Karen Wallace Visits New Paltz

Karen Wallace, an accomplished children’s and young adult author, graced SUNY New Paltz with her very pleasant presence on Dec. 3.She came to welcome the start of the play Wendy, based on her young adult novel of the same title. She also gave a lecture and conducted a writing workshop, which I was fortunate enough to attend. I even had the pleasure of meeting Wallace herself, in the elevator, no less, where she did not hesitate to say “hello” and shake my hand.

Karen Wallace has authored about 90 books over the span of her life, most of which are children’s books. Her recent work, a young adult novel titled Wendy, tells the classic story of Peter Pan from the perspective of Wendy Darling. Rachael Brandt, a SUNY New Paltz student, rewrote the novel for the stage. The play, also titled Wendy, was performed in Parker Theater Dec. 3 through 5.

The workshop started at 2:30 p.m. and lasted for approximately 90 minutes. It was conducted in the Jacobson Faculty Tower room 1010 and was very exclusive, consisting of only about twelve people. Some of the dozen were New Paltz students like myself, some were members of the cast of the play, and some actually followed Wallace from England for the launch of Wendy and for the workshop itself.

Wallace had us break up into small groups of twos and threes, although two individuals decided to work alone. In our groups, we had to look at a picture of the author’s choice, and, from the photo, come up with a short back story and dramatic dialogue in a matter of 30 minutes, which we were then to act out for the rest of the workshop members. My photo was a period painting from the Victorian era, featuring a man, woman, dog, and waiter at a quaint cafe table, and an elderly man at a shadowy table in the back left corner.

After we all performed our dialogues, Wallace gave us personal critiques, suggestions, and comments.

She also gave us valuable advice and allowed us to ask her questions. Among her answers to the questions posed, there were a few particular gems of advice that really stuck out to me.

She said that when writing for children and young adults, a writer must allow for closure in the ending, and that, for her, is the only difference than writing for any other audience. She advised all of us who intend to be writers to watch our language and diction very carefully, because one slip up in language can “break the spell” of the story. She also said, very candidly, that, “anybody who says writing is easy is a dirty liar.” And as a creative writing major, I certainly agree with her.

Kasey Tveit

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