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Students write to authors; authors write back

NEW PORT RICHEY — The students in Vicki Schuster's creative writing class have enjoyed the words of Dean Koontz, Meg Cabot and Louis Sachar for years.

Never did they expect those authors to pen some words just for them.

As she has done for the past three years at Ridgewood High School, Schuster had her creative writing students draft a letter to an admired author.

"I try to teach the kids that writing can lead to career possibilities," Schuster said. "So the first thing I do each year is have them write to an author and tell them they appreciate their work and ask for any writing tips."

This year she told her students to go ahead and actually write or e-mail their favorite writers.

Most of them did, and about eight or nine of those kids were pleasantly surprised to get something back.

"We heard from a number of people," Schuster said. "Danielle Steele, Dean Koontz, Terry Goodkind, Meg Cabot, Rebecca Drake. We were very excited."

It took a little research, but with the Internet, many students were able to reach their favorite authors.

Take Nicollette Glazebrook, 16. She said she writes almost every day, creating real-life stories about kids her own age. Still, she's into reading fantasy novels like those written by Christopher Pike, J.K. Rowling and 20-something author Amelia Atwater-Rhodes. Nicollette e-mailed Atwater-Rhodes through the author's Web site and ended up having an instant message conversation.

"She's pretty busy, so I really didn't think I'd be able to talk to her," Nicollette said. "It was pretty interesting."

Cassandra Mosher, 17, who might one day like to be a children's book author, got a note from Louis Sachar (Holes) that was particularly inspirational.

"I read his books when I was in elementary school. He told me to write about what I love," said Cassandra, who has already penned a couple of stories about "little kids and how they have to overcome challenges."

Morgan Berryman got a letter, bookmark and list of books from Meg Cabot, author of the Princess Diaries series.

"She told me that she doesn't really give advice — just to keep writing," said Morgan, 15.

The Darkest Evening was the recent read that inspired Katie Pearce, 16, to contact suspense writer Dean Koontz. He included a three-page letter and some writings about Trixie, his beloved golden retriever who died in June 2007. His words of advice, said Katie, "were to write what you enjoy reading."

Craig Stonestreet, 16, got a package from his favorite horror scribe, Rebecca Drake, that included an advance copy and a published copy of The Next Killing. There was a good lesson in reading both versions.

"I saw parts of the story that were missing — things … had been added (to the final copy)," Craig said. "I saw the process that they (authors) go through."

That kind of insight just might help as these students embark on their future — or at least help them tackle the assignment Schuster wrote out on the white board last week: "How to Write a Book Proposal."

Students write to authors; authors write back 04/01/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 1, 2008 4:31pm]
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