I am super excited to have 13-year-old Erik Weibel visit as part of my Kid Heroes Series! For each kid that I feature I am donating $10 to the Kids Wish Network, a special program that grants wishes to kids who face remarkable challenges and are in desperate need of hope.
Erik is truly an inspiration for kids and grown ups alike. At just nine years old he started his book blog, This Kid Reviews Books, where he reviews books and encourages other kids to get into reading and writing. In addition to being an avid reader (averaging 20-30 middle grade books a month), he also writes a monthly book review column for The Upper Bucks Free Press. He is the author of The Adventures of Tomato and Pea, a co-host of The Write Chat vlog that hosts authors, and a writing coach at Kids Are Writers. Oh, and in his spare time Erik studies three different martial arts and holds the rank of junior black belt in TaeKwon-Do.
Kapow! He’s got the power!
MEET KID HERO ERIK WEIBEL
First, things first! You are only 13 and have already written and published a book! Tell us about The Adventures of Tomato and Pea and what inspired your story? Any tidbits to share about a second book?
Well, in short (those who know me personally probably realize that short answers are next-to-impossible for me), The Adventures of Tomato & Pea is an early reader type chapter book about two groups of small (we’re talking less than 6 inches!) aliens (one group good, one group evil) who get trapped on a run-away rocket ship, and crash-land onto a strange, big, horrible planet inhabited by giants called EAR-TH. Here is the blurb from the back of the book:
For years the evil villain Wintergreen had tried to destroy super crime-stopper, Tomato and his sidekick, Pea, and take over planet Oarg. In a plan gone wrong, Wintergreen traps himself along with his arch-nemesis in a runaway rocket ship that crashes on a strange planet called “EAR-TH”. Now these perennial enemies must learn to work together to survive the dangers on this strange world. Hungry birds, enormous snakes and the giant inhabitants of EAR-TH stand between this brawling bunch of aliens and finding a way home.
About Book 2. Wintergreen (the main villain) realizes he can take over the EAR-TH without much effort. Tomato and Pea now have to deal with trying to get home AND deal with a rampaging Wintergreen. The good guys befriend an EAR-THling kid whose mother is working on inventing a teleportation device and there is a bunch of wackiness that goes on and on and on…
How did you learn how to write a book? Can you take us briefly through your writing process from that first story idea to writing THE END?
I think by reading a lot. I always wrote stories (my Mom says almost as much as I read stories), but school and my teachers helped me (Thank you, you dang Personal Narrative Essays! 😉 ). Author Mrs. Michelle Isenhoff was my writing mentor, and my prime editor. My parents helped me a lot too. With The Adventures of Tomato and Pea, my Uncle Dave challenged me to write an entire story. I was always making bits and parts of stories but never the whole thing. Uncle Dave gave me the Tomato and Pea characters and told me to write a whole story about them. This was the inspiration I needed to sit down and do the whole thing.
My writing process generally goes as such:
I get an idea. I think it over and decide if it is good or not. I usually write the idea down in my notebook. Then, after I think about it, I either abandon the idea (or aspects of the idea), or keep going.
I then start writing. I procrastinate. I write some more. Repeat. It’s hard for me to actually sit down and write but once I get in a “groove” I keep going. I get distracted a lot. I think as I am getting older it is a bit easier for me to focus my thoughts.
I usually write the whole story out first and then go back and see where there are holes in it. Then I re-write. After I go through this several times (usually I have mom or dad read it at this point too), I go back and edit for language and grammar. I like grammar editing. I know – weird.
I have them send it to my writing mentor, Mrs. Isenhoff. She is very honest with me and really helps me make the story better. After this, I have even more people proof-read, and then I fix it up. With The Adventures of Tomato and Pea, it took me a year to edit the book. I wanted it done right.
Then I try to get it traditionally published/get an agent. Then, when if that doesn’t work out, I go to self-publish (make cover, summary, etc.)
What’s your writing space look like – messy or organized? What’s a favorite item on your desk?
My writing space is now currently our dining room table, as my dad and I are building my desk. My area of the table is a mess, and I can bet you my desk will be too. I like my collection of pens, and I like my perpetual motion thingamabob. 😉
You started your book blog, This Kid Reviews Books, when you were only nine years old. That’s an amazing accomplishment for someone so young! What inspired you and how did you go about getting your blog up and running?
I can thank my grandmother for that. She was shopping for a book for me and didn’t know what to buy, and a kid in the store told her to get me The Strange Case of Origami Yoda. He said it was a good book and that I would like it, so she bought it. Well, it is a good book and I did like it. I thought that if my grandmom would take the advice of a kid maybe “this kid” (me) could help other kids and grown-ups looking for books for kids, find books they like. My dad suggested a blog would be a good way to get my thoughts on books out there so my mom helped me learn about blogs and how to run them. Before too long, This Kid Reviews Books was born!
How many books have you read and reviewed on your blog so far? Share some of your favorite authors or books.
I’ve read and reviewed a lot more books than I can count (I read a lot more books than I review). I have close to 1000 published blog posts and 95% of them are reviews, but some of them contain more than one review. In short – a lot. I have no idea exactly how many.
My favorite author is Brian Jacques, the author of my favorite series, Redwall. There are a TON of authors that I run to the store (or at least ask my mom to drive me to the store) when a new book comes out. Tom Angleberger, Jude Watson, Rick Riordan, Michael Buckley, Nick Bruel, Brandon Mull, Matt Phelan, I could go on and on.
How fun that you also co-host a vlog with Felicia, another amazing kid author, where you video chat with authors. How did you and Felicia connect to do this? Share a favorite video moment on the vlog.
The Write Chat all started out with me reviewing Felicia’s book, The Perpetual Papers of the Pack of Pets. Then I followed her blog. Then Felicia’s mom and my mom became friends and they offered to get tickets for us to a nearby event with Rick Riordan. We all met up there and Felicia and I became friends. I really admire her writing skills. She has great humor in her stories. Later on, we were both asked by the Huffington Post if we wanted to interview an author for a segment they do, we mentioned (kind of joking) Rick Riordan, and we… got him!
(The interviewer must interject to say HOW COOL IS THIS?! Erik and Felicia discussing the art of storytelling, their own books, and asking Rick Riordan questions! Back to Kid Hero, Erik…)
Then, afterwards, Felicia and I were thinking about how fun that was and how we should interview authors via video chat. And it happened (Thanks Mrs. M and Mom!).
I don’t really have a favorite video but I LOVE our blooper reels! 😉
You are such a big advocate for kids to read and write and host “Creative Kid Thursday” on your blog where you promote other kid writers and their work. Have you helped any become published as well since they’ve been a guest on your blog?
I am not sure if I did, but that would be awesome! There are a lot of talented kids in the world. I am happy to feature any of them!
And WOW you are a journalist and a novelist! How did you get a monthly book review column in The Upper Bucks Free Press?
I was interviewing a local author at a book signing, and the content editor for the newspaper was there, and was impressed with my questions and interview skills. She was surprised to hear I was only 10 at the time. She asked me if I would like to write an article for the paper. After I submitted one, they asked me to have a regular column!
Not only are you kicking butt as a writer but also in Taekwondo-Do as a black belt (and you take three kinds of martial arts)! What’s your favorite part about being a martial artist and have you found that being disciplined as one helps you with being disciplined as a writer?
Taking several martial arts has made me used to physical discipline and that really helps with mental discipline too. It helps me focus as a writer. I like that what I achieve in the Martial Arts really depends on me. Not that I don’t like team sports, but I like the challenge Martial Arts gives to me. I am happy to say I am testing for my junior black belt in Okinawan Karate next month!
You’ve achieved more things at your age than many adults have achieved. What are some things on your bucket list that you’d like to do in the future?
Thank you! That means a lot to me! I do wish to be able to travel around the world more. I’d love to go to Europe at some point in my life, and the rest I’ll leave up to fate. 😉
Okay, so I must ask: what’s your secret to managing time to read, write, go to school, do Taekwondo-Do, and all the other kid activities in your life?
For one – I don’t watch TV and I really don’t play video games. Over the years, I have developed a master calendar system. I have several months worth of blog posts scheduled and then a big current calendar I keep by my desk. My mom helps by checking in books that are sent to me, sending out form emails that say when I receive books and she and my dad sort through emails for me. They get rid of spam and send out form emails when I am not accepting books for review. Mom and dad also put limits on what I am allowed to do for my blog. I tend to say “yes” to everything that is sent to me or I am asked to do. They remind me I am just one kid. 🙂
How do you stay motivated to keep reaching for new dreams, Erik?
I read inspiring quotes, and listen to my parents who encourage me in everything I do. I really enjoy the activities I am involved in and when you like doing something, it is easy to keep doing it. I also take in the world around me and enjoy life.
You are such an inspiration to kids and grownups alike, Erik! Some kids may have a dream they’re reaching for but don’t know how to make it happen. What words of advice would you give kids who want to find the power inside to make their dream come true?
I would say:
Do or Do Not. There Is No Try, but that’s already been said by Yoda.
So how about:
You are yourself. You are nobody else. Don’t listen to anyone who says otherwise. Be unique. Stand up for what’s right. Do what you should do, not what your friends want you you do. Be yourself.
Thanks for being a Kid Hero Erik! You’ve got the power!
WANT TO CONNECT WITH ERIK?
Of course you do! Here’s how:
Twitter – @ThisKid_Erik
Facebook – This Kid Reviews Books
Google+ Erik Weibel
My book on Amazon – The Adventures of Tomato and Pea
The Upper Bucks Free Press – Website