Monday, October 24, 2011

How schools enrich authors

On the first day of my two-week author visit to Guam, one of my hosts and I got to talking about Guam in literature. Apparently few authors hail from Guam, and no publishing companies are based there. That doesn’t mean Guam isn’t in stories. It means those stories are rarely originating from the people who know Guam best.

However, an author need not hail from a place about which he writes. Most writers are outsiders to at least some of their topics. One of the best ways to gain perspective on a place is to ask someone who is a stranger there.

It turns out Canadian-born YA novelist Gordon Korman was an author guest on Guam in the 1990s. He later used Guam as a setting in his Island trilogy (Shipwreck, Survival, Escape). This demonstrates a lovely point that did not occur to me until I was on Guam.

Schools bring in authors to enrich students. In doing so, the schools enrich the authors, too.

This is because schools are often exposing authors to settings they might otherwise never know firsthand, and some of these settings may inspire some aspect of a book. This in turn may enrich students again, but in a different way.

If not for school visits (and also conferences related to children’s books), I might never have made it to Kansas, Wisconsin, Texas, Alabama, Tennessee, Washington State, or, yes, Guam.

Guam invites at least one author every year, and this not only provides a tremendous opportunity for both students and author but also increases the chances that an author will write about Guam. I don’t know if I will be one of them, but either way I will be interested to see the results if someone else is.

And, of course, it may be an author visit that inspires a young person from Guam to become an author him/herself.

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