Interview with Maggie Lyons, Author of Vin and the Dorky Duet
June 18, 2012 in Book Club Possibility, Creative Writing activities, Elementary Educators, Lyons Maggie, Making Book to Book Comparisons, Making Predictions, Middle Grade Novel, six traits of writing Tags: Middle Grade Novel, middle grade novels for boys, music
Today, I welcome author Maggie Lyons who will talk about her new novel, Vin and the Dorky Duet. Here’s a brief summary of the plot from Maggie’s website before we get on to the questions and her insightful answers!
The moment he walks through the door and sees the sharky grin on his older sister’s face, Vin suspects Meg’s hatching a plot. He’s right. Worse still, he’s central to the outcome. Meg tells him that their music teachers, parents—everyone— expects him to play her duet for trumpet and piano at the upcoming student concert. Vin is horrified. Meg insists that his only escape route is to persuade another trumpet player to take his place. She has the hunky Brad Stewart in mind, and she challenges Vin to introduce her to him. Vin doesn’t know Brad any better than Meg does, but Meg points out that Vin takes a couple of classes at school with Brad’s nerdy brother. Eyeballs Stewart is the last person Vin wants to make friends with until Meg’s promise of a David Beckham autographed soccer jersey changes the seventh-grader’s mind. He has five days to accomplish his mission—Operation BS—before the concert practice schedule kicks in. Vin’s game plan, thwarted by exploding fish tanks, magnetic compost heaps, man-eating bubble baths, and other disasters doesn’t work out exactly as he expects.
Margo: Congratulations, Maggie, on the recent publication of the middle-grade novel, Vin and the Dorky Duet. What was your inspiration for this story?
Maggie: Inspiration wafted in from my love of music and my addiction to challenges—which I don’t always meet, I must confess. I was trained as a classical pianist; and throughout my life, music has been my favorite language, my confidant, my religion. As for challenges, anyone who wants to live—as opposed to vegetating—must try to meet them, don’t you think? Vin and the Dorky Duet is about a challenge that a seventh-grader gamely takes on, though with unexpected results. My challenge in writing the story is to encourage reluctant readers to turn a few pages. I’d be thrilled if the book succeeds on that level because enthusiasm for reading as a child is critical to success as an adult.
Margo: So true! I loved to read as a child, and I bet you did, too. Who would you say is the perfect audience for this book?
Maggie: Children ages seven or eight through twelve.
Margo: Thanks! What themes do you address?
1. Life’s challenges: Challenges in life are often unavoidable and a life without challenges is boring, even for a plant.
2. Music: Learning to play a musical instrument can be fun, and little brain cells love it.
3. Judging others: You shouldn’t make up your mind about people you’ve only just met; some people’s wonderful personalities have to be coaxed out of hiding.
4. Sibling relationships, the good and the bad;
5. Children’s names, nicknames, and shortened names;
6. Endangered species: Many whales are endangered species.
7. Sports: Soccer, rowing, swimming
Margo: What a great list–and a great resource for parents and teachers. I like to tell parents and teachers how they can USE books with children. What could parents use your book to teach children? Can you suggest a couple activities or discussion points that go with it?
1. Ask children to describe a challenge or a problem they have faced and how they dealt with it.
2. Ask children if they’ve ever met somebody they didn’t like at first but later came to like, or something they hated at first and then came to love.
3. Ask a child musician to describe what it’s like to learn to play a musical instrument.
4. Talk about sibling relationships.
5. Ask children to describe how they get along with their brothers and/or sisters.
6. Ask children about their names: Do they like their names/nicknames? If not, why not?
7. Explain ragtime music to children and play some examples.
8. Talk about the sports of rowing, swimming, and soccer.
9. Talk about famous soccer players.
10. Talk about go karts and the old Rambler automobile.
11. Talk about marine life, whales, and endangered species.
12. Explore the wonderful worlds of the blue-footed booby bird and the slender loris.
Margo: Another great list and resource. Thank you so much! Where can interested readers find more about the book and purchase it?
Maggie: Find out more at: www.maggielyons.yolasite.com.
Purchase it at MuseItUp Publishing, bookstore, MuseItYoung book line on their website: MuseItUp Publishing! Coming soon to Amazon and other outlets; see MuseItUp Publishing’s list of outlets.
Margo: Great, and thanks for the info! Do you have any other books or publications?
Maggie: My adventure fantasy Dewi and the Seeds of Doom will be published by MuseItUp Publishing in October 2012. Several articles and a poem have been published in Stories for Children Magazine.
Margo: Anything else to share about Vin?
Maggie: Vin’s full name is Bevyn. That’s a Welsh name meaning “young soldier” or “youthful.” I’m Welsh by birth, so I snuck that in. Vin hates to be called Bev, which his sister does from time to time to annoy him. My own son’s name is Gavin, another Celtic name. He hated it when he was about seven to thirteen years old because it was unusual; and at that age, he just wanted to be like everyone else and not stick out. As time went on, he grew to like his name precisely because in the USA at least, it was unusual.
Margo: Thank you, Maggie, for joining us today. Best of luck to you!