Richard Lederer is the author of more than 40 books about language, history, and humor, including his best-selling Anguished English series and his current books, ‘The Gift of Age’, ‘A Tribute to Teachers’, ‘American Trivia’, ‘Amazing Words’, ‘Lederer on Language’, and ‘Hilarious Holiday Humor’. He has won San Diego Book Awards the past two years.
Dr. Lederer’s syndicated column, “Lederer on Language,” appears in newspapers and magazines throughout the United States, including the San Diego Union-Tribune. He has been named International Punster of the Year and Toastmasters International’s Golden Gavel winner.
For what age audience do you write?
In addition to my work for adults, I write language fun and skill for children 8 years old to 13 years old. Aside from Young Adult Fiction, not many authors address this age group, in part, I believe, because around third grade is when parents stop taking their children to book stores. But children 8-to-13 are alive to the possibilities of language, and that is the audience for my children’s books.
Tell us about your latest children’s book.
Why does New Year’s Day happen on January 1? Who was Saint Valentine? Who brought the jack-o’-lantern and Santa Claus to America for Halloween and Christmas celebrations? In Hilarious Holiday Humor, Stan Kegel, my co-author, and I tell the fascinating stories of the origins and customs of our major holidays, including Easter, Passover, Cinco de Mayo, Independence Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. We’ve written this book in a ‘tweener style that we think works for both grownups and children.
What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?
A sense of history as they learn about the origins of each holiday and a sense of delight from the classic jokes about each holiday.
What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?
Matching content and style as spot on as possible with the audience.
What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer?
What a thrill to know that readers out there are sharing what I have made. I marvel that, as they pass your eyes over my words, they experience ideas and emotions similar to what I was thinking and feeling when, in another place and another time, I struck the symbols on my keyboard.
What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer?
Eldridge Cleaver once said, “I write to untangle the snarled web of my mind.” How true. Exploring various subjects beyond language, including American history, seniors, dogs, cats, and teachers, I have learned sooo much, and, in the process, have become the person best suited to tell the particular story of each book. And as a performer who presents his books to so many different audiences, I have entered worlds I would never have otherwise inhabited.
Read the rest of this interview at Henry Herz’s blog on fantasy and science fiction books for kids.