• WHAT: “When I Was a Kid,” authored by Tom Hoskins, a former Manteca Unified instructor
• PURCHASE IT: On Amazon.com for $9.01. Also available at The Book Exchange for $6.
A retired Manteca Unified School District teacher is learning that the life of a self-published author isn’t without its drama and mystery.
For six months, Tom Hoskins has peddled his book, “When I Was a Kid,” out of cardboard boxes in the trunk of his sports car without much success.
His pursuit isn’t without passion – or gallons upon gallons of petroleum. He’s canvassed all of his old stomping grounds, visiting with bookstores and former colleagues from Davis to Stanford University, hoping to gain traction.
The 64-year-old whose sun-beaten skin belies a youthful spirit has hosted book signings, made cold calls and left messages with anyone who might be able to help him gain exposure or help share his message. Among those he’s waiting to hear back from: Oprah and the U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
Hoskins isn’t holding his breath.
“It gets frustrating. I would like to get a movement going and it’s right on target with a thing that was in O Magazine,” Hoskins said. “If you could just help a kid – ‘Hey, I watched you wrestle or saw you play the guitar.’ People just need somebody to say hello. It’s something I think we need.”
“Part of the problem is that unless you’re a corporation,” he added, “no one pays much attention to you.”
“When I Was a Kid” addresses what Hoskins believes are the hot-button issues impacting the development of today’s youth: marriage, friendships, relationships and the influence of modern media.
The former Sequoia Elementary School teacher compares his upbringing in the1950s and 1960s with those of the children today, pointing out the challenges and disparities, as well as the erosion of values and connectivity with the world.
“So many kids are from broken homes and grandma is raising them,” Hoskins said. “To me, those kids need somebody to help them along. They have frustrations I never had. I didn’t know what divorce was growing up.”
Though the 135-page book is built on his experiences and thoughts, Hoskins says it’s not a biography.
Or a scientific study.
“This is not intended for a doctoral program in child rearing,” Hoskins said in August during a book signing at The Book Exchange. “It’s just practical ideas. These kids really don’t have it made.”
On Monday, Hoskins continued his exhausting Northern California book tour, dropping off a stack of remastered paperbacks at The Book Exchange. The new edition includes four additional pages of photos, tying together the book’s primary backdrops – Davis and Siskiyou County, where he now lives. He’s also reworked the front and back covers.
The new cover is a staged portrait of his grandchildren getting ready to enjoy a plate of chocolate chip cookies served by their doting 1950s mother, played by a friend from church.
The shot, Hoskins says, hopes to recreate the innocence, simplicity and values of a bygone generation.
“It’s titled ‘The After-School Snack,’ ” Hoskins said. “When I was a child, I’d go home with a friend and we’d have cookies” with their mother “and talk about things. Today, there’s nobody home half the time.”
Hoskins left Manteca on Monday, pointed toward Walnut Creek and eventually a meeting at Stanford, where he hopes a review of “When I Was a Kid” will make the pages of The Stanford Educator.
To this point, his first foray into writing has been less about his book’s message or the movement as it has been about indoctrinating a rookie writer.
“Today you need a market plan and money,” Hoskins groveled, listing off the obstacles that have beset him the last six months. “What happened to the days when if you wrote a good book, people would buy it?”
It’s been a long road, to be sure, with many more miles to come.
“It’s a long shot,” Hoskins conceded, “but it’s my dream.”