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Best-selling author treats CHS with passages from latest novel

Posted on Tuesday, November 6, 2012 at 11:43 am

Staff photo by John Coffelt -- Coffee County Central High School teacher Joyce McCullough, left, welcomes best-selling author Ellen Hopkins to speak to students at CHS, Oct. 31.

“I … write to turn them around before they get started [by] giving them an idea of who [my daughter] was, who she is now and why making that one choice led her where it did,” — Ellen Hopkins.

By John Coffelt,Staff Writer

Coffee County Central High School welcomed best-selling author Ellen Hopkins to a special assembly of students Wednesday to help promote student reading and writing.

“She, hopefully, will inspire [the students] to be readers and writers,” said CHS English teacher Joyce McCullough.

“We’re focusing on how important [these] are.”

McCullough observes that in today’s society youth don’t read enough.

“That’s one of the things that our school is really pushing. The common core curriculum indicates that they need more reading in their lives.

“We thought that having authors here would inspire them.”

The library staff says that Hopkins’ novels are very popular with the students. Hopkins has published five New York Times Bestsellers.

Hopkins said that her fiction writing began with young-adult novels, after a start in freelance journalism. She also publishes poetry and nonfiction in addition to her adult and young adult novels.

This book tour divides the release of her young-adult book, “Tilt,” published last month and an adult book, “Collateral,” which releases this week.                  “I’m here on both of them,” Hopkins said.

She read from her forthcoming novel Wednesday.

“I want to encourage them to read up a little bit. I have to keep the sensibility to interest adult readers, but also keep the interest of my teen readers.”

Hopkins said that juggling the two demographics is something of a challenge.

She said the difference in the two is one of perspective.

“Teens are all about figuring stuff out. They don’t have a way of processing what they’re going through now by looking back.”

Writing for adults involves more reflection.

Hopkins describes her process in creating an adult protagonist.

“It’s like [they ask themselves] – why am I doing this: because I already know that this is bad.

“With teens they don’t already know.”

For teens, Hopkins says it’s all “full steam ahead.”

Hopkins’ writing is meant to help youth with difficult issues in their lives. But not in shying away from the gritty subjects, her works sometimes land under the critical spotlight of censors.

“I was the most challenged author in 2010,” she said.

Hopkins feels that addressing those tough issues frankly, with an open honesty will do her readers the most good.

Her first novel, “Crank,” is loosely based on her daughter’s meth addiction.

“I wanted to write that because I wanted to turn them around before they get started [by] giving them an idea of who she was, who she is now and why making that one choice led her where it did.”

From the “Crank” trilogy, Hopkins found other, often controversial, subject matter that she felt was important to teens.

“I look at hard subject matter and am hopeful that by dragging that subject matter out into light it will change their path.”

McCullough said that careful consideration was given to the appropriateness of the visit.

“I was concerned about the [controversy],” McCullough said. “Students [attending] had to get permission from their parents. Also the principals read the book.”

McCullough and Hopkins agree that the overall message of the books should be considered rather than judging them on a few passages.

“There is a redeeming quality at the end,” McCullough said.

“We wanted to add a disclaimer, there may be some language, but that’s reality. That’s why we call it real teens – real issues.”

Hasting bookstore in Tullahoma made copies of the texts available for purchase during the assembly.

Admission included home cooked turkey or ham croissant meals prepared by the CHS culinary art students.

Hopkins autographed copies of her novels.