BHMS Seventh-Graders Skype with Arizona-Based Author
For the author of a book whose main character, Aven Green, navigates the world without arms, award-winning author Dusti Bowling cautioned Bunker Hill Middle School students about the challenges of a different appendage – the smart phone – which, in her estimation, may prove to be the killer of their writing ability.
During a Skype session the Arizona-based author of Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus shared her inspiration for the novel and her advice to would-be seventh-grade writers in Michelle Schwiter’s and Lori McEntee’s classes. The novel, which chronicles the life of child who was born with significant limb differences and the challenges she faces alongside her parents, who run a theme park, is a first-year addition to the Washington Township middle school English/language arts curriculum.
“I am going to tell you something that you will not want to hear,” Bowling told her long-distance audience. “I grew up without a smart phone, without social media and even without a computer, and I am so grateful for that. The smart phone is the killer of writing ability. It lowers your attention span and quick-wires you brain for things other than writing books. I wired my brain to be a writer by reading so much. My advice to those of you who want to improve your writing is to put down your smart phone and read, read, read. Read well-crafted books, and research topics that might provide you with writing inspiration.”
Bowling brainstormed the idea for the book after her cousin sustained severe limb injuries in Iraq. In wanting to develop a character with significant limb difference and tick disorders, like those that challenge her husband and children, she launched into extensive research.
“I thought about Aven Green for a couple of years before I even sat down to write,” Bowling said. “I researched and came across the real-life stories of people like Jessica Cox, a pilot in Arizona who flies with the use of her feet. The process was extremely eye-opening to me, and I wanted to make sure that I created a well-rounded, authentic and accurate representation of someone who had such disabilities.”
Bowling encouraged the students to focus on their five senses when writing and when considering plots and, to visit the places, if possible, where their book will be set.
“All of you may come up with what I call ‘shiny new story ideas,’ but the most difficult part of writing comes for me after 10,000 words, when the story starts losing steam,” she said. “If you want to write, stay disciplined, put aside time every day to work and focus on the story.”
Bowling thanked the students, who expressed their appreciation of the book.
“My number one goal in writing is always to entertain,” she said. “I hope you laughed and had fun, and I also hope that after finishing my story, you had a new understanding of disabilities and more empathy for those who have them. I also hope your feel more comfortable in breaking down barriers and opening up to people who experience life differently than you.”