Meet the Author: Brad Meltzer


the following program was a production of the Fairfax network fairfax county public schools ok welcome to meet the author i’m your host Emily Godfrey for people my age you might recognize our guests as a new york times bestselling author of suspense thrillers or you might have seen him solving mysteries on TV shows like decoded and lost history but today Brad Meltzer is here to talk about his popular children’s biography series ordinary people change the world Brad welcome to our show about the writing process thanks for having me so the first mystery that we would like to solve today is why did you start writing for children you’ve been had such a successful career ready for adults you know what is because i have my own kids and i was tired of my own kids looking at reality TV show stars and loudmouth athletes and thinking that’s a hero and I tell my kids all the time thats fame and being famous is very different than being a hero but the real thing was i also saw my daughter I was shopping with my daughter and my daughter kept finding and picking out things with princesses on them and we buy lots of princess stuff in my house not happen we have to buy princess . but I was like I can also give her better stuff but if I told my daughter that Amelia Earhart was this amazing girl who flew across the Atlantic Ocean my daughter says to me you know dad everyone flies across the Atlantic today she’s not impressed but if I tell her that Amelia Earhart and this is true when she was seven years old she built a homemade roller coaster in her backyard and she took a wooden crepe and she put rollerskating wheels on the bottom and shoved it to the roof for tool shed and then she gets on the roof of her toolshed gets into cream puts two giant two-by-fours there and she says co comes flying down the side home a rollercoaster flies through the air there’s a true story she lands and she says that was amazing now my daughters like that I want to be just like her and Amelia Earhart is bold and she’s daring and she’s fun and that’s what I wanted to do so and she’s awesome right and so that’s what we started doing is basically so i can tell my own kids these amazing stories and we and we always start with them when they’re little you always see them when they’re little so that’s where i’m amelia earhart start and then we did I am Abraham Lincoln and went on from that’s awesome so you mentioned a couple things you said true stories and stories about people can you tell us a little bit what’s the difference between like nonfiction and biography sure you know so nonfiction is we know fiction is something that we make up and I get to talk to my imaginary friends nonfiction is something that really happens in real life photography is when it’s it’s something real that’s a story about a person that historically tells you about that particular person tells their biography tells their story and for me what I love is if you show me your hero i’ll show you who you are right like I love Batman and Superman I’ve written batman and superman and i love that I get to do that and depending if you like Superman more or you like Batman where I know a little bit more about you but it’s even more fun when you deal with real people and to me when you look at Abraham Lincoln or rosa parks or Albert Einstein you get to find out these amazing things about the most amazing thing that you’re going to find is that all these people or just like you know one I can tell you one thing that is for sure no one is born a hero we’re all born very different but also very the same and what we do with our lives besides if we can become a hero and to me that’s the fun of it is to show kids these aren’t the stories of famous people this is what we’re all capable of on our very best days that’s that’s awesome that’s super quality here because kids make choices every day about who they’re going to become as people and so it needs to be able to read that in books and see how those choices fold to become a hero but we have some kids who I’m are really eager to ask you some questions joining us via Skype is Jennifer or third grade class from Lynbrook elementary school hello lynbrook hi guys let’s get ready for first student i believe that it is Sam Sam do you have a question for mr. Meltzer you always want to be a writer Sam that’s a really really good question and the truth is I never ever thought I was going to be a writer because i went to a normal school like you do when to a regular school and it wasn’t until my teacher said to me when I was in 9th grade my ninth-grade English teacher said to me Brad you can write and I said whatever one correction oh you know what you’re doing and she tried to put me in the honors class but I had a conflict she said here’s what I’m gonna do now imagine teacher saying this to you Sam said you’re going to sit the bleep you ignore everything i do with the blackboard all year you’re going to do the honors work instead and you’re going to thank me later and ten years later I went back to her classroom and I said she can I help you I said my name is Brad Meltzer and i wrote this book and it’s for you and my teacher started crying and I said why you crying she said because i didn’t think i was having an impact anymore i was going to retire this year and I said you have 30 students we have one teacher so all of you who are listening right now you have a great teacher there and in ways you don’t realize you’re going to go back years from now you’re going to thank them for those amazing things they tell you so Sam I oh that teacher that’s how I became a writer so Ramon do you have a question for mr. Meltzer yeah go for it I how did you became off I like that one too Ramon so I became an author a see here’s the thing to be an author all you have to do you you’re an author Ramon and Sam’s and author and everyone in your class when everyone listen here you’re all authors all you gotta do is tell your story it’s one of the most powerful things you’re going to ever do is tell your story because there’s nothing more powerful than a story there’s nothing more powerful than an idea and so all you have to do is sit at your keyboard or put crayon to paper and you’re suddenly an author to be a published author you just have to find an editor to say yes and i will tell you Ramon that I got 24 people 24 editors who 70 rejection letters and said you can’t be an author Brad 24 people told me to give it up there are only 20 publishers at the time i got 24 rejection letters but I said if they don’t like that book i’m going to write another and if they don’t like that book going to write another and so if you want to be an author keep writing and keep writing and keep writing room so Hugo I think you have a question for mr. Meltzer them well for your first book the first book I wrote or the first book that I read you wrote the first book I wrote i’m gonna tell you about it it was a book that still never got published it was rejected and people didn’t like it so much that it still sits on my shelf published by the local copying company i literally no one ever bought it still sits in my office and it wasn’t until i wrote my second book that finally someone bought it so the first book I have a road is considered a failure but to me there’s no such thing as failures because every time you do something you fail you’ll learn something and that’s what Jonas Salk who was one of the great scientists in the world said he said every time you would fail he would say fantastic because i just learned a new way not to do it so every time you fell don’t think of it as a bad thing think of it as something amazing because you learn something new i was just going to ask you like those qualities of perseverance and resilience that you have to have to keep trying are so awesome we’re always trying to get our kids to kind of grow those traits and i was wondering if there are other people that you’ve written biographies about that have those yeah in a strange way everyone that I’ve written about has that you need to have that it’s the only way you succeed and it’s the one less than you know every book that we do in this series yes you get the historical lesson you’ll see about the person but what is so vital is that there’s a moral lesson in there so for instance there’s one of my favorite stories in there is about Abraham Lincoln when he’s 10 years old we all know Abraham Lincoln the famous president but the story that’s in there about Abraham Lincoln is he loved animals and he came upon a group of boys were playing with turtle so he’s like I love turtles and races over to go see them and as Abraham Lincoln gets to the turtle species they’re not playing with the turtles they’re torturing their putting hot coals on the backs of the turtles and they’re actually hurting them and make them run faster and Abraham Lincoln that moment has to decide what to do and I don’t care if you’re 50 years old or five years old sometimes it’s hard to do the right thing but someone has to and in that moment Abraham Lincoln stands up to those bullies and that’s the most important story of Abraham Lincoln my son he loves Abraham Lincoln because of that story on the back of the book it says I will always speak my mind and speak for others on the back of i’m amelia earhart it says i will know no bounds on the back of a bruh I of Albert Einstein it says I will always be cured arias and I’m Rosa Parks it says I will stand up for what’s right and to me that’s what’s important is you must have that feeling inside to go and do for others because that’s what a hero is a hero is not someone who necessarily fights crime what a hero is at base is someone who helped someone else that’s what it takes to be a hero well thank you and thank you lynbrook those were awesome questions will come back for some more questions for you a little bit later in the show and if you have a question for mr. Meltzer join the conversation sat down the information at the bottom of the screen we welcome your calls and tweets right now we’re going to find out what r MTA crew discovered during a visit to a second-grade classroom at lake and elementary school students there spend time researching writing and creating biography bags about famous americans let’s take a look my name is Elizabeth and i’m getting helen keller and i am getting a few other my name is on how and i’m doing Abraham Lincoln’s so today here at lake and the students have been working on biographies and they’ve had a chance to do some research they’ve been using books and computers to come up with a bio bag technically we were making a lot of research reading book and then writing them on cards making bags and making the whole process runner and while we were making the bags we could put all the cards in and pick them out we were drawing the cards out I just Abraham Lincoln because he signed the emancipation proclamation that ended slavery effectively not only are they learning about a lot of the famous americans but by doing presentations are also learning presentation skills just communication standing up presenting in front of an audience these are skills that are going to be important for the rest of their life a lonely in this 16th president of the united states was one our family 1280 no I and confetti just seeing how creative they were they really got into it they got into their characters saying it was just so fascinating to watch them when they learn new information they were sharing with other classmates and all of them were you know excited about it my famous person telling kelly she loved job before we learned about the project they’re learning about all the famous people and then you can decide which one you want to do and so I decided to do the helen keller and so then I went on the internet and let’s get more and more facts about her i learned that she was never mind that she could still do what normal people do you could read she could learn and she could graduate college the best part was that I have a lot of thought I learned that Abraham Lincoln add this tall black hat made of special materials the activity was all just about having fun I think learning have to be fun for them to remember all the information to make it memorable by them dressing up and characters and just being able to prevent further classmates like being little cup of information stick i think it’s also just a great memory that will have for the rest of her life that was just an awesome activity i think those kids learned a lot and they’re going to remember that for a really long time no see also got a magical hat ya gotta love that one of the special materials i want i want to know what the special material but you know what i love is i love that they did Helen Keller because I we did a book called i’m helen keller and one of the things we didn’t it Helen Keller goes blind she can’t see so on the pages of the book when she was blind are black in the book and then when she learns how to read we actually put real Braille into the book and it says close your eyes and feel these dots this is my name my name is Helen what’s your name and then the opposite page all the kids can close their eyes and feel the real Braille alphabet that’s there and i love that kids can experience what it is and see that even if you’re blind even if you’re deaf whatever it is you have we all have something makes us different but it’s also what makes you special and Helen Keller’s lesson for all of us has never ever ever stop and I hope that lesson has taken by everyone well and how did you come up with that idea to do that like was it through your research about these people like about Helen Keller that you had that idea to do that to the book yeah you know each person has something special balance we like how do we make this how do you experience this thing that this woman has and so each book we do something different we did it we did I’m Lucille Ball because i wanted my daughter I want my daughter to have a female entertainment hero is just famous being thin and pretty who Lucy stands for the idea it’s not just okay to be different it’s fantastic to be different and so we did I am Lucille Ball we put well when we show her famous chocolate conveyor belt scene we actually made the book black and white and you get to see that old shows were in color like you’re watching right now but they were black and white and so each book we try to really make a veer to that special person so we did i’m jackie robinson we show baseball players and we showed that old-time stadiums how they used to see but when you get into the books you get to see what it was like for each of these people and I think that’s what kids really appreciate I think that’s the fun of it and again the most important part is every book starts with one this famous person was a kid who because that’s the most important part is reminding kids the power that’s within them every kid listening today they should no ordinary people change the world I don’t care where you went to school how much money you make that nonsense i believe in regular people and their ability to make change in this world that’s why i believe in Superman that character we talk about to be the most important part of the story is not Superman most important part of story is Clark Kent and you know why because we’re all Clark Kent we all would like to be boring and ordinary in which we do something amazing every kid out there you all every one of you you can do something amazing what a cool message is it hard to do the research for these books i know that kids always struggle with you know doing all the research and finding all the sources for staff how if you have any tips for that how do you do it you know what fine what you love my one of my son’s love sports so we did i’m jackie robinson just for him but my other son he loves creativity he loves draw he loves to color so we’re doing next book we’re doing just for him i did is i am jim henson jim henson created the muppets reading room at the Frog created Sesame Street and Ernie and Bert all these amazing characters and he loves them so for him find information on Jim Henson is his dream he can do that much easier for my son loved sports it’s obviously going to be someone you know that’s like Jackie Robinson but my daughter she loves dance and performing so it’s Lucille Ball or even George Washington you know george washington when he was a little boy is true used to love to dance somebody brought my daughter now loves George Washington because he was he loved to dance just like she did what was his favorite dance masti now you know I don’t know but I i’m guessing it wasn’t the worm it might have been something a little bit a little more little more I don’t know what they called it back then but something like well I bet our friends at lynbrook elementary school are also really great dancers but I do know that they have some great questions for you some more questions on bro so Allison can you share your question with mr. Meltzer how did you get yeah yeah yeah so that’s a good question is Alison asked that i will tell you that that is the key thing to being a writer is way to get your ideas and let me tell you this good ideas are everywhere they’re everywhere everywhere you go there’s a good idea and sometimes you’ll be you know one time I got invited to of all places the White House and when I went to the White House they said to me do you want to go see a secret room that shows you what the tunnel is underneath the White House the answer is yes Allison you do you want to go see that so you get a good idea there but sometimes if i don’t know what i’m making a character I want someone to look like I may just be driving in my car and I look at the car next to me and I’ll see someone who has really you know distinctive features or maybe a real . he knows I’m like I’ll get that idea from them so just keep your eyes open good ideas or everywhere and Erica do you do you have a question for mr. Meltzer you make a lot of mistakes Erica that is a really important question to I made so many mistakes I told you my first book when you submit it they can send your rejection mean they don’t like it or they can say we love it we want to take it i had 24 people who told me you can’t do it 24 people who said you shouldn’t be a writer 24 people who said to me you should give up i made so many mistakes in that first book but you know what I also said I don’t care if they like that book i’m going to write another and I don’t care if they like that one i’m going to write another and I was going to write another and another until they took it and that’s what I did and that’s how life is it’s what I teaching every one of these heroes books don’t let anyone stop you that’s what Helen Keller did right was blind and deaf and they said she’ll never be a good student shall never go anywhere and she wrote I think 12 different book spoke multiple languages improved everyone wrong so always keep going keep going keep going and and Natalie do you have your questions ready alright eat it too late for Brooks doesn’t take long to write the books is that fine always a fun i was a fun time is hurt I let me tell you how fun it is it is so fun to me to write a book as you know what I get to do all day I get to sit around and talk to my imaginary friends right I get to talk to Abraham Lincoln and I get to talk to Rosa Parks and I get to talk to Amelia Earhart right here and sometimes I get to speak to Superman and I get to speak to Batman and that’s really fun for me because i love the one thing i love even since I was little is I love love love a good story and i get to now tell stories for a living too it’s like you well thank you lynbrook and we actually have a tweet about your shirt from Robert he asked who is on your shirt and if he’s like his do you have a hit favorite historical character yeah so I’ll answer so the first one who’s on my shirt this is let’s show her this is Amelia Earhart and amelia earhart uh you know she did lesson in her book is to dream big right she’s a girl who they said girls can’t be pilots girls can fly she flew higher and faster than anyone boy or girl flew farther than anyone boy or girl and anyone at the time and she let anyone stop her so I love wearing my shirt that says dream big that’s for Amelia Earhart but as for my favorite historical character there’s two okay one of them is Abraham Lincoln because Abraham Lincoln is just the great one he is one of the people who lives up to the hype i love how we stood up and took care of those turtles i love how he stood up to the bullies and did what was right and I thought I always admire that but I also love jim henson because he gave us Kermit the Frog and Ernie and Bert and those are my favorites and I actually one time I got to take my family to Sesame Street and meet all the Muppets and that was one of the coolest days ever of being a writer and is very cool is it really inspiring I’m not only was inspiring but it was fun because they gave us blank Muppets and they let us make our own Muppets so we got to pick out eyes and ears and nose and sometimes some of us can even have hair and it was really fun to build our own puppets and I got to meet Ernie and grover and cookie monster and it was just one of those days where you really feel like this is the best part of being a writer but the real best part is when you get to go out and meet kids and say thank you to all the teachers out there who are just pushing and pushing and and librarians right i mean my life was changed by a teacher my life was changed by librarians who gave me books because my family can afford them and i can tell you that if I have a warrant for teachers and librarians I don’t sit here today so thank you to everyone of you out there well going back to the historical figure and topic what do you say when kids say that history is doll how do you help fight that stereotype you know history can be dull if you just give kids you know the Civil War was fought until $MONTH 1865 and no one cares they’re they’re going to be bored but if you tell them a great story they’ll never be bored if you tell them the stories that when George Washington was little he wasn’t some amazing kid was good at sports and good at everything he was a kid was ok it sports he liked to swim me like the fish but he loved to dance like I told you where you find out that he wasn’t he wasn’t great in school he was good at math but it was a terrible speller my kids are terrible spellers my daughter loves to dance now George Washington is real and now he’s just like us and it’s the same thing with Rosa Parks if you tell her the story when she was 11 years old and a bully came by on roller skates and pushed her over and knocked her over and she stood up and started you know saying something to the bullets that do not do that again to me and the bullies mother came racing up to her instead of you because Rosa Parks was black and the bully was white and if you do that again I’m going to have you thrown in jail and Rosa Parks did not back down she just you know didn’t back off and just listen I don’t want him hurting me she stood strong and suddenly you know she stood up for herself and i can tell you that I told that story to my kids and my son was being bullied a couple years ago my older son said that my younger son you need to be like Rosa Parks need to stand up to the bully my son said I need to be like Rosa Parks and suddenly their history was alive again so if you want to make history interesting just don’t tell the boring stories to tell that one there’s so many good ones there’s so many great stories so again what I love is is finding the best stories let me stop you there we have a phone call with a question for your caller what’s your name and what’s your question for mr. Meltzer hi my name is Jill I’m from mark Dimond Glenna the right platform oh it’s a great class that’s my school your school camera just announced a question um um uh it’s redic was wondering if you would ever make a write a book about Roberto Clemente oh let me tell you why I love a bird that money though I i love that question Thank You jail so Roberto Clemente was a baseball player and baseball players to me are not heroes ok if you just use your sports to score a lot of goals that doesn’t make you a hero what is what you do for someone else and Roberto Clemente found out about an earthquake that happened it was in Nicaragua and he tried to get food and medicine sent to the kids and he tried to get all this stuff sent to send to the people there were suffering and the first playing all the food and medicine not stolen second playing all the food medicine got stolen finally he says I’m going to get on the plane myself and make sure the food and medicine gets there and it gets on the plane and the plane takes off and actually crashes and Roberto Clemente dies but he’s not a hero because he died as a hero cuz why he got on that plane and I was telling that story to my son and when I first came out with these books and he got a kind of shirt down he said that makes me sad that’s a sad story and I thought oh my gosh I scared him it’s you know it’s bad and the next day I came in and I said what you want to talk about tonight he said I want to hear about roberto clemente who we doing next and I said then that scared he says no no no he goes so what do you know about me said well he gave his life to save those people and my son wanted to hear more and to me you always share good stories vertical money is absolutely on my list that’s awesome and so we have time for one more question or a few more questions from our lynbrook student so let’s go back to them now and I think Gabriel is first what’s your question for mr. Meltzer boats around will you write on one’s about Eleanor Roosevelt how I would love to do eleanor let me tell you something Gabriel not only did i do I love to do Eleanor Roosevelt as a hero in this books but I’ve actually we have a t-shirt that I made with Eleanor Roosevelt on it you know why because my wife loves her and Eleanor Roosevelt if you don’t know who she is she was the wife of Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a present United States but Eleanor Roosevelt when at the time when when her husband was president was this really big group that was camping out in Washington DC and they were protesting what the president was doing and the previous president before after you are sent in the National Guard’s and sent in the army and sent all these people with guns and they couldn’t stop it they can stop the protests and when FDR was president you know he sent he sent Eleanor Roosevelt and she went and she listened to what the people were having problems with their and she talked to them as you brought him coffee and just listened and suddenly the problems were solved and she showed that strength that we have it doesn’t need to be with guns or violence it could just be with here the most wonderful weapon you have your ears in your brain and i love that she stands for that so Eleanor Roosevelt is definitely on the list i want to absolutely write a book about her one day she’s a good one I’m glad you like as a hero alright fashion what’s your question for mr. Meltzer Lenny and I wouldn’t do little even act from the book Oh i ah dr. Martin Luther King jr. is so we did a book i’m martin luther king jr. and here’s i’ll give you a couple of my favorite facts in there so one of them is he was a complete klutz when he was little I used to fall and trip used to slide down his Bannister like when you walk down the stairs he would slide down the banister at full speed and go tumbling down the of to the floor because he was so klutzy would fall off it he was just like us but here’s my favorite story that’s in the book is that when he was little he was black he was african-american and his best friend was white and when he was a little boy they were best friends play together they were six years old always played together eventually the little boys with the white boy’s father said you can’t play with him anymore and dr. King when he was a little boy said I don’t understand why he’s my friend he could understand why they couldn’t play together and where they went to separate schools one for blacks and one for whites and he said to his parents why why doesn’t want to play with me and his parents explained them it’s because you’re black and he’s white and they think that that’s different and dr. King when he was little as a little boy at six years old was so mad that was so mad that day that he won’t play with me and you know his parents taught him there and said don’t be mad at your enemy show them love instead if you show people love that’s how you’re going to win and that’s how you’ll conquer the world and i love that lesson because that’s exactly what dr. King did later in his life he learned it when he was a little kid just your ages is instead of showing your enemy fighting instead of showing them anger show them love and you’ll get a far different result so that’s my favorite story in there well thank you and thank you lynn broq awesome questions it was wonderful skyping with you today great questions lynbrook thank you and we have a tweet now from Mark Twain middle school again what did you read growing up yeah so I was a huge reader when I was growing up I love books and I used to read Judy Blume and I used to read Agatha Christie because i love Agatha Christie but my favorite books even now my favorite books today or comic books i love Superman and I love Batman and i can tell you i love superman because i talked about Clark County know I love Batman because I can be Batman I’m never going to lift a car over my head but I can be Batman one day and so that’s my goal one day well we’re almost out of time so very briefly what’s your best advice for our aspiring writers so here’s the thing if you want to be a writer you’re out there today is only one rule I have you tell your story write it and write it and right it’s like riding a bicycle i can tell you to peddle two miles an hour and i can tell you the whole handlebars and tell you to balance yourself until you get on the bike will never learn how to write it but so the same thing when you’re a writer is write and write and write and write and that’s how you become a writer well thank you so much for joining us today it’s been a pleasure talking with you about your books and about the writing process and all of your research and everything thank you and thank you for helping us build a library of real heroes for kids out there today it means so much you’re welcome well if you would like to learn more about Brad Meltzer visit his website to learn more about our great programs visit the Fairfax network youtube site for the Fairfax network I’m Emily Godfrey keep reading keep writing and keep dreaming

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