• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Authors share insight, their stories with students

During a conversation with author David King about his latest work of popular history, Woodford County High School senior Taeyah Deskins told him that Death in the City of Light: The Serial Killer of Nazi-Occupied Paris "would make a great movie." To Taeyah's delight, King said a Hollywood studio has purchased the rights to turn his book into a motion picture. And he's also sold an option to adapt his Vienna 1814 into a television series. Social studies teacher Devan McCormick, who joined Taeyah in a conversation with King, said, "Meeting an author is a huge benefit to students. They are experts in their topics and can offer an inside look to a world many people don't see." Because few people in this country had ever even heard of a serial killer named Marcel Petiot, King "was able to open up this entire side of history that may have been forgotten otherwise," McCormick said. King, a 1988 graduate of WCHS, and three other authors talked to students about their books and offered insights into writing at the Reading Extravaganza on April 13. King came back to WCHS after spending time in Germany where he was doing research for his next book, The Trial of Adolf Hitler, an incredible true story of Hitler being tried for high treason and given a short prison sentence before his rise to power in Germany. "I'm winding that one down - unfortunately," said King, 45. "I always hate to finish a book (because) I love (doing) the research. "Research is by far my favorite - trying to figure things out." King said he anticipates The Trial of Adolf Hitler being published in about a year. Nearly 140 students signed up for this year's Reading Extravaganza at WCHS. They had about six weeks to read their books before participating in group discussions in the library and elsewhere in the school April 13. "This is a way to engage (our students) in something fun related to reading a little later in the (school) year," said librarian Mona Romine. Hours before the Reading Extravaganza officially began, Romine said students in two reading classes learned "what it takes to write something" during their conversations with award-winning author Paul Valponi via Skype. "And hopefully, that leads to the desire to read something," she said. During Valponi's 45-minute conversations with students, Romine watched as the teens migrated from the back of the classroom until they "were right up near the screen," which was streaming Valponi's image and voice from his New York City apartment. Skype also made it possible for author Isla Morely, who grew up in South Africa and now lives in southern California, to talk with WCHS students who read her popular novel, Above. Many of the titles selected for this year's Reading Extravaganza were Bluegrass Award-winning books, including works of fiction and nonfiction for all reading levels and interests, said Romine. Retired science teacher and avid reader Steve Bush has been coming back to WCHS for the Reading Extravaganza in recent years. He views the annual event as an opportunity to "bounce ideas off people who've read the same book that I have." This year, Bush read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, which he said "really affected me." Written by Rebecca Skloot, this work of nonfiction tells the story of a poor black tobacco farmer whose cells - taken without her permission in 1951 - become one of the most important tools in medicine, and yet her family can't afford health insurance. "It's a real fascinating read if you like science. And it's a true story - still unfolding as we speak, I guess," said Bush, also a fan of Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods. WCHS senior Loni Saum led a group discussion about The 5th Wave, a young adult science fiction novel by Rick Yancey. His and similar works of sci-fi take the reader to places where they don't have to think about real-world problems, said Loni. Participating in the Reading Extravaganza during each of her four years at WCHS has helped Loni find books that she may have never tried. Being involved with the high school's book club for all four of her years at WCHS makes the annual Reading Extravaganza a great fit for Ashley Peterson. "I love reading. It's something I've always enjoyed doing," said Ashley. "I love talking about books with other people. So when I heard about this I was like, 'Of course I'm going to do that.'" She viewed discussing Breakfast Served Anytime with its author, Sarah Combs, as an opportunity to learn more about the writing process while also getting insight into a writer's storytelling decisions. "The students are great. You never know what the question's going to be," said King. "I always enjoyed teaching (at the University of Kentucky) so (the Reading Extravaganza) kind of reminds me a little of that. I always have a good time with it, and it's always nice to be back at the high school." The Reading Extravaganza has been an annual event at WCHS since its 2001 launch by former librarians Cheryl Hill and Deanna Dinnis.

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