Visiting Authors 2014-2015
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Skype with Andrea Cremer, April 20, 2015
The students in both book book groups, BRiMS and Bookmarked, were invited to attend the skype event with author, Andrea Cremer. She was making skype visits with schools across the country to talk about her book, The Inventor's Secret. All the students were asked to read an excerpt of the book online before the skype session. Andrea was a history professor in her first career before becoming a full time writer of young adult literature. So it only makes sense for her to write a book based on history, an alternate history of the US after losing the Revolutionary War. The book definitely intrigued the students, and many of them planned to finish the book after they met the author. Andrea was extremely generous with her time and answered all the students questions about how she got into writing. The Inventor's Secret is the first in a series. In book two the characters will be traveling to New Orleans. That certainly piqued the students' interests.
Jon & Pamela Voelkel, March 17, 2015
PFTSTA has hosted many author events since 2007, but none was more anxiously anticipated than a visit from Jon & Pamela Voelkel, who authored the Jaguar Stones series. That is because this visit was their third to the school. They first visited in 2010 when Middleworld launched, and then they returned in 2011 with the publication of the second in the series. Now the series concludes with The Lost City. The Voelkels had a new audience with the current middle school students, so even though their presentation included again the eating of the fried worms and the students on stage showing off their air guitar moves, it was fresh for all the students in the room. Judging by the students reaction, they loved every minute of it. Their presentation is a multi-media world-wind of pictures, videos, music, and student participation that is really something to see. If this fantastic display of energy by the Voelkels doesn't get the kids interested in reading, then nothing will. Thank you to the Voelkels and Octavia Books who made the visit possible.
Peter Lerangis, March 9, 2015
Peter Lerangis began as an author in an unusual manner. He pitched an idea to a publisher who liked his idea and agreed to publish his book. That is not the usual path these days. He was the oldest kid in his family, and he said that he was the storyteller in his family as a way to keep his younger siblings occupied. So it was a natural for him to become an author, though he worked as an actor and editor before becoming a full time writer. As a writer, he says that you have to learn the formula for success. This begins with failure, continues with more and more failure, and eventually, you should find a way not to fail. He says you cannot find success without falling down first. He also showed the students a picture of what his books look like when he gets them back from his editor. It is full of notes, marks and suggested changes to be made. He said that he has to keep working and making changes until the story jumps off the page. Mr. Lerangis should know because he has written over 150 books. The students had a great afternoon with Peter Lerangis. Thank you to his publisher, Harper Children's, and local bookstore, Octavia Books, for making this event possible.
Skype with Vince Vawter, February 25, 2015
BRiMS was already scheduled to discuss the book, The Paperboy, and when one of the members wanted to know if a sequel was in the works, Ms. Kahn contacted the author to try and schedule a skype visit. How lucky the students were when we found out Vawter was free on the very day and time that the BRiMS meeting was scheduled. Vawter has retired after 40 years in the newspaper business, and this is his first novel. It won a Newbery Honor Medal, so it is a favorite of a lot of people, not just BRiMS. The students learned that all but one character in the story were actual people in Vawter's life. The author asked the students if they could guess which character was a total invention. One of the students figured out that Mr. Spiro was that character. The boy's best friend in the book is actually a mash up of Vawter's two best friends in real life, but the housekeeper in the book was a direct representation of the woman who worked for his family. Mam was critical to Vawter's life because she was so supportive in his attempts to overcome his debilitating stutter. When the students asked him why he became a writer, he had an easy answer. Since professional baseball was not going to work out for him, he figured that by writing, his speech impediment would not be a handicap.
Susan Larson Talks to English III, November 20, 2014
Mr. Curran, the English III teacher, is using Susan Larson's book, The Book Lover's Guide to New Orleans, as the basis for designing a field trip for the students to follow in the footsteps of writers who have called New Orleans their muse. Though Larson is not a native, she has lived in New Orleans for years, and as the former book editor for the local newspaper, she has met hundreds of local and visiting authors over the years. In her presentation she gave the students an overview of the authors who she has met and what New Orleans meant to their writing. Not only has Larson met and learned from all these authors, she is a tremendous reader. She would never interview an author without reading their work first. The students were so focused on her talk that we had to coax them to ask questions at the end. Having her visit was a great way to get the students pumped about planning the field trip.
Skype with Ellen Hopkins, November 17, 2014
Bookmarked had a chance to visit with author, Ellen Hopkins, via skype during one of our regularly scheduled meetings. She opened with a description of her morning activities. She had been offering her support to students in a high school in Pennsylvania where one of her books was challenged. She explained that the students were going to the school board to voice their concerns. Then we got down to business and talked about her work. She has long been a poet, so her segue to writing fiction in verse was a no brainer. She has been writing YA books for over ten years, and the spare writing and short chapters make her books fast reads. The themes that she addresses are very edgy, and her characters are extremely flawed with issues of addiction, depression and anger. She explained that many of these characters are based on people she knows or has read about, and her daughter even served as the impetus for one of the novels because of her addiction problems. One of the students asked how her daughter reacted to this--you can imagine what her daughter's initial reaction would be. Now that Ellen has been writing awhile, she receives many letters from fans who tell her their stories. Very often these stories or variations of these stories will find their way into her books. Though our time with Ellen was short, the students had a chance to get to know her a bit and hopefully, this visit has inspired them to read more of her work.
Skype with Chris Grabenstein, October 22, 2014
BRiMS, the middle school book group, learned lots of things about Chris Grabenstein. First, he works in his two bedroom apartment in New York city and surrounds himself with pictures and text that provide inspiration for his books. He writes daily for six hours, and tries to get 2000 words on paper. His own large family of four boys was his inspiration for Kyle, the main character in the book, Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's library. He claims that he used himself as an inspiration for the character of Mr. Lemoncello. He loves living in NYC because all the crazy people that he meets on the street may find their way into one of his books. When asked about the puzzles in the book, he explained that he worked backward and wrote about the solution first and then created the puzzles that would fit the story. He is working on a sequel where Mr. Lemoncello will figure prominently, but it won't be out for another 18 months. When we were done, Chris told us that he does 200 Skype visits a year, but this one with students from Patrick Taylor was one of the best because the students were so engaged. It may have only been a 30 minute visit, but it is one that the students will not soon forget. (The balloons were to celebrate Mr. Lemoncello's birthday.)