Saturday, November 15, 2014

Visiting with Authors George Bishop and Donna Glee Williams

Students in the Advanced Reading class of the Loyola Intensive English Program  (LIEP) recently had the wonderful experience of visiting with the author of a novel they had read. At the beginning of the semester, the class read and discussed a short story or an essay by George Bishop and by Donna Glee Williams. Then each student chose either The Night of the Comet by George Bishop or The Braided Path by Donna Glee Williams to read during the semester. Both novels are about the transition from adolescence to adulthood.

The students reading each novel met initially to decide upon  a reading schedule. They then continued to meet weekly to discuss the weekly chapters. Their final meeting was devoted to preparation for a visit with the author. On Thursday, November 13, each group met with their author to share impressions of the novel and to ask questions.

The Night of the Comet by George Bishop, set in 1973, is narrated by fourteen-year-old Alan Broussard, Jr., a book-loving boy whose father teaches science at the public high school in Terrebonne, a small town in the bayou country of southeast Louisiana. Junior, as he is called, feels embarrassment over his father's unsuccessful efforts to communicate his passion for science to his students, curiosity about the dissatisfaction he senses within his mother, puzzlement over his older sister's alienation, and yearning for the attractive and friendly Gabriela who has recently moved to Terrebonne and lives just across the bayou. Then, rumbling into the life of Terrebonne and the Broussard family comes Comet Kohoutek, shaking the town's complacency; enlivening Alan Broussard, Sr.'s science classes; upending the Broussards' routine family life; and forcing Junior, his sister Megan, his mother Lydia, and his father Alan to stretch and grow in unexpected ways.

The students who had read The Night of the Comet thoroughly enjoyed their visit with George Bishop. George Bishop told the students about the seed idea for his novel, his extensive research about comets, the perseverance required in writing a novel, and the ways he used his own life experiences in writing The Night of the Comet. Below, The Night of the Comet reading group is pictured with George Bishop.
Seated left to right: Ms. Ingrid Rodriguez-Fierro of Guatemala, Mr. George Bishop, Ms. Maria Paula Posada of Nicaragua. Standing left to right: Sister Theresa Le of Vietnam, Mr. Hikaru Yokoyama of Japan, and Sister Pauline Phan of Vietnam.

The Braided Path by Donna Glee Williams is a light fantasy that takes place in a vertical world, with one path along which are located many villages. One calls one's own village Home Village, while other villages are designated by their position above or below one's own, such as Second Village Up or Fifth Village Down. Becoming an adult involves finding one's upper and lower travel limits and choosing a profession based on one's natural gifts and passion, often involving the practice of a craft. Cam, a teenage boy, and Fox, a teenage girl, enjoy walking great distances from Home Village together and are developing a strong love for each other, but it is also apparent that Cam feels called to walk ever upward on the path, while Fox feels called to walk ever downward. Cam seems drawn to the profession of Far-Walker, while Fox remains unsure of her calling, though she does love to carve. Cam and Fox are torn between honoring their love and honoring their respective callings.

The students who had read The Braided Path greatly enjoyed their visit with Donna Glee Williams. Donna Glee Williams told the students about creating the world of The Braided Path, learning and practicing many of the crafts that appear in The Braided Path, finding meaningful symbols, and using elements of her own life experience to shape the story. Donna Glee Williams was especially impressed when the students shared insights that caused her to see her novel in new ways. Below, The Braided Path reading group is pictured with Donna Glee Williams.
Seated left to right: Ms Azusa Kurosawa of Japan, Dr. Donna Glee Williams, Mr. Ryota Kojima of Japan, Mr. Marco Frick of Switzerland. Standing left to right: Mr. Haotian "Lee" Li of China, Mr. Murtadha Almohammed of Saudi Arabia.

A huge thank-you to George Bishop and to Donna Glee Williams for sharing the experience of writing their novels with the students, and to the students of the LIEP Advanced Reading class for sharing their impressions, insights, and questions about The Night of the Comet and The Braided Path with the authors!

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