Eleanora Tate is an award-winning author of children's books. She discusses writing The Secret of Gumbo Grill. Her idea for the book came from the fact that there were few books dealing with modern-day children from South Carolina. She says most of her ideas come from young people.
Ms. Tate says that her characters come from going into S.C. schools and meeting young people. She takes the names of characters and their personalities from people she meets. She likes positive characters, and young people who can be shy but not ashamed of who they are, and she likes for her ideas to come from children who read, and from children who have problems reading, and children who are willing to take a chance and to explore.
Wherever she goes, Ms. Tate tries to use that setting as the basis for her stories. She tries to write a book that people will enjoy reading. She researches the history of a community and writes and re-writes and sends it to her agent. She says the worst mistake is not to put the words on paper.
Ms. Tate says that many times, writers will talk about a book that he or she wants to write, but they don't write it down. The other mistake is not doing your homework. Researching the place.is so important because readers will catch errors.
Ms. Tate says the hardest part is developing the plot. She tries to base her plots on actual activities that human beings carry on. She doesn't want it to be so far-fetched that it could not happen to someone. Many incidents in her books are based on her experiences.
The students discuss their own writing. Ms. Tate reads a poem she wrote a long time ago and says that honesty and a positive message are important in writing children's books. Also looking to the child within yourself, to have that curiosity and openness of mind, and childlike wonder are important.
Ms. Tate finishes the program by reading from Thank You, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.