Even though the topic of The Book Tree may be appropriate for some of the rhetoric we are currently hearing in society, I, in fact, wrote the first draft four years ago. I was doing a signing at my local library in Danvers, MA, and like most of my early signings, no one came. Shocking, I know. How could someone so brilliant, so ground-breaking in their writing not have people lined out the door waiting for just a glimpse of greatness? Simple–that author was doing a signing across the street. Since I had a lot of time on my hands, I started wandering around the library, and one particular book cover caught my eye. It wasn’t anything special. I didn’t even pick it up. But, it had a tree pressed into the cover. I immediately said to myself, “Book Tree.” Those two words stuck with me all day, and I thought wouldn’t it be cool if books grew on trees. Yes, I know. Technically books grow on trees, but you know what I mean so no need to inform me in the comment section. I couldn’t shake this idea of books growing on trees like fruit, but at the time it was only an idea, not a story. Of course, that’s never stopped me from writing. I’ve never been a “plotter of stories,” someone who works out the beginning, the middle and the end before they put pen to paper. Or in this case, a digital representation of a letter onto a digital representation of a page. I am what you call a pantser. I usually start with an idea, begin writing and see where it takes me–also known as, writing by the seat of my pants. I like working this way because, for me, the writing is more organic in nature. In fact, I’m doing it right now. I’ll be honest. I have no idea how this post is going to end, but don’t tell my editor. It might make her nervous. The Book Tree took many different paths before it became the story that is on the shelf today. Though, two things never changed from its birth, the title and the last line: “The book was just the seed.” There was something about the last line that I loved, and by staying true to its metaphor it shaped the story into what I wanted it to be about. I’m not going to tell you what it’s about. You’ll have to figure that out on your own. Sorry. Now, I am going on record as saying this book would be nothing without my critique group. It may take a village to raise a child, but it also takes one to write a story, at least for me. I also had the incredible opportunity to work with Jane Yolen and Heidi Stemple. They taught me that subtle word choice can have a huge impact on how a reader responds to your work. Draft after draft, critique after critique, revision after revision, and rejection after rejection for what seemed like forever. I almost gave up on this story, but luckily for me, my agent did not. He kept on submitting and eventually it hit the right editor at the right time. They say timing is everything, but I don’t think that gives enough credit to the work that goes into writing a book. I would say timing is important, but it only favors those who are prepared. As I write this and I think back on the journey The Book Tree has taken, it occurs to me that the book I originally saw on that lonely day in the library was the seed that grew into an idea that eventually blossomed into a story. And I guess I hope that someday my book can be a seed for future readers and writers. — Paul Czajak

 

Big changes can happen in your community when you decide to stand up for what you believe in! Check out the video below to hear Paul’s story of taking a stand together with his family for a cause they are passionate about. Watch the video here.

If you want to inspire the kids in your life to stand up for what they believe in, don’t miss out on our new release, THE BOOK TREE, available in September 2018. What will Arlo do when the Mayor destroys all the books in town? Click here to learn more. Paul Czajak struggled with reading and writing as a child, and never thought he’d end up writing books. But after working as a scientist for 20 years, he discovered that his creativity could no longer be contained to the laboratory. Now he hopes his books will be the seeds to a new generation of book gardeners! Paul lives in New Jersey, USA. Rashin Kheriyeh is an internationally acclaimed, award-winning illustrator, author, animation director and painter who has more than 70 children’s books published around the world. Born in Iran, she is now a professor at the University of Maryland College Park and lives in Washington, DC, USA.


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