Where do writers get their ideas? How long does it take to write a book?Do writers make lots of money? You had to rewrite your book? What made you want to become a writer? Do you write fast? What writers inspired you? How do you start the first sentence? More than 2,000 students explored questions about the writing life from 10 award-winning authors who visited 20 CMS schools during EpicFest 2017 on Nov. 3. Coordinated by the CMS Community Partnerships & Family Engagement Department through a partnership with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library Foundation and CMS Media Services, this year marked the third annual EpicFest celebration.
Best-selling authors in children's and young adult literature came from New York to Los Angeles to read to CMS students from their work. Each school hosting a visit received a donation of 20 copies of the guest author's most recent book.
Students welcomed their visitors like celebrities. At Crown Point Elementary, a fourth-grader spotted EpicFest author David Lubar from afar and whispered to a friend, "There he is – right over there!" Lubar's first novel, Hidden Talents, won awards as a Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers and Best Book from the American Library Association. He addressed the question of money early in his talk, explaining that a writer might make about 32 cents from the sale of a book.
Authors offered an array of styles and approaches to books for children and teens.
Author/illustrator Kathryn Otoshi's simple picture book, Draw the Line, explored the complexities of conflict, friendship and healing – without using words. A chapter book, Meet Sticker Girl Martina Rivera, about a girl whose sticker collection comes to life by Janet Tashjian came complete with stickers!
For older readers, Robin Benway's Far From the Tree, nominated for the National Book Award, explored themes of adoption, family and teen pregnancy.
At a Friday afternoon presentation for 175 Independence High School students, Benway showed how writing throws curve balls at everyone - even professionals. After publishing several teen books, Benway hit a roadblock. She couldn't get started on her next project. Her publisher waited. Deadlines passed. Still, Benway said, she had no ideas.
Familiar with the need for sudden inspiration for papers and projects, students listened for Benway's solution. She called her mom. She cried. She went off social media, until finally a song inspired her to create a new character - a girl facing life-changing decisions in high school.
In addition to reading from their work, EpicFest authors introduced students to some of the realities of their profession. Solitariness. Research. Multiple rewrites required by editors. They also shared suggestions for what helps – a dog, a love for characters that grows with the writing and the chance to read from their finished work to children.
View Bain Elementary's Epic experience here
By: Jennifer Woods Parker