SYCAMORE – When author Gordon Korman came to speak Friday at Southeast Elementary School, he encouraged the students to be themselves because everyone has a unique story.
“We are all special in our own way,” he said.
Korman, a children’s and young-adult author from Toronto, was in Sycamore because Southeast Elementary won first place in the Scholastic National Elementary School Contest. The contest is open to all elementary schools across the country that conduct a Scholastic Book Fair.
Along with the visit from Korman, the school also will receive 2,000 Scholastic dollars.
Korman told the audience of more than 100 students about what got him started as a writer and how he gets his ideas. He said his school’s track coach also was assigned to teach his seventh grade English class, and told the students to do an assignment.
So Korman started writing. He wrote for four and a half months. He hand-wrote the short story and received a B-plus because of “messiness.”
As a class monitor for the Scholastic Book purchases, he had the Scholastic Book address. He asked his mom to help him type up his story, and then they mailed it. He became a published writer at 13.
Abby Lisafeld, a sixth grader, said she loved the presentation.
“I feel inspired,” Lisafeld said. “I really like writing.”
She said she uses writing prompts, and they make it easier when writer’s block strikes.
Abby’s sister, eighth grader Kaitlyn, said she was interested in Korman’s comments about
“What if?” situations.
“What if my sister comes in the bedroom with a Pogo stick?” she said. The “What if” questions drive Korman, too.
“ ‘What if’ are the two most powerful words,” Korman said. His ideas come from real life experiences, research and hypothetical questions and scenarios. His start seemed to inspire his audience members.
Addison Bisceglie, a seventh grader, thought Korman’s speech was cool.
“There were a lot of stuff I didn’t know, like the background info,” she said. “It was really cool to know when he started writing.”
Addison said she felt inspired and thought it was interesting how Korman uses his personal experiences. Mostly, she was glad to hear the various techniques he uses and that he started his career by doing a school project.
Michele Whisenhunt, the school’s librarian, said schools try to make reading fun for all students.
“Reading is essential,” Whisenhunt said. “To get good at it, you have to practice. To get them to practice, you have to make it fun. It’s a psychological thing.”
Korman said he was pleased by how well his audience received his presentation and by the curiousity of the questions his audience members asked.
He said he noticed their inquiries had a lot of thought behind them.
“You have to give credit to the teachers,” Korman said. “The kids thought a lot of what they were asking.”