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Author Audrey Vernick speaking to Lower School students
photos by Matt Spence

Award-winning author Audrey Vernick spoke to lower school students about how an idea can grow into a story and eventually become a book. 

“I paid a lot of attention [to where ideas come from] so I could figure it out,” says Vernick. Once she figured that out, the author was eager to share her discovery with children. “You might have a story that you want to illustrate or write, and I believe that stories are what connect us to each other.”

Author Audrey Vernick speaks to Lower School students

Vernick revealed the idea for her first book, co-written with her sister, essentially fell in her lap. But since then, she struggled a bit with creating new stories. Her solution was to listen. “I started paying attention, and I started listening. Sometimes, it’s just me listening to the voice in my head, but It’s almost always about listening to the stories around me.”

To illustrate the value of listening, Vernick told a story about an experience she had with pumpkin muffins.That one moment turned into a book about a dog making muffins. She explained to students it was about trusting her inner voice that it would make a good story.

“It taught me something, and it’s something you can use as a way to find [your own] idea: put a character, like a buffalo, in a place you wouldn’t expect to find them, like a kindergarten classroom, and a story almost always pops up.”

One third grader appreciated her advice. “I liked that she gave us a strategy to come up with book ideas. She said we could get a character and put it in an unexpected place.”

Other students agreed, and one added, “I think it’s really cool to meet the author. I’ve never been up close to seeing someone like a real author that I know. So, that was really fun.”

Many students said that they were surprised by the problems Vernick had publishing her first book; 26 publishers rejected the book before the 27th accepted it. 

Vernick recalled feeling frustrated. “People telling you, ‘Nope, it’s not good enough, nope, we don’t love it, or, nope, we’re not going to publish it,’ – to be honest, that part wasn’t that much fun.”

She also admitted feeling self-doubt. “Should I keep trying? Am I crazy?” However, she says enduring the string of rejections was worth it in the end: “I’m really glad my sister and I kept trying because it was really exciting to publish our first book.”

Author visits are a regular part of the school’s mission to inspire life-long learning in the community. Kindergarten teacher Maria Blackburn says, “We aim to host authors who are published, award-winning, and notable in their own respect. Audrey Vernick is also a natural at presenting to school-age children.”