An Interview with The Most Dangerous author Terri Fields

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To kick off the release of six new Sylvan Dell books here is an interview with Terri Fields, the author of The Most Dangerous!

Did you learn anything from writing The Most Dangerous?

            I learned so many fascinating facts while I was researching this book that I could have written an entire book about each animal.  (Maybe someday I still will!)  Meanwhile, there are some fun added details on page 29 of the on-line teaching guide to the book.  

Here are a few more interesting facts about some of these animals:

  •             Great White Sharks will have a tail slapping contest if there is only enough food for one of them. The one with the most slaps gets the food. 
  •             Cape Buffalos are supposed to have amazing memories.  If a hunter returns even years after hurting a cape buffalo, it’s said that the cape buffalo will remember and go after that hunter.  Birds called oxpeckers often land on cape buffalos and eat the ticks, fleas and lice on the buffalo’s body or face.
  •             Saltwater Crocodiles have receptors at the base of their teeth that let them sense even tiny vibrations in the water. If a crocodile is under water, but not too far from land, animals coming to drink from the water’s edge better watch out!  The crocodile will sense exactly where they are.
  •             A Hippo’s hide can weigh as much as a half a ton.  That’s 1000 pounds.  Can you imagine if just your skin weighed that much?  And if you feel thirsty, how much do you drink? A hippo can drink 55 gallons a day! 
  •             The Cassowary has the lowest known call of any bird.  Female cassowaries are the second heaviest bird in the world, and even though cassowaries are birds, they can’t fly.
  •             Box Jellyfish aretransparent, so people don’t often see them, just feel the sting.  If a number of tentacles touch a person’s skin, it can cause heart failure.  Even if the sting is just from a few tentacles, the pain is so horrible, the victim often goes into shock and drowns because he can’t get to shore.

What is something to think about after reading The Most Dangerous?

            Certainly, these animals are very dangerous, but most of them have a reason.  They are either protecting themselves, providing themselves with food or both.  Though some people also  kill animals to protect themselves or provide food, some people hunt for no other reason than the thrill of the kill. Only people do this.  Does that make them the most dangerous of all?  It’s something to think about!

Did you consider any other titles for this book?

            Coming up with a title is important since it is often a title that attracts or detracts potential readers, right?  Originally, I looked at a number of synonyms for dangerous.  Possible titles included: The Most Menacing, The Most Alarming, The Most Perilous, The Most Threatening.   Eventually, I settled on dangerous because it seemed the most accurate.  However, I submitted my title as The Most Dangerous Animal of All.  My excellent editor shortened the title, and it’s a good thing she did because otherwise, the wonderful cover art would have had to be smaller to fit all those extra words. 

What do you tell students who contact you about writing?

            Many times, I’ll get email from students wanting to know how to get their book published.  I tell them that the most important thing is not publishing the book, but writing, rewriting, and rewriting again until they have a book of which they are really proud.  Then they should share that book with family, friends, even their own school library. 

  What advice would you give parents to get their children interested in writing and reading?

            I would encourage parents to help their children see the world in terms of stories.  Of course, you should read to your child.  That’s a great beginning.  However, there are so many ways to spark children’s creative thinking.  For example, when you’re waiting in line at the grocery, ask your child, “Suppose a big pink dog just ran through the store.  What would happen next?”  By the time you get to the checkout, you and your child may have created a whole story together.  When you’re waiting for a sporting game to start, point to one of the people who hasn’t gone in the stadium yet and say, “Let’s make up a story.  We’ll pretend that that man in the red hat is here today because his son gave him a ticket.  What if he was holding the ticket and a bird plucked it from his hand?”

When you were a teacher, your students won hundreds of creative writing awards.  What advice would you give to teachers to encourage writing?

            Three important pieces to successful classroom writing:

1)       Everyone must know that your classroom is an absolutely safe place to share creativity.  There is a risk for a student to put his/her imagination and heart on paper that isn’t there in answering a math problem.  If you want students to take that leap of faith, they must know they will not face taunts or teasing.

2)      Writing is really about rewriting.  The first draft of anything should just be for the student.  The students should read the next draft aloud to themselves and then answer a series of guided questions about it.  Both drafts should be attached to a third draft, and that is the one the teacher should review and critique.  The fourth draft should be attached to the top of the third draft, and that is the one that should receive the grade, but only if all the other drafts have been completed.  It’s amazing how much students can and will improve their own work if they must complete the process.

3)      With the student’s permission, “publish” and display successful writing for check-out by other students.  Teachers might consider the idea of a classroom library stocked with both student and professionally published books.   

 For more information about Terri Fields and her nineteen books, see her website www.terrifields.com

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