Jay Slagle is very funny guy and undoubtedly a very funny dad. His sense of humor led him to create a story where his children and their friends were the main characters and in turn those kids developed a love of reading. The pages he wrote for them soon became an entire book, and now Jack and Noah's Big Day is a published labor of love for all of us to enjoy.
Jay Slagle is by day, a health care administrator and by night a tongue-in-cheek, self-proclaimed award winning author. He and his wife and their three children live in Dundee, which Jay will argue is the best neighborhood in Omaha. Jay began writing Jack and Noah's Big Day in the summer of 2008 in an effort to keep his son and his friend interested in reading. He couldn't help but notice that they loved reading about themselves so he kept writing. Five years later an entire story has been written and now published.
The story focuses on two eight year old boys who seem to be suffering through a very boring summer vacation. In an effort to have a little fun, they decide to throw themselves a birthday party for the ages and find themselves involved with police, elephants, fire trucks, celebrities and TV appearances. But along the way they also discover the importance of family, friends, responsibility and charity. Set in Jay's beloved neighborhood of Dundee, Jack and Noah's Big Day also includes many recognizable Omaha landmarks. And while this book was written for children ages 7 through 12, older children and adults will find it fun, entertaining as well as enjoy the local Omaha flavor.
Q&A with Jay Slagle
Omaha Family: Were you always a writer?
Jay Slagle: I haven't always been a writer. In my previous life I was a ground squirrel, and that was a tough gig. I really prefer this human thing. I graduated from Creighton with an accounting degree, but I managed to squeeze out fifteen hours of English while I was there. I took a creative writing class with Dr. Reloy Garcia, and my dad helped me write a humorous story about a cow. Dr. Garcia told me that he loved it, and I've been fascinated with cows ever since then. It's not a coincidence that there are cows in my book. Oh, and I love a good cut of steak.
Omaha Family: When did you realize you had the potential for a good book in the works?
Jay Slagle: My mom always told me, "You're not as cool as you think you are, but you're not as much of a loser as your classmates think you are." I've repeated that mantra for forty years and my book falls somewhere along that spectrum. At first I was going to print five copies and be done with it. However, I kept getting good feedback, first from friends and then a professional editor, so I decided the book might be appreciated beyond my family.
Omaha Family: Dundee is a great neighborhood. What role does it play in the book?
Jay Slagle: From my perspective, Dundee is the heart of the city, with the masterpiece of Memorial Park surrounded by great neighborhoods and schools. I live in Dundee, and I'm a runner, so I've been on nearly every street around there. In the book, the two eight-year-old boys know Dundee like the back of their hands. Of course, that's just a cliché. If I asked an eight-year-boy to describe the back of his hand without looking at it, he'd probably describe something close to a dinosaur.
Omaha Family: Did your children and Noah help you with storylines? Did they give you ideas?
Jay Slagle: Jack and Noah were eight when I started writing this book. At eight, most boys just want a book to include passing gas, high-speed chases and lots of explosions. I couldn't fit in the high-speed chase, but the book does include passing gas and explosions, although not at the same time. The great thing about writing the book now is that I didn't have to imagine what kids this age would say or what they'd like to do; I was up to my ears in little kids every moment I was home.
Omaha Family: Is there a character based on you? And if so, who will play you in the movie version?
Jay Slagle: In the book, my wife and I are the parents of Jack, Greta and Henry Taylor. I don't want to confuse you with my sophisticated writing techniques, but I just changed the last names of the two families who are featured in the book. So yes, I'm in the book. When this book inevitably is turned into a major motion picture, I see Oprah Winfrey playing my part. She's incredibly talented, funny, and I've always wanted to meet her.
Omaha Family: It took you five years to write the book, it seems like a labor of love and a lesson in not quitting. What was your motivation for completing the book?
Jay Slagle: Every budding writer wants to see their work in print. My journey was not a straight line, and my real job is so demanding that I had to put the book to the side for six months at a time. My son Jack was the biggest motivator, though. He asked several times a year, "Are you ever going to publish my book?" At some point, that question began to haunt me, and it evoked more questions. Was I talented enough to finish the book? How much money could I waste in the process? Did my wife really need to spend quality time with me? There's a great sense of closure with the book finally in print.
Omaha Family: If you could meet one person, living or not, who would that be and why?
Jay Slagle: My dad. He passed away ten years ago, and he didn't get to see my kids grow up. The older I get, the more I recognize and appreciate all the things that my parents have embedded in me, so I'd love to talk with Dad about all those things, see what he thinks of Jack and Noah's Big Day, and get his advice for growing old. In the course of this conversation, he'd ask dozens of questions and tell hundreds of jokes. It would be a blast.
Omaha Family: If you could travel to one place on earth where would you go?
Jay Slagle: We hope to take our kids to Germany in the next few years, assuming they learn to eat more than chicken nuggets, because there are no chicken nuggets in Germany. My wife has spoken German around the kids since they were toddlers, so I think it's time for them to figure out that she's been using a made-up language the past fifteen years. It's disappointing they haven't figured it out by now. I mean, seriously, how many kids would believe that the German word for 'dog' is 'EatsPoopsAndWalksAlotten?' Or that one of the words for going to the bathroom is 'DerGassenPassen?'
Omaha Family: If you could have one super power what would that be?
Jay Slagle: I'd like to be able add more hours to my day. I love my job, I love my family, I love to write, I love to coach – and there never seems to be enough time in the day to do everything I love to do. I'd also use the extra time to brush my teeth. I've been told that brushing my teeth is important, but who has time to do it?