The goofy, grinning, whimsical faces Bruce Coville makes in photographs mirror the spirit reflected in the Central New York native’s writing. The child-like playfulness displayed in every smiling image matches the glee apparent in his children’s books. Eyebrow up, smile on, Coville’s expressions tell the story of a man devoted to enjoyment and making others happy with words.
That enjoyment began early. Growing up in tiny Phoenix, N.Y., about a half hour north of Syracuse, Coville credits his sixth-grade teacher with igniting his love of writing. At 17, Coville began to pursue writing, and at 19, he married childhood neighbor and illustrator Katherine Dietz. The duo began working on children’s books, publishing their first book The Foolish Giant eight years later. Coville continued writing books with adventurous titles and stories including Goblins in the Castle, Aliens Ate My Homework, and The World’s Worst Fairy Godmother.
Coville’s stories take readers to worlds teeming with imaginary adventures, but the writer himself has stayed close to home. Each year Coville plays a large part in the careers of his potential Central New York successors. His annual Halloween writing contest on Syracuse.com prompts school children to finish a children’s story Coville begins. Winners are chosen by age in three groups: kindergarten through third grade, fourth and fifth grades, and sixth and seventh grades. The Post-Standard publishes the winners’ stories. The 2015 Halloween contest prompted writers to complete the adventure of a fan traveling to the “Professional Association of Mad Scientists,” and solve the mystery of their scientist father’s missing brain experiment.
Here is an excerpt from My Teacher Glows in the Dark:
“All these guys picking on smart kids and calling them geeks and dweebs are going to grow up and want to know why they don’t do something about the terrible state the world is in. I can tell you why. By the time they grow up, most of the kids who really could have changed things are wrecked.”
— Johnny Rosa