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McPhersonSentinel - McPherson, KS
  • Writer speaks to middle school students

  • Alexander Gordon Smith, a young adult horror author from the United Kingdom, spoke with McPherson Middle School students Monday via Skype about how he became a writer.
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  • Alexander Gordon Smith, a young adult horror author from the United Kingdom, spoke with McPherson Middle School students Monday via Skype about how he became a writer.
    Smith is the author of “The Inventors,” the “Escape From Furnace” series and “The Fury.”
    Smith talked about childhood experiences that made him want to be an author, including once when he and his friend explored a haunted house.
    “I wanted to be the kind of author who went into the real world and found real monsters,” Smith said. “I thought those would be the scariest because they’d be based on real experiences.”
    Smith and his friend had a scary experience, but it wasn’t the kind he expected.
    “We heard this tapping noise,” Smith said, “I thought, this house has a pulse. It’s going to eat us.”
    Smith and his friend stayed in the house seven minutes before running away.
    “I was really disappointed that I wasn’t able to be this kind of investigator,” Smith said.
    Although he hasn’t run into real life monsters, he’s still been able to draw on his experience. He said his book “The Fury” is based on a game he used to play at school called murder ball.
    “One person would take a rugby ball and start running,” Smith said. “You would get a head start depending on what mood the teacher was in. Then everyone else would chase after you. I took that experience and added the two most powerful words in writing: ‘What if?’”
    Smith said this experience gave him the idea for “The Fury,” which is about everyone in the entire world trying to kill one random person.
    Students had the opportunity to ask Smith about his writing and life. One student asked how long it takes him to write a book. Smith said “The Fury” took him about a year, whereas books in the “Escape From Furnace” series took about three weeks.
    “There’s no right or wrong amount of time to write a book,” Smith said. “However long it takes you, that’s the right amount.”
    Another student asked which video game is Smith’s favorite. Smith said he enjoys the “Silent Hill” series.
    “It’s great research,” Smith said. “I ask myself, why am I scared? Then I try to incorporate that into my writing.”
    Katherine Hughes, a teacher at the middle school who organized the chat, said she first read Smith’s books a year and a half ago and thought they might encourage some of her eighth-grade students to read more.
    Page 2 of 2 - “The books flew off the shelves,” Hughes said. “Several young men who said they hated reading began “Lockdown” and didn’t come up for air until they’d read all five books in the “Escape From Furnace” series.”
    Hughes said reading is important for people to become well-rounded citizens.
    “Through books, articles and digital reading, we are invited to walk in someone else’s shoes for a while and to experience struggles, achievements, environments that are new to us,” Hughes said. “There’s an enormous world outside of McPherson, and I think reading both fiction and non-fiction helps us be more tolerant, compassionate and informed citizens.”
    Hughes said Smith’s energy and enthusiasm helped encourage students to follow their passions and think differently about writing.
    “By interviewing Mr. Smith, my students discovered first-hand knowledge about writing as a viable career option, which is an important part of our school district’s C3 Initiative,” Hughes said. “The students also got a feel for how important it is to find joy in their work. Smith positively oozed inspiration and passion for writing.”
    Baltazar Gaspar and Austen Hunt, both eighth-grade students in Hughes’ literature class, said they would be interested in hearing more authors talk about their work and inspiration.
    “I like the stories he shared,” Gaspar said. “He has inspiration, and that motivates everybody.”
    Gaspar said he’s thought about writing as a career, and hearing Smith talk strengthened that interest.
    Hunt said he’s not interested in being a writer when he grows up, but he still enjoyed the presentation.
    “He was really funny,” Hunt said.
    Smith said no matter what students choose to do, they should never give up.
    “You’re at an amazing age where you can do whatever you want,” Smith said. “Don’t stop trying, don’t let people tell you to give up, and you’ll be able to do anything.”
    Contact Josh Arnett by email at jarnett@mcphersonsentinel.com and follow him on Twitter @ArnettSentinel.

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