Marin students hear writing tips from a prolific author



  • Author Gordon Korman speaks to students at Hidden Valley Elementary School in San Anselmo on February 9, 2020. Children from three schools in the Ross Valley School District gathered for the presentation. (Alan Dep / Marin Independent Journal)

  • Author Gordon Korman speaks to students at Hidden Valley Elementary School in San Anselmo on February 9, 2020. Children from three schools in the Ross Valley School District gathered for the presentation. (Alan Dep / Marin Independent Journal)

  • Author Gordon Korman reads an excerpt from his latest book, “Notorious”, to students at Hidden Valley Elementary School in San Anselmo on February 9, 2020. Children from three schools in the Ross Valley School District gathered for the presentation. (Alan Dep / Marin Independent Journal)

If anyone could inspire Marin’s young students to become avid readers and writers, Gordon Korman could be that person.

“‘What if’ are the two most powerful words for writers,” Korman, author of more than 90 children’s books, told students at San Anselmo on Monday. “If you have writer’s block, just say, ‘What are the’ what ifs’ of my story? “”

Korman, 56, of Long Island, New York, spoke to more than 200 students in the Ross Valley School District on Monday during a one-hour presentation at Hidden Valley Elementary School. He also made appearances Monday at Edna Maguire Elementary School in Mill Valley and Ross School.

Korman’s most recent book, “Notorious”, was published a month ago. Several of his books have been made into movies on Netflix and elsewhere – and some have been translated into a dozen languages.

“My book ‘Ungifted’ is Turkey’s # 1 children’s book,” he said, exploring the entertaining nuances of languages ​​around the world. “It is impossible to translate this title into Turkish language.”

His first book, “This Can’t be Happening at MacDonald Hall,” was published by Scholastic Inc., a national education publisher, when he was just 14 years old. a free period every day for five months.

“They were short of English teachers and, given the way the schedules worked, the only adult who was free during that time to teach English was this coach, a first grade physical education teacher,” he said. Korman said. “So in terms of creative writing, he just did a blank and said, ‘Work on whatever you want for the rest of the year.’ It was in February.

Parent Sarah Solomon said Korman’s speech was “really a treat” for children like her daughter, Matilda, 11, a fifth grader at Wade Thomas Elementary School in San Anselmo.

“I think anything that can bring kids closer to books and reading is really exciting,” she said after Korman’s lecture. “Meeting an author and hearing how he works can bring it to life, especially for kids like Tilly, who loves to read. “

Mathilde accepted.

“I thought it was really cool,” she said. “I want to be a writer. And I read some of Gordon Korman’s books, so I thought it was really cool to see some of his books and get some information on what it would be like to be a writer.

Monday’s appearances in Marin were the first stops on Korman’s book tour for “Notorious,” a thriller about the mysterious death of Barney – a dog who had angered everyone in the neighborhood over his barking. incessant. With so many potential “enemies of Barney,” it was impossible to identify a suspect. A group of intriguing characters, including Barney’s owner ZeeBee, take on the challenge of finding out who killed his beloved dog.

“It was really interesting to hear the process of writing a book,” said Colby Proctor, parent of a student at Brookside Elementary School in San Anselmo. “And it was really cool to hear that a 12 or 13 year old published a book.”

In addition to asking the “what ifs,” Korman said he used a simple plan to get him to know where he was going. The outline doesn’t detail every plot twist – just “the beginning, the end, and a few key scenes in the middle,” Korman added.

“A lot of people tell me, ‘Dude, I’m way too lazy to outline,’” he said. “I respond to that by saying, ‘I’m drawing a pattern because I’m lazy.’ I think outlines are great for lazy people. It helps you so much; it makes your life so much easier.

Research is also important, because, for example, if the book is set in another era, the language is not the same as it is today.

Finally, the main key if someone wants to be a writer is to identify that special thing inside of them that is unique and use it to write, Korman said.

He illustrated this point in a reference to “Un gifted”, where a failing student who has spent all of his free time playing video games is accidentally sent to a school for the gifted. The student becomes a gifted school star because his one and only skill – using a joystick – turns out to be exactly what the school needs for its robotics competition.

“We all have something cool,” he told the children. “Find this, and you have a writer.”



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