RED WING - The annual Minnesota Children's Book Festival is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 15 at the Anderson Center. Along with a variety of activities and, as the event's name suggests, books, there are 15 authors and illustrators scheduled to attend the event. One of the authors is local resident, Pete Hautman, winner of the L.A. Times Book Prize, Minnesota Book Award and National Book Award.
Originally from St. Louis Park, Hautman now spends part of his time living in Stockholm. Before Hautman met his partner, Mary Logue, also an author, Logue bought a small farmhouse in Stockholm. The house and acreage of property that it sits on has become the couple's weekend home and project. The house and the town also provide inspiration for Hautman. One of his first children's books is set in a town that is based on Stockholm.
His most recent book, however, is inspired by his childhood home. "Other Wood" is about a 9-year-old boy who lives near a wood and experiences the disappearance of his best friend, along with other paranormal events. Though Hautman's childhood did not involve friends mysteriously disappearing, he did live on the edge of a wood in St. Louis Park and spent a lot of time playing there. That childhood experience inspired Hautman to write a book about the relationship between children and the natural world.
Unlike many authors, Hautman does not focus on writing for one genre. When he first began to publish, he was writing crime fiction novels for adults. But, Hautman said, he easily gets bored. So he decided to start writing on topics that were new to him.
"Mr. Was" was one of the first fiction stories Hautman wrote that was not a crime fiction novel. Hautman intended that the novel be marketed to adults, but his publisher had other ideas. "Mr. Was" was labeled as a "YA" novel, meaning a story meant for young adults.
As "Mr. Was" became more well-known, Hautman began visiting schools to talk about the novel and what it is like to be an author. It was during these visits that he realized how impactful a book can be on teenagers. He said that the visits made him think about how important his teenage years were for him as a reader.
"When I was 13 or 14, I could read all night. It was also an exciting time because I could read anything from "Winnie the Pooh" to James Bond novels," said Hautman.
Since middle and high school students have a variety of interests, Hautman is able to write about a variety of topics, ensuring that he never gets bored. This freedom means that Hautman can write about vampires, poker, a teen who starts a religion that centers on worshiping a water tower, a teenage love story and other topics. Writing about so many different subjects can scare Hautman. But, he says, that is a good thing.
"I think, in general, writers write best when they're scared, when they're not sure that they can pull it off," said Hautman.
Now that Hautman has published more than 10 YA novels, he is beginning to write books for a slightly younger audience. His two newest books, "Other Wood" and "Slider" are aimed at children ages 8 and up.
Hautman will have both books at the Children's Book Festival. While at the event, he will talk to fans and readers of any age about his books, his writing experiences and answer questions. One question that he, and many other authors, commonly get, is "how do I become an author?" Hautman's answer is simple: Just write.
Hautman wrote his first book in third grade. It was an autobiography with about 20 words per page, but it was the start of a fruitful career.
"Everybody who has the capability of stringing three words together can benefit from writing. It teaches you to see," said Hautman.