There isn't a lot that can get a group of students to school on their day off—but meeting with their favorite author can do the trick.
Though Riverview School District students had the day off on Friday, about 30 seventh- through twelfth-graders went to school for a Q&A session with award-winning and New York Times Best-Selling author Sarah Dessen.
Dessen has written 10 novels for young adults including Someone Like You, Just Listen and Along for the Ride. Her newest book, The Moon and More, will be released in June.
Dessen was visiting the Pittsburgh area as part of the Black and White and Read All Over lecture series, sponsored by Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures.
Riverview hosted the videoconference Q&A session with Dessen in the library—students from Hampton, Moon Area, Quaker Valley, Mt. Lebanon, North Hills and Propel school districts participated and had opportunities to talk to Dessen.
The young adult novelist discussed her own career, the books and gave student writers advice about how to jump start their careers.
Though Dessen, a North Carolina resident, always loved to read and write, she said she never believed she could be an author until she was studying at the University of North Carolina. And when she did start writing, she never thought she'd stick to the young adult genre—but she's happy she has.
"This has turned out to be the best possible place for me because it's the best audience," she said. "Everyone is so passionate about books and is just discovering their love for reading."
In fact, Dessen said books and a real close group of friends are what got her through high school.
"I found a lot of solace in books during high school—high school was not a good time for me, which is probably why I'm still writing about it," she said with a laugh. "I was just trying to get through there and get out alive.
"Books were a place where if I couldn't find someone who knew what was going in my head, I could find it on the page. The greatest compliment is when someone tells me, 'Your books got me through high school,' because I feel the same way about so many other books."
The author was so happy to see the Riverview students despite the fact that they were off of school.
"They came purely out of their own hearts," she said. "That's nice."
Lynn Madden, library media specialist at Riverview, agreed.
"I'm so proud of the students," she said. "This is a testimony on how much they love her books. It's exciting."