My first Pen Pal Post is going to be about Sigmund Brouwer. These posts are in no particular order, except for the way I'm able to get the interviews ready to post.
Sigmund Brouwer is a well-known author of more than one hundred books, spanning a variety of genres: children's picture and chapter books, adult scientific thrillers, and more. He's a native of Red Deer, Alberta, Canada, is married to Christian singer, Cindy Morgan and they have two daughters. He and his family divide their time between Nashville, Tennessee and Red Deer, AB. Brouwer visits schools and speaks about writing; his favourite cause is motivating reluctant-readers. He likes to tell people he had the worst grade in his English class, and that it took him ten years to get his first book published.
I first met Sigmund when he was a presenter at our 2012 International Conference of Hutterite Educators. Two years later we had him as a guest speaker at an 'I Love to Read' event at our school. Gathered to hear this entertaining author/speaker were Grades 1-12 students, parents and teachers from 10 colonies. Sigmund had 150 students spellbound for more than two hours, many of them at the elementary level!
When my book, Hutterite Diaries was published last May, Sigmund, kindly wrote this heartwarming endorsement:
“I so much enjoyed the chance to step into the Hutterite community and feel a part of it. Linda Maendel’s delightful use of the power of story makes Hutterite Diaries the type of book that is universal and enduring.”
My family hosted Sigmund, along with his wife, Cindy and his two daughters a few years ago. They enjoyed touring our colony, especially seeing the animals. Needless to say, we also spent a lot of time talking about his books and his wife's music. They are interesting people to visit with! And I'm delighted that he agreed to part of my Pen Pal Posts series!
How long have you been a writer and how did you get into it, Sigmund?
My first book was published when I was 30. I got into it by sending stories to magazines. It took seven years to get my first story published, and three years more for my first book, for children. I think that writing is not about talent, but desire and practice. It’s now been over twenty-five years since that first book appeared in print.
You make a good point that writing is more about desire and practice, than talent. So, how many books have you written? Genre? Audience?
I set myself a goal of five pages a day, and that adds up. I finish about four children’s books in a year, and one novel for adults. Altogether, it’s closing in one hundred published books, with 25 of them novels for grownups.
Wow! And interestingly enough, ten years till the first book was published and twenty years later, it's more than 100 books! Perseverance pays off! What is your main purpose for writing children’s books?
I really focus on trying to write books that will grab reluctant readers, so that means a high interest level combined with a lower vocabulary. I’ve been having a lot of fun this year with virtual school visits, where I get to hangout with classrooms via skype and google. I record the visits and turn it into a fun movie for the students. Also, I’ve become a writer in residence for schools in the same way, and it lets me get all across the country without the need to fly anywhere.
And every school has reluctant readers. We have some of your books in our library and I know that struggling readers enjoy them. What is the favourite book you’ve written? Why is it your favourite?
My definite favourite is ‘Mystery Tribe at Camp Blackeagle’ because it was the first book I had published after the ten year journey of sending out stories and books to publishers. My sentimental favourite is without a doubt Thief of Glory, as it was inspired by my father’s boyhood in a Japanese war camp.
[Thief of Glory was the 2015 Christy Awards Book of the Year, and the 2015 Alberta Reader’s Choice Award: ]
I haven't read this one yet, but it's on my 'to read' list. What is your favourite book? Author?
Silly as it sounds, I love The Hardy Boys. I don’t read them much now, but those books hooked me on reading, and I’ll always remember how exciting it was to open a new mystery in that series.
During your presentation at our school I learned that the author of this series does not exist, as it was written by a number of people. I guess the same is true for Nancy Drew, one of my own childhood favourites. But back then I didn't really care about who wrote the books anyway. Enjoyed them. End of story. Is there one person who has made an impact on you as a writer/storyteller?
I had a college professor who saw past my bad grammar, poor punctuation and spelling and encouraged me to keep writing. That made a huge difference. However, I would never have become a published author without the groundwork that was laid by all my teachers throughout my years in school.
Well, thanks to that professor for igniting a flame that is still burning strong today - thus, enriching and entertaining young and old with story. I know you received a few rejections in the beginning of your career, but now that you’re a well-known author, have you had to deal with disappointments?
I think that no matter how well it is going, anybody can find something to be disappointed in, and also, that even during difficult times, we can find something to celebrate. For many published authors, I think, the temptation is to judge success by sales numbers. I’m grateful that those figures don’t mean much to me anymore, simply because I’ve learned many other things in life are far more important. I want to be a good father and husband, far before I worry about how well I am doing as an author.
I know you're a great author and the fact that your wife was inspired to write a and a children's book about you, is evidence that you're doing OK on the home front as well. What can your readers look for next?
Great question! Thief of Glory was set in the Dutch East Indies in the 1940s. I’m staying with the historical theme and just finishing a novel called Saffire, set during the building of the Panama Canal, and it will be out in August.
Please explain what the inspiration is that keeps you writing, even though it's something you don't even enjoy. Yet, you're clearly able to make a career of it.
It’s very simple. STORY. None of us are born with the ability to read and write. We have to learn these skills; reading and writing, however, is a great delivery system for what humans are naturally born to do, which is tell and absorb story. Telling story makes us human, and we are human because we tell story.
Great points! I never thought about it like that! Thanks for being a guest on Hutt-Write Voice and for what you're doing to motivate reluctant readers. As someone who works with struggling readers on a daily basis, I really appreciate your efforts and know that they do make a difference! Continued success and joy as you take readers on enchanting and exhilarating journeys!
Have you read any of Sigmund Brouwer's books or been to one of his presentations? Or perhaps this is a new author for you. Either way, I'd love to read your thoughts!