Monday, September 8, 2014

Back To School

While the calendar and the increase in traffic near my local high school are dead giveaways that school is back in session, the other is a quick perusal of my inbox.  When school starts, I receive a flood of questions from readers who are either assigned one of my young adult books in class or who chose it as part of their summer reading. 

Some of the questions are great.  Other questions, however, are not so great.  Yes, when you ask me, "Who is the protagonist of the book?" I'm well aware that you haven't read the back cover, let alone the book.  However, I was a student once upon a time and buried under the homework of a million different classes, so I have sympathy.  I know the panic that sets in the day before a book report is due when you haven't the foggiest notion what to write, especially when you also have a math test the next day.

That being said, sending me e-mail while you're in panic mode isn't the best way for you to solve the problem.

First off, book reports have due dates.  My inbox doesn't, so when I'm traveling or on deadline, it's easy for me to get a few weeks behind on reading and responding to e-mail.  By the time I see your e-mail, it's quite possible your book report will be long overdue.  Second, if I answer one person's book report questions I'd feel obliged to answer them all, and I don't have time to write, walk my dog, AND answer book report questions.  (And when the dog's gotta go, she's gotta go.)  Finally, there are a lot of questions I can't answer, even if I want to answer them.  "What are examples of symbolism in Sticky Fingers?" is a question only you, as a reader, can answer.

That being said, I don't want to leave you stuck the night before you have homework due.  Here are a few suggestions for getting that report done:

   1)  If you're writing about a specific book of mine, go the main page of my Niki Burnham website and click on the link for that book.  There is an excerpt (which you should have already read, since you have the book and read the whole thing) and a section called Behind The Scenes.  The Behind The Scenes might be helpful to you. 
   2)  You can go to the About Niki page of my site to find out more about me.  Any of the biographical information that you see there is fine to use in your report. 
   3)  There is a page on the site called FAQ with answers to common questions about each book, about my writing process, and about where I get my ideas.  

Hope you find that helpful!  Again, as much as I wish I could explain themes and motifs, if I took the time to answer every e-mail I receive about book reports, I'd miss my own deadlines, and they rival the world's biggest homework assignment when it comes to pressure.

However, if you think this is rather uncool of me and that an author should simply write your book report for you (because believe it or not, students who've e-mailed me in the past asked for this)  I urge you to check out author Pete Hautman's website.  He's the author of several phenomenal books you may have already read, such as Godless, Blank Confession, and Hole In The Sky.  Pete has an entire page of book reports ready to go, right here.  I think you'll get a better grade if you follow my suggestions, rather than going for Pete Hautman's reports, but that's your call.  Good luck!

And P.S.:  Consider reading one of Pete's books.  

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