Ann Rinaldi, whowrites historical fiction for young adults, is in Lawrence to talk with junior high students.
It was fitting that author Ann Rinaldi gave her first talk in Lawrence in the historic auditorium of Central Junior High School, built as a memorial to students who died in World War I.
Rinaldi, a former journalist who now writes historical novels for young adults, spoke to eighth-graders at Central and South junior high schools on Thursday. She also gave a public lecture at the Lied Center Thursday night. Today, she's to talk with eighth-graders at West and Southwest junior high schools.
Rinaldi's fiction breathes life into American history. "In My Father's House," for example, is set in the Civil War. It tells the story of strong-willed Oscie Mason and her family. The first battle of the war was fought on the family's property. Four years later, the family moved 200 miles away to Appomattox, Va., where Gens. Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee signed surrender papers.
"I said, `That's good enough to do a book about,' so I did `In My Father's House,'" Rinaldi told the eighth-graders.
After Rinaldi's talk, students lined up so she could sign bookplates that they could affix to their copies of books she's written. Rinaldi's visit was made possible through the business-education partnership of The Mercantile Bank of Lawrence, the Kansas University Lied Center and Lawrence public schools.
"I like that you learn and you also enjoying it as you learn," Central eighth-grader Casey Stowe said about Rinaldi's books.
Connor Treanor and Brian Erb, also eighth-graders, enjoy that the central characters in most of Rinaldi's books are girls and that the books focus on the effects of events on women and children -- not just action from the battlefield.
"I just thought it was nice to have a book that showed a different point of view," Brian said.
The 61-year-old Rinaldi said she likes to write a chapter a day -- much as she wrote a story a day when she was a journalist at the Trenton, N.J., Trentonian. She wrote a column, delving into the human side of news stories. That, and the research skills she acquired in the newspaper business, have helped her tremendously with writing historical fiction, she said.
As a young adult, Rinaldi was told by her father that she would not attend college because all she would ever be good for was to "fill up baby bottles." Her stepmother, Rinaldi said, was a tyrant. Rinaldi did not go to college but learned through working with journalists and by reading books.
"I wanted to be a writer since I was 10 years old," she said.
If Rinaldi -- a successful writer, lecturer, wife, mother of two and grandmother of two -- had a chance to talk with her father now, what would she say, one eighth-grader asked.
She would talk about her daughter and her son -- and her grandchildren. They are healthy, lovely people, Rinaldi said, and that is a true indication of success.
"The books I would be proud of," she said. "But I don't care who you are, what you've done. I want to see what your children turned out like."