It was a Friday morning, the phone call from a fellow author was a quick one, ‘Random House are commissioning a new series of early reader/picture books and are looking for something on science and a scientist. The editor is Natascha Biebow!’ I was galvanised, a quick scan at the Key Stage pages secured an immediate idea. Ten minutes after the tip-off I called Natascha and pitched an idea. I can remember how the conversation went,
‘Hi, we haven’t met but I understand you are looking for an early reader/picture book idea on science and a scientist?’
‘Who are you?’
‘I am Andrew Melrose, you can check me out on the University of Winchester website. I have this idea which seems perfectly suited for your new series [short pause, not allowing her to fob me off before I can tell her the idea I only had thought of a few moments ago] It’s called Magic Mr Edison.’
‘Oh, is that Thomas Edison, the electricity man?’
‘That’s the one, and you get science [electricity], inventing [electric light], geography [Brooklyn, USA], history [nineteenth-century] and a boy and a little dog story all in one.’
‘Laughs, that’s a lot in one small book…’
‘Well at least have a look?’
‘Okay, send it on to me by email attachment. It sounds right for the series but of course all the usual things matter, is it written well etc., they need to be in place.’
‘Great, I’ll do that, except I have to teach now and it’s on my computer at home, can I send it at the weekend [and it is soon to be Friday afternoon, I was thinking, fingers crossed].
‘Okay, that’ll be fine.’
‘Great, I look forward to working with you.’
That Friday I drove home to Brighton from Winchester, composing the story in my head. After the usual Friday night chore of driving straight to the Health and Racket club, picking my kids up from tennis, cooking the dinner, emptying the washing machine, organising football and tennis kit for the weekend, putting other kit into the washing machine, feeding the cat, washing the dishes, opening the bills… around eleven at night, I managed to sit down with a pencil and notebook to plan a book I had let an editor believe I had already written. But of course I had really, just not on paper, it had been spinning around in my head all day… it started with just a title and 900 words later it was in her inbox by Saturday afternoon, just in case… it’s a shaggy dog story:
When a tramcar frightens Dan’s dog Charlie one evening, the chase leads them through a maze of busy Victorian New York streets to the house of Mr Thomas Edison. Dan is fascinated to discover the secrets of Mr Edison’s light bulb, and dreams of a world where he’ll have electric light at the pull of a simple switch. A dramatic story that recreates historical experiences and makes them memorable and relevant to the modern child’s point of view: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Magic-Mr-Edison-Flying-Foxes/dp/0099434180
Andrew Melrose is Professor of Writing for Children and Creative Writing, University of Winchester, UK, he has over 180 film, fiction, non-fiction, research, songs, poems and other writing credits, including 15 films and 36 scholarly or creative books. He is also the editor of the journal Writing4Children www.write4children.org (soon to be re-launched) and has written a number of books, articles and book chapters on various aspects of critical and creative writing and on the cult and culture of the child, children and childhood as well as the wider relationship between research, creative practice and knowledge.