Most people had a favorite stuffed animal in their childhood. Whitney-area author Luke Anderson still has his, a penguin named Rodman, and he has based two books on him.
“Hockey Penguin” and “Hockey Penguin 2” feature the adventures of Rodman and his fellow hockey-playing animals, who are teammates on the Las Vegas Gamblers team. Anderson has self-published both books.
“I am looking for a national publisher, but as I understand it, even some established authors are turning to self-publishing,” Anderson said. “That way their stories don’t get messed with, and they cut out the middleman.”
Even if he gets a publisher, Anderson is aware that he’ll still have to remain his own best promoter for his books.
“That’s the way it is in the publishing world now,” Anderson said. “There are so many books out there that you really need to get the word out yourself.”
Getting the word out is precisely what Anderson has been doing lately. During Nevada Reading Week he visited 16 schools in the valley. He also has been working with a Gifted and Talented Education class at Mack Elementary School in Henderson to help the students publish their own work this year.
Anderson spoke to more than 3,000 students during Reading Week and challenged them with a contest to create a new character for the next book in the series. After sifting through stacks of submissions, he settled on a female penguin that becomes Rodman’s love interest. Since two students from different schools submitted similar ideas, including the same name, Penny, the author decided to credit both students: Vanessa Medina-Torres, who attends Hill Elementary School, and Emma Rose Gladwin from Sewell Elementary School.
Leslie Walters, the Hill Elementary School librarian, said she’s pleased that Vanessa got a chance to stand out and be recognized.
Emma Rose is in the G.A.T.E. program at Sewell, and her G.A.T.E. instructor, Kirin Moseman, said she is a frequent writer.
“I thought it would be nice to have a main character who was female and have her fall in love with Rodman,” Emma Rose said.
Anderson has been writing most of his life, working on comics as a child and on his high school newspaper. In college he took classes in creative writing and screenwriting. The first book was originally written as a screenplay for class.
“I’ve been working on this since 2007, but it’s just this year that it’s really taking off,” Anderson said. “I’ve never done a big tour like this before.”
Anderson attended an event at the Railhead in Boulder Station, which brought together Clark County School District librarians from across the valley. His fiancee was there to help, and they brought Rodman along. Both Rodman and Anderson’s fiancee inspired aspects of Anderson’s books.
“I was inspired to write the books by my love of Las Vegas and hockey,” Anderson said. “I used Rodman for the main character, and my fiancee had a whole collection of stuffed animals that became the other characters in the book.”
The stories came about from the couple’s playful pondering about the characters the stuffed animals might have and how they would relate to one another. Anderson said he likes to throw in pop culture references as a nod to parents who might be reading the books with their kids. He cited a horse and a goose that are friends in the books named “Maverick” and “Goose.”
“Whenever I have a part with those two characters together, there’s a pretty good chance there will be a ‘Top Gun’ reference,” Anderson said.
He hopes readers of all ages will enjoy the books.
“They’re chapter books for older kids,” Anderson said. “But the story is still fun enough that it appeals to a younger crowd.”
Anderson is wrapping up the writing on “Hockey Penguin 3,” which will include the introduction of Penny Penguin, whom he intends to make a regular character in the series.
Contact Sunrise/Whitney View reporter F. Andrew Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-4532.