Wow! How cool are we? This morning Dean Rusk eighth graders had the honor of hearing author Charles J. Shields tell us about how he was inspired to become a writer. When Mr. Shields was a sophomore in high school, the sponsor of his high school newspaper invited him to join the school newspaper staff. Even though he was not a “joiner,” Mr. Shields went to a meeting and was assigned an article about the upcoming Homecoming game at his school. The article was a huge success, and Mr. Shields was hooked on writing.
Mr. Shields also shared the story of how he wrote his book I Am Scout, the story of Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, and how Ms. Lee wrote her famous book. Ms. Lee, like many great authors, was inspired by her upbringing in Alabama and by the people who influenced her childhood. (I kind of made it sound like all great authors come from Alabama, didn’t I?) Mr. Shields told us that the central characters in the book, Scout and Atticus Finch, are based largely on Ms. Lee and her father.
When asked who he admired most, Mr. Shields told us that he most admired his wife. Mr. Shields admires his wife, Guadalupe, because she overcame adversity and achieved success. She was born to Mexican-American parents and was a migrant worker in southern Texas and Michigan. Later, Mrs. Shields became a middle school principal. Is it true that all great Americans become middle school educators? Probably.
Mr. Shields is a former English teacher who spent four years writing Mockingbird, the adult version of I Am Scout. He has also written numerous other nonfiction books for middle school students, including several we have in the media center. In writing Mockingbird, Mr. Shields interviewed over 600 of Ms. Lee’s neighbors and friends and researched the papers of her good friend, author Truman Capote. Did you hear that, students? He researched his topic! Shocking! Even adults do research!
Mr. Shields has a B.A. in English and an M.A. in American history from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana. He is a resident of Virginia. You can learn more about Mr. Shields, Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Mr. Shield’s other books at Mr. Shields’ website by clicking here.
Special thanks to the Towne Lake Arts Center and the National Endowment for the Arts for providing Mr. Shields’ appearance and for sponsoring The Big Read and events surrounding the Towne Lake Arts Center’s presentation of To Kill a Mockingbird. The play will be presented March 9-27, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 PM. You can check out signed copies of I Am Scout and other books by Mr. Shields in the DR Library. We also have copies of To Kill a Mockingbird available.