LACEY - Dana Day's sixth-grade class at Lacey Elementary School met author Kirby Larson face to face - with the help of technology.
The class won the opportunity to interact last week with the historical novelist through Skype, an Internet-based video-chat program.
Larson, 56, of Kenmore, is the featured author in Lacey Loves to Read, an annual community-wide literacy initiative. She will be the guest of honor at a reception from 7-9 p.m. Thursday at the Lacey Community Center.
“Her books are really good,” Katelynn Johnson, 12, said after the video chat. “Most of them are based on real stories.”
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Larson won a 2007 Newbery Honor award for her book “Hattie Big Sky.” She and Mary Nethery co-wrote “Nubs: The True Story of a Mutt, a Marine and a Miracle,” which spent four months on The New York Times best-seller list. The women also won several literary awards for their book “Two Bobbies: A True Story of Hurricane Katrina, Friendship and Survival.”
The Olympian caught up with Larson – this time, by good old-fashioned telephone – to talk about her career and Lacey Loves to Read. Here are excerpts of the interview.
First, tell us a little about yourself. How did you get into writing?
I’m a lifelong Washington resident. I was born at Fort Lawton Army Hospital (in Seattle) for $5. My mom still has the bill.
I served two terms on the Northshore School Board.
My husband and I started a foundation to build the Northshore Performing Arts Center. (The $5 million theater opened in 2005 on the campus of Bothell High School.)
I have always loved writing. When I was a kid, I wrote stories and poems.
In college, I studied broadcast journalism and English.
I began writing feature articles and personal essays for magazines.
We have two children, and because I always loved to read, I read to them constantly.
Rediscovering those children books made me want to start writing children’s books.
What was your first published book, and what was the inspiration for “Hattie Big Sky”?
My first book was a chapter book called “Second-Grade Pig Pals.”
After that, I wrote four chapter books and a picture book. Then I had a very long dry period where nothing was getting published, and I was getting very discouraged.
One day, I learned about my great-grandmother who homesteaded by herself in Montana. She never really wrote about her experiences or told anyone about her experiences.
I did some research, and began reading books and diaries and journals from that era. The next thing I knew, I was writing a historical novel. That was the beginning of “Hattie.”
Have you been a featured author for any other “One Book” events?
“Hattie Big Sky” was selected for One Book Montana two years ago. It also was chosen for a school-wide program in Bowling Green, Ky.
There are a handful of places around the country that have used “Two Bobbies” in community-reads events.
It’s quite an honor to think of a community coming together around your books.
What are you going to talk about at the community reception for Lacey Loves to Read?
I’m going to be talking about my journey as a writer. People are always interested in learning how you did it.
I’m also going to reveal the three secrets to getting published or being a successful writer. One of them will be very surprising to those who show up.
Talk about the meaning of a Newbery Honor.
It’s like winning the Oscars. The Newbery Honor is given to what the committee determines is the most distinguished book for children. It’s the highest award that’s given to American literature for readers 14 and under, although I get as many letters from adults who have read “Hattie” as I do children.
I believe in what C.S. Lewis said: “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.”
Kids’ books have a lot to say to adults.
What’s the last book you read?
I’ve been reading manuscripts for my friends lately.
I also read a lot of children’s books. A book that comes to mind is “The Strange Case of Origami Yoda” by Tom Angleberger. It’s hysterical and would be fun for fifth- or sixth-graders.
Is there anything you would like to add?
I hope I get a chance to meet the Lacey community when I’m down there, and I’m looking forward to speaking at the reception. I would encourage everybody to go out and read a book today. And it doesn’t even have to be one of mine.
Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433 firstname.lastname@example.org