Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Author Brian Selznick Visits BCS

Celebrated author Brian Selznick visited Bullis Charter School last Tuesday to talk about his new book The Marvels, the final book in the trilogy that includes bestsellers The Invention of Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck. This amazing event was co-produced by Linden Tree Books in Los Altos.

The Marvels begins with almost 400 pages of illustrations that tell the story of a family of stage actors in 18th and 19th century London. Switching from pictures to words, the book jumps to the year 1990 and follows a runaway who is trying to solve a family mystery. The two stories come together at the end of the book.

BCS students watched with fascination as illustrations from the beginning of The Marvels played across the screen. Then, the author asked the students how many had read the book The Invention of Hugo Cabret. More than two thirds raised their hands. “Well, I am the author of that book.” Gasps of excitement spread through the room. The children were now hooked on every word he had to say.

The author discussed his inspirations for his books and the sources of his different story influences and illustrations. His books are filled with real references and real places and the children sat captivated while viewing photographs of these places and their transformation into one of their beloved books.

One of the most interesting aspects of the event was when the author shared his process for creating a book. He explained that he always starts a book by developing a rough draft of both the story line and the drawings. First, he writes his ideas in a notebook. Then he types up these ideas and sends them to his editor, who sends them back to him with notes, just like teachers do on their students’ papers. He asked the children if they like writing rough drafts. A resounding “Nooooo” filled the room. “And how many rough drafts do your teachers make you write? One? Two? Well, I make 200-300 rewrites per book!” And he proceeded to show the students examples of his rough drafts covered from top to bottom, front and back with his editor’s notes scribbled in blue pen. In the end it takes Mr. Selznick, on average, three years to create a book, partly because of all of these notes and rewrites. Although he sometimes gets frustrated by all of this work, he has learned that the notes and the rewrites help to make the story better. Thanks to this hard work, he eventually produces a final draft he is proud to share with the world.

The lecture was followed by a question and answer segment and the author was asked how he felt when The Invention of Hugo Cabret was made into a movie. Mr. Selznick was, of course, thrilled by the movie and then he graciously shared pictures and videos from the movie set including the construction of the set and how special effects were created. It was amazing to learn about how one can implement creativity and innovation in unusual ways. The entire lecture reinforced the lessons and experiences explored every day by BCS students.

Thank you, Brian Selznick, for this incredible insight into your creative process!