British author Alexander Gordon Smith pulled out a small, handmade book from one of his Escape From Furnace novels Thursday morning to show 13-year-old Andrew Lanning.
The book portrayed pictures of monsters the British author drew when he was 6 years old. It was his first venture into the genre of horror.
"I honestly believe anyone can be a writer," Smith told Andrew, a seventh-grader at Enterprise Middle School in West Richland. Andrew was interviewing Smith for a language arts project.
It is that belief that has Smith and 11 other writers gathering at Columbia Basin College today for the fifth annual Cavalcade of Authors workshop. About 650 middle and high school students from four school districts are set to attend.
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Students must read books from at least four of the authors to attend, but organizer Michelle Lane said it is not about the author's books or themselves. It is an opportunity for students to learn more about exploring their ideas and themselves through writing.
Students will attend up to four sessions with different authors to get coaching and tips on writing, from selecting a genre to character development and how to get published.
Lane, who also is the library specialist at Enterprise, said she set up the workshop after attending a publishing conference in Portland and talked to authors about visiting the Tri-Cities. But Lane said the authors didn't want to talk about themselves or their books. They wanted to talk about writing.
Authors with series of books are preferred because they offer more books for students to get involved in. Smith's Escape From Furnace horror series is noted for its ability to attract young male readers who don't typically read, Lane said.
He also has written two books about writing and his first published novel, The Inventors, was co-written with his then 9-year-old brother, Jamie Webb.
"Jamie just came up to me and told me he wanted to write a book," Smith said.
Smith, on a multicity tour of the U.S., said his visit to the Tri-Cities is the highlight because he gets to talk about his craft and encourage students to write.
"People, they see writing as something that's not available to them," he said.
Lane, the organizer, said some students from past Cavalcade events have kept in contact with authors they have met with. She also has seen some writing that has come out of the event, including a student's novel.
Andrew said he wouldn't attend today's event because he did not qualify. He was too absorbed in Smith's books and those of another attending author -- Ridley Pearson -- to read books from two other authors.
But he is planning to write a short horror story as part of his project. His interview of Smith, and the author's books, gave him guidance.
"You have to be able to read before you can write," Andrew said.