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David Martin

As a child

When I was about six or seven, my older brother and I used to pile broken, old-fashioned radios on top of each other, and pretend that the knobs, buttons and dials were the controls for our spaceship. A few years later, I got more curious about radios, so I very carefully took one apart to find out how it worked. After it was all in pieces, I still didn’t know, so my father gave me a book that explained all about electricity and radios. I still have that book. I also liked playing outside: in the front of my house was a regular street for riding bikes and playing stickball, in the back were woods for building secret forts, and shooting my bow and arrows. Probably the hardest thing, when I was young, was when we moved when I was in fifth grade. When I got to the new neighbourhood, although I made new friends and did OK in school, I was never quite as sure of myself. Though shy, I liked to perform. In my high school show, I had the best part in it; I came bouncing on to the stage on a pogo stick. It got a good laugh. However, I always wonder how things would have turned out, if I’d grown up with my old friends.

As an adult

Well, for starters, college was a disaster. The only good part was working in the theatre. Finally, I dropped out. Luckily, I met some people who invited me to help them build a house in the woods in Vermont. It’s just a few miles from where I live now. Since then, I built another house nearby, in a place called Lost Nation, started a family, finished college, became a teacher, and then, surprisingly, became a writer – surprisingly, because I never knew I could write. I still like to take things apart to see how they work, and I still like to perform in silly shows. I wish I still had that pogo stick.

As an artist

Though I never thought I would be a writer when I started to read to my children, I thought it would be fun to do. But I could only think of first sentences, never whole stories. Then my friend, Mary, said she and Gator could never make trips, as they had to take care of their farm animals. I thought, well, couldn’t you all travel together? Suddenly, I had a story, Gator and Mary’s Travelling Band, about two farmers and their animals, who liked playing music together. Later, my two-year-old daughter, Lizzie, was playing on the floor. I didn’t want her to get cold, so I put her socks on her. Of course, she took them off. I put them back on, she took them back off. Finally, I quit, and instead made up a poem, Lizzie and her Socks. I wrote and illustrated it on baked square of dough, so it was a sort of book on bread. Later, it became Lizzie and her Puppy. Now that I write for a living, I try to schedule myself and be disciplined, but it’s very hard for me. I’m easily distracted, and there’s so much else to do: making metal sculptures, looking after my ninety-seven-year-old mother, seing my granddaughter, playing tennis, talking to my wife, riding my bike – which is when I often think of some good things to write – and so on. But when I am writing, it takes over, even when I have stopped for the day. I keep going back to it, making changes, and more changes. Now I’m working on my first professional illustration project. I’m drawing the pictures for four Brand New Reader stories about two frogs, Lucy and Bob. To help me, I look to see how other, more experienced illustrators work, but I am also trying to find my own style. It’s really interesting how a little dot here, or a line there, can make a character look happy, sad, bored or surprised.

Things you didn't know about David Martin

  1. I played the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz.
  2. I once had a dog named Alice, who didn’t like to walk with a lead. So, I told her I’d get rid of it, if she would stick by me side. After that, she always did. That was it, no training, dog school or anything.
  3. I like swimming underwater more than on top.
  4. Sometimes at schools, for a joke, I explain how I write, by pouring water on my head.
  5. I’m left-handed, but play tennis and do carpentry right-handed.
  6. I like insects and bugs, especially spiders, and hate it when people squish them.
  7. I wonder what it would be like to be a tree.
  8. I know how to make a rocket out of an ordinary paper match.
  9. My favourite sentence I ever wrote, is in a song called “Abbaseena Coos”. It goes “She’s got the dumpy, humpy, lumpy, mump-bump blues.”
  10. My wife, Penny, and I have a flag hanging at the front of our house that has a picture of the Earth on it. We think the whole world, and all its people, are more important than any single country.

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