Award-winning Author Visits Westside Middle School


Adam Kamaleddine

Award-winning author Neal Shusterman visits Westside Middle School, sharing personal details of why and how he writes with the students and staff in attendance.

Westside Middle School welcomed award-winning author Neal Shusterman into their school on Thursday, Oct. 3. Shusterman was invited by Westside Middle School Librarian Deb Saetveit to visit their students.

“Most of my inspiration for doing what I do usually comes from the readers and fans,” Shusterman said. “When students tell me they’ve never enjoyed reading until they read one of my books, it makes me want to write even more.” 

Shusterman said he is inspired to write by readers who enjoy his work. 

“I do it all for my readers, I love to write for them,” Shusterman said. “It’s the dream [to have many readers and fans] for all writers. It keeps me going; I love seeing people enjoying my books.” 

Shusterman said that he prefers to express himself through his books, telling his personal stories, which he said can be rather therapeutic.

“[The book that has stuck with me forever and has the most meaning to me is] Challenger Deep,” Shusterman said. “That book was inspired from my son’s battle with schizophrenia, so it’s a very personal story. I wrote the book because it was therapeutic to me, and it definitely helped me understand what he had gone through. I wanted to put it out there that took readers through the mental illness so that people would know how it feels like.” 

Shusterman said that he feels it is important for readers to connect with what they are reading.

“[I like to write about real life events beacause] to me that’s the point of writing,” Shusterman said. “When my readers are reading my book I want them to make connections with their life and connect it to the world around you. I want them to see how it applies to their own society and their own life.”

Westside High School Librarian Theresa Gosnell said that she enjoyed Shusterman’s visit and what he shared with the attending students and teachers. 

“[I enjoy] the real life issues that he uses in his writing,” Gosnell said. “I think it appeals to many people. I thought the stories that he had to share and that the ways that he creates his ideas is very interesting.” 

During Shusterman’s visit, he said that it was not easy for him to get to where he is right now, and that he has experienced several rejections. 

“It all started when I was in ninth grade,” Shusterman said. “I turned in a story inspired by the film Jaws, entered a contest, got rejected, and from rejections, I learned and I am who I am to this day because of that.” 

Shusterman said that writing is something that has heavily impacted his life..

“Writing has become a part of me,” Shusterman said. “I wouldn’t know where I would be if I weren’t a writer.”