Stork, 55, who moved to the United States from Juarez, Mexico, in his youth, will be the keynote speaker at an annual conference for the Florida Council of Teachers of English on Feb. 9 at Saint Leo University. (For information, visit fcte.org.) The retired attorney is the author of several teen novels, including The Memory of Light, spurred by the author’s struggle with depression, and Disappeared, a YA thriller he wrote “as a vehicle to show the complex reality” of U.S.-Mexico border issues. It is about a brother and sister who make their way to the United States. Along the journey, the sister starts to investigate the disappearances of women and soon realizes her life, and her brother’s, is in danger.
What’s on your nightstand?
I just finished about 80 books for a young adult contest. So now I’m going back to a book I love. I like to go back and re-read what I love. This one is Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky. There is also a book I haven’t had a chance to read yet. That one is Vincent and Theo by Deborah Heiligman. It is the story of Van Gogh and his brother. That’s up next. Right after Crime and Punishment. I like the way Dostoevsky always got into serious subjects, and this one is on that need we have to redeem ourselves once we have done something very bad. I like this type of topic, the sort of books that deal with values that are important to us as humans.
What was your favorite book early on?
I started reading in first and second grade. Reading was really my pastime.
My grandfather gave me an encyclopedia. It was in Spanish. It was something like Treasure Book for Youth, and that was my first reading. There were many things in there, including short stories. For American authors, one of my favorites early was Mark Twain. I loved Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, and then later I got into Victor Hugo books. I loved The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
In the digital age, how do we engage middle and high schoolers to read more?
I think we have to be open to the times. Sometimes we have some ideas of what constitutes good literature. These are the books you should be acquainted with. Sometimes those are not the ones the kids will pick. You have to start somewhere and grab them with something that interests them and eventually leads them on to what we consider good literature. If a kid is interested in comic books or picture books or science fiction, that can be their starting point. I also think that writing and having kids tell their stories, encouraging them to go into their own imaginary worlds, helps in the introduction for reading, too. Excite their creativity. Let them have freedom to run wild.
Piper Castillo, Times staff writer