Thursday December 21, 2017
Children’s author, and 1977 graduate of South Burlington High School (SBHS), Patricia Newman returned to the halls of the high school Wednesday, December 6. Memories of long ago surfaced as she entered Joyce Sheehey’s Advanced Placement Literature class for a question and answer session with senior students. Returning to room 207, Newman described her writing process. The author, who resides in California, has written 16 children’s books.
SBHS senior Sabrina Choudhary said, “It’s always fun to hear what goes on behind the scenes, so to speak, in the artistic process.”
During the discussion, Newman explained the many unseen steps in the writing process. One of these steps is research. For each book, a different research process was undertaken. For example, in order to write Zoo Scientists to the Rescue, Newman met with three different scientists at three different zoos. She said finding the scientists was a long and arduous task, but in the end, it was worth it.
Newman’s recounts of her visits were fascinating to the students. Abigail Stein said, “I was surprised to hear about the amazing research trips she gets to take.” English teacher Sheehey observed, “She [Newman] showed us how and where she keeps notes and she cited great literature.”
From Newman’s perspective, the question and answer session was meaningful because she had the opportunity to diminish the “sense of mystery” surrounding professional writers. “I had never had the opportunity to meet an author when I was in school, and I think it’s important to see that professional writers struggle just like students,” Newman commented.
The writing process was not the only topic during Newman’s visit. She also shared insights about her college experience, which preoccupies, and often overwhelms, many of the seniors as they approach the end of high school and look forward to college. “College is a place to experiment with ideas, to try on potential careers, and to figure out the person you want to be,” Newman stated. Newman attended Cornell University where she did not major in writing, but rather in human development and family studies.
“It was reassuring to know that I don’t have to major in English in order to keep writing,” Choudhary commented. Senior Olivia Steinfeld observed, “I think that a lot of people assume you need to get a degree in writing in order to be one and a successful one.” Newman reinforced the concept that one can be successful in paths that are not initially chosen. Her reflections reassured the seniors that one’s major might not be the career they end up pursuing.
Newman’s exchanges with the students were described as interesting and illuminating. “It was fun to listen to someone talk about their career passionately,” Evan Jones said. Many felt the experience was even better since Newman was a SBHS alumnus.
“South Burlington gave me the tools I needed to pursue interests and find my passion,” Newman stated. “Without these fundamentals, I would’ve floundered in college.”
SOURCE: Megan Harton, SBHS CDC Correspondent