Myers, Tim 1953-

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Myers, Tim 1953-

(Timothy Brian Myers)

Personal

Born August 14, 1953, in Portland, OR; son of James M. (a doctor) and Tedde (a homemaker) Myers; married 1973; wife's name M. Priscilla (a university professor and reading specialist); children: Seth, Nick, Cassie. Ethnicity: "White—with a big streak of Irish." Education: Colorado College, B.A., 1975; University of Wisconsin— Madison, M.A., 1976; University of Colorado— Colorado Springs, teaching credential, 1981. Politics: "American." Hobbies and other interests: Music, sports, outdoor activities science, religion, philosophy, history, art, film, parenting, traveling, children.

Addresses

Home—Santa Clara, CA; Colorado Springs, CO. Office— 753 Fremont St., Santa Clara, CA 95050. E-mail—[email protected]

Career

Writer, songwriter, and professional storyteller. Classroom teacher, 1977-91; university lecturer in English and education at California State—Bakersfield, State University of New York system, and Santa Clara University.

Member

Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Science-Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, National Storytelling Network, West Coast Songwriters.

Awards, Honors

Winner of national poetry contest judged by John Updike; Writers of the Future contest third-place winner, for science-fiction/fantasy manuscript; Paul A. Whittey Short-Story Award nomination, International Reading Association; Notable Book for Children citation, Smithsonian magazine, 2000, Irma Simonton Black and James H. Black Honor Award for Excellence in Children's Literature, Bank Street College of Education, and Honor Title, Storytelling World, both 2001, all for Basho and the Fox; Storyteller's Choice award, and Asian Pacific American Honor for Literature, both 2004, both for Tanuki's Gift; National Council for the Social Studies/Children's Book Council Notable Social Stud- ies Trade Book designation, 2005, and California Young Reader Medal nomination, 2007-08, both for Basho and the River Stones.

Writings

FOR CHILDREN

Let's Call Him Lau-Wili-Wili-Humu-Humu-Nukunuku-Nukunuku-Apuaa-Oioi, illustrated by Daryl Arakaki, Bess Press (Honolulu, HI), 1993.

Basho and the Fox, illustrated by Oki S. Han, Marshall Cavendish (Tarrytown, NY), 2000.

The Priest and the Badger, Marshall Cavendish (New York, NY), 2002.

(Reteller) Tanuki's Gift: A Japanese Tale, illustrated by Robert Roth, Marshall Cavendish (Tarrytown, NY), 2002.

Basho and the River Stones, illustrated by Oki S. Han, Marshall Cavendish (New York, NY), 2004.

Good Babies: A Tale of Trolls, Humans, a Witch, and a Switch, illustrated by Kelly Murphy, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2005.

Dark Sparkle Tea, and Other Bedtime Poems, illustrated by Kelley Cunningham, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 2006.

The Furry-legged Teapot, illustrated by Robert McGuire, Marshall Cavendish (New York, NY), 2007.

Out-Foxed Fox, illustrated by Ariel Ya-wen Pang, Marshall Cavendish (New York, NY), 2007.

If You Give a T-Rex a Bone, Dawn Publications, in press.

OTHER

That Mass at Which the Tongue Is Celebrant (adult poetry chapbook), Pecan Grove Press, 2005.

Contributor of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction to various publications for children and adults, including Cricket, Cicada, Spider, Faces, Odyssey, Cobblestone, Apple-seeds, Storyworks, and Highlights for Children.

Adaptations

Basho and the Fox was adapted as a dance program performed at the University of Utah, 2002, and adapted by Pat Turner as a play produced in San Rafael, CA, 2006. Basho and the River Stones was adapted as a play produced in Burbank, CA, 2006.

Sidelights

In his picture books for children, Tim Myers explores the literature and folklore of several cultures, while also creating original works that feature imaginative flights of fancy. Reflecting the author's interest in Japanese culture, Basho and the Fox and Basho and the River Stones feature renowned seventeenth-century Japanese poet Matsuo Basho, a man who lived a solitary life of writing and study. A sense of whimsy comes to the fore in Good Babies: A Tale of Trolls, Humans, a Witch, and a Switch, while in Dark Sparkle Tea, and Other Bedtime Poems Myers presents verses that entertain soon-to-be-tucked-in children with all manner of "nonsense, nursery-rhyme wordplay," according to Booklist reviewer Gillian Engberg.

One of Basho's main pleasures—sitting under a cherry tree on the banks of a peaceful river, contemplating the world and enjoying the cherries—is what occupies the poet's time in Basho and the Fox. When the poet comes upon a fox eating the cherries from his favorite tree, he tries to chase the creature away. The crafty fox knows who Basho is, however, and it claims that foxes also have superior poetic ability. The beast then makes a bargain with Basho: If the human poet can write a fine haiku, he can claim the cherries, but if not, the fruit will belong to the fox. Basho works hard all winter, creating two haiku to offer to the fox—one of which is the poem that becomes his most famous work. When the fox rejects the poems, Basho loses confidence in his abilities. However, because showing up empty-handed means he will forfeit the cherries, Basho dashes off a last-minute haiku before his third meeting with the fox. This time the creature is actually pleased because Basho's new haiku mentions foxes. When the vain fox concedes defeat and Basho wins the cherries, the poet decides to share them with the fox anyway.

The battle of wits between man and fox continues in Basho and the River Stones, and the cherry harvest is once again the prize. This time the greedy fox tries to trick the poet out of his fruit. While the poet offers to share the tree's yield with the fox, the bushy-tailed creature wants more. Dressed in a monk's garb, the fox tricks Basho by offering to buy the poet's share of the cherries with three fake gold coins. When the coins are revealed to be flat, round river stones, Basho turns setback into inspiration, writes a haiku extolling the stones' beauty, and impresses the fox with his honorable attitude. There is one more trick to be played out before the story's end.

In School Library Journal Barbara Scotto praised Basho and the Fox as a "lively tale [that] has good pacing, convincing characters, and a clever ending." "Delivered with a light touch, in a lyrical narrative benefiting its poetic hero, Myers's cunning caper offers a sage lesson," a Publishers Weekly reviewer noted of the same tale, while in Horn Book a critic remarked that Myers' "gently humorous story provides a palatable introduction to a centuries-old form of poetry and one of its great masters." Praising the "exotic" adaptation presented in Basho and the River Stones, Carol Ann Wilson wrote in School Library Journal that Myers' "storytelling background is apparent in the pacing of the tale and in the carefully selected, descriptive narrative," and Booklist reviewer Karin Snelson deemed it "a clever original fable."

In Tanuki's Gift: A Japanese Tale Myers offers an adaptation of a traditional folktale about a friendship between a Buddhist priest and a tanuki: a mystical "raccoon-dog" with a reputation for mischief. During a freezing winter storm, the tanuki appears at the priest's door, begging for shelter. Despite the tanuki's dubious reputation, the priest gladly agrees to let the creature weather the storm in his house. The tanuki returns each evening for ten winters, and the two develop a deep friendship. When the tanuki asks what it can do to repay the priest for his kindness, the man asks for three pieces of gold, hoping to use the coins to hire prayers to be said after his death as a way to ensure his entrance into Paradise. The tanuki disappears, and the priest despairs that he will never see his friend again. When the tanuki returns, months later, it honorably discharges its debt to the priest, but the man realizes that the coins are is irrelevant: the tanuki's friendship is the true gift. Kay Weisman, writing in Booklist, called Tanuki's Gift "a gentle fable, suitable for both story hours and lap-sharing." A Publishers Weekly critic predicted that the tanuki "will win readers' hearts," and Nancy A. Gifford noted in School Library Journal that, "although both the story and the art are understated, the book has a strong and lasting message."

Described by a Kirkus Reviews writer as a "warmhearted twist on the ‘changeling child’ motif," Good Babies draws from the folklore of Norway. Myers' retelling focuses on two young parents who are suffering because their infant sleeps the day away, then cries and whimpers all night. Hearing of the family's plight, a mischievous witch decides to cause the young couple even more trouble; she secretly substitutes their human baby for a young troll whose troll parents are suffering through the opposite problem: an infant that sleeps all night and fusses all day! When the substitution pleases both families, the witch grows frustrated: although each set of parents is concerned that their child is growing up to be much uglier than they are, they continue to love it. Ultimately, the frustrated witch performs a second switch: she places each child with its original family in what School Library Journal reviewer Linda Staskus described as an "enjoyable story" that will find certain fans among "children who would like to trade in their noisy younger siblings."

"As a child, I didn't have much interest in 'school stuff,'" Myers told SATA. "But in sixth grade, when our teacher told us to write an essay, I decided to write a poem instead. This was totally unlike me; the idea came

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straight out of the blue. The day after I handed the poem in, my teacher, Sister Mary Boniface, told me to stay behind when the other kids went out to recess. I was scared to death, certain I'd get in trouble. But to my amazement, she liked the poem and asked me to write more. I've been writing ever since.

"I love to write—it gives me the same kind of joy as my other great loves, like basketball and playing rock and roll. I love the work of it, the feel of typing, the thinking and planning, the re-writing. But mostly I love words and their flavors, and the beauty and power of stories. I love nonfiction too.

"I'm the oldest of eleven children, and I grew up in Colorado, in the shadow of Pikes Peak. These circumstances have shaped me in profound ways. I love noise and fun and craziness and crowds—not surprising, is it? I'm also the kind of person who has a deep relationship with land. And I've lived in England, Norway, and Japan, and traveled to many other countries, which also comes out in some of my writing.

"As a writer, my first goal is simply to write. I think an artist does art the way a tree or flower grows: something just keeps pushing to get out from inside, from ‘underground,’ as it were. To me it's a completely sacred thing. I'm deeply unhappy if I can't do it. But I aim for more too—I want my writing to give pleasure, to teach, to illuminate, to comfort, and to show new ways of looking at things or remind people of old ways that still work. Of course I don't achieve these goals all the time, but I try. I also want my writing to be filled with the joy of language, and that's true even about the sad and/or serious writing I do. And I write to express joy itself. I also think fun is a very serious and powerful thing!

"Although I love serious writing for adults (and non-serious too), I love to write for kids just as much. Mainly because I just love kids. I can't resist them. And writing for kids lets me use my imagination in unique ways. That's something else at the heart of my love for writing: the unspeakable deliciousness of being able to play in the vast fields of imagination. I've written about sailors in despair because their cook accidentally dropped his muffin tins overboard, about an Olympics-style race between snails, about talking foxes and troll babies living with humans, and ocean-crossing hummingbirds and rock-star hamsters. I'm constantly amazed, and grateful, at the infinite possibilities of imagination.

"My writing is also strongly influenced by my work as a storyteller, and many of my picture books are retellings of traditional tales or original stories framed in a folktale style. Because I know a lot of old stories, and am constantly learning more, a lot of the feel of folktales creeps into what I write. And I love poetry, so I have a strong tendency toward rhythm and rhyme.

"There's no set time when I write; it's basically any time I can. I get up in the morning and work out at the gym, then come home and write for as long as possible. But a writer is always writing, actually, and I get ideas, or words or phrases, or other information, all the time. Even in bed at night, or while I'm taking a shower, or riding my bike. One of my favorite things is to keep a journal, where I write down anything that comes to me: an idea for a poem, a thought, a reaction to a movie I've seen, something I heard someone say, all kinds of things. Oh, and lots of doodles.

"It seems to me that God (or Allah or Nirvana or whatever name you may use) gives each of us something unutterably precious: ourselves. Each of us is completely unique. And that means each of us has a special path in life that belongs to us alone. No one but you can walk your path, and no one but you is meant to. To be the best person you can be, the best possible version of yourself: that's the heart of life. Sometimes your path can be very difficult, but it's still your path, and it's still worth all you do to walk it the best way you know how. Writing is right there at the center of my path. I love it more than words can say."

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Booklist, September 15, 2000, Connie Fletcher, review of Basho and the Fox, p. 249; March 15, 2003, Kay Weisman, review of Tanuki's Gift: A Japanese Tale, pp. 1328; March 15, 2006, Gillian Engberg, review of Dark Sparkle Tea, and Other Bedtime Poems, p. 49; November 1, 2004, Karin Snelson, review of Basho and the River Stones, p. 490.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, November, 2004, Hope Morrison, review of Basho and the River Stones, p. 135.

Horn Book, September, 2000, review of Basho and the Fox, p. 553.

Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2003, review of Tanuki's Gift, pp. 474-475; August 1, 2004, review of Basho and the River Stones, p. 746; October 1, 2005, review of Good Babies: A Tale of Trolls, Humans, a Witch, and a Switch, p. 1085.

Publishers Weekly, September 25, 2000, review of Basho and the Fox, p. 117; February 10, 2003, review of Tanuki's Gift, p. 186.

School Library Journal, October, 2000, Barbara Scotto, review of Basho and the Fox, p. 131; July, 2003, Nancy A. Gifford, review of Tanuki's Gift, p. 115; October, 2004, Carol Ann Wilson, review of Basho and the River Stones, p. 125; December, 2005, Linda Staskus, review of Good Babies, p. 199; June, 2006, Lee Bock, review of Dark Sparkle Tea, and Other Bedtime Poems, p. 139.

ONLINE

Tim Myers Home Page, http://epl/scu.edu/~timmyers (February 7, 2007).