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Eminence Middle School students get writing lesson from Ky author

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By Brad Bowman

Jennifer Montgomery wanted her eighth grade students to learn about writing.

The Eminence language arts teacher invited Contemporary Young Adult Kentucky author Katie McGarry to help.

On Friday, Nov. 15, McGarry shared her experiences with Montgomery’s Eminence Middle School students.

“I was a reluctant reader. Teachers would tell me I had to read a book and I hated it,” McGarry said. “The teacher told us we had to read S.E. Hinton’s Outsiders and the book report was due on a Monday. I cracked that book open on a Friday night and it was the first time in my life I stayed up all night to read a book. I read it so much the cover came off. I saw a reflection of myself for the very first time.”

McGarry has written four books starting in 2008: Crash Into You, Crossing the Line, Dare You To and Pushing the Limits. McGarry shared that her process for the characters in her book is an unfolding process.

“I will do free writing at first and see what (the characters’ ) voices are,” McGarry said. “I actually interview my characters and they tell me. In my head, I understand it is not real but I have a list of questions I ask my characters. I asked my character Echo how she was.”

 McGarry mimicked that her character looked over her shoulder before responding. “I learned she was socially insecure.”

Through mundane questions, McGarry said she could deduce a lot about her characters.

McGarry took questions from Montgomery’s class, who would be assigned to write their own play. A student asked her how she created suspense. The author explained that short sentences amp up the tension in her stories and she uses active voice with action verbs avoiding any form of ‘be’.

McGarry gave the students advice on how to write with more gravitas by answering the question with an example of writing emotion by showing not telling.

“What physically happens to your body when you are sad? Your shoulders will slump over and you will go into a body position where you are trying to protect yourself,” McGarry said. “I could say (a character) was just sad, but that isn’t going to amp things up. You could say, ‘She walked into the library, she looked across the room. She saw his hand cover hers and her lower lip trembled. Her stomach fell to her toes and tears pricked the bottoms of her eyes. She knew then it was over.’ Now, I could have said she was just sad.”

Thinking teachers were just paid to say nice things to her, McGarry thought compliments on her writing didn’t carry any weight. She confessed to the students she only started writing five years ago and wanted to emphasize one of her most important points.

“If you don’t hear anything else I say today listen to this. The reason why I am here is there is nothing special about me,” McGarry said. “I grew up with two pairs of jeans, one pair of shoes, I probably had three shirts. Fantastic things happened to anyone else other than me. My first book was rejected 44 times. The only person taking you out of any game is you.”

For more information about the author visit: www.katielmcgarry.com.