Author Paul Volponi hosts workshop with students

Words%2C+words%2C+words--+Author+Paul+Volponi+speaks+to+students%2C+staff+and+faculty+during+his+visit+on+March+24+about+his+writing+career+and+writers%27+craft.+Volponi+is+the+author+several+young+adult+novels+including+Riker%27s+High+and+Black+and+White.
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Author Paul Volponi hosts workshop with students

Words, words, words-- Author Paul Volponi speaks to students, staff and faculty during his visit on March 24 about his writing career and writers' craft. Volponi is the author several young adult novels including Riker's High and Black and White.

Words, words, words-- Author Paul Volponi speaks to students, staff and faculty during his visit on March 24 about his writing career and writers' craft. Volponi is the author several young adult novels including Riker's High and Black and White.

MJ Martinez

Words, words, words-- Author Paul Volponi speaks to students, staff and faculty during his visit on March 24 about his writing career and writers' craft. Volponi is the author several young adult novels including Riker's High and Black and White.

MJ Martinez

MJ Martinez

Words, words, words-- Author Paul Volponi speaks to students, staff and faculty during his visit on March 24 about his writing career and writers' craft. Volponi is the author several young adult novels including Riker's High and Black and White.

Cathryn Tuttle and Talia Gallagher

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Paul Volponi, author of American Library Association award winning novels Black and White and Rikers High, visited the high school on March 24 to speak to English classes and host a writing workshop with interested students. In total, about 200 students were able to attend Volponi’s presentations throughout the day.

“It appeared to me that students really enjoyed his talk. Since most of his stories were based on real events, he really pulled students in with his stories. I am hoping that if the students enjoyed listening to Mr. Volponi that they might want to read one of his books,” library media specialist Nancy Carlson said.

According to student attendees, his presentation was somewhat informal and interactive. Volponi spoke at length about his own career, emphasizing his success as an author despite being an apathetic reader as a teenager.

“The interesting part about my writing 12 novels is that when I was in middle school and high school, I didn’t read a thing. Matter of fact, I was like the anti-reader. I was so good at being an anti-reader that I had serious skills in the game,” Volponi said.

Despite his lack of enthusiasm for reading, Volponi claims he had a good relationship with his high school English teacher and spoke about his ability to fake an interest in reading.

“She brought us new books every September, and she would bring in a cart of books. Me being an anti-reader, in my head, I was so mad at her. But on the outside, I had learned to play the student game. I was the first one to the front of the room to take a book off her cart. I would take the book, stick it deep in the back of the desk, and I wouldn’t touch the book again,” Volponi said.

Volponi’s teacher recommended he read a James Bond book after noticing his supposed-interest in reading. Having seen the movie, Volponi was interested in the action-filled story and found himself not only reading but enjoying the book.

Volponi went on to write numerous novels. He shared that he gets most of the ideas for his work through his personal life experiences. Volponi talked at length about his early childhood living next to a jail and later in life when he became a teacher at the jail, claiming the two experiences were his inspiration for his first books.

“From 1992-1998, I taught adolescents awaiting trial on Rikers Island to read and write. The job was incredibly rewarding and eye opening. Unfortunately, one of the most striking elements on Rikers Island is race. The inequities of the criminal justice system, including who can afford the best lawyer and who can make bail, has deemed that an overwhelming majority of inmates there are African-American,” Volponi said on his official website.

In addition to his anecdotal presentations, during periods six and seven Volponi conducted a writing workshop with six students on creative writing and offered tips on how to get published. Volponi encouraged questions about his career and writing professions in general.

“I am interested in a career involving writing, so I was excited to have the opportunity to talk with someone who has been successful in this field,” sophomore workshop attendee Abby Simard said.

Students who signed up to attend the workshop were asked to submit a sample of their own writing for Volponi to review. He then provided students with feedback on their pieces in addition to general writing advice.

“It was great to get input from an actual author. I will definitely use the suggestions he gave me about my writing and intend to use his feedback in future stories I plan on writing,” freshman workshop attendee Jessica Clark said.

Throughout the two-period workshop, Volponi gave the students several writing tasks and prompts. He encouraged students to use various literary techniques in their own writing such as onomatopoeia and alliteration. He also gave students advice on writing careers, suggesting aspiring authors never pay publishers or agents to read their works and to never pre-edit their piece before sending it to the publisher for the first time.

“I think my biggest takeaway is that anyone can be a writer. Sometimes it’s hard to imagine having a career like his, but it was interesting to hear about how he started out. If someone who never picked up a book in high school can become an author, there’s no reason anyone else can’t,” Simard said.

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  • Words, words, words-- Author Paul Volponi speaks to students, staff and faculty during his visit on March 24 about his writing career and writers' craft. Volponi is the author several young adult novels including Riker's High and Black and White.

    MJ Martinez

  • Lots of laughs-- Department Leader for Library, Media and Technology K-12 Martha Burr laughs with English Department Leader Amy Miller during Paul Volponi's presentation. Volponi visited the high school on March 24, 2017 and held several presentations throughout the day and a writer's workshop during periods six and seven.

    MJ Martinez

  • Volunteers please-- Author Paul Volponi asks junior Jermaine Carter about his Steelers gear during one of his presentation. Students found Volponi's March 24 presentation to be fun and interactive.

    MJ Martinez

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