On Wednesday, local writer Steven Bauer came to McGuffey to share his knowledge of writing, the publishing industry and his long-held desire to be a dog.
The retired Miami creative writing professor has written several young adult novels including “A Cat of a Different Color,” which the intermediate students read before his visit.
The students loved the novel and were eager to talk to Bauer about it. “A Cat of a Different Color” is the story of cat named Ullwazer, who saves the humans and animals in his town from a despotic mayor.
The students asked questions about the setting and time period of the novel and why Bauer chose such outlandish names for the cats in the book. Beside the hero, named Ullwazer, there are also cats named Gigamaree and Flumadiddle.
Bauer told them Ullwazer was modeled after a series of stray cats that he and his wife took in. “They were all orange and we named them all George,” Bauer said. “George 1, George 2 and George 3. George 1 was absolutely like Ullwazer. He had bright orange fur, was a great prowler and didn’t not want to stay inside.”
The students were also curious about how long it takes to create a book. Bauer told them it took three years from the time he started writing the book through when he made changes suggested by the editor, until it was finally published in 2001.
Bauer said the original human main character was a boy but his publisher wanted a girl. The publisher also did not like Bauer’s original ending in which the mayor gets devoured by wolves. Bauer eventually agreed to the changes because he wanted the book to get published but said it was a hard decision that took him a year to make.
Students also wanted to know why Bauer became a writer. The 62-year-old said his first love was reading. “I read under the covers at night before I went to bed. I read at the breakfast table. I read all the time and at some point I thought, ‘Somebody wrote these books, wouldn’t it be cool to do that?’”
After much lively discussion in which the kids shared anecdotes about their own pets, Bauer asked the students to do a short writing project in which they pretended to be mayor of their town and come up with three proclamations.
Here are few they came up with:
1) Thomas: “Everyone must eat a fourth meal every day at midnight”
2) Isabel: “Grown ups have to listen to their kids.”
3) Noah: “Free ice cream will be handed out on days when the temperature is more than
4) Jackson: “Cats must be given more respect. Dogs, too.”
5) Camille: “No school on Saturday, Sunday, Monday or Tuesday.”
6) Sofi: “Every other Wednesday evening, people in the town must pick up trash.”
7) Patrick: “My family gets 50 percent off everything.”
8) Madison: “All stores must have one aisle filled with candy.”
Bauer also read a picture book that he wrote to the primary unit. He said the book “The Strange and Wonderful Tale of Robert McDoodle” was modeled after his own desires as young boy to be a dog. “If I could I would be a dog,” Bauer said. “Dogs have a great life.”
We hope to have him back next year and have the students read another young adult novel that Bauer wrote called Satyrday, the story of an evil owl who has his minions, the ravens, capture the moon and a satyr and a boy he has raised from infanthood’s efforts to save it.