My name is Marquin Parks. I’m a dad (woot!), a fifth grade teacher (yay!), and the author of the Wrinkles Wallace series (Wrinkles Wallace: Knights of Night School and Wrinkles Wallace: Fighters of Foreclosure) of children’s novels. (My parents are so proud!)
Oh, and, well, I have a confession to make…
I write bonus chapters for my books.
BONUS CHAPTERS! Bonus chapters?
Allow me to tell you more. For me, a bonus chapter comes to life when a writer (me) continues to write material for a previously released book because a reader continues to want to read and know more about my finished book. And, in order for me to supply something to meet the demands, I write free bonus chapters and release them on my blog at WrinklesWallace.blogspot.com
While there are numerous reasons for me to create these bonus chapters, I will share three with you:
In my classroom, I often work with students who stand in limbo while waiting for an author’s next masterpiece to be released. They have looked me in the eyes and asked, “Have you ever had to wait for the next book in a series?”
I would nod and try to give them suggestions for other books they might find interesting.
Then they would ask, “Have you ever wanted the writer to HURRY UP or give you just a little bit more to hold you over until they release another book?”
Certainly! Soon after Wrinkles Wallace: Knights of Night School was published, I had readers asking me plenty of questions during author talks. Sure, a F.A.Q. page on a website, or the usage of social media would serve as a wonderful connector for us to develop our writer/reader relationship, yet many readers wanted to know more about Wrinkles and the crew. That’s when I realized that I could write a bonus chapter to explain what typical answers, using hashtags, and 140 characters could not. Why not feed that anticipation for a new book with some bonus chapter snacks and appetizers?
By the time the second book in the series, Wrinkles Wallace: Fighters of Foreclosure was released, my readers had six bonus chapters to hold them over and help them get to know more about my characters. Indeed, writing and releasing a timely bonus chapter allowed me to stay connected and relevant to my audience. Clearly, bonus chapters kept my readers involved in the series until the next book was released.
Ever had any questions you wanted to know about a character or situation in a book and realized that unless you talked to the author, you would never get the answers to those questions?
Not every character in a book has the same significance as the main characters. There are supporting characters and cameo characters. In addition, there may be events that a reader will want to know the background story about. Well, for me, writing a bonus chapter to explain why Fib the Lion chased students out of the hallways and had them scurrying up ropes when the tardy bell rang at school was the answer to questions asked by my readers. While I thought having a lion in charge of motivating students to get to class on time was a simple humorous twist, my readers wanted to know more about him. Who was the lion? Why was he there? Why would he want to feast on the femur bone of a fifth grader? Answering their questions required me to think deeper as a writer and gave me another opportunity to show my creativity. Not to mention, answering those questions led me to writing even more bonus chapters.
As a writer of a series, I’m trying to step away from the trees to look at the forest. I’m constantly planning three or four books ahead of what I’ve already released to the public. My readers help me to see the beauty of specific trees that were planted inside the pages of books. Releasing the free gift of a bonus chapter shows my readers that I’m listening and that I value their feedback. By the time a reader has invested their time and money into reading my books, I feel like we have developed a unique relationship. They have supported my movement to promote literacy, and that certainly motivates me to continue giving them as much as I can.
I would be fibbing if I said I was not afraid of the fact that Fib the Lion might find a way to put his claws on my clavicle and his teeth on my trachea if I stopped writing bonus chapters about him…
The Leisure Limousine
I was made with the heart of a race car, the mind of a skateboard, and the spirit of an office chair. I’m tuned for quickness and agility; I’m designed with supreme craftsmanship for comfort. Please don’t confuse me with a trendy tricycle, interesting inline skates, or a unique unicycle[a1] .
Well, because I roll as crisp and clean as Lenny’s leisure limousine. Yeah, I’m Lenny’s wheelchair, and I’m built for this lifestyle.
When I first met Lenny, he walked into a store, paid a fast-talking guy some faster-talking cash for me, and then he did something odd. Usually when a person doesn’t walk with a cane or one of those walkers, they are buying a wheelchair for someone they care about. And, they usually walk me out without a passenger sitting in my lap. Then, I’m placed into the trunk of a car or the back of a SUV, and I am introduced as the lap of luxury for someone who appreciates me for what I do.
Not Lenny. No, Lenny put his wallet back in his pocket, stood in front of me with a huge wooden-tooth smile, turned his back to me, and extended his rear end to sit down. After he sat down, he wiggled his rump to get more comfortable, put his feet on my foot rests, and started turning my wheels to get used to the way I handle business. Prior to Lenny’s actions, unless it was a kid who was playing around, I’d never seen a person walk in without any issues and decide to sit in a wheelchair. Yet, Lenny did it, and I was changed forever.
Before Lenny came into my life, I was a pretty useful wheelchair. Honestly, I’d get the silver medal and come in second to Santa in an Olympic sitting contest. In the past, I helped transport a few great people who went through surgeries at the hospital and folks who needed to get to their flight quickly at the airport. I even provided something to do for a few grandkids who visited their grandparents. While I wasn’t motorized, I was still helpful, and that worked for me.
Once Lenny and I partnered up, things changed. I wasn’t just some wheelchair stored in the trunk of a car or in the closet near the front door. No, being cheap on gas and having low mileage worked to my advantage with Lenny. I’m proud to say that I’m Lenny’s leisure limousine, and it has been amazing! Well, it was up until the day I thought I was going to die in an accident.
It’s hard for me to even let the events of that day roll[a1] through my mind. For me, it still hurts, but I think talking about it helps me to heal and push on. As I share some of the details, try not to cry because seeing you cry, might make me cry.
It was a typical evening. Lenny had me rolling around and we were both having a good time. While Lenny seemed a little more nervous than usual, I actually felt perfectly fine. That was until I lost a limb when Mr. Quiet threw thunder and lightning in the form of a dodgeball at one of my wheels and damaged it to death. The side-airbags Lenny installed actually went off to protect him, and I just knew the end was near for me. As I barely rolled off the court, I saw my life flash before my seat cushion. Even after Wrinkles changed my tire, and Lenny did his first back-flip while sitting in me, when I saw the ambulance in the parking lot, I thought they were there for me.
To be honest, immediately after surviving the accident, I never thought I’d be able to work again, but Lenny brought me back from the brink of death. Death! He made sure I had nothing but the best and helped me to have a speedy recovery.
A few days later, instead of throwing me away, Lenny took me to a shop and they repaired me with newer and better parts. I went from a pretty basic wheelchair, to a wheelchair with an alarm that could be programmed to behave like a mechanical bull. I even had cruise control, rear view mirrors, pegs for a passenger to ride, larger rims and tires that helped us with traction in the snow and on ice, speed that could be used on a racetrack, cornering for those twisty curves, and some top secret stuff under my seat that Lenny and I don’t talk about.
Though I can’t tell you too much because we don’t like to have our business all out in the streets, I can share some current events I’ve been going through. About a week ago, I spent the weekend at Mr. Quiet’s house. You would think Mr. Quiet and I would be fast friends because his name is Sittin’ B. Quiet, and that’s what I allow people to do when I’m around. Instead, I was nervous around him for obvious reasons, but he was so distracted with what was going on with his house that he looked at me with dead presidential pupils or dollar signs in his eyes. Instantly, Lenny tightened his grip on my arm rests to silently show Mr. Quiet that I was not for sale.
At first, everything was fine. Lenny used me as a spot to park his back pockets and relax. Later, we went for a trip to the gas station and some rude guys were talking smack. One of them put his hands on me after I was armed with my alarm and I gave him the great gift of an electric shock that put him on the concrete in a hurry. Then, after Lenny and Wrinkles went into the store, I saw one of my two wheel brothers get stolen by a group of guys. I felt so upset to see it happen because that bike was to Wrinkles what I am to Lenny.
Over the course of that weekend I had a few more things that popped up quicker than one of Lenny’s wheelies, but we were able to handle them without too many issues. Meanwhile, I continue to roll as crisp and clean as Lenny’s leisure limousine.
I hope many of you will explore Marquin's books. In addition, if you know some emerging authors, I would love to here about them. Over the next several weeks the guest contributors will talk about developing and teaching a college young adult literature course. I know that many of you are developing courses as you are reading this. I hope you can see YA Wednesday as a useful addition to your YA literature discussions. If you are, I hope you take a bit of time to comment on how you are using this academic blog.