The students of the Ventnor Educational Community Complex were treated to an afternoon of werewolves, unicorns, monsters and all things fantasy on a recent Wednesday, with a visit from famed children's author Bruce Coville.
The Syracuse, N.Y., native has had books - including "Always October" and "I Was A Sixth Grade Alien"- on the shelves of the school's library for years, said middle school librarian Debbie Brahmi.
Once the school was introduced to his work, it was only natural to invite the sci-fi writer to speak to its students, she said.
"He's probably the most prolific writer we've had," she said of the school's 12th visiting author. "It's hard to find an author to speak to kindergarten through eighth-grade."
But Coville, 62, had no problem. "I find too much of adult fiction bleak, cynical. I'm neither," he said.
His energetic performance, filled with comical voices, animated advice and imaginative exercises proved it, captivating three audiences.
"I'm disgustingly cheerful and optimistic," he continued, confident that the young crowd would show some appreciation for his lively demeanor.
After performing two chapters of his work "Monster's Ring," Coville managed to still get laughs from the crowd as he described his writing process.
You will receive rejection slips, the author of more than 100 published books said. "You can't let that stop you."
He stressed the importance of details to make a story come to life and the characters that make it all happen.
"Take somebody you like and get them in trouble," he suggested to the crowd.
But Coville, who spent February visiting students in four African countries, has not made a living merely writing.
He has been a toy maker, a gravedigger, a magazine editor, a salesman, an assembly-line worker and even an elementary school teacher, Brahmi said in introducing him to the students.
But to bring children to another world one page at a time remains his most valued job.
"The world is too small for the heart of a 10-year-old," the author said, moments after having a meet-and-greet lunch with a small group of eighth-graders.
The opportunity allowed the students to have an informal chat with Coville, giving them the time to ask any question they wanted.
Isabelle Mosca, 14, of Ventnor, however, used the opportunity to share her own writing with the author.
At age 7, the student wrote "Adventure to Autism Planet," a story inspired by her brother, Kyle, who is autistic.
"He looked through it and thanked me for it," the eighth-grader said.
Coville left that day, hoping to encourage kids to develop their abilities, dream a little harder and to simply pick up a book.
"I figure if I make one kid a reader," he said. "then my day is justified."
To learn more about Bruce Coville and his books, visit brucecoville.com.
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