R-Jeneration: Writer Eric DelaBarre seeks to alter kids'”reading sucks, man” mentality

Twenty-two credit cards.

Spending the maximum limit on 22 credit cards was the price Las Vegas-born writer Eric DelaBarre paid to write, direct and produce his film "Kate’s Addiction." With the release of his new book "Saltwater Taffy" on Jan. 11, DelaBarre turns his creative determination to reducing childhood illiteracy throughout the country.

Utilizing the childhood tales "Lord of the Rings" and "Treasure Island," DelaBarre offers a treasure hunt on which the modern kid can embark, with moral treasure tips placed at the end of every chapter.

Scott Martin, 13, and four friends discover a clue to the long-deceased pirate Jean Lafitte’s treasure.

" ‘Run and jump’ usually happens in the third act of a movie where everything ties up," DelaBarre says. "With ‘Saltwater Taffy,’ it had to be a ‘run and jump’ story."

Setting "Saltwater Taffy" in 1972 allowed DelaBarre to remove the burden of technology from the plot, forcing the main characters to use their brains.

Scott’s friend Zippy uses a cipher found in the World Book Encyclopedia, since Google has yet to be invented.

"In 1972, I knew I didn’t have to deal with cell phones and the Internet," DelaBarre says. "I wanted to focus on what is important in life and teach kids the simple things in life."

DelaBarre’s degree in business marketing has enhanced his experience of packaging and selling his novel. He believes the trend of the creator holding the sole rights for a work is the new frontier.

"It’s absurd that the writer gets 15 cents a copy," DelaBarre says. "It’s risky, but I’d rather create something and stand by my product."

DelaBarre follows in the footsteps of literary giants such as Stephen King by affirming that all authors need a ritual when they sit down to write. DelaBarre brews his own ideas at various Starbucks when they open at 5 a.m.

"I write in Starbucks coffee shops because I get the free Internet, good coffee and you never know who you will sit next to," Delabarre says. "I’ve sat next to amazing teachers, met Jeff Nathanson (best known for his writing in ‘Catch Me if You Can’ and ‘The Terminal’) and show runners, too."

The film "Waiting for Superman" largely inspired the creation of "Saltwater Taffy," as DelaBarre wanted to help prevent the declining literacy rates in children. His planned book tour includes many of the "dropout factory" schools mentioned in the film.

DelaBarre, who attended Valley and Bishop Gorman high schools, is scheduled to give a presentation Tuesday at his former middle school, Helen C. Cannon Junior High.

"I know one thing is true: You cannot do anything without reading," DelaBarre says. "How are you going to read your contract? Reading is fundamental."

Throughout his book tour so far, DelaBarre has given away more than 5,000 copies of "Saltwater Taffy" to children all over the nation. Furthering his aspirations for the novel, United Way asked for 750 copies to use as an educational tool in an effort to curb childhood illiteracy.

"I need to be a part of this world and change it in the classroom," DelaBarre says. "If we want a better tomorrow, we need smarter people."

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