Neal Shusterman among headliners at Fayetteville Library’s True Lit fest

Neal Shusterman among headliners at Fayetteville Library’s True Lit fest

“We have so much local talent lined up,” says Willow Fitzgibbon, director of library services at the Fayetteville Public Library, about the True Lit festival Oct. 14-26.

Fitzgibbon singles out Kat Robinson, the author of “The Great Arkansas Pie Book,” who will be leading a book talk and pie tasting Oct. 14; Suzanne Underwood Rhodes, Poet Laureate of Arkansas, who will be “Exploring the Mysteries of Self Through Metaphor” Oct. 16; Ashley Franklin, author of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid: Makes a Splash,” who will tell stories on Oct. 18; and Sidney Thompson, author of The Bass Reeves Trilogy, who will read from his work Oct. 22.

And that’s not including workshops, films or headliners like Neal Shusterman, author of more than 30 novels for children, teens and adults, who will speak Oct. 17; sci-fi author Daniel Jose Older, who will discuss narrative fundamentals Oct. 18; and R.L. Stine, author of the Goosebumps series, who will talk about his work in a moderated discussion Oct. 26.

The festival is “a celebration of the written word for all ages,” Fitzgibbon says. “We know how important it is to connect with reading when you’re young. And that just builds into a lifetime of being a reader.”

Neal Shusterman answered these questions for What’s Up! prior to his visit.

Q. What did you think you’d be “when you grew up”?

A. It was my ninth grade English teacher that set me on the path to being a writer. In college, I pursued degrees in psychology and theater, but I knew I wanted to be a writer. I thought that psychology, the science of the mind and behavior, paired well with drama, the art of the mind and behavior. Since everyone I knew who wanted to be a writer was an English major, I thought I’d have an advantage if I approached it from a different angle. And it worked! The first book I was every hired to write was a hygiene book for adolescent boys, and I got the job because I had a degree in psychology!

Q. I think the single most asked question to writers must surely be “where do you get your ideas.” So… where do you get your ideas?

A. I haven’t a clue. They just show up in my head, uninvited, and rarely at a convenient time. Sometimes I’ll get an idea just before I go to sleep, and I know I’ll be up all night thinking about it. But then, that’s how I know it’s an idea worth pursuing. If it keeps me up at night, then I know I’ve got something!

Q. What makes a story able to cross age boundaries and appeal to adults and teens?

A. A story’s ability to appeal to both adults and teens hinges on its universal themes and relatable characters. When a story explores fundamental human experiences and emotions, it can resonate with readers of all ages — and of all cultures. I find myself drawn to writing stories that highlight the ways we are alike, rather than the things that make us different. I think there’s room for both. And that means not just how we’re alike regardless of language or culture, but also how adults aren’t all that much different from the teenagers we once were.

Q. If you had the opportunity to live in any of your fictional worlds or as one of your characters, do you have a first choice?

A. I think my first choice would be the world of “Everlost” from the Skinjacker Trilogy. It’s a unique and mysterious afterlife, and the idea of exploring the intricacies of that world is intriguing. But on the other hand, everyone in Everlost is kinda-sorta dead… so… maybe not.

Q. I always picture characters gathered around an author while he’s writing, talking over each other and demanding they get their way with the storyline. Is that anywhere close to accurate?

A. Absolutely! Especially when it’s a first-person voice! The hard part is getting them to stop! And when it comes to the storyline, they always get their way — or at least they get to choose their own actions, even if I’d rather them do something else. Even if their choice completely derails the plot. Because if the characters are going to feel authentic, then they need to have agency over their own choices.



True Lit:

An Evening With Neal Shusterman

WHEN — 6 p.m. Oct. 17

WHERE — Walker Community Room at the Fayetteville Public Library

COST — Free; seating for 650 is first-come, first served

INFO — Visit for a complete schedule

Categories: In The News