Sonnenblick encourages writers

Jen Lassen
News Editor

A Teach for America educator-turned-author offered his story about how writing slowly crept into–and later took over–his life.

Jordan Sonnenblick, author of the best-selling book “Drums, Girls, & Dangerous Pie,” discussed his motivation for becoming an author on Sept. 19 in the Gallery Theatre.

“I tried to find the kid who needed a book in his or her hand that didn’t exist. Every book I’ve written has been that: some way I could hand a kid that book,” Sonnenblick said.

Sonnenblick’s first book was inspired by Emily, one of his eighth-grade English students, who disguised her sorrow over her brother’s cancer diagnosis by giggling her way through every class. He credits teaching as an experience that helped him understand kids and how to write.

“Teaching both as an English teacher and through the Teach for America program led me to have a tremendous compassion for kids. It also made me understand the dynamic of family more. Through teaching I experienced humility from seeing how wrong about a certain kid I was,” Sonnenblick said.

These humbling experiences led Sonnenblick to write not one, but eight novels about kids and teenagers. His writing process for these novels is unlike other authors.

“There’s an element of randomness in my thought process … I write at weird, inopportune times; I’m the least disciplined writer in America,” Sonnenblick said. “If I don’t write 1,000 words in a day, I’m dissatisfied.”

He also discussed how having a plan will not always lead you the right way.

“Even though you think you have a road map, you find out stuff through character interaction while writing,” Sonnenblick said.

Sonnenblick credits his high school creative writing teacher and Pulitzer Prize winner Frank McCourt for kindling his interest in authorship.

However, Sonnenblick’s interest didn’t exactly start there. He spoke of a childhood friend named BJ that asked Sonnenblick at age three what he wanted to be when he grew up, to which Sonnenblick responded that he wanted to write a book.

“At first, I felt elated and horrified about becoming a professional writer. I feared that the next idea wouldn’t come,” Sonnenblick said.

When “Drums, Girls, & Dangerous Pie” was published, Emily’s mother called Sonnenblick to give him her thoughts on his book.

“She called me and told me ‘you got it right.’ That’s when I found my purpose in life,” Sonnenblick said.

A big part of Sonnenblick’s authorship is utilizing humor in his books, and his sense of humor was evident throughout the speech.

“My wife has to talk to me like I’m a brain-damaged toddler the week after I write a book; she even stoops down a little bit to get my attention,” Sonnenblick said.

“Sonnenblick’s speech was interesting. He’s very personal, which I liked. I’m interested in reading his other books,” Morgan Houchins ’16 said.

Whether you plan on teaching or curing cancer, Sonnenblick’s advice is gold: be ready, because you never know where the path may lead you.

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