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Draper Journal

Fablehaven author kicks off new book, encourages reading and creativity

Nov 21, 2018 11:25AM ● By Julie Slama

Channing Hall hosts New York Times best-selling author Brandon Mull to kick off new writing club.

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

As a youngster, New York Times best-selling author Brandon Mull read novels by C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Orson Scott Card and J.K. Rowling.

“I learned how they molded characters that could resonate for the whole family,” the Utah author said. “I was able to take that concept to create characters into my own stories.”

Mull, who is best known for his “Dragonwatch” and “Fablehaven” series, shared about his newest book, “Dragonwatch: Wrath of the Dragon King,” as well as encouraged students in their own writing during an assembly at Channing Hall.

“I’m a cheerleader for reading and creativity,” he said. “It would be a very boring world without imagination. I was a massive daydreamer as a kid. I already have a lot of book three of Dragonwatch in my head, but I haven’t started writing it yet.”

While some of his writing is imaginative, Mull also said some of the best writing comes from personal experiences of authors.

“One of my more embarrassing experiences was when I was carrying a heavy backpack down a second flight of stairs,” he told students. “My backpack swung forward and I realized I could stumble down or try to jump. I jumped eight steps and hit the wall below flat on my stomach. My classmates looked at me and wondered why I belly-flopped down a flight of stairs.”

He said he wrote those embarrassing details down and later incorporated them into his writing.

Use of senses also is a key to good writing, he said. He invited three students to play the “imagination game,” where they answered questions he posed.

“All of a sudden, you know what this world they created looks like, smells like, tastes like. It’s my job as a writer to use my imagination to take you places,” he told students afterward. “Books are a good place to get lost if the story is told well.”

With “Wrath of the Dragon King,” Mull’s characters Kendra and Seth return and Celebrant, the king of the dragons, prepares to unleash his fury and take control of his native preserve. Mull teased the Channing Hall readers as he said the two young caretakers need to rally enough support of their allies to endure Celebrant’s wrath. Students also watched a trailer of the new release.

Mull encouraged Channing Hall students as they were preparing to participate in National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, to practice four secrets of good writing: be good observers, use their imaginations, read a lot and share their stories with others.  

He also cautioned the student writers that good writing takes hard work and dedication.

“People think they are good at the start and can get published right away, but it takes time to improve. Write to your own compass; you can’t write to someone else’s,” he said.

The “I’m All Write” novel-writing club was created by seventh-graders Abby Holland and Brynn Frohman as a way to encourage students to participate in NaNoWriMo, a national challenge for people to write a novel in the month of November. Last year, more than 58,000 met that goal, including these two students.

While it had been part of an English teacher’s curriculum in years past, Channing Hall Director Heather Shepherd said it is not this year. Both girls had volunteered to do it last year even though they weren’t in the English class.

Abby’s story was about finding an endangered ivory woodpecker’s nest and how they helped bring the birds back into the wild.

“I did a research project on them and have read a lot of encyclopedias on animals,” she said in preparing her 12,001-word novel. “It was really hard to write, but I learned about different elements in a story and developed characters and the plot.”

Brynn said it was fun.

“I planned out what I wanted, then edited it and changed it to be the story I planned,” she said about her novel that was cut from 13,000 words. “I wrote a story about a girl who saved forests from being cut down. I was obsessed with hedgehogs at the time so in the process of saving trees, hedgehogs were saved.” 

The two were encouraging their classmates to take part in NaNoWriMo and had a prize for the overall top writer with the most words in a story, which was a Kindle, autographed by Mull.

Shepherd isn’t surprised by these two girls.

“This is pretty indicative of Channing Hall,” she said. “They knew what they want and made it happen. They wrote novels last year and we are very proud of what they’ve done. They’re risk-takers in their own writing and also by starting a club. What they learned here is ingrained in their character and how they live. Their abilities will take them far when they leave and it will be good to see how what they learned here will translate into the world.”