Monday, January 17, 2011

Seton CC's January Visiting Author: Claudia Gabel - "Romeo & Juliet & Vampires"

The "Visiting Writers' Program" at Seton Catholic Central High School (where I teach) recently welcomed our first visiting author of the year.  To recap: this program was brainstormed two years ago when the administration at SCC expressed their desire for a Creative Writing Class (taught by moi). 

At the same time, a student running for Student Council proposed an initiative to bring in professional writers of all kinds to visit our students.  As educators, we're forever stressing careers in medicine, business, management, law, big things like that.  However, for some reason we often forget the Arts; especially the art of writing.

I decided to "marry" the two initiatives, to develop a Visiting Writers' Program that would serve as the core of the Creative Writing Class.   The class would read the works of many different types of writers, then meet with those writers to talk with them about the craft and the business.  Also, students not in my Creative Writing class would still be eligible to meet with the writers.  They had to read the work, respond to it in a reflective essay, then they'd be excused from class to meet with these writers.

Last year, our program embarked on its maiden voyage with resounding success, bringing in the following authors/writers/poets to visit with our students:

Dan Keohane, Bram Stoker Nominated author of Solomon's Grave

Andrei Guruianu poet, professor, and former Poet Laurette of Broome County 

Bryan Davis, bestselling YA/Teen fantasy author, creator of Dragons In Our Midst

Tom Monteleone, award winning author/screenwriter and owner of Borderlands Press

Rio Youers, rising author of Mama Fish and End Times

This year's schedule is jam-packed and ambitious.  Thanks to several grants, we're bringing in seven different authors and at the end of February, two authors will visit SCC for three days to conduct an intensive workshop for my Creative Writing students.  

Needless to say, things are going to be very, busy over the next few months and we kicked things off recently with Claudia Gabel, author of the latest genre mash-up, Romeo & Juliet & Vampires (HarperTeen, a division of HarperCollins).

A graduate of Seton, Claudia has visited us several times in the past, speaking to classes and donating her time to judge at poetry contests and work at book fairs.  This was her first formal visit as part of our Visiting Writers' program, and it was a huge success.

Claudia spent roughly two hours talking about her career path as a writer, (graduate school, MA in English, her positions at Random House and HarperTeen), her other works - In and Out, a teen series for Scholastic and other ghost-writing projects - and shared her inspirations and goals.   She answered questions about Romeo & Juliet & Vampires,  detailing her research, how she approached rewriting a classic work of literature, and how the project came to be in the first place.

Along the way, she offered our students invaluable insight into the writing and publishing process, especially when it came to working with editors and accepting their critique and guidance.   Many of the students were surprised (and perhaps a little frightened) that novel writing wasn't the glamorous, stress-free blissful experience so many movies and television shows make it out to be.

Claudia is a hardworking, dedicated professional. A classic example of that kid who doodled stories in her Mead notebooks all through high school, dreaming of being a writer - and then going out and doing exactly that. 

Next month's visiting writer is Bram Stoker Award-Winning author Norman Prentiss.