, California. For more about Duane and his artist endeavors, visit him at: http://duanelancefiler.wixsite.com/duanelancefiler
BPM: Tell us about your most recent work with children’s literature. Available on Nook and Kindle?
I have a children’s short-story collection of 3 picture book stories ready to blow your mind! I call it “LongTALES for ShortTAILS.” It’s about real (from my youth) and imagined stories that kids from tots to teens will enjoy. Here’s a quick look at what the stories are about:
• Fastjack Robinson – Like a young Jackie Robinson, Fastjack is the fastest rabbit in the world! Somebody in Bunny Junction has to stop the notorious Grabbit Rabbit, so it’s Fastjack to the rescue.
• Ms. Missy-Bishop’s First Dog – Do you remember what it was like when you got your first dog? Bishop’s first dog turns out to be the beautiful diva Missy. Plus, Missy soon has a surprise for the family.
• Duncan and the Chocolate Bar – A story of the futuristic Duncan as he wins a contest and is one of the youngest to ever travel to outer-space.
BPM: Give us some insight into your main characters from each book. What makes each storyline so special?
Fastjack Robinson was coming to spend the summer with his grandrabbits- Grandpaw and Grandmaw Robinson, in Bunny Junction. Fastjack Robinson had moved to Hare City, but always loved coming back home to visit his beloved grandrabbits as well as his childhood friends House Mouse and Stooley the Pigeon.
After a big welcome-home supper of carrot stew and rabbit tea, Fastjack was informed by the squeaky voiced House Mouse that the notorious, mischievous Grabbit Rabbit was wreaking havoc in Bunny Junction by stealing pies and other carrot items from the families in Bunny Junction.
Little did the Grabbit Rabbit know that, like a young Jackie Robinson, Fastjack Robinson was the fastest rabbit in the world! Somebody in Bunny Junction had to stop the notorious Grabbit Rabbit. So Stooley, House Mouse, Grandpaw, and Grandmaw devised a plan to catch the Grabbit Rabbit. It’s Fastjack to the rescue!
I remember when I was little I loved Bugs Bunny and all the characters on his cartoon show. Fastjack Robinson is like a black Bugs Bunny, the first of his kind. And the number 42 – who other than Jackie Robinson – the first of his kind.
Who out there doesn’t remember their first pet? Bishop’s first dog turns out to be the beautiful diva Missy. Plus, Missy soon has a surprise for the family.
Ms. Missy – Bishop’s First Dog is a true story concerning my family’s first pet – Ms. Missy the diva dog! Follow along as Bishop, oldest child of the Morrow household, learns the ins and outs of owning and taking care of a dog. Bishop has daily duties of feeding and caring for Ms. Missy; bathing her in the Morrow backyard with younger siblings Maxine and Kelvin; and training Missy in the ways of the pet and human world. Time passes, as both Missy and the Morrow family grows with additional kids.
One day, Missy disappears, and young Bishop feels it is his fault because he scolded Missy too hard. Bishop feels terrible, and fears she has run away for good. When Missy is finally found – she has a surprise of a lifetime for the Morrow family!
Missy was actually the name of the first dog for the Filer Family of Compton. Missy is a true story, and I used the actual names of my big sister Maxine and younger brother Kelvin. Ms. Missy was indeed a diva, and when she had her first set of puppies – it was something we will never forget.
Duncan and the Chocolate Bar takes place in 2050. The space shuttle to the moon has been a reality since 2030. There have been scientists, explorers, politicians, entertainers and celebrities; just about every type of scientific type person has been or has plans to go to the moon, but no ordinary people have been included. Black, white, brown, or yellow, no regular ordinary people have been to the moon. Finally, in 2050, the USA government has decided it is time to send some regular folks to the moon. A contest was held to pick three lucky souls to be sent to the moon.
Each person selected could bring a friend. And the best part is that the government claims once the lucky winners get to the moon, there would be a surprise waiting for them.
Young Duncan (Dunk) Sylers,11-years old and from the city of Compton, California, enters the contest. You guessed it – Young Duncan wins and decides to take his younger cousin Drew on the exploration of a lifetime. Follow along as Duncan, Drew, and the other winners (including a wanna-be hippie who brings his parrot as his guest; as well as an aging actress and her equally washed up boyfriend) travel toward the moon. Do they succeed? You’ll have to read the book.
The Jetsons was one of my favorite Saturday morning T.V. cartoons. Once again, I wanted to feature some black/minority kids in my writing because IT WAS NEEDED. So, as I was writing the outline for Duncan, it also hit me that Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Bar was one of my early favorite movies. The ideas merged – that a black child wins a contest (like in Willie Wonka) and flies through space (like The Jetsons.) I thought the ideas would make a good pairing. Since the year was 2050 – I also went for further diversity by making the President of the United States an Asian American woman.
BPM: More and more parents and educators are looking for books that embrace children of color. Why did you decide to focus on our kids?
I remember when growing up in Compton, CA in the late 1950’s/early 1960’s – loving children’s books from the library and cartoons on Saturday morning T.V. I also remember asking my parents “how come none of the people in these books or on the cartoon shows look like me or any of my friends on Arbutus Street (our street in Compton) or in this city called Compton?”
So, I reached back in my memory and thought of various popular cartoons, and then twisted some of the characters into remembrance of instances that happened in my personal family with my brothers and sisters, friends and neighbors. I think the world should show its diversity. Kids of color can now relate to characters like them – that’s important!
BPM: How can parents, teachers and organizations use your books to encourage kids to read more?
All three books are easy reads – the language is easy for the earliest readers! In addition, and most important, many of these themes mentioned MUST and should be be broached early in a child’s life- so the best way is through books. Let kids read these themes themselves rather than seeing them on T.V. (give T.V. or your computer a break.) Words and books startle the imagination and jumpstart ideas. When a child sees a word he/she may not understand- they should be encouraged to have a dictionary handy where they can look up the meaning.
BPM: What do you want the young readers to take away from each of the books in the LongTales series?
Each book has a definite theme that doing good is better and more productive than doing bad: Fastjack Robinson – (that stealing carrot pies) is bad and will get you in trouble.
Ms. Missy – shows that we should trust our pets, and that even if we think we have had a bad day and maybe scolded someone – a pet’s loyalty and trust will ultimately come back to reward us. You must forgive in life.
Duncan & the Chocolate Bar – proves to anyone to never give up on your dreams and hold fast to your good thoughts and deeds. These books show that we shouldn’t be afraid to meet new and different people (especially people of different colors and cultures.)
BPM: What did you enjoy most about writing this series of books?
Two of the three books (Ms. Missy and Duncan & the Chocolate Bar) mention that the characters were raised and live in the “inner city” – my hometown of Compton, CA. It shows that these inner cities can, and continue, to produce productive citizens and good people – contrary to what we may hear on the news. Also, I was able to evoke my own personal experiences into 2 of the 3 books, and even used some of my sisters and brother’s real names.
BPM: How much planning goes into writing a book for young readers?
I love writing children’s books because it allows me to go back in time and I love that kids are born innocent and inquisitive – they are just learning about life and most have no prejudices. Childhood, for most, are our happiest times on earth. Who doesn’t have special memories about childhood?
BPM: How long does it take to complete one of your books?
Not long. As I’ve stated, I believe in first outlining all projects. Once I’ve outlined characters/plots/themes/ideas/chapters – I just start filling each in with content. Once I get started on a project, I pretty much put all my effort into that one project until it is completed. I hardly ever multi-task on other projects once I start one. I may jot down some ideas/outlines that come to me on other projects – but I rarely work on two projects at the same time. Also, I don’t set time frames to finish a project – but when I ‘m nearing completion I really bare down and finish.
Editing the first draft usually takes extra time – AND I ALWAYS BELIEVE IN EITHER MY EXTENDED EDITING OR HIRING AN OUTSIDE LINE EDITOR. Spellcheck is great – but it can’t catch all your mistakes. I want the finished product to be as near as perfect as I can get it.
BPM: What advice would you give aspiring writers that would help them finish a project?
1. Outline all your projects first, jotting down possible characters/themes/ideas/plots, etc. Try to arrange jotted down outlined e situations in a timeline that fits the book – beginning, middle and end.
2. Start filling in the outlined chapters/situation/characters.
3. DURING YOUR FIRST DRAFT – DON’T WORRY ABOUT THE PUNCTUATION/GRAMMAR/ SPELLING. Get what’s in your head out of your mind and onto the page.
4. When you get on a hot spell and you are spitting out your story – DON’T STOP UNTIL YOU’VE COMPLETED YOUR THOUGHTS. It’s like a shooter getting hot in basketball – they keep shooting and producing while they are hot.
5. After your first draft, then go back and fix the punctuation/grammar/spelling.
6. Edit, edit, re-write, and edit some more!
BPM: Did you learn anything personal from writing books for children?
That children are God’s greatest gift to mankind because of their innocence, and the best answer on how to attract them to your book remains confounding . They don’t care about anything but if the book is interesting and keeps their attention. If you are writing about something that they may have experienced, you might have a chance of getting through to them. Or, if it is something new and exciting, and the book teaches them a positive lesson, you might have a chance getting through to them. I love kids!
BPM: Can you share some stories about people you met while promoting the books?
I’ve had book signings and I really enjoy the faces on the kids faces as they flip through, say the Fastjackbook, and see their expressions as they view the eye-popping illustrations. People seem to really enjoy the cover and back cover illustrations.
BPM: How can readers discover more about you and your work?