This winter, BELS worked with media specialists Barbara Reynolds and Betty Chiu to organize an Author Visit with Jen Calonita for the the 7th and 8th Grade students in both the Saddle Brook and Hasbrouck Heights Middle Schools. Jen Calonita is a former entertainment editor who has interviewed everyone from Zac Efron to Reese Witherspoon. For the past decade, she’s been writing novels about her experiences in Hollywood, at sleepaway camp and now, what life is like on the road with a boy band. In her presentation, Jen Calonita talked to the students about how she grew from a struggling reader to an avid reader and writer. She also talked about the ingredients for a good story: engaging characters, an exciting premise, a juicy conflict, having the ultimate “Villain,” and creating a story that leaves the reader wanting more! Jen gave the students advice on building their writing portfolios while still in high school by freelancing with local papers and news outlets and she shared the story of how she made the transition from “coffee intern” at a major teen magazine to prolific YA author. Both her presentation and Q&A session were engaging and filled with lighthearted humor and well placed anecdotes.
After Jen completed her presentation in Saddle Brook MS/HS we traveled to nearby Hasbrouck Heights MS/HS where six students were chosen through a raffle to have lunch with the author and receive an autographed copy of her book. During the lunch, students were able to share their own experiences as writers and gain knowledge of new strategies to enhance and improve their own writing. It is sure to be a memorable experience for all the students with whom she connected.
If you are interested in having Jen Calonita in your middle school, please speak to Abigail about possibly sharing the cost with another nearby BELS school, making the visit even more affordable.