Interview with Author
I was so honored to be able to sit down with such an accomplished Author today! Dan Elish is a legend! With over 12 books out, tons of awards, musicals, and television shows under his belt, there isn't much Dan hasn't had his hand in. Today we'll mostly discuss THE WORLDWIDE DESSERT CONTEST but I couldn't resist sharing all of his other wonderful works for kids!
About THE SCHOOL FOR THE INSANELY GIFTED....
Daphna Whispers is insanely gifted.
At age two and a half, she composed her first sonata.
At age eight, she completed an opera.
And now, at eleven and three-quarters, she is orchestrating a piano rhapsody.
With a résumé like that, it's no wonder she is a student at the prestigious Blatt School for the Insanely Gifted. But as sixth grade draws to a close, Daphna's mind is far from the upcoming "Insanity Cup" competition. She's preoccupied by her mother's disappearance two months ago.
When a mysterious man breaks into Daphna's small New York apartment, Daphna discovers that her mother's disappearance wasn't a random accident. Her mother knew something—and now somebody is after Daphna. What starts out as a simple fact-finding trip to the basement with her friends spirals into an international expedition. And while Daphna hopes to uncover the secret of her mother's disappearance on her global trek, the last thing she expects to uncover is an outrageous secret about the Blatt School.
And one insanely shocking secret about herself.
About THE WORLDWIDE DESSERT CONTEST....
For eleven years in a row, John Applefeller has entered his highly original apple desserts in The Worldwide Dessert Contest. And every year he’s watched his delectable treats turn into disasters while the evil Sylvester Sweet wins first prize. But this year, when John’s greatest creation, the world’s largest pancake, flops, he and his sidekicks decide to seek help from the king of dessert chefs, the magical Captain B. Rollie Ragoon.
And now on to DAN ELISH, the mastermind behind the books...
Dan Elish is the author of the novel Nine Wives (St. Martins Press, 2005) and The Misadventures of Justin Hearnfeld (2008), both published by St. Martins Press. Dan is also the author of Born Too Short, Confessions of an 8th Grade Basket Case, which was picked as a Book for the Teenage 2003 by the New York Public Library and won a 2004 International Reading Association Students' Choice Award. He has also written several other novels for young adults including, The School for the Insanely Gifted, The Attack of the Frozen Woodchucks, 13, The Worldwide Dessert Contest, Jason and the Baseball Bear, and The Great Squirrel Uprising. "13," the musical for which he co-wrote the book with music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown ran on Broadway from September 16, 2008 through January 4, 2009. In his career, Dan has also written non-fiction books for young adults, scripts for kids' TV shows (in particular Cyberchase (PBS)), music and lyrics for six musicals, funny corporate videos, and played piano for various Off-Broadway productions. He has received fellowships and scholarships to the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, the Sewanee Writers' Conference, and is a member of the Dramatist Guild. Dan lives in New York City with his wife, daughter and son. Dan is represented by literary agent Matt Bialer at Sanford J. Greenburger Associates.
DAN, THANKS FOR JOINING THE BLONDE BOOKIE BLOG, LET'S JUMP RIGHT IN...
HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE IDEA AND TITLE FOR YOUR BOOK?
I was first inspired to write a kids’ novel after re-reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I think it was that book’s brilliant usage of chocolate that made me think of a dessert contest. The plot took a long time to evolve though. My main character was always John Applefeller but in the first drafts he was an aggressive businessman who was trying to make money from apple pies. Gradually, through various drafts, Applefeller became a much kinder soul whose main goal is to win the annual Worldwide Dessert Contest. Once I got that idea, the title seemed obvious!
HERE'S MORE ON DAN'S WRITING PROCESS...HILARIOUS!
CAN I JUST SAY THAT THE PICTURES OF YOUR FIRST DRAFT BROUGHT BACK MEMORIES FOR ME. I LITERALLY HAVE THE SAME PAPERS--YELLOW AND LITTERED WITH CORRECTIONS AND PROBABLY TEARS.
I LOVE THE TITLE AS WELL AS THE INSPIRATION BEHIND THIS BOOK. DO YOU SHARE THE SAME SWEET TOOTH AS JOHN APPLEFELLER?
Actually, I don’t bake that much but I do like dessert. My favorite is mocha chip ice cream. I’m sort of obsessed with it and, upon request, I can tell you about my favorite brands of any coffee or javachip flavor currently on sale in New York City.
WE DEFINITELY NEED TO CHAT AFTER ABOUT THAT. DID YOU DO ANYTHING INTERESTING OR FUN IN REGARDS TO RESEARCH FOR THE BOOK?
To be honest, not really. Mostly, it was a lot of imagination and a lot of rewriting. But one of my favorite parts of the book is our hero’s search for Captain B. Rollie Ragoon, a magical apple pie chef. It turns out that the Ragoon (as he is called) lives in Iambia, an island where everyone speaks in rhymes. I had fun writing those sections and my research had to do with re-reading my favorite Dr. Seuss books and investing in a rhyming dictionary.
WHAT CAN WE EXPECT TO SEE NEXT FROM YOU?
My most recent book is The School for the Insanely Gifted, a funny and suspenseful story about a school of outrageously gifted kids at a special school in New York. I’m currently working on another kids’ novel that I hope to complete soon. I also write musicals. I co-wrote the script for the musical “13” and another show of mine, Mann…and Wife, recently premiered in Oklahoma City at the Lyric Theater.
CHECK OUT DAN'S VIDEO INTRODUCING THE SCHOOL FOR THE INSANELY GIFTED. LOOOOOOOVE THIS!!!
DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN ANY OF YOUR CHARACTERS?
I see myself in John Applefeller. Actually, I think everyone has a bit of John Applefeller in him or her. Applefeller is a sweet guy who feels like a bit of a failure and desperately wants to prove himself and be a success in his chosen field. Who hasn’t felt like that sometimes?
WHEN AND HOW DID YOU MAKE THE TRANSITION TO A WRITER?
I made the slow transition during college. I didn’t write fiction and had no interest, but I did write musicals that were performed at school. That got me started.
WELL, I'M GLAD YOU MADE THE SHIFT TO FICTION. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS YOUR GREATEST WRITING ACHIEVEMENT?
My personal favorite is this book: The Worldwide Dessert Contest. It’s perfectly zany, funny, and sweet. Also, it’s the first thing I ever published which makes it special to me. Also, I will say that The Worldwide Dessert Contest is the book of mine that has always gotten the best response when I read at schools. Kids seem to love it and I am quite grateful for that.
WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO PUBLISH THE WAY YOU DID? HAVE YOU HAD ANY HELP MARKETING THE BOOK?
The book came out initially in 1988, published by Orchard Books. The editor was Richard Jackson who was a huge name in publishing back then. (Over 20 Newbery Honors in his career). So it was a real thrill to work with him. Since I love the book, I just re-released a new version with the original cover and art myself.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR OTHER CREATIVE OUTLETS?
My main other creative outlet is piano. I play a fair amount, both classical (I love Chopin) and jazz and standards.
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?
Right now I’m working on a play that’s based on a YA novel of mine called Born Too Short.
I'LL HAVE TO WATCH OUT FOR THAT. NOW, I ALWAYS ASK THIS QUESTION. DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE PLACE TO WRITE?
OTHER THAN WRITING, IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU ENJOY IN YOUR SPARE TIME?
Playing piano, reading, hanging with my wife and kids, playing softball.
DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS?
If you love it, stick with it. There will be ups and downs. Keep your confidence up during the “downs” and keep working – the ups will come! Above all, keep working.
ABSOLUTELY! ALRIGHT, NOW ON TO....
DAN'S “BLONDE” BASICS:
FAVORITE FOOD? Mocha Chip ice cream (dessert). Chicken Tikka Masala (dinner)
FAVORITE MOVIE? Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
FAVORITE BOOK? Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or The Great Gatsby
FAVORITE SUPERHERO? Batman
FAVORITE AUTHOR? Hard to say – there are so many I like!
AS I SAID EARLIER I JUST HAD TO INCLUDE SOME OF DAN'S OTHER GREAT BOOKS FOR KIDS....
THANKS DAN! SO GLAD YOU STOPPED IN. I LOVE ALL YOU DO FOR KIDS AND GETTING THEM TO READ.
AND NOW HERE'S WHERE YOU CAN FIND DAN AND ALL OF HIS WORKS.....
Worldwide-Dessert-Contest-Dan- Elish/dp/1514429314/ref=sr_1_ 1?ie=UTF8&qid=1458426287&sr=8- 1&keywords=dan+elish
Here are excerpts from the reviews of The Worldwide Dessert Contest:From Booklist (starred review)
John Applefeller loves desserts. He especially loves apple desserts and his dream is to win the prestigious Worldwide Dessert Contest held each year in his very own town of Appleton. Not only does Applefeller never win, he always comes in last, because his desserts have the disconcerting habit of turning into other things. The perennial winner of the contest is Sylvester Sweet, the self-proclaimed King of Dessert, Captain of Consumption, and Duke of Decidedly Delicious, but who is, in fact, a bounder using a stolen recipe for his every-year entry, a double-chocolate-fudge-
raspberry-coconut-lime swirl. Applefeller and his able assistant, a fifth grader named Stanley, are becoming decidedly discouraged, until they hear about a genius chef who might be able to help. The addition of Captain B. Rollie Ragoon to their team leads to some new recipes and recognition, as well as to the downfall of the sniveling Sweet. The plot goes down as easily as ice cream and is topped with plenty of laughs, both subtle and broad. Certainly its silliness makes for a pithy read-aloud and a booktalker's dream. Call this delicious.
From Publisher’s Weekly:
A little dash of Charlie and Chocolate Factory with a dash of Homer Price's donut maker, this novel pays homage to the longstanding rapport between children and sweets…Elish writes with a sure hand of this sugary world, his tongue squarely in the area of his sweet tooth. For his ability to praise desserts in an endlessly original fashion, he deserves a blue ribbon.