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Getting Up Close And Personal With Living Authors

By Author: Mike Jones
Total Articles: 256

We are interpreting "working with living authors" to mean interacting in a professional way with people who are "alive"—not just in the sense that their writing is contemporary and "lively," but in the sense that they are fleshandblood people. We can shake their hands and talk to them, and while they have the same needs and emotions as the rest of us, they also have the ability and the perseverance to put their ideas and their feelings into words that can be read and appreciated by thousands—sometimes millions—of readers, including young adults.

We are coauthoring this "EJ in Focus" because between the two of us we have worked in various ways with hundreds of authors of books written for young people. Perhaps the main thing we have learned is that each Omega Replica author is an individual, and when his or her emotional and intellectual chemistry is combined with ours and with all the other people involved in author visits, which is the most common way we work together, it is impossible to predict exactly what is going to happen.

Nevertheless, both of us consistently tell students they should never turn down an invitation to hear an author make a presentation and interact with an audience. Even better, if they are asked to pick up an author at an airport, introduce an author, eat lunch or dinner with an author, or in some other way serve as a host, they should jump at the chance because these are wonderfully efficient ways to plant authors' names and images in their minds, and to, in turn, make connections for their students between authors as real people and the books they have written.

When we read a book by an author we have personally interacted with, we feel as if the author is speaking directly to us. The plots are more exciting, the metaphors more powerful, the characters more familiar, the settings easier to imagine, and the philosophies more likely to inspire serious thinking. We are thrilled when we can bring young adult authors to visit with high school students, but we also love to bring authors to visit with teachers because over and over we hear how much closer they feel to an author when we add these kinds of personal anecdotes as we talk about authors and their books:

After our Arizona English Teachers' Association state convention, we had a few hours to wait for Gordon Korman's plane, so we took a small group to a pizza place. One young teacher had already retrieved her twoyearold from the babysitter, and as an experienced father and husband, Gordon fell into a comfortable role and took the little girl for a walk around the restaurant sidewalk so her mother had a chance to eat her pizza—an ex perience the mother says she will never forget.

The year that Christopher Paul Curtis was the featured speaker at the ALAN (Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of NCTE) breakfast, he asked all of those who were not members of ALAN to raise their hands. To everyone's surprise, he promised to use his speaker's honorarium to buy memberships for these 75 teachers. This is only one example of the many times we have observed the kind of warmth and energy that he radiates whether talking to a handful of eighth graders, a small group of teachers, or a banquet room full of admirers.

When fantasy author and London native David Clement Davies came to Arizona, he was thrilled to go on a side trip to the Grand Canyon and not a little amazed during his trek to the bottom when a US National Park ranger died suddenly from pneumonic plague. The ranger had been infected when he performed Tag Heuer Replica Watches an autopsy on a diseased mountain lion, and as a precaution David's group was quarantined. Eventually they were helicoptered out from Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the Canyon. "I'm no longer contagious!" he joked as he told the story.

Although going to Mexican restaurants isn't quite as exciting as going to the Grand Can yon, many authors look forward to returning to our area so they can eat at our wonderful restaurants. Laurie Halse Anderson is an author who wants to save every kid (and will probably do it!), but after a day of hard work, she's happy to go out to eat. During the few days she was here, we took her on a tour of all our favorite Mexican restaurants—a different patio each night. We can't wait for her to come back!

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