The Universe of Fair
Please welcome our guest, author Leslie Bulion whose new book, The Universe of Fair, is starting a virtual tour this week. Follow Leslie as she makes her way around various book sites. Her publisher, Peachtree, has the schedule of events HERE!
A review of The Universe of Fair, will be available after midnight tonight. Catch it HERE!
Welcome Leslie. Would you gives us a quick synopsis of The Universe of Fair?
Eleven-and-a-half year-old science whiz Miller Sanford hopes to convince his parents that he’s responsible enough and careful enough to attend his town’s huge agricultural fair without their constant supervision. Events conspire against him and he has a series of Fair misadventures involving a string of pesky six-year-olds, a gaggle of ghost sisters, flying death heads, and a prize-worthy lemon meringue pie.
I am curious. I read you have a degree in social work and the mother in the story is a social worker. Did you base her on yourself?
My (adult) daughters will readily tell you that I was—shall we say—a tad overprotective. Something of a worrier. With the character of Miller’s mother, I am poking fun at myself for my daughters’ amusement. I was a medical social worker and then an elementary school social worker before I quit my day job to write, but I never worked in a capacity similar to Dana Sanford’s. I formerly worked on this rehab in South Floridaand we accommodate all clients’ needs by providing individualized treatment. Their philosophy is centered on healing each person as a whole, providing compassionate treatment for the mind, body and spirit. The center offers a variety of programs and specialized therapy options, including inpatient and intensive outpatient treatment, gender-specific care and yoga therapy.
Miller, the main character, is in sixth grade and has made an entry for the fair he titles The Theory of Everything. Can you explain the main construct of The Theory of Everything—in non-scientist language?
I must caution you that I don’t understand any of this as well as Miller does. With that disclaimer, and very briefly: physicists working on The Theory of Everything expect to eventually explain everything we understand and observe in the universe using one set of unifying principles. They postulate that all matter particles and all forces (like gravity and electromagnetism) in the universe are formed from the same basic building block: teeny, loopy strings—this is string theory.
For string theory to explain Everything, the strings have to wiggle in space in extra dimensions—dimensions beyond the three we normally see and understand, which are height, width, depth plus our fourth dimension, time. The additional seven spacial dimensions can only be understood through brain-straining, complicated math, although Brian Greene, in his book, his most succinctly in his TED talk explains these tiny, curled-up dimension concepts so matter-of-factly that even I come away thinking I get it. The CERN Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland is running experiments that scientists hope will provide measurable evidence for the existence of these extra dimensions and validate The Theory of Everything.
Wow! Let’s talk about your book. Miller’s six-year-old sister Penny and her two close friends make up an odd trio. Andrew is intelligent and talks a lot; Penny loves to be the boss and is the obvious leader; and then there is Lou-Ann. Lou-Ann, who likes to wander off, does not say a word, verbally. I do not recall anything explaining this, so can you tell us why Lou-Ann does not speak?
I think Lou-Ann speaks, but she is very shy in front of Miller. Very young children can have all kinds of quirky behaviors, which I love. When I was revising the book I noticed that the characters in this book certainly are not lacking in the quirk department.
This year, Miller desperately wants attend the fair with friends, not family. Where did this idea originate?
This exact scenario is the rite of passage for children who grow up in our town. Until they reach some magic age—usually ten, or eleven, our kids can’t imagine wanting to be without their parents. Check out The UniverTZse of Fair book trailerand you’ll see what I mean. But seemingly overnight, our kids’ peers become primary, and they want freewheeling freedom at the Fair. As parents, our own rite of passage is learning we’ll survive our children’s hard-won independence.
Why are you a children’s book author? Do you still work in social work and oceanography?
I’ve traveled a circuitous, happenstance path to writing children’s books. I’ve always loved science but have deep roots in social work. When I was seven my parents worked at University Settlement Camp, which belonged to a settlement house on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. The camp staff was filled with social workers and it’s philosophy steeped in the civil rights movement. Pete Seeger lived a mile away and came to sing with us regularly. I returned for years as a camper, then as the Farm and Nature counselor.
After studying the interface between science and society in college, then oceanography in grad school, I realized I was spending all of my discretionary time working with people. I went back to school to become a social worker. Years later, I started writing when a friend who was an editor suggested, basically out of the blue, that I should try writing for her at Parents Magazine. I loved it. I left social work to write. That same friend suggested an anecdote I’d shared with her would make a good children’s story. Now I write for kids and include a healthy dose of science. Full circle.
What did you do to prepare for a career in writing?
Before I had any notion of becoming a writer, I took one creative writing class in college that was discouraging. Much later, I took a summer creative writing class for adults that inspired and encouraged me. When I started trying to write children’s books as a 40-something year old, I went to SCBWI conferences, read books about writing, joined a critique group, and read shelves and shelves full of current children’s books. I still do all of those things.
Please describe your favorite writing space and your usual writing space (if not the same).
I write two places in my house: at my desk in an office/guest room, and on a laptop in my favorite rocking chair in my family room. Where I am at any given moment depends on the project, season and time of day. I tend to do more business-y things at the desk, and often work there when I’m in editing mode. Creating new work seems to happen more in the old rocker.
Would you describe a typical day in the life of children’s author Leslie Bulion?
How about my ideal writing day? I get up early, go for a walk with my dog and a friend, or a run, then eat breakfast, glance at the paper and check email. I settle in to write on my work in progress by 9 and write until my stomach growls for lunch. Back to writing after that until I look up and realize my husband will be home soon and it’s almost dinnertime. This wonderful kind of day happens when I have long stretches of uninterrupted work days and am in the middle of a project.
But I have many other kinds of days, too. School visit days, meeting days, family days, research days, and days with other kinds of responsibilities. Life intervenes.
What’s next for Leslie Bulion?
My third science poetry book is in the works, and will be coming out in roughly a year. It’s called: Random Body Parts: Gross Anatomy Riddles in Verse, which is my favorite title of any book I’ve written so far. What could be better than the word “gross” in a title? In addition to the riddle aspect of these poems, there’s another little surprise tucked into each. Stay tuned.
Any final thoughts you would like to share.
When I was writing The Universe Of Fair I hoped it would be funny, and also an interesting and ultimately satisfying story. But this story is also very personal since it’s about something that has been central to my family’s life for so many years. I am excited to share it, and I hope readers will enjoy coming to the Fair with me. I’d love to hear from them!
Leslie, thank you for stopping by Kid Lit Reviews. I hope you enjoy the rest of the week traveling around the Internet.
The Universe of Fair Leslie Bulion Frank W. Dormer Peachtree Publishing 978-1-56145-634-5 No. Pages: 264 Ages: 8-12 ................................. ...............
If you would like to learn more about Leslie, her new book The Universe of Fair, watch some videos, or check out the illustrator, Frank W. Dormer, follow these links.
Leslie’s website: http://www.lesliebulion.com/
Leslie’s blog: http://www.lesliebulion.com/blog.htm
Frank’s website: http://frankwdormer.com/
Frank’s Blog: http://frankwdormer.blogspot.com/
Peachtree Blog: http://peachtreepub.blogspot.com/
A review of The Universe of Fair can be seen after midnight HERE!