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Aesocks Travels
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Look no further, all those missing socks have been found!

Title: Aesock’s Travels/Los Viajes de Aesock

Author: Gretchen McMasters

Publisher: Stargazer Pub Co; Bilingual edition (May 2004)

Genre: Children’s Historical Fiction

Reading level: 6-12

ISBN: 0971375690

Paperback: 160 pages



Rating: Highly Recommended


July 19, 2004


After a failed science project seven-year-old Benjamin Barber retreats to his home’s basement.  He and his nine year-old sister, Olivia, are taken by surprise when the laundry pile suddenly comes to life.


From Static Island has emerged a sock laden creature with supreme static cling, Aesock. After Benjamin reveals his desire to become someone as important as Thomas Edison, Aesock invites the children for a journey back in time.


They board a ship or hamper in this case. Complete with captain’s wheel, colorful sail and more. It doesn’t take long before they are on their way, traveling, to meet a young Edison.


Gretchen McMasters has written a wonderful book that children will surely enjoy! Not only is this a great tale of adventure, but teachers English or Spanish will also want to use this book as a learning tool, especially for children with short attention spans. Younger children will adore having this adventurous tale read to them.


Aesock is well written, captivating, unique and its eye-catching cover are sure to be a big hit everywhere!


For other upcoming books in the series or lesson plans visit: aesock.com


  Reviewed by Betsie




An Interview with Gretchen McMasters




To start this off, why don't you give an idea of what the book is about?


Lights, Camera, Edison!/¡Luz, Cámara, Edison! is the first chapter book in the Aesock's Travels/Los Viajes de Aesock series. Aesock—the series character that just happens to be responsible for all your missing socks—uses historical fiction to empower young readers to achieve greatness. These stories emphasize creative problem solving, individuality, invention, courage and self-confidence. It’s written primarily for readers seven to ten.  The story introduces youngsters to Thomas Edison as a seven-year-old boy riddled with doubt and struggling in school with a hearing problem. By presenting Edison this way, Aesock helps young readers explore commonalities between their own lives and the life of Thomas Alva Edison, a boy who overcame great adversity and went on to achieve greatness.  I chose Edison because I could relate to his hearing deficit since I have one as well.



Where did you grow up and was reading and writing a part of your life?


I grew up between Sumter and Summerton, South Carolina.  Summerton was a rural, farming community.  With no siblings my age, I was lonely so reading became a form of escape and entertainment.  However, I struggled to read in elementary school.  To overcome this, my mother took me to the public library where I discovered the Black Stallion series by Walter Farley. Suddenly, I was reading everything I could get my hands on.  By the time I reached the sixth grade, I was a proficient reader. 



Who were your earliest influences and why?


My mother, father and older sister were my earliest, most important influencers—all for different reasons.  When I was about six years old my older sister purchased a set of Childcraft for me—the kid’s supplement to World Book Encyclopedia.  Childcraft had marvelous stories about historical figures that changed my perception of the world.  My mother’s persistence was the basis for the reading skills that still serve me to this day.  I still remember her taking me to the library and helping me read at the kitchen table.  My father taught me to take risks.  He had a genuine appreciation for life I haven’t seen in another human being.  He loved nature and taught me to swim, fish, hunt, water ski, ride motorcycles, hang glide and do things that girls just didn’t do thirty years ago. Frankly, a lot still don’t. 



What would a typical day be like for a writer? 


That depends on what stage you’re at in your writing.  I spend quite a bit of time on the Internet and at the library conducting research to determine whom Aesock will visit next.  Once I’ve decided, then I begin writing.  Writing isn’t easy, and writing the story is only a small part of actually being a writer.  If you want to be successful, a lot of time and effort goes into marketing your work and yourself.  In my case, I want to reach the children so that means I do school and library visits.  Writing isn’t about me. It’s about helping Aesock reach the children.



How long have you been writing and in what capacities? 


I’ve always enjoyed writing stories, even as a young child, but creative writing didn’t become part of my career until I was in my mid-30s. Initially, I was hired to write documentation and training programs for a corporation.  After graduate school, I began writing business plans for companies.  Later, I taught public speaking and speech writing. I didn’t become a children’s author until midlife.



Which is more difficult to write - Fiction or nonfiction and why?


For me, or for someone else?  I’m not sure, but in general I think it has to do with the topic, the person doing the writing and their passion for the subject.  Some fiction writers have the most unbelievable imaginations and they can craft and articulate their visions into words that float right into the minds and hearts of the readers.  But when asked to write nonfiction these same writers’ words become dry and staid.  For me, I have to be passionate about the subject. At this stage, I would much rather write about Aesock than write non-fiction.



Has there ever been a time when you wanted to throw in the towel and give up? And if so, how did you defeat those instincts?


Oh, boy.  How much time do you have? The answer to this question is an article in itself. The publication of Aesock's Travels/Los Viajes de Aesock is the fulfillment of a ten-year journey that began in 1994.  I was in graduate school at USC in Los Angeles when Tom Schuster, my former husband, began developing a children’s character that became Aesock.  To try and make a VERY long story short, we developed Aesock into a stuffed, plush character; I wrote a children’s book; Aesock was licensed by Happiness Express, a publicly traded toy company in New York City; and FAO Schwarz agreed to feature Aesock in a campaign for eight of their new stores openings nationwide.  We were absolutely thrilled!  Back then, if FAO agreed to sponsor your initial launch your success was virtually assured.  One buyer at FAO told me that she had been in the business a long time and knew Aesock was destined for success.  But the bottom fell out of the dream when Happiness Express missed every ship date to FAO in time to meet their grand opening schedules; the top brass at Happiness Express was charged by the Securities and Exchange Commission with insider trading; and Happiness went bankrupt.  Aesock got caught in the crossfire and never really made it to market.  Over 40,000 Aesock books were destroyed when Happiness couldn’t pay for them.  This was in 1997. Because Tom and I put almost everything we had into Aesock the personal and financial effects were devastating.  Over the years, I tried several times to resurrect Aesock, but our debacle with Happiness Express left me very leery of most companies.  Finally, in 2003 I sold everything I had and put it into building a company dedicated to Aesock’s success.  I’ll never forget the day I held this book in my hands.  I sat on the floor and sobbed. Aesock’s trademark saying is “All things are possible to those who believe.”  When I first wrote those words in 1994, I didn’t realize that they would become my mantra as well.  Did I want to give up?  I tried numerous times.  I was exhausted, sad and broke.  But, Aesock wouldn’t let me quit.  The little guy kept staring at me from his place on the bookshelf.  When you know in your heart that you have to do something, you just have to do it—regardless of the consequences.  Aesock isn’t just a concept to me.  Aesock has a mission to change children’s lives. That’s something worth keeping alive.



Do you have any hobbies? What are they? How do they enhance your writing?


I love nature and hiking.  I travel quite a bit to remote places in the Southwest where I can be alone.  This helps me clear my head, connect with things that matter and rejuvenate my writing.



Articles and media alike make it sound as though the only way to rise to the top is to sacrifice. What do you find to be good sacrifices?


Nothing in life worth having comes without sacrifice.  Whether you sacrifice on the front-end or the back-end – you will still sacrifice.  As human beings, we generally do not appreciate things that come without a struggle.  I think it’s in our nature.  I spoke quite a bit about sacrifices previously, but a recent sacrifice I made was my move from Los Angeles to Northern Arizona.  I love Los Angeles. The city is teaming with innovation and stimulation, but Northern Arizona makes my heart sing, and I believe my writing and my life will benefit greatly from this move. 



What question do you get asked more than any other?


It’s probably, “How did you come up with the idea for Aesock?” Actually, I don’t think Tom and I “came up” with Aesock. I tell people we just happened to be standing in the right place when a hole in the universe opened up and the idea fell out on top of us.  I believe the same idea can come to numerous people simultaneously.  It’s whether or not you act on those ideas that count. 



What’s the coolest thing a reader has said to you?


I don’t know if I would call them “cool,” but there have been numerous comments that brought tears to my eyes.  One-second grader said, “I’m going to be a better reader now because of Aesock.” Then she hugged me, looked up at me with her big, brown eyes and whispered, “Thank you.”  I almost lost it in front of one hundred second graders.  I know what it’s like to struggle as a child and feel like you’re not good enough.  When Aesock can help a child overcome their challenges, it tells me that I am fulfilling my mission.



What has been your feedback from readers? What do they say to you about their interpretations of your book?


Teachers, librarians, parents and kids all love Aesock.  He fulfills a need for each one.  Adults are charmed by the idea that he’s the reason behind the missing sock mystery. Then they get hooked because he not only teaches history, but teaches children how to overcome adversity.  But the most heartfelt feedback comes from the kids who grasp Aesock’s message of courage, self-confidence and perseverance.  I’ve gotten numerous letters from children who told me Aesock changed the way they look at situations as well as themselves.  I’ve also had teachers tell me that reading the book changed the way some of their students attack problems.  You can tell when these comments come from the heart. 



Do you think that as a writer you are more prone to watching what goes on around you and observing behaviors than most people are?


I’m not sure if the fact I’m a writer makes me more prone to watch, or the fact that I’m a watcher makes me more prone to write.  That’s a hard question for me to answer.  I’ve always watched people and things around me—even as a child. 



Who are some of the authors you consider to be "don't miss"?


There are so many wonderful children’s authors out there.  Rather than select certain authors, I would simply like to say that anything that will make a child read more—assuming it’s not harmful—is a “don’t miss.” 



If one were looking to start his/her own career as a writer, what would you suggest his/her first step to be?


I recommend taking classes on writing and editing, joining a critique group then reading, reading, reading—and reading some more—works in your genre and category.  I also strongly recommend joining organizations that support writers. For instance, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) really helped me quite a bit. I joined other published and unpublished writers and illustrators of children’s literature seeking information, knowledge, assistance and contacts.  Writing may be a solitary task, but getting your work published isn’t.  First, you have to be open to having your work critiqued and edited then you need to learn the business aspects that support the publication of the creative process.  Writing is no different than any other profession.  It’s work, and it requires that you work at it.



What kind of movies do you enjoy? 


I adore movies with ancient fables, medieval fantasy and magic, mysticism (not horror) and ancient warriors who have noble causes.  I loved the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, and I read the series in the seventh grade. I’m also a sucker for a good love story. 



What is your favorite city to visit, but one that you wouldn’t want to live in? 


New York.  I love it, but I don’t think I could live there again. It’s too confining. 



What’s the strangest question you’ve ever been asked in an interview? 


I don’t think I’ve been asked it yet.  I guess I’ll have to wait and see what it is. 



What’s the best part of being a writer? 


Being able to do something that will hopefully have a positive impact on someone’s life—particularly a child’s.



What's next? 


Mercy, Mercy, Clara Barton—the second book in Aesock’s series—is on my editor’s desk.  I also decided today to write about Amelia Earhart.  I love adventurous women. 


Betsie's Literary Page has had pleasure in doing this interview with Gretchen McMasters and wish her all the success in the world. We also hope you enjoyed learning about this author!