BY JIM LUGER
Special to DHJ
DELANO, MN Arland Nau loves to read, especially novels.
“When I was in third grade, I thought it would be cool to write a chapter book and get it published,” said Nau, 12, of Delano.
That dream eventually became his goal, and, three years later, Nau published his first novella, entitled “Bobby’s Junkyard Spaceship Adventure.”
Nau’s story is about a boy named Bobby who decides to build a life-size replica of a spaceship for his school science project. Bobby recruits his two brothers to help build the spaceship, by patching together junkyard remnants. But, the spaceship comes to life after Bobby brings aboard powerful glowing stones he found in a nearby field. While the boys are still inside, the makeshift spaceship rises up from the junkyard, and soars into space. The boys eventually find themselves on a mysterious planet with a desperate king trying to defend his kingdom from evil robots. The brothers join the king’s warriors in the fight, because saving the kingdom is their only hope of returning home. Readers who think they can guess the ending are in for a surprise.
Nau came up with the plot idea from stories his grandfather made up for him and his two brothers, Franklin and Olin, over the years.
“I think Grandpa’s story characters are kids sort of like my brothers and me,” Nau said. His grandfather also served as his editor.
When Nau started his story, he felt inspired by science fiction, his favorite genre at the time. Star Wars books and movies were especially influential.
“I loved drawing space adventure gadgets and weapons for my story, and I described them in detail in my book,” Nau said.
While creating his intricate plot line, Nau sometimes felt blocked. To get his creative flow restarted, he’d pick up his pencil and start sketching storyboard-like scenes across a table-size piece of paper. Soon, the story would come to life in his mind and his pencil had to move quickly to keep up with the stream of new ideas. Nau used some of those original sketches as the basis for color illustrations he created for his book’s cover and a few scenes within the book.
Another challenge for Nau has been the many distractions of modern childhood. In addition to his love for outdoor activities such as skiing, baseball, and football, he is fascinated with computer technology, and is learning to write computer software code. But, if the greatest source of inspiration for a writer is the deadline, then his mother, Nikki Nau, has played a critical role. She encouraged him to set completion dates for each step of his writing project. She knew the importance of setting goals from her own experience as a child, when she tapped out a story with two fingers on her dad’s typewriter.
“I only completed one page on that old typewriter,” Nikki Nau said, “but I’ve since wondered how the story might have developed if I had just kept writing. My husband, Jake, and I encourage our three sons to take the next step, to discover their true potential in whatever they do.”
Nau attends St. Maximilian Kolbe School in Delano, which supports his parents’ values.
His sixth-grade teacher, Sherry Carroll, said, “Along with high academic standards, our students learn important life skills, such as organizing their workloads, keeping track of assignments, and treating each other with respect. By the time they reach sixth grade, they assume they have to hand in high-quality work, or else it gets returned to them.”
Nau is grateful for being able to attend St. Max.
“The standards are high,” he said, “but it still feels laid-back, and you get lots of help when you need it. It’s a small school, so I know all the students and the teachers, and even the principal.”
When asked how his school friends have reacted to his publishing success, Nau said they might think it’s kind of cool, but not that big of a deal.
“I created the plot when I was in third grade, so the theme is more for that age group than for sixth-graders,” Nau said.
He is already working on ideas for a spy thriller aimed at young adults.
Parents often ask Nau to sign their child’s copy of his book.
“It feels good to sign something you made,” Nau said, “like signing a picture you drew.” But, when extended-family members or strangers lavish too much praise or ask for his “autograph,” Nau said, “That’s a little over the top.”
Royalties from “Bobby’s Junkyard Spaceship Adventure” are transferred from his publisher, Amazon, directly into Nau’s personal savings account.
“I’m saving toward my college fund,” he said, before adding with a bit of tongue-in-cheek, “but if it gets to be a lot, maybe I’ll buy a Porsche, instead.”