This past week, young adult author Matthew Landis visited the Bethlehem Area Public Library to give a talk to Northeast Middle School kids about his new book The Not So Boring Letters of Private Nobody. He also talked about what it’s like being a social studies teacher and an author, and he gave some great writing tips for budding storytellers.
The presentation Landis gave was entertaining, fun, and engaging for the students. He discussed why being a teacher and a writer is so important to him, and how he balances it all. When talking about being a social studies teacher, he noted how important it is to him to make the subject fun for students: “I want to convince you that social studies is not as horrible as you’ve been trained to think it is…It’s up to teachers to try to make it come alive…Don’t lie to me that you love the subject—just own it because my goal is for you to love it when you leave.”
In addition to discussing his passion for teaching he shared the love-hate relationship writers often have with their work. Some important advice he gave to the middle schoolers included recognizing that failure is okay, knowing that it’s important to listen to advice but also to filter it, remembering that people don’t think about you as much as you may think, and being okay with the realization that some people may not like your story.
Landis took questions as well. The students had very interesting inquiries! They wanted to know things like “What made you want to be a writer?” and “How do you balance being a teacher and a writer?”
“The thrill of telling a story is what hooked me,” he said about what made him want to write. As to finding balance, he responded: “More than anything else, I plan. I find that if there’s not structure, everything falls apart.”
The event ended with Landis engaging the students in some great brainstorming activities and providing them with resources to turn to should they want to pursue writing in their everyday lives. He presented storytelling like a taco: the shell is the plot, the protein is the theme, and the toppings are the style. Brainstorming prompts included things like, “What if vampires were real, and you were one of them…in outer space?” “Who is the main character?” “What does he/she want?” and “How are they going to get it?”
The event was a major success. Students lined up afterwards to get an autograph from Landis and got to take group photos with him and his book. The readers and future writers in that room will be inspired for years to come.
This post was written by BAPL intern Jennifer Khawam of Moravian College.