Nov 25, 2011
BY SUSAN VARGHESE
Standard Associate Editor
In a large home office in Woodmere, sits six bookcases jammed to the brim with countless books, a signed poster from the off-Broadway production of Cam Jansen, and author, David A. Adler working on his next project.
With 224 books published from various genres, including historical biographies and Holocaust books, Adler, the notable author of the Cam Jansen mystery series has no plans of stopping.
“I’m currently working on an older level biography, an outline for a new Cam Jansen book, a book on buoyancy, and another series, Bones,” Adler said.
Adler, 64, was born in New York City, but grew up in Lawrence as one of six children. “It was different. Where we live now wasn’t built,” Adler said. “When I did drivers education in high school, I had to drive through Branch Boulevard – the asphalt was so broken up then. It’s gotten much more built up now… [Back then] I wrote my first books by hand and typed them on typewriters. All these things have changed, but I always believe if things didn’t change, there wouldn’t be any need for new children’s books. Change is what enables authors to publish new books.”
Adler didn’t pen books as a child, instead, he got his start cartooning and had about 150 illustrations published by the time he was in his early twenties. His desire to create his own work translated into school. Adler said that he preferred writing research papers because it was “his.” He added, “ I liked writing the research paper because it was my own work…that’s what I tell children, ‘that’s your story, nobody else could have written it that way.’ Even when I sit down and I start to work on a book, it’s my book, maybe it wont be any good, but it’s still mine.”
After graduating Queens College in 1968 with a BA in economics and education, Adler taught math for nine years and also attended to graduate school at night. Then, one night, after spending a day with his 3-year-old nephew, a light bulb went off. “ I just woke up that night with an idea. My nephew had visited…and he just didn’t stop asking questions…they were bouncing around in my head. “ This led him to writing his first book, A Little At a Time in 1976. The 32-page book documented a grandson’s endless questions and his grandfather’s answers.
The Cam Jansen mystery series, Adler’s well known literature for children has over 16 books in the series and has made more than $25 million in sales worldwide. “When it was first written, it was quite innovative because it was one of the earlier books which became a transition between the easy to read and the middle grade books,” Adler explained. “It was like an intermediate step [in between reading levels].” Adler noted that Cam Jansen: The Mystery of the Dinosaur Bones to be the most popular. The regular Cam series are targeted towards second to fifth grade. The Young Cam Jansen series are targeted towards Kindergarten to second grade.
He started after his first son was born and he stayed at home, while his wife worked. When his son napped, he began writing the Cam Jansen mysteries; his role in childcare started the book, but his elementary school classmate, who was rumored to have a photographic memory, inspired the character.
Adler has been married to wife, Renee for 38 years, has three boys and two grandsons. Being an author has awarded him flexibility when balancing his family. “I don’t have to check with the boss to take off an hour, “ he said. “…But, at same point I have to get the work out. I have to discipline myself. For many people, that’s what’s difficult about writing.”
Though he’s always been accessible to his family while he was in the middle of writing, Adler recalled working on a book where he lost all sense of time. “ I did a book called Don’t Talk To Me About the War, and every time I was interrupted, it set me back 40 minutes,” Adler said. “One time I left my office and asked my wife, ‘How come there’s snow on the ground, it’s May,’ she replied, ‘Maybe it’s May to you, but it’s February to everyone else.’ The book took place in May in the 1940’s. I had the music from the 40’s…model cars from the ‘40s, all for the process of writing this book. I was really living in that time. If I got interrupted, I was back in the current year.”
Adler can often be found at the Hewlett Woodmere Library, where he serves as a trustee on the board or listening to his extensive collection of old radio broadcasts at home. For budding writers, Adler noted that thinking less and writing more are important factors to improving and success. “A lot of people come to me, they want to be writers,” Adler said. “I always tell them, ‘think less and write more.’ Don’t think so much, just do it. Read it over, if you like it, read it over again and work with it. Don’t think because you wrote it, it can’t be changed… [Also] read like a writer. A reader reads something and says ‘I like it,’ a writer should say, ‘I like it, but why did I like it?’ Think about how they wrote it.”
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