Latimer Lane Elementary School students are used to hearing from their teachers about the importance of reading and the value of hard work, but on Oct. 4, they got the message directly from the mouth of one of their favorite authors, Rob Buyea.
Buyea, author of Because of Mr. Terupt and Mr. Terupt Falls Again, visited Latimer Lane School at the invitation of library media specialist Kristen Brighenti. Buyea’s first novel garnered a 2013 Nutmeg Book Award, and the students were excited to meet the award-winner. Brighenti was grateful for the opportunity as well, noting, “It is through the generosity of the Latimer Lane PTO that I am able to get such an outstanding presenter.”
Buyea met with sixth grade classes individually but also spoke at an assembly in the gym to fourth, fifth, and sixth graders. Drawing from his own experience as a teacher to give depth to the character of inspiring teacher Mr. Terupt and a year in the life of his fifth grade class, he had lots of stories to tell the students about how he got the inspiration for his many beloved characters and their antics, and he did so with the skills of a master entertainer. Beneath all of Buyea's cartoon voices and kinetic energy were serious messages about being a writer, but even more so, succeeding in life.
"I think of myself as a storyteller, not just a writer," said Buyea to the students. "The story is what sticks with you. If writing isn't your favorite thing or you think you're not a good writer, I'd turn around and ask you, can you tell a story?"
Buyea wasn't always passionate about writing; in fact, as young as the age of four, he yearned to be a wrestler. He talked about how hard he worked to achieve that goal, and like the rejections he received later as a struggling author, sometimes he failed to achieve at the sport he dearly loved. Did he give up? No, he said to the students, "Coming up short was really hard. But I learned how to set new goals and pursue them."
The audience gasped when Buyea confessed that it took six years to get his first book published. But he kept plugging away, carrying a writing notebook wherever he went, practicing his craft and reading — a lot. He referred to books as his "coaches," and they taught him the values of organization, perseverance, and commitment.
"There's never been a writer born who wasn't a reader first," said Buyea.
Buyea had time for questions at the end of his presentation. One student asked whether or not Buyea would be coming out with a third book in the Mr. Terupt series, and when he answered yes, there were lots of cheers and clapping. Clearly, Latimer Lane students are looking forward to soon finding out what stories are to come from the hard work and imagination of one of their favorite authors.