Jan 28, 2010

Young Adult Authors Bring Their Books to NVCC

By Hobson Lopes

In November, Courtney Sheinmel and Nina Nelson came to the Playbox theatre at Naugatuck Valley Community College to talk about the process they take when writing their novels and to answer questions from the NVCC student body. Sheinmel, the author of My So Called Family, and the recently released Positively and Nelson's Bringing the Boy Home were the main topic of the event. They were both very excited to come to NVCC to talk to our students and faculty about their books. The event was coordinated by English instructor Steve Parlato who is also an author himself. Parlato, the instructor in the first ever adolescent young adult fiction class at NVCC wanted to bring the author’s to “do ‘something special’ for my inaugural YA fiction class.” When asked about why he chose Sheinmel and Nelson to appear at the event, Parlato said that, “they’re both filled with positive energy and love what they do. I thought it’d be nice to bring a couple of authors who had a real spark for their genre.”
The event started off on a high note as Nina worked out her nervous energy by jumping around the stage, which drew plenty of laughter from the crowd in attendance. Nina talked about the process she uses to write her novels. She is even her own biggest critic as she had Courtney read off a list of critiques about Nina’s work, which turned out to be Nina’s own comments. Nina went on to say that, “you have to approve of yourself no matter how you wrote,” which was her way of saying don’t let a poor writing day bring you completely down. Courtney’s presentation showed us how she got into writing. She was a lawyer, and hated how she had to take every bit of creativeness out of her work. Once she realized writing novels is what she wanted to do, she was only able to spend, “one day a week for six months” to write her first book Sincerely Sophie, “because being a lawyer sucks.” Due to issues inside her publishing company, that first book has now turned into her third book. Courtney read a passage from Positively, before turning the podium over to a Q&A session from the audience.
Courtney said growing up, she and her sister, “used to ‘play’ at being writers.” Writing was the only career that made sense to her because, “I have all these stories in my head, and being a writer validates them.” Nina had several inklings throughout her life that led her to the career she has now. She finally decided on this career path when as she put it, “I was bored out of my mind and battling with pregnancy induced insomnia.” John Greene, Chris Crutcher and Suzanne Collins are some of the authors credited to inspiring Nina. Both authors have great advice to anyone who may want to be a writer some day. Nelson’s advice for potential writers are, “trust the process, separate yourself from the process, enter contests, join a good critique group and go to conferences.” Sheinmel recommends inspiring authors to “read a lot; write a lot about things that interest YOU, and to be persevering.”
Positively is about a girl named Emerson, Emmy for short, who loses her mother to AIDS. Emmy is HIV positive, and after the loss of her mother, has to move in with her father and step mother Meg. Emmy does not want to get close to her father because he left her mother, and she especially doesn't want to get to close to Meg in fear that her mother is watching from heaven, and would be upset because Emmy shouldn't like her. Emmy experiences difficulties in all relationships after the death. She lashes out against her friends and family. She says at one point, “I hated everyone who didn’t have AIDS.” After an episode where Emmy broke Meg’s dishes, her dad decided to send her to a HIV camp. Emmy doesn't want to go, but is forced. What happens at the camp is Emmy begins to realize that people do care about her, and she makes strong connections with her fellow campers, especially Whitney. When Whitney has to leave the camp unexpectedly, Emmy feels lost again. While at camp, Emmy grew and actually ended up missing her father and Meg.
Bringing the Boy Home is about a tribe in the Amazon called the Takunami. In this tribe, all boys must complete the soche seche tente test that requires the boys to use all of their senses to get through the jungle. In this book, we follow the very different paths that Luka and Tirio take to their respective soche seche tente tests. What makes this test so important in this tribe is if you don’t pass the test, you are exiled from the tribe. Under these circumstances, your mother and father must have another boy that will have to take the test. Only when the boys pass their test, will they meet their father. During the test, the father will communicate to his son telepathically to help him through the jungle. Expect the unexpected with this book and the surprise ending will leave you in awe.
The next book from Courtney is the first book she wrote, Sincerely, Sophie/Sincerely, Katie and will be published in June 2010 by Simon & Schuster. It is a story about two cross country pen pals who confide in each other about their personal lives. She is also working on another book to be released in 2011 called You Can’t Even Measure It. This book allows Courtney to use her knowledge she obtained while earning her law degree for this first time as an author. Nina’s next book is a contemporary, humorous young adult book called Greener Pastures. She describes this book as “Dear John meets John Deere.”
The authors visit is a first in what will hopefully be many more such events at NVCC in the future. Courtney and Nina had a great time at our campus and everyone at the Playbox was excited to have them here. The tips and advice they gave about life as an author was great knowledge for anyone who may want to become a writer. As Courtney put it, whether or not your work is published, as long as you are writing, you are an author. An event like this helps expand the culture here on campus, and hopefully help influence our students who may want to become authors themselves.

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