My usual answer is, “Because young readers are the most important readers in the world!”
I became an avid reader around the age of eight. Each summer, my mom took me to the Athens (Georgia) Regional Library where I signed up for the summer book club. I still remember my favorite book club summer when I read 50 books and got an award! The theme that year was Johnny Appleseed. Our big end-of-the-summer party was held at a theater downtown, one of the few air air conditioned places of my childhood.
Tip for young readers and writers: Visit your local library and sign up for the summer book club. Read as many books as you can. You might win a prize and you’ll certainly improve your grades when you go back to school at the end of the summer. If it’s not summer when you read this tip, go to the library anyway. Browse the shelves of the children’s department and ask the librarian for book recommendations. Every day of the year should be a reading day for you. Reading does not have a season.
My favorite book from childhood was The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Click here to read more about this famous book. If you haven’t read this book yet, I highly recommend it. You can find it at
your local library or here on Google Books.
In 6th grade, I attended Winterville Elementary School. My teacher that year was Mrs. Jo Denard. For many years when I still lived in Winterville, I still saw many of my classmates from way back then and they and Mrs. Denard are my Facebook friends! Here’s how I got to Winterville. When I was eleven, my parents built a brand new red brick ranch house on Cherokee Road in Winterville. Since the location of our new home was about halfway between the Gaines School in Athens, where my mother had gone to school, and Winterville Elementary School in Winterville, school district officials allowed me to choose which school I’d attend for the remainder of that school year.
I visited both schools and thought a lot about where I would go. Finally, I selected Winterville and that made a big difference in my life. Winterville back then was a typical small town where everyone knew everyone else and life was slow and less stressful. I learned to love the place and many years later when I sat down to write the manuscript that would become Gone From These Woods, I used Winterville as the model for the small town of Newtonville, where the Sartain family live.
GONE FROM THESE WOODS COVER ART
The boy on the cover of Gone From These Woods was named Luke Kitson. Luke, who lived in Canada, posed for the dust jacket art when he was eleven, the age of Daniel Sartain, the protagonist in GFTW. Sadly, Luke passed away unexpectedly on Mother’s Day, 2017 at the age of 19 from an undiagnosed heart defect. If you’d like to learn more about Luke, go here.