Author speaks about writing — and life

April 18, 2017 

Author Alan Gratz shared information about his books and the writing process with Lee’s Summit students over two days in late March.

Gratz visited Bernard Campbell, Pleasant Lea and Summit Lakes middle schools and, during two sessions, presented to sixth-graders from all 18 district elementary schools.

Gratz’s books include “Samurai Shortstop,” “Something Rotten,” “The Brooklyn Nine,” “Projekt 1065,” “The League of Seven” and “Code of Honor.”

On March 27, a few days before the visit, Summit Lakes eighth-grader Tommy Cuezze presented the 2016 Truman Readers Award to Gratz for “Prisoner B-3087,” a book based on the life of Holocaust survivor Jack Gruener. Summit Lakes library media specialist Christie Brown recommended Tommy to make the presentation at the Missouri Association of School Librarians Spring Conference. Tommy was a Truman Reader selector the last two years, served as a library assistant and is active in numerous reading programs at his school.

While visiting the district, Gratz used a “choose-your-own-adventure” style, encouraging the students to make choices along the way to guide his talk.

“Alan Gratz’s presentation fit in perfectly with our unit on ‘The Power of Story,’” said Emily Hobbs, an English language arts teacher at Summit Lakes. “I was able to teach my classes all day using his presentation as a springboard as we analyzed how authors intentionally use plot, conflict and characters in the stories they write.

“He made it clear there is form and intentionality to putting a story together. I even had a student share with me the start of his first novel a couple of days later.”

David Carlson, Summit Lakes principal, said the author described how, when working around his family’s schedule, he began to write with a structured and intentional process.

“It was a powerful message to begin with priorities of family and then move to his work as an author during his child’s naps,” Carlson said. “Mr. Gratz set the stage for how any person can organize a story to become an author. Students were hooked and love his books!”

The author made a tremendous impact on students, according to Summit Lakes teacher Rodger Wolverton.

“Growing up as a son of a coach who always envisioned his son to be a star athlete, Alan Gratz is a true example for all of us to follow our heart and to not let anyone define us, even our parents,” he said.

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