Photo Courtesy of Ian Sutter
On September 4, Wakefield hosted New York Times Best Selling author Ellen Hopkins as she travels the US promoting her new book, Rumble, raising awareness to some unspoken teen issues. The Media Center took on the atmosphere of a cozy book store to host Hopkins as she shared insight with selected book enthusiasts.
“I haven’t seen anything like this. Anything I was more excited about happening,” said Media Specialist Dorothy Corrigan. The feeling of excitement was mutual to all involved. A visit from such a celebrated author was, to say the least, an honor. So, when this opportunity was extended to English teacher Tony Calabria, immediate action was taken.
“Once I got that news at 11pm on a Friday night, I immediately jumped to it and contacted our principal to see if we could make it work,” said teacher, Just Think First advisor and avid reader, Tony Calabria. Calabria has been a frequent and faithful customer of The Barnes & Noble in Brier Creek, ever since they opened about ten years ago. This location is one of three in the area that holds frequent book signings and events with authors. Barnes and Noble was contacted by Hopkins’ publicist asking if they knew a teacher that would like to possibly set up an event at their school, thus leading them to Calabria.
“Mr. Calabria is the man, myth, and the legend. He made this happen,” said Corrigan who, along with Media Specialist Mr. Kline, transformed the media center for the event. Kline and Corrigan even bent the strict rules of no food in the media center to allow pizza and refreshments for all. The gratitude and appreciation they hold for Calabria was matched by the thanks Calabria had for their help. Students also pitched in with handing out surveys and other small tasks as well as Barnes and Noble personnel who also set up a register for students to purchase Hopkins’ books.
“I felt extremely excited to see who she is, what her life is like and where she is now,” said Emily Miller, a student in Calabria’s Young Adult Literature class. The day started as she spent about an hour with Calabria’s second period Young Adult Literature class. The event then moved into the library where about one hundred students who received tickets, could participate in listening to her speak, ask questions, as well as a book signing where she showed another side
“She was so open,” said Corrigan on Hopkins’ speech. “I couldn’t get over how open she was. She was so candid. She was talking about real life.” Many of Hopkins books are based off of events that happened to her or someone close to her. Her most eye opening novels are those in the Crank series. These books delve in to the world of her own daughter who became addicted to crystal meth after a visit with her father. These books create a lot of curiosity about her life and Hopkins did not hold back.
“I’ve always been a rebel rouser,” said Hopkins while describing herself in the speech for the staff and students. She gave insight to her life from her daughter’s tragic battle with meth to meeting Elvis in his boxer shorts. Hopkins writes about the taboo issues teens face, but cannot talk about.
“Hopkins books deal with a lot of drug use, alcohol use, and bullying in particular. Those are the three big topics,” said Calabria. “I thought it would be a good message, good tie in to our school to take it to the next level, to a personal level.” As advisor of the Just Think First club, Calabria found her books a perfect tie in to the message his club promotes, to just think first.
“I 110% recommend these books, everyone should read them,” said Miller. Through Hopkins’ unique writing style, where she writes verse to tell the story, Miller found herself captivated. Not only that but, Miller told of creating a strong understanding and connection to the characters, especially in Hopkins’ book, Burned.
“Every experience makes writing deeper,” said Hopkins. Not only was Ms. Hopkins an open book, she was about as raw and down to earth as a person can get.