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Local author visits students at Sunnyside
MARYSVILLE — Suzanne Summer’s fifth-grade classroom at Sunnyside Elementary was buzzing with excitement on Friday, March 30, but not just because spring break was around the corner.
Summer’s students have been reading the books of Marysville author Victoria Simcox, starting with the fantasy novel “The Magic Warble,” and that Friday saw Simcox visiting Summer’s class to answer students’ questions, not only about her own books, but also about the writing process that students could apply to their own writing.
“Now, a lot of our students are reluctant to go back to their older writing,” Summer said, as she and Simcox sat at one end of the class flanking an entire sheet full of questions that students had come up with beforehand to ask Simcox. “But what she’s saying is that if you want your stories to build on each other, you should refer back to them.”
Although the fantasy of “The Magic Warble” was partly inspired by “The Lord of the Rings” — along with similar authors such as C.S. Lewis and J.K. Rowling — Simcox eschews the world-building approach of J.R.R. Tolkien, favoring a more organic method of developing parts of the story as she tells it, and keeping track of its plot points to ensure they’re resolved by the end.
“I’m still figuring out how the teacher got the Magic Warble in the first place,” said Simcox, who nonetheless keeps journals full of notes on her characters. “You want to keep your characters consistent.”
“What I also loved was how you did such an amazing job of evoking mental images,” Summer said. “My students have started writing sensory pieces, and we’ve talked about using detailed descriptions to make a movie in your mind.”
“It also helps to start your story at an exciting point,” Simcox said. “If you catch the reader’s interest, you can build on that as you go on.”
Simcox had no shortage of interest from the aspiring writers in Summer’s class, who delighted in discovering that the character of Christina was named after the author’s daughter, and reacted in a spiritedly divisive way — either groaning or gushing — to the news that the series which had started with “The Magic Warble” will include more romantic elements as it continues.
“Romance can be portrayed many ways in stories,” Simcox said. “In ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ there’s only one kiss.”
“Only one?” a few students chorused in disbelief.
While Simcox expressed mixed feelings over naming the fictional Christina after her daughter, she acknowledged that the personalities and behavior of the real-life Christina and her friends gave her much of her material, in addition to the lessons that she’s learned from her own life.
“Don’t give up,” Simcox said. “If you feel bullied and like you don’t have any friends, you can still find acceptance. It’s okay if you don’t have tons of friends in your life, as long as you have at least a few who are true friends.”
Sunnyside fifth-grader Imani Jackson was already interested in writing before Simcox’s visit to her classroom, but now, she thinks she might decide to become a writer as an adult.
“It was so exciting to actually meet a real author of a really good book,” Imani Jackson said. “She taught me that you can put a lot of yourself into your books.”
“This is awesome,” said Vi Jackson, Imani’s mother, about Simcox’s visit. “My daughter loves writing, so to have this window of opportunity to inspire her further is a fantastic thing.”