By Nicole Hennessy
At some point while volunteering in the cafeteria of his children’s Westlake school, Holly Lane Elementary, David Simon imagined a kid named Josh, who, while on cafeteria duty, finds a little secret door in the storeroom that drops him into a world made completely from cafeteria food and kitchen implements.
The rest of story, “Trapped in Lunch Lady Land,” unfolds from there.
Simon, an illustrator, writer and now, having won a book deal contest sponsored by Austin, Texas-based CBAY Books, published author, continues his first novel’s synopsis: By accident, Josh’s arch nemesis follows him through the small passageway.
CBAY, which stands for Children’s Brains Are Yummy, explains on its website, “As to our name, we do not practice cannibalism nor do we particularly recommend it. No one here has ever had a brain of any kind, but we all unanimously agree it would almost certainly be gross. None of us think it would taste like chicken. We think kids have yummy brains the same way the stars of Sex and the City wore yummy shoes. We think children have delightful, extraordinary brains just filled with vitamin enriched goodness. We want to provide them with extraordinary books to devour.”
With the tagline “Creating the Banned Books of Tomorrow,” CBAY publishes mostly children’s books, but says it will consider “edgy manuscripts the big houses might be reluctant to touch.”
Having illustrated children’s picture books and stories for magazines like Highlights, Simon seems to gravitate naturally to illustrating and writing stories geared toward young readers.
“Maybe I just have a kid’s brain,” he laughs.
“Trapped in Lunch Lady Land,” which will officially publish May 6, 2014, was originally submitted to CBAY as a much shorter book, and Simon was asked to double the size of it, turning it from a chapter book to a middle-grades novel.
With a family and a full-time job as creative director for Rosenberg Advertising in Lakewood, Simon finds time to write at night.
Doing so, working without an outline, in just six months his book doubled in size to about 30,000 words, giving him the chance to add characters and “have more fun in the little universe I created.”
For the rest of the book, Josh and his nemesis make their way through a “relatively dangerous” world, searching for a way back to school.
Throughout the editing and design process, Simon looks forward the most to seeing his book in Barnes & Noble, even though he’s seen his name in print before, on Highlights magazine articles he’s illustrated and a few children’s picture books. He’s also no stranger to winning contests, something he says many authors are skeptical of, but which have treated him quite well.
With a story called “Up Ned’s Nose,” Simon won a Writer’s Digest contest, selling it to a publisher immediately after that. However, due to financial constraints within children’s departments throughout the industry, the book was never published.
“I have the rights to that one back,” explains Simon. “I’m trying to find a new publisher.”
As he continues to consider restructures and other editing suggestions, Simon allows himself to imagine again, this time about his book being turned into an animated film, him sitting in the theater with his family. But, for now, that’s just a distant hope.
Simon also has a sequel in mind, but he says, “I haven’t even thought about writing it yet.”