Saturday, April 5, 2008

Marketing Part III—Finding the Magic

When I was in eighth grade, my family moved from Pleasant Hill, CA to New Providence, New Jersey. I soon met another boy my age who lived just down the street. He was seriously into rock and roll, and introduced me to a lot of the groups I came to love. He also taught me the basics of playing the bass guitar. One day I asked him what kinds of books he liked to read.

I have to stop here for a minute to point out how important books have been in my life. Some kids played sports, some played musical instruments. Some kids spent all their time watching TV, or in generations after mine, playing computer or video games. Some kids spent all their time at the movie theater. I spent not all my time, but a great deal of it, with books. I actually used to cut school to go to the library. (Not suggesting that at all Brian and Anna!) The point is, I grew up surrounding myself with all the books I could get my hands on. That’s why I was beyond shocked when my friend told me he didn’t read books. Not that he couldn’t read them—he was fully capable of reading—he just didn’t like to.

That very day, I gave him a copy of S.E. Hinton’s classic novel of rival gangs, “The Outsiders.” I remember coming to his house a few days later. The first words out of his mouth were, “I had no idea anyone wrote books like this.” Within the month, he’d read every Hinton book published at the time and was looking for other books to read as well. I don’t know if reading those books changed his life or not. We moved a few years later. But I do know the statistics about kids who read vs. kids who don’t, and let me tell you they are astounding. Do a little research on the effects of literacy and you’ll be amazed.

Here I am, thirty plus years later, with the incredible opportunity of making a full time living writing the very kinds of books I loved to read as a kid (and still do for that matter.) It seems to me, I have not only the opportunity to share the—I was going to say importance, but that’s the wrong word. To share the love of reading with kids who think the only thing that can hold their attention comes on a screen or a monitor.

Fortunately, my publisher feels the same way. When my book comes out, they will send me on a two week tour of schools all across the country. In addition, they will send me to even more schools throughout the course of the year. Every one of their YA fantasy authors has the opportunity to do this. In addition, each of the authors brings a unique message all their own. James Dashner calls his tour the “Change the World Tour.” Brandon Mull’s tour focuses on using your imagination. I’m planning on calling my tour the—and this shouldn’t surprise anyone here—“Find Your Magic Tour.”

My publisher will probably shoot me for this, but I’m going to post a small section of my book. Since I haven’t received my final edits yet, this could change. But I’ll take my chances. I want you to understand a little of why I call this blog, the Find Your Magic blog and why my tour will focus on the same thing. Here’s a little snippet from Farworld—Water.

Master Therapass glanced suspiciously up at Riph Raph, and the skyte quickly averted its big yellow eyes. “Come, little one, and sit.” The wizard pointed a finger at Kyja’s chair and she reluctantly took a seat.

The old man stroked his long gray beard, his face crinkled in thought. “Kyja,” he said softly. “A horse may wish to fly. And it may briefly be able to launch itself into the air. But shortly it must return to land again. A duck may wish to carry a melody like a song bird. A goat may wish to swim beneath the waters. But ultimately, every animal, plant, even the rock in the field, must accept what it is, and in doing so, fulfill the measure of its creation.”

Kyja could feel her lips trembling as her eyes began to fill with tears. “You’re saying I should quit trying? Just give up?”

“Is casting spells really so important?” he asked, his deep brown eyes mirroring the pain in her glistening green ones.

“Yes!” Kyja cried leaping from her chair. “Everyone has some magic. Cooks, farmers, blacksmiths. Babies turn their rattles into sweets. Mothers command scrub brushes to wash their children. Even plants and animals have magic.”

“Everyone but you.”

“Exactly!” Kyja began pacing about the room. “I’m an outcast. It’s not bad enough I can’t do magic. But I can’t even take part in the magic the other kids do. Charms don’t work on me, spells bounce off, potions might as well be water for all the good they do me. I can’t play in any of their games.”

Master Therapass traced his boney fingers across the surface of the table. “Don’t you see, little one? The very fact that magic does not affect you makes you special.”

“Not special—strange.” Kyja said, unable to stop the tears from dripping down her cheeks. “Do you have any idea how I feel when the other kids make fun because I can’t do spells? They laugh behind my back and call me halfwit. They say I have to live in a barn because I’m as dumb as a cow. I don’t want to be different. I want to fit in.”

She waved her hand up at Riph Raph. “Even he has . . .” Sudden understanding dawned on her as she stared up at the little skyte. “It was you, wasn’t it? You were the one who made my hairclip move.”

Riph Raph tucked his head under his wing in shame. “I’m sorry,” he said, his voice muffled. “I just wanted to help. I was watching you try so hard. And I was concentrating with you. And suddenly . . .”

“Ohhhh,” Kyja cried. She dropped into her chair, burying her face in her arms. “I’ll never be able to do magic. Never!”

“There, there.” The old wizard hobbled around the table and laid his hand gently upon the back of Kyja’s head. When her sobs changed to sniffles, he took her chin in his knobby fingers and raised it so she was looking into his eyes.

“Listen to me,” he said, his face dark and serious. “You are right. Everything does have magic in it. From the smallest insect to the mighty trees of Before Time.”

Kyja looked up at him miserably. “But not me.”

Master Therapass smiled. “Even you, little one. But magic is not just spells. The magic you see on the outside—making pots and pans fly or brewing potions to make boys swoon before you—is but a tiny fraction of the power of true magic. The real power of magic lies within you. Who you are, what you do, and most importantly of all, what you may become.”

Kyja wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. “You really think I might have some magic inside me then?”

The wizard nodded. “I know it.”

There you have it. The first public posting of any content from Book 1. If you see Lisa or Chris, we’ll just keep this quiet. But hopefully this will give you a small taste of a theme that seems to keep coming back in the book, and I’m sure in the series, although I didn’t intend that when I started writing. Every one of us has magic inside. I know that sounds corny, but I believe it wholeheartedly.

I can’t sing if my life depends on it, but when I listen to someone with a beautiful voice sing, it feels like I’m witnessing magic. When you see a painting that seems so incredible you can’t believe anyone made it with their own hands, tell me a part of you deep inside doesn’t believe some kind of magic had to be involved. Those are big examples, but little acts of magic happen around us all the time. One little kid cheering another kid up. A girl discovering she can play the flute. A boy discovering he stinks at kickball but is good in drama.

That’s the message I want to take to kids all across the US, and hopefully across the world. Every one of you has magic inside. All you have to do is start looking for it and eventually you’ll find it.

Of course this is still marketing. I’ll be selling books along the way. That’s what pays for the tour. But in way, that’s a kind of magic too. Because people buying books provide enough money that I can go to even more schools and spread the message to more kids. All of you have magic inside you and what better way to discover what it might be than reading books about different people in far away places.

I’m sure there must be a better job than writing books and telling kids how great they are, but if there is, I can’t imagine what it would be.


Anonymous said...

After this post, I really am your biggest fan! Your sentiments about books and magic really are beautiful. I really can't wait to get my hands on this book!

Brian said...

Awesome! That little nibble of Farworld made me want to gobble up the rest. I can't wait for the book and tour. When you get the full schedule for the tour, make sure to tell us!

Also, you were talking about reading in childhood. I was wondering, when you were in middle school, did you ever take a reading elective, or a special writing class? I'm wondering whether I should take one next year. I don't particularly want to though. The class gives a lot of homework and there are other classes I was wanting to take.

Brian said...

Oops! I meant to say writing elective. Sorry!!!

DesLily said...

You have a great dream... it's good that some people still dream dreams such as yours.

ps. I sent you an email

Melinda said...

I agree with Brian. I can't wait to gobble your book up. Seriously.

What an awesome message. My kids would love it. We just watched Harry Potter -the first movie- and my youngest (age five) sighed and said, "I want to be magic."

Pretty cool.

J Scott Savage said...


Glad ou liked it. Tell Bus Driver Fred we'll have to do another interview soon.


Can't tell you how good that makes me feel. It's always a little nerve wracking sending your baby out to the public. At your age, I'd recommend you take the classes that interest you most. Don't worry about how much homework you'll get worry about what sounds interesting. It's like going to a great buffet and trying different foods. Honestly, you can learn writing any time, but you need to learn other things to have something to write about.


Thanks for the e-mail and especially thanks for the pic. Turns out Deslily and I went to the same high school. And she sent me a picture of the library I used to cut school to go to. Way cool!


Thanks so much! I'm really going to have fun at the schools I think. I'm going to combine a little of what kids think of as magic with teaching them the power of the real magic inside them.

Julie Wright said...

Ah Mr Savage . . . what a beautiful post. Magic indeed. I cannot wait for your tours to begin so you can start spreading it around.

Candace E. Salima said...

Jeff, you seriously rock! I can't wait to read your new book.

Alvin and I will have to get together with you guys after the transplant. Things are just crazy right now. Crazier than I thought they would be. But if you've got time, say on the 25th or 26th of this month, we might be able to make it. Alvin is only going to be in the 5 to 7 days. I want him to have another week of just hanging around the house taking it easy, so he'll be ready to socialize by the 25th or 26th. Let us know.

ms-teacher said...

I am so going to love this book. I can already tell. Thank you so much for sharing that brief part of the story. Will your tour make it to the SF Bay Area in Northern California?

Anonymous said...

i like the book and thanks for going to my school last year!