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Reading Matters

Doug Wilhelm is a full-time writer and an independent publisher in Weybridge, Vemont. His newest book is the novel STREET OF STORYTELLERS (Rootstock, 2019). His 15 previous novels for young adults include THE REVEALERS (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2003), which has been the focus of reading-and-discussion projects in well over 1,000 middle schools.

Hey! Relationships with real people!

I’ve been thinking how, as you bring a novel to completion, you are (at least, I am) very much involved in relationship with your characters — and now, with the book out and my attention shifting to offering it and letting people know about True Shoes, I get to return to relationships with real people.

That may sound a little strange, but I don’t think it is. In my regular life of course I have regular relationships — and right now in my book life, in spreading the word about True Shoes, I’m very happily able to reconnect with people in schools around the country that I’ve gotten to know as they’ve worked with The Revealers. Often I have visited their schools. Sometimes we’ve done virtual visits through Skype or interactive television, and in some cases we have come to know each other just through email and letters. It’s great to reconnect with these folks, having this Revealers followup novel to offer them — and in some cases I’m already getting expert, firsthand responses to the book.

On Tuesday I heard back from Barb Raak, a very fine English teacher at Fennville, Michigan, Middle School, the first school outside Vermont, where I live, that worked with The Revealers and had me out for a visit, way back in 2004. When I emailed Barb to ask if she would like a signed copy of True Shoes, she said FMS has three copies and she was already reading it, as were two of her students. (I sent a signed copy anyway.) With her permission, I’ll quote what she said:

“Thank you for writing the sequel. As a teacher, it is so encouraging to give a book to students that they will LOVE, even the most reluctant reader. True Shoes will again be one of those rare stories that all students will want to read. This year we focused on making inferences with The Revealers and it was amazing to see the students become part of the story.”

There are internal rewards to writing of course, but this is when the lonely work of it comes full circle and makes sense. That’s how it feels when people start to tell you that the work you spent such long a time with, in working relationship with those fictional characters, may actually mean something to real people. Like Barb Raak and her middle schoolers in Fennville.
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