New York Times best-selling children’s authors Kirby Larson and Mary Nethery made several stops in the Lake Washington School District this week, including Oct. 12 visits at Horace Mann Elementary in Redmond.
In a series of assemblies, Larson and Nethery told kids about their individual writing experiences and their collaborative books “Two Bobbies: A True Story of Hurricane Katrina, Friendship and Survival” and “Nubs, The True Story of a Mutt, a Marine and a Miracle.”
Larson lives in nearby Kenmore, while Nethery lives in Eureka, Calif. Larson explained that they each grew up loving books and animals. They met at a conference for writers.
“Our friendship is very important to us,” Nethery stated. When they decided to write together, “we came up with one rule,” she said. “Nothing would ever go into a book that we wrote together, that both of us didn’t agree with.”
They agreed that friendship, animals and non-fiction would be the themes of the books they’d write as a team. They researched true stories about unlikely animal allies, including a grizzly bear and a cat and even a hamster and snake who became friends.
Yet, Larson noted, “It takes more than just a cute idea to make a book. There has to be some meat to a story.”
Hurricane Katrina and its catastrophic impact on the City of New Orleans provided just the kind of story that would really grab people’s attention and tug at their emotions.
In the aftermath of Katrina, 50,000 animals were left homeless. A dog named Bobbi and a cat named Bob Cat were among them.
Nethery learned about the bond between these animals while watching an interview on CNN. She and Larson believed that this heartwarming story could create awareness about the plight of people and animals in the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast region.
Their other award-winning book tells the story of Nubs, an Iraqi dog of war. Nubs was living in the wild and had never known the love of a human being. Nubs’ life changed when he was adopted by a United States Marine named Major Brian Dennis.
When Dennis and the dog were separated, Nubs traveled 70 miles through a freezing desert to find his human pal.
Larson and Nethery described their efforts to connect with Dennis, how they gained permission to take excerpts from his e-mails to his mother and how they asked his friends in the military to shoot photos of Nubs.
The authors also told the Horace Mann students how many times they changed their writing and why: to make it more concise and make it sound better.
“We read aloud,” said Larson, “to hear clunkers you might not see on the page.”
Nethery added, “When you write, you want the reader to feel something — to laugh, cry or feel frustrated or angry.”
Although revisions were a lot of work, Larson said, “Actually, truthfully, it’s fun to rewrite to use the best possible words.”
Also, said Nethery, “There’s no way we could have created this by ourselves.” She credited the editors, artists, literary agents and Marines in Dennis’ unit, all of whom had important roles.
Nethery concluded, “We give 10 percent of proceeds from ‘Two Bobbies’ to Best Friends,” meaning the Best Friends Animal Society.
“Every single person in this room has the power of one and can do something to help others,” said Nethery.