AUBURN — “Keep writing.”
That was the advice author Charles Noland recently gave students at Ss. Peter and Paul School in Auburn. He visited the school May 1 to read some of his books to the children and talk to them about writing and creative expression.
“Writing is a form of being creative, and when you’re putting it out there for people to read, you’re sharing a little bit of your creativity. I would encourage all of you to continue to write or pursue other ways of expressing yourself creatively,” Noland told the students.
Noland, who attends Mass at St. John of Rochester Parish in Fairport, has thus far written three books in his series, The Adventures of Drew and Ellie, and a fourth book is due out next fall. The books chronicle the adventures of 4-year-old Ellie and her 7-year-old brother, Drew, who happen upon a magical dress in a bag of hand-me-down clothes in the first book, aptly titled The Magical Dress.
After discovering that her wishes will be granted if she closes her eyes and rubs the dress while wishing, Ellie magically transports the siblings to their favorite summer-vacation spot. The beach is closed for the season, but that doesn’t keep Drew and Ellie from an enjoyable afternoon of splashing in the water and playing on the sand.
Ellie soon encounters a magical glitch when she wishes for ice cream, and the siblings start to fear they won’t be able to wish themselves back home. Working together and recalling their mother’s frequent advice to “use your problem-solving skills,” they try to find a way to make the dress work again so it will transport them back home.
Throughout their adventures in the series, Drew and Ellie stick together, support each other, cooperate to solve problems, thank each other for their support, and even share an occasional hug. It was this focus on Christian values that attracted Sister Kathleen Hutski, SSMI, principal, to the series and encouraged her to invite Noland to speak to her students, she said.
Ss. Peter and Paul is the ninth Catholic school Noland said he has visited. At each school, he reads from his books, answers students’ questions, encourages them to be creative and sells his books. Since he publishes the books through his own publishing company, TMD Enterprises, Noland is then able to donate a portion of the sales proceeds back to the school, he said.
After reading to the students at Ss. Peter and Paul, Noland asked them if they had any questions. One child asked if he’d ever thought about making his books into movies — which he had — and another asked if he’d thought about making them into video games, which he had not. Another student then asked if he liked writing books and asked about his favorite part of being an author.
“I do like writing books. I get to create and I get to make it up, which is really fun,” Noland answered. “The best part about writing a book is when I get to come and share the story with kids like you. Sometimes I get ideas from doing that.”
The students also wondered how long it had taken Noland to write the book and have it published. Nolan told them he’d written each book in a matter of weeks, but that the editing process had taken a bit longer.
“Let me tell you a little bit about how you go about the process of writing. When I got the idea and I wrote my manuscript, I sent it to a person who is called an editor. She did something kind of like your teacher does when she corrects your homework,” Noland explained.
Noland said his editor read his manuscript, suggested some changes and corrections, and then sent it back to him. He read her suggestions, made changes to the manuscript and then sent it back for her to read again. The editing process took about two months for the first book, and about one month for the second book, he said.
“As you write, it gets a little bit easier. I still have to send it off to an editor, because that’s what an editor does is correct things,” Noland said.
The questions kept on coming, and several students wondered whether Noland read many books as a child and if he’d written any when he was a young boy.
“I loved to read books when I was a kid. As a matter of fact, I could read books all day long,” he said. “I didn’t write any books, but I wrote some stories. The best part is my mother kept them, so I can go back and read them. They’re not the same as the ones I write now, but they are interesting.”
The notion of becoming a children’s author had been in the back of his mind for quite a while, noted Noland, who is one of six children and now has 21 nieces and nephews. Sometimes while reading books to his nieces and nephews, he would think, “You know, I could write something like this, or even better than this,” he told the Catholic Courier.
Noland began writing his first book about four years ago, after spending time watching a friend’s two children chase each other on the playground one Sunday after church.
“Unknowingly I had found the characters for the story,” he recalled.
After writing the story, Noland approached Sherri Baker, a Rochester artist, to see if she’d been willing to illustrate his story, and was surprised to learn she’d always dreamed of illustrating children’s books. Things seemed to fall into place, and four years later, Noland is now the author of a successful children’s series.
“All along the way I had been guided and inspired,” he said.