ELKO — Author Bruce Hale read two of his books to children at Elko County Library, and also demonstrated that cartooning is fun, easy, and only requires mastery of a few basic shapes.
Children helped him draw three cartoon faces, then Hale demonstrated his secrets for drawing Clark the Shark from his books.
“I have fifty books published, with six more on the way,” Hale said Monday night. “And I have some so bad they’ll never get published, from when I first started learning how to write.”
Age groups for Hale’s books range from “I Can Read” picture books to his “School for Spies” series geared toward seventh and eighth grade readers.
Hale said he worked at several different jobs, from gardener to managing editor at a financial magazine, before deciding it was time to write his own book, “But I couldn’t think what to write about.”
While driving on the freeway in Hawaii, Hale noticed a gecko sticking onto his hood through every curve. “I thought, ‘This guy is Super Gecko,’ and then I thought, ‘What a great character!’”
This inspiration turned into Hale’s first children’s book, “The Legend of the Laughing Gecko,” which he self-published in 1989.
“I got lucky with self-publishing,” Hale said, “because my book had a built-in market in Hawaii; locals and tourists wanted it.”
“I kept sending out stories, and kept collecting rejection letters for eight-and-a-half years,” Hale said. “It’s really a numbers game. Sometimes less-talented people get published just because they don’t give up.”
Hale told the children he grew up thinking books were boring, until his family’s television set died. His parents started reading books to him, and “Tarzan of the Apes” changed his life.
“I thought, ‘If this is what books are like, then I like books’,” Hale said, adding he decided then to make his own book, “The Two Brothers in Monstertown.”
Hale showed his first juvenile manuscript to the children, with crayon drawings and without words, and compared it to his professionally published works.
“If I went from books like this to books like these, then you can do anything, too,” Hale said to the children. “The world needs your stories.”
Hale offered advice for Elko’s aspiring writers: “The two things I can suggest are read, read, read; and write, write, write. Writing is something you don’t really understand until you do a lot of it.”
“That’s how you develop your own voice,” Hale said. “You can study it, but the best way is to read a lot, ingest books, absorb other story styles. I’ve found no shortcuts.”
Hale said his early exposure to Edgar Rice Burroughs shaped him as a writer. “I read all of his Tarzan books, “John Carter of Mars,” “Pellucidar”; such great adventures for a little kid.”
Hale compared Tarzan to the adventure stories of Jack London, who wrote for newspapers in his early career.
“Mark Twain, as well, started as a newspaper writer,” Hale said. “All that training is really useful; it hones your writing chops.”
Hale was visiting a dozen schools around Elko this week as part of Nevada Reading Week, before going to Reno as keynote speaker for the Nevada Reading Week Conference.
Hale’s 50 children’s books can be found at BruceHale.com.