Award-winning author Neal Shusterman visits Harlandale ISD

More than 500 Harlandale ISD middle school and high school students had the opportunity to meet and hear from best-selling author Neal Shusterman during an assembly held at McCollum High School on Dec. 4.

The award-winning novelist, who grew up in Brooklyn, New York, talked to students about how he became a writer and the inspiration behind his popular books including “Scythe,” “Thunderhead” and “The Toll.” He credited his English teacher for making a difference in his life.

“She saw my love of writing, and challenged me to write a story a month for extra credit,” he told the students. “Since I desperately needed extra credit in her class, I took her up on the challenge, and by the end of ninth grade, I felt like a writer.”

He then offered some words of advice for the aspiring authors in the audience.  

“You have to write, rewrite and persevere,” he told them. “I kept on writing, and now I’ve published 53 books and write for TV and film. It takes determination to succeed, and it helps when someone believes in you like my teacher believed in me.”

Shusterman has made his mark as a successful novelist, screenwriter and television writer. His books have received many awards from organizations such as the International Reading Association, the American Library Association, as well as garnering a myriad of state and local awards across the country.

Following his presentation, students were able to ask questions about his different characters, story ideas and future projects. Shusterman also stayed for a meet and greet with students and teachers, where he also autographed their favorite books.

The author enjoyed interacting with the students and learning how much they are enjoying reading his books.

“The students had great questions and were enthusiastic,” he said. “I loved their energy in the room, and I got the sense that they’re appreciating the books.”

He hopes that after his visit, students realize that books are not just words on a page, but instead stories created by someone’s thoughts and ideas.

“When I’m writing, I am challenging people to think,” he added. “Every once in a while, I’ll hear back from someone who tells me how a book has affected them, so it’s really good to know that the books are out there doing their job.”

The author also stopped by Kingsborough Middle School to offer a writing workshop to a smaller group of students.

Kingsborough Middle School Librarian Teresa Rodriguez reached out to Shusterman last year and coordinated the visit with the help of McCollum Librarian Terrie Sharp to offer students the opportunity to meet one of their favorite authors while supporting the district’s literacy initiative.

As a district we want to promote reading and writing and I think having a famous author visit really gets our students excited about reading his books and it also inspires them to take their writing more seriously,” Rodriguez said. “I think it's important for our students to see that if they love to write becoming a published author is a possibility.”

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