Wednesday, August 20, 2014

James Burd Brewster {Writer Wednesday} + GIVEAWAY

A little bit about James...

James Burd Brewster, a fraternal twin, was raised in Albany, NY with his 5 brothers and sisters. He learned to sail on Lake Champlain, navigated a Polar Icebreaker in the US Coast Guard, and married Katie Spivey from Wilmington, NC. They started their family in Cleveland and moved to Baltimore where Ben and Luke first heard Jim tell the Rocky Hill, Fireman stories. Their family grew to five (Ben, Luke, Rachel, Andrew, Sam) and they settled in Pomfret, MD outside of Washington, DC where Jim finished up a career in the US Coast Guard.

During this time, Katie educated all five children at home which Jim says gave him the motivation to tell the Uncle Rocky, fireman stories to Ben and Luke. Twenty two years later, when Jim and Katie became empty nesters, they took a creative writing course which prompted them to consider converting the Uncle Rocky, Fireman stories into illustrated children’s books. Through the assistance of Yvonne Medley of the Life Journeys Writers Club and advice from James Mascia (author of High School Heroes) Jim was able to find an illustrator and complete four books.

Twenty-three years after the first telling of Uncle Rocky, the first book, Fire!, was published followed by Something’s Missing, Sparky’s Rescue, and Sparky Protects within four months time. One year later The Adventures of Uncle Rocky, Fireman, a chapter book containing 12 episodes written for 3rd and 4th grade readers, was published. Ben and Luke are no longer 6 and 4 1/2. Ben is a Marine, married, and father of 4 and Luke is living in Chicago, IL. Ben now tells Uncle Rocky stories to his sons Levi, Micah, and Judah. “That’s exactly how I always envisioned Uncle Rocky would look,” was Luke’s immediate comment when he first saw the illustrations.

How to Connect with James...

Purchase The Adventures of Uncle Rocky, Fireman: A Treasury of Twelve "Uncle Rocky, Fireman" Stories (Volume 1)  

Author Interview | James Burd Brewster

How did you start writing?
...The short answer is “God’s Timing.”

...The long answer goes back 25 years to 1990 when I told the Uncle Rocky, Fireman stories to my two oldest boys (Ben and Luke) as I put them to bed at night... They were 6 and 4 at the time. I had a blast telling them the stories and they had a riot acting them out. I especially enjoyed seeing them mimic Uncle Rocky’s arm motion and hearing them say “Glad to do it” at the end of each story. We thought other parents might like the same experience with their kids. As a result, Katie and I always thought they would do well as illustrated children’s stories. 

...About 15 years ago, the boys and I sat down and wrote down as a many titles and themes as we could remember and I actually wrote out several episodes as complete stories. Fast forward to the fall of 2012 when Katie and I were officially “Empty Nesters,” as the last of our five children was off to college. To celebrate, we enrolled in a creative writing class taught by Wayne Karlin at the College of Southern Maryland. Our writing assignments got me thinking of the Uncle Rocky, Fireman stories and I brought them out of mental and physical storage and actively began to think of a book project. 

...My renewed interest in writing and a Tax refund check made me receptive to a notice I saw on the library bulletin board for the Feb 16, 2013 meeting of the Life Journey’s Writer’s club (LJWC) founded by author Yvonne J. Medley (The Plumb Line). As a note, my stumbling block to starting the Uncle Rocky, Fireman books had been the cost and difficulty of finding an illustrator. I thought the writer’s club might be able to help me, so my daughter, Rachel, and I attend the meeting. Sure enough, at the meeting I met children’s book author Mr. James Mascia (High School Heroes series) and he told me I could find all the affordable illustrators I would ever need at He was correct. Within 24 hours I had contracted with Dayna Barley-Cohrs to illustrate my books and we had the four books printed and published by June 2013. It changed our lives.

What has kept you writing?
...Three things keep me writing: 1) I have a good thing going with Uncle Rocky, having over 50 episodes identified and needing to be written out. On top of that, the success of completing one book gives me the motivation to write others. 2) Since I have “figured out” how to write and illustrate children’s books, I can see other topics or ideas that would be just as fun to do as illustrated story books. 3) I like to help people and I think my books help families, especially fathers and sons, to enjoy each other. So I keep writing because I think it is one of the ways I can be Jesus’ hands and feet.

Do you have a favorite book or work that you’ve written? If so, why?
...My favoritest and first story I ever wrote is “The Lady From East Raymond.” It is the retelling of a limerick and how much fun my parents and I had making it while driving from our home to our summer place on Lake Champlain, NY. I was 14 when it occurred and it was the story I wrote when I submitted my application to the Institute of Children’s Literature.

What was the hardest thing about publishing? The easiest?
...The hardest thing about publishing was having the consistent thought that getting published was hard to do. The easiest thing about publishing was the freeing feeling I received when I realized that anyone can get published for only the effort of writing and submitting a book cover and interior file to CreateSpace in the correct format. Once I understood that anyone can get published, the work that became hard for me was the attention to detail required to keep track of different book files and where each book was in the publication process.

...That said, Print on Demand (POD) publishing, is a huge contributor to the Freedom of Press in America. POD makes printing and distributing a book accessible and affordable to any American who wants to publish a book. Christians should take advantage of this accessibility to write and distribute evangelical, spiritual, counseling, and encouraging literature.

Your Writing

Tell us a little bit about your book or what you’re working on currently? Why are you/did you write it?
...The bulk of my writing for the next couple of years will be in developing the 50 Uncle Rocky episodes I have identified into fully illustrated story books or into 3rd grade level chapter books. At present, I am working on 4 more Uncle Rocky episodes and am publishing Feat of Memories, a book written by Katie, my wife.

#5 - Picnic - Ben and Luke help save two paddlers when their canoe capsizes during a family picnic

#6 - Market Meltdown - Uncle Rocky, Bob, Big Joe, and Sparky help a family out of trouble at the grocery store.

#7 - The Man in the Jacket - Officer Jack and Uncle Rocky top a robbery before things get out of hand.

#8 - Fire Safety - Uncle Rocky has supper with Ben and Luke and teaches them about fire safety.

Do you have a favorite character in this work? If so, why?
...I absolutely love Uncle Rocky. He embodies all the character traits we desire our children to adopt and that I wish I could consistently emulate. He is kind, strong, patient, willing to help, encouraging, and humble in the face of praise.
What is one take-away from your book that you hope readers identify with?
...Uncle Rocky is fortunate to be able to rescue from and help people through very dangerous circumstances. Because there are so many things that can go wrong and foil a rescue, he knows that divine guidance and direction is always involved when things work out well. As a result he is humble in the face of praise because he is the hands and feet of the powerful God that is working behind the scenes.
...I try to remember this when complicated and serious things work out well for me.

Where do you find inspiration for your story/characters? Are they based on real life or pure imagination or both?
...Uncle Rocky is totally made up, except his character reflect very much how I feel we should be towards each other. Uncle Rocky looks for needs in people and then tries to make their life better by meeting that need.

When you write, what is your overall intention with your stories?
...I have two hopes for my books. 1) I want parents and their kids, as a result of the Uncle Rocky stories, to have the same kind of fun, the same kind of bonding experience, and the same kind of shared memories that we had/have with our children. 2) I want kids to learn from the Uncle Rocky stories that it is a wonderful thing to help someone and to be “Glad to do it.” when praised.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors for writing and/or publishing?
...The restrictions to publishing are all gone. Just do it. If you are not that good at it, you can find or hire help to edit your book, draw your illustrations, improve your grammar and deign your cover so that your book will be good. If you need encouragement or have questions you want answered, e-mail me at and I will be glad to tell you everything I know about publishing and writing.


What is your favorite activity during the summer?
...My favoritest activity of all time is to sail on Lake Champlain. My grandparents bought a summer place there the year I was born and I spent at least one week there almost every summer since then. I started with a Sailfish, then a Sunfish, rebuilt a Knockabout with my father and finally thoroughly enjoyed my father’s Tanzer 21. The water is exciting, the wind energizing and the views of the Adirondack (NY) and Green (VT) Mountains are stunning.

What are you currently reading?
...I am reading in print Brennan Manning’s “The Furious Longing of God.” I finished reading in audio James Patterson’s “The 9th Judgment” during my drive to work and am about to start “Between You and Me; A Memoir” by Mike Wallace of 60 Minutes and Gary Paul Gates. I really don’t get much time to read print books, but love audio books. My daily commute can be up to 3 hrs total and you can “read” a lot of audio in that time. I absolutely enjoy the performance put on by the reader as they add character to each character.

Apparently August 15th is National Lemon Meringue Pie Day (who knew). What is your favorite dessert?
...Interesting that your question is prompted by Lemon Meringue Pie Day as my favoritest (that word again) desert is Floating Islands which is Egg White Meringue “islands” floating in a bowl of egg yolk custard. My mom showed me how to make it in high school and I loved the process of making the custard in a double boiler and waiting for the sauce to thicken until it “Coated” a spoon. After you get done with enjoying the creative work of making the desert, you get the additional joy of the tastes and textures of the custard and meringue in the same spoonful.
Thank you so much for stopping by the blog today, James. So great to hear how you go into publishing children's books and I love your encouragement to new authors. That dessert sounds pretty amazing too ;)

We've got another GIVEAWAY as well!

James has offered to do 2 separate giveaways: 1)A complete set of 4 Uncle Rocky Fireman books and 2)The adventures of Uncle Rocky! These area amazing gifts for your children, or maybe to win for your friends with kids! Either way, leave a comment below of your "favoritest" summer activity!

PLUS >>> Don't forget my End-of-Summer GIVEAWAY is going until September 1st as well! So many options to win books and fun goodies ;) If this doesn't jumpstart your fall, I don't know what will!

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