Don’t tell me your teacher assigned a book report on Bowser and Birdie! And now you’ve come here for help. Maybe even in hope of a book report actually written by the author of the book himself, and therefore bound to be the right stuff. But guess what: my school days are over! I never have to do another book report in my life. Or figure out when two trains starting from X and Y will meet, or any of that stuff. I laugh at X and Y!
Sorry about the book report. I never meant to add to your burden. First and foremost – as in any novel, in my opinion – the Bowser and Birdie books are meant to entertain. A writer of fiction can do all sorts of other things, too, but if no one’s entertained enough to keep turning the pages, what have you got? A tree falling in the forest – which Bowser can hear from a long way off, by the way, much farther than you. That’s one of the fun things about writing from Bowser’s point of view – I get to imagine what having great senses of hearing and smell would be like. People say, “How did you get in the mind of a dog?” And the answer is what I just hinted at: the imagination. It’s the most powerful of all the writing tools, more than vocab, or sentence structure, or grammar. I believe that all of us are born with an imagination. And, like a muscle, you can make it stronger by using it. For muscles, you can pump iron. For the imagination, you can sit in the shade and let your mind wander. When you get good at it, you can make your mind wander in the direction you want it to.
I hear you: none of this helps on the book report. Okay. Here’s a little crumb. Before you write anything, step back and ask yourself: What is this about? What do I want to say? What is the engine that will drive this book report, story, or novel? In the case of the Bowser and Birdie mysteries, the engine is the love between Bowser and Birdie.
And here’s something the other kids might not know. While there is no town of St. Roch in Louisiana, I chose that name because St. Roch is the patron saint of dogs. The surrounding swamps of the Atchafalaya Basin are very real, and so are all its creatures – including the gators, some even as big as – oops! No spoilers! Good grief! I almost gave away the ending of Woof.
Over to the right is a photo (taken by my wife) of the owl who inspired the Night Train character in Woof. Swamp is not a beautiful word – wetland is nicer although kind of blah, in my opinion – but the actual swamps are very beautiful. Maybe you’ve visited them already; if not, it’s something to look forward to. Looking forward is Bowser’s go-to state of mind. You can tell the teacher I said so.