JoeyPinkney.com Exclusive Interview
5 Minutes, 5 Questions With…
Karen E.Dabney, author of The Magic Pencil
(Dabs and Company)
The Magic Pencil is about two extraordinary young people who become fast friends. One of them is Malcolm, the narrator. The recounts the events that took place four years ago to his older brother and a friend. He tells the story as if he is back in time.
Exciting and fantastic events occur, seeming to do with his new friend, Nia, and a scruffy, used pencil. Nia challenges Malc in many ways, and he discovers new abilities and sides to himself. We join him in his quest to find the truth to the power of the pencil.
And, like him, we just may learn a lot about ourselves.
Joey Pinkney: Where did you get the inspiration to write The Magic Pencil?
Karen E.Dabney: I was inspired to write The Magic Pencil while teaching children and noticing how important pencils were to them. I reflected on howthey were and are still important to me.
I thought about my adventures in school and began to write the first chapter of the book. I had the title, and knew I wanted the main character to be a boy telling the story. I got busy with other things and didn’t think of the book until years later when I was accepted to a writing seminar and needed a work-in-progress for my class.
I somehow found the chapter and felt it was good enough to use. After the instructor read it, he was so impressed he told me I was going to make a million dollars! That certainly spurred me on!
JP: What sets The Magic Pencil apart from other books in the same genre?
KED: What sets my book apart from other books in the same genre is the main character uses non-standard English while telling the story even though he’s mastered standard English, as well. He explains he can switch up easily depending on the situation. Through the character, I am telling children that there is nothing wrong with the way they prefer to speak.
But I am also giving them reasons to be able to effectively communicate within the dominant culture, and doing so does not mean they are “acting white”. I have yet to find another children’s book explaining the fact that many black people “code-switch” and that it is a skill.
Malcolm also tells the fact that blacks aren’t the only ones who do so. He even gives examples of white people doing it and how they co-opt black language. People all over the world have their own ways of switching but for some reasons blacks are deemed to be dumb if they are not using standard English.
JP: As an author, what are the keys to your success that led to The Magic Pencil getting out to the public?
KED: Well, I have been doing 99% of the work. Of course, I have a website and belong to many social networks. I placed my book in stores, have advertised it through well-known venues electronically and physically, including radio and TV. I have sold and donated books to organizations and do a lot of “vendoring”.
I do author’s visits and carry books, flyers and business cards to disperse wherever I go. My book is available in many organizations and schools in Michigan as well as some libraries around the country.
The Magic Pencil is also available throughout the world because of my affiliations with Amazon and others. I am aware of people who have my book in Australia, Germany, Jamaica, Suriname and Africa. It really helps that the books cover is beautiful and enticing. I have folk frequently tell me they remember having seen it somewhere.
JP: As an author, what is your writing process? How long did it take you to start and finish The Magic Pencil?
KED: I don’t think of my writing as a process. Unless it is something technical, I tend to do a lot of it in my head. Once I begin to put words on paper, it’s usually marathon time! I find my zone and can stay in it as long as I feel I’m producing quality work.
I don’t worry much about where my characters lead me. I can always clean up the journeys later. As I write, I am able to keep my characters in my head. I may make a list of who’s who as I go but it usually stays in my head. There are 66 characters in The Magic Pencil.All have different viewpoints and speak or behave differently in differing circumstances!
As far as how long it took me to write the book – years! I didn’t think anyone else would be able to keep the same “flavor” in how my characters speak, I wanted to do the editing myself. I realize now that was my ego taking over. If I can help others by adapting their “voice”, surely someone can understand what I am trying to do.
JP: What’s next for Karen E.Dabney?
KED: Well,I continue to scribble ideas on pieces of paper and save them. They are usually fodder for poems. I want to re-issue a poetry book I did years ago called Necessary Roughness. I have a children’s book that adults will find amusing also. It’s called Unhappiness Is, and I came up with that one when I was 14! There again, ego.
I am also a visual artist, and I want to do the illustrations for the book. But it seems writing has taken charge of my creativity for some time. I do book reviews (slowly), “first edits” – that’s helping the writer getting the major kinks out of their work as I don’t wish to be the editor with the final say, and am attempting to make The Magic Pencil a play.
I’m also expecting that million dollars any day now!
http://facebook.com/ search The Magic Pencil
Yes. I want to help increase literacy on all levels. However, I wrote The Magic Pencil to attract those uninspired readers and show them the joy of reading. TMP is geared toward our youth to help them see themselves in literature and to overcome some of life’s hurdles. I want them to know that someone understands what they are going through. The book is designed with boys in mind, but there is plenty to keep the girls interested, also. I think the story is a classic.
Promote Literacy! Keep a Mind Lit!