July’s Leader of the Month: James Patterson
James Patterson has written so many books, he’s lost track of the exact number. Ask him how many novels he’s penned for 2012 alone and he shrugs, then guesses: “Twelve or 13?”
Often derided as a “factory” for being so prolific, Patterson has written more than 70 novels and sold more than 260 million copies — far more than any living writer. And at 65, he shows no sign of easing up. If anything, his pace seems to be quickening, especially with children’s books, which he began writing in 2007 after more than 30 years of producing adult thrillers.
This year has already brought new installments of his bestselling children’s series, “Witch & Wizard” and “Middle School.” In August, he’ll publish the eighth and final book in “Maximum Ride,” which has spent 128 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. But that isn’t all. Before the year is out, he’ll launch two entirely new series for kids, the illustrated middle-grade reader “I Funny,” about a wheelchair-bound, wannabe stand-up comic, and “Confessions of a Murder Suspect” for young adults, centering around a girl accused of her parents’ murder.
All five children’s book franchises are in various stages of development for film and TV.
“The best stuff I do are the kids’ books,” said Patterson.
Patterson isn’t only a novelist. He’s an evangelist for reading who believes in the power of books to improve the school experience and transform kids into better citizens leading quality lives. He founded the ReadKiddoRead website to offer book suggestions and reading tips to parents and educators. He gives away thousands of educational and college-book scholarships to university students each year and donates countless books.
Last week, every high school and middle school in the L.A. Unified School District received books from Patterson, including Venice High School, which scored 800 copies of “Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment” and a guest appearance by the author, who introduced himself to the audience as Stephen King. As a speaker, Patterson demonstrated the same strategy he employs with his books — continuously surprising and relating to his audience to keep them interested. He admitted it took him a while to get into Shakespeare. He told them how he grew up poor and was never given a single book to read by his parents but now makes $90 million a year.
Part back story, part inspirational talk, his prepared speech was only 10 minutes but yielded a lifetime of wisdom, encouraging the students to dream big (but also have a backup dream), to keep their brains open and, most importantly, to find cool books and read for fun.