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Author Neal Shusterman visits Kell High School

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Author Neal Shusterman spoke to Kell High School students about his book series as well as how to write. Shusterman appeared with other authors at the AJC Decatur Book Festival Labor Day weekend.
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Neal Shusterman, a popular author of young adult literature, recently spoke to Kell High School students about his successful book series and the craft of writing.

Shusterman, who over the weekend appeared with other authors at the annual AJC Decatur Book Festival, said his most popular book is “Unwind.” A movie based on the book is in the works and a sequel titled, “Unwholly,” was published last week. The third book in the “Unwind” trilogy will be released by the end of 2013, he said.

Published in June 2009, “Unwind” is about three teenagers who run from the “unwinding” process, in which unsatisfied parents can get rid of their children, only between the ages of 13 and 18, by transplanting their organs to other people.

While it does draw from the debate on the controversial subject the book is not about abortion, Shusterman said in response to a student’s question. Instead, the book expands upon the ramifications that can possibly arise when two opposing sides are unable to cooperate, he said.

“A bad idea comes from two sides that are so entrenched in their positions that there can be no real conversation between the two of them,” said Shusterman.

Still, Schusterman said he tends to shy away from having a specific moral of the stories he writes, preferring readers to look at the issues he presents in a different way than they may have initially.

He also told juniors and seniors from three classes who had gathered in Kell’s media center that character development is the most important aspect of writing stories. And he said authors often make the mistake of not “listening” to what their characters would likely say or do in a particular scenario as opposed to how they as writers want them to act.

“As you get to know them, they start to become more and more real. They sort of start to feel like real people,” he said of his characters.

“I don’t always know what they’re going to do, what they’re going to say and what they’re going to think. That makes it a little bit harder to write because I’m constantly having to revise the direction of the story based on characters’ decisions. But I think it’s most important to make your characters feel real.”

A California resident, Shusterman has written many young adult short stories and novels including “Everlost,” “Downsiders” and “The Schwa Was Here.” He also writes screenplays for movies and TV shows.

“Unwind” was awarded a Georgia Teach Peach Award, which is how Kell media specialist Sherry Grove came across his work. She has a student breakfast reading club that meets frequently to discuss books over breakfast she cooks for them at school.

“It inspires our kids and also gives them a better understanding about writing,” Grove said of such author visits she periodically schedules.

After Schusterman spoke and answered questions, freshman Brianna Trusdell said she planned to read more of his books. She said she is big fan of “Unwind.”

“I like the futuristic society and how it just keeps you in,” Trusdell said.

(Reprinted from the Marietta Daily Journal, September 5, 2012. Written by Marcus E. Howard. Read more: The Marietta Daily Journal – Neal Shusterman visits Kell High School

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