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HB Independent

In the Pipeline: Kids quiz the author

By Chris Epting

4:30 PM PST, February 4, 2013

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For me, the best part about being an author is the chance to go to schools and not so much talk to kids (though I love doing that), but hear their questions.

As good or better than any interviewer that will sit down to talk with you, kids seem to cut right to the heart of things with such ease and honesty that I wish more of them hosted shows and wrote book reviews.

Case in point, the 25th annual Author's Day put on here last week in Huntington Beach by the Friends of the Children's Library. I've been part of this event for about 13 years or so and each January I have the chance to visit whatever school happens to select me that year.

This time around, I was lucky enough to get asked to go back to Sowers Middle School. I've spoken there five or so times and they always make me feel right at home, especially when all of the great questions start after my presentation. When did I decide I want to be a writer, how long does it take to write a book, what is my favorite book, what books am I working on now, what's my favorite part about being a writer, how hard is it to get a book published? — and it goes on.

Students seem to have a genuine curiosity about what it takes to be a writer which to me is a great sign of hope. In a digital age where paper seems to be becoming a faded memory, it seems that at least in some corners, kids still care about books. I'm very thankful for all the work that Gail Page puts into this event and I think I speak on behalf of the dozens of other writers that visit our city each year to speak at the many schools.

The book signing and author's event held later that same day at Central Library gives us writers a chance to meet kids from a lot of different schools and talk to some of the student winners in the literature and art contests that are held as part of Author's Day.

For instance, Anna Nguyen, a fifth-grader at Fryberger Elementary in Westminster won first place in one of the poetry contests for her work titled "The Race." She told me it was the very first poem she had ever written. Imagine winning a prize for the very first poem you ever wrote.

Such are some of the moments at Author's Day.

Ten-year-old Amy Grace from Peterson Elementary in Huntington Beach saw her story win for Most Creative Use of Theme. And she told me she was thrilled. One can imagine all the positive effects that Author's Day has on these and many other young local writers.

Jacob Azevedo and Cisco Haley, sixth-graders that saw me speak at Sowers, stopped by so I could sign a couple of books for them. What a pleasure to think that you made a connection with kids to the point where they would come visit the library after school. Thanks, guys.

And thank you to Jane Pascoo for having me return to Sowers.

While on the subject of local authors I would be remiss if I didn't mention a new book by Dianne Harman, wife of California State Sen. Tom Harman. Titled "Blue Coyote Motel," it's a terrific thriller involving six travelers that spend the night at a remote California desert motel. Little do they know the effect that the mysterious air conditioner will have on them but it makes for a rich, complex and sophisticated story that I thoroughly enjoyed.

I asked Mrs. Harman about the inspiration for her story. She told me, "I was at a boutique motel in downtown Palm Springs in old town that had been recently renovated. We were there for a wedding. It was 106 outside. The air-conditioner was fantastic. Wouldn't even know it was on. Why, I'll never know, but I turned to my husband and said, 'Wouldn't it be something if someone put a drug in the air-conditioner and everyone felt good all the time?' He said 'There's your book.'

"A priest with a huge cross sat next to us at dinner. He went in the book. At the wedding dinner I sat next to a couple from Brazil who owned gold mines. They went in the book. And so it went."

The book is available on amazon.com and Ms. Harman is already well into her next story. It's always nice to learn about another author in the area, especially when they write as well as Mrs. Harman. Recommended.

CHRIS EPTING is the author of 19 books, including the new "Baseball in Orange County," from Arcadia Publishing. You can chat with him on Twitter @chrisepting or follow his column at http://www.facebook.com/hbindependent.