March 31

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Off the Shelf and into the Woods by John August

Like all writers, I began as a reader. In grade school, I’d check out as many books as the librarian would allow. And for favorite series—like The Three Investigators—I would visit the mall bookstore every month to see if a new adventure had come out.

At the same time, I was exploring the Colorado mountains with my Scout troop. The forest was endlessly exciting, with wild creatures and hidden dangers. Unlike books, which follow a single path of words to their conclusion, the natural world races out in a hundred directions at once. It can be overwhelming.  But with the help of my patrol, I learned how to read maps, build fires and negotiate the tricky dynamics of adolescent friendship.

Over the years, I’ve been lucky to have the opportunity to write movies, in some cases revisiting the books I loved as a boy, like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Film is a remarkable medium, but it’s literally flickering light in a dark room. I knew I wanted to return to the world of books, where images are evoked on the screen of the reader’s imagination.

I’ve often thought of my ten-year-old self staring at the library shelf, looking for a new book to read. What would catch my eye? What would I want, even before I knew I wanted it?

Adventure, mystery, magic, danger. A hero who felt like me. Friends I’d want to hang out with. Dragons, if possible.

Ten-year-old me would want something that felt a lot like my youth stomping around the mountains of Colorado, but with enough supernatural elements to make it fantastical.

So that was my aim in writing Arlo Finch: to create a hero that called out to to the adventurers and bookworms in all of us.

As Arlo Finch in the Valley of Fire progresses from being an idea to a manuscript to actual book with a cover, it’s exciting to think of kids carrying it up to the checkout desk.

I used to be one of those kids. It’s why I became a writer.

Born and raised in Boulder, Colorado, John August earned a degree in journalism from Drake University and an MFA in film from USC. As a screenwriter, his credits include Big Fish, Charlie’s Angels, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Corpse Bride and Frankenweenie. In addition to his film career, he hosts a popular weekly podcast, Scriptnotes, with Craig Mazin. He also created the Writer Emergency Pack, an educational storytelling tool that was distributed to over 2,000 classrooms in partnership with non-profit literacy groups like 826LA and NaNoWriMo. John and his family live in Los Angeles. Johnaugust.com

About Arlo Finch in the Valley of Fire

When Arlo Finch moves to Pine Mountain, Colorado, he has no idea what’s in store for him in this tiny town full of mystery and magic. When he joins the Rangers, it leads him into adventures he never thought possible. Wilderness and magical powers collide throughout the beautiful, dense forest surrounding his new home, and as Arlo begins to learn the way of the Rangers, he also discovers a courage, strength, and destiny he never knew he possessed. This is the first in a new middle grade series.