When author Jordan Sonnenblick visited Avon Middle School and Thompson Brook School Thursday and Friday, respectively, his message stretched beyond writing.
"What I try to do with the kids is talk about the nuts and bolts of writing, but more importantly, since I kind of have a bully pulpit, I get the chance of them really listening to me because I'm the author," Sonnenblick said. "I try to impart some sense of values and meaning and life lessons because they're really listening so intently."
Sonnenblick, a New York City native who now lives in New Jersey, is the author of Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie, Notes from the Midnight Driver, Zen and the Art of Faking It, Dodger and Me, Dodger for President, Dodger for Sale, After Ever After and Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip.
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Thompson Brook School fifth grader Nicholas Jackson said that Dodger and Me is favorite book of Sonnenblick's.
"It's about a kid who's not that popular so he has a friend who grants his every wish," Jackson said.
He said he likes how Sonnenblick often uses real life stories as influences in his fiction. Jackson was happy he paid a visit to his upper elementary school.
"I really like it a lot," he said.
For young writers, Sonnenblick recommends reading paragraphs from books the kids like closely and studying how the style works. A practice he often recommends is writing an immitation of that style. He had Avon Middle School students write a piece mimicking the style of the first page of one of his books during a writing workshop, he said.
Out of all seven books the full-time author has written, he said his favorite is his second book, Notes from the Midnight Driver.
"My grandfather is a character in it and in real life he's not around anymore," Sonnenblick said. "So it's kind of a chance to capture my grandpa."
His other advice is to "read like a mad man," he said.
Sonnenblick's largest inspiration comes from meeting a kid he feels needs a book.
The questions he gets from kids that stick with him the most are the ones that truly show that the kids are picturing themselves as a writer. They range from the process to where he likes to write and what he thinks about before he has an idea for a book.
"The kids have been amazing and the teachers have been fantastic," he said, noting the students' strong enthusiasm.
He called himself a "processless slob" in terms of his own writing rituals.
"I end whether the dragon of the book is slain or I'm slain," he said.