a quote from my favorite author

“The most solid advice, though, for a writer is this, I think: Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive, with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell, and when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.”

-William Saroyan, The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze

Thursday, March 14, 2013


The Slice of Life Challenge is hosted by TWO WRITING TEACHERS
Although Tuesday Neal Shusterman visited our school, I couldn’t pass up a chance to see him again today at the Illinois Reading Council Conference.  After surviving my own presentation, I felt like I deserved a treat. 

And hearing Shusterman speak—listening to his stories—is ALWAYS a treat.

The session I attended, in true Shusterman fashion, was titled: Two Ships and Some Body Parts.  Sound to you like any chapter titles he’s written? 

During the session he read from three of his books.  He started by telling us what he was about to read nobody else has ever heard.  Not even his editor.  As if hearing him read his own work wasn’t enough of a treat—we got the inside scoop.

He started with the body parts: he read from the middle of UnSouled, beginning in Chapter 31.  This, the third book in the Unwind trilogy, is already an amazing book.  When Shusterman visited our school he told us that he didn’t want to be the kind of writer who writes a trilogy that decreases in quality from the first book to the third.  He said that if he is going to write a sequel, it has to be better than the first book.  If the story doesn’t speak to him, doesn’t compel him to write, he won’t do it.  He means what he says.  Having read several of his sequels, I can vouch for his second and third books being better and better than the first.    

From UnSouled he read to us about a stone wall, fingers finding a key, a strand of hope, an untied hair ribbon, beautiful music played with passion, and a chainsaw.  I could have sat there and listened to him read the entire 400+ pages he has written from start to finish.  The story is compelling, the language is stunning.  Shusterman intuitively builds rhythm into every story he tells.  Rhythm in language, rhythm in plot. 

Next, he lightened things up by reading from Chapter 3 of Ship Out of Luck.  This sequel to The Schwa Was Here and Antsy Does Time features a female character named Tilde.  She speaks with a Spanish accent.  He had us laughing all the way through this excerpt.  Except for the parts where he built such powerful metaphors that we were too busy soaking up the deeper meaning to laugh.

The third book he shared is actually the fourth book he has planned to release at this point, Challenger Deep.  It is a book that is inspired by a story very close to his heart.  It is unlike all of this other work, but then no two books of his are alike—so that is not really a surprise.  All I can say is that I had goosebumps the whole time I listened to him read the first few chapters of this book.  I can’t wait to have a copy in my hands.  It is that kind of good. 


  1. SOunds amazing. I finally got Unwholly into my classroom library. Those who had read Unwind are fighting for it. Those who haven't read Unwind are fighting for that.

  2. I cannot wait for UnSouled! I love Shusterman's writing, and I believe he certainly accomplishes his mission to make each sequel better than the book before it. You do realize how lucky you are to have heard him speak twice, eh? So glad you did, because I enjoyed hearing about it.

  3. You speak with passion about Shusterman and his session. Knowing you, I bet your presentation was filled with passion and captivated your audience. I have to admit that this author is new to me. Now he is on my reading list. I love when I hear about good books from a trusted source.

  4. Oh dear...I have to admit that I'm with Terje...I don't think I've read any of his books. Or maybe. But surely I'd have remembered. At any rate, I need to now! So--where do I start? Which title for a Shusterman newbie?

  5. I haven't read him either! Thanks for such a powerful invitation to do so! Next stop, Amazon :).