The middle school students Palmer Trinity School recently met Lin Oliver, author of Sound Bender, co-written with her son Theo Baker.
Oliver got the idea for the book when she was in Italy and put her hand on a historic tomb and thought, “If this could talk, what would it tell me?”
She worked with her son, who is a music expert. Growing up he made weird noises into tape machines, which led him to become a record seller, a deejay, a music reporter and a music producer.
Sound Bender is a story about a boy who can hear the history of any object he touches — a fascinating yet terrifying gift.
“Ms. Oliver spoke briefly to the middle school during Town Hall and then addressed two groups of combined sixth and seventh grade English classes,” said Ruthanne Vogel, Palmer media specialist. “Her presentation was an active writing workshop where the students brainstormed ideas and wrote ideas for science fiction tales of their own.”
Oliver was impressed with the school. “I loved visiting the Palmer School,” Oliver said. “The physical place was spectacularly beautiful; the library was a haven for book-loving kids; the teachers seemed so caring and connected, and the students themselves were eager, curious and full of spirit.”
She said school visits help her get an idea of how kids feel about her writing. Then when she does writing workshops, she gets to experience enthusiasm for their ideas. Although she has 25 books published, mostly they talked about Sound Bender and that is the book they focused on in the writing workshop.
“The workshops were on creating science fiction, taking a scientific principle and asking a ‘what if’ question. Sound Bender asks the question: What if we could actually hear the past? The students created other science fiction scenarios, like ‘What if we could clone human beings?’ That was so fascinating to ponder and discuss.”
She wasn’t the only one who was enthusiastic about the writing workshop.
“When the author came, I enjoyed that we got to write our own fiction story. She inspired us not to be ashamed of what we write,” said sixth grade student Lizzy Arritola.
During the workshop, the students had the chance to play around with Sound Bender’s interactive website,
That was Natalie Cetta’s favorite part of the workshop.
“We got to make up ideas about sound bending, like the mysterious story of the Liberty Bell,” Cetta said. “If you touch it, you get to hear the whole story about it.”
Although Oliver loved talking to the entire middle school, doing the workshop was her favorite part of the day.
“It was wonderful to hear their imaginations at work as they got into channeling the history of a special object,” Oliver said. “They were full of knowledge and imagination, which is a powerful combination.”
The entire day was a hit with Karen San Agustin, another sixth grader.
“When Lin Oliver, the exciting creative science fiction writer, came to Palmer Trinity she made my imagination go to a completely different level. Her words zoomed around in my head and she helped me write the beginning of my amazing story,” Agustin said.
Oliver is the co-founder of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), and has written the “Hank Zipzer” and “Ghost Buddy” series with actor Henry Winkler. She also has written the “Who Shrunk Daniel Funk” series and produced and written a number of television series for children.
She was in Miami to speak at the SCBWI Florida Regional Conference and for a signing at Books and Books.