Can it be that we’re halfway through Week 3 already? The time is flying by. We started off the day with some of our favorite games, like Handshake Murder, Ms. Key’s Keys, Night at the Museum, and more.
Then we went downstairs to meet our guest author John J. Bonk, who wrote Madhattan Mystery. He immediately told us that his family name, as far as he can tell, has always been “Bonk,” not Bonkowski or Bonkadoodledoo, just Bonk. As a kid he cut out all the times the word “bonk!” appeared in comics. Throughout his youth he was interested in the arts. He played an instrument, loved singing, dancing and acting. But he didn’t read. After college, he moved to New York City to break into show business, and he did! He did lots of shows in New York, around the country, and even around the world, performing on cruise ships. But eventually, he began to lose his enthusiasm for life in the theatre.
Working in an office between acting jobs, he heard authors reading their books for kids aloud and he loved it. He realized he had missed out on a lot by not reading. So he started reading . . . and he started writing: poems, short stories, anything. He got a few of them published and went, as he said, from performing on the stage to performing on the page. He gets many of his ideas from his own life. In fact his first two books, which go together, essentially follow the story of his life coming to New York. There are aspects of himself, he told us, in all the characters in Madhattan Mystery.
Up to that point, he had never written a mystery. But he got instantly intrigued when he heard about the Whispering Gallery at Grand Central Terminal. There’s no sign that says “Whispering Gallery: be careful what you say, someone could hear you!” So what if a couple of criminals didn’t know they could be heard speaking softly and plotted a crime right there? And what if someone, a young girl, overheard them? The rest is, as they say, Madhattan Mystery!
John did a cool activity with us to get us thinking about using the five senses in our writing. A brave volunteer came up and was blindfolded. The first sense was touch. The volunteer was handed an object to feel and was then asked to describe what he felt. A scribe wrote down all the wonderfully descriptive words. It was a pine cone. The list of words included spikey, delicate, lumpy and hard. They went through the process with several other objects. Then a blindfolded volunteer smelled three things: lavender, garlic, and mouthwash. Finally, the third volunteer TASTED salt, lemon, and basil. We ended up with a very fantastic set of evocative words that suggested all kinds of stories. Inspired by all of this, everyone wrote a paragraph about a place, any place, but emphasized as many of the senses as they could. Hearing a few, we could practically smell the smells, see the sights and feel all the feelings in each selection. The morning ended with our usual group photo and book signing.
After lunch, along with John, we took the subway to the main setting of Madhattan Mystery, Grand Central Terminal. There we walked from area to area to look at the locations where the action of the book takes place. At each stop – the Main Concourse, the Information Booth, the Whispering Gallery, and the Lost and Found – we read the relevant excerpt from the book. It was a little noisy, but fun. We also all got to see if the Whispering Gallery really works! And, yes, it does.
We said goodbye to John and headed back to Symphony Space, where we performed one last scene from the book before having some free time to end the day.
Tomorrow we welcome Chris Grabenstein, and in the afternoon we’ll take a trip to the Cooper Hewitt Museum.