Bestselling author to teach writing to tweens and teens

Libba Bray

Libba Bray, whose new book The Diviners recently hit the shelves, will be a featured author during the 2012 Miami Book Fair International Literary Encounters program on Friday, Nov. 16. Bray won the Printz Award, the award for best YA (Young Adult) for her book, Going Bovine, about a boy with Mad Cow disease.

Bray’s books all have hit the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists. She will be teaching five writing seminars for 500 teens.

“I’m going to give them life lesson, like make sure you always have toilet paper or tissues in your purse,” she joked.

She said that when she teaches teens about writing, she has a favorite exercise that includes improv.

“We get up and build a story together. It involves audience participation. It’s a more involved, fun thing. If we have time, then we get to go through it twice.”

After that, Bray takes questions from the students.

“I always tell them they can ask me anything they want to talk about, whether its writing, publishing or life. I like the students to be driving the bus as much as possible.”

The book fair begins Nov. 11 and the street fair is Nov. 16-18.

While the book fair features a huge variety of books, it has expanded its programming for children. The children’s program has been renamed “Generation Genius.” The idea is that children should not only have fun when going to the book fair, but they should learn.

The Literary Encounters are expected to draw 1,122 students on Thursday from 25 different schools and 4,069 on Friday from 80 different schools. Some authors also will be sent to 45 schools on Thursday and Friday.

“We expanded the number of days that we have programs for students,” said Lissette Mendez, creator of the Generation Genius programs. “When we first started out, it was only on Friday that we had students come and there were only three authors.

We’ve expanded the number of days. We have eight authors on Thursday making presentations. On Friday we have 15.”

The kids are bused in for the sessions. In some instances, the schools pay for the buses, and in other cases the book fair pays.

“We have five sessions in each grade group,” Mendez said. “There are five different high school authors. They pick one that day to be the official author. She [Bray] is doing that presentation for 500 students.”

The book fair provides programming for students of all ages. The author encounters is one of the oldest programs provided by the book fair, as is the Children’s Alley. But the focus of the programs is changing.

“In the past, what we’ve done is dedicated a venue to a book or a concept,” Mendez said. “Instead of saying this is going to the Wizard of Oz, for example, this is going to be dedicated to science. It’s one of the subject areas that kids learn.”

Other featured areas will be music, art, history and culture, and anthropology.

The book fair also has the Generation Genius Reads program, which distributes 3,500 books to children. This year the Kindergarten First Grade titles are How Rocket Learned to Read by Tad Hills and Otto the Book Bear by Katie Cleminson.

Last year, the Center for Literary Arts distributed 17,536 books to children.

“That’s part of what we’re doing; we’re getting books in the hands of the student,” Mendez said.

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