David Lubar has written twenty-seven books for young readers, including Hidden Talents, Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie, Beware the NinjaWeenies, and Flip. His novels are on reading lists across the country, saving countless students from a close encounter with Madam Bovary. His short stories have appeared in a variety of magazines, including Boy’s Life, READ, and Nickelodeon. He has also designed and programmed many video games, but he’d much rather spend his time writing books and hanging out with teachers and librarians. In his spare time, he takes naps on the couch. He lives in Nazareth, PA. Check out his site!
Let the conversation begin!
Describe your journey from writer to published author.
Straight out of college in 1976, I set out to break into print. I collected 100 or so rejections for everything from light verse to stories to magazine-article pitches before making any sales. My first publication was a poem in the “Metropolitan Diary” feature of the NY Times. This was followed by some one liners I sold to humor services, some light verse, and finally, in 1978, a short story sale to Highlights for Children.
What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
I’m going to cheat a bit and answer a slightly different question, because it represents an important lesson. The best thing I learned is that there are a lot of scammers out there. Early in my career, I entered a writing contest sponsored by an “agency” that ran a full-page ad on the back of a writing magazine. (I’m still appalled at the sleazy ads some writing magazines run.) I was told that they felt my story could be sold after a bit of editing. That editing cost me $300. They accepted my second story without any editing, but felt the third one I sent could also use their services. They never made any sales for me. I realized the markets they sent the stories to paid far less than the $300 they’d scammed out of me. I definitely learned my lesson. When I speak at schools, and kids ask for one piece of advice for anyone who wants to get published, I tell them, “Writers don’t pay. Writers get paid.”
What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done?
In my designing/programming days, I once worked 16-hours a day, seven days a week, for two straight months, creating Frogger 2 for the GameBoy. That was brutal.
What piece of advice would you give the younger you?
Set aside your ego and listen to experts, especially in areas where you have acquired that dangerous level of a little learning.
Ever written a book that never got published? Ever think you’ll give it a second chance?
I have scads of unpublished books. I’ve been writing novels since 1976. My first five novels are in a file cabinet, safely kept in the darkness where they belong. I’m still capable of writing unpublishable books now and then. Fortunately, I turn out a keeper often enough to put food on the table.
If you could do anything and get away with it, what would you do?
Take all the politicians who have ever started unnecessary wars, give them all rifles, tell them only one person gets to come back home, and drop them into the jungle.
If you won the lottery, what is the first thing you would do?
Pay off all the student loans for my friends’ kids.
Outliner or Seat-of-the-Pantser?
Pants, albeit comfortable ones. I love to dive in and see where things go. But if I stall, I’ll outline what I’ve written in the hope that this will give me a running start to hurdle the gap and keep going.
Which celebrity do you get mistaken for?
I’m never mistaken for anyone, but I’ve been told I look like Richard Dryfuss.