As COVID restrictions began to lift, thirty-plus people were able to enjoy fun, games, and prizes and tons of pizza at Joey’s Pizza (the very one mentioned in the books!). I ordered too much food, so many people went home with a large pizza, but that’s okay because Joey’s is the best pizza in my opinion.
If you weren’t there, you missed out on the rubber band shooting game, searching for seven Lego Elvis hidden in plain sight, an ice-breaking Bingo game, photo opportunities to be Eddie on the first book’s cover, and posing with Rocky as Elvis, all earning tickets to put in the bag of your favorite raffle prize.
After all the activity and thanking everyone for their support, I sat down to sign books.
My “vision” photo
Years ago, when I dreamed of being an author, a friend of mine set up vision photos and I took mine, pretending to sign books. That photo came to life, my dream came true, and for the first time, I felt like a real author.
The day’s activities blurred together; I can hardly remember it. But one thing I sticks out that I’ll never forget: the people I love who helped me fulfill my second-grade dream of being a writer honored me by celebrating my victory. For that reason, I am truly grateful.
Rocky’s real name is Rockefeller Espinosa. His middle name has not yet been revealed. He has an older brother and baby sister but does not remember them.
His ex-con father, Eduardo, gave him a picture of the three siblings, telling Rocky the children were the reason he made it through his long days in prison.
Rocky is in the foster care system, currently living with the Perkins and their baby girl, Rosie. Rocky loves Rosie and dreams of being adopted by the Perkins. His foster mom, Mary, makes the best, ooey, gooey, chocolate chip cookies. (Check out her recipe here)
Rocky always carries his drumsticks wherever he goes. Everyone thought Rocky was a bully as he keeps to himself, walking the perimeter of the school during recess.
Eddie Taylor invited Rocky to join the band as their drummer and has become Rocky’s best friend. When Eddie became a diabetic, Eddie thought diabetes meant ending the dream of the band winning the Sun Valley talent contest.
Rocky persuades Eddie to not give up with these words:
“The only way to survive the bad notes life sings to you is to keep playing until the music is in key again.”
Rocky became a fan of Elvis while doing research for his 4th grade living biography report. Drumming isn’t Rocky’s only talent; he can also impersonate Elvis and wooed the mayor at her 50th birthday party.
As I sat in the front row keeping an eye on my students, the stage curtain opened to our elementary school assembly. A sign over the group declared, “The Rubber Band.”
With one stroke, the lead guitar caused my inner groupie to emerge. I screamed in delight and crooned out, “Born to Be Wild,” along with the kid band delivering professional sounds. Our usually reserved staff soon joined me in my whoops of delight and the band had the entire assembly on its feet, dancing and clapping.
I was so impressed by this rock-and-roll group of fourth and fifth grade students that I asked them to play at my fiftieth birthday party.
Returning to our classroom, I put on my writer’s hat, thinking about what a cool kid’s book The Rubber Band would make. But I had to come up with a plotline. It was then I noticed a rubber band on the floor and knew instantly what needed to be done.
My book had to be about a good guitar-playing kid getting trouble for a mis-shot rubber band. He’s sent to the principal’s office, where he sees the sign advertising the talent contest and he begins his quest to recruit a diverse group of misfit kids to form a garage band.
Characters inspired by real people
My imagination took off as I thought about the many children I have taught through the years. Most of my characters are inspired by those actual students and events.
Rocky is a fictional name given to a real foster kid who came to our school temporarily. He used to walk alone around the perimeter of the school boundaries – just like Rocky.
Edison and Oliver are actual names of maternal twins I taught my first year at Kenwood Elementary, the school I derived Wildwood elementary from. Even Principal Haymaker is based on my friend, Principal Bales.
The band is not without troubles and Eddie soon finds himself challenged by an incurable illness. But the bond of the band is strong, and they will not snap but hang tight to see the dream through, no matter how it turns out.
Rocky longs to be a part of a permanent family, but has his heartstrings pulled when his freshly paroled birth father shows up.
Becca is the lonely, spoiled-rotten rich girl with no friends but a voice of gold.
Manny plays bass and Oliver, the keyboards, but not without adding their own unique personalities to the mix.
You’ll be hearing more from The Rubber Band, as I plan to write about their adventures into adulthood and beyond…and there will be many adventures.
I no longer look at a rubber band and think of it as just an elastic ring to hold things together. It’s a simple, useful object that inspired a novel series.
Here’s a video that introduces you to The Rubber Band Stretches: