Author of children's books coaches students on writing

Thursday, September 30, 2004

It's been nearly two decades since Gordon Korman first entered a Cape Girardeau school and spoke about his writing career.

The city was the first in the United States the 40-year-old author visited on his initial book tour in 1985.

Korman returned to Cape Girardeau this week to share with local students everything from his dislike of "dead dog" stories to the B-plus he received in a seventh-grade English class for the first book he ever published.

His life story -- especially the part about writing and publishing his first book at age 12 -- sparked the interest of seventh- and eighth-graders at Central Junior High, where Korman spoke Wednesday morning.

"Ideas come from pretty much anywhere," Korman told students. "Sometimes you have to change your style to keep it fun for you. If you're bored writing, how is it going to be fun for anyone else?"

His talk was inspiration for seventh-grader Katey Wachter.

"I'm interested in writing and I thought what he said was very true. He was also funny," Wachter said.

Korman, who was born in Canada and now lives in New York, is the author of 50 children's books, some humorous, some adventure-driven.

He spoke to students about several of his books, including "No More Dead Dogs," which was based around his disgust with the death of dogs in many children's books.

"It was like, 'How come you can't win an award without a dead dog in your book?'" Korman said, referring to books such as "Where the Red Fern Grows" and "Old Yeller."

Korman has also written several adventure series, including one about children stranded on an island and another about Mount Everest.

"Just because you're psyched about a topic can propel you to do a better job," Korman said. "Some things can't come from pure imagination. You need research."

Students also learned about the importance of dialogue and consistency in stories. Korman's visit was sponsored by the YELL Foundation.

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