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Best-selling authors talk to Flowery Branch students
'Kids realize its a job like anything else'
Author Cindy Woodsmall visits a language arts class Friday afternoon at Flowery Branch High School as part of a living novelist project. Woodsmall spoke to the class about being a novelist, the creative writing process and her experiences growing up around the Amish culture.

Cindy Woodsmall holds up a large piece of an Amish hand-sewn quilt in front of the class.

She flips the quilt over and shows the students a patchwork of odd shapes held together by lose threads and exposed seams.

She explains that the quilt is a lot like life. Most things that happen don't make sense, but when you see how it all comes together in the end, it makes something warm and is always a great story.

"Try to let all the pieces that seem so weird, like this, continue working until you have a piece that makes sense," Woodsmall said.

Woodsmall writes Amish fiction and is a New York Times best-selling author.

She spoke to Dr. Patrice Pennington's 11th-grade class as part of an assignment that has encouraged students to look a little more closely at the books they read.

The assignment has brought two best-selling authors into a Flowery Branch High School classroom to share their experiences and offer advice to the students.

Pennington asked her students to read a novel by a living author. She then asked her students to write the author a letter about the experience of reading the novel. Several of the authors have written back to the students.

"One author, years ago, wrote a letter to a student and then wrote on to (Flowery Branch principal) Dr. (Mark) Coleman and the student's mother telling them what a fine student he was" Pennington said. "It's kind of neat, too, when they're coming into class and someone says ‘Oh yeah, Anne Rice wrote me back yesterday.'"

Though Pennington has been assigning this project for several years, this is the first time she has added the element of author visits.

"We teach kids how to write essays and formal writing, but we don't teach a lot of creative writing. I wanted them to have that opportunity to talk about her process of writing," Pennington said.

Brittany Parker, 16, a junior at Flowery Branch High, contacted Atlanta native and New York Times best-selling author Haywood Smith, who came to speak to her class late last month.

Parker said she wants to be a writer and has enjoyed listening to the authors' advice.

"I think mainly I just learned how to become a better writer and that it is possible if you work hard and don't stop and give up," Parker said.

Tyler Woodsmall, 17, Cindy Woodsmall's son and a junior at Flowery Branch, said he has enjoyed the assignment.

Not only did Rice, his favorite author, write him a letter, but he said it has helped "bring everybody down to earth."

"To find out that authors have a life outside of writing — because when people found out that my mom was a New York Times best-selling author, people were like ‘What, oh you must be rich, you must be famous,'" Tyler Woodsmall said.

"So it's good because now kids realize it's a job like anything else. It's not glamorous. It's not a go-and-do-whatever-you-want-all-day-long job."

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